Aircraft use transponders to communicate to ATC their position and status. Some squawk codes are reserved, such as 7700 (emergency), 7600 (communication failure), 7500 (hijacking), 1202 (glider), 1200 (VFR), etc. One of these, 7777, is apparently used for "military interception." What does this mean in the United States? Under what circumstances would it be used on a civilian / military aircraft?


4 Answers 4


In countries outside of the US, 7777 may be used by test transponders (RABMs) to check correctness of radar stations (BITE). e.g. on top of a mountain.

In the US, it seems that it is used as well on active air defense missions without ATC clearance. This would mean that the interceptor aircraft would change it's squawk to 7777 for the military/civilian air traffic controller to see it properly (if not filtered out on civil radars).

A link to the US intercept procedures is here.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why the downvotes? This is correct. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2019 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ Yep, I have been wrong for about 10 years now. I would have sworn the craft being intercepted was the squawker of 7777. Edited to add my link to the FAA doc. Deleted my wrong answer, and upvoted this. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2019 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ @RyanMortensen good thing you didn't get intercepted in the last 10 years :) $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2019 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ @pericynthion yeah, I may need to have a chat with some people I have learned it wrong from and spread the knowledge. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2019 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ You know, now that I think about it, I bet I was told that by retired Air Force guys who mixed up the roles' codes. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2019 at 16:19

According to the AIM 4-1-20(e):

  1. Under no circumstances should a pilot of a civil aircraft operate the transponder on Code 7777. This code is reserved for military interceptor operations.

The ATC orders don't add anything useful and a lot of security procedures are classified, or at least not publicly available on faa.gov. But it seems from that information that a) 7777 is important for interception operations, and b) civilian pilots must not use 7777. That implies that 7777 is reserved for interceptor aircraft, not the aircraft being intercepted.

The FAA's interception instructions for pilots say that intercepted aircraft should squawk 7700.

See this question too.


Under normal circumstance even interception missions are supposed to work with ATC. Squawking 7777 is sort of a last resort thing for the DoD to tell ATC to get out of their way and get everything else out of their way.

If you listen to the Washington Center ATC records from 9-11, there's a point where the interceptors around the capital get ordered to squawk quad-seven because Washington Center was putting them into patterns NORAD didn't want them on.


It is for if an aircraft is being intercepted by the military, to let ATC know so they can take the appropriate measures

  • $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jul 8, 2022 at 7:47

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