VHF-AM aircraft band, worldwide allocation 108-137 MHz, divided into two subbands:
108.0 MHz - 117.95 MHz - aeronautical navigation only - VOR, VORTAC, localizers (50 kHz channel spacing) 117.975 MHz - 136.975 MHz - aeronautical voice and data communication, AM (25 kHz / 8.33 kHz channel spacing)
8.33 kHz channel spacing is used in Europe and in select other locations, most of the world uses 25 kHz spacing for a total of 760 channels. VDL (VHF data link) systems such as ACARS (aircraft communications addressing and reporting system) use select frequencies in the VHF airband, including 131.550 MHz and 136.975 MHz (in the United States).
Military aircraft retain the capability to transmit and receive on the VHF-AM aircraft band, with US military aircraft radios covering up to 150.0 MHz in AM mode (25 kHz steps). Military aircraft also make extensive use of the UHF-AM aircraft band 225-400 MHz, often with ECCM systems such as HAVE QUICK, HAVE QUICK II and SATURN frequency hopping modes. The 225-400 MHz band is also extensively used for SATCOM and other purposes outside the scope of air-to-air communications. 380-400 MHz is shared with land mobile radio systems used by the US military in the United States. Military aircraft in close air support, MEDEVAC and other roles will also be equipped with VHF-FM SINCGARS tactical military radios for air-to-ground and air-to-air communications in both frequency hopping (FH) and single-channel (SC) modes.
Selected VHF aircraft frequencies
|121.500 MHz||Emergency Frequency known as Guard, see also 243.0 MHz - UHF Guard|
|121.600 MHz||May be used for SAR training - practice Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT) on a secondary basis|
|121.775 MHz||May be used for SAR training - practice Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT) on a secondary basis|
|121.950 MHz||Gliders, balloons, pilot training, lighter-than-air aircraft coordination and operations|
|122.700 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|122.725 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|122.750 MHz||Air-to-air communications - fixed wing aircraft|
|122.800 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|122.900 MHz||Secondary SAR (Search and Rescue) air-to-air/air-to-ground|
|122.925 MHz||Coordination of forest fire suppression, fish and game management, environmental monitoring|
|122.950 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|122.975 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|123.000 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|123.025 MHz||Air-to-air communications - helicopters, also used for helicopter-to-fixed wing air-to-air coordination|
|123.050 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|123.075 MHz||UNICOM - Aeronautical Advisory Stations|
|123.100 MHz||Primary SAR (Search and Rescue) air-to-air/air-to-ground, also used by Civil Air Patrol|
|123.300 MHz||Gliders, balloons, pilot training, lighter-than-air aircraft coordination and operations|
|123.400 MHz||Unofficial air-to-air pilot chit-chat frequency - "fingers" or "1234"|
|123.450 MHz||Unofficial air-to-air pilot chit-chat frequency - the CB radio of the airband - also called "fingers"|
|123.475 MHz||Unofficial air-to-air pilot chit-chat frequency|
|123.500 MHz||Gliders, balloons, pilot training, lighter-than-air aircraft coordination and operations|
|126.200 MHz||Common US military airfield VHF frequency (often as backup to UHF-AM and FM tactical radios)|
|131.550 MHz||ACARS air-to-ground datalink frequency (North America)|
|136.975 MHz||ACARS air-to-ground datalink frequency (North America)|
Selected VHF aircraft sub-bands
|118.000 MHz - 121.400 MHz||Control towers|
|121.600 MHz - 121.925 MHz||Control towers|
|123.600 MHz - 128.800 MHz||Control towers|
|132.025 MHz - 135.975 MHz||Control towers|
8.33 kHz channels vs. 25 kHz channels
In countries using the legacy 25 kHz channel plan, VHF frequencies are (were) often referred to by the frequency in MHz followed by the two digits after the decimal. For example, 129.175 MHz would be called "129.17 - as in one two niner decimal one seven" and 123.425 MHz would be called "123.42 or one two three point four two". With 25 kHz channel spacing, there's no need to read the third digit, as it is always a 5 on the 1xx.x25 or 1xx.x75 frequencies. 124.1 MHz would obviously be one two four point one and 133.95 would be one three three point niner five or one three three decimal niner five.
In areas using the narrower 8.33 kHz spacing, things become a little more complicated. Due to the number of digits after the decimal point on the 8.33 kHz channels, a rounding system has been developed. Instead of reading the entire frequency, aircraft radio displays round the channel up or down to the nearest 5 kHz channel (so 120.00833 MHz becomes 120.010 MHz, etc.)
This gets even more insane when you include the old 25 kHz channels in the 8.33 kHz channel plan. Therefore, you must know if your radio is in 25 kHz mode or 8.33 kHz mode. For example, on a 25 kHz radio, 118.025 MHz shows on the display as 118.025 MHz (or 118.02 MHz). On a radio switched to 8.33 kHz mode, 118.025 MHz shows on the display as 118.030 MHz... The lunacy is pretty apparent here. Instead of switching from 25 kHz steps to 8.33 kHz steps, the switch should have been from 25 kHz steps to 12.5 kHz steps or 5 kHz steps.
- 118.0000 MHz - 118.000 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.00833 MHz - 118.010 MHz [display frequency
- 118.0166 MHz - 118.015 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.025 MHz - 118.030 [display frequency]
- 118.0333 MHz - 118.035 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.0416 MHz - 118.040 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.050 MHz - 118.055 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.0583 MHz - 118.060 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.0666 MHz - 118.065 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.075 MHz - 118.080 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.0833 MHz - 118.085 MHz [display frequency]
- 118.0916 MHz - 118.090 MHz [display frequency]
Some frequencies will not be switched over to 8.33 channeling. The obvious one is 121.5 MHz - the aircraft emergency frequency.
The 108 MHz - 117.95 MHz band is allocated for navigation signals, including the VHF Omnidirectional Range - VHF Omni Range or VOR, the Instrument Landing System (ILS) localizer transmitters (localizers operate within the 108.100-111.950 MHz band and are paired with the UHF glideslope transmitters operating in the 328.600-335.400 MHz band, see chart below). Aircraft navigation systems use numerous other frequency bands, ranging from LF/MF up through UHF and SHF.
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