Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio stations are currently used for Air Traffic Control air-ground voice communications for military aircraft flying as operational air traffic (OAT) and for the handling of non-8.33 kHz State aircraft which may operate as General Air Traffic/Instrument Flight Rules (GAT/IFR) in 8.33 kHz airspace.

Today, UHF services are provided by civil and military Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs). Depending on the State’s local arrangements, military ANSPs normally provide UHF support for OAT while civil ANSPs can offer this service for State aircraft operating as either GAT/IFR or OAT.

With the extension of VHF 8.33 kHz mandatory equipage above FL195, Commission Regulation (EC) No 1265/2007 of 26 October 2007 governs the regulatory provisions for State aircraft.

This Regulation stipulates that non-8.33 kHz equipped State aircraft that cannot be retrofitted for a justified, compelling reason will be accommodated by the ANSPs on UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) or 25 kHz VHF (Very High Frequency) assignments. A similar provision is included in the implementing rule on air-ground voice channel spacing for the airspace below FL195.

In parallel with a continuous effort to retrofit military aircraft with VHF 8.33 kHz-capable radios, the maintenance of a certain level of UHF ATC communications is a critical element in minimising the impact on State aircraft flying in 8.33 kHz airspace. It will constitute an important facilitator for the upcoming phases of expansion of 8.33 kHz below FL195 and for OATTS (OAT Transit Service) implementation.

The provision of UHF for ATC is still far from being fully harmonised in Europe. In many locations there are constraining factor, such as:

  • difficult frequency management coordination,
  • limited UHF coverage,
  • absence of commonly agreed operating procedures,
  • lack of recognised standards and
  • technical difficulties (e.g. cross-coupling with VHF channels).

Our contribution

At EUROCONTROL, our Civil-Military Interface Standing Committee (CMIC) acknowledged that 8.33 kHz expansion will necessitate a number of support measures, including UHF provision, while paying due regard to the technical, operational and economic aspects.

Subsequently, we worked to harmonise UHF used for ATC in close cooperation with the NATO Spectrum Management Branch (SMB).

  • Guidance for the planning, implementation and operational usage of UHF for ATC
  • EUROCONTROL Guidelines on the use of UHF for ATC
    These guidelines were released after extensive consultation within the Civil-Military CNS Focus Group, 8.33 Programme Steering Group and ATC Procedures Development Sub Group.
  • EUR Frequency Management Manual: Extract from ICAO EUR-011 Part IV - Frequency Coordination and Registration Procedures
    The procedures for implementers to request UHF frequencies are available in the ICAO Frequency Management Manual Source: Doc. EUR-011 Part IV - Frequency Coordination and Registration Procedures.
  • ETSI Standard: Ground-based UHF radio transmitters, receivers and transceivers for the UHF aeronautical mobile service
    European standard on Ground-based UHF radio transmitters, receivers and transceivers for the UHF aeronautical mobile service developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

This information may be used to support the installation of ground stations.

The users of this guidance material are advised that it neither replaces any local regulations nor the safety assessments that have to be undertaken locally before implementing UHF installations or procedures.