From his station in Amarillo, Texas, author, investigative journalist, technologies expert Steve Douglass heard something interesting. In a message he sent us on Facebook he said:
Late last night I monitored DARK flight of seven on PRIME (311.000 MHZ STRATCOM PRIMARY) asking for current weather for UAM [airport code for Guam - Andersen Air Force Base]. On the frequency of 251.100 Mhz,DARK flight also was calling for GASSR 11 and GASSR 12? (KC-135s) for Tanker drag to BAB [Beale AFB, California].
Dark is the standard radio callsign for the 7th Bomb Wings B-1s based at Dyess AFB, near Abilene, Texas.
Even if U.S. bombers routinely deploy to Guam (where at least two B-2s are reportedly already based), the fact that seven Bones were apparently moving together is something a bit unusual, even if they were not going to Andersen AFB (they might need the weather report for UAM because it was an alternate airfield or simply a stopover on their way to somewhere else).
Actually, its also weird that some many big bombers were flying together (as the flight of seven heard by Douglass seems to suggest) since a standard ferry flight of multiple planes would normally see the aircraft move individually. And, another strange thing is that the pilot talked about their destination in the clear: if they wanted it to be secret, they would speak on secure radios."
Would strategic aircraft transmit in the open? Would they break standard flight ops and fly in WW2-style formation?
Even in the late 70’s, UHF COMM would not be in the open
Well, if it was broadcast in the open...It might have been a Cessna 172 flying around spoofing the airwaves...;-)
Sometimes we talk “BS” in the open just to lay it on thick. The radio that came from might have been parked on the ground. But even talking BS has a way of being revealing——the best way to cover is by constant chatter some of which might actually mean something.
“since a standard ferry flight of multiple planes would normally see the aircraft move individually.”
A flight of four (or two) per tanker would be usual.
The aircraft fly in “formation” trailing the tanker and close to re-fuel when necessary, and when done re-fueling, they drop back to trail position.
You don’t fly in the contact position unless you are re-fueling and you don’t fly in close formation for long periods of time.