What am I tracking? Military ? Scientific?

I have a receiver that at times will display contacts that are at very high altitudes, say 112,500 feet for instance. All I see is altitude, signal strength and squawk codes. Position, speed, course, etc. are not being decoded. These contacts are visible for perhaps a few minutes before they vanish.

Interestingly, the squawk codes change, sometimes quite rapidly while the contact is in range.

Probably errors in decoding.

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@SoNic67 Perhaps. But I noticed that the “random” squawk codes just happened to be ones that were not in use by any other aircraft in the vicinity. Crazy stuff.

Oh well, I will look for other interesting things.

I forget the name but Google has several high altitude balloons out there, not that high though. I agree, probably bad decoding.

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Today’s contact noticed just after @ 12:00pm EST, 116,000 ft altitude indicated, Over 95 messages received, each at approximately 30 second intervals, again each message with a different vacant available squawk code. Signal at -23dbFS or thereabouts, unchanging in strength ( no doppler)

I would think that decoding errors would be far less consistent/ persistent.

Perhaps it is a decoding error caused by a nearby intermittent source of noise, hence its repeatablility. You could look for patterns in the times it’s seen, and perhaps try another station nearby if you’re able (or move that one temporarily) and see if it goes away. Perhaps a filtered preamp could help (or perhaps it’s a cause)?

Caught two different “flights” back to back very similar at nearly the same insane altitude, 121500. Both disappeared pretty quickly (wish I had snagged a screenshot). Left me scratching my head. Assumed it was a glitch in their equipment or mine, considering the sr71’s record was 85k. Pretty spooky.

No impact on the site operation at all, so not looking to be rid of it, so to speak. Just trying to understand what it may be. If its “noise” causing it, it is creating a very interesting result. This site runs no pre-amp, straight vanilla.

I should add that there are several high traffic Military Operations Areas within range, including air-air refueling, fighters, and a plethora of other aircraft.

The SR71 was around for quite a while before the public became aware. It was retired 20 years ago (!) because I presume that there was something better available. And so it goes…

The work is getting done.

Indeed, it’s intriguing, especially with a military presence in the area! Are the contacts showing as “Other” (since you say there’s no location)?

One option could be to look on your site page for nearby sites and then reach out to them via direct message in here to ask if they also see the same thing, and even the exact same contacts.

Do they show an ICAO code?


Altitude, squawk code, signal strength, number of messages, age ( time last seen).

Next time I see it I will screenshot to capture data . This site sees a lot of traffic depending on the day and weather, so picking this contact out requires sorting by altitude among all the other aircraft.

If you see no ICAO, no flight No, no registration, the chance of it being a valid decode is pretty low.
You are also in an area well populated with receivers feeding FA. If you are the only site seeing this signal, the chance of it being ‘real’ is virtually zero.

If a second site confirms your observation, it suddenly becomes believable.

Interesting. I see a similar contact shown today only this time at 500ft altitude. Same characteristics- has a periodicity which is different ( ~75 seconds between messages) than what I’ve seen before, but each message has a different squawk code. More than the altitude displayed, this is the piece- the rolling squawk codes- that fascinates me most as I would think “bad data” would produce garbage and random errors and would include duplicating what other aircraft are broadcasting.

Watched it for 20 minutes and each time the squawk number displayed was unique among all aircraft within range. May never know but I’ll try to contact sites near me to see if others see it, perhaps its the neighbors garage door opener…

You are in my area of reception, I’ll try to look for them too.

LE: This is what I get. I would say if it was military we would not see anything.

@SoNic67 I agree…military would be typically not want to be seen unless its ECM spoofing locations just for fun. ( the rolling unoccupied squawk codes thing is very sophisticated) The other thought I had was we are both close enough to Wallops or some of the other semi-active sites where odd stuff might happen.

Oh well, got other things to do today than watch “ghosts”. Feel free to msg me if anything interesting pops up.

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Didn’t manage to capture it, but watched what appeared to be a P8 take off from Pasco, WA and immediately had it’s position change to just south of Whidbey Island, where I continued to observe it for several minutes despite that being some 100nm outside my reception area and the other side of the cascade mountains. It said it was at 400 feet msl.