Resolving the Clandestine Radio Question

Continuing on from this original question from Keypounder, several close answers were posted, and generally the logic was in the right direction. That being said, here’s the correct answer:

“You are the lead station operator in the Resistance receiving station
mentioned in the first question.  You have received the message sent by
the operator in the capital at 1 pm local time in the first example on
160 meters and must now forward the vital information received to
Resistance HQ via HF radio.  Once you transmit this message, you will
immediately relocate to another predetermined location you have selected.

Assume the following:

-your station is located at approximately 65 degrees West and 10 degrees
-Resistance HQ is located somewhere in the Intermountain Western united
States, New Mexico to Montana, Eastern Oregon to the Western Dakotas;
-Resistance HQ has receive capability 24/7/365 and will be waiting to
copy your message during whatever window you have told them to listen on
whatever frequency segment(s) you have specified;
-The message from the capital of Slobovia consists of 25 each 5 letter
encrypted groups.  You will re-encrypt the message prior to
retransmission using a OTP, but there will still be a minimum of 125
random letters to transmit;
-You are required to use any of the ITU region 1 authorized amateur
radio frequencies and modes from 1.8 to 29.7 mHz;
-You will have been onsite for at least a week prior to receiving the
message from the capital of Slobovia, and will have access to a small
house nearby the station site, but are forbidden to set up equipment at
the house;
-You are required to complete the transmission to HQ in less than 20
seconds, and to evacuate the transmit site in less than 15 minutes after
completing the transmission leaving no material behind.  You have 4
dedicated helpers with no electronics or radio training available;
-You have a compact 4wd crew cab pickup truck for transport, and
everything, your crew included, must fit into the truck.  No radio
equipment may be visible from outside the vehicle;
-Assume the ground is level farmland with very rich loamy soil planted
in low-growing crops or grass, with tall trees (>50′ high) at the field
boundaries with steel t-post electric fences around each field, and that
the field lines run north-south/east-west.  Further assume that each
field section is 8 hectares in area square. The surrounding general area
is agricultural, both crops and stock.”


What frequency segment and time will you select to minimize DF
likelihood and maximize the chance that HQ will acknowledge it?  What
will your alternate(s) frequencies be, and under what circumstance will
you use them?

>Keypounder sez>  OK.  this is about a 6,000 kilometer short path, which
means about 2 hops.  One will be hitting the ionosphere about 1500 km
away, over the Carribean.  The next will hit the ionosphere somewhere
over the central US.  You could do this easily on either 40 or 80 meters
at night, but 40 and 80 meter antennas are big, and it is hard to get
them high enough off the ground to get good low angle propagation.  For
longer haul comms, we need to be looking at 10 mHz and up.  The higher
the frequency, the easier the contact as long as the band is open.  At
this time of the year and at this stage in the solar cycle, what are the
FoF2 readings over the south central and central USA?

Checking the Austin TX, Boulder CO and Idaho Falls ionosonde data, we
find that the FoF2 around local noon is between 5 and 6 mHz.  Puerto
Rico or Florida will give me a pretty good idea of what can be expected
for the first bounce;  these readings are around 6mHz, too.  The rule of
thumb is that the MUF will be around 3x the FoF2, so the maximum useable
frequency is going to be somewhere around 15 to 18 mhz, barring solar
activity.  For this purpose, we want to use as little power as possible,
which means as high a frequency as possible, but no higher than
propagation will allow.

I would expect that 20 meters (14 mHz)would be open for this path, and
maybe 17 meters, at about 1 pm in Colorado, or about 2000 Zulu;  we
still have good ionization over the Caribean at that time, so my
frequency band choice is 20 meters primary, with a backup of 17 and 15
meters if there is solar activity, in the digital portion of the 20
meter band.  (14.060 to 14.080)

Q>What antenna(s) systems will you use for transmitting this message?
How high will they be placed?  How will you orient and erect them and
take them down to minimize possibility of observation? Explain in
detail, including specifics of antenna and transmission line.

>Keypounder sez>  So, we need a directional antenna that is relatively
narrow in transmit mode, low profile, easy to take down quickly,
unidirectional with reasonable gain and a good front to back/side ratio.
Ideally this would be something that does not look like an antenna at
all.  My choice would be a terminated Vee-beam fed with window line; a
secondary choice would be a long wire. Reasons include:
– easy to fabricate in the field;
– forgiving of layout and construction errors;
– can be made using common electrical fence materials;
– When properly configured, capable of high front to back and side
ratios with reasonable gain.
-Easy to install in the field, and very quick to take down.

The feedpoint would be strung from the tallest tree I could get a rope
into on the south side of one of the plots with the least visibility
from the road or other houses.  An 8 hectare plot is about 20 acres, or
around 880,000 sq ft; this is about 900+ feet on a side, so I could use
up to 900′ legs.

If you look at an azimuthal map centered on the specified location in
Venezuela (see you will see
that the ‘intermountain west’ runs from about 305 degrees to about 328
degrees true bearing from 10 d N/65 d W.    This means that your antenna
should not have a 1/2 power beamwidth pattern any tighter than 23
degrees. Realistically, 30 or 35 degrees 1/2 power beamwidth is probably
a good idea to allow for inaccuracies in pointing, and the center line
direction should be about 315.5 degrees true bearing.

Classic amateur radio designs are intended to cover the maximum azimuth
possible with the maximum gain. From the Wire Antenna book, vol 1, page
5-2 figure 3, we see that a 23 degree 1/2 power primary lobe requires a
leg length of 3 wavelengths with an angle between the two legs of the
antenna of 60 degrees.

However, although the gain is decent, it is very broad in azimuth, with
lots of relatively high powered lobes off the sides and rear.  Once
again, the difference between amateur radio requirements, and resistance
operator requirements becomes apparent.  For OUR use, a better solution
would be to spend some time with EZNEC and look for a vee-beam solution
that provides reasonable gain with fewer sidelobes and better front to
back and sides to reduce the probability of being DFed.

EZNEC shows that a pair of 370′ long wires, feedpoint up 50′ high, with
500 ohm resistors to ground at the lower ends, and those ends separated
by 130 feet, an included angle of ~21  degrees, gives only about 4 to 5
db of gain, but much more importantly yields a very well defined beam
with side and back lobes down well over 20 db and a half-power beam
width of about 38 degrees.

Now, we need to figure out how to use a magnetic compass to set the
antenna legs. Magnetic bearing = True bearing – magnetic declination;
we consult the declination maps shown at  and find
that the declination is about -12.3 degrees.  To be really sure, since
the local declination can vary considerably, one could check the compass
bearings against various stars, but this will do especially since your
antenna has ample beamwidth. So, true bearing for the center of the vee
beam is 315.5 degrees -(-12.3) =~ 329 degrees to the centerline. Add 11
degrees for one leg and subtract 11 degrees for the other;  the ground
rods should be driven 360 feet from the feed point and at a bearing of
340 and 318 degrees respectively.

I’d use high strength aluminum electric fence wire for this antenna.
(When my transmission was complete, I’d re-roll the antenna wire onto
the rolls it came off and throw it in the back of the truck with the
rest of my electric fencing materials, insulators and such.) Ideally,
I’d use 450  ohm ladder line and a tuner, but I could use 14 gage
landscape wire for a feedline.  Lay this out with two of your helpers,
and drive ground rods at the terminus of each leg.  Attach the 20 watt
500 ohm carbon resistors to the each of the lower ends of the wire and
the ground rod.

Q-What mode will you use for transmitting the message?  If digital,
which specific mode and why?

I’d use PSK 250, because of the high transfer rate and low power
requirements; 20 watts will do nicely.

Q-Before you leave for Venezuela, you will be given an opportunity  to
study data available through NOAA on radio propagation.  Which ionosonde
stations will you study, and why?

As stated above, I’d study the ionosonde data from Florida and Puerto
Rico, as being indicative of the first ionospheric reflection
conditions, and the ionosonde data from Texas and Colorado for the second.

Q- What will your cover story be if you are stopped by Venezuelan security

We’re just on our way to install some more electric fence!

Q-What are three non-radio related personal essentials that you should
bring with you? (arms of any sort are not on this list.)

Insect repellent;
water disinfection tablets;
a good hat!

And that’s my answer, NC Scout!

A long wire would be another antenna possibility, as it also uses only
one pick point.  Everything else starts to look too much like an
antenna.  With this setup, you can leave the wire down on the ground
until the minute before you want to transmit, then pull it up into the
air, transmit, then drop it again and roll up the wire.
Yagi or quad antennas look like exactly what they are.

And there you have it. Where the Technical meets the Tactical, right were we want to be.

53 thoughts on “Resolving the Clandestine Radio Question

  1. Mert

    Very, very impressed the info and the classroom setting. Been teaching myself radio for the past 2-3 years and seeking this kind of knowledge. This level blows out my brain circuits, but it is certainly enlightening. I’ve read most of the site. This stuff can not be found anywhere else. Unfortunately few understand just how precious this information is. The local Hams here are into prepping big time, but have no appreciation for anything other than their own narrow agenda. Very sad, but very true. They will be easy to DF. Should I be able afford another HF rig, I’ll get a license and train with it. The Kenwood TS830 will stay in it’s Faraday Cage until then. I do have 20 years of operating VHF on daily basis, and build my own antennas and have a pile of radios. From time to time I build antennas, and program radios for Tech’s to Extra Class Hams in this area. Owning a license does not make one a radio operator anymore than owning a surf board makes one a surfer. You guys are the best I have ever seen… Thanks for what you do. My next antenna will be a Moxon for GMRS.

    1. Mert, I very deeply thank you for reading and I’m glad you’re ‘getting it.’ As for other similar sources of information, check out Danmorgan76’s blog, which has been inactive for a while, but contains some great stuff, as is Sparks31. While Tom’s work is technically oriented, I try to post (and Keypounder thinks along these lines as well-) the most applicable field solutions.

      Don’t get discouraged by your local Ham crew. The knowledge and experience they have is certainly important- and the fact that they are into prepping is a big plus. While they may not think in the tactical paradigm, don’t discount that knowledge base (that is, unless they’re a bunch of sour grapes complaining with no solution).

      Again, I really appreciate the compliments. Good readers make doing this easy.

    2. Mert-

      You are welcome. Glad you find this of value. I can’t pay back all the folks who helped me when I started; all I can do is pay it ahead.


  2. Abe

    Another great article. New General class ham, I appreciate the practical solutions offered. Theory is great but getting to what works is what I am interested in. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  3. Another great puzzle. Thanks for these and keep them coming. I feel that I’m starting to think more like I need to to solve them. The technical know-how is still coming. Just recently got my Extra Ticket upgrade from Tech, and am teaching myself antenna building and CW since that’s cheaper than buying radios and learning them and money is tight now.

    What’s the best source for learning antenna design/operational SOPs for things like this? The military’s antenna manual? Something else?

    Thanks and love the blog!

    1. I’ve carried the USMC field antenna handbook as an RTO. FM 7-92 and 7-93 (Infantry Scout Platoon and Long Range Surveillance Operations) contain great sections on antenna building, which I was taught from. The ARRL antenna handbook is very good, as is their ‘wire antenna classics’ series.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. I have always been fascinated by antennas, ever since I was a child listening to shortwave broadcasts and to AM radio stations a long way away after dark. I have a sizeable collection of books on antennas, including all 8 of the ARRL Compendium books, the ARRL three wire antenna books, and ARRL antenna handbooks ranging from #23 (newest edition) back to the 10th edition. I also have a number of other antenna books by various authors and publishers, including Krause’s book on antennas. The Radio Society of Great Britain has some excellent publications; their wire antenna books are absolutely worth the price.

      A word about these sources:
      While the newest handbook has good new information on various topics, (for example, the new section in the 23rd editions Handbook on high performance VHF/UHF yagi antennas, which is VERY interesting stuff, and highly recommended, BTW) the Antenna Book has only so much space, and there is a lot of old lore that gets left out of the new book to make room for that new information. This is why at every hamfest I go to, I keep my eyes peeled for older books, not just antennas, but other topics as well. The laws of physics don’t change, but antenna design is more art than science, and learning about prior art is important if you are a serious student of antennas, or anything else, for that matter.

      My late father, one of the smarter people I have ever known and a scientist who was a world authority in his field, imparted much wisdom to me before his passing, but probably the most important thing he ever told me was this:

      “I have known a lot of smart people in my life, many much smarter than I. Where I got the edge in [my field] was that I tried never to re-invent the wheel. Virtually all of human achievement is built on the work of others, and whenever I tackled a new project, I tried to learn everything I could about what the state of the art was in that area specifically, so that I wasn’t wasting my time on re-creating what had already been done elsewhere. That is why I learned to read [foreign languages] and read up on translations of foreign papers for languages that I didn’t speak, so that I wouldn’t be putting effort into something that has been done before.”

      Simple, but very wise, and advice that I have followed ever since. This is why NC Scout, and Sparks31, and I and other wise folk recommend a skills library. But that library, while necessary, is NOT sufficient. If you aspire to gain mastery of the communication arts, you have to take that knowledge and apply it, in the field. Build antennas, and learn from your mistakes. *I* have made and continue to make both antennas and mistakes; I try not to, but if you fear making errors to the point that you don’t try for yourself, you’ll learn very little.

      Come up with an idea for a new antenna, and try it out. If it works, great! If it doesn’t, figure out why, and make it better. Repeat until you get where you want to be. It is extremely helpful, BTW, to have a good antenna simulation program. I use EZNEC, which ARRL includes in the CD that comes with the Antenna Book. Learning to use that program is extremely helpful, but there are other programs out there. Whether you use EZNEC or another program, having that capability will accelerate your learning process significantly.

      I apologize for the long post, but that really is the key- learn what has been done before, and apply it to what you want to do today.

      1. The part about ‘not reinventing the wheel…’, absolutely relevant. And not just concerning radio…that’s my issue with social ‘commentator/philosopher’ whanna-bes, it’s all been said before, better before, by smarter people than a long-time leftist-turn ‘freedomista’ paraphrasing Marx under the guise of ‘Liberty’. I’ll get off that soapbox now.

        Edison figured out over a hundred ways NOT to make a lightbulb- and then he did. While I concentrate heavily on the communications aspect of Shoot, Move, Communicate, because it gets so very little attention, there is no substitute for working knowledge. The book knowledge builds it, but without that knowledge in practice it’s only theory.

        For that reason, don’t ever discount the relevant experience of others, in this case a seasoned Ham club, when it comes to the knowledge base there. Their goal and your may not align perfectly, but the tools they can offer always have advantages.

  4. Just a short note on modes:

    Digital is required, given the problem parameters, but PSK 250 is not the only choice.
    It is very quick, but anything from PSK 63 up meets the requirements, according to the specs- see link-
    I have not used any of the following, but all these meet the requirements:
    PSK-125R is an error correcting mode that is pretty fast;
    Contestia 4-500 does also;
    Thor-22 does as well.

    Anyone who has used any of these is invited to comment.

    I mostly use PSK when I run digital, but I have used Olivia and am actively using FSQ. Both of these are relatively slow, however, and would run you over the time limit in this problem. Remember, Doenitz thought that DFing Uboats with transmissions less than 20 seconds would be impossible…….

  5. flighterdoc

    Thank you very much, gentlemen, for teaching us this information…..I have been reminded (yet again) that I don’t even know the questions, much less all the answers.

    GREAT stuff! Keep it coming!

      1. flighterdoc


        It would be great to excerpt this info and have it available in an easily printed form….

  6. Mert

    No exaggeration. I spent the last 3 years looking for this info, and this is the only place on the planet, at least in English. I’ve download most of the pages and will put it on an USB memory stick so it can be passed along to my Ham friends who might survive, and finally ‘get it’. As it is, , their egos are the biggest problem. Another is the propensity to B.S. They claim to have capability or knowledge they do not. They can B.S. most because most have no clue, and therefore, the current leaders have become legends in their own minds, and locals worship the radio gods who instill the fear of the FCC in them. I will unfortunately be the only person in the region exposed to this critically important knowledge. They have all the best equipment, yet limited real world experience, and I only a poor man’s Ham Shack (including solar, generators etc. Btw I am already off grid on the edge of NW Montana’s wilderness where the bears and wolves play.), put together for the price of the latest ICOM 7200. Yes, one can do it all for less than $1,200.00, but it take patience, and the ability to barter… In a way, I am already in the field, making field expedient antennas and repairs, cobbling together a Ham shack in Third World conditions. I can use RG6 for 50ohm antennas, and whatever to make it work. I am a knuckle dragging, low tech animal. My internet connection might be of interest tho, another tool for the box. It is a long distance WIFI, a 24dbi dish with a 500mw amp *(15 degree beam, ERP before figuring line loss is about 75 watts) connecting to an open to the pubic WiFi some 6 to 8 miles away. I t could go peer to peer, in other words, from laptop to laptop if there is no internet. Attached to a router, it can be apart of a repeater or relay for WIFI… Back to my original point. I believe we are the few who know this level of the craft even exists. IMHO, it needs to be saved for posterity and shared big time, and ASAP. Our roles may include teaching others as well. Thanks for listening.

    Saw a recommendation for PSK 250. Do you recommend QPSK 500? It is 800wpm instead of 400wpm for the PSK 250 I’ll be using digital over MURS for now as it is legal, and undisclosed UHF/VHF/HF frequencies if the gloves come off. Here is the link:

    1. A Digital mode, over say, MURS, in SSB, would be MIGHTILY ‘off the beaten path’…

      As far as modes themselves go, get a buddy and test them! 😉

  7. Jeff Whisler

    I have a very nice PDF of Fielders book on NVIS. Would you like a copy?


    Sent from my iPad


  8. Mert

    That is a fantastic idea, yet it appears that my new (NIB) Yeasu Ft-2800 does not have SSB. Checked the manual and the web Bummer..Just got it and programming it. I will continue to look for confirmation on this. I’m sure the old ICOM-28 does not. Btw, the FT-2800 is easy to open up. Even a caveman can do it. Traded a Boafeng UV-5R, and an old CB with antenna for this one, literally new in the box. The home brew yagi is good for 2m and MURS 1,2,3. I’ll graduate the output steps downward from 5 watts to 1 watt, and 10 watts to 5 watts, and 25 watts to 10 watts, and use narrow band, and go horizontal with the yagi, and use digital. I’m on the Canadian border so we do have interference from over there that make for nice cover on the air. It would great to have SSB tho. Please advise.

      1. Mert

        Yes, read your comments/recommendations and would love to get one. I’ve looked into the 817 and 857 as well, but it is far outside my very skimpy budget. I have to make due with the least expensive gear, but one can do much with simple equipment. Perhaps there is some thing in the used market. It is beautiful and remote here, like living in Glacier National Park, but there are no jobs. However I will remember your advice, and should I acquire one, I’ll know what to do.

    1. keypounder

      SSB for VHF and UHF is not well supported by the market presently, Mert.

      Most HF rigs these days do have 6 meters, which is an underused band, so you have some options there which are technically VHF. I have used the 7200 on 6 a number of times; in my area there is a simplex net on 6 thatnI check in to from time to time.

      For 2 meters and up, the Kenwood TS2000(x) is a current production HF/ VHF rig that can go to 1296 mhz, and there are the Yaesu 817, 857, and 897 that will do 2 meter and 70 cm. None, however, do the 220 mhz band; you can buy FM rigs for 220 but no current production sideband rig does 220, that I know about. The TS-2000x will do 1296, another underused band, but what I would love to see would be an updated version of the old Yaesu FT- 736R, which comes with 144 and 440 but allows the addition of modules for 50, 220, and 1296; pick 2 for a total of 4 bands. MIne is set up for 144, 220, 440, and 1296. It can do cross band full duplex, originally intended for satellite communication, but VERY useful for all sorts of other communications.

      The problem with the 736 is that it is getting old, and most you encounter need repairs. ICom also made a variety of nice multimode single band VHF/UHF radios that are well regarded- the IC 275/375/475 a and h are good radios, too. But they also are old.

      Apart from that, there are a variety of transverter options, ranging from moderately to extremely expensive.

      Wish I had better news on that issue, Mert, hope that helps.

      Regards, Keypounder

  9. Mert

    Unfortunately, even after 2 years of attempting to find some one in my area to experiment with, I cannot, and so no easy way to test digital. I could use a recorder on one end. What would be the most reliable in your experience? CW? Mtty? PSK125R? Because of a very tight budget, it be the usual VHF/UHF.

    Also, I’ve made several repeaters using Boafengs, scanners and hacked GMRS radios. The base station could transmit using NVIS on 160m when the D layer absorbs, so it would be via ground wave to a shortwave receiver with SSB, and be repeated by a low power, scrambled, and ‘hacked’ GMRS radio with an external antenna to those in the field. Where can dissonance be a problem here, or in other instances? Cheap, disposable homemade tactical repeaters is all I can afford.

    Is this the place to ask questions?

    1. The most reliable, under all circumstances both hardware and conditions-wise, is CW.

      Ask all the questions you want- it’s why I run this blog.

      1. Mert

        Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. Because I cannot properly prove out the digital modes, then CW it is. Will go with what works for sure.

    2. CW, sent by hand, not a computer, has a number of advantages:

      lowest tech transmitter around. I built a 2 tube transmitter from parts scrounged from old television sets that I used to work Australia, and modern QRP CW rigs have been built with a few discrete transistors in an Altoids tin.

      Most punch of almost any mode, JT-65 and JT-9 excepted, but these modes require a computer and precise time standards.

      hand keyed CW, sent either with a key or a bug can be hard for computers to copy.


      Takes practice and dedication to learn it; took me months as a child.

      not as fast as many of the new digital modes; my limit used to be around 35 WPM, but these days I’m only able to do 18 to 20. I have to get more weight for my bug, right now I’m using washers.

      The more arrows in your skill quiver, the better, Mert. I’d learn CW, and also try the computerized digital modes. I’d look at Contestia and Olivia; see what AmRRON uses for their digital nets, and see what you like.

      Hope that helps,


      1. anon

        contestia 4/250 mfsk-32, some thor 22 and an fsq i believe. Also utilizes FLDIGI, FLMSG and FLAMP for message traffic.

  10. Mert-

    Several things, quickly-

    1) I would love to see a writeup of your WiFi setup. I cannot speak for NC Scout, but this is interesting stuff to me. I’m more of an HF and MF guy, and while I have some experience with VHF and UHF, I have none with EHF, and I’d like to learn more.

    2) I have played with PSK, mostly BPSK, up to bpsk-250. When there isn’t much band fade and not much noise, they do well. When band fade and noise becomes an issue, when the SFI is low and the A and K are high, not so much. Those conditions are where the error correcting modes become useful and worth the much slower speed.

    Don’t have experience with the quadrature modes, and have never used QPSK-500, so I cannot comment from experience on that specific mode. As a general note, as the speed (and bandwidth!) rise, the S/N ratio required for effective communication goes up too, and you lose one of the advantages of PSK. This is less of a problem on quieter VHF and UHF bands, since the noise floor is (usually) less noisy.

    3) Using MURS, you may have an issue with non-correcting modes as the error rate from interfering signals may affect the reception. You may want to take a look at the higher speed Contestia modes, for example.

    4) As regards the ‘Radio God’ syndrome, about which I have all too much experience, my advice is to take what you can use and leave the attitude behind. If you aren’t getting enough out of it to make it worthwhile, then bail. My experience has been, both in amateur radio and elsewhere, that the guys who know something don’t brag, and those who brag don’t know much.

    Thanks again for your kind words and your posts!


    1. Mert

      Hi Keypounder,
      I should have a similar alias. I learned to type on a WW2 typewriter. Keysmasher? I still have the same typewriter (1942 Underwood, works good). Low tech rules. So that you do not have shop until you drop, here is the same equipment I have owned and used for 4 years. It is a versatile set, but I would for start out using the most cost effective and user friendly kit that is noted with an *
      The 14.5 dBi antenna has a 33 degree beam and is much easier to find open WiFi with. Max distance might be 5 miles LOS, but that is usually just fine. Where one would find 5 internet connections yet none open, from a small hilltop, I’ve seen 50 using this antenna in a town with a population of only 500. The more you can see, the more one finds open. Currently my IP could be at a RV Park, or laundry mat. I would be harder to find. At some point the internet could be accessible to only those who are approved. It may also be used as apart of local area intranet separate from the internet, using bulletin boards etc. It can go peer to peer, and into a repeater etc. It is radio. Even LMR 195 is very lossy with 2.4 Ghz . If I could, I’d use a 20 foot run of LMR400, yet ‘height is might”, so the 40 foot LMR 400 choice has proven to be the best all round cable choice for myself. However the 3 or 10 foot LMR195 allows one to go mobile. The light weight panel type antenna is easily used or packed anywhere, and easy to put on a short or tall pole. Use the lower dBi panel with shorter cables and the ERP is adequate for most work. ERP without cable loss deducted is at most 15 watts. With the 24dBi dish the max ERP possible is closer to 150 watts, but is not nearly as user friendly given it’s size and narrow beam. Use the panel to locate, and the dish to establish a solid connection if one is one the edge. The Panel is usually adequate. Currently the dish is in service on a 40 foot run of LMR400, and the panel is available. The Relteck 8187l only 1000mW, but is proven, and is compatible with older versions of Windows and even Ubuntu.
      . * * *

      Because I cannot prove out digital modes, I should go with slow but sure CW, but I will acquire some of these self correcting digital modes in anticipation. There is one chief Ham in my area who has purchased one of my antennas, and uses it. Because I am the only one new to radio around here that continues to learn, and goes beyond his conventional knowledge into the ‘clandestine’, he more and more is asking me questions. He is becoming curious, but they also think I’m nuts. I throw out teasers to taunt them. Because these guys have made getting a license through them very unappealing, I refuse in protest. And they continue to ask. I truly have no need for one at this time. I do not intend to depend upon their impressive infrastructure anyways. Yes, they continuously brag and bullshit, and I cringe when I hear the lies, but there is hope should they not be taken out early… We actually have a potential army of licensed radio operators, but they are been fed the wrong stuff. It will the proverbial ‘target rich’ environment. The nail that sticks up will get hammered after they collect all the intel. The most knowledgeable BS’ers will likely go first.

      1. Ok, so are you licensed or not?

        If not, becoming so will resolve more than a few of the circular issues you’re having.

        There’s two different radio clubs I’ve found local to you. I’d say chances are VERY high that at least one or two of the people there are involved in AmRRON as well. They will help get you licensed. It’s a test- pay the $15, answer the questions on the paper, get your paper, and move out. The club reps, other than possibly providing the VE graders, have nothing to do with you getting/being licensed. Don’t speculate on who may or may not be of value down the road, either, as they just might say that about you also.

        And I cannot emphasize enough NOT to build your own repeaters and disperse them as you see fit, even if you are licensed. That is not a good idea, especially with cheap or inferior gear. You’re asking for serious problems, especially monkeying around with RF where you are in vicinity of Line A (something you should be aware of).

        I say all of this because you REALLY need the base of knowledge, as well as the networking, offered through doing it right the first time. And if not, with no working knowledge there’s nothing on any blog or book that’s gonna help.

      2. Mert, allow me to reiterate- Take what you can use and leave the rest.

        If you do not have a license, get one. Study until you are 90% plus on the practice exams and get your license. Especially get your General. That gives you many more options to practice highly useful stuff like NVIS. NC Scout’s point about AmRRON members is spot on.

        I am reminded of what Mel Tappan once said about the .22 LR as one’s single survival firearm- It may be possible to survive with only a .22, but why would you want to try it? It may be possible to survive without the skills and experience a license would give you, but why choose to do it the hard way?

        That said, this is your choice, sir.


  11. Just one further note- AAMRON runs digital nets, and even if you don’t want to participate (transmit), listening is free….. They have used various PSK, Olivia, and COntestia modes. W1AW also has digital training transmissions you can listen to, so even if you don’t have a radio buddy, there are ways to get some experience.

    As mentioned before, I have been actively experimenting with FSQ for NVIS and am very impressed.

    If I were going to suggest three digital modes that every grid-down op should have experience with they would be- PSK 31, (the most popular), one of the error correcting modes, like PSK-125R or Olivia or Contestia, and FSQ for NVIS.

    1. Mert

      Thank you. Will get all of those. Might be able to pick up those nets on a shortwave with SSB. Must protect the only HF set I got and can afford in a Faraday cage. Stole it for only $100 bucks. Got the tuner too. I am indeed a ‘poor boy’. If I had money again, Watch out, I could radio up good and quick. Yet there is utility in learning out to effect comms on the cheap and simple. One learns the basics better, and does not a need gear that does it all for them. The Kenwood TS830S is aging, yet it is a hybrid, tube and transistor that can take an over load that would fry most radios made today. It is also less expensive allowing one to afford other essential gear. The audio is impressive, but it is a relative power hog and must use an inverter. I will use a BOG on the shortwave to listen with.

      1. All rigs need to be plugged in and powered up regularly, every month or so.
        I rotate mine regularly in and out of the Faraday cages they normally live in.

        If you don’t the caps go bad….. ask me how I know………

    2. Mert

      NCSOUT said: “Don’t speculate on who may or may not be of value down the road, either, as they just might say that about you also.”

      You’d have to get to know these guys to know what I’m dealing with. They are not of any value to me as it is. In fact I will stay as far away from them as I can in the future. They are a sad bunch. They use folks and take their money,disgusting, and are clueless about what we discuss, and in fact view it as worthless! More money than brains, with over inflated egos. A license is not going to help me much at this time, if it all in this part of the country. 30 years ago I start out as police dispatcher, country license KMA795, and then spent 20 years with it on a daily basis, I’ve got more air time them most and handled emergency traffic.

      If by some small chance I get another HF rig, then I’ll get the General class, but I will not tell these guys. Before I got into radio 3 years ago, and without study, I got 60% on the General test cold turkey. And don’t worry, I don’t put out any repeaters at all, but I do have the ability. I follow the rules and stay mostly quiet and listen, until the gloves come off…. and then I wonder if anyone around here would even desire to know what you teach. I doubt it. It is over their heads, irrelevant to them, or they simply do not care. I’ve tried very hard to get them and many other Hams interested, but no way. They know what little they know, and that is what they know,.and they believe they the authority on all things radio.. They may have to learn the hard way? I do not think they will learn. You can’t fix stupid! But they do know where to go if they change their minds. It is truly an unfortunate situation, but I will serve those whom I with the best I can with what is be taught here….. thanks for listening.

      1. Mert

        What are caps?

        All rigs need to be plugged in and powered up regularly, every month or so.
        I rotate mine regularly in and out of the Faraday cages they normally live in.

        If you don’t the caps go bad….. ask me how I know………

    3. Mert

      Thanks for the advice!

      keypounder74 said:

      Just one further note- AAMRON runs digital nets, and even if you don’t want to participate (transmit), listening is free…..

    4. Mert

      Hi Keypounder,
      Point well made. To clarify my situation, I only have one HF rig. If I loose it to an EMP, I get no more, because I cannot afford another one. I live on $300 bucks a month. If I get another, then I will get a license. I actually doubt that I will be using it much at all, if ever, and only for long distance. I currently have no contacts, and in the future it will require lots of power I may not be able to spare anyways to establish contacts. In the unlikely event the the locals learn about NVIS (I’ve told them), and develop a desire to live (sarcasm), it could then become useful. Currently I need a new head for the truck and lots of other things before I can justify even one penny for anymore radio gear. Not even a Boafeng! I will only acquire more radio gear through barter as I did with the FT2800. I currently have a good snowblower I would trade. I got it in a trade. Have a guy with Honda EX1000 generator who might want it. I just lost my primary generator. But I can always make a genverter out of this snowblower, and run that off wood gas… that is life in these woods.

      When the lights go out, it will be a different world, and I would not use the Ham bands then either. Unless I have demonstrable need for a license, I will not have one. Why would I wish to registrar my radio capability anymore than I would want to registrar my firearms? Gray man anyone? And I have no need for the social status, or mystic that other Hams desire either. I have done radio work for Extra class holders. A license does not in my experience does not certify with any certainty an individual’s capability. And any form of licensing gives the gov’t some level of control over your activities and information. ”Take what you can use and leave the rest.” Good advice, yet at this time, there is nothing I can use, and only something to loose, my privacy and potentially my security. As for experience on air, I’ve got much more than most. Started out as police dispatcher, and learned how handle emergency traffic,logs and reports, and how to make coffee at the same time. For those without experience, do get a license and get some experience.

      I went to school in Europe. Was offer med school at the University there. No money then either. Had professors who were the tyrannical Red Commie types. I never spoke English in those classes. I understand these monsters. The Hams here are tyrants of another kind. Enf said, rant off. If I do get another HF rig, then I would have a need for a license. But either is not likely.

      keypounder74 said:

      Mert, allow me to reiterate- Take what you can use and leave the rest.

      If you do not have a license, get one.

      1. OK-

        #1- the larger point has been made already.
        #2- I am the final word, I implicitly asked you to move away from your current topic. Now it’s explicit.
        #3- This is not the place to come bitch about other people. NOT MY PROBLEM. I DON’T CARE.
        #4- Related to above, you were given not one, but two options for networking with folks, based on where I tracked you. I kindly did not post those websites to maintain your obscurity. If you can’t find at least one Swinging Richard out of those two sizable clubs to help you along, THE PROBLEM AIN’T THEM.
        #5- I am almost 100% certain someone there, of those two, knows a whole lot more about NVIS than you do, and probably don’t want to hear about it from someone who hasn’t even taken the time to get a license, study, or do anything but spotlight what you think are ‘faults’. That’s a great way to REALLY PISS PEOPLE OFF.

        End of story.

  12. Stacey

    I enjoy your site. I have a question… you have suggestions as to headsets(phones) earplugs etc… current radios
    baofeng uv5r…..what came with it is difficult for me to use…for field use
    Icom 51 a plus anniversary….I have nothing….for field use
    Yaesu 857d….I have nothing….for field use
    Yaesu 1200 ftdx….I have nothing…most like base but may use portable base station for field useo
    Thanks….if you have addressed previously you might just point me there!

    1. I did a post on low profile/low signature work with HTs.

      The others, for their role, are fine with the standard mic or with a Heil headset if you wanna throw down the cash. But it’s not required unless you’re trying to catch very distant/weak signals.

    2. So, you can spend the bucks for a Heil, or you can get similar or better performance from a Yamaha or Koss headset that runs under $40 bucks. Take a look at your nearest audio store and try them out.

      Regards, Keypounder

  13. keypounder

    To sum up, whenever you are faced with a communications requirement, the general process is:

    1) define what you are trying to do;
    2) define the circumstances under which you will do it. Include the potential downside if things go sideways;
    3) Assess the resources available;
    4) make a plan, including a bailout plan;
    5) pick the plan apart and figure out where the weak spots are;
    6) revise plan as needed, or start over with a new plan;
    7) repeat until you have something workable.

    Most importantly, don’t reinvent the wheel. ” Fools may learn from their mistakes. I prefer to learn from the mistakes of others.”- Otto Von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany.

    If you aspire to be an effective communicator, and you are not already compiling a library of communication information, you are being very foolish. *NOTHING* I write about here is my original idea, for the large part, and all of my original work is based on the work of others. So it was with this problem. Vee beam wire antennas are old tech, but they work, and for some applications, they are exactly the right choice. For others, not!

    NC Scout and I are planning to post another problem in March. This one is not going to be HF, but VHF/UHF oriented. I hope you folks will enjoy it, and participate, too.

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