Following on from our first post on the Black Knight Air Antenna https://militarymonitoringworld.com/2020/04/06/the-black-knight-rises-part-i/ we had hoped the current global pandemic may have eased to allow for some more in depth testing on what we can only describe as the most unique antenna system we have ever used – and we aren’t just saying that because we were involved in the initial concept.
When the Black Knight concept was being developed there were a couple of key areas which inspired the need for such a unique and powerful antenna system for the military radio monitor – exercise coverage and airshows.
The bi-annual Exercise Joint Warrior due to take place mid-March was going to be our first real testing opportunity for mobile exercise coverage and our plans were all laid out to set up a mobile monitoring post at a couple of key locations to monitor the exercise build up and the mass departures of the multi-national flotilla of Navy warships from Faslane Naval Base and surrounding areas.
This first exercise of 2020 was rumoured to be quite significant with a notable increase in participants both maritime and aviation. It was also highly likely Prestwick Airport would once again play a significant tactical role in the exercise hosting the majority of Maritime Patrol Aircraft for the duration of the exercise to provide some excellent monitoring opportunities. With the RAF also having taken delivery of their first P-8A Poseidon and operating out of Kinloss Barracks in the North of Scotland – it was set to be an exciting time.
Airshow wise we also had big plans for the Black Knight specifically with the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. It has been some years since we have been able to make the journey south due to various other commitments, but this year the trip was all planned and nothing was going to stop us. Well so we thought at least.
The Black Knight would be our main antenna system for our mobile monitoring setup while staying with family nearby and would also be part of our daily airshow carry kit for each day of the show. We were really excited at the prospect of setting up camp at the Park and View and inflating the Black Knight for maximum radio monitoring coverage of all of the inbound arrivals, but also for the busy airspace and movements further afield.
But unfortunately these plans were not to be due to the current COVID19 pandemic which has had a massive impact on everyone’s lives over recent months.
So it was back to the drawing board with the Black Knight testing which has been extremely limited given the current lockdown restrictions in Scotland and also the significant decrease in aircraft in the skies above the UK. But we have been working away as much as we can in the interim period and the Black Knight continues not only to impress but is now our go to antenna choice.
The reception quality is nothing short of fantastic and when connected to our Uniden Bearcat BCD436 Digital Handheld scanner pulls in signals from far and wide. The first noticeable improvement was listening to our local airfield at Prestwick Airport situated over 20 miles away.
With the Black Knight connected the signal quality was superb for both inbound aircraft but more importantly also the Tower Controller. This is something we have never managed to successfully achieve from our location even with a mounted external antenna – and yet here we were with the Black Knight just sitting in the back door and receiving the tower controller as if they were sitting beside us.
We have also had some excellent coverage of the Scottish and Swanwick military control frequencies as well as the various civil airband control frequencies including Oceanic Clearance which is a great way to intercept military aircraft crossing the Atlantic. We are somewhat cautious though at the moment in terms of the range of the some of the military control frequencies as some appear to be band-boxed and transmitting from a number of aerial sites.
We genuinely can’t wait until the air traffic world returns back to some sort of normality so we can fully appreciate just how good the Black Knight is as an antenna system. As well as providing excellent reception on both the civil and military airbands, the design itself makes it incredibly flexible for both home and mobile use.
If you live in a flat with limited space then the Black Knight can be inflated and deflated in a matter of seconds making it perfect to pull out of a drawer and use when you plan on firing up the radios. If you live in a house where again space is limited or you don’t want to start drilling holes and mounting external antennas then the Black Knight is the perfect solution. It can remain inflated and sit in the loft or in a discrete corner and vastly improve your listening capabilities.
The portability makes it ideal around the house as well if you want to tactically relocate to the back door to enjoy some military radio monitoring in the sunshine on those rare days in the UK when that’s possible. Again seconds to setup and literally hours of fun thereafter.
But our vision for the Black Knight wasn’t to be confined to the house but to provide an excellent antenna solution when mobile away from the radio shack. The Black Knight deflates and folds into its own carry pouch which fits nicely into your camera bag or backpack taking up very little space and adding virtually no additional weight. Our Black Knight is now part of our mobile kit which sits poised ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Although we haven’t had the change yet, as soon as the lockdown restrictions are lifted we will be venturing out with the Black Knight to really put it through its paces on local trips to Prestwick Airport as well as a bit further afield with trips to RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Leuchars and RAF Fairford all on the horizon.
One thing is for certain though the Black Knight is a welcome addition to the military radio hobby scene and has already been getting rave reviews from monitors not only in the UK quite literally all over the world. With a number of new products also on offer soon from Air Antennas including professional monitoring headphones and a dedicated Mode-S/ADS-B antenna, the future is bright for Air Antennas.
We have absolutely no hesitation in endorsing the Black Knight antenna and look forward to continued partnership working with the Air Antenna team in the coming weeks, months and years.
Visit https://www.airantennas.com/ and follow @AntennaAir on Twitter to find out more about the Black Knight and the range of products available for the Military Radio Monitor.