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Utility Listening - Discussions regarding monitoring government, military, aircraft, ship, and other misc communications in the HF/MW/LF bands.

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 05-04-2017, 6:07 PM
p1879's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 127
Default Atlas, Sundance, Flint 14.686/18.666 USB

It has been many a year since these Drug War frequencies were in use, but for some time in the 1980's and early 90's they were swarming with what may have been the most exciting consistent Ute traffic ever.

There were aerial chases the length of Mexico ,aircraft watching packs of speedboats laden with their illicit "merca" split up and head in all directions, and interesting logistical traffic as well. Much of the action happened in the Caribbean, but the Andes and the Golden Triangle areas had traffic on these US Customs and DEA frequencies too.

If I recall correctly--and any correction or amplification is encouraged-- many of these comms were under net control by contractor Rockwell Collins, and some transmitters may have been at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I think they could remote tx/rx sites in many places though. The primary net control, "Atlas" put out a blistering signal, and traffic was very brisk with what seemed like hundreds of units at bases, shipboard, on aircraft and maybe some portable units. I got the impression some "civilian" pleasure or sail boats were being used for spotting purposes too. There were dramatic chases and reports of smugglers jettisoning bales while on the run. I remember one aerial pursuit where the smuggler landed at last light on a small cay, and the locals swarmed out to prevent the pursuing a/c from landing.

I had a brand new Icom R-71 back then, it was the best electronic entertainment ever for me.

Perhaps others who remember those days can share some more history and stories on this era of the Coke Busters.

The Coast Guard HF A/G and Rescue traffic would be my secondary nomination for Best Sustained Ute Excitement from those years when most comms were in the clear.
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Old 05-07-2017, 1:28 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Randolph, MA
Posts: 574

I always enjoyed "Atlas". The fun part was in the days before the internet was trying to track down the frequencies, channel names and callsigns. As well as tracking down the Customs aircraft and boats around South Florida in the days before COTHEN.
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Old 05-09-2017, 12:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Randolph, MA
Posts: 574

For historical purposes I found my old list;

Alpha 5277.0
Bravo 5841.0
Charlie 7300.0
Delta 9497.0
Echo 11076.0
Fox 7657.0
Hotel 18666.0
India 23675.0
Papa 14686.0
Romeo 23403.0

And the old Customs system;

Sierra Echo 11073.5
Sierra Hotel 17171.0
Sierra India 18171.0
Sierra Juliet 19131.0

Tango Alpha 10242.0
Tango Bravo 13907.0
Tango Charlie 20890.0
Tango Delta 23214.0
Tango Echo 25350.0

Victor Alpha 27870.0
Victor Bravo 20631.0
Victor Charlie 18594.0
Victor Delta 15964.0
Victor Delta 7475.0
Victor Echo 10242.0
Victor Fox 11494.0
Victor Golf 13907.0
Victor Kilo 3369.0

Whiskey Charlie 5912.0
Whiskey Delta 12138.0
Whiskey Echo 13659.0
Whiskey Fox 15964.0

Xray Alpha 2808.5
Xray Bravo 4991.0
Xray Charlie 5058.5
Xray Delta 7778.0
Xray Echo 9238.5
Xray Fox 11191.0
Xray Golf 15954.0
Xray Hotel 17601.0
Xray India 19131.0

Yankee Alpha 3428.0
Yankee Bravo 5571.0
Yankee Charlie 8912.0
Yankee Delta 11288.0
Yankee Echo 13312.0
Yankee Fox 17952.0

Zulu Alpha 4500.0
Zulu Bravo 7527.0
Zulu Charlie 9802.0
Zulu Delta 12222.0
Zulu Echo 15867.0
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Old 05-11-2017, 3:35 PM
p1879's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 127

Those frequencies bring back some good memories. This traffic was often reported in the hobby magazines of the day, and many of the callsigns were identified by location, supposedly. I frequently heard phone patches too, some in Spanish on these channels.

One thing for sure is that HF radio was alive with mysterious communications then-bootlegging fishermen, smugglers, contras and unknowns.

I saw a story a while back in the Miami Herald about the cocaine cowboy days, and on the table in the police photo were arms, drugs, and a large (Kenwood maybe) HF radio.
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Old 05-11-2017, 8:54 PM
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Oh the memories of almost non-stop action from my QTH near Philadelphia. My trusty Sony2010 and a random wire. Many sleepless nights. Good stuff it was.
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Old 05-11-2017, 10:16 PM
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 917

During the early years (1972+) of Chicago DEA UHF, the Chicago UHF POTS interconnect channel would now and then patch 18666.0, neat to hear. One conversation heard was between a wife and her husband. Good times. Good memories.
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Old 05-24-2017, 6:13 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 127

Looking around on the net, I found another drug war freq/call-sign list from those great days of listening. I remember hearing around 20 of the call-signs on this list:

Between all the various law, crime, and spook stuff going on via HF then, there must have been a lot of HF backstay antennas visible on aircraft in the Southern US and farther south.

One of my most interesting catches, about 1986, was perhaps a Contra arms resupply order, maybe real or for the benefit of the Cuban/ USSR monitors working with the Sandinistas. I had taken my R71 over to a Spanish Prof's house to show him all the Spanish broadcasts booming in from Havana, Radio Exterior de Espan~a, etc. Shortwave had a lot to offer for scholars before the Great Interlinking.

Throwing a 20 foot piece of wire into the trees off the deck, I decided to check the frequencies above and below the 20m band, a place rife with mysterious comms then.

Right away I heard a Spanish two way contact, one player was reading a list of items needed on a resupply flight. He asked for various "paletas" or pallets of 5.56 mm ammo, and about the same number of 7.62 ammo pallets. There were other items, among them 81mm and another bore size for "maestros", perhaps slang for mortar shells. The Prof was extremely impressed, actually amazed, as he followed the entirety of the comms.

The main day frequency for Atlas etc. was a close neighbor to that find.

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Old 06-05-2017, 9:08 PM
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Join Date: May 2002
Location: Clark County, Nevada
Posts: 1,094

Yeah, those were the good old days... Don't forget SLINGSHOT on 7527.

What was kind of cool was at the same time DEA/USCS/USCG were chasing druggies on HF/SSB, hearing your local narcotics unit doing buy & busts on VHF/UHF & the local DEA with a surveillance on UHF. While all that was going on, maybe you were monitoring cellphones & heard someone trying to set-up a dope deal.
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