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TACBE
Personal Locator Beacon (Distress)

The ARI-23237 was a small hand-held personal locator beacon intended for use in distress situations, manufactured by Graseby Dynamics in the UK. It was often carried by Special Forces (SF), such as the British S.A.S. during the First Gulf War in 1991, as part of their standard gear. The devices operates on the Military Air Distress (MAD) frequency, or UHF Guard, of 243.0 MHz.

The device is known by US and UK Special Forces as Tactical Beacon — or TACBE for short. The image on the right shows a typical TACBE unit, carried in the palm of a hand. It is shown here without its antenna. The lower half is the battery.

The small hand-held radio can operate on two frequencies that are monitored 24 hours per day by Air Force units around the world. Despite the fact that TACBE has officially been phased out, the frequency is not. Some units may still be in service and the frequency is monitored around the clock, Do not attempt to use a surplus unit.
  
The TACBE in the palm of a hand

When in distress, the operator simply removes a blocking clamp by pulling a string. The unit then immediately starts sending out a distress signal on 243 MHz. This frequency is monitored 24/7 by Air Force units world wide, by airplanes that are passing by and by NATO AWACS airplanes.

The operator can also talk to the pilot of a passing plane on the same emergency frequency, by pressing the PTT-switch (Press to Talk) on the side of the radio. For reception, the PTL-switch (Press to Listen) has to be pressed. If no button is pressed, the radio broadcasts a distress signal.

Power and frequency of the radio have been choosen such that its range is very limited. When talking to a pilot, the plane has to be in the 'line of sight'. This was done to allow operation for a relatively long period of time from a small battery, and to avoid detection by enemy intercept and direction finding stations. The TACBE can also be used for tactical short range ground-to-ground communication by using the auxiliary channel on 282.8 MHz.

The TACBE in the palm of a hand
The bare TACBE unit with a carrying strap
Another view of the TACBE
Rear view of the TACBE
Connecting the battery
TACBE with battery
Top of the TACBE
TACBE seen from the top
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The TACBE in the palm of a hand
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The bare TACBE unit with a carrying strap
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Another view of the TACBE
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Rear view of the TACBE
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Connecting the battery
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TACBE with battery
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Top of the TACBE
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TACBE seen from the top

Bravo Two Zero
The TACBE was used by British Special Forces (SF) during the First Gulf War in 1991. It was carried by SF members as part of their standard gear. It would only be used in case of an emergency, e.g. when their normal PRC-319 radio was lost or out of range. They would use the distress frequency (243 MHz) to contact the AWACS plane that was continuously flying overhead at high altitude.

They could also use TACBE to contact passing fighter jets, but as these planes were generally flying very low - in order to stay below radar - the time for a conversion would be very limited.

A good example of the use of the TACBE is given in the book Bravo Two Zero, written by Andy McNab (pseudonym). The book is based on a real SAS mission in Iraq lead by McNab in January 1991. Four of the eight members of his team carried a TACBE for emergency purposes. In one case they managed to send out a distress call to a passing American fighter pilot.


Personal Locator Beacons today
Today, the use of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) has shifted from line-of-sight to satellite communication, whilst at the same time it has become available for everyone who want to go camping, hiking, fishing, skying, etc., at remote locations that have little or no GSM coverage.

PLBs are available from several suppliers and can be registered with the telecom authorities in your country. In case of distress, it will contact the local authorities through one of the available search and rescue satellites, and send the GPS coordinates of your present location.

 More information (off-site)


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Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 10 August 2010. Last changed: Tuesday, 29 September 2020 - 14:47 CET.
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