Numbers & oddities: Column 7

editor: Ary Boender

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This month we're on the Magical Mystery Military Numbers Tour. I hope you will like it. Enjoy ! Oh, and don't forget me. Send me so much news and stuff that I have to hire someone to sort it out :-)



Various stuff

'Beacon' mystery unwrapped

Most of you must have heard them, the 4-character callsigns that haunt the 2-5 MHz bands. Even with the current poor conditions lots of the stations have booming signals during the evenings in Western Europe. In a feature in the June '86 issue of Popular Communications they are called 'Commercial beacons'. After all these years I still do not get what the author meant by that. Anyway, they are everything but commercial. Just like the single letter channel markers, these stations are Eastern European military stations with Russia as the major participant of course. The transmissions are loaded with Q-codes and often 5F groups are sent. The stations are using CW upto 30 wpm and the callsigns always consist of 4-character groups either 1 digit and 3 letters, 2 digits and 2 letters or 4 letters. Note: there are no combinations where 2-digits are next to each other except in the middle of the callsign (eg A12B, no 12AB or AB12). Here are a couple of typical lines. Each line comes from a different station:

VPV6 DE 3AYJ QRU? QSA3/4? OK?
CMMU DE 5E9S QTA QTX RPT
VVV DE 9AKO QRK3? QRU QSA? RPT
9Q9L DE DCNE. QSA2/3 QRQ16 QRK4 QRU? QRU QLW QRU?
Q6VH DE HK1M QAP?
OVQC DE PRJJ QLW QSA2/3 QRK QRU NIL
MDBS DE QPYA OK QTC 149 QRQ14 RPT AA?
3PIQ DE 3INP QSA?
Z6GO DE TO7R
(followed by 5F groups) QJG QRO QYT1 QRV
IGDK DE HK1M QYT6 QYT8 OK? QSX?

This one is a bit different from the rest of the stuff. These messages pop up every now and then on 4602.5 kHz. They are repeated 2 times.

XXX XXX ESUP ESUP 45530 26798 BATIST (heard on 4-7)
XXX XXX ESUP ESUP 06365 BARWINOK 570 (heard on 6-7)

These messages are transmitted by the Net Control Station (ESUP in this case) and begin always with 'XXX XXX'. The messages are probably staff messages like the USAF 'Skyking'. This is a Russian duplex network and you can find the other end on 4937.5 kHz.

For those who are not familiar with the Q-codes, here's the translation. I must say that there were a couple of new ones for me too ! Note: the meaning of these Q-codes differ sometimes from the same amateur or maritime Q-codes.

QAP keep listening on ... kHz
QJG revert to automatic relay
QLW test transmission
QRKx the intelligibility of your signals is x. Where x is 1.bad, 2.poor, 3.fair, 4.good, 5.excellent
QRO increase transmitter power
QRQx transmit with x words per minute.
QRU I have nothing for you.
QRV I am ready
QSAx the strength of your signal is x. Where x is 1.barely readable, 2.weak, 3.fairly good, 4.good, 5.very good
QSX I am listening to ... (callsign) on ... kHz
QTA cancel message nr...
QTC I have messages for you
QTX stop with.... (depends on the code following QTX)
QYTx reference to another transmission, where x marks the number of the transmission. On 4602.5 kHz, the highest number used is 8.
RPT AA repeat all after

The most active frequency was 4602.5 / 4937.5 kHz during the past few months, followed by 4119, 3067 and 4058 kHz. I logged the following stations during April-July:

3067.0 kHz NSNO, NT73, E68W, KR1K
4058.0 kHz 3INP, 2M8V, 4B7C, Q8TC
4119.0 kHz OTBA, VVYV, TO7R, WLGL, 1J4W, AWVB, VA7I
4601.0 kHz RGC7 (w/Z4C5 on 4602.5 _not the same network as 4937.5_)
4602.5 kHz 3AYJ, GAGX, 8NLG, BASG, 9AKO, SVAK, ESUP, 5E9S, Z4C5, CHLN, VDHN, MBJX, W6HA, HJSN, QPYA, HKMR, KOAT, CMMV, HK1M, AEKN, 8MKR
4937.5 kHz (other end of 4602.5)

This frequency list is far from complete. It is based on the activity during the past 3 years. During that period activity has been noted on the following freqs:
2238, 2285, 2302, 2362, 2546, 2733, 2748, 2854, 2878, 3055, 3064, 3067, 3089, 3228, 3256, 3282, 3286, 3298, 3486, 3803, 3831, 3938, 4058, 4119.5, 4601, 4602.5, 4898.5, 4951.5, 5058, 5117, 5138, 5144, 5153, 5241, 10038, 13207 kHz.

Please note that not all 4-character stations on these frequencies belong to the Russians. The 4602.5 / 4937.5 link is Russian, while the Czech Army can be found on 5144 kHz, but there may be other Eastern European stations as well. As usual, the stations quite often change their frequencies, so you have to search for them but you'll find them soon enough. 4602.5 kHz seems to be deserted at the moment but judging from the past, they will return sooner or later.

Tip: when you see the 'XXX XXX' messages, then you have a very good chance that you caught a Russian station. These messages can also be helpful to define the various groups of stations on these networks.

Timesignal stations ? Nope !

Another type of mystery station that is around for quite some time, is often wrongly indicated as a time signal station. In fact, this is not one single station but a network of stations belonging to the Russian forces. To the Russian Air Defense Forces to be more precise. This is a typical message that can be best described as a QRV message: 'BT990457??8?????'. The digit after the first two question marks is 8 on 3839 kHz but may be different on other frequencies. Each message starts with BT -...- followed by 99 and the time, being UTC+x. Then two question marks ?? ..--.. followed by a digit and again five question marks. Each message that starts with another combination than 99 is followed by a 'normal' message. The combination consists of 2 equal digits like 44, 66 etc. The messages have a length of 13 characters (including BT), the QRV messages count 16 characters. The time that is transmitted on these stations is not very precise, it is often 1 to 3 minutes off. The timestring can vary from station to station from UTC+3 to 6 or even up to +12 hours, depending on the geographical area that the station serves.

These stations have been heard on many frequencies. Here is the list:
2316, 2360, 3825, 3839, 4402, 5053, 5181, 5205, 5214.5, 5369.5, 6635,6800, 7530, 8084 kHz.
At the moment 3839 and 6635 kHz are quite active in the European evenings.

In the early 90's a similar station could be found on 5416 kHz. It transmitted in 50bd RTTY and sent the following QRV message: VV99+1804+0++++++ The timestring was UTC+1. Just like the CW stations, this also was a military station. Probably belonging to the Russian forces in Eastern Germany or the East German forces.

The USAF numbers broadcasts, pt2.

I am sure that every person who regularly listens to GHFS stations have heard the character strings commonly known as EAMs (Emergency Action Messages). So, what's an EAM ? This definition of an EAM is taken from a USAF Manual: "Joint Chiefs of Staff Emergency Action Messages contain key instructions or information from high level authority and have predetermined formats. Such messages are transmitted by various communications systems and normally carry FLASH precedence. They are vital messages of an extremely time-sensitive nature, and rapid processing is mandatory to obtain the fast reaction required by their content. Usage and handling procedures are of the highest classification and have been issued by the Joint Chiefs of Staff only to those who have a need to know."

Sample EAM:
"Alpha Romeo Yankee Four One Tango standby. Alpha Romeo Yankee Four One Tango standby. Alpha Romeo Yankee Four One Tango standby, message follows. Alpha Romeo Yankee Four One Tango Bravo Two Charlie Delta Oscar Three Five Seven Lima Hotel Six Quebec Uniform India Juliet Mike Zulu Kilo Papa Foxtrot. Offutt out.''

The following information is a small subset of what has appeared on the Grove BBS since July 1994. It was compiled for this article by Jeff Haverlah. The information grew out of an attempt by Larry Van Horn and Jeff to discover what was common on the GHFS so that the 'uncommon' becomes noticeable. This is what Jeff writes:

As with most hobbyists, EAMs were something to hear but ignore. When I took the time to actually listen to these things, 'conventional wisdom' went by the wayside!

I'd like to thank Jeff for this in depth EAM article, Carter Bennet and Larry van Horn for their input, Carter for the EAM checker and of course the NN guys who sent me some useful stuff as well. That's all for now folks. See ya next month, Ary

See also Newsletter 23.

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