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Nellis tracking facility near Reveille

OK, I will admit to certain weaknesses.  One of them is to occasionally peruse the cesspool that has become alt.conspiracy.area51 news group.  Most of the posters are wingnuts, but there are a handful of posters that are sorta normal, or maybe it’s just by comparison.  Anyway, a while back someone posted a query about why there was an overflight restriction shown on the Nellis Range maps around the site of Reveille, a ghost town.  Huh?  Really?

Portion of Nellis Range map showing restricted flight area around Reveille 

I pulled out my own Nellis map and sure enough there was.  A smallish circle around Reveille.  I don’t think I had ever noticed that before.  Not wanting to get sucked into that newsgroup, I sat back and watched the exchange.  Eventually there was a post regarding a hunk of BLM land that had some sort of permit issued to the Air Force.  Seeing that I hopped over to the BLM land use website and sure enough, that was true also.  It looked like it was some sort of communications facility.  How often does real info get posted on alt.conspiracy.area51???!  I kept watching that topic, but it died out with no further exchanges.  But it left me wondering and I thought it might make a good adventure.

The posting had given a lat/long for the BLM permit, and in Google Earth it looked like it made sense, like it was on a peak.  And I was pretty sure I knew how to get to Reveille.  Can you say, road trip”??!

Reveille is easy to get to.   Head north on 375 out of Rachel, then about 24 miles north of Queen City Summit, there’s a good dirt road heading off to the west.  It even has a “Reveille” sign.   How accommodating.  It’s a scenic route, and at points travels up a narrow canyon, and eventually dumps you out at Reveille, in all it’s glory.  No, not really, there’s not much there.  A few old structures and no apparent reason for a flight restriction.  But sorta neat if you’re into ghost towns.

One half of beautiful downtown Reveille

The other half of town

So it was on to the mysterious communication facility.   This involved turning south from Reveille, onto a much poorer route.   This was 4wd and somewhat overgrown with brush.  So you can imagine my surprise when I came around a corner and saw this:


A travel trailer, on it’s side, with no axle or wheels anywhere in sight.  Now this being rural Nevada, right away I’m thinking mobile backcountry meth lab.  Normally, I give those sort of things a wide berth, but as you can see from the picture, that wasn’t going  to be possible.   In fact, I could barely get by.  So I stopped and poked my head inside.  There were craploads of cooking oil jugs.  So I don’t know, another mystery of the desert.

Do meth labs use cooking oil?

Eventually my route ended as I expected at the site of an old mining operation.  Nothing there except graded pads, which was fine for parking.  I grabbed my gear and headed south, climbing up the slope.

End of the road, starting the climb

The truck is now waaaay down there

After about an hour, I reached a local high spot on the ridge and could see what I thought was the summit ahead.  And sitting on top of that was an antenna mast with a couple of microwave dishes.  Looks like I had arrived!

Uh-Oh…..Something interesting at the top!

Houston, we have a tracking site!

This looked like it was part of the Nellis Red Flag tracking system.  Originally known as ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation), it’s now been upgraded to NACTS (Nellis Air Combat Training System), the original setup with fancier guts.  It provides links between all Red Flag aircraft and the Nellis control center.  From the instrumentation pods the aircraft carry during these exercises, the control center can keep track of the precise position of each aircraft and who has been “shot down”.

The flat metal cap on the top of the mast is the air to ground antenna.  It receives the signals from the aircraft instrumentation pods.  The microwave dishes below it then relay the air signals to other points in the system.

The bottom, showing its innards through the screen 

Didn’t I see one of these for sale on Ebay? 

Nice set of….uh, dishes you have there! Cool hat, too!

This is the cable that runs up to the air to ground antenna.  1830 MHz, apparently.

How considerate of them to list antenna target and frequency

Each coax was nicely labeled!  Highland Peak and Cedar Peak.

What I found curious was that the dish antennas weren’t  pointed where they were labeled.  Cedar Peak is to the southwest of this site, and Highland Peak is to the southeast.  Yet if you look at the overall picture of the installation, both dishes are pointed in the same direction.  Further, flat solar arrays like these are usually pointed due south to collect maximum sun.  Note the two dishes seem right in line with the array, and thus pointed due south.  Very weird.  I have no idea what it could be aimed at, unless the facility is simply no longer in use.  I considered the target could be Bald Mountain, but even that is more toward the southsoutheast. My frequency counter did not pick up any radio emissions.

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