Band Conditions

12 December 2018

Watching The Skies

I was outside earlier, and heard an aircraft fly overhead. This is a normal occurrence around here because we live right on top of and next to a few air traffic lanes. How about you? Do you know where your local air traffic lanes are located, and what frequencies they use for communications? This information is important as a change in air traffic, determined by the change in communications level and tempo, may be an indicator, depending on what you're looking for.

Skyvector has online aeronautical sectional and enroute charts that will show you your local air traffic lanes and the communications frequencies used with them.  When used with ADS-B ELINT, you get a pretty interesting picture of what's going on above you.

09 December 2018

Brevity Codes

Useful reference.

LLVI - Low Level Voice Intercept

That intercept operator from the 513th MI Brigade is using an AOR AR8200. A good choice for a wideband portable if you can afford it. Considering what some of you spend on an M4orgery that won't see half the action a communications receiver in the hands of a competent operative will see, the AOR is a bargain. However, now that events have gone to a slow boil in the US, and that this is a come-as-you-are party, you just have to run what you brung.

Low-Level Voice Intercept (LLVI) is exactly what what the name implies. It's performing point and sector searches for voice communications, and something scanner hobbyists have been doing for decades. Even if all you have is a cheap Chinese HT, you can still run LLVI as it receives the VHF-high and UHF land mobile bands just fine. I've actually had students in previous classes do that, and they managed just fine.

Here are some examples of less-expensive gear you'd use for LLVI. The receiver on the left is a Whistler WS1040. No surprises there. It covers all the necessary bands, does P25 Phase I, trunking, and has Spectrum Sweeper. To the right is an Alinco dual-band (2m/440) HT that has some extended receive coverage up to ~900 MHz. They both have 1/8" audio jacks for plugging in headphones. I run them right into my amplified shooting earmuffs that conveniently have a 1/8" audio jack input. It serves both to keep the noise level down at a field LP, and let you hear what's going on around you. A notebook for logging and keeping useful reference material handy. Spare batteries, writing instrument, and something to hold it all that I found at a local army/navy store.

Go visit to get frequency data for your point and sector searches, use online mapping will show you places that are located above your average terrain for listening. Gear up, take a quick hike, do some listening, and enjoy the view.

That's all there is to it.

08 December 2018

Connecticut Commo Class

Just a reminder that we are one month out from the Basic Grid-Down/Down-Grid Communications, Communications Monitoring, and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Class on January 6th. in Watertown, CT.

Sparks31 returns to New England.
Basic Grid-Down/Down-Grid Communications, Communications Monitoring, and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Class
January 6th, 2019, 0800-1800 EST
Watertown, CT
Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether communications between people (communications intelligence—abbreviated to COMINT) or from electronic signals not directly used in communication (electronic intelligence—abbreviated to ELINT). Signals intelligence is a subset of intelligence collection management.

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

Topics of instruction include the following:
  • Learning about Electronic Communications - A Primer
  • Communications Monitoring HF-to-UHF
  • Intelligence versus Information
    • Intelligence Requirements
  • SIGINT - Signals Intelligence
  • Listening Posts and SIGINT Operations
  • Communications Services
    • Amateur Radio
    • Part 95 & 15 (license-free or "license by rule" services)
  • Communications Networks
    • Interoperability - What it is, and how to make it work.
  •  Increasing System Performance
    • Antennas
  • Grid-Down versus Down-Grid Realities
  • Basic Crypto Systems and When It Is Legal to Use Them
  • Alternatives to Radio Communications
Cost for this class is $100. Please enroll via our storefront at
See you in class!


I would like to thank everyone who has submitted their reports so far.  There is
still plenty of time for the rest of you to submit yours. Bonus points to those of you who used the contact form on the right with a Mailinator return address. That shows you've been paying attention.

In the meantime, we have this wonderful article from the Atlantic:

It sure sucks when someone you don't like is in charge, doesn't it?

07 December 2018


The MONEX has ended. Please submit your logs at your earliest convenience. Logs must be submitted NLT than 15DEC2018 - 0000 UTC to qualify for class drawing.


The MONEX has now begun.

05 December 2018


Was at the local Walmart this evening. Found the following items of interest.

12V 7.5AH SLABS for $23.83 each in sporting goods next to the trail cams. I still use SLABs when on a budget, weight is not an issue, and charging arrangements are odd. Unlike more modern battery chemistries, SLABs are very tolerant when it comes to charging them in a field expedient manner.

My standard go-to these days for offline writing and diagramming. 97 cents each in the office/school supplies. USA made. Get one for the MONEX this week, and make it your first LP/lab notebook. Bring one to class.

03 December 2018

Praxis: OPFOR RDF Capability

Stuff they don't cover on the ham radio exams.

Currently deployed systems are good for at least 2 degrees accuracy with much less than 10 seconds of transmission time from an emitter.

Артиллерия - плохая новость, товарищ.
لا تمزح.

See you in class.

02 December 2018

MONEX: Pearl Harbor - 07DEC2018

MONEX: Pearl Harbor
07DEC2018 - 0000-2359 UTC

Equipment Required
SSB/CW/digital HF receiving capability from 1600-28000 KHz.

Frequency Ranges Of Interest
  • User selects frequency range(s) from Table 1, above.
  • User performs band/sector searches on selected frequency ranges for at least 1 hour during time frame specified.
  • User posts log as a comment to this post, and via email to
 All qualifying participants will be entered into a drawing for one (1) free admission to any one 2019 Class. To qualify, at least three complete log entries must be submitted.

Zucking Around

Everyone likes to trash FB, but it works for now. FWIW, I've maintained a S31 presence there since the beginning of this endeavor without issues.

If you're not comfortable saying it on a witness stand, under oath, then don't say it on social media.

So, for those of you who maintain a FB presence, here is where the cool kids hang out.

Is is good?

I spent this morning at an antique radio swap. It would have been a good opportunity for any locals to pick up a nice vacuum tube receiver for their commo preps. The museum will be holding more of them throughout the year, so Nutmeg State readers take note!

I'm always being asked by readers "Is such-and-such a good radio?"  While I have owned more than a few different makes and models of receivers and transceivers over the years, I can only personally vouch for about 1% of what's out there.

As far as SWLing goes, my usual go-to receiver is an Icom IC-R75. Those of you who have been to a class within the past few years have seen it, usually along with a Whistler WS1040 police scanner.

Both of these are good radios, but they are not the only good radios out there. Let's look at a reasonably-priced tube receiver that you might have found at the recent swap meet:

This is a Hallicrafters S-53. It is a low-tier general coverage HF receiver from the late 1940s-1950s. Many of them were used in Novice stations of that era. Is it any good? Google it, and you'll find Eham rates it 4.3/5. You'll also find a manual and schematics online to download. A search of sold/completed auctions on Ebay will tell you what they sell for, which will help you make an offer (or counter-offer) to a seller. Overall not a bad choice, especially for your first tube radio that you could actually fix.

While I was at the swap meet today, I gave a little help to one of the younger (probably around 14 or so) attendees who was trying to get a 1970s vintage RS-232 terminal up an running. No one else there seemed to be familiar with RS-232. After showing him how to do a hard loopback (short pins 2 & 3), what the dip-switch settings on the back of the terminal adjust, and the difference between DTE and DCE, I told him to do a search on the make/model, on the EIA RS-232 standard,  and to surf beyond the first few pages when doing so. Sure enough, he found documentation and learned that the code displayed on the screen was for a keyboard error. Turns out that DEC and Hazeltine keyboards are not compatible with each other. You all are likely packing phones with Internet access. Got a question and don't have a nearby expert to help you? Google it.  You'll get enough info to at least make an educated guess.  Here's another one:
 You find one of these on a table for $5 at a hamfest. You know the make and model, and its frequency coverage, but a web search doesn't turn up much. What do you do?  Look at the battery compartment. Any corrosion? Put in some batteries, turn it on, and tune around the bands. Hear anything? If the inside is clean, it turns on, and it receives signals, then give the seller $5 and add it to the collection. Is is good? Who cares? It only cost a few bucks and it works. Use it for your favorite SW broadcast, or leave it on the local 2 meter repeater or fire dispatch frequency.

Place Your Spectrum On A War Footing

From EETimes:
DoD Places Spectrum on a War Footing
The U.S. Navy has formally elevated electronic warfare and the underlying electromagnetic spectrum to the status of a “warfighting battle space” equivalent to its sea, air, land, space, and cyber operations.
The directive approved by Thomas Modly, undersecretary of the Navy, acknowledges the growing significance of what has also become known as “spectrum warfare,” defined as the merger of conventional tools like electronic warfare with cyber operations.
On the private sector side of the house, we have this news story from one of my southern colleagues, Brushbeater, on problems with

Lest we think this is something new with, here is a similar post from a different source almost 2 years ago:

Also our old nemesis the Russkies are back at it again:
Russia suspected of jamming GPS signal in Finland

Russia jammed GPS during major NATO military exercise with US troops

Не ошибитесь товарищ. Она может быть красивой, но она тебя испортит.

With the whole world placing its spectrum on a war footing, you should too. Have you ran a band/sector search recently to keep your SIGINT skill-set up to speed? Have you paid a recent visit to the FCC General Menu Reports page to see if any new licenses became active near you? Do all your (and your buddies') radios have the same programming? Have you found and programmed in a bunch of simplex channels and tried them to make sure you can all talk to one another when the local repeater goes down? Have you set up (and tried) a PACE Plan? This is all stuff you need to do now, so you'll hopefully have your act together when the balloon goes up.

Need help? In only two weeks on December 15th, I will be hosting a free class, Intelligence Preparation of the Neighborhood (IPN), in Watertown, CT. IPN is a systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat and environment in a specific area. It is designed to support estimates and decision making. Applying the IPN process helps you selectively apply and maximize your capabilities at critical points in time and space. This free course will provide an introduction to the IPN process, and how it applies to individuals and small groups or voluntary associations.

On the first Sunday of next month, there is the Basic Grid-Down/Down-Grid Communications, Communications Monitoring, and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Class, also in Watertown, CT. This is a one-day class that covers all the basics you need to set up your monitoring post, collect signals intelligence (SIGINT), get on the air with amateur radio and personal communications services (FRS, GMRS, MURS, CB, Part 15), and establish communications networks and interoperability with other like-minded individuals.

Those of you who do not live in the Northeast will also have opportunities to learn. A full schedule of classes across the United States has been set up for 2019.

Things are not going to get better in this country. If anything, they will continue to get worse. Now is the time to set up your communications, information collecting, and intelligence producing networks, and become proficient in their use, before it becomes too late. We have seen "outages" and "deplatforming" of alternative Internet sites, active jamming of navigational and communications networks, and small-scale civil disturbances. Now is the time to prepare while you still can.