Can USAF assist ATC?

Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by midwestpa24, Jul 7, 2021.

  1. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    I have a CTO cert from my time at a USAF tower, yes.
     
  2. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I didn't know you was a Controller. I had asked Timbeck2 that. Anyway, did you go FAA as a Controller when you got out?
     
  3. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    I was only active in ATC facilities for about 6 years, and my most recent transmission was in 2002*, so I tend to let those with much more experience and current knowledge answer the ATC questions. I did not become an FAA controller, choosing to go a different direction.

    * Sometimes I do wonder what my last ATC transmission was. I'm certain it was on a deployment in 2002, so it was likely running a PAR, in which case it might very well have been "Contact tower after landing".
     
  4. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Oh I remember my last aircraft. Was an FAA Flight Check Hawker doing a tactical (TPN22) PAR at Miramar. I was the only one in GCA qualified on the TPN-22 so I hopped in the ops truck and went across the runway to help out. Think they did three approaches. Two regular and one no gyro. Last approach I shipped them to SOCAL and he came back with “those were the best PARs we’ve ever gotten.” Probably just being polite but that didn’t keep me from bragging about it when I got back to the radar room. :D

    Edit:Well technically I guess my last transmission to an aircraft was a PAR I gave around 2003. Since I wasn’t a controller at the time I won’t go into details on that. ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2021
  5. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I have three. One of them states, "CTO examiner" the other two are control tower operator and control tower watch supervisor.
     
  6. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I started out on an AN/FPN-63 working side by side with the FAA controllers (Tucson TRACON is located on Davis Monthan AFB) which was raw radar and you had to align the scope with a tiny screwdriver. You didn't get your rating unless you could do a no-gyro surveillance approach with recommended altitudes. We later got the TPN-22 which was located on the 5th floor of the tower. We had it for several years but then it started to break and parts for it were hard to find. It finally wasn't feasible to keep it running and was replaced with an ILS.
     
  7. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That sounds like you might mean the pink Air Traffic Control Specialist cards. I was wondering if they issued the Airman Certificate. Like this

    upload_2021-8-24_16-44-59.jpeg
     
  8. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    And it’s amazing that the FPN-63 is still the mainstay for a lot of bases. TPN-22 digital presentation was far better than the raw radar of the 63 but I’ve heard all the 22s are gone. It’s all ATNAVICS for tactical GCA from what I’ve heard.
     
  9. Witmo

    Witmo Pattern Altitude

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    Made the mistake of thinking AWACs was "controlling" the airspace enroute to Iraq from our base in Turkey during Northern Watch. The earlier push was returning while we were ingressing on an assigned altitude. Would have run into the aircraft on their way back if we had relied on AWACs for separation. Forgot how the radio chatter went exactly but the "controller" clearly didn't think separating traffic he was talking to was in his job description.
     
  10. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    Yes, at least I was issued one. In fact, within the last 10 years they sent me a new one (I forget if it was due to an address change, or plastic certificates, or maybe removing my SSN), even though I haven't worked at that tower since 2000. And the pink certificate for radar work.
     
  11. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    FAA sent me a new plastic CTO as well. Think it was due to address change. Completely useless cert now but I keep it for memory sake.
     
  12. geezer

    geezer Line Up and Wait

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    Now I understand how my near collision happened just south of FLO VOR. I was talking to the civil ATC, the Marine jet was talking to the Marine radar, and they civil and military were NOT talking to each other.

    I was at 5500 feet, just south of the VOR, and the jet came up in a 30 degree bank and climbing at 300 knots. He passed LESS than 100 yards in front of us, we could see the pilots head clearly, and he was looking straight ahead.

    My controller apologized, said it came onto his screen one turn of the radar before it passed me, and the blips did merge, glad I was OK. He gave me the speed, and current altitude, but advised that I keep a close watch, as it was continuing to turn, and might make a second pass. Yes, we did experience turbulence.

    We did watch, and he dove back down close to the ground, and departed south.
     
  13. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Well you were either in Gamecock MOA or the Marine jet was popping off a VR route. There is no Marine radar in that area until you get a little further south of FLO in the NBC area.
     
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  14. geezer

    geezer Line Up and Wait

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    I was on the centerline of V 3, and no MOA was depicted on the chart at that time.

    To what degree should that Marine pilot have been advised by any military radar service or controller?
     
  15. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If you weren’t in a MOA or in NBC airspace then no, Marine radar either ATC or GCI (long range radar) won’t be talking to that aircraft. Most likely a guy popping up off a VR route in the area.

    Actually had that happen working approach with a Marine F-18 that popped up of VR-1041 and an Embry Riddle Mooney was throwing a fit because it was circling him. Obviously they can climb rapidly (radar sweep) and not be in contact with ATC. I’ve always thought VR routes should have a published CTAF so civ aircraft in the area can deconflict.
     
  16. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Yes and I have three of those. I only had one pink card
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2021
  17. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    This is the Marine radar unit (ATC / GCI) that covers the east coast. Probably not in contact with the aircraft that you saw though.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Air_Control_Squadron_2
     
  18. Pugs

    Pugs Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Given the length of them you'd need a bunch of freqs along the way. We often flew VR routes hundreds of miles long at 500 kts and 200' so mostly below everyone else. We did always check on the route with Flight Service with entry and exit points and times though so I suppose if were in an area with a lot of routes converging you could check with them for potential traffic. Getting off the route I'd use whatever the nearest departure freq was to pick up my clearance. I suspect everyone these days has VHF and UHF in the jets but for the first half of my career we were pretty much all UHF.

    Alerts can go both ways. We always checked NOTAMs for the route but coming over a ridge in the Cascades inverted to find a rogue helo logging operation in my face was bit sporty. :eek:

     
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  19. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Inverted?
     
  20. gkainz

    gkainz Final Approach

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    Ok, this isn't USAF, and it isn't ATC but who lets facts get in the way of a good sea story ...

    So, in the time honored tradition of all sea stories , this starts off with "Now this is no sh$t..."

    excerpted from https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/25572/confessions-of-an-e-2c-hawkeye-radar-operator
    --------------------------------------
    Somalia
    Late into my second six-month USS Ranger deployment, we left the Persian Gulf for Somalia and Operation Restore Hope. Nobody knew what we were supposed to do, but we went anyway.

    Our missions started simply as a radio relay for the Marines on the ground. Boring stuff. But, a day or two into it we saw that there were literally hundreds of NGO (non-government organization) and military relief airplanes trying to land in Mogadishu all at the same time.

    Now that the Americans secured the airport, it was safe to bring in supplies.

    It was crazy! Hundreds of airplanes ranging from USAF C-5s to a guy in a Piper Chieftain all converging on a single runway next to the coast.

    I was the CICO on the mission and started speaking to my crew. We were going to input an oft-used tactic and modify it for civilian use.

    Looking at my RO I said “you start directing airplanes to here,” putting a waypoint on our radar screens. “Stack them 1,000 feet starting a 5,000. Set them up for an approach. Give them push times a few minutes apart.”

    Looking at my ACO I said “you keep control of this thing. When one of these guys lands, tell the next to start his approach, then drop the stack down 1,000 feet. Everyone starts their approach at 5,000 feet.”

    They got it! We just took charge and began barking orders to the flock of airplanes. Soon we started to sound like New York air traffic control!

    The civilian pilots loved it too, as did the military support on the ground. The chaos was getting controlled and we kept it up for nearly five hours straight.

    When we got relieved by the next crew, we told them what we did. They carried on the same plan, modified it a little bit more and made it even better.

    Upon landing, we debriefed the ship’s Combat Information Center.

    Damn if we didn’t start something great!

    A day later the Admiral moved an Aegis cruiser closer to the coastal airport and manned it with Ranger air traffic controllers. The Aegis radar is accurate to a gnat’s ass and this now became Approach Control.

    The Air Force put some of its folks in the tower with hand-held radios.

    The Hawkeye now became Center. We handed off airplanes to the cruiser, who was now Approach Control. They, in turn, handed it off to Tower.

    Rudimentary and makeshift, but we now had a fully functioning air traffic control system that stayed in place for several months with the next carrier group, long after we left Somalia for a port visit in Australia.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------
     
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  21. Pugs

    Pugs Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Much more pleasant to cross a ridge and pull positive g's than push and go negative so with any descent planned on the other side of the ridge roll and pull is normal.

    From the VR-1355 near you. We'd usually enter @ point D just north of Goldendale (S20) and my personal best time back to NAS Whidbey was 26 minutes (clean wing so no airspeed limitations in an EA-6B) :D Yea, it was a fun job for 20 years.

     
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  22. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Ah. Makes sense. I had this vision of ya flyin the whole thing upside down.

    EDIT: @Pugs , here's a prowler doin it
    https://theaviationist.com/2021/03/...-level-along-vr-1355-military-training-route/
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2021
  23. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    I guess here is another dumb civilian question I have after reading these responses. For military aircraft, are they allowed to operate without ATC services, aka squawk VFR and just fly around, or are they always under ATC control except when operating in special use airspace? I know the ones I hear daily on the scanner talking to Center always seem to be essentially on an IFR flight plan. Can a fighter just be buzzing around at 350+ knots below 10,000 feet without talking to anyone?
     
  24. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    That's what MOA's are for. They're usually talking to someone on the ground. May even be someone whose known as a Controller. But it's not ATC by definition. ATC keeps airplanes under ATC 'control' outta the MOA. I don't know if you can get them, but a UHF scanner could pick up some chit chat in the MOA.
     
  25. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Pattern Altitude

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    Yes. I took a ride on a flight of 3 F16s. Tower cleared us for takeoff, departure radar id’ed us and switched us to range control while we dropped bombs. When we exited the range they switched us back to ATC for a bit till we started the low level high speed bit where they were just talking internally.

    Center radar is going to have problems tracking targets down at 300-500 feet AGL going over 400 kts.
     
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  26. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Yeah. Terminal radar isn't going to be very much better at those altitudes either. While we're here, ADSB surveillance source would change that. Are you guys using ADSB feed routinely yet?
     
  27. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Pattern Altitude

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    We have so many radar sites tied into fusion, ADS-B means nothing for us. We haven’t been briefed on how/when/if we are ever going to use it. Right now it’s just used by the powers to id violators. I’m guessing in the mountains/oceanic areas it’s helpful.
     
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  28. PastZTL

    PastZTL Filing Flight Plan

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    Yes. Aircraft executing rapid altitude changes should squawk 4000 instead of 1200.
     
  29. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Some background on this which I know you know.. It's what is called a Function Code. There are others. They are usually assigned by ATC. 4000 is one that may be assigned or done by the pilot if operating without an assigned code as in #2 below.

    3. Code 4000 when aircraft are operating on a flight plan specifying frequent or rapid changes in assigned altitude in more than one stratum or other conditions of flight not compatible with a stratified code assignment.
    NOTE−
    1. Categories of flight that can be assigned Code 4000 include certain flight test aircraft, MTR missions, aerial refueling operation requiring descent involving more than one stratum, ALTRVs where continuous monitoring of ATC communications facilities is not required and frequent altitude changes are approved, and other aircraft operating on flight plans requiring special handling by ATC.
    2. Military aircraft operating VFR or IFR in restricted/ warning areas or VFR on VR routes will adjust their transponders to reply on Code 4000 unless another code has been assigned by ATC or coordinated, if possible, with ATC.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2021
  30. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Just like Geezer’s example above, good chance that jet wasn’t talking to anyone. Unless it’s branch specific, I don’t know of any requirement to be up ATC. MTRs being probably the most popular non ATC type of operation. Off shore Warning Areas, they’re usually up FACSFAC (ATC). MOAs, either up ATC or a separate MOA controller. Restricted Areas, they’ll be up range control or ATC. Some R Areas have radar that can see you only a couple hundred feet up and controllers provide FF on the range. Alert Areas, no commo requirement but some areas (Ft Rucker) they have a FF requirement with ATC (Cairns).

    Technically Army aircraft have to file IFR for every flight. Bunch of exceptions to that rule though. Lot of Army unit SOPs that dictate being up FF with either ATC or their battalion flight ops (like a FSS). Army also has a flight plan requirement in the NAS (either DoD or FAA/ICAO) or a tac strip if operating solely in SUA.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2021
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  31. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I would think it was the other way round. The FPN-63 I used was in the early 90s. We got the 22 late 90s early 2000s, I don’t remember exactly and even then it wasn’t brand new. You know the military, lowest bidder and all. The 22 became more expensive because it broke all the time and parts were hard to come by. We were paying more per year on that thing than it cost to pay for the ILS that replaced it. After thousands of PAR approaches I ran on that thing, I was glad to see it go
     
  32. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Guess it depends on which type of display you prefer. I thought the color display on the 22 had better detail than the green monochrome of the 63. The 22 with pencil beam was instantaneous refresh over about a 1/2 second sweep on a 63 as well. The 22 did break down a lot though.
     
  33. geezer

    geezer Line Up and Wait

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    I flew the PAR's at Andrews back in the green tube days, before I had my IR. The nearest military field with PAR was my go to if trapped on top. I had good basic instrument reference flying skills, but all the proper steps in sequencing to a precision approach, then flying that approach, without having the data on board was an impossible challenge.

    My instructor pointed out that all I had to do was tune a frequency at the military field, get transferred to the correct frequency or series of frequencies, and the PAR guy would bring me in. He also pointed out that the emergency guys there would be more likely to have recent experience if I messed up. He also pointed out that the PAR brought planes down when the visibility was zero zero.

    I did 2 PAR's a year to 10 feet, and the runway center line was straight out in front of me every time. Those guys were outstanding in their skills.

    I never had to make use of that choice in real conditions, but it was a valuable asset to be capable. Before anybody says that I had a dangerous false sense of security that I used to fly when I should not, I was way more trained and skilled in weather than any of my flying friends. I avoided the conditions that would have the potential for such an event. Trips were slipped a day or even two, going, to avoid potentially bad weather, and returns were as much as 3 days early on a 9 day week long vacation, if weather trends were introducing possible risk to safe return.
     
  34. Crow

    Crow Filing Flight Plan

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    I must be old! In the early 70's I trained on the AN/MPN13 (USAF) and that is how I lost most of my hearing with the cooling fans going. When we upgraded to the AN/MPN14 we thought we had gone to heaven.
     
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  35. k9medic

    k9medic Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds very familiar to how we operated in the Bahamas after Dorian. Warlock 48 was the callsign of the C2 node that was operating in the area. People were supposed to be getting a TFR waiver and creating slots for arrival so we didn't MOG out the airports but there were so many pilots flying over just turning off their transponders that it became a real crap show until the E3's arrived and started to help Miami Center coordinate things.

    Privately, I was able to get a TFR waiver 3 days post hurricane and flew a bunch of flights over on my own dime. I've been all over during hurricanes and this was the worst that I had come across. It's amazing that nobody had a mid air.

    I have also worked with a portable USAF ATC group when responding down to St. Croix after Hurricane Maria. I have never seen folks happier to get cold Dominoes pizza. Those guys were great to work with and got the Christiansted airport up and running pretty darn quick.
     
  36. Witmo

    Witmo Pattern Altitude

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    This is admittedly dated (flew USAF F-111s in '80s and '90s) but we were required to be IFR unless the mission required VFR such as low level training routes. Typically our flight plans were composite with IFR then VFR then back to IFR where the VFR was the low level onto a bombing range. In the US we didn't ever just fly around VFR unless it was on an LLTR or in protected airspace - MOAs and R or Alert Areas. In the UK, we often flew VFR all over the country but the traffic density and rules are quite different.
     
  37. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Sounds similar to what we had. For the most part, A & C were the two dominant factors in flying VFR over IFR. We really didn’t have any commanders that were the “IFR police” either. If we met our mins, that’s all they cared about.

    D84703C7-7EEA-4DB6-98DB-26C4303B29B2.jpeg