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Partisan Tactical Communications Options: The Technological Approach for Unconventional Warfare

August 7, 2013

(the following is a guest article, courtesy of MSG “Daniel Morgan,” USASF (retired). MSG Morgan spent a career in Special Forces as an 18E, Special Forces Communications NCO. He kinda knows what he’s talking about. As always, italicized parenthetical notes are mine.–J.M.)



Due to the inherent small size of the partisan element and the initial lack of firepower,

when operating in a UW environment, the partisan must master the techniques of stealthy

movement (“Stealth is survival!”). He must also maximize the utilization of available terrain features to provide (OAKOC) cover and concealment from the enemy. And finally, he will insure that his patrol’s intended actions or location is not compromised due to lax communication procedures.


Partisan communication requirements in UW cannot be approached in a one-size-fits-all

manner. The overriding question that must first be answered is, “what is the ability of an

opposing force to exploit my communication techniques?” This question can only be

properly answered with accurate and timely intelligence (filling in the blanks of METT-TC).

Once the question is answered, the partisan has several avenues he can take, keeping in

mind that the environment will constantly evolve, and his survival and that of his

organization is based on his ability to be aware of and adapt to those changes. This again

requires the proper use of accurate and timely intelligence. Are you beginning to notice a


If the partisan has developed good intelligence on the Opposing Force (OPFOR), he will

then understand the probable threat that exists against the type of communications he has

available. He will then use the proper communication tactics, techniques and procedures

(TTPs) to avoid detection.

For the average partisan group, the communication assets available include, (1) basic

patrol communication techniques and (2) radio communications. All patrols should, as a

matter of routine, already make use of the basics techniques. That leaves radio communications which, while it has many advantages, can be extremely vulnerable to intercept and/or direction finding. Intercept being the eavesdropping of your radio communications. Radio Direction Finding (RDF or DF for short) refers to the establishment of the direction from which a received signal was transmitted.


When you key the mike, if you are in the line of sight of the DF receiver and your signal is strong enough, The DF receiver will get a one line bearing to your location. If two DF

receivers get a bearing, they will combine to get a fix on your location. If that happens, then very, very

bad things begin to happen in your AO.


The somewhat good news regarding RDF is, the radios you choose to utilize, as a small, mobile patrol, have a signal that will almost always be masked by terrain features. So, if you limit your transmissions to areas that are surrounded by terrain, such as hills, ridge lines or mountains, or at least blocked by terrain in the direction of the RDF receiver, you increase the odds of no DF/intercept by ground DF forces. The bad news is some very sophisticated RDF platforms are airborne (manned aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones). Line-of-sight from the ground to the air is unobstructed.

Counter-measures for intercept operations include utilizing the lowest transmission power feasible, terrain masking to block line-of-sight transmissions, use of directional antennas, (beyond the scope of this article), using well thought out Signal Operating Instructions (SOI) with brevity and authentication codes, or the use of voice encryption devices. Counter-measures for direction finding operations also include low power transmissions, terrain masking, directional antennas and the use of frequency hopping radios. Again, keep in mind that low power and terrain masking are only effective against a ground threat. They are still vulnerable to airborne threats.


Some Scenarios:

Let’s say I were a partisan unit commander operating in my current Area of Operations (AO). I would operate in various scenarios as follows:


1. Total grid down scenario (for you prepper types): The bad guys are probably what’s left of the Cannibalistic San Franciscans that have managed to rape, pillage and plunder their way to the East Coast. I would utilize basic patrol communications skills (in every scenario) and one of the two frequency hopping radios listed below. If I did not have access to those radios, I would utilize one of the other radios listed in conjunction with brevity codes and a proper SOI (maybe a future article).


2. Tyrannical Regime, local law enforcement involvement: Same basic patrol

communications, frequency hopping radios.


3. Tyrannical Regime, federal law enforcement, military involvement. If my

intelligence informs me there is a high probability of DF/Intercept capability in my AO:

Basic patrol communications only. Period…


If you feel you absolutely must use that radio, some suggestions: I would limit my transmit power to the lowest setting and keep my transmit time to a minimum. I would utilize terrain masking. I would also un-ass the transmit area ASAP. When I transmit it would be at least one major terrain feature or one kilometer (click) away from the patrol base. If I absolutely had to transmit from my patrol base, I would un-ass it immediately. Just because your intelligence information says there are no RDF ground units operating in your AO, don’t forget about or ignore the aerial threat.


For those of you who ask why my answer to number 3, I have provided an open source

list regarding current and proposed military capabilities. Peruse at your leisure. Feel free

to provide updated information.


The advantages and disadvantages of each is method is discussed in detail below.


Basic patrol communication techniques (already covered by Mosby)

Advantages: Stealthy, hard to intercept and deceive.

Disadvantages: Very short range except for the signal mirror, in which case, signal meaning must be pre- arranged prior to use.

Vulnerabilities: Not too many. Usually only if the details of your patrol order or SOP

have been compromised. You do publish a patrol order before each mission, right?


1. Hand and arm signals. If you don’t have an organized hand & arm signal SOP, you’r e wrong. For some basic hand and arm signals go here:


2. Smoke. Many uses. i.e. Communicating your location and authentication (colored smoke) when re-entering friendly lines, signal to lift or shift fire, masking your withdrawal when breaking contact, etc.


3. Whistle. Prearranged signal to begin an assault, lift or shift fire, etc. Handy tool if you get separated from your group on a training mission, your GPS batteries go dead and you were too friggin’ lazy to learn how to use a map and compass. I emphasized training mission so don’t be blowing a damn whistle when your on a real world mission and you’ve broken contact with the rest of your patrol. That’s what the last known rally point is for (to the MSG’s credit, this should go without saying, but we’ve all seen local indigenous personnel do really stupid shit when they’re scared and lonely. Don’t be a dumb-ass.)


4. VS-17 Panel. Military version is High-Vis Orange on one side, High-Vis Magenta (that’s hot pink for the artistically challenged…and VS-17 panels are fucking stupid visible for those who’ve never seen one) on the other. Folds up in an OD internal pouch. Cut them up and safety pin them into the top

of your patrol cap or boonie. You can use either pre-arranged color or combo of colors as a far recognition signal when re-entering friendly lines where you wouldn’t want to use smoke, (i.e.: Recon & Security Patrol returning to the patrol base.) or to locate the release point when approaching the ORP etc. Lots of uses. (As a side note on a comment by Mosby regarding cat eyes on patrol caps, at our last meeting with “The Team Sergeant”, I noticed his cat eyes attached to his patrol cap in the old school manner, with a safety pin, allowing them to be attached or detached as needed. The Team Sarnt’s got his shit wired tight) (In my defense, growing up when and where I did, our SOP was for cat eyes to be sewn on. I’d never seen the safety-pin idea. I do kind of dig the old-school version the Team Sergeant demonstrated. As MSG Morgan pointed out, the boss’ shit is wired tight…and dude is harder than woodpecker lips. I should probably point out that in this instance, the word “boss” is used strictly as an honorific. He’d be pissed if I called him boss to his face, and I certainly don’t want anyone thinking he’s responsible for my indiscretions in authoring this blog.)


5. Signal Mirror. Many uses. Just don’t get carried away, the mirror flash can be seen for miles. I don’t carry a dedicated signal mirror, but prefer to use a compass with integral mirror under the protective hinged cover, yet another dual use item. (on the other hand, I do carry a dedicated mirror on my shit, and it’s still a multi-use item, since I also use it for personal hygiene. After all, a girl needs to make sure her mascara is on properly, right?)


6. 550 Parachute Cordage. Yep, yet another reason to carry it. OD color of course, strung on the ground from the LP/OP to the patrol base. Pulled several times by the LP/OP personnel to silently alert the patrol base of an approaching element. We also used it in ambush situations to allow the flank elements to silently alert the Patrol Leader of an approaching element (Damn, John Poole was behind the times again when he thought that no one but him and the Asiatic ninja-types knew about this trick….)


Electronic communication devices:

1. Radios:

Advantages: long/intermediate range,

Disadvantages: batteries go dead, weight, complexity, requires availability of repair parts, knowledge and equipment to repair, all can be located by direction finding equipment and most civilian voice encryption devices can be defeated.

Vulnerabilities: Time to slay some sacred cows. And this will get a little technical. So if you’re a lazy ass or you know it all already, stop reading here. If, however, you want every edge you can get to stay alive, read on.

All UHF/VHF FM radios are line of sight. If you can see directly from a transmitting

antenna to any receiving antennas, frequencies match and the signal is strong enough,

you should make commo. Voice Intercept Threats: Notice I said “any receiving antennas” Plural. This is very important. If the bad guys are on the same freq. they can eavesdrop. This is called a voice intercept. No problem you say! Ill just use the privacy code on my FRS radio. The privacy code is not

voice encryption. It is merely a type of squelch capture. Anyone with a programmable scanner or FRS radio will be able to intercept and monitor your radio. Some FRS radios

come with a feature known as voice scrambling. The voice scrambler in these radios use a

technique called fixed frequency inversion. Online software (Invert), hardware de-

scramblers (Ramsey SS-70) or simply another radio with a fixed frequency inverter could

be used to descramble the communications.

Voice encryption is technically illegal on CB, GMRS and MURS frequencies, so they

suffer the same vulnerabilities to scanners and other radios.

Many Marine Band radios offer the ability to add on a voice scrambler, but once again the

security level is fairly low. Some Marine Band radios made by ICOM offer split band

scramblers or rolling code scramblers (slow hopping split band). Split band offers a low

level of security as there are only 32 possible scramble codes and the slow hopping split

band scrambler offers a medium level of security at best with slightly more than 1,000

possible codes.

Two civilian radios that might be more appropriate to the partisan are:

TriSquare eXRS radio: 1 Watt 900 MHz ISM band . The basic model (TSX-100) offers

1000 channels and the high end model (TSX-300) offers 2 billion channels. You can get a

pair of the basic model radios for around $50 and a pair of the high end radios for about

$90. The eXRS radios use frequency hopping technology (Hop rate: 400mS or 2.5

frequency hops per second) and analog narrow FM voice. The frequency hopping will

prevent interception by a radio scanner. However, since the voice is still analog the slow

frequency hopping can be tracked and the voice demodulated by a near field surveillance

receiver such as the Optoelectronics Interceptor or the newer Optoelectronics Xplorer.

Motorola DTR (Digital Two-way Radio) (about $250 per radio) 1 Watt 900 MHz ISM

band The Motorola DTR uses frequency hopping technology that changes the

transmission frequency every 90mS or almost 11 times per second. The voice is digitally

modulated using VSELP.. Most Motorola DTR radios, such as the DTR 550 come with

five public channels enabled. By following the instructions that come with the radio you

can enable channels 6-10. If you want private communications to secure against the

possibility of another DTR radio from overhearing your transmission you can purchase an

optional keyboard programmer from Motorola (approximately $40) which will allow you

to create private channels by setting your own unique 11-digit radio I.D. (1 Trillion

codes). This will give you a fairly high level of security since no other DTR radio, unless

it has the same 11-digit I.D., will be able to hear your transmission. As far as being able

to hear a DTR transmission by using a near-field surveillance receiver- it won’t work

since the audio is digital. The surveillance receiver can track the frequency hopping, but

the “audio” will sound like popping. Even if a high-end frequency counter (being fed to a

digital scanner) were able to track the frequency hopping of the DTR it would still not be

able to decode the audio because digital scanners can only decode APCO P25 digital, not

VSELP. They are however much more durable and reliable than the TriSquare eXRS

radio. The Motorola DTR is a MILSPEC radio.

1. Radio general data.

FRS – UHF FM 14 Channels 0.5 Watts

GMRS – UHF FM 23 Channels (7 shared with FRS) 1 to 5 Watts

MURS – VHF FM 5 Channels 2 Watts

Marine band radios – VHF FM 88 Channels 1 TO 25 Watts

CB radio – UHF AM/SSB 40 Channels AM 4 Watts/SSB 12 Watts

HF, SSB – As much as it kills me to say this as a former 18E cw (Morse Code) guy, HF

has no place as an inter-squad radio in UW. It can be used as a medium-to-long haul

radio from the patrol back to the AOB/FOB. HF communication techniques would

require a separate massive article due to it’s complexities.

Military Surplus Radio equipment – I won’t cover it in this article due to the vast amount of varying equipment (and if you think it would be easy to intercept civilian radio communications, think how easy it would be if you gave them the freqs….and it’s not like any military-developed encryption is not susceptible to military decryption. Just sayin’…..)

2. Wire devices

Advantages: very secure (OPFOR must physically tap into the field wire at some point, a good reason to walk your wire every day) (This was one of the major jobs conducted by SOG in Vietnam, along the HCM Trail….). Some devices require no batteries.

Disadvantages: labor intensive, limited range (couple of miles), repair parts, ability and

equipment to repair. Unless your organization has grown to the point of deploying a company size element to the field, sound powered phones such as the TA-1, TA-43 have no place in the partisan

SUT patrol due to their weight and field wire requirements. They work great for fixed

positions (I think everyone should have enough for one at the house and one at every LP/OP. When we finally get SFOB Valhalla built, to replace SFOB Rifleman’s Ridge, my plan is to even have a dedicated line to the front gate…just for the cool guy, “wow” factor when people show up and want in.)




US Army: Tactical Ground Stations

1.) Brigade Combat Teams {BCT). Each combat BCT has an organic military intelligence (MI) company, with improved SIGINT capability.


2.) Five battlefield Surveillance Brigades (BfSB), of which an MI Collection Battalion is the core element, are being formed. Each of those battalions is 1/3 SIGINT; the Army expects to have more than 7,000 new MI soldiers by 2013.


US Army: Tactical Ground Stations listed above capabilities:

Prophet Block I began rolling out in 1999-2000, and was operational in Afghanistan. At the time of initial operational capability, the assumption was that PROPHET would be issued six systems per division, four per armored cavalry regiment (ACR), three per Initial Brigade Combat Team (IBCT).

Physically, the basic Prophet platform is built around a mounted AN/PRD-13(V)2 direction-finding (DF) system designed to provide force protection in a DS role to the maneuver brigade. This system operates in the HF, VHF and UHF spectra. It provides line-of-bearing (LOB) data and intercept on unencrypted, single-channel push-to-talk transmissions.

It can be put into sub-assemblies that can be carried by a four-man team individual soldiers, although the more common deployment will be in an M1097 HMMWV.

Tactical communications, not just for SIGINT, are “flattening”, such that units do not just report up their chain of command, but to adjacent units. One of the rationales for doing so is that a combat unit can see an opportunity and move against it, without it being misidentified by a neighboring unit and being engaged with “friendly fire. ”

Prophet Block II adds electronic attack (EA) capability to Prophet, while Block III upgrades the Prophet receiver to collect against advanced and special signals. These enhancements will be coordinated with UAVs and tactical aircraft with expanded SIGINT capability. Blocks IV (expected IOC 2008) and V (expected IOC 2015) add MASINT along with micro-and robotic receivers to the Prophet Ground system.

MASINT will include ground surveillance radars (PPSSD) and the Improved–Remotely Monitored Battlefield Sensor System (I-REMBASS) aboard a shelter-mounted HMMWV. Prophet, with the I-REMBASS monitoring system, will form the Ground Sensor Platoon of the brigade combat team Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Squadron.

Prophet Air will begin in a UAV.


Army Special Forces have the Support Operations Team-Alpha (SOT-A) that can operate with an

SF team, or independently. This is a low-level collection team, which typically has four personnel. Their primary equipment is the AN/PRD-13 SOF SIGINT Manpack System (SSMS), with capabilities including direction-finding capability from 2 MHz to 2 GHz, and monitoring from 1 to 1400 MHz.


US Marine Corps: Tactical Ground Stations

Subordinate to Radio Battalions, US Marines have a multifunction AN/MLQ-36 Mobile Electronic Warfare Support System that gives the operators limited armor protection. It contains two WJ-8618B(S1) acquisition receivers and a WJ-32850 MANTIS DF system which, together, provide signal intercept and radio direction finding. One AN/ULQl9(V) electronic attack set, a secure communications system, logistics variant of the light armored vehicle (LAV)-25.

The AN/PRD-12 is a tactical, man-transportable system that provides search, intercept, and DF on communications signals in the HF/VHF/UHF bands. Up to four PRD-12 stations can be networked, providing DF data to a mission control station via radio link with single-channel ground and airborne radio system (SINCGARS) equipment. Any of the four stations can act as mission control.

The AN/TSQ-130(V)2/(V)5 technical control and analysis center (TCAC) is a tactical, transportable, SIGINT-processing, analysis and reporting system installed in a large, self- contained, modified S-280G shelter. TCAC is the primary system used by the Radio Battalion SIGINT support unit.

The team portable collection system (TPCS) upgrade is a semi automated, man- transportable communications intelligence (COMINT) system. It provides intercept, collection, radio direction finding, analysis, reporting, and collection management support.

Intended for the Radio Reconnaissance Teams attached to Marine Expeditionary Units, the radio reconnaissance equipment program (RREP) SIGINT suite (SS)-1 is a semi -automated, integrated, open architecture radio intercept and DF system composed of a ruggedized computer and six functional modules that plug together.. the SS-1 enables radio reconnaissance teams (RRTs) to target the majority of low-level, single- channel, unencrypted tactical signals of interest used by military, police, insurgents, and other potential hostile forces throughout the world (for the record, I italicized and underlined that for emphasis….–J.M.)

The RREP SS-2 will provide a highly deployable, man-transportable, signals intercept and DF system employed by RRTs in support of the entire spectrum of MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) operations. RREP SS-2 employs advanced receiver capabilities, cellular phone and other digital communications collection and DF technology, global positioning system map navigation software, a more modular design, and electronic attack capabilities. The hand-held integrated directional receiver and homing (HIDRAH) system is a man- transportable, tactical, cordless, radio intercept and signal line-of-bearing (LOB) DF system consisting of several COTS (Commerical, Off-The-Shelf…in plain English, commercially-produced items that a unit decides it needs, now) items in an enclosure appropriate for the field.

HIDRAH provides RRTs with a threat I&W capability during radio reconnaissance foot-mobile patrols and signal homing support for tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel operations. The HIDRAH system has a unique design that may be employed independently in a hand-held manner or by mounting it to an M16 rifle.

For SIGINT operations, the basic US Marine augmentation to Force Recon is a 6-man detachment from a Radio Reconnaissance Platoon. There is a SIGINT platoon within the Intelligence Company of the new Marine Special Operations Support Group


United States: Tactical Aircraft Platforms

US tactical SIGINT aircraft include the EH-60A Quickfix helicopter, which has interception capabilities in the 1. 5-150 MHz and direction finding between 20-76 MHz.


The EH-60L has better communications and upgradeability than the A model, with the

AN/MSR-3 TACJAM-A system.

RC-21 Guardrail aircraft provide a corps-level ESM capability, with the unusual approach of putting all the analysis equipment on the ground, with the RC-12K/N/P/Q aircraft acting purely as intercept and relay platforms. The Guardrail aircraft normally fly in units of three, to get better cross-bearings in



(My sincere and humble thanks to MSG Morgan for this contribution. It is my genuine hope that he will offer more contributions in the near future. For the record, any other readers with appropriate backgrounds and/or knowledge, please feel free to submit contributions. If you have a SOF background, include a brief bio for me to look at–it will remain confidential and be deleted as soon as I’m done corresponding with you to verify it–and expect the typical butt-sniffing to verify credentials.–J.M.)


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  1. rolf permalink

    Some outstanding info…

  2. Switchman permalink

    Great info. I’m currently studying for my Ham license and researching all things “comms”, so this topic came along at just the right time. I just ran across an article tonight on an amateur radio site stating that the power company’s new Smart Meters are interfering with comms in the 33cm band (902-928 MHz). Just curious if the MSG was aware of this and if not, would it change his suggestion of using the TriSquare eXRS radio? A link to the article:

    • Switchman, welcome to Mosby’s site and thanks for the comments brother. Good luck on the Ham license. I looked into your link. What a mess, huh? From my vantage point, I can see some serious issues regarding the use of the ISM band in built up areas. So I guess my question to everyone is, will you operate in the city, suburbs or rural areas? Will the grid be up or down? If the grid is up and you are in a densely populated area, you will have interference. I would suggest having multiple communication options available, and just like your weapons, practice, practice practice. In the environment you will use them in. Do you fire your weapon on the square range, sitting at the bench, wearing your flip flops and speedos or out in your expected battlefield conditions wearing full battle rattle? Same with your comms. By the way, I put the TriSquare out there as a suggestion only. I havn’t seen very good reviews on it and havn’t used it. I have used the Mot. DTR and while it can be complicated and expensive, it is a beast. I would liken it to taking a High Point .45 vs a Kimber Tac Pro II into battle.

  3. NorthIdaho permalink

    Thank you MSG Morgan — great information. Can you please recommend (reliable, affordable) headset, PTT solutions for the partisan (with recommended DTR or eSRX)?

    • Northidaho, Sorry I missed your comment earlier. I don’t have any experience with the eSRX. When I was active we ran with a lot of COTS (commercial off the shelf) equipment. We bought the early version DTRs. We ran Peltor Intrinsically Safe throat mikes. They were very expensive. But they were waterproof. comfortable and tough. I never had one go down. As far as other recommendations, I can’t make any due to the fact my guys aren’t running any at this point. If we test any in the future I’ll get back with you.

      • NorthIdaho permalink

        Thank you MSG. Were you running the Peltor throat mikes with the Peltor ‘ear-hanger’? Very interested in getting qualified advice, such as yours, in this area. Were you using the Peltor PTT as well?

      • Northidaho, we did use the wraparound ear piece as well as a push-to-talk button. If memory serves my right the push to talk was huge. You couldn’t miss it. The setup worked pretty good compared to the boom mics we tried. They did have their drawbacks. If you had big ears, the ear piece would wear a hole in your the top of your ear after a few hours. If you were busting thick brush, we usually didn’t use them because the cable to the earpiece would invariably get snagged and would pull the earpiece loose. Again, they were stupid expensive. From what I understand, my last unit is now using an issued ICOM radio, however, I don’t have any particulars on it. When we finally decide on a handheld radio for our group (most likely the DTR), I’ll probably shop around and look at the reviews for throat mics and ear pieces. Some of the molded ear pieces look interesting. Good luck. Let me know how it works out.
        DOL, Dan

  4. CoonassMedic permalink

    Out Standing article !!!!

  5. Great article, but a comment at the very end concerning Tactical Aircraft Platforms: As a former 98G Linguist and crewmember of an EH-60A Quickfix platform, I am pretty sure that all Quickfix birds are no longer in service; all have been stripped of equipment and are in either “slick” configuration or other type (medevac/casevac, etc.). The EH-60L platform never got past the testing stages.

    I don’t think the Army has a lower than Corps-level tactical DF/Jam aerial (manned, anyway) platform any longer, due to the advent of technological advances and mission priorities. UAVs have filled that slot.

    • stu, good to hear from you. Really appreciate the comments. While we were trained in SF regarding the Soviet intercept/DF threat, I picked up most of my info regarding our threat abilities while in the Army, out amongst the troops. I worked quite a bit with the SF SOT-As while at Bn level. They were an enigma. MOS 98G & H. They were level 3 language qual in the target language (the 98Gs not the H), required a clearance and access I’ll not discuss here (same as yours I’m sure), Ranger and Parachute qual., and a technical mos qual. Sort of a Bad Ass, heavy ruck sack humpin’ machine, native language guy with a high IQ, techno geek that never got in trouble (or at least didn’t get caught). They deployed with the PRD-13 SSMS at the time. We provided security and their tasking came down from echelons above reality (I know who, as do you, but I won’t kick over that nest of hornets). I will say that I came away impressed with their ability to fix and intercept their targets from a several klicks away (terrain dependent in rural settings, 3rd world) when the targeting intel was good. At that point, handoff was quickly made and real bad stuff also quickly happened. Talking with them I was told it was much more difficult in an urban 3rd world setting. I don’t know if they still exist on the TO&E. I’ll have to check on that. Glean what you can from that info. regarding your own situation. Thanks for the info re: quickfix. Do you know if GuardRail is still active? I’m told it is. But, as you stated, they are at Corps level and above. Still..those pesky UAVs. So, bottom line is this, if your intel. says you have any DF/Intercept/Jamming assets operating in your AO you must have put a sizable burr under somebody’s ass or your the only game in the town, for the moment, and every Swinging Richard wants a piece of the action (your ass).

  6. Guest geek permalink

    Think nvis, it works with hf and vhf. And while most radios offer snap in encryption modules, remember that the higher the encryption, the longer the transmission delays associated. If distances are short or a wimax network is set up, encryption and burst transmissions become practical.

    • Thanks for the great suggestions, keep them coming. Regarding NVIS (Near Vertical Incident Skywave). This is getting into the weeds of HF commo. There are two components to AM SSB HF comms. One is the groundwave, the other is the skywave. Most old school ham operators rely on skywave for long haul comms (as did old school 18Es). HF groundwave is basically line-of-sight and thus can be of very short range, up to about 13 miles, depending on the height of the antenna (or as in the case of my AO in the Appalachian Mnts, only hundreds of feet). Skywave relies on the ionization of the ionosphere to refract or “bend” the skywave back to earth at some distant point. NVIS relies on a special antenna setup to send the skywave nearly vertical into the atmosphere with a very sharp reflection of that wave back to the earth in order to cover the dead spot (or skip zone) between the ground and sky waves. The refraction factor relies mainly on the varying effects of the suns radiation on the ionosphere (also power output, frequency used and antenna orientation). This can change radically over very short periods of time; minutes or hours. I used NVIS only as a backup system to talk to teams that were deployed outside of the line-of-site of my other comm systems, but too close for traditional skywave comms. We used a very sophisticated, classified, program that would take the sunspot number (ssn) from WWV, our transmitter and receiver locations, time of day, power output, type and orientation of antenna and give us a visual representation of the HF footprint. It allowed us to manipulate each variable (exept ssn) for different results. We had to constantly adjust freqs, antenna position and power to maintain the link. And as you know with hf, sometimes it just wouldn’t work. We had a pretty high success rate. All this being taken into account, do you think it would be feasible for the average partisan element to utilize this system, intersquad, in a small, manuever element to communicate with one another? As a side note, NVIS usually worked well for us when using the HF freqs on the lower end of the band. The higher freqs usually punched right straight to Mars. So I have to question the use of VHF freqs. You also mentioned WiMAX. If the system available in your area, it is up, you have access, line of site, and it’s not being controlled by the regime, go for it. Agian keep in mind, for the sake of this post, we are still talking a small partisan unit operating in the field, and communicating amongst themselves.

      • A Stranger in a Strange Land permalink

        NVIS maybe on 40m during daytime, 80m at nighttime. 160 is betterer. Keep your antenna L-O-W even on the ground itself (RF ground is still 10 beneath the surface). Rx antenna must also be NVIS for best results. Very quite. Signals will be -50dB but the noise floor is so low it will be R5 no problem. I use this configuration routinely for my own setup with operates in an automated fashion ’round the clock.

        If your ground sucks try laying out a reflector wire – essentially it’s a 2-el yagi pointing straight up.

        This won’t work above 8MHz let alone VHF+.

        A note on F.C.C. HF intercepts: their own press releases indicate they have to make a concerted effort to DF an offending HF station. It doesn’t take them long, compared to the old day before doppler, but they still need to dispatch a regional engineering team with a comms van to the general vicinity to nail the exact location beyond “metro area.”

        I’d be surprised if dot-mil had anything better than this, apart from their advantage of aerial surveillance the F.C.C. does not enjoy.

        VHF+ would be simple if LOS but is subject to multipath reflections that drive ham DF-ers nuts during their “fox hunts”. Again, not necessarily a problem at elevation 180 but those bouncy bouncies go up as well as over.

  7. Deadmeat99 permalink

    Regarding the Motorola DTR radios, this capability is built in to a wide range of now useless and dirt cheap Motorola Nextel cell phones also. Once put in Direct Talk mode, the phone switches over to the same 900mhz ISM band the DTR radios use, with the same feature set of freq hopping and unique device identifiers. Some of the Motorola Nextel models were built for surviving rugged environments and can accept external mics, as well as external antennas for vehicle use. These now useless phones are a cheap, easy, and low profile way to use short-range secure comms for a fraction of the price of the real DTR radios.

    • Great information, thanks for the comment. I had completly forgotten about the old Nextels. I remember they were pretty annoying when folks used them in a public setting. I have used the Mot. DTRs in the past. They took a tremendous amount of abuse. Almost as much as Mosby’s carbine. Some questions for you; Do they require a repeater system to operate or can they operate stand alone? Are they pre-GPS chip or can they be location fixed using GPS? Can the mic. be activated remotely? Do they have the capability for link to a laptop for the additional codes? Sound like a potentially cheap comms device. Again, use them wisely.

      • Deadmeat99 permalink

        – These don’t use a repeater, though there are rumors of users experimenting with that.

        – They frequency hop, and they act much like regular FRS radios (with a “channel” and “code”) with one very useful exception: each phone can be given a unique 1-20 digit Line number. Only devices which know that unique number will make connections to each other. You can set up multiple devices with the same number to create a sort of private network. When using only Channel/Code combinations, transmissions can be fished by devices set to “Receive All”. When using unique Line numbers, they cannot be fished by rogue devices.

        – The phones do have GPS. Some have figured out how to get NMEA output.

        – There are many styles of mics available, from a standard earpiece (NNTN5211B) to remote speaker/mic (NNTN5208D).

        – The i355 will accept an external antenna for vehicle or fixed location use.

        – Though these devices use the same technology as the DTR radios, they are not compatible with the DTR radios.

        – In testing these for range, the best I’ve done is about 8.5 miles unobstructed line of sight with external antennas on both devices. Not bad for less than 1W. Regular use gets about 1-2 miles depending on terrain.

  8. Ray permalink

    Staff Sgnt. One small “thing” on the wire Comms. The range on my WW-2 EE-8 field telephones is just a few miles without battery boost. If you wire a common dry cell Battery into the main line to boost the sig. the range is +16 miles (aprox. with good wire) With good wire and a mid point booster the range can be over 50 miles. If you have any interest I’ll dig out my WW-2 FMs and TMs and cite the Battery voltage- wire type- stated range ect. I don’t know if this can be done with the Ta-1or Ta -43 but I’ll bet something like it will work

    • CoonassMedic permalink

      I have a couple of EE-8’s and would like to know more about battery boosting the range. Is the battery just connected in-line to the outgoing wire ? Both wires or just one ? Any details would be awesome.

    • Ray, thanks for your input. I would very much like to see what info. you can gleen from the TMs & FMs. If it’s all right with Mosby, email it to him for approval and posting for everyone on the site to share.

      • Ray permalink

        Hi guys I can do ya one better than a long post. Google “EE-8 field telephones” I found at least 4 sights with complete wiring diagrams for both common and local battery use. One with TMs and FMs on PDF free of charge. 2 with WD-1 wire- cheep – and two more with parts. All in a less than ten min. search . They gave far more detail than I can give in any short comment post. AND according to my FM the range on the EE-8 with “good” wire and just the two “D” cell battery’s is over 100 miles. The range for “common battery” + switchboard mode is unlimited

  9. Castor Pollux permalink

    Thank you, MSG Morgan! Keep the information coming.

  10. Frank Pinelander permalink

    And hopefully, you’ll go into backwards commo, a la Blackhawk Down, where the truth of the matter is the Somalis used CBs, which .gov cannot track. (Gee, who uses CBs anymore?) and the use of one time pads and cipher substitution, in general emails, interspersed in general commo.

    Say, how XYBRF are you TRVFH doing? I PEBVT haven’t talked to WFVRB in awhile.

    Hide, in the algorithms.

    • Frank, I seem to remember a mythical country named Pineland. I spent an eternity there one month. Good to talk to a fellow Pinelander. Or is that Pinelandian? Anyhow, if Mosby permits the space, I would like to go over one time pads and such at a later time. Any prior input that you might have send it to John and he’ll forward it to me. Or maybe he’ll check your bona fides (hows that for old school) and let you post. The more the merrier. Thanks again brother.

      • Hey MSG, you don’t need my permission to write shit for this blog. You write it, and it’ll get posted brother. On that note, I did have a reader in a FTF conversation today tell me that your last article was WAY over his head (mine too, actually, LOL). So, yeah, anything you’re willing to put the time into, it’ll get posted.

  11. A Stranger in a Strange Land permalink

    Citizen radioman here – no defense department experience. I do read “Army Communicator” magazine however. I see some very impressive sounding equipment above — a radioman’s wet dream — but my impression from Army Communicator is there are no actual radiomen left in the Service. Everything in AC is more or less hardened, portable, but largely conventional IT product that integrates with high band satellite bandwidth.

    I just don’t see even a high-end Green Beret sufficiently knowledgeable about all potential radio emissions to do much with them, apart from identifying their presence. But even with the most sophisticated Doppler systems, arrayed or not, terrain and atmospheric conditions scatter signals all over God’s creation – more so the higher the frequency. Throw in absorption losses in a forested area and you’re not talking a lot of signal to DF. In an urban area, even in suburbia, I don’t know how an automated system could distinguish between intelligence and birdies from millions upon millions of switching power supplies, computer clock circuits, etc.

    Drone systems are frightening for the reasons you expect: direct LOS and ability to orbit a given territory indefinitely which negate many of the above technical difficulties but not all.

    So is it fair to say the threat to FreeFor radio use is not so much OpFor forces but their drone systems?

    What is the practical use of such systems, presuming FreeFor is not transmitting double-sideband AM at 1kW?

    • I’m no commo dude, so I’ll leave this for the MSG to comment on. Other than to say, 18Es are light years beyond the conventional force commo dude, in ability and knowledge.

      • Wow, thanks for reading the article, and bringing up the discussion points. John and I were of the impression that the readership had gone into hiding. I’m seeing lots of handles I’ve not seen before. Although, commo guys are a breed apart, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Guys, I’ll get back to your concerns and comments asap, however I do have a day job (I like eating and ammo is expensive…) so hang in there.

    • Howdy Stranger (always wanted to say that). Those are great comments and questions. Especially regarding NVIS. You’ve done your homework. I don’t think it’s us SF commo dudes you have to be concerned with, we just operate radio equipment while teaching people how to kill other people in the most efficient manner possible (not too many job prospects on the outside with that resume’). It’s the Military Intelligence (MI) types you need to worry about. See my response to stuclark above. The tactical aspect of df/intercept is always a concern of mine due to the AO I expect to operate in. A mostly rural, wooded, mountainous region. Remember we’re talking small unit tactics here, not commo vans, base stations and satellite communications. I’ve included a link for you to peruse at your leisure. Apparently, there are not enough SOT-A guys to go around in SW Asia and are in high demand. They must be doing something right. In my experience, these guys were very, very effective at tracking down low level emissions in rural areas. It would be a grievious error to underestimate their abilities. Ask me how I know.

      In regard to the FCC, there budget for FY 2012 was $354 Million. DoD was $633 billion. Yes, DoD covers a lot more ground, but in my experience, we have a well funded SOF that I would not trifle with. Not with my life or those of my friends.

  12. Epoc permalink

    Think about this, a laser of a certain wavelength with capabilities of being received 20 to 30 miles away that has a built in parabolic receiving dish. The input comes from an iPad or phone that runs iOS or other phone OS, the message is fully encrypted and the key will only come from “known” sources. This device only runs line of sight, and is small enough to put in a small back pack. So it uses light waves to send and receive encrypted messages, it can be sent from anywhere at any time and it is virtually impossible to intercept. If you don’t have the correct encryption key and password you don’t read it. Oh I forgot to mention that the KEY also changes the laser wavelength each time a communication is made. So if you are not on the correct wavelength it won’t be read.
    This is being worked on in a guys basement right now.

    • Awesome….until you know, there’s like trees and buildings and terrain that mask your LOS…..

      • Epoc permalink

        Here in the wide open spaces of Utah, Wyoming and parts of Idaho it could be used to relay messages without being intercepted.
        Just one more potential tool.

      • I too reside in those wide open spaces. If you were standing at the peak of a major peak in the Wyoming Range, you might be alright. Standing in Casper, for instance, or Thermopolis, you’re not going to get near the range you think you will, because the terrain itself will mask the laser.

  13. Mt Top Patriot permalink

    They say timing is everything, so, just read this excellent piece here, and low and behold, I link on to RITR’s blog, and he has this gem posted.

    Holy shit! To be there with a 12ga.!

    First Hand Account of Drone At Peaceful Protest
    (With photo of drone taken at the Save the St. Lucie River and Martin County Wildlife protest in Phipps Park in Stuart, FL on August 3, 2013 by ©Nicole Paquette)

    posted over at Resistor In The Rockies

  14. Great info MSG! Unfortunately, the EXRS radios appear to be “No longer available”. I used them a good bit, and loved the feature on the 300 model which allowed an 80 character text (ala, poor man’s DMDG) For those of you that don’t know the MSG, I had the privilege of working as cadre with him in Mosby’s class, and all I can say is WOW! I hope I’m in that kind of shape when I’m his age. Hell, on the assault course alone, he ran with the assault element on the beloved hill,, 4 times what the individual students did (4 teams) and they were wore out. We are fortunate to have guys like SSG Mosby, and MSG Morgan putting out good RELEVANT info. USE IT! Or be a speed bump for the TWAT’s (Tyrannical Weapons And Tactics teams).
    American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE!

  15. There is another aspect to partisan tactics not discussed in any depth that have direct bearing on all aspects of possible 4th gen warfare. Something I for one am interested in understanding. How does the functional/dysfunctional nature of the command structure, as it exists today in the .mil, ie, it’s ability to adapt and bring to bear, it’s resources in 4th gen warfare if by chance it comes to pass upon American soil against sovereign Americans? It’s possible impact on tactics and strategy as time passes, upon a partisan movement of fighters, the evolution of all parties in this type of war?

    For reference, here is an article concerning the political nature of the higher command structure as it is perceived by one journalist:

    Another writer of note made this observation:

    “…These folks who leave the Army — the capable, the bright, the responsible, the principled — only serve to reinforce the available pool of armed citizenry with military experience and the acumen to execute missions. Now, think of this entire phenomenon in the context of the next war, which is likely going to be a Fourth Generation civil war for the future of this country.”

    from –

    A rather astute observation worthy of further comment in light of the excellent essays and actions on publications such as MG, MV, Am etc.??

  16. Its wonderful to have the access to such a depth of knowledge, and I apologize in advance for diverting the main thrust of the topic, but I have a radio wire integration challenge that needs the skills of some of the commentators on this thread. Suppose I needed to replicate the functions of the SB-4303 with commercial off the shelf equipment – could someone point me in the right direction?

  17. DRT 11B permalink

    That hand / arm signal link was amazing. I wanna keep a link to that forever. The rest I’ll need to read over, probably 3 more times and take notes. Thank you MSG Morgan and SGT Mosby.

  18. Badger permalink

    Read this when published, late to comment ’cause I wanted to research a couple of things.
    First, thanks John for affording MSG Morgan the platform. First class stuff.
    (An old 05B once in a galaxy far away, so forgive what might be a dated term here or there.) Just a couple notes regarding the DTR’s based on FTF today with (recently ex-) Motorola rep.

    While they may be available (and there may be some in the inventory) the rep advises they haven’t sold that separate little programming keyboard for awhile. The good news is that the software is a straight-forward Windoze-based free product from them (they SELL you the interface cable you’ll need but you can clone radios after that). But it’s all software-based now and a free download from Motorola.

    Not affiliated with them but their site will yield some good info – Just plug ‘DTR550′ into their search window. “Do you speak digital?” is a good primer for the unwashed, including how one might explore this thing of using frequency-hopping radios in “groups” (not channels really). Also, I’m told the 11-digit ID isn’t something you set; rather it’s unique to that radio, like a network card’s physical address is (supposed to be) unique. In their bubble charts substitute the notional “Ordering” “Shipping” and “Front Office” echelons as your org dictates. Which is a segue to one other thing that has been hammered above & here at John’s site on a variety of topics.

    Many of us have been the “victim” of clueless commo staffettes sitting in the -3 shop that handed us a completely UN-workable CEOI, which causes polite musings such as “what idiot thought this shit up?” (For some reason they often wore gold, bars or leaves.)

    Technology is great but the most valuable piece of software you have is between your ears. Give heavy thought with a variety of input to how you would lay out talk-groups of frequency-hopping radios, who needs to hear/talk to whom, etc., and then “what if” it AGAIN.

    You’ll need someone geek-savvy enough to run the software without tripping over their laptop, and you’ll want spare batteries for your spares (and the means to charge them) but if you’re really serious about being secure in your inter/intra-squad comms (depending on terrain) the Motorola DTR is a no-kidding piece of kit. You should never have to get these at MSRP so if you have actually cobbled up a serious chunk of tribe together, leverage the cost of getting everyone literally on the same page. Maybe the night-out on the riverboat could wait. Jes’ sayin’.

    Thanks again to MSG Morgan, superb article, and to John for the guidance.

  19. MSG, What is your opinion on the AN/PRC343 personal role radio. There are a few of these used floating around the interwebs for approximately $250 each. This link has a really good write up on the tech specs:

    They seem to fit the bill for low powered, relatively limited distance intra-squad commo. Your thoughts?

    • Daybreak, Thanks for the info. regarding the AN/PRC-343. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never used this radio. It looks a lot like the PRC-126/127s that we were issued back in the ’90s. The main difference appears to be the frequency range, power output and these can be made secure. 100mw (1/10th of a watt) is very low power, and coupled with the 2.4 GHZ freq. range, means the signal will be attenuated quickly. Most data I found shows a max range of 500m. I assume that’s why it is referred to as a “Squad Radio”. So, chances of being DF’d or intercepted would be much lower that most commercial, non-freq. hopping, radios. Not impossible, but much lower. Just don’t expect to talk over 1/2 klick. As you stated “intra-squad commo”. I assume you have run through possible senario’s where you would need radio comms of up to 500 meters but no more. They look to be very rugged, like the PRC 126, have a lot of purpose built accessories, and use a common battery. Those are all pluses. I guess my questions to you would be; does the radio fit your mission profile, do you have a reliable source for this radio, parts and accessories and can you get the radios repaired if needed?

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