Tag Archives: Military Communications

Radio Waves: Keeping CA Wildfires at Bay, 50 Years of KNOM, 24-Hour Saudi Radio Urdu Service, New Comms for Navy Subs, and North Korea Cracks Down on TV

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Peter Abzug, David Iurescia, and Dan Robinson for the following tips:


How A Group Of Dedicated Volunteers Are Keeping California’s Wildfires At Bay (NPR)

The Los Angeles Fire Department depends on help from amateur radio volunteers when fire threatens communications infrastructure. NPR looks at how ham radio operators are keeping residents safe.

50 years of KNOM Radio Mission (KNOM)

Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning, or you’re just getting to know us: it’s you, and your faithful support, that has made KNOM America’s oldest Catholic radio station. Thank you!

KNOM has been broadcasting in Western Alaska since July 14th, 1971, when the station could first be heard in Western Alaska.

The continuing mission has been possible only by the hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and love of thousands of people: our staff and volunteers, listeners and community members, and thousands of loyal benefactors across the nation who keep the lights on and the transmitters running. KNOM stands on their shoulders.

[…]Fifty years into KNOM’s history, the radio station is deeply embedded in Western Alaska. As we look to the future, KNOM’s vision is to one day be ‘taken over’ by the region – existing entirely for, and by, Western Alaskans. As the very first song ever played on KNOM – “We’ve Only Just Begun”, by The Carpenters – proclaims, the mission is just getting started.

KNOM continues to live out its values each day – as it has for five decades – as a friend and companion offering respectful service based on Catholic ideals. It is centered on the four cornerstones of the mission: Encountering Christ, Embracing Culture, Empowering Growth, and Engaging the Listener.

KNOM continues in sharing God’s love for Western Alaska through embracing its strength and beauty and being invested, long-term, in the growth of the region.

By engaging each listener with respect and companionship, KNOM hopes to amplify stories of hope, courage, and resiliency in Western Alaska.

Click here for stories and features on the KNOM 50th Anniversary Page. 

Saudi Radio To Launch 24-Hour Urdu Transmission (Bol News)

JEDDAH: The Saudi Radio plans to launch test transmission of a 24-hour Urdu service from the middle of September 2021, while the services will be formally launched on September 23, a Saudi official said.

The transmission will include programmes on Islam, the holy Quran, Ahadis and historical and world affairs.

Saudi Broadcasting Authority deputy chairman Faisal Ilyafi said this, while talking to a delegation of the Pakistan Journalists Forum (PJF).

The world transmission was started from the holy city of Makkah in September 1950 with a 15-minute slot for the Urdu programme, he said, and stressed that it is the need of the hour to face challenges and keep ourselves abreast of the changes in media.

The Saudi Urdu transmission has decided to continue its transmission on social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, FM, Shortwave, Satellite, and Twitter, he added.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has given approval to the project under the supervision of Media Minister Dr Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi, he said, adding that the Saudi Information Ministry has also made several other languages part of the project.

The deputy chairman said any language has a supreme significance to disseminate news-cum-events, that’s why many foreign languages such as Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew and Chinese would be part of the transmission.[]

Communication Breakdown: Navy Submarines Need a New Way to Talk to Each Other (The National Interest)

Sea water diminishes the power of electrical transmission, challenges identified many years ago by the Navy and some of its partners who have been working on under communication for decades such as Northrop Grumman.

As Navy innovators work intensely to pioneer new methods of undersea communication, many might wish to reflect upon the decades of technical challenges associated with bringing any kind of undersea real-time connectivity to submarine operations. Historically, certain kinds of low-frequency radio have enabled limited degrees of slow, more general kinds of communication, yet by and large submarines have had to surface to at least periscope depth to achieve any kind of substantial connectivity.

The advent of new kinds of transport layer communications, coupled with emerging technologies woven into unmanned systems, are beginning to introduce potential new avenues of data processing and transmission intended to bring greater degrees of real-time undersea data transmission to fruition.

Sea water diminishes the power of electrical transmission, challenges identified many years ago by the Navy and some of its partners who have been working on under communication for decades such as Northrop Grumman. Northrop’s efforts date back to the World War II era and, along with the Navy and other industry contributors, helped pioneer the innovations that helped adapt RF communications architecture to sonar today. Considering this history, there are some interesting synergies woven through various elements of undersea warfare radio communications.

A 2014 essay by Carlos Altgelt, titled “The World’s Largest “Radio” Station,” details some of the historic elements of how the U.S. Navy pursued Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) undersea connectivity. Through its discussion of low-frequency ELF connectivity, the essay explains the technical challenges associated with undersea communication, which seem to align with how Northrop Grumman innovators describe how undersea communications will need to largely evolve in the areas of acoustics and optics.

As Altgelt notes: “As a result of the high electrical conductivity of sea water, signals are attenuated rapidly as they propagate downward through it. In effect, sea water ‘hides’ the submarine from detection while simultaneously preventing it from communicating with the outside world through conventional high-frequency radio transmissions. In order to receive these, a submarine must travel at slow speed and be near the surface, unfortunately, both of these situations make a submarine more susceptible to enemy detection.”[]

North Korean capital cracks down on illegal TVs to prevent access to South Korean broadcasts (RFA via the Southgate ARC)

Each Pyongyang household must report the number of TVs they own, and they face stiff punishments for hiding them

North Korea has ordered residents of the capital Pyongang to report the number of televisions in each household to stop them from watching banned shows from prosperous, democratic South Korea, sources in the country told RFA.

In North Korea, access to media from the outside world is strictly controlled, and TVs and radios are manufactured to only pick up domestic channels and must be registered with the authorities. But residents do find ways to access South Korean signals, either by using foreign televisions or modifying domestic ones.

Getting caught during routine inspections with a TV that can pick up illegal signals is a punishable offense. Residents with more than one television hide their illegal TVs during inspections, only to bring them out again to watch Seoul’s latest hot drama or variety show, former residents told RFA.

Authorities are aware of the deception and have issued a directive that every household in the city declare to their local neighborhood watch unit how many televisions they have.

“Residents are trying to hide them, but the judicial authorities are trying to find them. They are looking for TVs that can get South Korean TV channels in addition to the ‘official’ channels,” said a resident of Pyongyang, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

“Everyone knows that in Pyongyang, South Korean TV signals can be picked up in various areas,” the source said. He mentioned the Mangyongdae and Rangrang districts in the center of the city of 2.8 million.

In these areas the residents have been known to have two or three televisions in their homes, so they can watch the legal channels during inspections and watch South Korean broadcasts in secret,” the source said.

The source said that residents have developed clever ways to hide their illegal TVs.

Read more from this very interesting Radio Free Asia article:
https://www.rfa.org/english/news/korea/tv-05252021155129.html


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An HF “Renaissance”: Militaries reinvests in shortwave communications

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Michael Guerin and Dennis Dura who share the following story from C4ISR.net (my comments follow excerpt):

LONDON — Special operations commands across Europe are ramping up their capabilities with high-frequency communications to ensure connectivity on the battlefield. Leaders there are turning to high frequency communications as a way to optimize properties that provide a low probability of interception and detection.

Special forces in France, Germany, Poland and Ukraine continue to receive high-frequency, or HF, systems as a way to diversify communications plans, industry sources confirmed to C4ISRNET.

Some special operations organizations have selected L3Harris’ AN/PRC-160(V), industry sources said.

Enhancements in HF come at a time when NATO members and partner forces are suffering from a disruption of satellite communications, particularly along the alliance’s eastern flank where Russian armed forces continue to conduct electronic warfare.

In an online presentation to the Association of Old Crows on Aug. 6, Paul Denisowski, product management engineer at Rohde and Schwarz North America, described how communications satellites are vulnerable to antisatellite systems as well as ground-, air- and space-based “kill vehicles.”

“China, Russia and the U.S. have all carried out ASAT tests and many other countries are developing ASAT capabilities,” Denisowski said, using an acronym for anti-satellite. To boost resilience, some commands are turning to high-frequency communications.

During the presentations “Lost Art of HF” and the “Rebirth of Shortwave in a Digital World,” Denisowski explained that HF is making a comeback in local and global communications. This renaissance comes as the result of improvements in a range of fields, including antenna design, digital modulation schemes and improved understanding of propagation.

The market is also helped by reductions in size, weight and power requirements as well as the introduction of wideband data, enhanced encryption algorithms and interoperability with legacy HF sets, he said.

“This means end users are now benefiting from easier-to-use and cheaper solutions featuring improved data performance, audio quality, availability and operation. And because of a lack of infrastructure, HF is less expensive and relatively robust, although solar events may temporarily disrupt HF communications,” he said. Specific upgrades include “Adaptive HF,” which comprises automatic selection of frequency and the establishment of communication through automatic link establishment, or ALE, technology.

The latest technology of its type — 4G ALE — is capable of supporting wideband HF communications, or WBHF for short, providing end users with the ability to “negotiate bandwidth, modulation type, error correction and the number of sub-carriers,” Denisowski explained.

“ALE selects frequencies using link quality analysis, which allows it to listen and determine if a channel is in use and adapt if conditions change,” he said.

He added that HF can now support data rates up to 240 kilobytes per second on a 48-kilohertz channel, particularly useful for more robust communications in hostile environments.

“WBHF has already [been] used in military trials. It’s a technology which is most definitely here and now,” Denisowski said.

[…]The report explained how the U.S. Army and European NATO partners explored such scenarios during a series of joint exercises in 2019 and 2020. “A new need arrives for alternative communication skills, justified through the increasing vulnerability from SATCOM jamming as well as the potential failure of SATCOM as a result of attacks on spacecraft or through the use of anti-satellite surface-to-air missiles,” the report’s author, Jan Pätzold, told C4ISRNET. “The development of alternative skills is important to reduce dependence on SATCOM.”

According to Pätzold, so-called Skywave HF, which bounces signals off the ionosphere, enables beyond line-of-sight communications across “thousands of kilometers” without requirements. HF communications is also ideally suited to supporting local network coverage. “This offers advantages over SATCOM in urban areas, but also in mountainous areas or far north latitudes where no line of sight to existing satellites is possible,” Pätzold said

Click here to read the full story at C4ISR.net.


My comment: What’s old is new again

As I’ve said in previous posts:

The shortwaves–which is to say, the high-frequency portion of the radio spectrum–will never disappear, even though international broadcasters may eventually fade into history. I often think of the shortwave spectrum as a global resource that will always be here, even if we humans are not. But on a brighter note, I expect the shortwave spectrum will be used for centuries to come, as we implement various technologies that find ways to make use of the medium.

HF communications require so little infrastructure to be effective. It’s a global communications medium that carries messages and data at the speed of light with no regard for national borders. Sure, there are reliability issues with HF propagation, but even amateur radio enthusiasts employ weak-signal digital modes that almost seem to defy propagation. I’m certain with the backing of the military, even more robust digital modes will be used (above and beyond ALE).

Even the business world sees opportunity. Case in point: we’ve seen stock traders set up point-to-point HF communications to edge out their competitors who rely on fiber optics.

HF systems are more durable and easier to harden to endure times of intense space weather events that affect our sat networks as well.

But then again, I’m preaching to the choir.

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First Brigade Combat Team: Legacy HF comms provide “unlimited range with zero cost or resources”

(Source: DVIDS via Kim Elliott)

Photo By Staff Sgt. James Avery | Capt. Luke Reese, commander of C Company, 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), successfully transmitted a 300-mile high frequency voice and data radio check to West Point, May 3, 2018

Going the Distance! 1BTC Uses HF Radio to Go Far and Wide

FORT DRUM, NY, UNITED STATES
05.03.2018
Story by Capt. Ed Robles
1st Brigade Combat Team,10th Mountain Division (LI)

FORT DRUM, New York (May 3, 2018)–Captain Luke Reese, commander of C Company, 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), successfully transmitted a 300-mile high frequency voice and data radio check to West Point while spearheading a new program to boost tactical communications from Fort Drum. Maj. Gen. John Baker, Commanding General, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, observed the radio check from West Point.

In an effort to renew some looked-over radio options, Reese opened the possibility of HF long-range capabilities.

“This is something we’ve been working on,” said Reese. “Dusting off some of this old equipment that hasn’t been used in years and use it as a relevant back-up plan.”

Leveraging high frequency is a skill that hasn’t been prioritized in the Army in recent years. The Army uses frequency modulation and ultra-high frequency tactical satellite, which have benefits, but are also limited.

“HF presents some challenges because making this network functional requires some level of experience… there’s really an art to it,” said Maj. Craig Starn, 1BCT S6 officer-in-charge. “The major benefit is it provides unlimited range with zero cost or resources required and no lead time is required to use the system.”

Reece’s efforts in HF strives to enhance the Army’s ability to maintain mission command while extending the brigade’s, or any unit’s, operational reach.

Click here to read at DVIDS.

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Guam to California: CTF 75 successfully tests HF communications system

Electronics Technician 2nd Class Anthony Juarez and Electronics Technician 3rd Class Codie Flanagan, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB)1, adjust frequency codes on a GRC-234 high-frequency base station at Naval Base Guam July 27, 2017. (Source: DVIDS)

(Source: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System)

NAVAL BASE GUAM , GUAM
08.04.2017
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Torrey Lee
Commander, Task Force 75
Subscribe 5

Commander, Task Force (CTF) 75 successfully completed communications systems tests using high-frequency (HF) radio waves to broadcast voice and data 6,050 miles from Naval Base Guam to Port Hueneme, California, July 27, 2017.

The assessment tested the capabilities of expeditionary forces to use HF waves to deliver data over the Pacific. HF has become a viable alternative for military forces when more common forms of communication, such as satellites, are unavailable.

“In this particular back-up plan, we tested our ability to talk, and we were able to send text to one of our units that is across the Pacific Ocean,” said Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Carmon, a communications planner temporarily assigned to CTF-75. “The transmissions and receptions are not as fast as IP services, however we were still able to communicate in a timely manner with the distant end.”

Utilizing the assets of CTF-75’s Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, the command configured its antennae to broadcast to California. Once a successful voice transmission was received, communication directors at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Pacific requested that CTF-75 try to send a data file.

“These data files allow us to save time,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Anthony Juarez, a communications supervisor assigned to NMCB 1. “We can send general diagrams, fire plans and points of interest. Instead of trying to verbally describe something, they [the recipient] have a graphic or a picture that gives them a better idea of the situation.”

Common communication devices used by the U.S. military incorporate satellites. CTF-75 has been testing HF systems in the case of satellite communication failure. HF is a frequency wave broadcast that is transmitted around the curvature of the Earth. Unlike other forms of frequencies, such as very-high frequencies and ultra-high frequencies, the transmission is not distorted by terrain or physical obstructions.

“We may not always have access to operational equipment or the latest assets, but as communicators we should have a backup plan that is ready to be executed,” said Carmon.

Guam is located in the western region of the Pacific. Having an HF range of 6,000 miles is equivalent to broadcasting from Japan to the U.S., or oppositely, from Japan to the middle of Africa. During this most recent test, CTF-75 was also able to establish communications with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 in Hawaii.

“We can hop our communications from island to island,” said Juarez. “This test gave us the opportunity to know we can push our system to the absolute max from Guam. There are definitely different systems out there, but our system is really efficient at long-range HF. As new radios are incorporated in the Navy expeditionary community, I have no doubt it will get faster, more reliable and easier to set up.”

CTF-75 is currently testing its communication abilities with subordinate commands which include Seabee units, riverine squadrons, cargo handlers, explosive ordnance disposal technicians, and expeditionary intelligence forces.

“This achievement was an important step in an effort to increase our capabilities to be prepared to execute missions in austere locations around the globe,” said Carmon. “Our expeditionary commanders may never need to communicate over a few thousand kilometers, but if the need arises our communicators will be able to provide the connection for that commander.”

CTF-75 is the primary expeditionary task force responsible for the planning and execution of coastal riverine operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving engineering and underwater construction in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations.

Read the full article at the DVIDS hub…

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Shortwave Radio Recordings: EAM messages

StrategicAirCommand

Inspired by SWLing Post reader @K7al_L3afta, a few weeks ago, I monitored 15,016 kHz for US Air Force EAM (Emergency Action Messages).

I’m no expert on military communications, but I did manage to catch a few messages–that I assume are EAM(?)–on the same frequency.

All of these recordings were made on the afternoon of February 15, 2015 on 15,160 kHz in the upper sideband:

Recording 1

Recording 2

Recording 3

Recording 4

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