Aircraft Squawk Codes used around the NTTR

This article assumes that the reader has a basic understanding of online aircraft tracking.

Besides the aircraft ID, position and altitude the ADS-B signal from an aircraft also includes other data such as the so-called squawk code. This is a code assigned to the aircraft by the air traffic controller. In most cases an aircraft uses the same squawk code for the entire flight, but in some cases the code can change several times as the aircraft enters airspace controlled by another agency. A squawk code is a 4-digit octal code, meaning each digit has a range of 0-7. Valid squawk codes are 0000 - 7777. The online tracking web sites show the current squawk code in the aircraft detail information area.

Squawk codes are not unique, but the FAA has defined code block allocations so that there is minimal overlap. The table below shows the allocations for air traffic control agencies related to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) which includes Area 51 and the Tonopah Test Range (TTR). The main blocks are based on data from current FAA publications. The sub-blocks (indented) are based on our analysis of ADS-B data logs between 5/2020 and 8/2021.

Most readers will find the Dreamland block in the 0301-0377 range most interesting. That is the block of squawk codes used by most Janet flights in and out of Area 51 and by Dreamland mission and mission support aircraft. Occasionally civilian aircraft such as FAA planes and helicopters with official business in the NTTR will use codes in that block as well.

You may see squawk codes in the blocks shown below used by commercial or private airliners outside the NTTR. This is because of overlap of code blocks. You will even notice some overlap in the blocks below.

Squawk codes Facility
0001 - 0057SPORT (Edwards AFB, FTC Mission, "Space Positioning Optical Radar Tracking")
0101 - 0177Joshua Control (Edwards AFB)
0101 - 0170Las Vegas TRACON ("Terminal Radar Approach Control")
0171 - 0177Nellis AFB (Military aircraft and civilian contractors in NTTR)
0201 - 0277Nellis AFB
   0201-0217Draken & civilian contractor (BAe avionics testbed) in NTTR
   0233-0236Military aircraft in NTTR
   0240-0247Military aircraft & Draken in NTTR
   0266-0267Draken in Desert MOA
   0271-0276Military aircraft in Desert MOA
0301 - 0377Dreamland Approach
   0321-0324Mission Support Aircraft (Beech Janets, Avionics Testbed)
   0331-0337Janets, civilian contractors
   0345-0346Draken as Dreamland mission aircraft
   0350-0357Military mission aircraft & Janets TNX->XTA
   0364-0367Military mission aircraft & Janets XTA->TNX
   0377 Tanker in northern MOAs
0401 - 0477Joshua Control (conf. Edwards AFB)
0401 - 0477Las Vegas TRACON ("Terminal Radar Approach Control")
0401 - 0417NAS Point Mugu
0420 - 0447Naval Air Warfare Center (located at NAS Point Mugu)
0450 - 0457NAS Point Mugu (Laguna Sector)
0460 - 0467NAS Point Mugu (Ventura Sector)
0471 - 0477NAS Point Mugu
1200 - 1201Aircraft flying VFR
1234 - 1237Naval Air Warfare Center (located at NAS Point Mugu)
4201 - 4277Las Vegas TRACON ("Terminal Radar Approach Control")
4301 - 4377Nellis AFB (Military aircraft and civilian contractors in NTTR)
4333 - 4377Naval Air Warfare Center (located at NAS Point Mugu)
4501 - 4577China Lake
4544 - 4560NALF San Clemente Island
5201 - 5277Joshua Control (Edwards AFB)
5201 - 5277Las Vegas TRACON ("Terminal Radar Approach Control")
5553 - 5577Las Vegas TRACON ("Terminal Radar Approach Control")
7501 - 7577U.S. Military aircraft
 Special nationwide emergency codes
7400Unmanned Aircraft experiencing a lost link situation
7600Radio failure
7777DOD interceptor aircraft on active air defense missions operating without ATC clearance

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