Savannah – Over the last few days, from both home and from the mobile station, I have had the chance to listen to some very interesting air-to-ground combat training from Townsend Range and the Coastal MOA between Savannah and Brunswick in coastal Georgia. F/A-18s based out of MCAS Beaufort along with F/A-18s from NASJRB Fort Worth, TX have been working with ground assets LIGHTNING AIR and JUSTICE. I’m not sure who LIGHTNING AIR is, but JUSTICE seems to be either a JTAC or TACP. That in itself isn’t unusual, but what makes this activity so interesting is that F-15Cs from the 125th FW at Jacksonville IAP have been participating as well. This is the first time that I’ve heard the 125th FW F-15s working with JTACs or TACPs or with a FAC-A as they did yesterday afternoon.
There has been morning, afternoon, and night activity at Townsend Range this week involving all of the units I mentioned above, but the common denominators have been COWBOY ## (F/A-18A+) flights VMFA-112 and LIGHTNING AIR/JUSTICE. HAWK 8# (F/A-18D) flights from VMFA(AW)-533 at Beaufort and FANG 0# and GATOR 0# (F-15C) from the 125th FW at Jacksonville have joined them on the morning and afternoon sorties while TBOLT 5# (F/A-18C) flights have joined them during the night sorties. There has also been tanker support from RANGER 41 and RANGER 45 (KC-130J, VMGR-234) during the afternoon and night sorties. VMFA-112 is working out of MCAS Beaufort and VMGR-234 has been working out of Savannah IAP.
So far, the aircraft have been checking in to Townsend Range and the Coastal MOA on 228.400, then switching to either 252.900 or 226.975 to work with LIGHTNING AIR and JUSTICE. Aerial Refueling with the KC-130Js has been on one of VMGR-234’s frequencies – 289.800, which has also been used for air-to-air traffic between the two VMGR-234 aircraft. The VMFA-112 F/A-18s have been using 250.300 for their air-to-air traffic, but I’m not sure if it’s one of their assigned frequencies or if they’re borrowing it from MAG-31 while they’re here (it is a MAG-31 frequency). Otherwise, usual Base/Ops/Air-to-Air frequencies have been in use:
The most fascinating part of this activity has been the participation of the F-15Cs from Jacksonville. I’ve been listening to the unit since around 1998 and this is the first time I’ve heard them do air-to-ground training with a JTAC or TACP like they have with JUSTICE. Some of it has been direct with JUSTICE and at other times it’s been through HAWK 8# acting as a FAC-A. I haven’t heard them drop bombs or launch missiles or rockets, I’ve just heard them do strafe runs at targets, but they have been checking in with both LITENING or Sniper pods. It’s been fascinating to listen to the 125th FW do something that’s outside of their normal Air-to-Air combat training and I hope it’s something they’ll do more often; I’ll be listening out for it!
Savannah – Yesterday, I had to make a short road trip from Savannah to Forsyth and back to Savannah for work. As I usually do, I let the HP2 and TRX-2 record what they heard for logging after the trip. The early morning drive from Savannah to Forsyth wasn’t all that productive, but the drive back in the afternoon provided some good logs from the radios and some interesting listening. As always, these logs don’t include any law enforcement activity (or at least activity that I know to be law enforcement).
My main interest in public safety monitoring/logging during the trip was Laurens County. I’m never able to spend an extended period of time in Laurens County, it usually just consists of driving through or stopping for gas or meal in Dublin, but on my last few times through I began getting the suspicion that the county’s DMR radio system wasn’t conventional, but trunked. For this trip, I had their DMR frequencies programmed into the TRX-2 as both conventional and trunked and things seemed to be trunked. I hope to get some more opportunities in the near future to listen to this system and try to figure it out more. It also turned out to be a good opportunity to catch hear activity on the CGIRRS system used by Macon-Bibb County and the Tattnall County NXDN TRS (which can be heard from parts of I-16).
Central Georgia Interoperable Regional Radio System
TG 132 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Dispatch 1
TG 134 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Scene 2
TG 135 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Scene 3
TG 152 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Event 2
TG 1101 – Monroe County FD Dispatch
Houston-Peach Regional Radio System
TG 16 – Houston County FD Dispatch
TG 61 – Warner Robins FD Dispatch
Laurens County DMR TRS
TG 100 – Laurens County EMS?
TG 300 – Laurens County FD?
While the drive to Forsyth was devoid of any MilCom activity except for some traffic on the US Army TRS at Fort Stewart and the USAF TRS at Robins AFB, the drive back to Savannah in the afternoon provided some highly interesting listening. There was some good SEAD/DEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses) training from 77th FS F-16 flights PINION ## and JACKPOT ## in the Bulldog MOA, but the most interesting traffic came from Townsend/Range Coastal MOA. For much of the drive down I-16 from Macon to Savannah, I could hear HAWK 8# (F/A-18D, VMFA-533), COWBOY 2# (F/A-18A+, VMFA-112), FANG 0# (F-15C, 125th FW), and GATOR 0# (F-15C, 125th FW) doing FAC-A and forward air controller training (more information in a future post). The USAF TRS site at Robins AFB can be heard from parts of I-16 and I-75 near Macon and it’s worth mentioning that this is the second trip in a row that all of the activity that I’ve heard from Robins site has been encrypted.
133.225 – Robins AFB Tower
257.975 – Robins AFB Tower
119.600 – Atlanta TRACON
124.200 – Atlanta TRACON
279.600 – Atlanta TRACON
322.325 – Atlanta Center Augusta Low
310.200 – VMFA(AW)-533 Base
234.075 – VMFA(AW)-553 Tac 1
250.300 – VMFA-112 Air-to-Air
234.800 – 125th FW Aux 5
253.700 – 125th FW Aux 6
298.300 – 169th FW Ops
141.825 – 169th FW V14
228.400 – Townsend Range/Coastal MOA
252.900 – Townsend Range/Coastal MOA
226.975 – Townsend Range/Coastal MOA
343.750 – Bulldog MOA
Metter – A few weeks ago, I came across something interesting while looking through the FCC database: 700 MHz trunking frequencies licensed to Candler County: 769.10625, 769.80625, 770.60625, and 771.33125 under license WRBT983. Shortly thereafter, I began hearing some Candler County related activity on the SEGARRN system that is used by Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, and Liberty counties (and also has a site in Bulloch County). Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a ride up to Metter and check things out. I found that the frequencies licensed under WRBT983 are definitely a SEGARRN site; 771.33125 is the control channel and the site ID is 02C5-0108. Both in the Savannah area and while I was in Metter, I only heard law enforcement related traffic – no fire or EMS related traffic. For that reason, I’m sorry – but I can’t post any talkgroups I heard (for those not familiar, I don’t post law enforcement related information due to the nature of my employment). Should I start hearing some fire/EMS related traffic I’ll definitely pass it on. If you’re in the Savannah, Pembroke, Statesboro, or Metter areas, put your trunk tracking scanner in search mode and I’m sure you’ll come about them quickly enough.
I wonder if this means we’ll see Bulloch County make another try to transition from their old SmartZone system to the SEGARRN at some point in the future? Surely Motorola isn’t going to support the older equipment forever and with most of the surrounding agencies on the SEGARRN, it could force their hand.
The view from Bevrick’s Char House Grille in Metter, GA
I found a nice shady spot under a lakeside pear tree in Metter by Bevrick’s Char House Grille to monitor the new Candler County SEGARRN site
Food always goes good with radio and I had a great meal at Bevrick’s Char House Grille in Metter near where I found a nice shady spot under a lakeside pear tree to monitor the new Candler County SEGARRN site. Bevrick’s is a steakhouse type restaurant alongside a lake just off of I-16 Exit 104 in Metter. The prices are pretty good, the view of the lake is good, and the food I had was excellent. I tried the “Junkyard Chicken,” which is a grilled chicken breast smothered with cheese, bacon, grilled onions and peppers, jalapenos, and diced tomatoes. There are a number of good restaurants in Metter just off of I-16 including Jomax BBQ and Papa Buck’s BBQ and I’d definitely add Bevrick’s to that list. Any of the three are good places to stop if you find yourself around Metter and meal time.
Since my nephew is thinking about joining the military after he graduates from high school, I took him on a trip to the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, and the Andersonville National Historic Site/Cemetery on Monday and Tuesday. We went to the Museum of Aviation with a side trip to the big Bass Pro Shops in Macon on Monday, stayed overnight in Warner Robins and then went to the National Infantry Museum and Andersonville on Tuesday, driving back home to Savannah on Tuesday evening. Since I wasn’t traveling alone, I didn’t have as much radio time as usual, but I did let the Home Patrol 2 and TRX-2 in the mobile station and the BCD436HP and TRX-1 portables scan and log during the trip.
Of particular interest on the first day of the trip, was Robins AFB. I always enjoy listening to military aviation activity at Robins and on Monday I was able to hear the usual E-8 JSTARS and Air Logistics Center activity, but some P-8s from NAS Jacksonville doing pattern work as well. The USAF TRS site at Robins AFB is something I usually listen to as well. During this trip, I was able to ascertain that the USAF TRS encrypted talkgroup that is listed as “Doghouse” on RadioReference seems to be associated with the 116th/461st ACW and that the encrypted talkgroup 56166 seems to be the 116th/461st ACW MOC net.
133.225 – Tower
257.975 – Tower
121.850 – Ground
275.800 – Ground
134.100 – Base Ops
225.925 – Robins ALC Ops
293.525 – 116th/461st ACW “PEACHTREE Ops”
119.600 – Atlanta TRACON
124.200 – Atlanta TRACON
279.600 – Atlanta TRACON
134.500 – ZTL South Departure Low
360.750 – ZTL South Departure Low
TG 56046 – unknown
TG 56070 – ALC MOC
TG 56082 – ALC
TG 56121 – Robins AFB Base Ops
TG 56122 – Robins AFB Tower
TG 56123 – Robins AFD FD Dispatch
TG 56141 – Doghouse (enc); related to 116th/46st ACW)
TG 56166 – 116th/461st ACW (enc) (suspect this is MOC net)
TG 56192 – unknown
TG 56193 – unknown
TG 56257 – unknown
Monday evening and night’s weather around Warner Robins wasn’t very good. so it delayed several E-8 JSTARS flights at Robins AFB and generated a good bit of traffic on MOC nets at the base. TIGER 04 (P-8A, 169007, VP-8) and TIGER 88 (P-8A, 168760, VP-8) got in some pattern work at Robins before the storms came and DRACO 06 (E-8C, 00-2000, 116th/461st ACW) and PEACH 99 (E-8C, 94-0284, 116th/461st ACW) finally took off late in the evening after having to delay takeoff for lightning in the area.
At the Museum of Aviation, a number of aircraft are under restoration, including their B-17G, HU-16, and VP-26B. All three are in the Scott Exhibit Hangar behind the Eagle Building (main building). Unfortunately, the EC-135 that used to be the CENTCOM command post aircraft is still out back behind the museum with parts of the aircraft removed. I hope they get some funding at some point to restore it. The last time I visited the museum, someone asked if John Travolta’s Gulfstream was still there; on this visit, I looked behind the hangars and it is still there.
After spending the night in Warner Robins, we left for Fort Benning and Andersonville on Tuesday morning. The morning was foggy and there were rain showers and thunderstorms throughout the day, so I didn’t hear all that much activity around Fort Benning. The radios did log some aviation activity from Lawson AAF and some land mobile traffic from the Fort Benning TRS, but nothing new was turned up since my last visit there in 2017.
119.050 – Lawson AAF Tower
269.525 – Lawson AAF Tower
125.500 – Atlanta Approach/Departure
126.550 – Atlanta Approach/Departure
323.100 – Atlanta Approach/Departure
134.100 – Lawson AAF Base Ops
245.700 – Lawson AAF Base Ops
121.050 – Lawson AAF GCA
132.400 – Lawson AAF GCA
307.325 – Lawson AAF GCA
While my nephew, who is really interested in the Rangers, enjoyed seeing the Ranger related exhibits at the National Infantry Museum, I took particular interest in some of their World War I exhibits. I never get tired of seeing the Renault FT tanks there and the M1916 Armored Car. On this visit, they had the Global War on Terror memorial completed across from the Vietnam War memorial. Just as the Vietnam War memorial has all the names of those killed in action during the Vietnam War, the Global War on Terror memorial has all of the names of those killed in action during that conflict.
After we visited the National Infantry Museum, since it wasn’t very far away, I thought it was important that my nephew see the site of the Civil War prison camp, the Prisoner of War Museum, and the cemetery at the Andersonville National Historic Site. I felt that if he was going to see all of the “cool” stuff about military history at the National Infantry Museum, he should see the other side of military history at Andersonville. I wanted him to impress upon him that the military wasn’t always glamorous and that there was a downside to military history that we need to remember. Luckily we got there just as the afternoon guided tour was about to begin. Park Service intern Jessica gave the tour and did a magnificent job of it. She just didn’t point out was there and what happened there, but also encouraged us to think and contemplate upon what happened at Andersonville. It was something I’m glad my nephew was able to experience.
In the bottom left photo above, of the graves of Union prisoners of war who died at Andersonville, I’ll call your attention to the six gravestones that sit off to the right on their own. These are the graves of the Raiders, a group of POWs who robbed from and killed their fellow POWs. They were tried by a jury of the peers and hanged by their peers by permission of the Confederate camp commander. They are considered dishonorably discharged and aren’t honored on holidays as are the rest of the POWs buried at Andersonville.
On both Monday and Tuesday, we were within listening range of the Bulldog MOA in east/central Georgia and could hear F-16s from Shaw AFB and McEntire JNGB as well as F-35Bs from MCAS Beaufort operating in the MOA on 343.750. We could also hear them entering and exiting the MOA on 322.325 with Atlanta Center.
There was a lot of public safety radio traffic to hear during the trip. In addition to local agencies in Georgia, we could hear local public safety agencies in Alabama while around Fort Benning and Columbus. Given the mix of urban and rural areas we went through, there was a mix of conventional and trunked systems as well as a mix of analog and digital traffic.
Georgia Conventional Public Safety
154.3550 (PL 141.3) – Butts Co FD Dispatch
154.1750 (PL 88.5) – Crawford Co FD Dispatch
154.0700 (PL 186.2) – Laurens Co FD Dispatch (Analog)
155.4000 (PL 85.4) – Macon Co FD/EMS Dispatch
155.6475 (PL 110.9) – Schley FD Dispatch
155.5500 (PL 225.7) – Talbot Co VFD
154.2650 (PL 156.7) – Taylor Co FD Dispatch
160.6650 (PL 118.8) – Upson Co FD Dispatch
159.1950 (PL 100.0) – Upson Co EMS Dispatch
Alabama Conventional Public Safety
159.4350 (PL 107.2) – Barbour Co, AL Fire 1
151.1150 (PL 167.9) – Lee Co, AL Common
155.1450 (PL 123.0) – Lee Co, AL FD East Dispatch
154.0250 (PL 167.9) – Lee Co, AL EMS 1
155.8950 (PL 107.2) – Lee Co, AL EMS 2
154.4000 (DCS 134) – Auburn FD (Lee Co, AL)
154.1900 (PL 123.0) – Russell Co, AL Fire North Dispatch
154.3250 (PL 123.0) – Russell Co, AL Fire West Dispatch
453.0750 (PL 151.4) – Phenix City FD 1 (Russell Co, AL)
Central Georgia Interoperable Regional Radio System (P25)
TG 132 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Dispatch 1
TG 134 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Scene 2
TG 135 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Scene 3
TG 136 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Scene 4
TG 151 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Event 1
TG 152 – Macon-Bibb Co FD Event 2
Houston/Peach TRS (P25)
TG 16 – Houston Co FD Dispatch
TG 17 – Houston Co FD FG 1
TG 61 – Warner Robins FD Dispatch
TG 64 – Warner Robins FD Training
TG 65 – Warner Robins FD Talk
TG 91 – Centerville FD Dispatch
TG 121 – Perry FD Dispatch
Muscogee County TRS (P25)
TG 71 – Columbus FD Dispatch
Earlier this year, I bought a Whistler TRX-1 handheld scanner. My experiences with it over the last few months recently led me to add a TRX-2 to my mobile station. Specifically, a trip to northeast Georgia, a trip to Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville, Florida, and using the TRX-1 in the shack to gather P25 conventional UIDs have further shaped my opinion of Whistler’s two flagship scanners. I definitely prefer Uniden’s user interface and I’m still not pleased with the P25 trunking performance (particularly in the 700/800 MHz band) of Whistler’s TRX line, but they do other things quite well, so the TRX-2 is a good tool to add to the mobile station.
The Uniden Home Patrol 2 remains in the mobile station; the Whistler TRX-2 has joined it to give the station added capability. The strengths of the Home Patrol 2 are its simple, touch screen user interface and superior P25 trunking performance so it will handle Aviation, MilCom, and P25 trunking duties. It’s inconvenient at best to manually tune a channel on a TRX-1 or TRX-2 under normal conditions and practically impossible to do it while driving. I’ve found that when I’m monitoring Aviation or MilCom communications, it’s not unusual to manually tune to a channel to follow communications, so the touch screen and user interface of the Home Patrol 2 makes this no more difficult than changing channels on the car stereo. Doing the same with a TRX-1 or TRX-2 would involve so many button presses and navigation through menus that it would be too distracting to do while driving and therefore just too dangerous. The strengths of the TRX-2 are its DMR and NXDN capabilities and its ability to display P25 conventional radio IDs (UIDs) so it will handle conventional public safety, DMR, and NXDN scanning. The Home Patrol 2 offers neither DMR or NXDN reception and I’ve recently found myself traveling through areas that use those modes, so I needed to add something to the station that would add them. I just haven’t been satisfied with the DMR performance of my Uniden BCD436HP and BCD536HP (and NXDN capability has only recently been added to them) so I couldn’t see mounting either one. On the other hand, the TRX-1 has done a great job on DMR and NXDN and also displays radio IDs on P25 conventional frequencies (which the Uniden radios don’t do), so a TRX-2 was the radio to add.
With the exception of the Home Patrol 2, mobile scanners are large and bulky relative to modern car interiors. In that area, the TRX-2 also came with another positive: it comes out of the box with a detachable control head, the BCD536HP does not. I put the radio itself under the driver’s seat and mounted the control head (as seen in the photo above) on a RAM mount under the Home Patrol 2 and next to my Yaesu FT-857D mobile HF radio.
Since I first offered my observations on the TRX-1, further use and experience with it and now the TRX-2 have modified some observations and led to others.
I really haven’t had the opportunity to compare the NXDN performance of the Uniden and Whistler radios, but so far my experience is that the Whistler TRX-1 and TRX-2 are easier to use with DMR systems and perform better than the Unidens on DMR systems. Additionally, with the Uniden BCD436HP and BCD536HP, it’s critical that you know the logical order of the frequencies in a DMR trunking system in order to program it, you don’t with the Whistlers.
The TRX-1 and TRX-2 receive both DMR and NXDN out of the box. The Uniden Home Patrol 2 does neither and there are separate DMR and NXDN paid upgrades for the BCD436HP and BCD536HP. The upgrades cost $60 apiece, so if you want to add both DMR and NXDN capability to your 436 or 536, you’re adding $120 to a $400-500 scanner. This is something that Uniden intends to carry over with their new SDS-100 and something that they really should reconsider because it significantly increases the price of the radios compared to the Whistlers.
The TRX-1 and TRX-2 offer the ability to stop on encrypted transmissions while the Uniden BCD436HP and BCD536HP don’t. The 436 and 536 skip encrypted transmissions, but you can set the TRX-1 and TRX-2 to not ignore encrypted transmissions and pass the encryption noise or a busy-tone similar to a telephone busy signal. This is particularly helpful if you’re searching for frequencies or talkgroups or want to know when an encrypted frequency or talkgroup is active.
The Whistler TRX-1 and TRX-2 displays just don’t display as much information as the Uniden Home Patrol 2, BCD436HP, or BCD536HP displays do. The Uniden displays are larger, offer longer and more useful alphanumeric tags, and to me are just more readable. On the other hand, those with vision impairment may find the larger, bolder type of the Whistler display easier to read.
The Whistler user interface is more complicated than the Uniden user interface, particularly when used as a mobile scanner. Manually tuning a channel (or in Whistler’s parlance, an object) is far more involved than either the BCD436HP or BCD536HP, which offer tuning knobs and more involved than the Home Patrol 2 which you navigate through a touchscreen.
The TRX-1 and TRX-2 just don’t track P25 trunking systems, as well as the Uniden scanners, do, particularly in the 700/800 MHz range. In side-by-side tests, I’ve watched the Whistlers miss transmissions that the Unidens don’t. With both the TRX-1 and TRX-2, I’ve found that I have to adjust the data decoding thresholds on P25 trunking systems in the programming software to improve system tracking and even then they tend to miss transmissions.
In my first post of observations on the TRX-1, I wrote about how much of a problem the programming software for the TRX-1 is. Although the TRX-2 uses a separate program from the TRX-2, it’s basically the same program optimized for the TRX-2. The interface is still clunky and counter-intuitive to most Windows-based software. One of the main issues is that you can’t cut and paste information from one program to another, you can only utilize the software’s import feature. Another of my complaints about the Whistler software was about its transfer speed. When you connect the radio to the computer to program it, the transfer speed is astonishingly slow compared to connecting the Unidens to a computer to do the same. I have discovered that removing the SD card from the TRX-2 and inserting into my computer’s card reader significantly increases the transfer speed. With the TRX-2, that’s not a huge problem as the SD card inserts into the radio behind the control head. With the TRX-1 it is a problem because its micro SD card inserts into the side of the scanner under the battery compartment cover which is in turn under the radio’s protective case. It just isn’t as convenient or easy to remove the TRX-1’s memory card as it is to remove the TRX-2’s memory card. One design change I would suggest to the TRX-2 is relocating the memory card slot to the control head since they’ve designed the radio with remote mounting the head in mind. The rest of the radio, particularly in a mobile installation, isn’t always in the most easily accessible place.
One thing that hasn’t changed since I wrote about my observations on the TRX-1 is the lack of aftermarket software. Aftermarket software from companies such as Butel and ProScan is available for Uniden’s software and even though Uniden offers their own software for their radios, they cooperate with the aftermarket companies. Whistler does not; they have refused to share their programming protocols with outside software developers, so you’re stuck with their software. When I wrote about that in February, my opinion was that I probably wouldn’t have bought a TRX-1 if I had known about how bad the software was and that third-party software wasn’t available for the TRX-1. I have since come around to the opinion that some of the benefits of the radio in regards to DMR/NXDN performance and the ability to read P25 radio IDs outweigh the lack of third-party software. Third-party software or better factory software is still desired and I have made my opinion known to Whistler on several occasions.
When comparing the Whistlers with the Unidens, it really isn’t like comparing Chevrolet and Ford or Coke and Pepsi. It doesn’t come down to brand preference, Whistler’s scanners and Uniden’s scanners follow different methods of doing a similar task and don’t do all tasks well. When making a decision about which one to buy, you need to consider what you’ll be using it for and what you’ll be listening to. I have written a blog post that considers which radio you might want to choose if you live in the coastal Georgia area.