Category Archives: Aviation

Victorian Government Operational Communications Program Update & other matters

Hi All,

It’s been far too long since our last article, but that’s what happens when you have work, a wife and kids to consider. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had to contend with all of the above whilst still trying to have a hobby.

Victorian Government Emergency Management Operational Communications Program

As most will know the initial deadline for Victoria Police in rural areas to go encrypted on an expanded RMR Network has passed. It was an ambitious date to begin with and those who have worked in government circles will realise that.

Also let’s remember it was a timeline that was initially set during an election when point scoring between parties is at fever pitch.

Once the waters settle a little and everyone who has a stake in such a project has their say, formulates business cases, does their feasibility tests, runs tenders, sources suppliers etc. a more realistic, and attainable timeline tends to be seen and in most cases differs from what was originally stated.

This is a massive project! It is never an easy task trying to get everyone on the same page, so I don’t think we should be too surprised that we didn’t see Victoria Police in rural areas running digital encrypted on the RMR Network by July, 2017. You have to remember the original timeline announcement was set in April 2015, for a project of this size that isn’t a big window.

If it was just Victoria Police involved in the project and moving to an already long-established system then I think they would’ve achieved it. But the reality is there are many other entities involved in such a project and they’re moving to a relativity new system that needs to be expanded in order to cater to several agencies and be at a certain operational readiness in the desired areas before switch-over.

An expanded RMR Network will see the remaining four CFA Districts in the Metropolitan Fire District (Districts 7, 8, 13 & 14) migrate to the network.

The RMR Network has already started to expand and we should see just over 235+ sites when done, up from 199 sites. Some of these new sites will permit the outer Country Fire Authority brigades in the outer Metropolitan areas (Districts 7, 8, 13 & 14) to finally migrate across to the RMR Network like the rest of the agency.

An interesting note is that some time ago I was advised that the Sheriff’s Office of Victoria (SOV) was halting plans to migrate across to the RMR Network in order to do an internal review and assessment of their future communication needs.

If you have a read through some of the initial documentation and announcements SOV were part of the ‘master plan’ of inclusion and even had funds allocated to them for the exercise. However the recent revived timeline announcement doesn’t include them. I believe you will find as it stands at present they’re out of the project altogether for now, which means they may need to hand back some money to Emergency Management Victoria they received in order to budget the project at agency level under the ACMA Compliance project. Time will tell.

Motorola APX series radios are expected for Victoria Police in rural areas and Corrections Victoria.

There was a post by a user on the ‘Aussie Scanners’ forum back in July 2017 stating he’d suddenly noticed a few of his local Police carrying Tait portables and not their usual Motorola radios. I believe you’ll find some Tait units were loaned to Victoria Police via another agency for trial and testing purposes, however don’t expect to see Tait rolled out for Victoria Police. I believe you will find Motorola will be supply new radios to Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria (CV) and possibly the State Emergency Service (SES).

Victoria Police and SES will in all probability get some dual band assets, not all radios will be dual band, but expect some areas to have access to such, this will permit roaming between the two networks. I’m uncertain where AV (Rural) is at for the moment, dual band radios were touted for them as a possibility at one stage I believe. We should see only Victoria Police and CV will run encryption on their talkgroups and enjoy some nice new Motorola APX units as well as some

Surf Life Saving Victoria is still in the picture and expected to migrate with Kenwood radios.

Also of note regarding government communications is the current situation for Vicroads and its various operational departments such as  Works, Incident Response Service (IRS), Transport Safety Services (TSS) and the Traffic Management Centre (TMC).

Vicroads at present is not part of any network migration plans, which is quite interesting in my opinion. They are a government department and are existing users of a radio system, they also play a very large and vital role in keeping the road network humming along and dealing with all sorts of matters and incidents on the road network.

Vicroads used to use a very extensive radio system several decades ago with one of the greatest coverage footprints of any government department across the state at the time, some might even argue it actually surpassed elements of Victoria Police’s then VHF and later UHF network. So what happened?

I’m told that in short a certain Premier back in the 90’s envisioned that as cost saving exercise they could sell and dismantle the system and migrate to the then VHF SMR Network (based on MPT1327 protocol) which was in its early years of operation, which is pretty much what occurred. However some UHF allocations were retained for use in Metropolitan areas and the final one of those UHF frequencies was vacated only a couple of years ago.

Vicroads TSS Officers appear a little more fortunate with their current radio access than their IRS and Works colleagues.

Not long after the disastrous Black Saturday fires of 2007 there was some concern regarding their works depots lack of access to radio infrastructure and that of the Transport Safety Services (TSS) and Incident Response Service (IRS) should they need to allocate resources in to disaster affected areas outside of the metropolitan area, and they realised they couldn’t just have crews relying on mobile phone networks for obvious reasons. The TSS are bit more fortunate in this regard in that most, if not all, of their units also have access to the VHF SMR Network for rural operations and UHF for metropolitan operations in addition to MDT access. However the IRS and Works Department don’t appear as fortunate.

Things seemed to get a little worse only a few years back when they had to vacate the last of the UHF allocations of which the IRS were big users of. This also meant that some work depot crews also lost access to radio communications. The TSS were lucky in that they could fallback to the SMR Network.

I believe with the passage of time there may have been some administration matters that required them to forgo the last UHF frequency allocated for their voice communications, happy to be corrected if anyone can shed some further light on the matter.

Vicroads now find themselves on a leased UHF frequency, which incidentally if I’m correct is licensed to a chap who was instrumental in setting up the rather large radio network Vicroads used to own and operate that I mentioned above.

Surely one would think they have a good business case for access to the MMR and RMR Network? Whilst I understand they are not necessarily classed as an ESO, given the role they play on our vital roads infrastructure in time of fires, accidents, natural disasters and major incidents & events and their very regular liaison with various ESO’s they would be better serviced, as would the State and its population, they should be using the MMR and / or RMR Network?

Late last year a very limited user trial was held for several weeks in order to test some 1.8Ghz LTE technology based on a Sonim XP7 handset. The Sonim XP7 was loaded up with TASSTA PTT Software.

The Sonim XP7 handset & cradle (only) being trialed by Vicroads with TASSTA PTT software.

TASSTA software can include the functionalities of digital radio and smartphones combined. Included can be Group and Individual calls, Priority call via Push-to-Talk as well as many other additional features such as Messaging and Data transfer such as files and images, status messages, encryption, history and voice recording, GPS, emergency calls with full-duplex-mode, remote control (picture and voice), Man-Down, alarm, ID management and time tracking.

After the initial and brief limited user trial it was decided to try a trial on a larger scale, this commenced around the end of June 2017 and was intended to last for 3 months or so, so you would’ve noted the leased UHF frequency falling silent. The trial was to include the TMC, Works, TSS and IRS. It looks however as if the trial has come to halt in parts due to a number of factors. One of those being some friendly advice in regards to the legalities around the ‘use handheld device whilst driving’ rules and regulations. From this I’m assuming that the trial did not include a full fit-out of the communications package featured in the image and possibly just the cradle and handled device itself. Again if anyone can shed further light on the matter I’d be interested to hear it.

I believe there may have been another minor matter pertaining to the durability of aspects of the device, however I’ve been unable to confirm if those are device related or end-user practice related.

Around 2014 Simoco was awarded a tender by Vicroads to supply new radio hardware (based on the SRM9000 series) which included a P25 upgradeable solution. So surely access to either one or both of the States P25 networks is not that unattainable or questionable and would allow for everyone’s favourite phrase since the events of Black Saturday, enhanced interoperability.

A few months ago the below message was sent to me via the site and from someone  called ‘billy’. Below is the message from ‘billy’;

all a waste of time i use a prop mtorolla radio with all tac and repeaters on all ditital emergency frequencys you will never be able to acess or listen to what i do mobile or base not even god ha ha ha hacker on the loose f### your pi##y scanners cant encrypt nothing waste of money ,out

Billy it is so hard to argue with such well researched, composed and intelligent arguments such as yours.  But I’ll give it go, please see below for my response, also remember ‘billy’ you’re not as invisible as you think on the internet. 😉

A special message for ‘billy’. Thanks for your input to the hobby.

Morons playing with radios

Obviously big news of late in the hobby pertains to an event that occurred only the day before the State Government outlined it’s new expected migration date for the Victoria Police to the RMR Network and with it network security and encryption. I am of course referring to the incident outlined at the following links;

Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 1
Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 2
Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 3
Read this: Victoria Police – Radio Pirate Article 4

Below is a recording of the communications during the above highlighted pursuit and transmissions by a ‘radio pirate’ on the Victoria Police VHF Voting Network. The recording commences shortly after an armed robbery involving firearm. Victoria Police Highway Patrol members from call-sign ‘Wellington 613’ are heard locating a vehicle possibly involved and then engaging in a pursuit of the vehicle. Examples of some of the subsequent illegal transmissions by unknown persons can be heard initially at 6min & 19secs, 6min & 30secs and again at 8mins & 37secs mark of the recording. Further transmissions occur throughout the event and subsequent file.

Its a long file but worth preserving as an example of just one of the reason why Victoria Police in rural areas need to migrate to a secure network just like their metropolitan brothers and sisters did 12 years or so ago. File kindly supplied by Anonymous.

This is not the first time such an incursion on to the Police radio network has occurred. An example is in the below ACMA article from 2011.
Read this: ACMA Blog Article 2011

Below is an audio file recorded during an ACMA investigation in to pirate radio transmissions in 2013 on the Victoria Police VHF Voting Network. An ACMA callsign is heard requesting a radio-check and channel identification clarification.

Before the courts in recent times we’ve also had the following;

Read this: Melbourne Airport Hoax Radio Transmissions Article 1
Read this: Melbourne Airport Hoax Radio Transmissions Article 2
Read this: Melbourne Airport Hoax Radio Transmissions Article 3

Is it any wonder some people scowl at scanner and radio owners at times? Your average Joe can’t really differentiate between a serious hobbyist, casual listener and some wanker who acts in a manner that screws up the scene even more. All of the above examples solidifies many agencies and entities push to secure and encrypted systems and their already twisted view on the hobby.

I’ll leave it at that for now, if anyone has any information they’d like to share or advise of then drop us line.

Happy Scanning!

Avalon Airshow 2017

Once again the skies over Victoria are about to come alive and get a little bit louder as we experience the excitement of Avalon 2017. The Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition are two concurrent events; an exhibition and trade show followed by a public airshow.

The events run from the 28th February through to the 5th March, 2017, with the final three days from the 3rd March to the 5th March, 2017 being open to the public.

img_1452cmaxwell
An RAAF F/A-18A Hornet pilot selects gear up as he rapidly climbs in to the sky above Avalon in 2009. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.
5504971752_aa2f6bd858_z
An RAAF SECPOL MWD Team provide security to a USAF F-22 Raptor during a previous Avalon Airshow. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

Now obviously with all this equipment and aircraft comes a lot of opportunities to monitor some rare and exciting aircraft and hardware so do your homework and program up those scanners so you’re somewhat on the front foot. Don’t just think about the obvious, that being the aircraft, think about all those services and support functions it takes to make such an event possible.

You’ll have the likes of the Aviation Fire Fighting Rescue Service, Country Fire Authority, security, traffic control, caterers, Ambulance Victoria, St John Ambulance, Vicroads, Australian Border Force, Victoria Police to name but a few. Expect some of the obvious ones to be running encrypted radio systems as will certain elements of the Australian Defence Forces such as SECFOR Squadrons (SECPOL, ADG, MWD teams etc).

As with previous years Avalon 2017 will include a secondary airfield for those wishing to fly in and out of the event, this will be known as Avalon East. A rough overview of ASA frequencies in use would be;

Avalon Frequency Avalon East Frequency
Tower 120.1000 AM Tower 125.4000 AM
314.2000 AM Director  129.2000 AM
Ground (Unicom) 129.3000 AM ATIS 122.5500 AM
Approach 133.5500 AM Departures* 135.7000 AM
Departures* 135.7000 AM
Choppers 127.9000 AM
AWIS 116.1000 AM
ATIS 118.2000 AM  *Depratures via Melbourne Centre.

Another handy frequency to program up will be the nearby Point Cook CTAF frequency on 126.2000 (AM), also just a reminder that the Point Cook CTAF transmissions are currently rebroadcast on 380.9500 P25 mode.

The RAAF Roulettes will be active so it will pay to program up a couple of their known frequencies they use to coordinate their performances. At Avalon you could try 136.2000, 133.9000, 134.8000, 126.2000, 134.1000, 335.8000 and 375.4000 as a few possibilities.

The USAF returns to Avalon and with them comes the F-22 Raptor, possibly from the current deployment of such at RAAF Tindal in Australia’s north. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell
2009_03_14_0044cmax
The Australian Defence Force will once again showcase a vast array of equipment. Here members fast rope from Army Blackhawks to retake the airfield from an enemy force. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

ComGroup Australia Pty Ltd, a division of Simoco, are the primary supplier of this years radio systems.
Registered for use at Avalon 2017 by Simoco include the following 5 watt allocations;

462.6250 462.8125 463.0875 463.4375 463.7500 464.7250
465.2000 465.6375 466.2500 466.3625 466.7375 467.4625

Simoco also have the following 3w and 5w allocation registered for use Australia wide.

5w 162.2250 162.4750 162.8625 163.2875 164.6250 472.2750 472.8000 474.5750
3w 465.9125 465.9250 471.0000 471.0125 474.2750

As for what flavour of mode the installed system will be operating in I’m suspecting it would be a DMR Tier III system, at a stretch maybe P25, but we’ll have to wait and see.

With increased traffic along the Princes Freeway and surrounding road infrastructure to Avalon Airport expect Vicroads to be active on their current main UHF frequency, that being 464.2000MHz (CTCSS 179.9). Traffic Control and Parking services is being provided by Go Traffic and I’d expect them to be on the network provided by Comgroup. As with most traffic control companies UHF CB may be worth a listen to also.

The ARFF have a permanent presence at Avalon and should be able to be found on their Tait P25 system frequency of 500.8000 (NAC A5A) as well as their nationwide allocation of 509.6250 (NAC A5A). For ARFF to aircraft communications program in 131.0000 AM.

As per previous years expect the Country Fire Authority to have their usual presence. Now this one is going to be tricky as the CFA have transitioned to their new P25 Incident Control, Fire-ground and such channels. Locally the District that Avalon falls under, District 07, still uses the older analogue VHF Voting Network Channel 21 for dispatch, but as for what ‘local’ channels they may use that might be a bit hit and miss.

Use Channel Frequency CTCSS
District 7 Dispatch
(VicFire Voting Network)
21 162.4000
162.5750
162.8375
163.2250
163.5375
162.2
Airshow Command 77 161.2125 179.9
Airshow GOTO 3 161.0875 103.5
Airshow Reserve 74 161.1750 173.8
Airshow Logistics 6 161.1125 107.2

Now I can’t stress this enough, the above is a guide only based what the CFA have used at Avalon in previous years, this years allocations will possibly be very different given the CFA’s move to P25 for Fire-ground and Incident Control and the like. Channels 77, 3, 74 and 6 that were used in previous years for local control fall under the older analogue allocations and as such may now be defunct.

Ambulance Victoria in recent years have used several of their VHF allocations on the MPT1327 SMR Network, but it may be advisable to also monitor their MMR Network allocations although generally in this geographical area Ambulance Victoria do not the MMR Network. They, like any other ESO, will have selected staff who also operate on the ComGroup supplied net.

Two RAAF F/A-18A Hornets roll out on a wet Avalon Airshow day to strut their stuff. Image courtesy of Chris Maxwell.

Victoria Police will be on the MMR Network, so forget it, as we all painfully know they’re operations are encrypted.
The contracted event Security will be provided this year by MA Security Group and I’d be expecting them to be at the very least on a ComGroup Australia supplied allocation.

St John Ambulance will again be providing their services to program up their allocations and possibly expect to hear them, or a liaison, on the ComGroup supplied system.

Bus Services are another big factor in making the event possible and support the nearby rail services, so those are two more areas to consider. Also consider there may be extra train services in to the area as a result then on to the bus shuttle services, those are bound to generate some radio chit-chat so remember those rail 450MHz and 469MHz allocations.

Another good thing to remember is that Avalon Airport is an active airport and currently services Jetstar flights and QANTAS engineering services, both who have a few frequency allocations for their needs so program those ones up as well.

131.5000 AM  QANTAS
130.2250 AM Jetstar
136.1250 AM Jetstar
505.4750 NFM  Jetstar (5 Watts)
505.7750 NFM Jetstar (5 Watts)

Also of note are a couple of CSE Crosscom allocations registered for use at Avalon Airport. I am uncertain of their use, but nonetheless they’re registered and can be found on the ACMA database so if you want to consider putting those ones in that might be a good idea.

With a major even such as this you really have to think outside of the square, or in this case the airport! Some of the old favourites such as 123.450 (AM) always seem to get run for general aviation chit-chat between pilots. Remember, do your homework, spend a little time on considering what you want to monitor, research possibilities, program up that scanner, turn on that close call feature if you have it and reap the listening rewards! Remember to be sensible with the information provided, heard and gained.

Hit us up in the comments with your suggestions or finds. I really hope this helps someone get a little bit more out of this event, have fun.

Happy Scanning!

Victoria Police increase capacity of Air Wing downlink capabilty?

It would appear that the Victoria Police may have increased the capacity and amount of hardware in place in order to support the Air Wing rotary assets downlinking abilities. For those unaware the ability to downlink permits the air wing assets to send audio and visual footage from its onboard cameras and F.L.I.R to selected ground locations and other assets along with other data and information.

2010_05_27_0948CMax

This appears to have come by the provision of additional Cobham equipment in place at selected facilities. Previously there had been more air wing assets than hardware in place at these locations, however with the additional equipment install the Air Wing could in theory have all four of its helicopter fleet providing a downlink capability at the same time provided all of the helicopter fleet had the required cameras and equipment installed on them.

An overview and idea of the equipment installed on board and at remote receiving locations can be found here;
http://broadcastrf.com/cobham-hd/
http://broadcastrf.com/cobham-pro-rxb-receiver/

The Victoria Police currently operate four helicopters, these being 3 x Eurocopter AS.365N3 Dauphins and 1 x Eurocopter EC-135T2i.

2010_05_27_1722CMax

Images courtesy of Chris Maxwell

Content update…..slowly, slowy.

Hello all!

I’ve managed to score myself a few hours this afternoon and had a bit of think about some further content and the best way to lay things out. I’ll continue to twiddle and tweak as time becomes available. I’m also still trying to find an ideal colour match that suits both PC/Laptop to Mobile applications, so that might change from time to time also.

In the meantime I’ve put up the frequencies for the ARFF located at Melbourne and Avalon Airports who run a Tait P25 system. Also included is the ARFF to Aircraft and Tower frequency. You can find the frequencies listed under the “Fire Services” menu.

Happy Listening!