Radio Question #3: My Response, of Sorts

So with the thought experiment of a fictional occupation of the Southeast and setting up a listening and signal outpost, a lot of solid answers have been posted. Here’s my take on the situation.

What equipment will you have delivered first, and why?

Of the listed equipment, the first items to be brought include the SDR play, one computer (ideally this would be a good time to point out how neat a Raspberry Pi can be…), the Bearcat scanner, the four DTRs, the Baofengs, both the F6As, the 12x FRS HTs, and the TA-312s. Supporting those will be the LMR-400 rolls, the RG-8x, two of the spools of fence wire, and the insulators.

The first priority is listening. The SDR and Bearcat accomplish this at the local level, as do the Baofengs. Redundancy matters. The F6As have far further utility in their wideband RX capability, and with short runs of wire as an improvised antenna make good compact units. The FRS units are for my OPs and locals recruited into the organization- they run .5w of power and are idiot-proof…requiring no training in an already stressed environment. The TA-312s will be in tow for communications between transmitting and listening sites along with the dual strand commo wire. Finally, the 50 ohm transmitting line is a must, as it’s harder to come by. The 75 ohm cable was abandoned- you can find that anywhere. The fence wire is needed for obvious reasons (antennas) as well as the insulators.

How will you provide power to your equipment? Provide a power plan, including contingency for weather, and including risk assessment for enemy detection.

The majority of the equipment is handheld and compact- and can be run from AA batteries. They’re easy to come by, and probably still will be come hell or high water. Seriously. In the near term however, the charging bases for each of those radios are brought along. Baofengs in particular are quite power efficient, as is the TH-F6A. EVERYTHING IS CUT OFF, save for the Bearcat running close call, when not needed. For my watchmen, keeping an FRS radio on one interoperability channel is the go-to- why? Half-Watt transmitting with nothing really needing to be said. Break squelch in morse code. Think outside the box. The DTR could also be used in this role- but until the posture changes with increased OPFOR activity, keep it as simple as possible.

One of the items I would have brought along is a power-pole equipped set of battery clamps- I can run anything (within reason) from batteries I scrounge on the move. There’s a lot more power sources out there sitting idle, even now, than most people realize. Under duress, while others are panicking, the calm thinking man can do well.

One important note to make here is that the power port on the side of the Baofeng extended battery matches the size of the power port on the back of a Yaesu VX-series charging base AND the Yaesu 817. Those items were not included in the scenario, but for information purposes, I can run all three of those items from the same Power-Pole cable. That’s why standardization, and figuring out NOW what you can standardize, matters bigtime.

Concerning enemy detection, we’re minimized by just listening as well as the fact that the primary equipment is easily hidden. My OPs, carrying low power sets I have running spares of, are not likely to get rolled up. But tossing a FRS radio is not a problem.

What equipment, if any, will you want to bring with you beyond what you have been given so far? What antennas do you need to have, and how will you provide them if they cannot be locally acquired?

The equipment I’d want is mostly what I’ve already named- a couple of Yaesu VX7Rs with the charging bases, AA battery packs for them, and of course, my trusty 817. The 857 would be a better from the frequency range it can cover ( the 817 doesn’t rave the ability to receive the last two MURS channels, Marine, or NOAA, for example) but is more power hungry and harder to conceal.

There was a number of older equipment I purposefully left behind- for starters, they’re large, takes up pack mule space, undeniably contraband, and power hungry. The IC-2 HTs are also very old, which means the batteries are in unknown condition. They may hold a charge today, but tomorrow, who knows. And while right now I can get on flea bay and buy more, that ain’t happening in our scenario. You’re also gonna want a fold up solar panel and charge controller. They’re a dime a dozen and relatively cheap these days.

Everything I own, signal-wise, can be run from 12v Power Pole equipped cables. This includes the charging stands for HTs. I also have multiple wall warts that are easy to cut and equip with power poles to run scanners and such from scrounged 12v supplies. I cannot emphasize enough the value of getting on one standard.

One reason I brought the amount of wire I did was for the ability to make any antenna I may need (because it’s what I do…as long time readers know) . In this case, since my requirements include direction finding, making a simple Yagi can do the trick. An easier option is building a receiving loop (what you really need is the butterfly capacitor for tuning, which the TV boxes are the easiest field source for this) to find the Null, which is the direction of the transmitter we are targeting- it’s simple and works- check here for basic instructions.

You’re also going to need a few maker’s tools. A butane soldering iron and a full size Leatherman or Gerber tool is a must. I’d also carry a bag of Anderson Power Poles, the crimps for them (they make life so much easier than using pliers) and a set of standard wire strippers. Electrical tape and duct tape as well, along with a small spool of bank line. You can carry much more bank line that 550 cord, with it hoisting antenna lines just the same.

What cables, connectors and adaptors are you likely to need? Training materials?

I’m gonna be carrying extra UHF connectors as well as adapters- F Type for 75 ohm TV coax, SMA for the HTs. I’m also gonna be carrying along several Split Post adapters for making antennas, with BNC-UHF adapters already connected to make attaching coax simple.

As for training materials, I’ve brought a digital copy of Lawrence Myers’ Improvised Radio Jamming and Spy Comm for reference on a couple micro SD cards, hidden in a junk android phone and somewhere else less desirable.

For our monitoring mission, I think with that most bases are covered. Transmitting would be a bit different animal, but with what’s already been listed here, it’s entirely doable. But, as Mors Kochanski famously said, “the more you know, the less you carry.


25 thoughts on “Radio Question #3: My Response, of Sorts

  1. everlastingphelps

    I’m going to have to put more thought into the raspi. I’ve only used them as headless servers, but in this sort of situation, it has the advantage of not looking like a laptop to a door kicker. Rather than a computer monitor (what half of the world thinks of as “the computer”) you just have a TV screen. The only give-away is using a keyboard and mouse with it.

    I’m going to set some background processes in my brain on figuring out covert input devices that are still usable (maybe one of those gamepads with a keyboard for typing “KEK pwnd u nubsauce” to other gamers.) If you have a game console hooked up to the TV, the door kicker is even less likely to realize it can also be a computer monitor. I’ve never seen a FOB that didn’t have an XBOX in it, so they really kind of expect to find that.

    Takeaway for the day, boys and girls — microSD cards can be swallowed easily. I haven’t had occasion to find out if they are usable after being recovered, though.

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  3. Badger

    Good stuff. This continues to be a great approach you’ve taken with this kind of thing; kudos as well as to keypounder.

    As one who also prefers to make & connectorize their own antennas, I always have the proverbial electrical tape on hand. But what I really like is a variety pack of heat-shrink tubing. (Just remember to slip it on BEFORE connectorizing; don’t ask how I know, lol).

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  6. nick flandrey

    If you are not familiar with these crazy Ukrainians, any potential partisan or civilian who might end up behind enemy lines should watch a bunch of their videos.

    They are living and improvising a tech life in a war torn city, sometimes without power for months, sometimes without internet. They manage to generate power, connect to distant wifi (including a russian airport access point,) and generally continue messing with stuff even though they are being shelled occasionally.

    How to get connection to the Internet in difficult conditions

    A 220 volt homemade generator. DIY Bike Generator

    are just two vids that have application to the exercise. For a reality check, watch the ones A Day in the Life in… and A Night in the life in….

    Also an improvised welder with salt water filled jar as a variable resistor, and Charging a cell phone from rail road tracks are particularly interesting. They do a lot of silly stuff too, but there is something to be learned in most of their videos.


    1. I’ve been posting quite a bit of info from Ukraine.

      Ironbound Concepts has kept a close eye on it and sends links to pertinent info.

  7. SIG 357

    A few more items I recommend carrying for this op. GI compass, protractor and detailed maps with Mil grids for the DF tasking. McGyver kit including spare fuses for all gear, wire nuts, inline splices and the items others have already mentioned. Small VOM. Two sets headphones (over ear preferred), headphone cable spliter. Spliter enables dual listening and OJT. Tape measure. Headlamp with red lens. FWIW I need reading glasses for fine work.

  8. Doc

    All right. Probably the worst place to post this, but I suppose I have no choice as I didn’t see an e-mail address anywhere. So. Anyway, it is now time to confess.

    A while back, I wrote to you saying I had bought the same rig you have; the Yeasu 857, the LDY tuner, and the 12v SLA battery. I assembled the face of the radio and wasn’t quite sure how to connect the power lines to the battery. A few internet searches didn’t turn anything up and then life got in the way and I just plain stopped moving forward on this project. I guess that’s when it happened.

    I became, “That Guy.”

    I bought all the stuff… and did nothing with it.

    Ok, I said it. Phew!

    After self diagnosing That Guy Syndrome, it was definitely time to get back to work. I re-read some of your articles and found the answer to the battery question! Anderson Power Poles!! Sixty seconds later, I was signing out of Amazon and they were on their way. As penance, I even purchased the TC-1 crimping tool that you recommended.

    I then doubled down on the commitment, and Youtubed how to attached them to the power lines. Aside from soldering components into a pc board, it was the most technical thing I’ve ever done with electrical stuff. I attached them to the battery. I then got out my Yeasu manual and looked up how to turn it on (It would seem I’m still in the confessing stage…).

    And, after holding down the power button for 1 second…. nothing happened!

    I checked the battery with my voltmeter and got 12.89 volts. Ok. Then I checked all the connections and they seemed ok. I took the plastic casings off the power poles and reset them, I think they’re ok, but I suspect this may be the weakest link in the chain here. Reconnected them to the battery (yes, red on right, and after everything I’ve just written, I really can’t blame anyone for asking…).

    I pressed the power button on the radio for 1 second (I remembered that part) and… Nothing!

    I’ve got a 50ohm coax connected to the inner PL-259 connection on the back of the radio, which connects to the Tx part of the tuner, and another 50ohm coax from the antenna PL-259 on the tuner connecting to the dipole. All connections appear sound.

    I at least know that no power on start up is generally a power supply problem, but it had a 12.89v charge on board. The only other thing I can think of might be that when I first got the battery I charged it for over 24 hours and never checked if it was overcharged (that was a few months ago). Is it possible I damaged the battery by doing that?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!! Of course, I could also be written off as hopeless which, I imagine, just might get a lot of votes! 🙂

    Either way, many thanks for this site!!


    1. Doc!

      My email is on the ‘about’ page.

      As per power problems…it sounds like everything is good, but you have a bad connection somewhere. Do this- buy some cheap battery clamps, some spare wire, and rig up a new power cable that you can attach with the existing one.

      It’s a useful item to have anyway if you want to scavenge batteries, but, it’ll start eliminating variables. If the battery is showing 12.8v, it’s likely good, you just have a bad connection somewhere. Also check the cable connecting the face to the radio body…it might be loose.

      Email me if you’re still having issues!

    2. everlastingphelps

      Also, don’t forget to check the fuse in the fuse holder on the power cable.

      You’re right about youtube. Especially with Ham radio stuff, youtube is a game changer. Before, you needed an Elmer to learn the foundations — now there are a hundred Elmers on youtube, all searchable and repeatable.

  9. Fortyleven

    Hi NC, Off-topic so please move this to where it should go but I thought I’d get it to you: IC-7200 on sale at HRO for $859. Thanks brother.

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