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Author Topic: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US  (Read 339 times)

Offline Josh

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Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« on: August 02, 2019, 1911 UTC »



Exclusive: the high-altitude balloons promise a cheap monitoring platform that could follow multiple cars and boats for extended periods

The US military is conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal.

Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons are being launched from rural South Dakota and drifting 250 miles through an area spanning portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, before concluding in central Illinois.

Travelling in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 65,000ft, the balloons are intended to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats”, according to a filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defence company.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/02/pentagon-balloons-surveillance-midwest

Wonder what bands they're using.
Conveniently located near Vincennes Indiana.

Offline ChrisSmolinski

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2019, 1936 UTC »
Ahh yes.... let's remember the government's previous escapades in the Blimp Department...

https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/harford/aegis/bs-md-jlens-blimp-loose-20151028-story.html

https://www.vox.com/2015/10/28/9630616/jlens-blimp

A 243-foot military blimp called a JLENS has come free of its tether in Maryland and is now floating out of control somewhere in Pennsylvania.

According to the Baltimore Sun, "Authorities warned anyone who sees the blimp to keep a safe distance and dial 911."

I'm sure, much like Communism, it will work correctly next time.
Chris Smolinski
Westminster, MD
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Offline skeezix

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2019, 0146 UTC »
So that's what that thing was.

I saw it on flightradar24.com a few weeks ago over 65,000' and there's one there now. Today, its HBAL0308 with registration number of N258TH at about 48,300'. Registration for that is Raven Aerostar in Sioux Falls, SD.

From the article, they had the FCC application linked. https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=233815&x=.



Nature of Service: Experimental
Callsign: WN9XDN
File Number: 1201-EX-ST-2019
Class of Station: XT  MO
Name: Sierra Nevada Corporation


Special Temporary Authority is hereby granted to operate the apparatus described below:


Purpose Of Operation:
Conduct high altitude MESH networking tests over South Dakota to provide a persistent
surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.

Station Locations
(1) MOBILE: Baltic, SD: Within the requested radius along the flight plan, Airborne max
            altitude 65,000 ft. AGL, within 400 km, centered around NL 43-42-02; WL 96-42-28

Frequency Information
MOBILE: Baltic, SD: Within the requested radius along the flight plan, Airborne max altitude
        65,000 ft. AGL, within 400 km, centered around NL 43-42-02; WL 96-42-28

Frequency   Station Class     Emission Designator     Authorized Power     Frequency Tolerance (+/-)
2380 MHz          MO                20M0D7W                 8 W (ERP)              0.002 %   
9510 MHz          MO                600MM3N             24280 W (ERP)              0.002 %


This authorization effective July 12, 2019 and will expire 3:00 A.M. EST September 01, 2019


Special Conditions:
(1) This frequency assignment in one of the bands 1435-1525, 2310-2320 and 2345-2390 MHz was
    coordinated prior to its authorization with AFMO CONUS, Ft. Sam Houston, TX, who also coordinated
    it, as appropriate, with the Aerospace and Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council. Use of this
    frequency under the authority of this assignment is subject to such further coordination with
    AFMO CONUS, Ft. Sam Houston, TX, as necessary to ensure compatibility with existing uses.

(2) Sierra Nevada Corporation adhere to the following:
     a. the proposed flight plan appears to directly overfly the North Liberty, IA VLBA
        station (NL 41-46-17.13; WL 91-34-26.88).  Avoid direct illumination of the site during testing.
     b. Notify the VLBA PoC prior to overflight.






Interesting to note that the time it expires is EST and not EDT (nor GMT), since on Sept 01, the abomination that DST is, is still in effect. Or, will DST be done away with by Sept 01, 2019? One can only hope that's the case.


« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 0258 UTC by skeezix »
Minneapolis, MN

Offline didu heardat

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2019, 1746 UTC »
So that's what that thing was.

I saw it on flightradar24.com a few weeks ago over 65,000' and there's one there now. Today, its HBAL0308 with registration number of N258TH at about 48,300'. Registration for that is Raven Aerostar in Sioux Falls, SD.
back your flight radar map out far enough and you'll see HBAL308  HBAL802  HBAL0296  HBAL808
« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 1749 UTC by didu heardat »

Offline Josh

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2019, 1946 UTC »
Several mysteries solved! Great work, kids!
https://imgur.com/gallery/NOECI0s
Conveniently located near Vincennes Indiana.

Offline skeezix

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2019, 0037 UTC »
For what its worth, two balloons are up now, HBAL0296 (N256TH) at 61,300' SW of Sioux Falls and HBAL308 (N258TH) at 54,900'. That last one has an interesting flight path, drifted all the way over from the west side of SD and now is over north-central MN (east of Fungus Falls and north of Alexandria).
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Offline R4002

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2019, 2149 UTC »
Sierra Nevada Corporation apparently uses several frequencies in the VHF and UHF military bands, including 138.075 MHz, 139.075 MHz, 139.850 MHz, 267.350 MHz and 277.350 MHz.  The 138 MHz frequencies have been logged with encrypted P25 voice traffic mixed with "clear" P25 voice and AM/FM modes heard on 267.35 and 277.35, including secure voice on 267.35 MHz / 277.35 MHz. 

They also have a couple licenses on various HF frequencies (namely WQRI680 and WQRI681)

2851 kHz (center frequency 2852.4 kHz) - USB dial frequency = center frequency - 1.4 kHz
3443 kHz (center frequency 3444.4 kHz)
5451 kHz (center frequency 5452.4 kHz)
5721 kHz (center frequency 5722.4 kHz)
6550 kHz (center frequency 6551.4 kHz)
8822 kHz (center frequency 8823.4 kHz)
10065 kHz (center frequency 10066.4 kHz)
11306 kHz (center frequency 11307.4 kHz)
13312 kHz (center frequency 13313.4 kHz)
17964 kHz (center frequency 17965.4 kHz)
21931 kHz (center frequency 21932.4 kHz)

123.3583 MHz - an interesting allocation, within the VHF air band, but using the 8.33 kHz offset..

emissions permitted on HF frequencies:
2K80J3E
2K80J9W
2K80H2B
5K00A3E
5K60A3E

emissions permitted on VHF frequency:

5K00A3E and 5K60A3E
« Last Edit: August 05, 2019, 2155 UTC by R4002 »
U.S. East Coast, various HF/VHF/UHF radios/scanners/receivers

Offline Josh

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2019, 2151 UTC »
Was there mention of what they're doing on hf?
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Offline R4002

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2019, 2157 UTC »
Was there mention of what they're doing on hf?

I haven't come across any logs of activity on their HF frequencies, only the 138 MHz frequencies, the 267 MHz/277 MHz milair freqs and their Part 90 land mobile UHF business radio frequency at their Maryland base of operations (464.6125 MHz).
U.S. East Coast, various HF/VHF/UHF radios/scanners/receivers

Offline Josh

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2019, 2206 UTC »
Interesting.

Here's a link to fcc emission designation;
https://fccid.io/Emissions-Designator/


I was expecting them to be trying out some wideband hf data modes as is Collins and the rest of the mil radio crowd but all they're given is less than 6Kc channels.
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Offline skeezix

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2019, 2349 UTC »
The HBAL callsign does refer to the Loon balloons, but it is also used for these experimental balloons. Its not for Google's Loons exclusively.

Further, looking up the registration number associated with HBAL0296 & HBAL308 (N256TH & N258TH respectively) shows both registered to Raven Aerostar in Sioux Falls, SD.

Regarding those HF/VHF frequencies, are they used with the balloons or are they for different projects?  With only a handful, its easy to monitor them and try to find out (assuming they're in the clear).

WQRI680 is licensed over on the east coast, covering PA, WV, VA, DE, and DC (plus parts of others) as a class FMA1 which is an aircraft flight test station. WQRI681 is class FAT which is flight test and it looks like its at a single location (their base, I presume).





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Offline skeezix

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2019, 0025 UTC »
Haven't paid much attention to them lately, but noticed a balloon at 55,100' over the MN-IA border, just east of the river that is the border to WI. The track for it started in west-central IA (a fair distance away). Its callsign is HBAL0308 and registration N258TH.

The STA has been extended:
https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=235873&x=.

Quote
Date:  August 13, 2019
To: Federal Communications Commission
Office of Engineering & Technology
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

RE: Amend STA File Number 1201-ES-ST-2019

John Winch
WinchWorks, LLC

To Whom It May Concern:
Please utilize this document as a formal request to amend granted Special Temporary Authority to transmit microwave file number 1201-EX-ST-2019, confirmation number EL230187 currently held by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The STA amendment requested is the Justification Exhibit, as well as, the dialog within the “purpose”section of the STA application.  The exhibit and the application both incorrectly list “The United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)” as the requestor of the STA.  To correct this, both the Justification Exhibit and the “purpose”section of the application must list the Department of Defense as the requestor of the STA.Thank you for your assistance with this process.

Sincerely,
John Winch
Sole member


Justification Exhibit:
https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=233116&x=.

STA Request (16-Jun-2019)
https://apps.fcc.gov/els/GetAtt.html?id=235863&x=.
Minneapolis, MN

Offline Josh

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Re: Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2019, 1735 UTC »
"9510 MHz          MO                600MM3N             24280 W (ERP)"

That's a lot of power for x band, wonder if this is a radar or if the figure is in error.
Conveniently located near Vincennes Indiana.