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).