Eric remembers SWLing while deployed in Abu Dhabi

In an email last week, my good friend Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), mentioned the shortwave radio set-up he used while deployed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates back in the early 1990’s. I asked Eric for permission to post his email notes–not only did he agree, but he also found photos he took at the time.

Eric notes:

Desert_Storm_SW_Abu_Dhabi_UAE_01[F]or the Desert Shield/Storm, aka the First Gulf War, I took my Sangean ATS-803A with a doublet fashioned from two Radio Shack audio cables. The doublet was an audio cable with an RCA on one end and lugs on the other; I split the conductors all the way down to the RCA connector and it was almost the right length for a proper 31m dipole.


The feedline was an audio extension (+/- 25′) with a male RCA on one end and a female on the other end. The ‘803A had a proper RCA antenna connector instead of a silly phone connector. I hung the doublet between the peaks of two of our 10-man tents, the front of our tent and the back of our neighbors’. When the UAE winds ultimately broke the doublet at the RCA connector, I stripped the ends and made a random-length end-fed wire out of it.


Our tents had AC-power (and A/C cooling and heat-pump heat) and I’m pretty sure I powered the ‘803A from the “mains” instead of stuffing D-cells into the radio. D-cells were available in the little BX on the base, of course.

The three photos [above] are of my installation in our tent-city at Al Dhafra Airbase near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I did deploy my 31m dipole here. These photos were from before the dipole broke and was replaced by an end-fed wire build from the pieces of the broken dipole.

[This photo] was from inside our "hooch" on the Lockheed Compound near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

[This photo] was from inside our “hooch” on the Lockheed Compound near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Click to enlarge)

That ATS-803A was a great receiver. It’s only real flaw was its size and weight. The size, of course, allowed for a really fine speaker. I traded the ‘803A in at UAR when I bought the ‘7600G and the little active [AN-LP1 loop] antenna when we thought we were to be deployed to Kosovo[.]

Here’s text from my journal I wrote shortly after returning stateside:

“I found many interesting and exotic stations on my shortwave radio, a Sangean ATS-803A and a simple dipole antenna, but as the war progressed,
I settled on the BBC for their award-winning news coverage.”

Many thanks, Eric! I’m happy to hear such a good report of the Sangean ATS-803A–there are still many 803A’s on the used market (click here to search eBay).

Indeed, I just realized that while you were deployed in the UAE, I used the Radio Shack branded version of the ATS-803A: the Radio Shack DX-440 while studying French and living in Grenoble, France. The DX-440 delivered my daily dose of the Voice of America (the only English language news I allowed myself to listen to at the time). Since the VOA broadcast often coincided with meal time at the Université Stendhal cafeteria, I left my voice-activated Micro Cassette recorder in front of the DX-440 which was, in turn, set to turn on one minute prior to the VOA broadcast. It was an amazingly reliable arrangement. (Hard to believe that was over 20 years ago!)

Come to think of it, I’ll have to dig up those micro cassettes and see if I still happen to have one with a recorded broadcast.

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