Tinker AFB E-3 Sentries on UHF Satcom

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blantonl

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For the past 2 days, I've noticed that Tinker AFB E-3's are operating on UHF Satcom in my local area here in San Antonio, TX / South Texas.

What happens is that an E-3 will fly down from Tinker AFB to do ACM training with the 182nd Fighter Squadron (F-16s) our of Lackland AFB/Kelly Field. First, I'll see the Sentry show up on ADS-B so I know it is in the area (they do this training out at the Crystal MOA). They will usually check in with NORAD on 364.2 and then start their orbit. The F-16's will then leave Kelly field and I immediately start seeing SATCOM traffic on the UHF uplink inputs almost on cue. I suspect that these SATCOM communications are back to Tinker to give status updates etc on the mission.

The ACM operations will begin and E-3 will direct two sets of two F-16s in ACM manuvers. Once the sortie ends, the F-16s will check back in with SOF at Kelly field enroute home, and the E-3 will come back up on SATCOM with comms at the end of the sortie. Again, probably mission status updates back to Tinker.

I have a dedicated radio that scans all the UHF Satcom uplinks, so I'm able to catch these comms. The SATCOM comms are in encrypted VINSON 16Kbs voice. They occur on the following SATCOM UHF assignments:

261.575 / 295.175
260.475 / 294.075

Interesting stuff! I've never heard any clear voice.

BTW, for those in South Texas they run the ACM comms on 375.825 which is Houston Center's discrete freq for the crystal MOA. Also used during these exercises:

375.825 Houston Center MOA Discrete (fighters check in with the AWACS)
364.200 NORAD AICC (The E-3 checks in with BIGFOOT)
140.150 ACM Air to Air VHF
138.100 Opposing ACM Team Air to Air VHF
235.950 ACM Air to Air UHF
252.000 Opposing ACM Team Air to Air UHF
237.150 Opposing ACM Team Air to Air UHF
 
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They occur on the following SATCOM UHF assignments:

261.575 / 295.175
260.475 / 294.075
Hi Lindsay

Im curious, are you hearing traffic on those 260 & 261Mhz downlinks also, or just listing them for continuity?

Also, do you hear both the 294 & 295 uplinks during the same exercise period, or is it nornally one or the other depending on any given day?

Chris
 

blantonl

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Im curious, are you hearing traffic on those 260 & 261Mhz downlinks also, or just listing them for continuity?
Just for continuity - I'm not listening to the downlinks

Also, do you hear both the 294 & 295 uplinks during the same exercise period, or is it nornally one or the other depending on any given day?
It is normally the 295.175 assignment but occasionally 294.075.
 

cjrjr507

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Yeah, I heard someone talking yesterday on 261.575 MHz Nfm. Did not last long. He was asking if the other end was getting his copy.
 

blhamlin

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I remember several years ago a flight of two B-52s called back to their home base on a UHF satcom channel. They started with an encrypted transmission. But someone must have bumped something because the next couple of transmissions were in the clear. It was simply a status call. Then they were told that they were not transmitting encrypted. The next transmission however, was! One of those rare times when you get to hear something interesting.
 
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