Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Information from a reader that might be of interest. Due to the high volume of training being conducted this summer, I have not had time to take a proper ****, let alone verify the information provided. Do your due diligence.

HT to:  RWilliams

For cheap secure tactical comms also consider:

Digital dPMR or DMR radios:

Kirisun S760/780 ($120/ea)- voice encryption option built in, software programmable (free),
Cannot be decoded by radio scanners.


Connect Systems CS700 ($200)
4 watt TX on high power
Free programming software.
16 bit Basic Privacy built in voice scrambler (65,536 codes), set a 4 digit key
Digital signal cannot be decoded by scanners

Tytera MD380 ($165-$200/ea)
5 watt TX on high power
Free programming software
*128-bit Enhanced Privacy encryption (set a 32 digit key) built in, 128 bit Privacy offers an unfathomable amount of possible keys!*
Cannot be decoded by scanners, even without encryption.

There are videos on You Tube on how to program these radios. You need a programming cable, the software (free), and a computer.

Also search radio to learn more about radio communications.

Comms 101 at AmRRON

Posted: 07/24/2015 in Communications

If you haven’t seen it here’s the link to a pretty good comms primer from the folks over at AmRRON.

Motorola DTR Repeater

Posted: 07/09/2015 in Communications

Had some folks asking about a repeater for the Motorola DTR series radios. Here you go. Disclaimer:  I have not tested it. If someone has, send us the information and we will post it.

Had a reader recently ask about the scanner used in Chapter 4 of “The Patrol”. My answer, of course, was the ICOM IC-R6 which, due to it’s small size and weight, works great for a patrol. I added that the Uniden HomePatrol is used as our retreat fixed base scanner.

This article produced by Sparks will give you some information regarding an alternative to the fairly expensive, and limited HomePatrol. If you are fairly computer literate and somewhat familiar with basic radio communications, this might be the ticket for you. I’m currently working on this setup as a new addition for the radio room.

And thanks to all the readers and the comments regarding my latest madness.

Read & heed, kids.

The Base Defense Operations Center or BDOC (pronounced “b-doc”)is defined by the Army as “A command and control facility established by the base commander to serve as the focal point for base security and defense. It plans, directs, integrates, coordinates, and controls all base defense efforts and coordinates and integrates into area security operations with the rear area operations center/rear tactical operations center”.

In layman’s terms, the BDOC is the central area you designate to run all aspects of your retreat defense. From the BDOC you will command and control (with your communications devices) your perimeter guards, your LP/OPs, your QRF (Quick Reaction Force), your R&S teams and any patrols in your AO/AI. The definition above stated that you would coordinate and integrate with the Tactical Operations Center TOC (pronounced “tawk”). Our BDOC and TOC will be fully integrated in one room. The ACE is also part of the BDOC in our situation.

I will chiefly address the communications aspect of the BDOC.

We will have a dedicated person designated to run our retreat BDOC communications. He is the old guy (or could be a gal) that has the bum knee and can’t hump a ruck but is sharp as a tack. He’s the fellow that got his amateur radio license back before SHTF. In our case the BDOC facility is pretty high-speed; an old table, overloaded with radios, scanners, fieldphones, a couple of twelve volt batteries hooked to solar panels, with maps of the AO on a nearby wall, set up in a backroom in our retreat. It’s away from the sleeping areas because it’s manned 24/7. There the old guy writes our SOIs, guard duty rosters for the perimeter bunkers, LP/OP, radio watch roster, and mans the SITMAP. SITMAP, what’s a SITMAP you say? To which I say “Get you happy ass over to Sam’s guerrillamerica site and study up”. The SITMAP is usually in the TOC, but again, ours is combined. The old guy is also responsible to train our other folks on the use of the comms equipment. Remember, the BDOC is manned 24/7 and he can’t do it alone.

On those radios (yes I said “radios”, as in plural) we monitor the following: deployed R&S team nets and the QRF net if either has been deployed, the communications receivers (scanners) for “Bubba” on the CB, Marine, GMRS/FRS bands, emergency services freqs. and the HF net with other like-minded groups in our area. We also man a field phone network running to each of two manned bunkers. One bunker covers the high-speed avenue of approach (road) into the area of our retreat. The other covers a rear, less accessible foot path. A few yards in advance of our bunkers and at various other areas around our retreat perimeter we will have established hide sites for two-man LP/OP positions.


As listed in the SOI, our retreat has two bunkers and two LP/OPs (Listening Posts/Observation Posts – the LP/OP’s are not heavily fortified positions, they are instead well camouflaged positions that provide early warning of approaching forces. Listening at night, observation in the day.

The primary comms to our bunkers from the BDOC consists of two sets of field phones. One set to each occupied bunker. The same for each occupied LP/OP. The east LP/OP phone is connected directly to the BDOC. The other LP/OP is about 100 yards north of the north bunker and that LP/OP phone is connected directly to another north bunker phone.

So we have a total of 3 phones at the BDOC. One to each of 2 bunkers and one to the east LP/OP. The north bunker has 2 phones, 1 to the BDOC and another to the North LP/OP. For a grand total of 7 phones. You could eliminate 3 phones at the BDOC is you could manage to scrape up an old SB-22 switch board.The SB-22 has its own headset and mic in place of a phone.

We use one spool of standard army WD-1 wire on a 1/4 mile DR-8 spool for each circuit. When running each circuit, a stake is driven into the ground to loosely tie the wire to. Enough slack is left at the stake to run the free end of the wire into the BDOC. The wire is then spooled out from the BDOC to each position, where it is again wrapped around a stake. The extra wire and the spool is left at the position to allow personnel manning the position to quickly spool the wire back up toward the BDOC.  If the position is not manned the phones are disconnected and returned to the BDOC while the wire is left in place. I have used tied down comms wire to find my way to a position at night with no illumination. It’s probably a good idea to call and give the guards on duty in the position a heads up prior to using that trick. Once a day the wire is physically checked for taps, cut wire and attached booby traps.  Each time a phone is attached to the wire a test call is made to the BDOC. A unique colored plastic wire tag is attached to each set of wires running from the comms room to the individual positions. While tags can be attached to each end of the wire if you have multiple phones at each position, in our example we will only tag the BDOC room end. The tags are colored as per the SOI below.

SOI 1 in effect 0500Z26OCT13 until 0500Z27OCT13

1. Organization call signs:
C/S Suffix
Retreat BDOC R5T
Cdr 6
R&S 1 – 1
R&S 2 – 2
1SL 11, 21 or 31
2SL 21, 22 or 32
3SL 31, 32 or 33

HF Net
Primary Freq 40 M 7.615.5Mhz USB data
Secondary Freq 80 M 3.136Mhz USB data
HF Net C/S
Us  B2P
Group 1 R2B
Group 2 U6M

2. R&S to Base communications:
Primary: Radio 1 primary 144.250MHz alternate 223.750MHz
Alternate: Radio 2 primary 151.820 MHz alternate 154.600Mhz
Contingency: Pin Flares IAW SOP
Emergency: Visual Signal-17 Panel IAW SOP
R&S will contact Base at route waypoints 1 through 4 on mapsheet XXXXXXXXXX or at 6 hour intervals from 0500Z26OCT13.

3. Inter patrol communications:
Pri: Hand and arm signals per SOP
Alt: Radio 2 primary 151.880MHz alternate 154.600MHz
Con: Voice commands
Emr: Whistle per SOP

4. Telephone Circuit:
Location C/S Wire Tag
Base Base
North Bunker 1 Blue
West Bunker 2 Red
North LP/OP LP1 Green
East LP/OP LP2 Yellow
Base shall make a net call with all occupied positions every half hour. Net call failure by any occupied position will initiate the QRF to that location.

5. Visual signals: as indicated

6. Recognition signals:
Pri: VS-17 Panels – 1 Orange 1 Magenta
Alt: Blue Smoke
Con: 2 red pin flares 30 seconds apart
Emg: sign / countersign

Pri: Red lens flashlight – 3 flashes.
Alt: 2 red pin flares
Con: 2 whistle blasts
Emg: letter number combination

QRF response to occupied positions:
Primary: Field Phone
Alternate: Radio on guard frequency
Contingency: 3 blasts on air horn
Emergency: Runner

7. Challenge and password: Linebacker/Screwdriver
Running password: Indian
Number combination: 13

8. Authentication word:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

As you can see, I took the SOI from a previous post and modified it. The SOI is a tool to ensure that everyone concerned is on the same sheet of music. You might be surprised by the amount of people involved in our retreat. If you think you are going to get by with just you and the missus, you might want to re-evaluate your situation. Something to consider that’s been said here before; when you pick up nearby scanner traffic of “Bubba” in your AO and he intends to do you harm, you only have four three options:

1.  Call in an airstrike and drop a 2000 lb JDAMS on his position to be followed up by a few passes from an AC-130 Gunship.

2.  Un-ass your AO to your secondary retreat (if you’ve planned one) and hope he doesn’t follow you.

3.  Call in a FRAGO to the deployed R&S team and change their mission into a combat patrol, whereupon they spring a well-rehearsed ambush and eliminate “Bubba. This requires proper tactical training on your part before the event.

4.  Do nothing and die-in-place.

Great research and info. by Sparks.

A question I posed to a commenter and to a group of like minded radio savvy individuals recently; what do you do after SHTF and you determine , by the use of your scanner/analyser, that someone is emitting in you AO/AI and they mean you harm? I got a lot of blank stares.
The point is to remember that communication equipment is just a tool that allows you to effectively coordinate actions with friendlies and understand the intentions of not-so-friendlies. Nothing more.

So now you have three options:
1. Bug out to your secondary retreat and hope the bad guys don’t follow/find you.
2. Conduct a recon patrol that will probably be frago’d to become a combat patrol and deal with the problem.
3. Die in place.

The first two options require some prior planning and rehearsal/training, the last, not so much. In order to put the first two in place you must:

Put together plans for and rehearse occupying a secondary retreat.

If you don’t have a group (No man is an island) it’s time to start putting one together. It’s hard to repel boarders when it’s just you and the wife. If you don’t have some serious weapons training under your belt and don’t know the difference between a recon, security or combat patrol, then those black rifles in your safe are pretty much useless. Take a look at the training Mosby or Max offer. Or find some prior service combat arms guy in your area that can get you spun up. Trust me, they are out there and they are conducting the training.

Or just pick option three.

This is in reply to a recent comment by a fellow Paratrooper bud of mine.

Rakkasan, Good job on the ICOM R-6 scanner purchase. Here’s the deal. The scanner will have to be programmed using the supplied book. And what you want to listen to is up to you. We use our R-20 to listen to “Bubba” in our A.O. That means the gmrs/frs/cb/marine/murs radios that “Bubba” can easily get his hands on and use around our retreat. So I would concentrate on programming those frequencies first. They can be found on the internet. The scanner is tiny enough that you can pack it in your gear and monitor while at home, on the move or while laid up in the patrol base (hint, hint). Sort of like having your own SOT-A. Believe me, those scanners will bust right through the so called “privacy settings” on those radios. But they can’t pick up the Motorola DTR.

You can also program it to listen to some local public service (police, rescue, fire, etc). First you have to get their frequencies and the easiest way is to subscribe to Radio Reference online. If your local public service are using the new digital or trunked systems, the R-6 will not receive them. My group uses the Uniden HomePatrol for that because it’s a lot easier to program for that specific use, it constantly updates and will monitor trunked and other new systems. With the HomePatrol you plug in the Zip Code and BAM!, your listening.

If you find hand programming your ICOM scanner a pain in your fourth point-of-contact, then do like I do and buy the BUTEL ARC 6 software for the R-6 or R-20. You will also need a cable to connect your computer to the radio. Either the ICOM OPC-478 cable for a RS-232 port on your computer or the ICOM OPC-478UC cable for the USB port on your computer. Most computers have the USB port. For my money, the software is the way to go.

The whip supplied with the scanner is OK on some bands and not so good on others. So, a lot of radio folks like to attach home made or purchased antennas in order to extend the range of reception or intercept. The cable you were asking about is to connect the radio to a wire antenna to do just that. One end of the cable will attach to the plug when the short whip (or as we called them the “donkey dick”) on the radio is unscrewed. The plug on the radio under the whip is an “SMA” type. One side of the cable screws onto it. The other side of the cable is the PL-259 type connector. You can screw it to any antenna that has a SO-259 connector. (PL stands for plug, SO stands for socket). SMA is listed as male or female. SO/PL-259 connectors are usually attached to larger diameter coaxial cables mostly used for short wave or Ham radios.

If you want to use a lighter, thinner type of cable, then instead of the SMA / PL-259 cable, pick up the SMA / BNC adapter for a few bucks at You will see them listed on the ICOM R-6 page. Go to Radio Shack, purchase a few feet of RG-58 coax with BNC ends attached, cut off one end and solder a 10′ piece of thin black plastic coated 18 to 22 gauge wire to the center conductor (make sure you don’t let the outer braid touch the center wire, strip the braid back an inch or so then tape the joint up or put heat shrink over it). Attach the other end (with the uncut connector) to the radio and scan away. If the radio reception is overloaded, start cutting the wire (not the coax) shorter until the reception is reasonable. If you cut it too short, start over. Here’s what I would do; I would run the short whip when on the move, scanner attached to my plate carrier or vest in a MOLLE pouch with the ear bud in one ear, then when we stop for a long break or in the patrol base, pull the whip, attach the wire antenna and throw the wire up in a tree or bush or carry a tack with the antenna and pin the free running end of the antenna to a tree trunk as high as I can reach. That makes it easy to pull down and stow if you have to bug out. Somebody in the patrol should be monitoring at all times. We want to know what “Bubba” is doing around us.

Now that your totally confused, here’s yet another option; for about $20.00 you can purchase a ready-made dual band flexible antenna. It is the OPEK HR-603VU-SMA VHF UHF DUAL BAND FLEXIBLE HANDHELD PORTABLE HAM ANTENNA w/SMA. Screw it to the scanner and go to town. The whip is flexible enough to bend over and tuck under a MOLLE loop on your ruck when on the move. When you stop moving, extend the whip up for better reception. The down side is if you are in an area with a lot of traffic it might be too sensitive.

Better yet, enroll in one of Sparks31’s communications courses while you still can and learn first hand from a master.



The Frequency Spectrum

Posted: 02/08/2014 in Communications

A commenter recently posted a question regarding a specific handheld scanner. While replying, I remembered a site that displays all US frequency allocations in chart format. Here is the link: Save it to PDF for future reference.

Recent articles at Guerillamerica, Signal Corps and here referencing the application of SIGINT, and COMINT have generated several follow-on replies. In reference to Sparks article “Watching The Watcher” that I re-blogged on this site, I had a series of queries from a reader asking about the vulnerabilities of HTs (Handy Talkies or handheld radios) to being remotely activated. He was concerned after my reply was, “if it is a newer Software Defined Radio (SDR) then it is entirely possible for them to be hacked and remotely activated. A better reply would have been; it’s possible but not probable with a few caveats.

As we all now know, the government is spending a lot of money and time in order to keep our country secure from “terrorist threats”. I personally believe, having been witness to our government’s M.O. for many years, that this is primarily .gov run amok, using 911 as an excuse, to create new agencies and expand existing agencies with bloated budgets that are good at justifying themselves. The intelligence community is, without a doubt, the greatest beneficiary of this bonanza.  In the Army we called this “The self licking ice cream cone”.

How does this impact our mission? Keep in mind that the vast majority of our governments intelligence work is done from behind a desk, in front of a computer. Also remember that due to human nature, the first target of choice will always be the easiest, with the largest payoff or “the low hanging fruit”.  Most government agencies allocate spending based on priorities of work. The NSA’s priority is obvious; the collection and storage of cell phone and internet traffic is the low hanging fruit. This is not to say that no resources are directed toward other forms of collection such as aerial platforms.

Because of the aforementioned, I wouldn’t be overly concerned regarding your radios being hacked. While cell phones are ubiquitous, Ham band HTs are not. Even non-ham band HTs, such as GMRS/FRS are a fraction of the number when compared with all the cell phones and computers in use. All cell phone and computer traffic has to go through third-party equipment and networks. That’s normally where the eavesdropping takes place. But also remember, a cell phone is still a radio that is tied to a network of repeaters and routers that we call cell phone towers. And even though it is illegal for civilians to possess the equipment to intercept digital cell phone calls during transmission from the phone to the tower, .gov is under no such legal restraints and does possess the equipment. I know for a fact that the government was under legal restraint to operate the equipment against American citizens in the US prior to NDAA. I suspect that has changed, and if  it has not changed, who will identify and prosecute violators? This is why cell phone and internet use can be risky and why it is considered the low hanging fruit in the intel community. Logic dictates that if you can easily gather mountains of information from those two sources from the safety of your cubicle and reap the benefit of vast funding doing so, why would you expend resources going after hicks in the woods with radios? The organizations that have the equipment and ability to intercept and DF your HTs are few and far between, let alone the organizations that can remotely activate your HT. To remotely activate your HT, they would first have to know what brand and model you are using, the radio would have to be an SDR vice tube or discrete component radio, have access to the radio’s software and then, if possible,  determine how to exploit it. I will tell you, and Sparks will verify, that Ham radio manufacturers change radio design, models and options about as often as my wife changes shoes and purses. At least three times a day. The amount of ham equipment available is staggering. In order to dedicate the resources required to attempt activate your HT, you would have to have become a major pain in someones ass on the order of UBL or the FARC.

Your comms equipment priorities when operating in the field should always be based on METT-TC :

MISSION:  What communications equipment do I need to accomplish the mission? Do I need long haul comms or just short-range line of sight radios? Can I do it without radios? Can I just use hand signals? Smoke? VS-17 panels? Whistles? Do I need an SOI? (you bet your ass you do!) don’t forget PACE.

ENEMY:  In the signal arena, how can the enemy exploit your available communications? If you can’t answer that question, your intel sucks balls and you are a miserable failure as a leader. You probably spent all your time and money on guns, ammo and Mosby’s or Max’s classes, when you should have allocated some on training folks in your group on intel.  So take your shooters to the field, key a mic and try to outrun a JDAMS.   If the BDA photo in the article didn’t get your attention, or you think you can outrun one like the hero in the movie, take a look at the real thing. I can tell you from experience, that is probably the Mk 82 500 lb, not the Mk 84, 2,000 lb version.   I would highly recommend attending Sam’s course over at  to  get your intel folks up to speed. You have several signal threats; 1. the local bubbas, the golden hoard and/or local law enforcement with civilian scanners or like type radios monitoring your comms. 2. Local law enforcement with augmentation from other government agencies. 3. Military without SIGINT assets but with like type radios to intercept your comms 4. Military SIGINT. 5. .gov SIGINT.  1 through 3 can be hampered with the use of brevity codes and encryption. 4-5 can hear you and find you.  Your best defense is a good intel system. Know your threat!

TERRAIN & WEATHER:  How will terrain affect my comms; line of sight radio in the mountains? How can I use the terrain to mask my radio signals? Can I rig long wire antennas without trees? Do I need whisper mics and ear buds at the ambush point?  Is the mission at night and will hand and arm signals be seen by all members of my patrol?  Will smoke be effective in the rain? at night?

TROOPS:   Do I have folks trained in the use of my radios? Do they understand hand and arm signals, can they read the SOI? Do I have enough troops to provide security while my radio operators set up antennas? Do I have enough troops to carry radios and batteries? How do I cross load comms equipment?

TIME AVAILABLE:  Do I have time to train them on and practice with the radios? Will there be time to set up long wire antennas? Do I have enough time to get to my target while humping the extra weight of the radio gear?

CIVILIAN CONSIDERATIONS:  When I key my radio mic, will grandpa, who lives in the house across the valley, hear my transmission over his TV set? Will the bear hunters in the woods intercept my GMRS radio transmissions on their radios? The truckers on their CBs? If I leave my long wire antenna in the trees, will some kid happen upon it?

If you do your signal planning, training and have good signal intel, wondering if someone can activate your radio remotely should be way down on your list of worries.