American Partisan: Home Brew – NVIS Antenna

Johny Mac at American Partisan has an article up at American Partisan on making your own NVIS antenna. A near-vertical incidence skywave (NVIS) antenna is used in the high frequency (HF) spectrum from around 1.8MHz to  10MHz in order to cover an approximate radius/range of 300 miles. HF is usually used for long distance communication around the world, and most antennas are built to maximize range, but those antennas can often cause the radio signal to skip or make a gap in the range from about fifty to three hundred miles.  The NVIS antenna redirects the radio signal in such a way that it covers that gap at the sacrifice of the longer distance contacts. This makes the NVIS antenna ideal for communications during a regional disaster.

If you do not know what a NVIS antenna is and why it is a great addition to your antenna farm, go and read these four articles. The first being from NC Scout titled, Near Vertical Incidence Skywave – Simplified, then NVIS I, NVIS II, and NVIS III authored by Key Pounder and published on NC Scout’s site, Brushbeater.

At a 100,000-foot level though, a NVIS antenna is a dipole antenna that has a steeper transmit angle than a traditional horizontal flat-top dipole antenna and is located closer to the ground at between 8 to 15-feet Vs. a traditional 1/4λ height; let’s say 30 to 60-feet over tera firma. This allows you to transmit to other stations closer to your AO that you may skip over using a flat-top horizontal dipole antenna. Think of the skip bounced off the ‘F’ layer of the ionosphere being 25 to 50-miles Vs. 200 to 300-miles. The German Army developed this procedure during WW II to communicate with troops via the airwaves closer to the transmitting station.

Traditional dipole antenna radiation Vs. NVIS radiation

I started out building my NVIS antenna using the directions posted on the DX Engineeringsite as my blue-prints for the project. Although you can buy a kit from DX Engineering, I had plenty of hardware around the redoubt so I decided to save a few bucks. Below is my Mise en place for this build. Hams are the true scroungers of this earth…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.

AmPart: Directional Antennas for the Small Unit, Part I and II

NC Scout at American Partisan has started a series of articles on antenna theory called Directional Antennas for the Small Unit. If you’re just getting started in radio communication, or you’ve been using it for a while but haven’t spent much time getting to know your antennas, this is a good start.

Directional Antennas For The Small Unit, Part 1

One of the biggest misconceptions behind communications security revolves around misunderstanding not just the role of the equipment but also how it functions. A big part of that is the basics of antenna theory. For most radio seems to be a plug and play kinda deal- it either works, or it doesn’t. Antennas are a type of voodoo magic and the solution to security is electronic encryption. Except it isn’t, and doesn’t do anything except mask what you’re saying, but not the fact you’re saying it. Guerrillas must rely on not being detected- and no matter how high tech you think you are, it’ll not solve a tradecraft issue.

The reality is that we’ll be working with equipment that is common and off the shelf- no matter how much we want those microwave NSA-encrypted troposcatter radios made of unobtanium, a big part of local networking is done via plain old VHF and UHF amateur and commercial gear that’s common. Guerrilla communications have to be harder to detect. And at the strategic level when building an underground network, you have to understand how to plan. Even with the cheap equipment most of you likely have, incorporating a level of planning into your local communications will yield a much higher level of security and success. Knowing and understanding directional antennas becomes a key part of that planning, and as we cover in the Advanced RTO Course, there’s several options that each get the job done.

Directional Antennas such as this Yagi seen here offer security by ‘beaming’ our transmission in the direction its pointed.

Directional antennas accomplish two goals for us. First, generally speaking, if you’re not in the direction of the transmission you’re not going to hear the traffic. Because of this it offers a big advantage in the security department. If two directional antennas are transmitting toward one another, they’ll be able to communicate with the only people hearing the full conversation being in the middle of the two people. The second advantage is that instead of all our energy going in all directional at once, as with an omnidirectional antenna, a directional antenna sends the same amount of radiated energy in one direction- greatly increasing our range and signal strength in that direction, so we won’t need nearly as much power to accomplish to reliably communicate over a distance you might not have thought otherwise possible…

 

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.

Click here to read Part II at American Partisan.

AmRRON T-REX 2019 Save the Date, July 26-28

The 2019 TEOTWAWKI Readiness Exercise will be held over the weekend of July 26 through 28. Save the date now to save yourself later. The AmRRON T-REX is a radio communication disaster exercise, but you can follow along with the disaster scenario even if you don’t have a radio. (Click here to see the 2018 T-REX archives.) For AmRRON and its members, the exercise is a functional to full-scale exercise. If you wish to participate on your own with your local group, you can work it as a walk-through, tabletop, or more as you see fit.

Brushbeater RTO (Radio Operator) Course, Hamilton, MT – June 15-16, 2019

NC Scout of the Brushbeater blog will be holding his RTO Basic course again in Hamilton, MT (south of Missoula), on June 15 & 16, 2019. This is the only date on the calendar in 2019 that is in western USA.

Contact brushbeater@tutanota.com for class inquiries and to register.

The Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) Course is designed to take the individual of any and every experience level and teach them the basics of effective small unit communications in a field environment. Students will learn what it takes to set up a plan and implement communications in an improvised setting be it anything from a retreat to a security patrol to regional communications networking groups. A heavy emphasis of the course is on improvisation and antenna building- each student will construct antennas from improvised materials which they keep. This is NOT a “ham radio” class. No equipment or previous experience is required; only a notebook and a good pair of shoes. It is the only course of its kind offered anywhere, in a friendly, laid back and respectful environment.

This class will teach students the basics of communications at the Team or Squad Level in the field. Topics of instruction include:

  • Identifying Equipment Requirements
  • Writing a Signals Operating Index
  • PACE Planning for Communications
  • Basic equipment capabilities
  • Traffic handling
  • Improvised antenna types, uses and construction
  • Setting up and running an NVIS HF station
  • Message Formats
  • Setting up and communicating from a Hide site

Two day course will culminate in an field training event running a TOC station and Hide site in the field. Students will each build an antenna and demonstrate competency in team communications basics during the field exercise. Amateur Radio license qualification is helpful, but not required. This is NOT a ‘ham radio’ class but each student will come away with a basic understanding of a team’s communications needs in a tactical environment and how to best meet them under less-than-ideal circumstances. No equipment is required for this course; however, if students want to get field practice with their own gear, it is highly encouraged but done so at their own risk. Instruction is completely off-grid.

RTO Course: $300 per Student in advance

 

RELATED:

Brushbeater: Montana RTO Course and Other Admin Notes

OH8STN: Grid Down EMCOMM Winter Edition

Julian at OH8STN.org is full of useful amateur radio information. In the piece excerpted below, he talks about winter emergency communications and the difference between preparing for emergency communications when there is a large logistics tail on the move to support you and emergency communications in a long term or grid down scenario. Here’s a bit from Grid Down EMCOMM Winter Edition:

EMCOMM VS Communications Preparedness

There’s a huge disconnect between the yellow vest wearing emergency communications Community within amateur radio, and those seeking to learn and or develop skills for communications preparedness. They both have completely different methodologies, but they are overlapping.

  • With EMCOMM (North American Edition), we almost always have an expectation of a large Logistics deployment machine, deploying resources after the fact. Hopefully this will change after the horrific lessons of Puerto Rico.
  • With Communications Preparedness, our focus is grid down Communications in the thick of the disaster. There’s no Logistics, no one’s coming to help right away, so we are left on our own, getting information into and out of an active disaster zone.

Right now neither the EMCOMM community or the Communications Preparedness crowd are speaking the same language. They simply don’t understand one another. I suspect anyone reading this blog, or watching my videos has a firm grasp of both sides of this “Niche within a niche” as my friend John calls it. This disconnect between the two communities is critical for understanding and ultimately deployment in the field…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I87136fTa8

Click here to read the entire article (and see video) at OH8STN.org.

AmPart: Wargaming Dangers to Your Area

NC Scout is full of useful information, and luckily he is willing to share that information with us all. In his post Situational Awareness and Wargaming Your AO, NC Scout gives us a short explanation about how to about thinking over how critical infrastructure in your area could be attacked. He’s particular interested in communication infrastructure, but the same targeting process can be used toward anything.

The most important questions you should be asking right now are not the hypothetical or abstract simply naming ‘SHTF!’, rather, it needs to be rationally rooted in the MOST LIKELY and MOST DEADLY courses of action (MLCOA / MDCOA). What causes this “SHTF?” Who will be taking advantage of it? One of the overtones of my recent classes has been discussing the growing local antifa movement and (somewhat) wargaming/red celling capabilities, with emergency services communications systems coming into question. Think on that one for a second. It’s a dangerous proposition that many overlook- there’s a real threat to the robustness of emergency service equipment and as we become more and more complex, they become more and more vulnerable. From my perspective, this makes understanding and maintaining my own off-grid communications and action networks that much more important. And it should you too…

This is not some overseas and out of mind terror group. This is Antifa in the US. And they’ve built a cadre of combat vets from their time fighting in Rojava. What have you been doing?

.Building independent, self-sustaining communities is paramount, as well as being the strongest survivalist plan, but its important to recognize that threats are more than just simplistic catch phrases. You still live in the real world, not that lustful libertariatopia, and are subject to the ramifications of threats external to you. I take people at their word- and the Left’s core, the ‘instant gratification‘ groomed social justice warriors, a manifestation of all of the fingers that threaten Western Sovereignty- are the future of their movement. They see no benefit to the current order and through willful ignorance find solace amid revolutionary ideals whose only logical end is violence. I believe them. And instead of useless projecting, you should be asking serious questions about what they’re capable of pulling off. I bet some folks in Nigeria today wished they had done a bit more in retrospect. I’d be willing to bet some of you will too- Antifa thugs, Islamic thugs, same types of people. They both want you, Christian Male, exterminated.

What to do now is get serious about a training schedule while spending some time understanding more about your individual area. There’s a lot of opportunities out there, and the more arrows you put in the quiver the more resilient you’ll be later on down the road.

Read the entire article at American Partisan by clicking here.

American Partisan: The Jungle Antenna Revisted

NC Scout at American Partisan has written another article discussing the jungle antenna – The Jungle Antenna Revisited: Task and Purpose for the Partisan and Prepper. NC Scout has written about this antenna and its usefulness previously.

Going back to the early days of the Brushbeater blog, the Jungle Antenna post has been and continues to be one of the more popular posts I’ve done. And for good reason- I wrote it to be used. It’s the antenna every student in the RTO course builds and one of the designs they get hands on with, and it’s the one that they know works from the demonstrations we do with them. But often, as with everything, a context for the task and purpose has to be clarified.

Many preppers who contact me fall into a similar trap. I have a goal and recognize a need. What can I buy that does for me what I want it to do? How do I do this in the most cost-effective way? And finally (but what should be first) how do I obtain the skill to best use the gear I’ve purchased? It’s a problematic point of view for a lot of reasons but one I get frequenct questions about nonetheless. And that’s ok. I’ll normally answer it the same way- Use your stuff. Learn to use it even better, and never stop!

One of my objectives bak then, as it remains in my classes and writing today, was emphasizing the skill of building your own equipment…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.

American Partisan: SIGINT for Everyone

NC Scout at American Partisan has an informative article up, Signals Intelligence: Capabilities for Anyone, discussing readily available and simple equipment that anyone can use to build their signals intelligence capabilities. Signals intelligence is one of the best, if not the best, ways to know what is going on around you, whether that is in the aftermath of a disaster or during a civil disturbance/conflict.

One of the points I’ve stressed for a long time is the value found in using simple equipment to the maximum of its potential. Whatever it might be optics to weapons to electronics, my own combat experience has fostered an appreciation for Keeping it Simple, Stupid. And that’s the very paradigm I teach my class from–taking what’s common and simple to understand and learning the techniques of using it to its peak potential. The same is true for building signals intelligence capabilities among preppers and/or potential partisans. Not that long ago the RAND Corporation published a white paper on the very topic; what they found was that not only does the capability exist to monitor most real-world threats in any given environment, anyone can do it.

During our market scan, we found examples of SIGINT capabilities outside of government that are available to anyone. The capabilities we found have applications in maritime domain awareness; radio frequency (RF) spectrum mapping; eavesdropping, jamming, and hijacking of satellite communications; and cyber surveillance. Most of these capabilities are commercially available, many are free, and some are illegal. In our view, the existence of both legal and illegal markets and capabilities results in an environment where SIGINT has been democratized, or available to anyone.

(Weinbaum, Berner and McClintock, 2017)

From experience monitoring the Taliban on a decade old Radio Shack Pro-96 in Afghanistan, an undisciplined adversary will usually tell you everything you want to know over the air. Even if he thinks he’s secure with electronic encryption, the presence of the signal itself can be detected as soon as he keys up. After working with several private groups and teaching techniques to not get found in my RTO Course, I can positively say that a lot of people are at a distinct disadvantage in the communications department not through equipment but through a complete misunderstanding of the actual function of their gear. As anyone who’s trained with me knows, tactical communications is a whole other animal from nearly everything folks think they know. The first rule of Signals Counterintelligence is to have a competent plan and not set patterns. But what about collection? Those same mistakes we aim to correct through training are likely to be repeated by the opposing force. Even if they have all the technical enables in the world, a lot can be done with basic equipment…

Click here to read the entire article.

Related:

Sparks 31: Low Level Voice Intercept

Sparks 31: Indicator Frequencies

Sparks31: Monitoring Exercise/Contest, Dec. 7, 2018

Sparks31 has announced a monitoring exercise (MONEX) for the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7th, 2018. Participants will be entered into a drawing for a free 2019 class of his. A MONEX is a good way to gain familiarity with using your equipment, listening for signals, and recording activity within your listening range. Sparks31 has at least a couple of classes in Washington state, including one in the Yakima valley, in 2019.

MONEX: Pearl Harbor – 07DEC2018

MONEX: Pearl Harbor

Date/Time

07DEC2018 – 0000-2359 UTC
Equipment Required
SSB/CW/digital HF receiving capability from 1600-28000 KHz.
Procedure
  • User selects frequency range(s) from Table 1, above.
  • User performs band/sector searches on selected frequency ranges for at least 1 hour during time frame specified.
  • User logs following data: DATE, TIME, FREQUENCY, MODE, CALLSIGNS(?), TRAFFIC, MISC NOTES/COMMENTS
  • User posts log as a comment to this post, and via email to sparks31wyo@gmail.com.

All qualifying participants will be entered into a drawing for one (1) free admission to any one 2019 Class. To qualify, at least three complete log entries must be submitted.

Click here for more details at Sparks31.

Sparks31 Introduces Basic Grid-Down Communications Class

Sparks31 has introduced a new class which will debut in Watertown, CT – Basic Grid-Down/Down-Grid Communications (combined with his SIGINT class). Sparks will be bringing some classes to Washington state (including Yakima and Seattle) in 2019, and hopefully this class may be added to the lineup. Communication is critical in a disaster. Can you still communicate with those you need to if the internet and phone system go down?

This is a one-day class that covers all the basics you need to set up your monitoring post, collect signals intelligence (SIGINT), get on the air with amateur radio and personal communications services (FRS, GMRS, MURS, CB, Part 15), and establish communications networks and interoperability with other like-minded individuals.

Topics of instruction include the following:

  • Learning about Electronic Communications – A Primer
  • Communications Monitoring HF-to-UHF
  • Intelligence versus Information
    • Intelligence Requirements
  • SIGINT – Signals Intelligence
  • Listening Posts and SIGINT Operations
  • Communications Services
    • Amateur Radio
    • Part 95 & 15 (license-free or “license by rule” services)
  • Communications Networks
    • Interoperability – What it is, and how to make it work.
  •  Increasing System Performance
    • Antennas
  • Grid-Down versus Down-Grid Realities
  • Basic Crypto Systems and When It Is Legal to Use Them
  • Alternatives to Radio Communications
Cost for this class is $100. Please enroll via our storefront at https://squareup.com/store/sparks31/.

AmRRON Goes to AmCON 2, Activates for Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a category 4 storm with winds of 145 mph as of Wednesday morning, October 10th. AmRRON has moved to AmCON 2 and activated for a regional imminent incident.

AmRRON incident plan. (pdf)

AmRRON Hurricane Michael Updates.

AmRRON list of hurricane resource links.

Related:

ARRL Headquarters on Alert of Hurricane Michael

The Cuban Federation of Radio Amateurs has announced that emergency nets for Hurricane Michael are already active in Cuba on 40 and 80 meters. Announced frequencies are 7,110 kHz (primary) and 7,120 kHz (secondary), and 3,740 kHz (primary) and 3,740 kHz (secondary). Operation is expected to be on SSB and digital modes as required. The NHC said western Cuba could see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated maximums of 12 inches. “This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the NHC said.

Team Rubicon – Disaster Response Veterans volunteering to help others.

Sparks31: Building Your Own Radio

Sparks31 has a couple of articles up about getting going building your own radio gear, whether you want to survive an EMP or just get on the air for a little less cash.

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 1

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 2

The first ham radio book I bought when studying for my license had the schematic for a simple 80 meter CW transmitter using a 6LR8 tube. The schematic looked something like the one above. This was back in the early 1980s when they expected someone at Novice Class level to be able to build a simple CW rig with the help of an elmer.

In an age where the Maker Movement is rapidly gaining popularity and adopting the manifesto of If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it, the original DIY hobby (ham radio) has degenerated into a bunch of appliance operators using equipment made in totalitarian countries.  When the balloon goes up, all the no-code, test-pool memorizing, Extras who passed all three tests in a single sitting are going to be left out in the cold with their Chinese dual-band HTs, unless they get up to speed.

What do you need to do?

  1. Find the local elmer who has had his license for the past 60 years and still runs something like a Harvey Wells Bandmaster or something he built himself.
  2. Put together your library.
  3. Get radios that you can actually fix, as opposed to appliances that become worthless if they break because they can’t be fixed.
  4. Build a kit or three.
  5. Learn the techncial aspects of ham radio.
  6. Learn CW.
  7. Graduate to rolling your own radios.

Good elmers are hard to come by. The good ones are at least in their 70s, and usually older. They still exist, however. The hardest parts for many of you are going to be a) getting the gumption to actually put the effort into looking for one, and b) not coming across as a total cock-walloping asshole. Oh well, as Frank would say, “many are called and few are chosen.”

There are plenty of online sources to build up your reference library, but you’ll want a few books in hardcopy format. Start with an ARRL Handbook from the late 1960s up to the 1980s or 1990s. Older and you’ll get into tube gear which is cool, but probably not something you want to start with. Newer starts getting away from sold state, discrete component, thru-hole PCB construction that’s easy to begin with…

Most of our local hamfests are over for the year as far as picking up used equipment and old books. The next big one in the state will be the Mike & Key Electronics Show and Fleamarket on March 9th, 2019. More locally, the Yakima Hamfest arrives in April, and they Kennewick Electronics, Ham Radio and Experimenters Swap Meet on May 4, 2019.

Off Grid Ham: How Much Battery Do You Need?

Chris Warren over at Off Grid Ham has a nice article up, How Much Battery Do You Really Need? The article discusses how much radio time you can get from a battery, or conversely how much battery do you need to run your radio.

It’s always some variation of “How big of a battery do I need to run my (fill in the blank) radio?” It comes up a lot, not just in my email but also on the various forums and blogs I visit. The question is too open ended and comes with too many variables to give a definitive answer, but there are some basic battery concepts that will help you sort through this confusing topic.

Before asking the question, provide some answers.
It certainly does not help that many of the answers floating around the internet are based on guessing, hypothetical conditions, and overly generous manufacturer data. Before you can know how much battery you “need”, first find out how much power all your stuff consumes and what you plan on doing with it in the real world. Off Grid Ham reader James (whose question was the inspiration for this article) asked about going off grid with his Yaesu FT-450 radio. The official Yaesu specifications state that this radio consumes maximum 22 amps/304 watts on transmit, and 0.55-1.5 amps/8-21 watts on receive depending on the audio level (these numbers are rounded).

Discharge reality.
James wants to run his radio with a 35 amp hour AGM battery and charge it with a 2 amp plug in charger. He plans on adding a solar panel at a later time. So what can he realistically expect from this setup?

A 35 amp hour battery can provide 35 amps for one hour. This is known as the C-rate or 1C-rate. The 2C-rate would be 17.5 amps for two hours, the 3C is 11.66 amps for three hours, and so on. Following the math, the 35 amp-hour battery should push James’ 22 amp transmitter for a little over ninety minutes. In the receive only mode, assuming an average of 1 amp, the battery will go for 35 hours.

But let’s deconstruct this…

Read the entire article at Off Grid Ham by clicking here.

Dialtone: Camp Comms

This is an older post from the Dialtone blog. Camp Comms talks about taking your radio gear outside to practice, the reasoning being that in a disaster/SHTF situation you may very well not be able to operate from your home/radio shack. This can be a tough one. You can spend a lot of time and effort training and/or exhorting your people (whether mutual assistance group, neighborhood protection team, assembly, committee of safety, militia, etc.) to acquire and use their radios. Assuming they do so, they become comfortable using them from home. You encourage them to upgrade to an external/mast antenna. Some of them may actually get excited about their radios and start doing upgrades on their own and getting into more advanced radio equipment and modes. So now maybe your problem changes to no one having communication equipment to they have it, but everything is perfect at home and they don’t want to take it to the field.

While there is a good argument for having some decentralized communication hubs in your area, there is always the possibility that your SHTF situation may not allow you to operate from your home/shack/otherwise stationary location. That may be because of opposition monitoring, because it is necessary to have mobile scouting or defense, because your home in uninhabitable, or numerous other reasons. If you have to go out, what equipment are you going to use and how will you use it? NC Scout’s RTO basic course takes this into account by getting you out of the classroom and outside, at least.  But you need to spend some time in your own area and weather to find what is going to work. Better to know now, then learn by trial and error and error when your life may be on the line.

In the arena of grid down communications, wilderness plays a big part. In a SHTF scenario you will most likely find yourself operating outdoors at some point. With this in mind, your training should focus on operating in a less than perfect environment.

20150907_174452-1

Many men lost there lives in this wilderness. …..

If you go outside and look around, you are sure to find somewhere you can practice your craft. It can be a park or maybe your friend’s woods? It may even be your backyard. Wherever you choose, get out of the house! Leave the comfort of your shack and go test your kit. You will not know what works for you until you find out what does not work for you! You need to work out the bugs now, not when the sky is falling. You can go camping and take your comms kit. Get your kids involved, set up a base station and give them frs radios to go “on patrol”.

43fd79d474cc0873870ec70bb42ff09a

On patrol. ….

The more comfortable you are with your gear in a real life situations the better off you will be. You need to be able to hike in with your gear. If it’s too heavy, now is the time to work it out. Most of the equipment we use lends itself to field ops, it’s light weight and small. Even a small gel cell battery and a CB radio will do the job.  Recently, I went into the woods with a set up just like that. I took my uniden 510xl CB, MFJ tuner a small gel cell battery and some wire. I was able to get comms established in a wooded area under approaching darkness. This is just an example, I could have used my Yeasu 817 or any other portable rig.

20150924_220752

Field Kit: Meets mission requirements.

You should also be doing this with your monitoring gear. You can pack in a scanner/comms receiver and set up a covert LP (listening post). You perform the same information gathering, just in the wild.  Bugs, dirt and snakes brings out the best in people,  throw electronics in the mix and now you have a party…..

Read the entire article here at Dialtone.

Related:

Dialtone: Quick and Dirty – a very brief Dialtone entry on field operations