VHF/UHF Military Monitoring

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This page is an introduction for those new to the world of VHF and UHF military monitoring, as well as for folks more seasoned in the hobby. This topic is discussed in the RadioReference Military Monitoring Forum

Where to Start?

Even if you aren't around a military base, there's still several possibilities to hear Military Communications (Milcom) traffic:

  • Any data on military trunk systems is linked in the 'Trunked Radio Systems' page linked on each state's page in our Collaboration Gateway. For an example, see the Trunked Radio Systems (MD) article.
  • If you live near a major city, chances are good your local airport also uses UHF frequencies in addition to the usual civil air ones. Be sure to check the RadioReference Database for these.

Typical Questions and Answers

  • What Do I Need to Hear Military Flights?

  • Where Can I Find Information for my area?
    • The first place you should go is the RadioReference Database, which contains frequencies maintained by a team of specialists in their area.
    • Then check the Milcom Web Pages and Mailing Lists article

  • How can I find what is being used for milcom in my area if the above has nothing.

  • What About Satellites?
  • Can I Hear (and maybe talk to) the Astronauts on the International Space Station?
    • Military communications over satellites can occasionally be heard. Note that just about all U.S. military SATCOM voice transmissions are encrypted. Occasionally you can hear short comms in the clear, like voice testing, but this is infrequent. You can also hear telemetry and other constant data streams. More often, you can hear what sounds like casual conversations in languages other than English, but the reason for this is somewhat unclear. A receiver for monitoring SATCOM must coverage from 240 MHz to 270 MHz. While NFM mode is common, many other modes are possible. Software Defined Radios easily fit this requirement. Just like VHF/UHF Milcom, SATCOM uses an interval of 25 kHz. Optimal setups for receiving SATCOM are unique, involving hi gain antennas designed for correct polarization of the SATCOM signal. It is possible to hear SATCOM with nothing more than a handheld and a wideband whip. This technique involves going outside (SATCOM signals are relatively weak), searching the SATCOM frequency range, and experimenting with orienting your whip from vertical to horizontal. Listen carefully for carriers and periodic data bursts. See the SATCOM page for more information about amateur and military satellites, including the International Space Station.