Sunday, September 13, 2015

SKYKING, SKYKING, DO NOT ANSWER. Here's some answers.

You're surfing SDRadio and you tune pass 8992 kHz or 11175 kHz in USB and suddenly you hear:

SKYKING, SKYKING, DO NOT ANSWER.

A series of phonetic letters and numbers follow in some ominous leftover from the Cold War. Spooky.

So what the heck is it? 

To be honest, most of what we know about SKYKING messages is limited and most conversation about SKYKING is just speculation.

We'll start with what we do know.
  1. SKYKING is operated by the United States Military. Some of the messages are transmitted from Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska (the ones that end in "Offutt Out"). This is the headquarters of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) which is charged with space operations (such as military satellites), information operations (such as information warfare), missile defense, global command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), global strike and strategic deterrence (the United States nuclear arsenal), and combating weapons of mass destruction.
  2. SKYKING messages have been transmitted since at least the early 1980s. 
  3. During times of tensions, or unusual behavior by Russia, China or North Korea, SKYKING messages broadcast more often. In March of 2015, Russia launched surprise military exercises near the borders of Finland and Norway (the latter of which is a NATO Member). When this happened, a SKYKING message lasting 34 minutes was broadcast. Unprecedented by most previous transmitted messages, and, as of the date of this post, none have been nearly that long. 
You can listen to that SKYKING message here. It is long.



And that's about all we really know. The rest is speculation.

(Please see updated information HERE)

Speculation that is probable. 

Based on publicly available and common information, "solid guesses" are listed here.

  1. The transmitted codes are likely One Time Cipher Pads. This is a set if codebooks held only by the transmitter and recipient of the message and they have the only two copies of the codes and know which letters and numbers mean what. Once it is used, it is never reused. 
  2. That means it's nearly impossible to crack the transmission's meaning. Simple fact: the US Military would not broadcast it on something you and I could pick up if they though their code could be compromised. We cannot decipher these SKYKING messages. Don't try. 
  3. SKYKING messages are probably sent to nuclear elements of USSTRATCOM and maybe intelligence units. Most of the messages are probably benign; "Nothing new, all is well." Occasionally, it can be assumed a "Something odd is happening in Russia, we will let you know if it gets worse," message is sent. 
  4. Most likely, since SKYKING messages seem to be part of the Air Force, some of these messages are directed at TACAMO (TAke Charge And Move Out) stations or aircraft. It is still common practice of the US Government to maintain a National Command Authority Chain of Succession and Command should a terrible event strike the US Government. An important redundancy for a nation as powerful as the US. 
  5. You won't crack the cipher. Seriously, no you won't. 
  6. Longer messages probably mean something. What the "something" is, I'm not sure. Maybe it's "I'm on R&R this week so you will hear a different voice but it's authentic," or "China has a new aircraft circling the South China Sea and Japan is worried. Pick up its radar signature." We'll never know.
Speculation that we have no idea if it's true or not.


  1. The amount of times "SKYKING, SKYKING DO NOT ANSWER" is repeated correlates to the urgency of the messages. Or, for that matter, how many times the Authentication Code is sent. This could be arbitrary or it could be a warning to anyone messing with NATO. The One Time Cipher would solve that question but we don't have it. 
  2. We're not going to crack the cipher. 
  3. SKYKING is a Boeing E-6 Mercury "Looking Glass" NCA circling somewhere over America ready to TACMO in the event of a nuclear strike. It would make sense, but it can't be proven.

Things you need to know to listen for SKYKING.

  1. You will occasionally hear "Pac-Man" and "farting" sounds on 8992. This is an Australian Over-the-Horizon-Radar making a sweep (Known as JORN). That's it. It bounces off the ionosphere and somehow makes it to Europe. 
  2. French language voices. They show up on 8992. It's the French Navy chatting close to the WebSDR antenna. 
  3. Oddball English language transmissions. They might be SKYKING listening stations checking their equipment. You won't know their identities and if they are calling, they're certainly gone from their position after they check in.
  4. You won't crack the SKYKING messages.Don't dream you can.
  5. It will take hours if not days to hear a SKYKING call. 
Did you know you can listen with your own SDR for around $100? A small, portable High Frequency radio set you don't even need working Internet to use! 

10 comments:

  1. You should listen to this
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSOaKaFIgAs
    Start at 59:30

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  2. A One Time Pad is VERY different from a Casear Cipher.

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    Replies
    1. Correct. A One Time Pad is a form of a Vernam Cipher. Used correctly, it is uncrackable. (The common wisdom that all ciphers can be cracked is untrue.) A Caesar Cipher is child's play to crack - it is simply an alphabetical position shift.

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  3. Who is "ironweed out?"

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  4. That is a EAM (emergency action message) message to all nuclear forces, exercise or ICBM launch.

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  5. These messages warn airborne SigInt and ComInt aircraft of potential intercepts. They are broadcast regularly and 99% translate to "nothing new." If enemy intercept is detected the message will tell the crews so that they can take evasive action.

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  6. If this video is true, then SkyKing is a surveillance aircraft (SR-71 in this case or maybe Aurora now)

    https://youtu.be/RSOaKaFIgAs

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  7. Go to 59:30 to see what I'm talking about

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. While I was in the RAF in about 1958 I certainly heard Sky King transmissions in the form of "Sky King, Sky King. This is Croughton, this is Croughton, Do not answer, do not answer. Break" followed by either four digit or four letter groups. So it's been going on for quite a while.

    ReplyDelete