Guest Post: The Pirate Radio, by Henry Bowman

Note- this article came out of a conversation a few of us had regarding off the shelf community building tools and the value of low power FM radio. It so happens they could make good psyop tools if you think along the left hand path. If you’re wondering what that means, read The Devil’s Guard. To further underscore the value of such an operation, the first thing Guerrilla, both Revolutionary and Counter-Revolutionary, is to set up a broadcasting center. Check out the story of Radio Rebelde. Unlicensed Low power transmitters, while legal at low power, cannot exceed a transmission range of more than 200ft per FCC rules. So just keep that in mind. Whatever you do, do it at your own risk and don’t write checks you can’t cash.  -NCS

pirateradioI was asked to do a little write up on the subject due to the fact that I recently delved into the shadowy world of G Radio. You know, those pesky unlicensed AM/FM transmitters and the folks who run both, licensed and unlicensed set ups. The FCC has strict rules governing the use of such devices, can be found here:


I however, am not going to focus on such matters, for the purpose or scope of this article is How, When, Where, What and Why, in my humble opinion, to fire up my 1-7w FM transmitter and broadcast. I advise anyone interested in doing this, adhere to any/all FFC regulations. Imagine a partial/full grid down environment where traditional means of receiving info is missing or limited to certain regions, etc. No info flow to the populace who most likely will have an auto radio or solar/battery powered AM/FM unit and are turning the dial, looking for news or usable information. I’ll take my environment and you the savvy readership can make it comport to your area of operations or AO. First off, I am a licensed amateur radio operator, with all kinds of kit, running my Commo center from a suburban environment outside a large southern city. Our community has approx. 9001000 homes, not to mention the other two larger communities bordering ours. So, let’s say 4000k homes within a 5-7 mile radius. My immediate AO is my community and then the outlining communities.
The Why:
Because I can, and there may be a time, like the above, when it is necessary to provide very localized information that I can receive via my VHF/UHF/HF networks and SW international stations, to my local community that the authorities can’t or won’t provide. This could be political info, to health info, to military news, to food distribution, to crime waves; all manner of information can be conveyed to fill the void.

The What:
El Salvador Guerilla Radio.jpgThe What is endless in my opinion, if you think it important, and have the ability to get that to the populace, then get it out. Perhaps you wish to run a PsyOp against a local entity, or bleed over into the local liberal/commie radio stations; you can do that with the right equipment, and discretion. If they’re is saying one thing, but facts/evidence differ, that can be conveyed. As a former soldier attached to an active duty PsyOp unit back in the 80’s, the avenues are limitless for operations one can take, and that is another subject and not relevant for this article.

The When:
This is a very grey area, for what constitutes a crisis that warrants you, the Guerrilla Radio Operator or GRO for short, to fire up rig and start transmitting, in clear violation of FCC rules? In order for the message to get out to the community it will require the use of transmitters that exceed the power level mandated. To me, it is when the normal modes of intel gathering, like radio/tv/internet/etc., are offline to the average person, who depends upon said services for info. Now, that could be due to some low probability, high impact event like a CMP/EMP strike or a regionalized disaster, like a major ice storm, hurricane or even regional terrorist attack. Each GRO will make that call based on conditions in their AO and criteria.
The Where:
auxiliaryradiohide.jpgGiven the fact that the goal is to convey info to the local populace or OpFor, that means your transmitter needs to be in the same area, based on tx power levels of miliwatts to 25w or more and to be clear, you will need a device of actual wattage to be effective. Mine is a 1-7w unit and capable of transmitting out to the legal limit (yup) with stock antenna, and if I added the larger, higher gain, FM transmitting antenna to a mast and increase the height I am confident I could cover my immediate AO. That brings another set of issues: RDF’ing by OpFor/.gov agencies, if in a hostile environment. So, just like amateur radio operations, one must be very careful to mix up times, durations, of transmissions in order to reduce the possibility of being RDF’d. However, if it gets to the point where that is my concern, then down the rabbit hole we have gone and I suspect other matters will be more important. If a short term incident, one can probably get away with limited transmitting from home base. If not, then the ability to remote locate the device is key and a very good idea. No matter where, the set up must be, in my humble opinion, discreet and covert.

Many of the external antennas look like Over the Air units, and most folks would not pay attention anyway, but if someone were switched on and looking, would be a beacon to your doorstep. Personally, I would test my pop up mast system for performance, and my fixed, attic based system, 100% discreet and covert, and being used now for all of my VHF/UHF and Scanner antennas to great effect. Only my random long wire is outside, and no one has noticed or said a thing. I envision my rig being home based unless conditions dictate otherwise and I have places to relocate unit. There is also the ability to use a vehicle to drive around, assuming they work, and transmit. Very stealthy if done correctly. Imagine driving into a neighborhood and broadcasting on the local NPR station, reading the Constitution or Bible verses to override their FM signal…..Your options are limitless here too, your creativity and willingness is key.
The How:
Gotta have the right kit, and it starts with knowledge. I went here to start my adventure: hobby broadcaster This was a good place for me to delve into this shadowy world of Guerrilla Radio and add to my overall Commo Systems. Since I am just starting out, I wanted something that was effective, functional, easy to user and affordable that helped me to achieve my goal of local broadcasting. The units that are Milliwatt based are for small areas or uses, like home information being broadcast to passersby’s for listings, or little yard events, etc. You will need a higher Wattage unit.
I did some more research lots to choose from and pulled the trigger on a starter package that seemed to fit my criteria:

The Radio: Signstek 7W 7C FM Transmitter Mini Radio Stereo Station
External FM antenna: Zowaysoon 1/4 Wave Professional GP Antenna

This antenna will be for my fixed base, and I have been advised that I can build a portable antenna that will perform well for covert field or remote operations. I am looking forward to that, as I want a well rounded set up. You’ll need some cable and connectors to complete set up, but once done, will have a very effective little FM broadcasting set up that will allow you, the GRO, to operate, operationally, all at an affordable price, given the potential return. I plan to experiment with, and explore the ability to run the unit off a 12v battery and solar panel. I am confident based on specs, that it can be done, but for now, will use the supplied 12v universal power brick and Anderson Power Pole connectors. To sum up, if you believe information is key, especially in a Grid Down/WROL environment, then you need another tool to convey it to the populace, and to me, this does just that and fits into my overall plan.

We’ve come a LONG way since the boat anchor days.


21 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Pirate Radio, by Henry Bowman

  1. Avid radio info reader

    Wow! What a great, and timely, brief! Glad I found your site. Keep up the good work. Question? Will non HF freq NVIS work for local community based radio stations?

  2. I like it! I know AMRRON has a Black Echo FM transmitter topic they’ve covered a few times before, but I’ve never considered how I might use it in my AO. Might be a good resource for further information.

  3. Chris

    Thought provoking article. The bottom line here is freedom of speech, which can get quite expensive.
    It can be a full time job reminding those we meet that nothing is free. Everything costs something.
    I gave up some time ago arguing with Obama/Bush phone kiosk purveyors that the phones were not free…….but I digress….
    The authors techniques can obviously be used on any frequency but as pointed out, everyone has an am/fm radio.
    The original Nazis would kill you much quicker for a radio or a firearm than for being a Jew! That says a lot.
    Good stuff.

  4. Michael Collins

    i suspect that cheap and disposable is a relative term…

    It has to be able to fulfill the intended role….

    cheap and disposable does not equate to, in my mind, effective and functional..

    if you have a set up that is cheap, <75.00 for radio, effective, (out to 5m) and easy to use out of the box, for non techie folks, has to be plug and broadcast, bring it on….

    i would love to know about it….

    1. There are several working schematics for 10 watt FM BCB transmitters that will do 5 miles, and are plug and play with a cheap audio content source. Total cost should be under $75. The Black Flag Anarchists who were operating out of Paper Tiger Television in New York City during the 1990s were putting them together for about $30 in parts back then, and none of them were electronics experts.

  5. dangero

    Spot on, there is a reason big PSYOP still uses it. In Afghanistan as a Tac PSYOP DET Commander I ran several RIABs (Radio In A Box) locations. Basically they are ready made radio stations that put out a few hundred watts from what I recall. We hired locals to DJ, playing the favorite music of the area and interjected with our messaging throughout the day (because who wants to tune into a station that is nothing but a steady stream of propaganda?). This was particularly effective there because the Taliban wouldn’t let people own televisions and only about 12% of the population was literate so handbills were more difficult to get your message across on. We even handed out inexpensive solar powered hand crank radios so they could tune in….something a partisan could stock up on now for their future distribution.

    1. I still have a few of those little green Katio wind-ups that mysteriously tuned “some stations” a lot better than others. 🙂

  6. PRCD

    You really can’t use this for psyops or general community information if regulatory bodies are functioning. To disseminate information to the public, your station has to be on long enough with enough power that people can tune-in and hear you. Direction finding COMINT receivers, using mostly TDOA and differential Doppler, will find you in a heartbeat.

    There’s a new low power radio license for FM broadcasts that our church uses to run a station. The backstory of this new license, I’ve heard, is that there was a mobile pirate radio station in Berkeley that used to broadcast Communist agitprop and community news. They kept resisting in spite of getting busted and the government finally caved-in. Take this with an enormous grain of salt because I haven’t researched this well. I think the other thing is that radio stations are having trouble finding the money to stay on the air, so lower-power options are cheaper to operate.

    I wonder if it’s physically possible to beat TDOA and FDOA with some sort of countermeasure? Up to this point, militaries have focused on using LPI waveforms and mulitplexing techniques to beat-down the SNR of their own transmissions. Obviously, this is useless if you’re trying to disseminate news to a broad audience.

    1. The answer to all of that is, well, “it depends”.

      It depends on your area, it depends on how well you are valued by your community, and it depends on how good the people are at looking for you.

      One thing I’d suggest to go along with this as a strategy is to print and distribute flyers with times and frequencies on them printed in a type of steganography. Your target audience knows what to listen for. Rap music, especially underground rap, does this every day.

      That station in Berkeley did too, because they’re not alone in their strategy. Every larger college campus in NC has some sort of pirate operation going and usually have flyers embedded with the leftie “community newspaper”. Triangle Free Press is a good example of this among the entrenched Left among our major universities. You’ll find references to a pirate station in the classified ads in the back. So the point of all that is, this is just one dimension (and one tool) in the propaganda arsenal.

      1. PRCD

        Thanks. I would caution us to remember that pirate radio stations at major universities are part of the Communist establishment at those schools, thus part of the school. They have nothing to fear from the FCC.

  7. Deplorable B Woodman

    I haven’t thought of pirate FM for years. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Deplorable B Woodman

    I would imagine that you could easily “home brew” a 1/4 wave vertical with 45 deg droopy ground plane, using heavy copper wire and a panel mount RF connector (UHF, BNC, N) along the same lines as the ones built for 2m amateur radio.

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