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'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

For beginners to the hobby to have all those "newbie" questions answered...
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SCruttonStreet
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'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by SCruttonStreet » Sat Jul 29, 2023 10:34 am

Hello. I have noticed that different call signs are often used for what I assume are different types of mission - but I have no idea what they mean! In the last couple of weeks at Mildenhall we have had tankers cin an out calling 'Blue,' 'Gold' and 'Clean.' Most people on these boards seem to know what they imply. But I have no clue! Can anyone explain?

Also while we are at it I see RAF tankers sometimes call 'Ascot', sometimes 'Madras', and sometimes 'Tartan.' Again, what do these callsigns imply?

Then there's also COTAM v French Air Force. And so on. What is the difference?

Can anyone help demistify what these callsigns mean?

Eagle130
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Eagle130 » Sat Jul 29, 2023 2:32 pm

Hi SCruttonStreet,

I’m not as confident with the RAF or French Airforce callsigns so that may need to be one picked up by someone else for an accurate answer!

I can however give a go at the USAF ones, those you have identified are generally associated with “special missions” outside of the standard training or active refuelling sorties flown by the 100th ARW from Mildenhall. As you may have identified those “standard missions” are typically under “QUID” for training and “LAGR” or “HOBO” for active missions. These may still have some exciting receivers but it’s separate to the callsigns as you have correctly identified.

The “BLUE”, “GOLD” and “CLEAN” are typically used for what is called a Coronet missions/ movements. These are long distance refuelling missions to support aircraft that couldn’t typically make it said distance without multiple fuel stops. As a solution, the USAF allocate a number of tankers to provide the other aircraft with lots of small fuel stops along the way, as a form of continuous refuel, topping up the receivers multiple times in the flight. Generally this is used for Fighter movements to and from Continental United States (CONUS). The examples you have identified in your post above were involved with F-35s, F-16s and F-22s from various units for various purposes, which I wont go into for now. Coronets come in 5 variants, with one for each of the 4 compass directions (north, east, south and west) plus a separate “Q” identifier for non-US fighter drags. The callsigns you have identified are Coronet East (CE) tankers, indicating movements to and from CONUS to a deployment an eastward direction (each with a leg heading back in the westbound direction). Typically that is all you will see from the UK, as Coronet West (CW) tend to move in the pacific area, or to the west of CONUS. The Same is true for North and South missions, we are unlikely to see these and the allocated callsigns are different for each direction, with those you listed being CE mission callsigns.

There is some more information on Coronets at this link: https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display ... distances/
You can also find some summary information about coronet missions in the “Coronets” section in Worldwide Mil-air Monitoring, sorted by the mission code number.

Hopefully this helps :)
Eagle

STN RAMP RAT
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by STN RAMP RAT » Sat Jul 29, 2023 5:16 pm

That’s a really good question and interesting answer but is there a significant to the CLEAN, GOLD and BLUE callsigns? I assume they represent different types of Coronets.

Eagle130
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Eagle130 » Sat Jul 29, 2023 5:42 pm

So as far as I am aware, between those three callsigns I don’t believe there is a difference to the type of coronet, as they are all coronet east ones. There appears to be a link between the fighter callsigns and tanker callsigns, but that doesn’t always get followed.

For example thinking of the F-35 deliveries to lakenheath, these typically use BLUExx / RETROxx for the mission pairing, but the drag today for F-22 we saw BLUE61 / 71 and 81 dragging TREND FLTs.

If you look one “level” above, they can be used to determine the coronet direction to a certain level, so those 3 listed above are eastbound (as previously mentioned) whereas “PETRO”, “VINYL” and “BOBBY” tend to get used for westbound missions. As ever, there are exceptions to this but typically that’s the way it works.

One other point to add is often the eastbound and westbound return legs of coronets use same tanker and fighter callsign pairing, but this isn’t always the case. However, it is something to keep an eye out for.

In answer to your question, I don’t think there is a link to the specific coronet mission (other than the general direction of the mission and occasionally tankers used for both outbound and inbound legs). I.e, from what I have seen so far it isn’t as clear cut as “CLEAN” take jets to the Middle East only and “BLUE” take them to the UK only, sometimes it does work like this but I don’t think there’s an exact pattern to it, instead occasionally being coincidental links.

Hopefully this answers the question and if anyone has corrections to anything I’ve said please let me know, every day is a learning day so am open to any changes :)

Eagle

hanzl
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by hanzl » Tue Aug 01, 2023 5:47 pm

In the 'old days' you had BLUE,GOLD,WHITE & BROWN depending on the point of departure of the tanker(s).
As far as the RAF concerns:TARTAN & MADRAS are for domestic use.ASCOT(RRR)9000-9499 is used for e.g.transatlantic AAR.Receivers use the RRR9501-9799 range.RRR99..seems to be for special missions,incl.AAR.
ASCOT stand for AirSupportCommandOperationalTasking*,refering to the Ascot racings,hence the ICAO code RRR for Royal Racings*.
COTAM(ICAO:CTM)was/is in use by French AF transports & helo's incl.some special ops aircraft like the C-160G,DHC-6 and Be350.
COTAM stands for Commandement du Transport Aerien Militaire,which was the French Air Force transport command,again in the 'old days'.
*pls correct me if I am wrong!
Hans
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Malcolm
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Malcolm » Tue Aug 01, 2023 7:02 pm

hanzl wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2023 5:47 pm
In the 'old days' you had BLUE,GOLD,WHITE & BROWN depending on the point of departure of the tanker(s).
Blue was almost always a Mildenhall Based KC-135
Black was almost always a 2BW KC10 (out of Barksdale AFB).
White was almost always a 22ARW KC10 (out of March AFB).
Brown (or was it Tan?) was almost always a Fairford based KC-135
Gold was almost always a Stateside based KC-135
There was also a Green and Red, but these were quite rare and I never did establish a pattern. Olive was also used occasionally for tankers operating out of Greece or Turkey, but it was also used by RC-135's. I never heard Olive being used for a Coronet drag, although since these would have been up the med they wouldn't have come this way anyway.

The assumption back then was that the colour related to the commanding unit. That all went to pot after the first gulf war when SAC/TAC/MAC all got re-organised. My suspicion is that Blue still applies to USAFE commanded missions, but Clean, Adobe etc are somehow related to whatever stateside command is in control of the mission.

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sschofield
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by sschofield » Fri Aug 04, 2023 12:04 pm

Just to add another small point, whenever there is a drag involving a tanker and chicks (fighters), the callsign for the chicks will always be 50 digits higher than the tanker, so, for example, Gold 11 and 12 took the Qatari F-15s downrange this week, and the fighters were calling "Trend 61-65". Likewise "Blue 31" would drag "Trend 81 flight", or whatever callsign they are using. I have no idea why this is!

"Trend" callsigns have been used for many years, I think at least going back to the first Gulf War. They also used "Cube" and "Mazda", which are rarely used these days. Also, "Retro" is used , but only for anything going back to the US, such as Europe-based fighters going for rework.

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sschofield
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by sschofield » Sat Aug 05, 2023 10:29 am

sschofield wrote:
Fri Aug 04, 2023 12:04 pm
Just to add another small point, whenever there is a drag involving a tanker and chicks (fighters), the callsign for the chicks will always be 50 digits higher than the tanker, so, for example, Gold 11 and 12 took the Qatari F-15s downrange this week, and the fighters were calling "Trend 61-65". Likewise "Blue 31" would drag "Trend 81 flight", or whatever callsign they are using. I have no idea why this is!

"Trend" callsigns have been used for many years, I think at least going back to the first Gulf War. They also used "Cube" and "Mazda", which are rarely used these days. Also, "Retro" is used , but only for anything going back to the US, such as Europe-based fighters going for rework.
And of course today, the USAF disproved this point by using tankers as "Gold 11/12/13" out of Mildenhall to refuel "Tabor 71 flight", TX ANG F-16s going home from Spangdahlem! So a previously almost foolproof system turns out not to be!

Eagle130
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Eagle130 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 11:18 am

sschofield wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 10:29 am

And of course today, the USAF disproved this point by using tankers as "Gold 11/12/13" out of Mildenhall to refuel "Tabor 71 flight", TX ANG F-16s going home from Spangdahlem! So a previously almost foolproof system turns out not to be!
I find this happens all the time :D

As soon as you find the pattern, it seems to get disproved...!!

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Rch80056
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Rch80056 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 1:31 pm

sschofield wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 10:29 am
sschofield wrote:
Fri Aug 04, 2023 12:04 pm
Just to add another small point, whenever there is a drag involving a tanker and chicks (fighters), the callsign for the chicks will always be 50 digits higher than the tanker, so, for example, Gold 11 and 12 took the Qatari F-15s downrange this week, and the fighters were calling "Trend 61-65". Likewise "Blue 31" would drag "Trend 81 flight", or whatever callsign they are using. I have no idea why this is!

"Trend" callsigns have been used for many years, I think at least going back to the first Gulf War. They also used "Cube" and "Mazda", which are rarely used these days. Also, "Retro" is used , but only for anything going back to the US, such as Europe-based fighters going for rework.
And of course today, the USAF disproved this point by using tankers as "Gold 11/12/13" out of Mildenhall to refuel "Tabor 71 flight", TX ANG F-16s going home from Spangdahlem! So a previously almost foolproof system turns out not to be!
It will be due to call signs conflicting, there will be another TABOR 51 flight in the system

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Rch80056
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Rch80056 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 1:37 pm

A perfect example as to why CE011 couldn’t use RETRO 91-92 at the time.
That tells you the IQAF were booked first although the CE code is higher.

Lakenheath 27/03/2019 CE011 Westbound
RETRO 41-42 KWRB>EGUL
84-0044 F-15D 493FS/48FW/LN
91-0308 F-15E 492FS/48FW/LN
83-0082 KC-10A 305AMW/McGuire BLUE41 KWRI>EGUN

Lajes 02/04/2019 CE075 Eastbound
RETRO 91-96
1608 F-16C IQAF
1635 F-16C IQAF
1602 F-16C IQAF
1603 F-16C IQAF
1619 F-16C IQAF
1634 F-16C IQAF
79-1951 KC-10A 60AMW/Travis GOLD41 KPSM>LPLA

Eagle130
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Eagle130 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 2:49 pm

Rch80056 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 1:37 pm
A perfect example as to why CE011 couldn’t use RETRO 91-92 at the time.
That tells you the IQAF were booked first although the CE code is higher.

Lakenheath 27/03/2019 CE011 Westbound
RETRO 41-42 KWRB>EGUL
84-0044 F-15D 493FS/48FW/LN
91-0308 F-15E 492FS/48FW/LN
83-0082 KC-10A 305AMW/McGuire BLUE41 KWRI>EGUN

Lajes 02/04/2019 CE075 Eastbound
RETRO 91-96
1608 F-16C IQAF
1635 F-16C IQAF
1602 F-16C IQAF
1603 F-16C IQAF
1619 F-16C IQAF
1634 F-16C IQAF
79-1951 KC-10A 60AMW/Travis GOLD41 KPSM>LPLA
Interesting insight thank you :)

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Rch80056
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Rch80056 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 3:16 pm

Eagle130 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 2:49 pm
Rch80056 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 1:37 pm
A perfect example as to why CE011 couldn’t use RETRO 91-92 at the time.
That tells you the IQAF were booked first although the CE code is higher.

Lakenheath 27/03/2019 CE011 Westbound
RETRO 41-42 KWRB>EGUL
84-0044 F-15D 493FS/48FW/LN
91-0308 F-15E 492FS/48FW/LN
83-0082 KC-10A 305AMW/McGuire BLUE41 KWRI>EGUN

Lajes 02/04/2019 CE075 Eastbound
RETRO 91-96
1608 F-16C IQAF
1635 F-16C IQAF
1602 F-16C IQAF
1603 F-16C IQAF
1619 F-16C IQAF
1634 F-16C IQAF
79-1951 KC-10A 60AMW/Travis GOLD41 KPSM>LPLA
Interesting insight thank you :)
The actual dates they flew are not important, its CE code allocation & Tanker/Fighter arrangement which is what you need to work out as to why call signs don’t always follow the 50-split normal. In this case I knew going from CE010 to CE011 that there would be the Iraqi flight coming up of which I didn’t know it was the Iraqi’s but knew there would be a (GOLD)41/RETRO91 flt & by that could only get as far as there was an FMS flight due soon, this c/s arrangement was different to any normal/known FMS flights at the time.

Timeline would have been,
CE010/18-19 was allocated to 48th Fighter Wing at the same time as CE011
CE011/18-19 was allocated to 48th Fighter Wing at the same time as CE010
CE010 arranged tankers/fighters BLUE41/RETRO91 dept date 26/10/18
CE075/18-19 was allocated FMS Iraq & arranged tankers GOLD41/RETRO91 dept date 2/4/19 (CE010 by this date would have fallen out of the system by some way so tanker/fighter c/s were again available)
CE011/18-19 arranged tankers/fighters BLUE41/RETRO41 dept date 27/3/19 (due to proximity of dept date with CE075 RETRO91 wasn’t available as already in the system)

There are plenty of examples where this happens, I call it bumping call signs, sometimes you can get bumped call signs two or three steps which really starts getting crazy and would then seem to be totally random but theres always a reason for it.

AK01
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by AK01 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 6:36 pm

Eagle130 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 11:18 am
sschofield wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 10:29 am

And of course today, the USAF disproved this point by using tankers as "Gold 11/12/13" out of Mildenhall to refuel "Tabor 71 flight", TX ANG F-16s going home from Spangdahlem! So a previously almost foolproof system turns out not to be!
I find this happens all the time :D

As soon as you find the pattern, it seems to get disproved...!!
These Gold11/12/13 flight patterns were rather strange. First bringing Qatar F15's to the Middle East CE081Q using Retro, and then returning with TX F16's on a CE027E code with Tabor callsign plus FF F22's with a Trend callsign on a CE089E.
Haven't seen that one before.

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Rch80056
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Rch80056 » Sat Aug 05, 2023 6:49 pm

AK01 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 6:36 pm
Eagle130 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 11:18 am
sschofield wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 10:29 am

And of course today, the USAF disproved this point by using tankers as "Gold 11/12/13" out of Mildenhall to refuel "Tabor 71 flight", TX ANG F-16s going home from Spangdahlem! So a previously almost foolproof system turns out not to be!
I find this happens all the time :D

As soon as you find the pattern, it seems to get disproved...!!
These Gold11/12/13 flight patterns were rather strange. First bringing Qatar F15's to the Middle East CE081Q using Retro, and then returning with TX F16's on a CE027E code with Tabor callsign plus FF F22's with a Trend callsign on a CE089E.
Haven't seen that one before.
Id right that pattern off, there isn’t one, what works works in that case etc etc

Eagle130
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Eagle130 » Sun Aug 06, 2023 8:47 am

Rch80056 wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2023 3:16 pm

The actual dates they flew are not important, its CE code allocation & Tanker/Fighter arrangement which is what you need to work out as to why call signs don’t always follow the 50-split normal. In this case I knew going from CE010 to CE011 that there would be the Iraqi flight coming up of which I didn’t know it was the Iraqi’s but knew there would be a (GOLD)41/RETRO91 flt & by that could only get as far as there was an FMS flight due soon, this c/s arrangement was different to any normal/known FMS flights at the time.

Timeline would have been,
CE010/18-19 was allocated to 48th Fighter Wing at the same time as CE011
CE011/18-19 was allocated to 48th Fighter Wing at the same time as CE010
CE010 arranged tankers/fighters BLUE41/RETRO91 dept date 26/10/18
CE075/18-19 was allocated FMS Iraq & arranged tankers GOLD41/RETRO91 dept date 2/4/19 (CE010 by this date would have fallen out of the system by some way so tanker/fighter c/s were again available)
CE011/18-19 arranged tankers/fighters BLUE41/RETRO41 dept date 27/3/19 (due to proximity of dept date with CE075 RETRO91 wasn’t available as already in the system)

There are plenty of examples where this happens, I call it bumping call signs, sometimes you can get bumped call signs two or three steps which really starts getting crazy and would then seem to be totally random but theres always a reason for it.
Understandable, as the other post from AK said this has been rather complicated recently but suppose there is always a reason for it!

I would imagine that as we are getting towards the end of the "coronet year" (which from my understanding resets in sept/oct time?) we will see more of these strange patterns trying to tie things up before the cycle restarts and presumably the bookings change/ are made again.

Every day is a school, day!!

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Rerun57
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by Rerun57 » Fri Apr 12, 2024 10:12 am

What a fascinating series of posts. Thanks all.
Flash - Flash - Flash - Flash - Flash! Watch the Birdie!

timb
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Re: 'Clean' v 'Gold' v 'Blue'...and so on

Post by timb » Sun Apr 14, 2024 6:00 pm

I agree Rerun57, made fascinating reading, some historic posts which for my sins I hadn't previously read, but I am now a little wiser. Thanks to all.

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