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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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Old 06-05-2018, 4:46 AM
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Default Woodpecker / Duga radar active again?

I don't believe my ears. I should be asleep since it's about 3am local time (10:00 utc)

I'm hearing what sounds like in the past what was the old Duga / Russian "woodpecker" radar on with a wide bandwidth of approx 14.100 to 14.260 mhz.

Transmission is not constant. Stays up for a minute or so, goes down for a minute, and then back up again. Definitely not amateur that's for sure.

I know some of the multiple facilities were abandoned (many online stories about it), but it sure sounds like maybe someone stashed one of the transmitters and is testing it. For fun / nostalgia? If so, stop - please.

If so, testing something like that in the amateur bands would be standard operating procedure for these guys. I've had my fill from yesteryear, that's for sure.

Location: near Los Angeles, on an Alinco R8T receiver with on-ground loop antenna. 3am local / 10:00 utc

Last edited by hertzian; 06-05-2018 at 4:55 AM.. Reason: corrected bandwidth up to 14.260 mhz
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Old 06-05-2018, 6:42 AM
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Update - sorry guys old news. It's the Russian 29B6 "Kontainer" radar's sounder, according to videos online, one of which shows a guy receiving it on 14.100 mhz like I did years ago. Now I know why it was the only thing I heard on the band.

Wonder if any of those radar ops might be able to turn that damn thing off, and use the antenna for something more productive, like ragchew or contesting!! Heh, if you are going to hang out in the amateur bands, why don't you join us for a qso instead of being retro-annoying like old woody was...

Last edited by hertzian; 06-05-2018 at 6:48 AM..
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Old 06-05-2018, 3:51 PM
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Wait - it gets worse. I am SO late to the party.

The bandwidth suggest that this might actually be the British Pluto radar. Similar sounding to Kontainer's sounder looking for vacant freqs.

I thought we were over this old-school spectrum polluting tech. I'll get over it - just play XTC's Generals and Majors real loud.
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Old 06-05-2018, 10:17 PM
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Take an audio recording, and do it in USB with the widest bandwidth filters you have, otherwise you are not going to actually have an answer.

Based on your descriptions:

This is probably not the sounder for the 29B6. The 29B6 has not been active in many months now, nor has the sounder been seen.

If it sounds anything like the old Woodpecker or the 29B6 sounder it is probably not PLUTO or PLUTO related. PLUTO has one mode that is at a somewhat similar rate, 12.5 Hz vs the 10 Hz of the 29B6 sounder and the old Woodpecker. However it (PLUTO) normally does not use that rate with its standard 20 kHz width. Yes, it can use that combination, but it is uncommon.

Neither the 29B6 sounder nor the PLUTO in its 12.5 Hz mode is up and down the way you describe the signal you heard.

More likely, either the Australian JORN in frequency hop mode or a Chinese skywave OTHR in freq hop mode. However neither of those typically has a rate near 10 Hz, to sound like the Woodpecker or the 29B6 sounder.

But without a recording that is the best you are going to get. Comparing it post event to recordings online is not going to clear it up, as there can be too many that sound similar.

By the way, the old Woodpecker is never coming back. The sites have been dismantled, except for the one receiver only location that people see in pictures, and it is scrapped except for the antenna structure. Also, the technique used was really wasteful of bandwidth by comparison to any OTHR on the air today, and produced less detailed information. You just are not going to see such a long pulse with BPSK coding in use for that specific application again, technology and processing power has passed it up. I am not saying such a waveform does not have applications, but skywave OTHR searching for missiles and aircraft is not the forte of that kind of waveform.

T!

Last edited by Token; 06-05-2018 at 10:27 PM..
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Old 06-06-2018, 5:19 AM
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Wow thanks for the info - I didn't know there were even more parties doing this stuff!

About a minute into this clip is the sound I heard for about 30 minutes... Up for about 1 minute or more, down for a minute or 2, back up again, etc. Didn't seem to be exact timings either..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMoztHw84a4

Hearing that slower 10hz sweep rate made me think that Duga was back - I've been out of touch on this subject. Appreciate the info!
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Old 06-06-2018, 8:39 AM
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That video you linked is one of my videos.

But note that the sounder in that video does not come up and down on one frequency, rather it hits a freq for short period and then moves to a higher frequency. That is what the sounder does, it starts at a frequency just below the lowest operating freq for 29B6 (6000 kHz) and steps up through the spectrum to just above the highest operating freq for 29B6. And a short while later it repeats the cycle. But it does not hit a single frequency repeatedly in a short period of time.

Think of it this way, a sounder, be it backscatter or forward scatter (bistatic), is a radar. I don’t like to call them that, but it is a fact. Radars are designed with a specific set of target parameters in mind, and those parameters drive how the radar operates. In the case of a sounder the target (the ionosphere) changes slowly, and so it does not have to look at the target very often to have a complete set of data. Hitting a given frequency or specific narrow frequency range every 10 to 50 minutes provides ample data on how the ionosphere is changing.

Radars (as opposed to sounders) are designed for targets that move / change more rapidly, missiles, aircraft, ships, etc. And so they must look at the target more often to keep track of what is going on.

As I said, sounders are radars, just specialized to look at the ionosphere. As such they can end up using basic waveforms that may be very similar to other radars. One way to tell a probable sounder from a probable radar is its revisit or dwell rate and time. If it looks at a given frequency / area rapidly it is likely looking for a target that changes quickly, and so it is probably a “radar” looking for man made targets. If it looks at a given frequency / area a few times an hour it is likely a sounder, since the ionosphere typically does not change rapidly.

So the activity you describe, coming up and down every minute or so on a given frequency, sounds much more like a radar than a sounder. And it is quite possible that it was a frequency hopping radar, and while you heard it as “off” it was actually still on, but on a different frequency, and it hopped back to the frequency you were monitoring every minute or two. So that it may have been “on” all the time, but monitoring a single frequency you would not have heard it until it jumped back to the freq you were monitoring.

As for “more parties” doing this stuff, HF radar is quite common, and has been since the first days of radar, in the late 1930’s. There has basically never been a time, since radar became a real thing, when HF radar was not used, although people outside the field sometimes don’t realize that.

Australia, France, Iran, UK, US, Canada, China, and Russia all have very active HF OTHR programs, and have for years. Other countries, such as Germany, India, South Africa, etc, also have HF radars, although typically less well known or less active.


T!

Last edited by Token; 06-06-2018 at 8:44 AM..
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Old 06-06-2018, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post
As I said, sounders are radars, just specialized to look at the ionosphere. As such they can end up using basic waveforms that may be very similar to other radars. One way to tell a probable sounder from a probable radar is its revisit or dwell rate and time. If it looks at a given frequency / area rapidly it is likely looking for a target that changes quickly, and so it is probably a “radar” looking for man made targets. If it looks at a given frequency / area a few times an hour it is likely a sounder, since the ionosphere typically does not change rapidly.
I meant to add to this thought, but did not do so in my original post. I meant to caveat this as a general rule of thumb, not a hard, fast, fact.

The above has exceptions, of course. For example, the SuperDARN radar or various meteor / space object radars around the World.


T!
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Old 06-29-2018, 10:21 PM
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I'm not sure if what I've heard is a sounder, but I ran across the following while checking 6314 kHz for a possible Navtex transmission from NMF in Boston on June 29 at 03:00 UTC (wrong time of day, actually):

I heard the regular ticking of a clock at exactly 1 sec. intervals, starting at 03:00 UTC and stopping after about 2 minutes. This sounded exactly like a WWV-style time signal, but without a continuous tone, and with no announcements whatsoever. It was audible only in USB mode. At 3:07 it started again, then it stopped at 03:09, and didn't reappear again until 03:28, when the signal got a lot stronger.

I believe I've heard the same ticking sound occasionally near the high end of the amateur 40 meter band.

Is this like the signals others have been describing?

PS: I remember that Russian woodpecker, which I usually heard near 12 mHz many years ago. It was so annoying, as it usually interfered with a broadcast I was trying to hear, sometimes even Radio Moscow! Glad it's gone, but nowadays there aren't many SW broadcasters to interfere with, anyway.
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Old 06-30-2018, 8:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB46 View Post
I'm not sure if what I've heard is a sounder, but I ran across the following while checking 6314 kHz for a possible Navtex transmission from NMF in Boston on June 29 at 03:00 UTC (wrong time of day, actually):

I heard the regular ticking of a clock at exactly 1 sec. intervals, starting at 03:00 UTC and stopping after about 2 minutes. This sounded exactly like a WWV-style time signal, but without a continuous tone, and with no announcements whatsoever. It was audible only in USB mode. At 3:07 it started again, then it stopped at 03:09, and didn't reappear again until 03:28, when the signal got a lot stronger.

I believe I've heard the same ticking sound occasionally near the high end of the amateur 40 meter band.

Is this like the signals others have been describing?
That is not the signal described in this thread. That is a signal that has been present for at least 6 months now, on various frequencies, and discussed here:
https://www.hfunderground.com/board/...c,41025.0.html
https://forums.qrz.com/index.php?thr...truder.614510/

While some folks have decided this is related to High Frequency Trading I am skeptical. Some experimental callsigns have been tied to some of the frequencies used, but no license has been tied to all of the frequencies this signal shows up on. Also, in my opinion, the signal is not complex enough for this application. Some people have resolved that issue by proposing this is just initial experiments, possibly for latency mapping or something related to that. I still don't see it, at least as related to HFT.

T!
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Old 06-30-2018, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Token View Post
That is not the signal described in this thread. That is a signal that has been present for at least 6 months now, on various frequencies, and discussed here:
https://www.hfunderground.com/board/...c,41025.0.html
https://forums.qrz.com/index.php?thr...truder.614510/
Thanks for those links. I only started hearing those pips a few weeks ago, so I was unaware how common they were, although the frequency on which I heard them is not mentioned in any of the other reports. I lack the expertise and equipment to do the kind of in-depth analysis the other people are doing, but it's interesting, anyway.

Now I remember that the first time I heard the signal it was in the 40 meter band, and so loud that I thought my brand-new ATS-909X had already developed some kind of bug.
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