Other Radio Hobbies
Report #033 08/01/2002
SUSPECTED INTERCEPT OPERATOR TRAINING - In December 1995, Kevin Tubbs VT advised me regarding signals he heard on 16172 kHz which appeared to be those of a very active net. Various traffic formats were observed and various modes of transmission were utilized. It soon became evident however that this was not a net but in fact was a single transmitter simulating network operations. Modes observed included CW, SITOR-B, FEC, ASCII, and several baud/shift RTTY signals. The traffic consisted of cipher texts of five-figure, five-letter, four-letter, four-figure, three-letter, and three-figure groups. In addition to the cipher traffic, numerous plain text messages were broadcast also. There were a few plain language callsigns such as ATLANTIS, DISCOVERY, CHALLENGER, and COLOMBIA. Other callsigns were four-character, four-letter, and two-letter calls. It was noted that messages were often repeated days or weeks after the original transmission and some of the schedules were identical in content to previous schedules.
I had passed the information from Kevin on to Tom Sevart KS and in April 1996 he found the activity was now on 16303 kHz. The use of incorrect as well as correct dates were seen on the messages. On 17 September 1996 a plain language message gave instructions for the exercise for that day. Recipients were told that the date was to be considered as Tuesday, 3 September 1996, and all time references in the traffic were to be considered local time which converted to Zulu time by adding seven hours. Operation on 16303 kHz continued on ionto 19097. Tom Sevart advised he found the activity on 10225 kHz and he determined it was in parallel with the 16303 kHz frequency. On 13 July 1998 Tom heard the activity on 16080 kHz and observed plain language messages transmitted in AM mode.
In going through the collected traffic I kept thinking I had seen an article somewhere at sometime in the past which had mentioned an activity like that described above. After searching through a batch of reference material, I found the article ion the Monitoring Times issue of April 1990 on page 20. The article was by Laura Quarantiello and was titled Scanning the Military Madhouse. A portion of the article told of a FACSFAC (Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility) installation located near San Diego, CA and it was run by the Flight Combat Training Center at Point Loma. Naval radar operators and combat intercept operators were trained at the Center.
On 28 October 1998 Tom said he had received details from an undisclosed source who said the transmissions we had been following were broadcast by FACSFAC Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE) which was located at North Island, CA. One frequency mentioned was 10225 kHz and it was reportedly in use for the intercept operator training. The actual location of the transmitter was believed to be on San Clemente Island which is just off the coast of California.
In November 1999 Tom heard the activity on the 16303 kHz frequency when he saw SITOR-B, CW, and ASCII 75/170 modes. Periodic intercepts were reported during the ensuing years which indicated 16303 kHz still in use. On 22 July 2002, two WUN items were intercepts of the training activity. 16302 kHz was reported in use with CW transmissions. Callsigns BANDAR, JACK, JERY, and HARY were seen. The WUN items were from Igor, RU and John, MA. On 23 July 2002, John Cramer, AZ notified me that he had copied similar traffic on 10233 kHz in June 2001.
From the above it is evident that this training activity continues to function. One could speculate how many operators have been trained during its entire operating period. It is certain to be a huge number of individuals.
ELECTRONIC MUSEUM - Fellow SWLer Kevin Tubbs, VT visited me for a few days earlier this year. In addition to going to the Cryptologic Museum, we went to the Electronic Museum which is off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on West Nursery and Elkridge Landing roads in Linthicum, MD. It is right next to the BWI Marriot Hotel. This is truly a fascinating place. It covers all aspects of Electronics from early radio to
advanced electronic counter-measures. The museum hours are the same as the NSA Cryptologic Museum and likewise is not open on holidays. In front of the building is a SCR-270 Radar, the type radar which detected the incoming Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately the flight was interpreted as a U.S. training exercise. If you are ion the area sometime, plan visits to both museums. I am sure you will enjoy each of them.
For further information on numbers stations, and other mystery communications we recommend . . .
©2002 Don Schimmel.