Someone is always listening, Part II

yagi-uda.jpgIn the preceding post, I very bluntly  pointed out, as a few of us have been trying to do, that the capability to DF and monitor anyone and anything indeed does exist. So now the question becomes ‘how do you work against it?’

Well, let’s examine some options and point out a few truths. The first, and largest, is that there simply is NO REPLACEMENT for working knowledge. None. You cannot master these skills without getting out and doing it. The second, is that you should have a healthy library to back up and supplement that working knowledge. Even for websites you find useful you should print out the hard information and file it away somewhere. Even if not perfect, always learning and always improving our positions is a must.

So while anything and everything can indeed be Direction Found and/monitored, does this mean will it? Thinking about it rationally here (which I know is a tough thing to do among some), likely not. Sure, the technology exists. It has for a LONG time (the HFDF network mapped in that link has been in place since the 60’s, and EWO birds have been able to do it even before then) But if there was one omnipotent eye of Sauron, why would resources be dedicated to the ground level, putting individuals at risk? Why not do it from the comfort of a leather office chair and a nice walnut desk? Because it doesn’t work quite like what you think. There’s a human factor, inherently error prone and often not used to pattern recognition.

Pattern Recognition?

Humans by nature set patterns. In fact, all creatures do it. Take a walk through the woods. If you have any experience tracking at all, you know instantly that deer follow paths and create trails. So do humans. You do it with everything, whether you realize it or not. The trick becomes recognizing those patterns. When complacent, we set one pattern behind what we do, and when the hunter is complacent, they become used to trailing one pattern, and usually make little sense of what “doesn’t fit”. In short, changing up what you do regularly keeps one ahead of the power curve. This is easier said than done, but is possible. For example, at the tactical level, one patrol uses low band VHF for intra-team communications, and the next patrol uses UHF, always following the simple rules of short transmissions, rotating callsigns, and directional antennas. Resistance is a thinking man’s game.

map.jpg Breaking out that map and compass

You know that critical skill that everyone who’s worth a crap in the ‘Liberty’ movement keeps telling you to get out and practice? This is one of those reasons why it’s so damn important.

The transmission points need to be known, preplanned, and have alternates. Why? Because you need to know where your signal is coming from in order to send it along it’s desired path, and in reality things don’t always go the way we planned. You need to know how to plot the points you’ll be transmitting to, so that you’ll know the rough azimuth to which the signal will be sent. wave-diffractionYou need to know how to read the terrain features on the map, so you can recognize elements which may block your signal, or may refract your signal (‘bounce’ it off of stuff, as seen to the left).

In order to make this work, any of this, one must understand much more than the simple ‘plug n play’ nature of common radio knowledge. The difference between, say, Vertical antennas, like the one on your HT or on the back of your truck behave one way while a horizontal dipole behaves in another, with highly directional antennas such as Yagis or Terminated Vees behaving in yet another. Confused yet? Don’t be. To put it simply, it’s like a flashlight vs a lamp. omni directional.jpgA lamp is similar to your vertical antenna, with the light flooding the room similar to the radiation pattern. dipole.jpgA dipole is like a lantern with two sides blocked, shining equally bright in both directions. A yagi is like a flashlight, illuminating whichever direction it’s pointed.

So understanding this analogy, plotting our points on the map to create pre-planned transmission sites becomes a critical part of our mission planning cycle. The RTO, Senior Scout, and Team Leader need to all be on the same page with this in order to be successful. Coordination with the other teams is a must. Have I conveyed how important the basic skillset is? I hope so.

Directional Antennas now become the tool of choice for your communications needs. random wireTwo flashlights pointing at each other in the dark. Get it? OK. So how do we get this done? Simple. As the diagram shows, a random wire cut to length for the frequency (234/Freq for length in feet for quarter wave, multiply by 12 for length in inches) and terminate with a Resistor to pull your radiation in one direction, end-fire off the wire. sloper antennaThese can be horizontal or sloped, whichever is field expedient for the desired task. Place another cold wire (no current) under the hot wire as a counterpoise if on the lower end HF to tighten the NVIS qualities. directional wireAnother, somewhat tighter antenna is the horizontal Vee. Built in the same manner as the single wire, it has a bit better, tighter pattern, as the random wire is fairly broad. The open end (gator’s mouth…easy to remember when cold, tired, and wet) is in the direction of the intended receiver. And if you want to get really fancy, build another matching antenna one wavelength (936/Frequency for one wavelength distance in feet) behind it, which will act as a reflector, just like the one on a Yagi antenna. One other important note is that the radiated energy is pushed into one direction, making more efficient use of your power in that direction versus radiating in an omnidirectional pattern all at once. Flashlight vs Lamp.

No, the sky is not falling.

All of this together makes a tough(er) nut to crack. It doesn’t mean you can’t be tracked or found by any means, but it makes the job a hell of a lot harder for the hunter. It also takes work and a lot of practice to get right, when you’re not cold, tired, starving, and wet, so doing it now fairly regularly is pretty important, that is, if you actually want to get further than the starting line. So while the capability exists in the OPFOR sense, the capability to beat it also exists, at least for those willing to put in the work. And for the rest, you’ll reap exactly what you sow.

37 thoughts on “Someone is always listening, Part II

  1. everlastingphelps

    You don’t have to be invisible.

    You just have to be the least interesting thing on the spectrum.

      1. everlastingphelps

        Actually, I realized after posting this that it could be misconstrued. Least interesting means:

        Hard to find reliably
        Hard to receive
        Doesn’t seem to have any interesting material, or even better, appears to have actively uninteresting material.

        Changing your pattern makes it hard to find you over and over. Using QRP and directional antennas makes it hard to pick up your signal. (The opposite is the overpowering, bleedy signal that you want to dig OUT of your own comms — there’s NOTHING more interesting than that.) Using short brevity codes, especially ones that sound unimportant makes you uninteresting.

        Picking up, “Charlie, Red, three eighteen” is uninteresting. Picking up, “Charlie, Red, the skid is ready on dock 3” is REALLY unintersting. Picking up, “Charlie 3-1 to Red actual, Blue giraffe in sight, need immediate lumberjack rhino at blue triangle” couldn’t be more interesting.

    1. XWizFromOz

      Part of which would be “when in Rome” operating practices if you want to go unnoticed. Public safety, business, CB, amateur, marine, and aviation band users all have their own generally accepted (if not strictly enforced) rules and SOPs. GMRS/FRS/MURS to a lesser extent, but there’s still somewhat of a norm on what is heard there and what isn’t.

      Outwardly your comm traffic should appear to be following the rules, and using the mode, language/lingo, and content appropriate to where you’re operating so as not to draw unwanted attention.

  2. Gary

    I’m new to this. What do you use for resistors on the wire antenna? Maybe an up close of some homemade wire antennas? Thank you.

    1. You can buy 300 ohm resistors very cheap, or build your own. One easy way is to take a used AA alkaline battery and drive a finishing nail into each end, then wrap it in tape. The carbon inside acts as a resistor. It will get very hot.

      I’ve done many past posts on construction of wire antennas, and in the future I’ll do more.

      1. I see ncscout has read my comments (since he changed his answer about resistors in response to my unapproved comment) but won’t allow them to be posted for other people to read — pathetic.

      2. I didn’t change anything.

        Nothing in this blog gets edited, save for the very few glaring editorial errors.

        Do you have a real comment or issue with the material? Or are you making up stuff?

  3. s6cnrdude

    Excellent info!

    And to further expand one point about switching bands and frequencies while on patrol, there are 4 bands available (actually 5) w/ an amateur tech license where HT’s are offered. Don’t neglect 220 and 1.2. You will need different radios but that’s OK because that provides redundancy. The same mfgr (Alinco) has a model that covers 902. So that’s 5 bands.

    Those are analog FM and not mentioning the digital equipment.

    Also, with APRS, text messages can be sent. If you are not in range of a digipeater, it would be a packet simplex text message. Throw in CB, FRS, GMRS and MURS. Quite a range of available (at least for now) equipment!

  4. Just FYI-the following comment was made on my reblog of this post on

    “DF says:
    August 5, 2016 at 3:43 am (Edit)

    This content about DF is complete and utter nonsense, as is most of the other radio-related information on the site where you found this. I work (professionally) in DF and radiomonitoring, and I can assure you that most of the information is this post is wrong or misleading.”

    I don’t have the knowledge of the subject that you do,(I did ask this person to point out exactly what he/she believes is wrong in your post,but as of now,have received no response.)

    I don’t care if you don’t post this comment-just wanted to let you know about the comment made on my blog.

    1. Larry, that’s interesting, especially considering that my information comes from my professional training and practice and from a few engineers who work in the field. I guess Army Signal Corps FMs are full of crap too. I’ll get right on letting them know. I may or may not know one of the project managers for the early RDF systems the FAA used for small airports pre-affordable radar systems. If he knows better than them, by all means I’d like to meet this all-knowing radio deity.

      I noticed he didn’t post a comment here. When I see something I feel is incorrect I take the time to comment at the source. That’s the professional way to do it, at least.

      So, kindly invite him to come correct my ‘errors’, we’ll debate it in a whole page I devote to it. And if he won’t, he’s exactly what I sum him up to be- a troll full of hot air and excrement. Maybe he’s a JWR devotee who didn’t like my comment about the ‘Patriots’ book.

      1. I doubt he will respond to the offer-I posted this…
        The owner of the site I got the post from will dedicate a page to debating you as to the accuracy of his radio knowledge/info
        Please show him where he’s posted incorrect info.

      2. Ask the FAA person you “may or may not know” (roll eyes) the name of the vendor that provides them with their DF equipment and the number / type of antenna elements usd in their system. When you have your answers, please quiz me to see if I cam give you the correct answer.

      3. “Commenting the source” is meaningless when your source is wrong. There isn’t much accurate, publically-available technical information about DF out there, so people either repeat (at best) half-truths from the Internet or from hobbiest / ham radio sources. Providing a link to an anonymously-run website, YouTube video, etc. just shows how little you know about this topic.

        Speaking of which, I don’t see any responses to my techncial questions yet or any attempt to dispute the initial feedback I provided. If I don’t know my topic, why not simply show everyone where I’m wrong?

      4. So a whole video is wrong? One that is a PAO release from a Unit in Theater, giving a rundown of what they’re doing.


      5. “If I don’t know my topic, why not simply show everyone where I’m wrong?”

        I did.

        Raleigh, NC.

        Time Warner Cable.

        Corner of South Wilmington and East South Street.

        Good to know this spamming stuff works two ways, ain’t it?

  5. Another FYI-
    DF just now-as in within 15-20 minutes-answered my questions,here’s what he says…

    “There are lots of people who have lots of field experience and still have no idea what they are talking about. I posted specific items to his website but … surprise, suprise … he never approved the comments. Ask Mr. “ncscout” to post my original comments in their entirety and we can start from there.”

    “But if you want a specific example, please have “ncscout” explain this item:
    “trigger pullers are running an AOR AR-8200 with a doppler antenna.”
    Please enlighten me about this “doppler antenna” that “trigger pullers” (ooh, so cool, so exciting when you call then that!) were allegedly using with a COTS scanner in-theater. How did they derive Doppler information from the antenna, for example?”

    1. He never posted anything. That’s a flat out lie. I allow any comment, as long as it’s not full of useless profanity or distracting as trolls like to do.

      Very rarely do I catch that anyway, as I have a list of words that WP filters, and continuously update the IP addresses blocked from the site, but even still, that’s rare.

      Ask him to explain this:

      My guess is he can’t.

      Combat Arms soldiers commonly refer to each other as trigger pullers these days.

      If he has such a problem, he’s free to post here, which he still has not done.

      1. I figured he never posted here- why would you not post his comments?
        Why is he posting at my blog and not asking you the “questions” he had directly?

      2. everlastingphelps

        I was just about to describe the rig that I had seen photos of the doppler array of whips on a mast mounted to a pack frame when you one-upped me and posted video.


      3. My guess is that posting YouTube videos proves my point — can you answer any technical questions about Doppler DF or it’s limitations? I can. For starters, the Doppler array he’s carrying is optimized for VHF, the resulting Doppler sine wave will be distorted if he tries to use it in motion, his accuracy will be severely impacted by the multipath off the hills to his left about halfway through the video, and anyone smart enough to horizonally polarize their transmitter will cut into his signal strength by 20-30 dB. How’s that?

        Now my turn to ask a question: what part of the Doppler system is NOT shown or discussed in this video and what are the key performance parameters of a Doppler system?

      4. You stated-

        It wasn’t a doppler antenna, and there was no way deployed troops were using Common off the shelf stuff.

        Wrong on both accounts.

        You have not answered any of the questions posed, and are now running around using buzzwords in an attempt to make up for your shortcomings.

        The idea is to get a bearing, which the system indeed does. You stated it didn’t, couldn’t, etc, etc, etc.

        I’m not sure why this issue is so important to you to ‘prove me wrong’, when obviously you cannot. While the source of your vitriol is unknown, one can only feel bad for you. But apparently this is the best you’ve got.

    2. everlastingphelps

      Also, it just occurred to me that the mocking of “doppler antenna” in the initial comment tells me that this guy is a faker on DF. Even amatuer foxhunters are well acquanted with doppler rigs on man portable rigs and on car roofs (remember that car roofs make great ground planes.)

      This is the one that I covet, but I can’t justify spending five bills on something I’ll likely never get useful intel with when I still need more water barrels.

      1. You can build one. They’re detailed in the book “Transmitter Hunting: Radio Direction Finding Simplified”.

        As for ‘DF’, He’s just a troll. Perhaps an ‘industry pro’ troll? >.<

      2. everlastingphelps

        It just occurred to me that if I groked the practice of how they are made, a guy could do some interesting things with a doppler array set up for DF, a RTLSDR dongle, a raspi and a friendly internet connection duplicated in two places.

        (Unless I’m missing something, 2 bearings should give “good enough” results on locations.)

      3. Well, since every one of my other posts to this blog have been suppressed, I’m not sure that ncscout will be man enough to allow this one, but here goes:

        For starters, if you think that you’re qualified to talk about DF based on an ancient book and the Ramsey hobbiest Doppler kit, you’re very sadly mistaken. But if you want to see what I know about Doppler, fire away — I can tell you lots of things you will never learn from YouTube videos.

      4. everlastingphelps

        Do you think that the laws of physics have changed since that book was published? Maybe you think that somehow handheld radios are going to magically start transmitting horizontal polarization (and I’m not going to notice and take the hyper technical response of rotating the antennas)?

        All of your other questions are irrelevant. He’s a dismount. When he hears a signal HE JUST STOPS WALKING. He already knows that his targets of interest are using $30 baofengs. That means he can use COTS Nagoya 2m/70cm whips and pick up everything they will transmit because the best that they are going to do is the exact same whip. He’s not trying to DF HF signals. He just wants the handle talkies. What he has is perfect and what you are suggesting would be inferior because a big antenna festooned truck is a giant IED magnet.

      5. No point in arguing…he’s not here because he’s an ‘industry pro’ and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There’s another reason he’s here.

        I got his number. No, literally. It’s interesting what one can do with an IP.

        Stupid games net stupid prizes.

    3. I created a WordPress account for the sole purpose of responding : let’s see if ncsout is ready to back up his talk by allowing me to post this time.

      The alternative is that instead of wanting to learn, you’d rather try to impress fellow wanna-be’s and filter out feedback from people who really do what you claim to do.

    4. s6cnrdude

      As already been stated, the theoretical/lab environment is one thing, actual field operating is another. The theoretical will give you a base line to work from but does not replace field op and experience. Again, just a repeat from what others have stated.

      Also, what might have worked well in one environment, might not work as well in another. Terrain and band conditions can play a huge role. The Brits learned a hard lesson at market garden.

      Even on 2 meters, band conditions can play a role. If you regularly check into a local 2 meter net, ever notice some stations are weaker or have a difficult time of getting into the repeater and other times are stronger?

      That is a cool looking antenna. Kinda reminds me of a discone. I need to research it.

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