Radio Free Redoubt: When Ham Radio is Banned and Non-Permissive Comms Environments Part-3

The following recording is from Radio Free Redoubt Episode 22-40 When Ham Radio is Banned and Non-Permissive Comms Environments Part-3.

  • Assessing Communications goals
  • HF Renaissance in the US Army (Review)
  • Introduction to NVIS for HF
  • Antennas and Learning Your Footprint  (are you meeting your goals?) 
    • WSPRNet
    • PSKReporter
    • VOACAP
  • ATAK/CIVTAK battle tracking/incident tracking
  • Polarization of antennas on VHF (vertical vs horizontal)

Assessing your communications goals.  What are you hoping to accomplish?:

In a WROL (Without Rule of Law) environment, what types of communications do you see yourself conducting, out of necessity?

Local:

  • Voice only, for quick coordination with others?  Digital/data mode capabilities for more in-depth intelligence and reports sharing?

Regional (up to 400 miles)

  • To an individual (family member or friends) just to stay in touch and check on their welfare, or supporting regional operations?
  • Welfare vs. Operational vs. Strategic communications
  • Voice vs. Digital modes

Continental (Intermediate to long range / 400 miles and  beyond):

  • To an individual (family member or friends) just to stay in touch and check on their welfare, or supporting regional operations?
  • Welfare vs. Operational vs. Strategic communications
  • Voice vs. Digital modes

Why will you be communicating? 

  • You and a family member (you and your brother), or multiple groups of family members or friends?
  • Mutual support, coordination and sharing of intel and coordination between multiple organizations?
  • Strategic communications supporting command and control for leadership to coordinate supplies.

Ask yourself, and answer these questions: 
– Who is it that I intent to communicate with?
– What is the purpose for our communicaitons?
– Why is this a permissive operating environment?

– Who is establishing the rule that I cannot communicate?
– Enforcement.  Who can stop me and what are their capabilities?  What type of threat do they impose?

  • Is it a local criminal or revolutionary element that’s forcing hams to work for them, or attempting to locate hams to take their equipment for their own use?
  • Is it low-intensity conflict, with skirmishes between rival factions with no RDF (radio direction finding) or jamming capabilities?
  • Is this a civil war, or an invasion, with portions of your country under enemy control?
  • Are you caught in hostile/occupied territory?
  • If you are in friendly territory, does your side have air superiority or air defenses?  Are you within, or outside of, artillery range (close to a border or forward edge of a battle line) ?
  • Is the threat/enemy force technologically advanced with RDF, jamming, or guided weapons capabilities?

All these things have to be factored in to your decision making and risk assessment processes.

Radio Free Redoubt: When Ham Radio Is Banned and Non-Permissive Op Environments Part 2

The following podcast comes from Radio Free Redoubt.

AmRRON POLICY:  AmRRON OPERATIONS ARE LEGAL AND LAWFUL, and when using Amateur Radio bands, FCC rules apply.

We don’t use encryption over radio.  There’s no need to.  There’s no need to use tactical callsigns.  But we do practice with it using the internet and other platforms where it’s perfectly legal.

  • More on authentication
  • Authentication using  PGP key signatures for files
  • Tactical Callsigns (COMSEC/PERSEC/OPSEC); the alternative to using FCC callsigns when protecting your identity is necessary.
  • ‘Modding’ your radio (aka. Open banding, opening up, MARS modding, your radio to operate outside amateur radio bands)

AUTHENTICATION (TWO-WAY)

THE TEN-LETTER WORD AUTHENTICATION

The following is a visual of the one-way authentication example as used in the podcast:

Figure 1

THE DRYAD

The image below (Figure 2) is an example of a ‘Dryad’, found in military CEOIs, and was used for two-way authentication and enciphering numbers.  There is VERY little information available open source (on the internet) discussing or explaining most components of a CEOI.  However, American Partisan has a series of articles for the Raspberry Pi enthusiasts, for generating tactical callsigns, dryads, and more.  Today, authentication and encryption is loaded into modern military radios, and these soldier comms skills are (were) a dying art.  We’re bringing them back.

Figure 2

Instructions on using the dryad will not be covered here, but will be covered in the near future.

The following two links cover NCScout’s postings at AmericanPartisan… an excellent resource for modern patriots, including radio operators.

Note, it is a script for generating dryads, callsigns, etc. on a Raspberry Pi, for those of you savvy with using R-Pi.

R-PI OTP/DRYAD TRUE HARDWARE RNG HOW-TO

NEW STUFF FOR THE R-PI OTP/DRYAD – CEOI ADDITIONS, JEFFERSON THOMAS

Radio Free Redoubt: When Ham Radio Is Banned and Non-Permissive Op Environments

The following podcast comes from Radio Free Redoubt, covering non-permissive radio operations environments and ‘when ham radio is banned’.

The Non-permissive operating environments in segments 2 and 3, beginning at about the 19:00 minute mark.

Radio Free Redoubt Ep. 22-28 When Ham Radio Is Banned and Non-Permissive Op Environments

OH8STN: Portable Power Manpack Off Grid Comms

Justin, OH8STN, talks about putting together an entire radio communication system that can be carried in a small pack.

Hello Operators.

Thanks for watching this next episode of How to solar power your portable radio.When talking about manpacks, we normally mean ham or military-style manpack HF VHF or UHF radios. Well, we have taken the military manpack radio concept and applied it to a man-portable manpack portable power system, for civilian communications off-grid. The system includes the battery, dual charge controllers, fused leads, power distribution, and a shooter style manpack pouch to keep things simple and organized. The system was designed in simplifying the build, stopping any unnecessary wire mess, and has an active focus on rapid deployment and portability off-grid. The system can be used to power one or more high-power radios for instant power and comms off grid.

73 Julian oh8stn

ARRL: Amateur Radio Operators Continue Response to Ian

(Update: As of 5:00 pm EDT 9/29/2022, Ian has strengthened back to a category 1 hurricane.) Now tropical storm Ian is already strengthening after its center has passed over Florida to the Atlantic, and Ian is expected to reach hurricane strength again before making landfall again over South Carolina. The ARRL reports on amateur operator assitance:

As Hurricane Ian, now a tropical storm, makes its way across Florida, amateur radio operators continue to provide communications support for weather updates and requests for assistance.

The hurricane made landfall at 3 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, just south of Tampa, Florida, as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 miles per hour. Millions of residents are without power, and damage was reported as extensive along the storm’s initial path.

ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, has been in regular contact with ARRL Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators in Florida and throughout the southeastern US. Johnston said ARRL is also in touch with national-level partners including FEMA and CISA (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency) should any requests for direct emergency communications via amateur radio be needed.

Johnston said many ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) volunteers and their groups are involved across Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. “Many ARES groups throughout Florida have been in a state of readiness since before the weekend,” said Johnston. “These amateur radio volunteers are well-connected with their state and local emergency management partners in government and non-government organizations.” Johnston also said that there are ARES members, at the request of Florida Emergency Management, serving in the state Emergency Operation Center. Many ARES groups are also operating in several shelter locations.

ARRL has previously deployed Ham Aid kits in the region. The kits include amateur radio equipment for disaster response when communications equipment is unavailable.

W1AW, the Maxim Memorial Station at ARRL’s Headquarters in Connecticut, has activated its Winlink station to handle PACTOR III and IV messages and traffic, and its SHARES station NCS310.

“In our (ARRL’s) experience, amateur radio’s response will continue to play out, sometimes even more significantly, after the storm passes and communities enter a period of recovery,” said Johnston. “As needs are assessed, such as disruptions to power and communications, our ARRL Section leaders and ARES groups may receive additional requests for more activations and deployments.”

Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, Net Manager for the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN), said the net is now transitioning from receiving weather data to gathering post-storm reports (read “Hurricane Watch Net Update for Ian,” ARRL News, 9/29/2022).

“These reports include damage and areas that are flooded,” said Graves. “This gives the forecasters additional information they need. Also, since FEMA has an office in the National Hurricane Center (NHC), they look over these reports to get a bigger picture of what has happened which in turn helps them to get help and humanitarian assistance where it is needed.”

Graves added that the HWN will be assisting with emergency, priority, and any Health and Welfare Traffic. The net may continue operations for days. The HWN will issue an after-action report to detail the number of amateur radio operators who participated on the net.

Assistant HWN Net Manager Stan Broadway, N8BHL, said they have been filing reports since September 26, 2022, and over 125 specific reports have been filed to the NHC from stations in the area. “We have handled other reports, not included in the database, for damage and other storm-related situations,” said Broadway.  “One such call involved a relayed report of a woman trapped in her home with a collapsed wall in the Ft. Meyer area. That report was relayed to Lee County Emergency Communications to dispatch a rescue team.”

The VoIP Hurricane Net has been active as well. Rob Macedo, KD1CY, Director of Operations for the VoIP Hurricane Net, and ARRL Eastern Massachusetts ARES Section Emergency Coordinator, said the net will remain active potentially through 11 PM EDT on Thursday evening, supporting WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio Station at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. WX4NHC will be active through this period for as long as needed.

Use these additional links for more information:

About ARRL and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service®

ARRL is the National Association for Amateur Radio®. Founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, ARRL is a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active radio amateurs (or “hams”) in the US, and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting amateur radio. For more information about ARRL and amateur radio, visit www.arrl.org.

Amateur radio operators use their training, skills, and equipment to provide communications during emergencies When All Else Fails®. The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in public service when disaster strikes.

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo, Sept. 17-18, 2022

The QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo returns to the internet for the fifth time on the weekend of September 17-18, 2022.

There will be:

  • 50+ amateur radio presentations on a wide variety of subjects. Check out the full list at Presentations and download times now to your calendar to plan a full weekend and optimize your time at the Expo.
  • For the first time, anyone can share their latest ham radio project, technology, operating mode, DXpedition, or history in our new Project Gallery. Just submit your presentation article, video, or slideshow at Project Gallery Submission.
  • Meet with ARRL representatives and other exhibitors in state-of-the-art video lounges. Visit the ARRL booth to meet over Live video with ARRL staff to get answers to your specific questions answered. Other exhibitors will answer product questions, provide technical training, etc.

Tickets are only $10 and grant full access to the Expo weekend, presentations, Project Gallery, and Exhibitor video lounges as well as the 30-day post-Expo on-demand period where all presentations and resources are available. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.qsotodayhamexpo.com.

AmRRON: T-REX 2022, Sept. 9-11

From AmRRON

The timeline is set, the inject traffic and initiating stations are in place, and hundreds of operators are making final preparations of their gear.

As in years past, this year’s scenario-based nationwide exercise is based on a cyber attack.  But there will be more!

For most participants, this makes the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or more T-REX exercises they’ve participated in.  Each time, more is learned, tested, and previous experience applied.  We all grow and become better radio operators for it.  But we take it for granted that this might be the first time for many of the new members who have joined AmRRON over the past year or more.  Apologies!  We will help prepare the newer folks much farther in advance in the future, as we’ve done in the past.

WHAT IS T-REX?

It is a three-day (actually, 48 hours) scenario-based disaster preparedness exercise, from Friday, September 9th, through Sunday at Noon, Pacific time, September 11th (non-stop).   All participants cuts commercial power, internet, cell phone, satellite, and any other conventional communications methods and simulates a nationwide grid-down emergency.

TIME:  Beginning Friday at Noon Pacific time (1pm Mountain; 2pm Central; 3pm Eastern; 1900 Zulu).

It is an opportunity for you as an individual, or family, or preparedness group, church disaster relief ministry, militia, or organization to practice implementing your worst-case emergency preparedness plan.  Cook with your off-grid equipment, power your batteries with your solar panels, test out alternative lighting, play a board game with your family by lantern and no electronics, practice your bugout plan, etc.

But most importantly, it’s an opportunity for you to practice using your emergency communications skills and equipment.  Make mistakes, learn shortcomings, capabilities and limitations, and identify where you need to make improvements (and you will, each time you do an exercise).  Take it seriously, but have fun!

WHAT WILL ACTUALLY HAPPEN DURING THE EXERCISE?

Initially, each SIGCEN (Signals Center) and NCS (Net Control Station) will produce and send an Initial Event Summary.  In a real-world event, radio operators will be taking to the airwaves to find out exactly what has happened, and how widespread are the effects.  They will inherently be looking to Net Control Stations for answers and guidance.  The Initial Event Summary is a tool we use to convey what we know at the moment, at the onset of an event, as well as guidance and instructions such as reminders of when the next scheduled net is to take place, and what frequency and mode, etc.

Also, this year there are 38 pieces of preloaded radio traffic (we call ‘injects’) which was developed and distributed to over twenty volunteer Initiating Stations across the country.  Nine of  those are welfare traffic requests, such as someone requesting a check on a loved one in another state, for example.

Each Inject that was issued included a set of instructions for each Initiating Station, including when to ‘inject’ their radio traffic into the scenario.  This helps enhance the timeline and the scenario with realistic messages, reports, and developments which might occur in logical fashion in a real-world emergency.  Net Control Stations will direct traffic to help keep the nets running smoothly, and will facilitate getting radio traffic to their destinations.  Tuning in to the nets will help you gain an understanding of the size, scope, and impact of the disaster.

Each piece of traffic is assigned a three-digit training exercise control number, or Traffic ID number.  And each Inject Station is assigned a two-digit Station ID number.  This helps us track official exercise traffic so we can understand the effectiveness of the nets, identify shortcomings, and track the successful delivery of the traffic.

Some traffic is for wide distribution, for everyone’s situational awareness.  Some wide distribution traffic pertains to specific communities, or regions, and is not intended for all nationwide participants.  For example, a church setting up a soup kitchen at the American Baptist Church on 123 Merry Lane, Smallville, USA,  would only pertain to the people in that community.  It wouldn’t pertain to someone a thousand miles, and five states away.  On the other hand, foreign military forces landing on the shores of the east coast, the west coast, and crossing the Mexican border would pertain to everyone on the North American continent — when wide distribution means WIDE distribution.

The SIGCENs (Signals Centers) on the east and west coasts will be compiling reports as they are receiving them from NCSs, and others, and compiling consolidated SITREPs (Situation Reports), or Intelligence Briefs, etc.  Those are generally for wide distribution intended for all parties with the ability to receive radio signals.

Keep notes for ideas on how to improve your personal situation.  As you receive information over the air, and you learn of some of the events taking place, use the opportunity to discuss with your family or group, ‘what would we do, or how would we respond, if this were real’?

YOU GET TO TRANSMIT.  One of the first things an NCS is going to try to do is take a ‘pulse check’ to find out who is out there on the air, who else is affected, in what ways, how far reaching the effects are, and what does he not yet know, but should.  We use the STATREP (Status Report) as a tool to provide a formatted method for each radio operator to report the status at their location.  As each station reports his/her Status Report, others will be able to see those reports as well.  The NCS will use the information from these STATREPs to update his Initial Event Summary to fill in any gaps on what he didn’t know beforehand.

Be prepared to submit your STATREP if you are properly licensed to transmit on the Amateur Radio bands.  This pertains to both HF and local VHF/UHF frequencies.  USE THE ABBREVIATED STATREP.  AmRRON operators will find guidance on how to format their STATREPs on Page 37 of the AmRRON Signals Operating Instructions, Section 6.3.1 — the ‘Abbreviated STATREP‘.

YOU ARE GRID DOWN DURING T-REX, and your STATREP should reflect that.   Your STATREP should indicate that, at minimum, you are without commercial power and all conventional communications (phone/internet).

This can be done over voice (aka. phone) or using ham digital modes, such as JS8Call, FSQCall, or fldigi modes such as Contestia 4-250.  Follow the instructions of NCS.  For most AmRRON operators, this is a walk in the park.  We practice this regularly.

What is different about T-REX nets versus regularly-scheduled practice nets?

TRAFFIC.  Ensuring important traffic (especially Priority or Immediate/Emergency traffic) gets passed.  This is the primary difference.

In a real-world emergency, unless there is not business (traffic) to attend to, taking check-ins for the sake of filling a list of callsigns is the lowest priority. Generally, AmRRON nets become ‘Traffic Nets’ for the purpose of moving important, time sensitive, or lifesaving information.

Net Control will likely announce himself, including his name and location, and then announce any traffic he has for the net, including the precedence level of the traffic.  Then:

A.  He will (should) ask for another station to act as an Assitant NCS (ANCS).  The ANCS helps relay traffic to others which may not have a good path to Net Control, and he can step up to take over the net if something happens to NCS (like, if NCS vanishes — it happens — computers crash, generators run out of fuel, dogs chase the neighbor cat, etc.).

B.  First, he will ask if there is any Immediate (or Emergency) traffic for the net.   He may take the traffic directly, if appropriate, or he may facilitate getting the Priority traffic relayed on to its destination.

C.  Then he will send any traffic he has for the net, beginning with Priority traffic.

D.  If a station announces he has directed traffic, NCS will then try to identify a station at, or close to, the destination.  For example.  If NCS is in Missouri and a Station from Texas calls announcing he has traffic that needs to go to Montana, NCS will tell him to stand by and ask if there are any Montana station on frequency.  If nothing heard, he may ask for stations in states surrounding Montana to check in who can relay the traffic.  An Idaho station responds, offering to take the traffic, and who will work with others in the region to get the traffic to its destination.  NCS will then direct the Texas and Idaho stations to move up, or down, three to six kilohertz and exchange traffic.  if they do not have a direct path to each other, then the ANCS can move with them, and relay the traffic between them, clearing the main net frequency as soon as possible.  ANCS will return to the net frequency as soon as the relay is finished.   If there are no stations at or near the destination, the NCS can take the traffic and pass it along using other means after the net closes.

E.  Other NCSs from adjacent regions should announce themselves on a net, so the primary NCS knows they are there, and can relay net traffic to them which is intended for their region.

To help keep the scheduled nets from becoming congested, any stations with directed traffic should try to use the Persistent Presence Net to find other stations who might be able to relay the traffic toward its destination.  All stations should keep a log of who you sent traffic to, and who you received traffic from.  If it gets lost or disappears during the exercise, this will help in tracking it down and learning what happened to it, and why, so we can remedy any shortfalls.

However, since many stations have limited alternate power (perhaps a single RV battery and a small solar panel), it may not be viable for them to be on the air continually.  This is why we have regularly scheduled nets listed in the SOI, creating a time window when as many stations as possible can meet on the air to exchange traffic.  Scheduled nets is also when wide distribution traffic from AmRRON will be sent.

IF YOU HAVE  NO HF CAPABILITIES:

This is a shortcoming you MUST overcome.  Get a shortwave radio receiver with SSB capability, or an SDR dongle, if nothing else.  You must have the ability to receive information from outside your immediate area if repeaters are rendered inoperable.  You must be able to inform your community if there is a radiation cloud, lava, zombies, langoliers, or foreign military convoys bearing down on you from the next state over.

IF YOU HAVE A LOCAL VHF/UHF, GMRS, CH3 COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK BUT NO INJECT TRAFFIC:

Develop your own ‘micro scenarios’ which fit your community, but which go along with the larger nationwide scenario.  You’re already a leader, so organizing some training scenarios which provide opportunities to use your communications networks should be right down your alley!

AmRRON is a patriot-oriented network, not an anti-government network.  So, do not create micro scenarios which project an adversarial relationship between your local group and government officials or political groups.

But share your small group training experiences as well.  What worked, what didn’t, overall impressions and experiences, and areas you’ve identified as needing improvement, and solutions to address the shortcomings revealed during the exercise.

Keep a list of the traffic you receive over the course of the exercise!  There will be a survey that will be used to create several after action reports (something we did not get to complete last year).

Wyoming Survival: Uniden BCD436HP Is Number 1

Wyoming Survival has an article up about the Uniden BCD436HP scanner. This is a scanner that we’ve recommended ourselves in our post about Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety. This is a pretty feature rich scanner, which can make it somewhat intimidating for users new to scanning. Luckily, it’s pretty much ready to go out of the box, and fairly user friendly to get started with basic scanning in your area. We’ll just add a note here about programming software for this scanner. Uniden has their own Sentinel software for this device, but we’ve been using BuTel’s ARC536PRO software, which seems to have more to it.

Uniden BCD436HP Scanner

Anyone who has been following me for awhile knows I’ve been testing the Uniden BCD436HP VS. The Whistler TRX-1. I’ve written multiple posts about them and how good the decode DMR, how quickly they pick up signals, and what not. Today while messing around I stumbled on a feature of the Uniden that puts in the top spot for you digital scanner and SIGINT tool.

I have been having a bunch of discussions on Instagram about the use of scanners other than listening to local LEOs. I was making multiple short videos about what they were asking. I was discussing about using 2 scanners scanning different bands searching for the Baofeng Brothers. In the video I was using the Whistler TRX-1 on UHF and the Uniden BCD436HP on VHF. To do this on the Uniden you have to use the Discovery mode. You set your limits. I set mine to 136 MHZ to 179 MHZ which is what the Baofeng UV-5R will cover. So when the Uniden captures a frequency in Discovery mode it logs it so you can go back and see what frequency it was that it got a hit. What I didn’t know was it also records the audio of that hit!! This is HUGE!!

So let’s say you are in your Listening Post and you are getting your instant coffee ready. While you are pouring the sugar the scanner picks up part of a PSK31 transmission. You spill your hot ass coffee in your lap trying to get to the scanner to at least catch the frequency it was on but you’re unable to because your crotch is burning from the hot coffee you spilt all over yourself. Yeah with the Uniden BCD436HP you don’t have to worry about that since it logged the frequency AND recorded what audio it picked up.

I don’t know what else to say. It decodes DMR, logs the frequency, AND records the audio for you to review later. Its hard to ask for much more in a SIGINT tool

S2 Underground: Shortwave – The Warlord’s Radio

In the following video, S2 Underground talks about shortwave/HF radio and how to use it during emergencies, disasters, and other scenarios. In the US, authorization to transmit on HF comes mostly with the General level amateur radio license, though there are some limited allocations for the Technician class to use CW/morse code. If you’re already involved with an emergency radio group like AmRRON, then you may already be familiar with a lot of the topics he discusses, but if you haven’t been involved with communications at all, then this may give you a good overview.

00:00 – Introduction

04:10 – The Emergency Itself

08:10 – The Nature of the Communication

10:26 – MARS Mod

14:24 – Mobility and Fitness

18:40 – Data Modes – RTTY

23:26 – Sending Images

28:37 – JS8Call

31:56 – Winlink

35:41 – Comm Scheduling

41:42 – Encryption

42:58 – Thinking Big

47:15 – Closing Thoughts

See also S2 Underground’s follow up video on HF radio:

Radio Contra Ep. 172 – Chinese Threat with Madman Actual

In Radio Contra episode 172, NC Scout talks to ‘Madman Actual’ an intelligence specialist about dangers out of China.

Episode 172. I’m joined by former US Army and NSA Signals Intelligence collection specialist ‘Madman Actual’ to discuss the FBI’s revelation that Huawei does in fact pose a very serious threat to the US. But how much of a threat? We also discuss the role Baofengs may play, and why Sat Phones are not a viable option.

Radio Contra Ep. 172. Huawei and the Chinese Threat with Madman Actual

Radio Contra Ep 167 & 168 – Digital Communications and James Wesley, Rawles

Here we are with another entry from NC Scout and his Radio Contra podcast, episode 167. His content is often too good to miss.

I cover the predicted election victory of Gustavo Petro in Colombia and the brewing issues as a result, then dive into some of the lessons learned from the RTO Course in Wyoming and what the students were able to achieve in a way we’ve never been able to accomplish in the past. Chief among them was the implementation of digital communications with inexpensive Baofengs over an incredible distance while using improvised antennas the students built. Last I dive into a ridiculous article coming from Slate labeling anyone with an interest in radio as being a ‘right wing extremist’, blatantly ignoring what the radical violent Left actually is doing.

There is also episode 168, which is an interview with preparedness writer and blogger James Wesley, Rawles.

I’m joined by James Wesley, Rawles of Survivalblog.com to break down the developments from Davos and the World Economic Forum, the looming disaster in the Eurozone and the growing economic hegemony looking to supplant the US Dollar as the world reserve currency. We then break down some of the lessons in guerrilla warfare from Ukraine and training tips people need to focus on now for an uncertain US future.

Off Grid Ham: Portable Antennas For The Off Grid Ham

Wire antenna. Courtesy ARRL.org

Chris Warren at Off Grid Ham has a nice, longish article on Portable Antennas For The Off Grid Ham. Please see Chris’s article on his site for the helpful antenna diagrams.

We’re not special.

Off grid amateurs spend a lot of time focusing on the power source for their equipment. While that’s understandable, we musn’t be distracted from the rest of the amateur radio chain. This time we’re going to look at the other end of the system: portable antennas.

To be clear, off grid radio does not require a “special” antenna. Any antenna that can be used for conventionally-powered operating can be used for off grid. Since most off grid radio is done in a portable/temporary/outdoor setting, or for survival/prepper/EMCOMM purposes, some antennas are more suitable than others. Operators who live in apartments, have HOA restrictions, spouse objections, or otherwise cannot have a permanently mounted antenna are in this mix too. Portable Antennas

It’s not practical to go over every possible option as there are dozens of them; we’ll cover the pros and cons of a few of the most popular. If you’re a newcomer to amateur radio, you’ll gain some focus about different antenna choices. At the end of this article I will include links to more detailed information.

A word about portability. Portable Antennas

The definition of “portable” varies considerably depending on who you ask. “Portable” can mean anything from a large trailer full of equipment to a handheld radio in a shirt pocket. It’s up to each individual operator to decide what works for them. Most of the antennas described in this article are not “portable” in the sense that one could back pack all day with it (along with all their other gear). They will all fit in an average car and can be hand carried short distances.

The classic random wire.

There is hardly anything simpler, less expensive, and easier to understand than the random long wire. This antenna has been around since the beginning of radio and is still used today. They can be made from any conductive wire and erected in any fashion…

If you’re going with a random long wire antenna, you’ll need a separate antenna tuner. The integrated antenna tuners on modern radios will not likely be enough. You can try it and you might get lucky, but very few internal antenna tuners have enough range of correction to get a random wire down to the 50 ohm load the radio requires. I have an external tuner that feeds an unun with a ground plane wire for my random wire antenna; that modified setup works well plugged into my FT-817. Portable Antennas

The tradeoff for ease & simplicity is inefficiency. The antenna tuner does not “fix” this problem. Whatever losses are inherent to your random wire will still be there.

Other random wire considerations.

You’ll also have to consider that random wires are not self-supporting. How do you plan on getting your antenna off the ground? You can bring a PVC pipe or telescoping mast but lugging it along that may not fit with your definition of “portability”. Another option is to run your random wire up to a tree. That too may be problematic. Is there a suitable tree at your operating site? Be aware that many public parks in the United States prohibit attaching anything to the trees, even temporarily.

Some hams advise cutting the wire to be a certain length, or to avoid a certain length. This is done to make the antenna work better across all the bands. That’s fine, but then it’s not really a “random” wire. This may seem like semantic nitpicking  but if you are going to cut a wire to a specific length you may as well take it all the way and make a proper end fed or dipole antenna. My wire antenna truly is random; I have no idea exactly how long it is. For all its faults, random wires really do work, and there’s no beating the low cost and simplicity.

The magnetic loop. Portable Antennas

The magnetic loop is one of the most beloved and hated antennas in all of hamdom. I’m not sure why, but every time it comes up in conversation, strong opinions fly back and forth.

Magnetic loop antennas are a conductive loop, a variable capacitor, and a smaller coupling loop. The loop can vary in size, with some versions having less than a three foot diameter. In spite of their small size and odd appearance, mag loops are quite effective. Magnetic loops do not require a tuner and are excellent for restricted space applications, such as apartments, motorhomes, etc. One of the big benefits of magnetic loops is they do not need to be mounted high off the ground. Any elevation greater than one loop diameter is just as good as mounting it on a 100 foot tower.

Magnetic loop disadvantages.

Mag loop antennas have narrow bandwidth. This has a lot to do with the “Q” value of the antenna, which in turn is related to the antenna’s small size, but that’s more than we’ll get into this time around. If you change your transmit frequency, even a little, the antenna will need to be re-tuned. Therefore, you will need easy physical access to the loop. There are commercially made mag loops such as the MFJ-1788 with a remote tuning head. It’s an expensive option, so consider your needs and wants carefully. Also, mag loops will have very high exposed voltages, even at low transmit power levels. Although it’s not necessarily dangerous, if you touch a mag loop while it’s energized, you’ll likely get a very memorable jolt! Keep it away from children, pets, and untrained bystanders.

If you prefer to build you own, the internet is full of plans and tips for DIY versions. By the way, the loop does not have to be a perfect circle, or even be a circle at all. Octagons and other shapes are acceptable. Portable Antennas

In my opinion, magnetic loop antennas are highly underrated. Once you learn its quirky ways it will provide excellent results.

Vertical antennas.

Commercially made portable vertical antennas might be the most popular antenna for off gridders. There are many choices: Buddistick, Alpha Antenna, Chameleon, and others. They generally do not require a tuner and will operate over numerous bands. Unlike mag loops, verticals maintain good bandwidth without constant adjustments. And unlike random wires, they do not take up much linear space when deployed. They’re easy to set up and take down and self supporting. There’s a lot to love here. I personally use an Alpha Antenna FMJ and I must say it delivers on its promises.

The main disadvantage is the cost. Commercially made portable antennas are pretty dang expensive for what you are getting. I realize a lot of the price tag is related to research & development expenses, plus the relatively low production runs of these products. Because portable antennas can be a serious financial commitment for the average operator, it’s important to do your homework and make sure you’re getting an antenna that is appropriate for your operating goals. Portable Antennas

Everything else.

There are so many other antennas that we can’t realistically go through them all here. Some of these antennas are quite effective, others not so much. Still others are just more complicated versions of well established designs. Experimenting is a big part of the fun, so don’t be afraid to take a chance. Home brew antennas are typically inexpensive and can be recycled into something else if they don’t work out.

Resources.

Here is an Off Grid Ham article from 2016 that goes into detail about random wire antennas, including notes on how to build your own.

This awesome database gives DIY plans for over four hundred antennas. It’s one of my favorite antenna resources and I highly recommend you bookmark this one.

This lengthy (33 page) PDF goes into deep detail about magnetic loop antennas, including operating theory. If you are or want to be a mag loop geek, this one’s for you!

Here’s another very well written and illustrated article about mag loops.

Here is a handy on line mag loop calculator if you want to take a stab at building your own.

The Villages Amateur Radio Club published this very well done guide to stealth antennas for those living in HOAs, apartments, etc.

Finally, an easy to understand explanation of antenna Q values. 

OH8STN: Portable Ham Radio Solar Power and Antenna

Here are two videos by Julian, OH8STN of SurvivalTech Nord, on running portable radios. The first covers portable solar power and the second is about an efficient, rugged, antenna for portable operations. Good communication is key in any disaster situation, so make sure you can maintain contact and keep your radios running.

Hello Portable Operators. This episode of oh8stn ham radio is the first of a series called “how to solar power your portable ham radio”. This episodes focuses on solar power and battery storage for mobile, low power and QRP portable amateur stations, operating off-grid. The episode covers my own experiences with popular solar panel brands, charge controller options, battery packs, solar storage options and explains the best way to build your own portable solar powered go kit for EMCOMM, POTA, SOTA or even preparedness. Later in the series we will look at both DIY and ready to run battery pack options, to get your station ready for off grid operation.

This video series continues where my guest post on the PowerFilm blog left off. You can read the original blog post here: http://oh8stn.net/PowerFilmBlog

The series is supported by PowerFilm Solar and GigaParts. Almost all gear mentioned in the video can be found from my GigaParts page at https://oh8stn.net/gigaparts . You can find PowerFilm folding panels, rollable panels, Genasun charge controllers and the perfect battery pack,all from GigaParts. GigaParts also offers a 5% discount to supporters/channel members/patreons of this channel and series.

73 Julian

Hello operators In this episode of OH8STN ham Radio, we test an off center fed dipole as an ultra portable HF antenna option for QRP field station. The antenna is the OCF 40 from chameleon antenna. The HF dipole is resonant on 40, 20 and 10 meters. It handles 50 watts SSB and 20 watts all other modes. Join me as we test this off center fed dipole with the Xiegu X6100 running on solar power and Icom IC-705 running an NVIS winlink session on 40 meters. 73 Julian

AmRRON Mobile (Radio) Training Exercise, May 14-15

AmRRON is holding a radio operator training exercise this weekend – May 14-15, 2022. This exercise is being held on HF frequencies, using digital modes and off-grid power.

Get ready!  The AMRMRX 22 is a fun exercise involving fixed-site ‘Command’ stations and field mobile ‘Reporting’ stations, requiring the mobile stations to set up a field station, listen and then transmit, then pack up and move to another location and repeat the process!

Exercise begins:  Saturday, May 14th @ 0945 Local Time

  • 4 Segments – Three 2 hour segments and a 1 hour 4 th segment.

Scenario: X10 Solar Flare on 20220508-1200Z with full on CME impact
28 hours later (20220509-1600Z). Expected loss of Grid power,
communications including cellular telephone and internet.

All guidance and instruction documents are downloadable below for you to print and review.

AmRRON CORPS MEMBERS be sure to participate in this Wednesday evening’s ‘BREAKOUT CHANNEL’ AmRRON Z-Net Voice Net for discussing the exercise and the roles and participate in the Q&A session.

There are two documents to download and print:

  1.  AmRRON AMRMRX v1.4.pdf  (Overall Exercise Description and General Guidance)
  2.  Instructions to reporting stations AMRMRX v1.4  (These are specific instructions for deployment as a reporting station.)

Reporting Station Requirements:

  1. AmRRON member
  2. Portable or Mobile HF radio capability (low power acceptable).
  3. Multi band antenna capable of reception / transmission on 40 & 80M.
  4. Digital HF capability utilizing FLdigi suite and JS8call simultaneously.
    Transportation (A conveyance capable of moving the operator and all
    equipment a distance of 3 miles in under 30 minutes).
  5. Off grid power (preferably PV panel and battery or equivalent).
    Generator power is acceptable but use caution in transporting and using
    flammable liquids.
  6. Operation from your vehicle as a mobile station is acceptable.