Brunswick – The USMC MAG-31 F/A-18 squadrons and the F-35B FRS squadron at MCAS Beaufort have recently undergone a number of air-to-air and Base frequency changes, leading to an update of my Milair page, but I thought I would also make those changes a blog post as well. A basic overview is that VMFA-115 has changed their Base (squadron ops) frequency and have a possible new air-to-air frequency, VMFA(AW)-224 changed one of their air-to-air frequencies, VMFA-251 changed one of their air-to-air frequencies, VMFA-312 has changed their Base and air-to-air frequencies, and VMFA(AW)-553 has changed one of their air-to-air frequencies. The changes are detailed below:
Savannah – It had been a few months since I had the chance to visit the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge’s Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive, so with low tides on Saturday morning I figured it was a good opportunity to go back over. For whatever reason it turned out not to be the most fruitful visit, but a few hours at the refuge beats a few hours at many other places.
I don’t know if they were Pokemon hunting, or what, but there seemed to be a lot of impatient visitors at the refuge, traveling at a speed far faster than they would be able to see anything but the largest alligator, much less smaller wildlife. The refuge seems to be accommodating to those playing Pokemon Go and they’ve even posted some rules they ask the players to abide by. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for Pokemon players to keep the speed down so the dust doesn’t disturb the wildlife and those of us watching the wildlife. Slow down a bit and you might just find more than Pokemon!
One of my favorite places at the Savannah NWR is the rice trunk just before the first oak hammock you come to. Water levels on one side of the road are effected by tides and it’s a good spot to catch herons and egrets feeding at low tide. On Saturday, there wasn’t the first heron or egret there even though there seemed to be plentiful food in the form of small fish and fiddler crabs.
Pool 16 on the southern end of the wildlife drive is being flooded for the impending arrival of migratory waterfowl. On Saturday, it mostly seemed to be full of Cattle Egrets and Ibis, but it’s a sign that ducks will be arriving in the not too distant future. According to the refuge’s Facebook page they’ll be flooding additional ponds later in the year pending controlled burns and the arrival of the waterfowl.
Surprisingly, we only saw two alligators at the refuge on Saturday. Part of the reason is likely the high water level in the diversion canal; it was covering the banks where many alligators are usually seen lying out in the sun. Other canals and creeks along the drive have very low water levels and judging by the algae on top of the water haven’t seen much circulation or current, so the alligators are probably avoiding those areas as well.
Since the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is underneath the approach and departure path for the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, you also get to see some iron birds in addition to the many feathered birds that call the refuge home. On Saturday, we caught CHECK 61/62 (F/A-18C, VMFA-312) from MCAS Beaufort on approach to the airport, where they were staying while flying sorties up to Bulldog MOA in central Georgia over the weekend. For the mil-spotters, I couldn’t see their bureau numbers, but they were marked NA-301 and NA-307.
I can’t wait for the cooler temperatures of Autumn and Winter to get here and with them the migratory waterfowl. As the temperatures cool down, I’ll be making more and more trips to both the Savannah and Harris Neck NWRs (Harris Neck just partially re-opened as part of the removal of trees effected by the Southern Pine Beetle). It’s almost my favorite time of the year!
To say the least it has been an interesting couple of days on the radios at the monitoring station. I’ve been in Savannah, and suffering with a cold and sore throat, wasn’t able to talk for a couple of days. It was the perfect excuse to enjoy some monitoring time (while also consuming mass quantities of liquids and cough medicene). Additionally, I spent part of the time setting up a netbook computer and my BCD396T as a portable computer logging/recording setup. While it has so far served to look for new talkgroups on the SEGARRN system, it can be used to log and record for most any VHF/UHF purpose.
While I didn’t catch in on the scanners, I got a nice catch on the RadarBox on Tuesday morning: Brazilian Air Force C-130 2467. Luckily it was transmitting position information so I was able to watch it on the AirNav RadarBox map as it transited up the Georgia coast. Here’s a screen shot from the map:
Tuesday also saw activity from two E-3 AWACS aircraft withing my monitoring range. DRAGNET (E-3, 966th ACCS) and BANDSAW (E-3, 964th ACCS) worked with F-16s from the 169th FW at McEntire ANGB off of the SC coast in W-161/177. In addition to listening to them working with the fighters, I was also able to hear coordination communications with HUNTRESS (NORAD EADS) and training operations with BEEFEATER (the ECM range at Poinsett Range).
There was some post-Presidential Debate listening on Tuesday as well as AIR FORCE 1 and SAM 44, the 89th AW VC-25A carrying the President and the backup aircraft respectively, carried President Obama from Florida to Ohio after the final debate of the election cycle. It isn’t very often you get to hear AIR FORCE 1, so it was fun to catch both it and the backup aircraft.
The USS Truman, CVN-75 has been working in the Atlantic doing training operations for a deployment next year. One of the units in CVW-3, the air wing assigned to the Truman is MCAS Beaufort based VMFA-312. On Wednesday I heard VMFA-312 F/A-18s returning to MCAS Beaufort as the Truman is apparently headed back into port. HSC-7 is the helicopter unit assigned to CVW-3 and I also heard some of their MH-60s headed southbound in the Savannah area.
On Tuesday (23 October 2012) and Wednesday (24 October 2012) an MH-47G from 3-160 SOAR at Hunter AAF (03763) operated out of the Air National Guard Ramp at Savannah International Airport, flying out over the Atlantic Ocean in Special Use Area W-133. On Tuesday, it was using the callsign EVAL 69; although I knew it was an H-47 by the audio I didn’t have any further information. It was identified by a mil-spotter on Wednesday morning at 03763 and also flew on Wednesday its usual callsign ARMY 03763. The EVAL callsign would indicate they were evaluating something, but what? What were they evaluating that caused them to fly out of the Guard ramp rather than their home base of Hunter AAF just a few miles away?
A few weeks back, I wrote that it seemed that VMFA-312 at MCAS Beaufort were using new Tac (air-to-air) frequencies. After listening for a few weeks, it became obvious that they weren’t. Except for that one catch of them using different frequencies, they used their usual frequencies of 301.950 (Tac 1) and 320.300 (Tac 2) afterwards. I have to think that they were using frequencies from an exercise they had participated in or perhaps frequencies used while they were temporarily operating out of another location.
Yesterday’s monitoring seems to indicate that the F/A-18Cs of VMFA-312 at MCAS Beaufort are using some new air-to-air frequencies. Between the thunderstorms yesterday I heard CHECK 63/64, CHECK 61/62, and CHECK 69 returning from Florida to MCAS Beaufort with Jax Center on 285.650, 282.200, and 322.500. During the time I heard them on the ATC frequencies I didn’t hear any air-to-air communications but I did hear 64 check in with Checkerboard Base on 228.200 to pass the inflight report for 63/64 flight. I put one of the BC780XLTs into search mode and quickly found 233.725 in use for 63/64’s air-to-air comms, likely making it the new Tac 2 frequency. When 61/62 passed through, I didn’t hear any air-to-air comms from them either; 267.425 quickly popped up for them likely making it the new Tac 1 frequency.