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News, Trends, And Short Takes

by D. Prabakaran


Did A Radio Operator Nearly Ignite A War Between The U.S. And Iran?

According to numerous published sources, including the U.S. Navy Times, a local radio operator—perhaps a prankster known as the “Filipino Monkey”—may have nearly triggered a shoot-out between the United States and Iran on January 6 in the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. military complained that its warships had been harassed by Iranian vessels at least three times since December in the Strait of Hormuz, the only way into the Gulf by sea. An audio-video tape released by the U.S. military showed that in the latest incident, on January 6, five Iranian speedboats dodged around and between a heavily armed cruiser, a destroyer, and a frigate for about half an hour as they steamed together through the Strait into the Gulf. One of the American warships trained a machine gun on an Iranian boat that came within 200 meters of the U.S. vessel. But the Iranians turned away before the commander gave the order to fire.

At the height of tense confrontation, a male voice speaking in heavily accented English on an open frequency was heard to say: “I am coming to you. You will explode after ... minutes.” Initially, the Pentagon attributed this voice to one of the Iranians on the five speedboats. Now it says the source of the threatening commentary cannot be pinpointed.

The U.S. Navy Times suggested that the radio transmission may have come from a local heckler known as the “Filipino Monkey” who might have listened in on ship-to-ship traffic and then intervened. U.S. military personnel have reported many similar threatening or insulting radio transmissions in the past, but say they don’t know whether they come from Iran or somewhere else in the Gulf.

According to the U.S. Navy Times, Rick Hoffman, a retired Navy captain who spent many years at sea in the Gulf, had plenty of experience with the infamous radio operator. “For 25 years there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats. He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship,” Hoffman was quoted as saying in the Times piece. “He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy. But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”


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Antenna Support Structures For The Common Man—
How To Build A Tower With Only $500

Proven Tips For Putting Steel In The Sky Without Spending A Small Fortune

by Ken J. Meyer, K9KJM


Almost everyone who’s been in the radio business or hobby for any length of time knows that a radio station is only as good as its antenna system. And for that system to be much good, the antennas usually need to be mounted high above the surrounding area. That eventually leads radio communication enthusiasts to say to themselves “I sure wish I had that in my backyard” whenever they pass some tall commercial-type radio tower.

As much as we’d like to have a big tower in our backyards (or even a tripod and mast on the roof), there are a number of potential roadblocks that must be overcome to get the tallest and best antenna support structure, or “tower,” possible. Lack of funds can definitely be a big roadblock. But it doesn’t have to be that way; you just need to make the most of something called a “Resource Triangle.”

Geometry Is Your Friend

Years ago I heard how any project can be accomplished with the right combination of elements—to your Resource Triangle, that is, with the three points being TIME, MONEY, and SKILL. That triangle can be adjusted any which way. If you have lots of time and skill, you can succeed at most any project with very little money. Or, if you have lots of time, but very little skill and money, the project still can be accomplished; it will just take much longer. You get the idea. The exception of course is money. If you have boatloads of money, you can get by without a lot of either skill or time; you can just hire it all out!

As mentioned, the expense connected with a tower is an obstacle for many; it certainly has been for me! So over the years I found many ways to use time and skill to accomplish a goal like getting a decent tower without breaking the bank.

If You Can Build A Backyard Swing Set, You Can Probably Do This, Too

To build your own tower, you must first determine if the law is on your side. There are a few key questions to ask yourself: Do you own the property in question, or rent? If a renter, you need to check with the landlord. If you’re a homeowner, is there a (dreaded!) homeowner association private agreement with restrictions on your property? Then there’s the FAA. Are you near an airport or under a flight path?

You also need to check with the local zoning or planning department. Most rural areas have almost no regulations for non-commercial towers, but some cities and villages do have restrictive ordinances that need to be addressed. Note that even if there is some type of local ordinance restricting your plans, if you’re a ham you have PRB-1 (a federal law you can read more about at http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=prb-1&id=amateur&page=1) working in your favor. The threat of a federal lawsuit usually will work magic in getting the local zoning board to see things your way, or at least in being willing to compromise on the height of the tower allowed.

All these rules and regulations may have some people saying, “The heck with it, I don’t need a tower that bad,” or you may be tempted to think, “My little 30-foot mast will go unnoticed.” To the first I say it’s much easier than you may think; to the second I say: builder beware. You don’t want to go through all the trouble and even moderate expense of building a nice antenna support only to have someone show up with a legal order to make you take it down!


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The Pope’s Radio Station

With The Upcoming Papal Visit,Vatican Radio Should Be A Stop On SWLs’ Itinerary

by Gerry Dexter


The Pope is going to visit the United States! And where the Pope goes there goes Vatican Radio, fully equipped, ready and standing by to report on his every public word and appearance.

The Papal visit, set for April 15 through 20, is scheduled to include stops in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., so most of us won’t have an opportunity to see him in person, even from a distance. But, this being America, you’re guaranteed that our media certainly won’t ignore the event and that some outlets will pay more attention than others. Certainly Vatican Radio will report on the Pontiff’s activities using its worldwide reach and will record every word, eventually destined for their extensive archives.

It’s a safe bet you’ll be able to hear reports direct on Vatican Radio’s English language service on shortwave as the visit proceeds, and likely his pronouncements as well. News of the visit will be included on all of the Radio’s extensive language offerings—38 in all—as well as seven others they can call up if needed for special occasions or events. In all, that works out to an estimated 56 hours over the week or so of the visit that could be devoted to the Pope’s activities. Obviously, though, other Church-related news might be touched upon, too.

Vatican Radio Then And Now

Simply based on the potential program hours available it’s obvious that Vatican Radio is anything but a rinky-dink operation. The station was the idea of Pope Pius XI who was concerned over the millions of Catholics and their local churches who were living under authoritarian regimes, which made it difficult for the Vatican to reach them. Pius XI wanted to be able to communicate with them directly, without having to deal with a dictatorial government. So, shortly after the treaty creating the Vatican was signed in 1929, the Pope took the initial step toward having a radio station within the Vatican itself. He gave the job of putting it together to a fellow named Gugliemo Marconi (yes, that guy!). Pius XI officially inaugurated the station on February 12, 1931. A few years later, by the beginning of World War II, Vatican Radio was broadcasting in nine languages.

By the time the Cold War began and Communist regimes dominated Eastern Europe, Vatican Radio responded with a significant expansion. Under Pope Pius XII a large new transmission complex was built at Santa Maria di Galeria, comprising 28 huge directional antennas and five others which couldn’t be rotated). Feeding them were four 500-kW behemoths, as well as five 100-kW transmitters. (There were also seven mediumwave and five FM transmitters there for local broadcasting). This facility, still in regular use today, also allowed Vatican Radio to expand its broadcasts into Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Santa Maria di Galeria is not situated on the original Vatican grounds but is just a bit to the north and west. The site is still considered part of the Vatican, just as an embassy is considered a part of the nation it represents. Purists who want to hear the “real” Vatican can try the only shortwave frequency in use from this site, 4005, which is active from 0340 to about 0745, mostly using European languages. The power is just 10 kW. The Vatican currently uses relays at Novosibirsk (7300, 12070), Khabarovsk (9600, 13785), Atamanovka (6140), Russia, Tashkent, Uzbekistan (9310), Wertachtal, Germany (5885), and Sackville, Canada (9600), but the frequencies mentioned here are not exclusive to the sites mentioned.


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A Stroll Through Military Comms History

England’s Royal Signals Museum Highlights Developments In Warfare

by Roy Stevenson


A Saracen Armored Command vehicle and an AFV439 Armored Communications vehicle guard the parking lot outside the Royal Signals Museum, located at Blandford Camp in Dorset, England. The large, gray, metal-walled repository of history opened in 1997 to showcase the history of the Royal Corps of Signals. It also provides a crash course on the science and technology of military communications from the Crimean War to the Gulf War.

Providing marvelous insight into a relatively little-known area of military operations, the museum tells about the men and women who operated signaling equipment and their contribution to England’s history in the past 150 years. There’s also a great selection of books, souvenirs, and gifts about military signals and radios in the bookstore by the front entrance.

There are enough radios and communications equipment displayed here to qualify it as nirvana for radio and signals enthusiasts. In addition, some unsung but fascinating aspects of military communications are represented in its exhibits, such as Women at War, Behind Enemy Lines, D-Day, Special Forces, Animals at War, Dispatch Riders, Military Signaling Vehicles, and Antique Signaling Equipment.

The Evolution Of Communications

The first exhibits, a combination of reader boards and display cases, tell the general history of military communications. Runners provided the first form of long-distance signaling, followed by men on horseback. Another primitive but effective mode of signaling used chains of soldiers on hilltops shouting messages to each other, a method the Persian King Darius used in the 5th century B.C. Drums and trumpets were also used. The Greeks had a torch telegraph system, and the Romans used colored smoke to communicate.

Fire signals, lights in towers, and beacons were all early forms of alert. They warned of impending invasion and were even put to use during Napoleon’s threatened naval invasion of England in 1795. The Duke of Wellington organized regular mounted messengers, an approach that evolved into the motorbike dispatch riders in the 20th Century. You’ll see a beautifully restored Triumph motorcycle and several other motorbikes with models of signals riders in uniform.

The History of the Heliograph exhibit tells how reflected sunlight was used to flash messages as long ago as the Greek and Persian Wars, when the combatants used polished shields as mirrors. Depending on the size of the mirror used, messages could be sent over distances as great as 80-plus miles. Flags or banners were used later. Heliographs communicated messages during World War II as late as 1941.

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Focus On The Missouri State Highway Patrol

by Ken Reiss


Reader Mike Kudelka from St. Louis writes in that he used to hear the Missouri State Highway Patrol (Troop C from Kirkwood) on 42.12, but “for a long time now this frequency does not seem to be active. Do you know if they changed to a different band?”

Well, Mike, I wasn’t aware of anything, but it looks like something might be in the works. I also used to have them plugged in, although it wasn’t an agency I listened to often. After your note, however, I did monitor for a while but haven’t heard a lot, either. So I went digging, and while I didn’t find much of an answer I did find some interesting things out about the Highway Patrol I thought I’d share. Most of this information is available on their website, with the exception of frequency information which I got from www.RadioReference.com.

Organization Of The State Highway Patrol

During the 1920s several efforts were made to establish a statewide police agency of some kind, but most failed due to opposition from one or more factions. County sheriffs believed it would undermine their authority or make them unnecessary, while many civilian groups feared that it would be centered around the Prohibition Act or used against labor union organizations in some kind of strike-busting maneuver.

However, while the county sheriffs were still somewhat concerned, labor groups did not oppose the creation of an organization focused on motor vehicle oversight and enforcement. In September of 1931, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, rather than a Missouri State Police was born.

The first officers were trained at the St. Louis Police Academy. Missouri municipalities are organized in rather a strange way as the city of St. Louis existed as a major metropolitan area before the state really took form. Because of this, the city of St. Louis reports directly to the state legislature in Jefferson City for many things, including the police department. St. Louis City police officers are deputized for the entire state. St. Louis County is a completely separate entity and the two sometimes don’t get along very well (like that’s different from any other city/county relationship!). St. Louis already had a running police academy before the Highway Patrol was established, so that’s where the officers were trained.

The motor vehicle fleet for the patrol consisted of 36 Model A Ford Roadsters at a cost of $413.18 each. The vehicles were equipped with “twin Klaxon horns, a spotlight, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, and an electric ‘Patrol’” sign behind the right side of the windshield. All vehicles had license plates with the words “State Patrol” in bold letters but there were no decals on the sides. None of the vehicles had sirens and there were no heaters in the cars.” (The above quotes are from Celebrating Tradition: A Journey Through Patrol History, 2005, available on the State Highway Patrol website a www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/AboutThePatrol/History/History.html.)

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A Correction

Dear Editor and Mr. Swisher:

I just finished reading most of the December 2007 issue of Pop’Comm, and wanted to congratulate you on an excellent article entitled “A New Jersey Triad”[by Tom Swisher]. It was easily one of the most readable pieces I’ve seen, with good practical information and some great history sprinkled throughout.

As a pilot, I noticed a minor error in the sidebar for NAS Lakehurst Frequencies. The frequencies listed for ATIS are in fact the aviation emergency frequencies (121.5 civilian, and 243.0 military). These are not the Automated Terminal Information System frequencies. I believe the correct frequencies are 110.6 and 270.1 for the McGuire ATIS. You can find the information on McGuire’s frequencies and more about the aviation procedures at www.mcguire.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-071004-083.pdf.

Colin Haig VE3MSC
Milton, ON, Canada

Thank you, Colin, for both the feedback and the new information.—Editor

The Battle Of The FHSS Radios

Dear Editor:

Your December “Tech Showcase” article touting the communications privacy offered by Motorola’s DTR-410 digital 900-MHz FHSS transceiver seems a bit gratuitous. With only six channels that anyone else with another DTR-410 can easily overhear (especially in scan mode) these radios seem to offer no more privacy than a CB radio—which scanners generally can’t receive, either.

Conversely, the TriSquare TSX300 transceiver (also 900-MHz FHSS) described in your November cover story costs one-fifth as much and has 10 billion channels—probably more than enough to keep eavesdroppers guessing.

Am I missing something, or is this choice a no-brainer? In any case, thanks for publishing the latest information on this interesting new wave of personal two-way radio technology.

B. Welle
Via email

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Democracy In Action—Broadcast Media Mayhem For The Primaries

by Bruce A. Conti


The primary season is over and the 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign is well underway as candidates look toward nomination in the national party conventions. For political junkies it’s pure nirvana with all the local broadcast television and 24-hour cable news network coverage of campaign events. “Broadcast Technology” just couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement, taking a look behind the scenes of the media coverage.

Reporting From The Field

It was Primary Day in New Hampshire and the media were on the move with the candidates as they made last minute stops at polling places across the state. A rather large media contingent gathered at a local elementary school hours before the scheduled early morning arrivals of Senator John McCain and former Governor Mitt Romney. An air of anticipation grew as candidates were running more than a half-hour late.

During that time, some reporters were busy interviewing voters and capturing stock video of the swelling crowd, while others talked shop among themselves. “It’s a little give and take,” said WMTW 8 cameraman Arthur Villator in reference to the all the media, “Everyone gets a chance.” Not this time though. The cheers of campaign supporters began to build in the distance and the throng of media was immediately off and running.

Mitt Romney was the first to arrive, greeted by an intense media swarm, a sudden mass media feeding frenzy. Reporters and videographers assertively jostled for position as the candidate worked his way through the crowd. Within a few minutes it was all over and the media rushed off to the next venue. Some reporters were lucky enough to get in on an almost too-good-to-be-true “made for TV” photo-op of the candidate meeting a young fan. Others had to be satisfied with voice-overs from the sidelines.

This was an informal political rally, announced in advance by campaign coordinators as a “natural sound” visibility event, meaning that common audio/video hookups would not be provided. Each media outlet had to be prepared with its own portable cameras and microphones.

Big Event Coverage

Satellite news trucks from across the nation were tightly packed in the parking lot at Senator Barack Obama’s headquarters for Primary Night festivities. Space for the event had to be reserved in advance through campaign coordinators to guarantee access. “Tonight we’re operating from seven locations with a mix of fiber and satellite to the studios,” said New England Cable News (NECN) engineer Barry Gadbois. “Here it took three to four hours to set up with over 2,000 feet of cable to run. We arrived here at 10 this morning and we were on the air for the 4:00 news.”

For WMUR 9 engineer Ryan Hill, who also arrived on-site at 10:00 a.m., Primary Night coverage marked the end of a marathon 75-hour extended workweek. “So far, so good,” said Hill as the Obama event electrical contractor finally started sending an audio test signal, a Steely Dan classic hit, through common mixer and multi-box connections. For a large-scale event like this, individual news organizations tie into a shared main audio/video source, the broadcast media “mult-box,” a single-input/multiple-output distribution box provided by an independent contractor hired through the event sponsor. At the same time, each news team has its own mic/camera equipment and talent in position to file reports. WMUR 9 was the local television station covering the event. “Normally we’d use a microwave link to the studio,” said Hill, “but we’re down in a hole at this location and the microwave signal couldn’t get over the trees, so we had to use a satellite link.”

As an aside, we briefly discussed broadcasting careers. Hill got his start through the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. He interned as a freelance photographer/editor at WFSB-TV in Hartford before landing an engineering position at WMUR. “You can go to school for it, but nobody’s going to hire someone [for engineering] without experience, until you’ve been around. You’ve got to start somewhere. Textbooks aren’t going to give you the hands-on experience,” said Ryan about how he entered the broadcasting engineering field.


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Meteor-Scatter: Heavenly Propagation!  No Sunspots Required!

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ


As a beginning ham I thought that VHF signals traveled along line-of-sight paths and faded out after about 30 miles. For casual 2-meter FM operation, especially through repeaters, that’s mostly true. But because there were no repeaters in my neck of the woods, and because I wanted to work stations in faraway places, I ignored 6 and 2 meters and focused on HF operation, which was much more accessible. Besides, I could easily talk face to face with the three local hams who might have used a repeater if one were available! And I held a Novice class ticket, which didn’t even allow for operation above 10 meters.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, VHF weak-signal operation was still somewhat esoteric. I still remember looking on in awe at the construction articles published in the ham magazines. The project chassis contained a maze of shielded compartments interconnected with feed-through capacitors, and the whole mess was tuned and tweaked by practitioners of that occult art. And the “HF rigs” of that era didn’t include a bunch of bands above 30 MHz like they do today.

The barriers of the day were unfortunate, because once you cross the “30-mile barrier” there are many exciting ways to propagate VHF signals over hundreds or even thousands of miles. Articles in CQ, QST and dozens of websites now describe E- and F-layer skip, tropospheric and transequatorial ducting, moonbounce, auroral propagation, and many other fascinating propagation modes. (That part of our hobby, even today, has a Wild West flavor, and hams and scientists alike are still discovering new propagation modes and are adding nuanced details to what we already know.)

Meteor-scatter communications—bouncing radio signals off of the ionized trails produced by meteors burning through the atmosphere—takes a little patience and a bit of study, but requires only an ordinary station (and perhaps a computer with a sound card). I’m not an expert, but I’ve made a few scatter QSOs in my day. And because I can only introduce the subject in this column, I’ll point you toward more complete information. No worries!

Radio Fun With Meteors And Comets

Meteor showers are produced when the Earth plows through the orbiting debris streams left by passing comets. The debris, mostly dust and other small particles, burns up as it speeds through the atmosphere. (These high-speed particles can also punch holes through space station and satellite solar panels, “sandblast” the exteriors of stuff in orbit, and even chip the windshield of the space shuttle—but we’ll save those for another day.)

Although the Earth constantly sweeps up “random debris” as it orbits the sun, meteor showers are recurring events. The Earth encounters certain debris streams at about the same time each year. Table 1 lists the major showers.

And whether produced by random meteors or the more predictable meteors that are part of a recurring shower, nighttime observers see falling stars streak across the sky. Radio signals “see” the trails left by meteors as long reflective tunnels of ionized particles. Basically, earthbound stations that can mutually “see” the ionized trails can communicate with each other by bouncing (scattering) radio signals off them. The ionized particles are temporary radio reflectors that can be put to good use!


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Africa “Re-arises,” And Lots Of Other Places Are Making More Noise, Too

by Gerry L. Dexter


Although fresh new broadcasters aren’t involved, Africa has nonetheless seen some unusual (read “positive”) activity of late. First, Libya brought its transmitting site at Sabrata back into service and discontinued its use of France’s Issoudun site, which had been doing fill-in service while Sabrata underwent an upgrade. And lately Algeria seems to be making increased use of some of the VT-Merlin sites (Wooferton and Rampisham), having added 5915 and more recently 7175 and 7295. And CVC-The Voice-Africa has begun to use the “international” bands, starting with 13590 and 13650 via Zambia (although the programming source appears to be from CVC-Australia). This may be the first step in their previously announced plans to provide Africa-wide coverage. Then came word that Chad’s Radio Nationale had returned to its familiar and long-used 4904.5 where it’s being heard nearly everywhere in the United States. More positive news that Africa is on a shortwave uptick these days!

Radio Serbia International has taken another step forward, as mentioned earlier, with the recently reactivated Bijeljina site. For North America the station is active on 7115 from 0030 to 0230 and to Europe on 7240 from 1130 to 2230 with 6100 added from 1900. Half hours in English are broadcast at 0100, 0200, 1400, 1930 and 2200.
The Mexican Radio Transcontinental/XERTA, Mexico City, has moved from its previous 4810, where it was usually buried in a pile of noise. It’s now using 4800, leaving a question as to the status of Radio Buenas Nuevas in Guatemala, which also uses this frequency but hasn’t been heard recently—not even as a QRM creator.

Ontario’s CFRX, absent for many months on 6070 will, indeed, make a comeback, according to Steve Canney, QSL Manager for the station and mediumwave CFRB, which it relays. A new solid-state transmitter should be on the scene—or even operational by now. So keep an ear open on 6070 and welcome them back!

A new station in Peru is Radio Manantial, now operating on 4990.8 from Chilca in Huancayo Province. It’s only running 1 kW and is in a “messy” area of the band so don’t expect an easy time if you enter the hunt for this Catholic-affiliated station. The address for reports is care of I.E.P.J., Templo la Hermosa, Jr. Santa Cecilia No. 107, Chilca, Huancayo, Peru.

Reader Logs

Remember, your shortwave broadcast station logs are always welcome. But PLEASE be sure to double or triple space between the items, list each logging separately according to its home country, and include your last name and state abbreviation after each. Also needed are spare QSLs or good color copies you don’t need returned, station schedules, brochures, pennants, station photos, and anything else you think would be of interest. And how about sending a photo of you at your listening post? It’s your turn to grace these pages!

Here are this month’s logs. All times are UTC. Double capital letters are language abbreviations (SS = Spanish, RR = Russian, AA = Arabic, etc.). If no language is mentioned English (EE) is assumed. Lots of logs this time so let’s kick it off!

ALASKA—KNLS, 6150 at 1405 with 80s pop and some hash from a Firedrake jammer. (Barton, AZ) 6890 in Mandarin at 1332. (Schiefelbein, MO) 6915 at 0804. (Patterson, Philippines) 7355 in CC at 1100. (Ng, Malaysia)

ALBANIA—Radio Tirana, 6110 with press review at 0130 to 0142*. (Paradis, ME) 0440. (Maxant, WV) 7430 at 2110 on a new nuclear power project, //9915. (Fraser, ME) 7425-Shijak at 0438 with news, ID. (Parker, PA) 0448 in presumed Albanian to 0456*. (Wood, TN) 13640-Shijak with choir at 1554. (Charlton, ON)

ANGOLA—Radio Nacional, 4950 at 0139 in PP, old pop song, PP ID at 0200 and into news. (Alexander, PA)


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Andrews Air Force Base—A Veteran Scannist (And New Columnist!)
On Listening To The Home Of Air Force One

by Mark Meece, N8ICW


First off as a new writer in the fold here at Popular Communications an introduction is in order. My name is Mark Meece, and I’m a licensed amateur radio operator currently holding a General class ticket as N8ICW. I’ve been licensed since 1986 and live in the southwestern corner of Ohio between Cincinnati and Dayton (home of the annual Dayton Hamvention).

I’ve been involved with the scanning hobby since 1979, especially in the area of military communications since the purchase of a RadioShack PRO-2004 scanner in 1987. I’ve been writing about MilCom activity in one form or another for nearly 20 years, but enough about me, let’s get started!

National Capital Region

The area around Washington, D.C., known as the National Capital Region, is rife with military aeronautical operations. Military air communications in this vicinity are the main focus of Andrews Air Force Base, located about 10 miles southeast of D.C. in Camp Springs, Maryland.

All emergency response and contingency capabilities to ensure national security for this region are the mission of Andrews’ 316th Wing. This includes all rotary-wing aircraft and encompasses equipping, maintaining, organizing, and training to keep combat forces ready to deploy for both air and space expeditionary forces. The 316th, as the host wing for Andrews AFB, is also responsible for providing security forces and other services for the management of the airfields. The wing also is charged with providing support for the President, Vice President, and other U.S. leaders.

There are more than 50 organizations and other federal agencies based at Andrews.

Andrews Air Force Base

Land for Andrews AFB was purchased in 1942 by order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to then-Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and construction began later that year. The 463rd Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron, from Westover Field in Massachusetts was the first permanent unit to take residence, on April 19, 1943. Just a few weeks later on May 2, 1943, Camp Springs Army Air Field became operational. On that day the first aircraft arrived: a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Over the next month the field would see the arrival of 75 more P-47s. The first mission pledged to the base was for training fighter pilots for duty overseas. In 1945 the field was renamed Andrews Field in honor of Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, one of the pioneers of the Air Force. In an ironic twist of fate Lt. Gen. Andrews was killed in plane crash on May 3, 1943, the day after the base first became operational. Not long after that, in 1947, military aeronautical operations became a separate service as the United States Air Force and the facility was renamed Andrews AFB.

Andrews AFB may be best known for its transportation of senior government officials and military leaders, a function dubbed Special Air Missions (SAM). In 1962 during the administration of John F. Kennedy, the presidential aircraft, a C-118, was permanently moved from Washington National Airport (now Reagan National Airport) to Andrews. From that time on it has been officially known as the “Home of Air Force One.” The current Air Force One aircraft is a Boeing VC-25A.

Tenant Units At Andrews

In addition to the 316th Wing, other notable tenant units call Andrews home. They include the Air Force Reserves’ 459th Air Refueling Wing (ARW), which was converted over from an airlift wing in 2003. Also attached are the D.C. Air National Guard’s 113th Wing and its subordinate units, the 121st Fighter Squadron and the 201st Airlift Squadron. The 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews provides global SAMs as issued by the White House, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Air Mobility Command. It is also the headquarters of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigation (OSI).


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Radio Fun And Going Back In Time

by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL


Q. What was Room 40 in relationship to cryptanalysis in World War I?

A. In early August 1914 the British intercepted message traffic from the German battleship Gö ben. The message was not decoded in time to discover that the Gö ben planned to shell several Russian ports on the Black Sea. After the damage had been done Parliament demanded that that the Navy increase their capability in Radio Interception and Decoding. One thing the Navy did was establish Room 40, a code-breaking program set up in Room 40 of the Admiralty building.
Another way the British kept track of the Germans used the German Navy’s internal procedures. Every day every German vessel was required to contact Naval Headquarters in Wilhelmshaven. This encoded traffic was also picked up by a British Coast Guard Station in Norfolk. Unfortunately Room 40 was not able to crack the Naval codes right away.

Then, on August 26, 1914, just 25 days after Germany and Russia declared war on each other, the German light cruiser Magdeburg ran aground in the northern Baltic. Two Russian cruisers came upon the helpless Magdeburg, fired on and captured it. Among the treasures found aboard the stricken vessel were three copies of the German Naval codes. One of the code books was forwarded to Room 40 in London. The codebook and the radio intercepts gave the British a definite advantage on locating German shipping. Within the next few months a quarter of the German merchant marine had been sunk.

Q. Was there any opposition to the CB service when the FCC started to develop it?

A. Yes there was. Nobody likes to lose any part of a frequency assignment and affected entities will always put up a fight. One serious call for delay of the development of CB also came from people who felt that criminals might use the service to commit crimes coordinated by CB. During the ’60s a great many arrests were made by law enforcement officers who had learned to monitor the 11-meter band. Their success rate was primarily because there is no intelligence test required to become a criminal.

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Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN



APCO Summit Focuses On Technology In Public Safety Communications

Just one key issue was on the agenda for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Winter Summit: technology in public safety communications.

Held in late January in Orlando, Florida, the fifth annual event was conducted over three days, taking attendees “on a three-day journey through the technological challenges and opportunities faced by public safety communications executives,” APCO said. Sessions included:

• Is 700 MHz Broadband in Your Future?
• Leveraging Broadband to Improve Public Safety and Emergency Crisis Response
• Lessons learned from the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse
• What Communications Centers Can Learn from Corporate America
• Funding Interoperable Communications

In a report on the organization’s website, APCO said attendees took part “in practical sessions dealing with today’s hot topics—from the regulatory impacts of radio and rebanding, to understanding VoIP and wireless connectivity issues, to strengthening networks and standardizing data exchange.”

“Your peers are a wealth of knowledge, and most are struggling with many of the same concerns you face day to day,” APCO said prior to the summit’s start. The summit, with its focus exclusively on technology, is “the only executive-level event tailored to foster technical information sharing with others in the public safety communications field,” APCO said.

“Whether you’re a technical administrator in a public safety communications agency, a city manager, an elected official, or a government CIO,” APCO said, the 2008 Winter Summit was “the only place to find a complete education on what’s happening with technology in public safety communications.”

$250,000 Allocated For Digital Communications Network In Oregon

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s Strategic Reserve Fund has allocated to the State of Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) $250,000 “to further develop and enhance a statewide amateur radio digital communications network,” according to a statement from an official of the American Radio Relay League.

“This network, the Oregon ARES Digital Network (OADN), already uses a combination of different radio equipment and spectrum segments, computers and the Internet to provide a robust backup communications system in times of disaster,” said ARRL Oregon Section Manager Bonnie Altus, AB7ZQ. “With its enhancements, all Oregon counties will be able to communicate with the state OEM.

“In December [2007], this system proved its usefulness in the storms and floods by utilizing Winlink stations in Lincoln and Clatsop counties to communicate with OEM,” said Altus. “Early in that activation, the OEM’s Amateur Radio Unit found they were not able to keep up with maintaining a complete log of communications when using voice communications, but Winlink activities maintained an automatic log for them.” The main purpose of the OADN is to provide back-up digital communications between Oregon Emergency Management and county Emergency Operations Centers and other state agencies in Salem, if normal communications systems fail in an emergency, Altus said.

According to the League’s publication, the ARRL Letter, “after a visit to one of the severely affected towns, Gov. Kulongoski said, ‘I’m going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning of this…the ham radio operators. These people just came in and actually provided a tremendous communication link to us.’

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New, Interesting, And Useful Communications Products


Protect that new tower you just put up, or other equipment exposed to the elements, with Corrosion Stop (Part No. 16-CSP) from the B’laster Corporation. This water-resistant spray corrosion inhibitor/protectant penetrates surfaces, resists water, displaces moisture, prevents further corrosion, creates a protective barrier and simplifies future maintenance saving you money. Corrosion Stop also inhibits corrosion and protects against salt water and atmospheric salt and chemicals.

Specifically designed for use in the demanding industrial, automotive, and marine parts and equipment industries, Corrosion Stop is appropriate for anything that rusts or is exposed to a corrosive environment, such as towers. Corrosion Stop can be used on engine blocks, electrical connectors, and lug nuts, as well as batteries, antique equipment, locks and padlocks.

Corrosion Stop is available at all Home Depot stores in 11-ounce aerosol cans and retails for $5.50. For more information, visit www.blasterchemical.com.

Thunderbolt HF Antennas From DX Engineering

DX Engineering is expanding its Thunderbolt Antenna series. These high-performance vertical antenna systems are tunable to operate over a variety of HF bands with an SWR of 1.5:1 or less. Reaching up to 43 feet in height, they use 6063 corrosion-resistant aluminum tubing along with stainless-steel hardware for durability. Some models feature a top hat, allowing the antenna to be shorter without giving up efficiency or radiating performance.

For best performance, your installation should include a good ground radial system, such as DX Engineering’s radial plate and bulk radial wire kits, to facilitate connecting ground-radial wires (32 are recommended). Most models offer a tilt-base to allow easier raising and lowering of the antenna. All Thunderbolt Antenna systems are priced at under $500.

For more information, contact DX Engineering, P.O. Box 1491, Akron, OH 44309-1491; Phone: 800-777-0703; Web: www.dxengineering.com.

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A New Cycle Is Born

by Tomas Hood, NW7US


It’s official: the first sunspot of the new solar cycle, the 24th solar cycle that we’re keeping record of, has been observed. This exciting moment occurred on January 4, 2008. When observers took a close look at the day’s images of the sun, they noticed that a small sunspot had developed with a much-anticipated feature—a reversed magnetic polarity. Such a reversal marks the start of the new solar cycle.

Earlier in December, solar scientists and amateur radio operators held their breath when a magnetically reversed, highly active region appeared in the sun’s eastern limb. Because of its reversed polarity, scientists became hopeful that the region would develop into an actual sunspot. If it had, then scientists would have declared the official start of Cycle 24. Instead, it faded quickly away, and the wait was again on…until January’s new sunspot, that is.

While sunspots have a complex magnetic structure, they typically have at least one very clearly defined set of magnetic poles, north and south. At the start of a new solar cycle, the polarities of the new cycle’s sunspots are reversed from the polarities observed in sunspots belonging to the previous cycle. When the first sunspot arrives with a reversed magnetic structure, scientists declare the start of the new cycle. This occurred on January 4, 2008.


A little over a week later, on January 14, the European-built Ulysses space probe arrived over the sun’s northern polar cap. This occurred almost a year after last visiting the south solar pole. This pass completes the third rapid south-to-north transit to date. “This important milestone for the joint ESA-NASA mission also coincides with the start of a new cycle of solar activity,” explained Richard Marsden, ESA’s Ulysses mission manager, “It’s been calm on the space weather front recently and so we are looking forward to some solar fireworks over the coming months as the number of sunspots increases.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to examine the sun’s north pole at the onset of a new solar cycle,” said Arik Posner, NASA Ulysses program scientist. “We’ve never done this before.”

Launched on October 6, 1990, the Ulysses space probe began its journey aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-41. It’s now in a 6.2 year heliocentric orbit inclined at 80° to the ecliptic plane. The Ulysses mission is to conduct the first-ever survey of the sun’s environment in space from the sun’s equator to the sun’s poles. It’s to accomplish this over a wide range of solar activity conditions. Some of the notable results so far include the first detailed measurements of the solar wind (see previous issues of this column for discussions of the solar wind) from the sun’s polar regions at solar minimum and solar maximum, the discovery that the magnetic flux leaving the sun is the same at all latitudes, the discovery of energetic particle “reservoirs” surrounding the sun, the discovery of interstellar dust in the solar system, and the first direct measurements of interstellar helium atoms in the solar system. Quite a list of successes!

The three previous polar flybys, the first in 1994–1995, the second in 2000–2001, and the third in 2007, revealed something interesting and mysterious. This flyby, however, could well be the most interesting flyby to date.

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Radio History In Triplicate…But In No particular Order

by Shannon Huniwell


My folks have always been strong believers in the Biblical axiom, As you sow, so shall you reap. Rather than emphasize the punitive side of this truth, however, Mom and Dad simply urged me to test its power via the United States Postal Service.

Every month or so, my father would happen to have been to the post office while they were coincidentally “running a sale on postcards.” Anyway, that’s what he’d tell me as he handed over a small stack of plain postal cards and then he’d dramatically wonder to whom I’d send them and what the effort might net me in return.

Current research shows that almost nobody writes away for anything anymore, but this story’s block-lettered barrage occurred during the late 1970s, the sunset of a more cordial business era when many companies welcomed hand-written requests for information on their goods and services.

My windfalls typically consisted of promotional literature, radio and TV station coverage maps, an occasional QSL card, or some trinket from a generous firm that probably never suspected they were responding to a 10-year-old girl. At least three-quarters of the stuff resulted from tiny ads Dad had noticed in the likes of Popular Mechanics or Radio-TV Experimenter, circled and then conspicuously left on my desk. Somewhere in my parents’ attic, I bet there’s still a shoebox full of little pencils, wooden nickels, cheap plastic drill-size indicators, key chains, and crudely stamped mini wrenches—the latter a seemingly never-ending response to one pre-stamped/return-reply magazine tear-out card for a now-defunct Midwestern technical school.

Admittedly, I’m long out of practice when it comes to my childhood regimen of sending off postcards in anticipation of having interesting mail awaiting me almost every afternoon. Maybe it’s our 21st Century’s instant gratification, email/ Internet/text messaging and cell call-oriented culture that has made “sending a postcard for details” as anachronistic as seeking out a public payphone to contact a friend. I’ve got say, though, receiving an envelope—especially a big one—with a fascinating return address can still be one of life’s little pleasures.

These days, my biggest postal bonuses relate to Broadcast Pro-File. A card I recently sent off to Pro-File’s Jan Lowry serves as an example. It was addressed to 28243 Royal Rd., Castaic, California 91384-3028 (the same place anyone can request their free catalog detailing the firm’s bargain-priced radio station histories and vintage photos), and simply asked, “Jan, any ideas for my upcoming columns?” On a non-descript Monday, and just when a serendipitous pick-me-up was needed, I noticed one of Pro-File’s crisp white and black 10 x 13-inch envelopes gently curled in my rural mailbox. Inside, were text chronicles and some unique pictures of three stations I had never considered, though one in particular fit my favorite historical category: a short-lived commercial FM facility. Just as my postcard forays had done nearly 30 years ago, the reward of the correspondence to Jan was traveling to faraway places in both distance and time.

Down To Dixie, Back To The Forties

On top of the Pro-File pile were five paragraphs detailing one WFMY. Pop’Comm readers in the Greensboro, North Carolina, area will probably recognize that callsign, but this brief exposé wasn’t so much about the market’s thriving WFMY-TV Channel 2 as it was about that television outlet’s long-deceased FM sister.

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Clearing The Air About CODAR

by John Kasupski, KC2HMZ


For experienced SWLs who have tried listening to a shortwave utility or broadcast station in the presence of a CODAR signal, this month’s column title will undoubtedly draw an ironic snort. “Clear the air, indeed,” you may well exclaim. “Those CODAR stations do anything but!”

It’s true that CODAR signals seem to have a way of interfering with our efforts to log many or our listening targets. Many SWLs have lamented QRM from CODAR systems on the HF bands, myself included. However, many SWLs are in the dark about what CODAR is and what purpose it serves, other than to sometimes thwart our efforts to successfully log other stations on the HF bands.

The CODAR acronym stands for Coastal Ocean Dynamics Applications Radar and refers to an HF radar system that remotely measures surface currents on the oceans. Its purpose is to permit researchers to produce a complete map of ocean currents, without having to actually go out on a boat and deploy an expensive system of current meters.

There are several of these systems currently in operation around the world. A couple of the most well known in the United States are the one that Rutgers University has deployed along the New Jersey coast, and another installed around Monterey Bay, California, and managed by the U.S. Navy. Others that I know of are deployed in Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Alaska, to name a few. In fact, there’s an entire radar “backbone” consisting of numerous existing and planned CODAR installations along the East Coast of the United States and Canada.

But the use of CODAR is not confined to North America. For instance, the Japanese Coast Guard operates CODAR systems at the entrances to Tokyo and Sagami Bays, and a CODAR system located on mainland China is known as a notorious source of interference on 12 meters.

These systems all utilize the same basic technology involving a transmitted radio wave to calculate the basic speed and direction of oceanic surface currents. A typical CODAR system might transmit radio signals in 4- to 18-minute intervals at frequencies from 3 to 50 MHz, employing multiple receivers at different locations to listen for return signals. When a transmitted signal encounters a wave on the ocean that’s half the wavelength of the radio signal and is moving directly toward or away from the receiving antenna, a return signal is produced. Researchers can then determine distance from the time delay of the return signal in relation to when it was transmitted, and they can determine the speed of the wave by measuring the Doppler shift of the return signal.

A radio direction finding (RDF) algorithm is also used, allowing researchers to calculate the bearing of the wave. By using two or more transmitters at different locations to examine the same area of ocean, researchers can then combine the different viewing angles into a two-dimensional map of the upper surface currents, such as the one shown in the accompanying Figure, from the Monterey Bay system managed by the Naval Postgraduate School.

The resulting data is used not only by the researchers, but produces observations significant to determining the settlement of marine animal populations, and thus is of value to commercial fishermen and charters. The data on surface currents is also of considerable aid to oil spill response teams, or others wishing to track pollutants on the ocean surface. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard’s search and rescue (SAR) operations make use of the data for finding and recovering vessels or other objects lost at sea.

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Gimme That Old-Time Radio

by Bill Price, N3AVY (and Son)


Hello loyal readers. I have just pried myself away from WAMU-FM’s “Big Broadcast” with Ed Walker. Each Sunday night he brings us three hours of old-time radio shows, ranging from “Dragnet” to “The Great Gildersleve” and anything in between. For my money, it’s the best entertainment out there, and if you don’t live within the listening area, they’re on the Internet.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have no television. I do own a video monitor and a DVD player, but no tuner. No cable. No antenna. No TV as you know it. There are a few TV shows that I miss, and yeah, if I could get a few channels from a cable or satellite provider, I might do it, but they all want to sell me their idea of the “package” that I want, and I’m just not having any of what they consider a “bargain.”

My earliest broadcast recollections do include television, but the good recollections all involve radio. “Communications” (whether popular or not) includes television, but you’ll notice that most of the subject matter in this magazine is about radio, in one form or another—not the one-eyed timewaster.

It’s hard to find good nostalgia today, and for me, the old-time radio broadcasts are about as good as it gets. I’m old enough to remember hearing them the first time around, and it only takes a moment for me to remember the smell of tubes warming up, whether it was in the little bakelite clock radio in my bedroom, or some monstrosity I would drag home from the dump for a little experimentation and near-death experiences as I learned not to touch the chassis and the laundry tub at the same time.

The first radio station whose callsign I remember is WIBG, 990 kc, in Philadelphia. I discovered rock ’n’ roll just about the time it came into existence, and listened to Joe Niagara and Hy Lit every night until the sandman took me away. Our Cub Scout den built crystal radios with the help of one of the den’s fathers, who was a ham. Mine worked great and lasted a long time—and I remember that it had real headphones, almost identical to the ones I later wore in Coast Guard radio school and on several Coast Guard ships.

And I don’t just thank the Coast Guard for introducing me to maritime radio and Morse code—because one of my duties while in port was to stand a gangway watch—often late at night in New York City, where I was introduced to talk radio. It was nothing like today’s talk-radio—not by a long shot. It was Bob Grant, and Jean Shepherd, and Barry Farber, and for a time, even Geoffrey Holder (some of you geezers might remember his voice from the “Uncola” commercials, but surely anyone who ever heard his voice will remember it).

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