A Primer for HF Radio

What happens if the Internet gets shut down?

Or: Imagine that the transfer of ICANN to the UN takes effect, and suddenly your IP address is blacklisted. You can’t get a viable domain. And the Powers That Be are tracking your efforts to establish anonymous proxies, and keep blocking your access. What alternatives do you have?

These scenarios overlap with the problem of what to do if the grid goes down. A diligent household prepares alternate means of long-distance communication, and that’s what Brushbeater talks about in this detailed primer on HF radio:

Your First HF Station

So far, in following the Survivalist paradigm concerning radio, we’ve discussed the many uses of hand held sets, due to their overwhelming popularity but far more importantly their largely misunderstood role. Capable of local, or Line of Sight ( LOS ) communications, they are often the entry-level communications device that most cut their teeth upon. Mobile VHF or UHF sets usually offer more power and increased range, but basically accomplish the same goals with most off the self models leaving out AM and SSB from the upper bands. But from there, the next step seems bewildering at a minimum and inaccessible at worst. The advantages of HF communications however, are numerous and bring to the table tools that possibly get overlooked in other contexts. That being said, getting on HF is kinda tough. You need at least a General Class radio license, which is certainly attainable but no small feat, and the selection of equipment is nothing short of bewildering ( as well as expensive in many cases ). Hopefully by the end of this, together we’ll get a better understanding of meeting our requirements.

Why HF?

The first question in a lot of minds among the uninitiated is ‘Why is this important? Why do I want to talk to people I don’t know?’

Well, at first glance, this would seem logical. In a grid-down, crazy variable-x situation, talking to people you don’t know could endanger your ‘opsec’ and ‘put your preps at risk’ (these are both face value arguments I’ve heard) and that possibly may be true over LOS. If you’re talking to people you don’t know on VHF, they very likely are within range to affect your near-term living condition. This is not necessarily logical over HF. First, the antenna size required for efficiency (in most cases) and complication of operation negates likely hostiles baiting folks over HF. It’s just too hard. You’ll most likely find that stuff on the license-free options.

Second, and much more important, is that HF creates self-controlled regional and even global communications. Yes, you read that right. Sure, there’s shortwave radio stations to be heard, but we can do that with some of the higher-end handheld radios I’ve previously recommended or the excellent SW receivers on the market without buying a much more expensive and complicated HF set. But those SW stations are filtered, written and approved by someone with an agenda, as nearly all international stations are state-run and to varying degrees exist as propaganda tools.

You can communicate world wide over HF, with relatively small amounts of power, provided you understand the components of the system. But why would you want to? Remember Venezuela? We knew about Venezuela’s problems before the news reported them because their Amateurs were on the air talking about it. And some of us talked to them about it, getting first hand information, raw and unfiltered. Why do you think Turkey cancelled a substantial number of radio licenses post-coup attempt? To control what info got out to the world, as well as prevent a substantial communications network among potential partisans. But say, you have a license now, and it gets cancelled as a result of some variable-x scenario… your skill set still does not go away. Your spare equipment you’ve stashed away can get up and running and on the air, even after your primary set was confiscated with your license. And for those who will now read this and snarkily say, ‘ then why bother with a license?’, I’ll state that you cannot gain the skill required to communicate over HF without doing it on a regular basis. Just not happening, snowflake.

HF also creates a very reliable regional communications system, via NVIS propagation on the lower half of the High Frequency bands ( 160-40m, reliably ). This has been covered substantially on this blog; review the information, it’s not there for my entertainment. NVIS is a technique that provides communications in that tricky zone where LOS fizzles out but the higher end of HF skips over. It’s relatively reliable but requires regular practice and study to get right, which starts with getting on the air and doing it. So let’s talk about doing that.

Read the rest at Brushbeater, including “Building Your HF Station”.

15 thoughts on “A Primer for HF Radio

  1. I am a technology dolt. I am alarmed that you even posted this. How would I tune into HF radio? Would I have to park my car on a hill and twiddle with the radio?
    I can only suppose that you think the end to free internet is neigh.
    Instructions please…

    • Well, the best thing to do is visit the Brushbeater archives and look at the series of posts explaining these things. I agree: if you’ve never dealt with these things before, they can be mystifying and overwhelming.

  2. Shades of “Pump up the Volume”… I can the Barron as a HF pirate, complete with an eyepatch and a parrot on the shoulder!

  3. I can remember setting these up to link LDS churches for emergency response, in the 1990’s. As far as I know, the capability is still there.

  4. I can remember setting single-side-band up to link LDS churches for emergency response, in the 1990’s. As far as I know, the capability is still there.

  5. We used HF SSB in the military and sometimes could get signals half way around the world…..(High Frequency Single Side Band)

    The signals are easily jammed (or triangulated ) b/c they are low power. Vis. the French Resistance use of radios in movies etc.

    The famous HuffDuff (HF direction Finder) loops helped destroy the U boat menace in the war time Atlantic.

  6. Looking at my instruction manual (The Walking Dead), only Neagan’s people used a radio… but then again they never looked for army weapon depots and their first choice of survival vehicle was alwasy a Hyndai… Hmmm, I guess I have to find a different, more serious training source. Starting to watch Z Nation then… 🙂

  7. At a minimum, folks should buy a shortwave-capable radio, so they can listen to pirate broadcasts in the event of a grid failure or other scenarios. The frequencies will be passed from person to person, but you will need a decent shortwave receiver to hear what’s being broadcast.

  8. A couple of inexpensive solar panels will be enough to recharge batteries for flashlights and radios, both of which will assume great importance during a grid-down scenario. Radios, rechargeable batteries, battery chargers, LED flashlights etc are all inexpensive and readily available today. They may not be forever. The wise person will purchase them today.

  9. The Germans located British bombing targets–the fog was often so thick that visual identification was impossible–by beaming HF directional radio over England from two separate antenna farms on the coast of France-Belgium-Holland. They would cross two of these beams over the target. Their bombers would ride one beam in until they heard it cross the other–because they began picking up two frequencies at that point–and then they would drop incendiaries. The fires from these would tell subsequent bombers where in the fog they should unload their heavy fragmentation bombs, because they could now see the glow in the fog below.

  10. I’ve worked with military radios of some stripe for the past 14 years.

    I’d like to help more, but I do not want to reveal my identity yet.

  11. Fun story, for me. Mastered Morse, general radio theory, global comm., exactly 62 years ago, loved skip, learned about sunspots back then, mostly, recently sunspots about driving long term climate temperatures (far greater power than any so-called ‘civilization’, as is even the earth itself), currently entering into global cooling mode, yet again (Dalton, Maunder, etc.), and learned how to fly HF Loran approaches, fun, tricky, not very precise, but they we useful then, as it was being converted to VOR, TAC, inertial, GPS, etc. Didn’t know loran was originally a targeting methodology, very tricky, thanks WPalmer. Thanks MBracken, very worthy advice, especially at least getting a higher quality HF and AM capable receiver set up, and some antenna knowledge, of course including SSB.

    Thanks Baron, for a very potentially important article, given the past 50 years of democrat’s miseducation of all people, not just demorats, totalitarian dictatorship buildup of evil, which has possibility of erupting in a bad way, if not remedially brought under control of ‘no snowflakes permitted’ realities!!! We use to call such snowflakes ‘weak sisters’, and it was no compliment! And ‘democrats’ are right now very deep into what in other words, would be called ‘very dark operations’, aka ‘sabotage’ of America! See Sea Island conference, and participants, and feel very worried, about the republicans who attended, as well. It is called ‘globalization’, or a super turbo totalitarian control apparatus, as is the augmenting de-cashification of cash, happening globally (India, Australia, Venezuela, etc.), wherein any transaction is on the great big data base-mine in the sky, and every possible thing knowable, known about each individual except pirates. What is known about each individual already, in the US government, is staggering. Yet they always ever want more….

    I hope all who read this realize, that what is supposed to be private, e.g. email phones, any other comm. and of course HF, and SSB, AM OR FM, assume it is all traceable, recorded, and is a pure ‘party line’ so any comm. is conducted in light of others listening, real-time or delayed, often the enemy, or potential enemy. Obviously what I myself say here falls within that category as well. Imagine someone tracking on a massive database, each reference point an individuals or ID’s total tracked capability. This is what’s called ‘data mining’ matrices. It can work, usefully, both ways, by the way. Effectively, Google is massively into it, as are many other such beasts, run mostly by the accidentally rich billionaires, of little wisdom, but highly targeted knowledge. (Often you can correlate wisdom with basic grammar knowledge and use, which many lack, laughably.)

    In aviation, flying as it is, in a hostile environment, (just as we live, in reality, in a hostile environment, of space itself, remember, when we sit we are actually travelling at over a mill. mph, towards the great attracter, or some such c*** that some hotshot scientist dreamed up!) we learned to fly on primary instruments, and practiced it, like flying on a magnetic compass, needle and ball, etc. (only a bird strike or projectile could take that out) as well as our advanced augmented through electric, or air pressure and hydraulics devices and instruments for nav.-comm.-flight .

    Well, gotta go catch my ‘stair lift’ ride into the sky, catch a nap, like all aged. Ha, ha.

    • tjfj-

      You are correct that there are no truly secure comms, just varying manifestations of that ghost called, “privacy”.

      Remember – it’s not a secret if more than one person knows it!

  12. “You need at least a General Class radio license”

    This is false. Technicians have some limited HF privileges. Check the regs. 73 de AI6KG.

    • VERY Limited privileges. Most find it virtually impossible to do any real practice or check into most of the nets or exercises conducted on the bands with just a Tech ticket. General or Extra is necessary to really use the HF bands.

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