The average person who gets a Baofeng radio will have no idea how to tune in when they turn it on and see an input like 445.000 staring back at them. Pushing the buttons to blindly tune the frequencies up or down doesn’t work like a CB radio, car stereo, or marine radio. You can’t just pick a frequency at random and start using it. First, there will probably be no one to talk to. Second, you could be transmitting on a frequency or in a mode that is prohibited.
My pre-ham radio experience was with VHF law enforcement radios; my agency has 16 channels programmed in on the main ‘A’ bank. For public safety/business use, the FCC assigns frequencies. Not in the ham world. Ham radio does not have defined voice channels like Marine radio, CB, or GMRS/FRS. The concept of saying “Go to channel __” doesn’t exist.
What exists on the ham bands are portions of the frequency spectrum that is generally understood to be used for simplex (radio-to-radio) voice communication. Imagine it as a freeway without any marked lanes. To better navigate that lane-less freeway, radio users have decided to separate portions of each band and dedicate them to specific uses.
Simplex, or radio-to-radio voice, is just a small part of that. In order for the various uses of the ham bands to all get along, local radio coordinators outline what ranges and frequencies should be used for what. These coordinators are unofficial bodies and the plans aren’t legally mandatory, but they are mostly obeyed to avoid chaos, the same way people obey traffic signals when a cop isn’t around.
You can create “lanes” for your own channel plan as long as you play by the rules that everyone else does. This is really no more than agreeing on specific frequencies to use and giving them a name or alpha-numeric designation. Having a channel name or number is for brevity and communication security. “Go to five,” is shorter and more secure than saying “Go to 158.730.” So, within your own group/family, you can know that “VHF channel 1” means 146.415 MHz. Again, this is an in-group thing because there are no public ham channel allocations.
How to get startedMy semi-facetious suggestion is become friends with a likeminded, experienced ham and let him provide you with his pre-existing plan. I kid, but there are hams in your community that have already done this and will have saved you a bunch of trouble. Connections can and do pay off. But for the rest of you…
Start by finding the basic band plan for the band you plan to use; in our case it will be 70cm or 420-450 MHz UHF. Note that 420-450 MHz is the basic frequency range for that band; it will be divided up into different groups for various uses, such as Morse code (CW), television, etc. Be sure to review the band plan for frequencies that are reserved for specific uses, such as digital packet transmission only, often noted “no voice.”
Note the bandwidth spacing for each band. For 70cm, this is 25 kHz while in some parts of California it is 20 kHz. For 2m VHF, this is 15-20 kHz. Think of spacing as a separation lane to keep the radio traffic from bleeding into each other. Too narrow of spacing and the radio signals start interfering with each other.
Using the no-lane freeway above, technically speaking is the bandwidth separation. As long as the traffic is within the limits of the range and far enough apart from each other, who talks on what frequency is unregulated. You can simply plug in a frequency in the right range, check that the bandwidth is set properly (the radio should do this automatically), and start talking. Shy of SHTF or an emergency this can be a nuisance.
Practically speaking, you need to mind the upper and lower end of the frequencies for both the FCC-defined band and the range for simplex voice. Orderly ham radio depends on everyone coloring (or parking or driving, whatever analogy you prefer) within the lines. One can’t reasonably just start yakking away on any frequency for this reason.
This problem with choosing a frequency at random is you may be talking slightly off a locally defined channel and interfering with that traffic. That’s a quick way to make other hams unhappy, sort of like making the other guy pull off a one-way road so you don’t have to get your car’s passenger side all muddy by driving on the shoulder. What needs to be done is see if there are any local channel plans for the band you intend to use.
Locate your state or regional band plan. These are gentlemen’s agreements by local ham organizations to allocate the different frequency ranges for various purposes to better regulate and coordinate traffic. Many organizations do not coordinate simplex frequencies. In this case, generic spacing and allocations can be used. You will need to Google “[state or region] ham radio band plan” to find this information. Alternatively, you can ask a local ham club.
In the 70cm UHF band, you will want to check your local band plan (down to the county, if there is such an organization) and the repeaters carefully before deciding on using a certain frequency. For example, you may want to start at 445.000 and go up to 446.975 at 25 kHz channel spacing intervals. At each interval you would check that the band plan doesn't reserve the frequency for something like high-speed packet transmission or that it's assigned to a repeater.
Note that you don't want to break the pattern of intervals because your signal will bleed over to other frequencies and cause interference with other traffic. That's rude, like parking in two spaces. It's going to make people mad and if you have a problem that comes to the FCC's attention you will be the at-fault party. So once more, random frequency selection is suboptimal.
Check your local repeaters to ensure that you are not talking on a repeater input/output frequency. Repeaterbook.com is the most popular resource for repeater information. This becomes more of a concern in 70cm UHF because the simplex (voice) range is shared with repeaters. For instance, in Missouri 445.900–445.975 is shared between simplex and packet traffic; at 25 kHz spacing that leaves four voice UHF channels that can be used. Don’t forget to actually listen to the frequency for a while to determine what kind of traffic is used on it.
Finally, remember that the airwaves are all shared and open to the public. There is no privacy or reserving of frequencies. All FCC regulations will apply. Your channels are nothing more than a memory device for certain frequencies and will be specific to your group only. Any outsiders you are communicating with will need to be given the actual frequency to tune to, not your channel number/name.
You may want to put repeaters in your channel plan. For instance, my group notes these with an R (Romeo) for repeater, as “31R.” Again, the repeaters are public but saying 31R is easier and more discreet than saying “McClellan Peak UHF” or “W7RHC.” Some notes about programming repeaters in:
For repeaters, the input (receiving) frequency is published. This is the frequency that your radio will talk to the repeater on. You will need to program in an offset so the radio knows what frequency to listen for the output signal (that the repeater is re-transmitting the traffic on). Note the offset for your band; this varies. 70cm uses a 5 MHz + or – above or below the repeater input frequency. 2m VHF is 600 kHz or .6 MHz.
Most radios will automatically set the offset frequency once you note + or – in the software so you don’t need to manually enter the offset frequency. Most repeaters will use a PL tone to activate the repeater. The offset and PL tone will vary on each repeater.
Common simplex voice frequencies
2 Meters (144-148 MHz)
146.520 National simplex calling Frequency
70cm (420-450 MHz)
445.000-447.000 simplex (shared with repeaters and other services)
446.000 National simplex calling Frequency
Example 2m simplex channels (SoCal)
144.310-144.375 (15-20 kHz apart)
144.405-144.490 (15-20 kHz apart)
145.510, 145.645, 145.525, 145.660, 145.540, 146.445, 145.555, 146.520 (calling freq.)
145.570, 146.535, 145.585, 146.550, 145.600, 146.580,145.615, 146.595, 145.630
Note that the 70cm UHF equivalent of above is extremely uncommon.
Sample band plan
This simple band plan is taken from Los Angeles area information. It includes a Channel of the Day (COD) so each group member knows where to go each day to listen and make contact if necessary. While a real plan would have the frequency order switched up, changing the “main” frequency each day will inhibit any easy monitoring by bad guys. Note that the days must rotate because there are not enough frequencies for a 31-day month.
Channels of the Day will need to repeat, and more often on bands with lesser available simplex frequencies, especially on UHF. Repeaters that are intended to be used are included as well. This method will work for 2m/1.25m/70cm and GMRS/FRS. A similar plan can be made up for CB with the ordinary channel numbers switched up.
The duress channel is an unused frequency that can be switched to if your transmissions are being monitored by bad guys. The code word can be spoke and everyone will know to switch without further prompting. Credit to [redacted] for coming up with my group’s plan, from which I modeled this example chart (because the public isn’t seeing our actual one).
Note: this is an excerpt from my book Basic SHTF Radio: A cop's brief guide for understanding simple solutions for SHTF radio communication, available on Amazon. Also consider NC Scout's "The Guerilla's Guide to the Baofeng Radio" (which I consider to be "Intermediate SHTF Radio."
Why Sub-250 gram drones?
Federal law defines sub-250 gram unmanned aircraft as “micro” drones. These Group 1 micro-UAVs do not require registration in the US or most countries. They range from toys, to hobbyists’ racing drones, to a novice cinematographer’s flying camera. Top-of-the-line micro-UAVs could make a helpful adjunct to a mobile unit. For small units, these make ideal “periscopes” to see over terrain or scout areas remotely.
While a larger, high endurance and longer-range drone is of course better, they are much larger packages. Sub-250 gram UAVs are smaller, lighter, and faster to deploy than larger models. A very small drone can be easily carried along and used to augment the patrol where a larger drone providing overwatch is not available or to clear or recon areas in lieu of sending in a man. Heavier drones being man-packed will slow a patrol down, will take longer to launch and recover, and will hinder mobility if attacked.
Now why sub-250 gram drones exactly, you may be wondering? Surely heavier ones are better, especially if I’m not planning on man-packing the thing into combat. Let me quote the FCC:
What still applies?
Realistically, unless your drone crashes and injuries someone or the police show up, flying over structures or people with respectable clearance isn't going to cause problems. While you must stay below 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL), unless you're near and airport or hit a plane isn't not like anyone is really going to know.
As far as drone detectors, these will be present near major airports, military bases, and special events, like Joe Biden’s vacation or a major sporting event. While sub-250 gram drones aren’t broadcasting RID, their unique signals in the Wi-Fi (2.4/5 GHz) band are discoverable by specialized and sensitive detectors. If you fly a drone in a remote part of National Park or something, odds no one will ever know.
Buying Guide to Sub-250 gram drones
Here are the top four sub-250 gram drones, all available between $750 and $140 (depending on the price when you buy).
DJI Mini 3 Pro
Best performance, second best camera, but has all the DJI nerfing and China drawbacks.
Autel Evo Nano Plus
Like the DJI Mini series but with slightly decreased performance but none of the DJI Chinese baggage.
DJI Mini SE
Cheapest DJI model.
Holy Stone HS710
Cheapest, quality model. Perfect for beginners or “stacking” multiples of.
DJI Mini 3 Pro
DJI is the biggest name in drones, but it comes with a caveat that it has been “nerfed” and is probably a Chinese spy device. Overall, it has the second Best camera and the best performance. Negatives are it is Chinese and omes with geo-fencing problems native to all DJIs, which isn’t why you buy sub-250 gram drones. It’s also relatively expensive than other drones in its class.
Autel EVO Nano Plus
This has the best camera, up to 8K resolution. It also does not have the baggage that DJI does. At the price point, it is the most comparable to the DJI Mini with similar endurance.
DJI Mini SE
This is the cheapest drone so far produced by DJI. However, it only has a "2k" camera so it lacking the advanced camera features or higher quality resolution might be problematic if you want coo video. It also has the negatives of DJI geofencing and probably feeding data back to China.
Holy Stone HS710
This is the cheapest non-toy option that is ideal for beginners and nearly disposable use. Consider these the Baofeng radios of the micro-UAV level. They are small, light, and can be easily carried by an individual. It has a 4K camera and more advanced camera/flight features that the cheaper DJI options don't have like altitude hold and “follow me” (if you’re into cinematographic video).
Holy Stone HS710
This is the cheapest non-toy option (I got it for $139 at the time) that is ideal for beginners and nearly disposable use. Consider these the Baofeng radios of the micro-UAV level. They are small, light, and can be easily carried by an individual. It has a 4K camera and more advanced camera/flight features that the cheaper DJI options don't have like altitude hold and “follow me” (if you’re into cinematographic video).
In the world of radio enthusiasts and scanner aficionados, the Uniden Home Patrol 2 stands out as offering unmatched convenience and functionality. With its user-friendly design and powerful trunking capabilities, this scanner is a game-changer for those who want to dive into the world of scanning without the need for a master's degree in radio programming. In this blog post, we'll explore why the Uniden Home Patrol 2 is the ultimate choice for anyone seeking effortless trunking capabilities.
Before delving into the features of the Home Patrol 2, let's briefly understand what trunking actually is. Trunking is a method used by various radio communication systems to optimize frequency utilization. Traditional scanners can struggle to follow these complex systems, often requiring intricate programming knowledge. This is where the Home Patrol 2 steps in, eliminating the need for in-depth technical expertise. Note that your $70 Radio Shack analog scanner CANNOT receive trunked radio systems.
The Uniden Home Patrol 2 prides itself on its intuitive user interface. It's designed with the average person in mind, making it easy for beginners to get started without feeling overwhelmed. The touch screen display guides users through the setup process and scanning options, ensuring a smooth experience even for those with limited technical know-how.
Gone are the days of spending hours deciphering manuals and trying to configure intricate scanner settings. The Home Patrol 2 boasts a hassle-free setup process. Users can simply enter their location and let the scanner do the rest. The device automatically identifies and loads the frequencies for nearby agencies, making the entire process a breeze.
One of the standout features of the Home Patrol 2 is its extensive database integration. Regular updates ensure that the scanner has the most up-to-date frequency information for various agencies, including police, fire, EMS, and more. This means you'll always be in the know about what's happening in your area.
Dynamic Memory Allocation
The scanner's dynamic memory allocation is another factor that sets it apart. It automatically allocates memory to active channels, optimizing your scanner's performance and ensuring you never miss a crucial communication.
With built-in GPS support, the Home Patrol 2 takes convenience to another level. As you move around, the scanner automatically adjusts its settings to provide you with relevant local channels. This is particularly beneficial for road trips and travel, as you'll always have access to the most pertinent information.
Trunking Made Easy
As our tagline suggests, the Home Patrol 2 is the perfect choice for individuals who want trunking capabilities without the complexities of radio programming. It handles trunking systems seamlessly, allowing you to monitor conversations across different frequencies and agencies without the need for manual intervention.
The Uniden Home Patrol 2 is a game-changer in the world of scanners, especially for those who crave the convenience of trunking capabilities without the steep learning curve. Its user-friendly interface, simple setup, extensive database integration, dynamic memory allocation, GPS support, and effortless trunking handling make it the best scanner for both beginners and experienced users.
If you want a scanner without the need for a master's in radio programming, the Uniden Home Patrol 2 is your best option.
The following is an excerpt from my non-fiction book Suburban Defense. These are critical event categories which examine and catalog the progression of civil disorder. While they focus on violence, the loss of law and order, and the response to it, variations of this chapter can be used for different levels of disasters.
1. Small scale, localized, and unorganized incidents of temporary duration
2. A temporary and localized loss of civil order that is beyond the ability of police to stop but are able to contain.
3. A widespread loss of civil order where evildoers are often not stopped by authorities, but prosecution may come after-the fact.
4. WROL: The absence of government authority and a reversion to an uncivilized world (i.e. survival of the fittest).
Read the book for more information in each category along with defensive postures, checklists, and tactics.
Now just imagine Chinese sleeper cells in the United States (CONUS) deploy hundreds of these against US Air Force bases. A few pounds of high explosive in the right place employed against a bomber, a C-17 transport, or a KC-135 refueler would destroy the aircraft. Swarms of semi-autonomous drones launched in a surprise attack could devastate the US military's ability to respond to a trans-Pacific war in a matter of hours.
Poor Man's Air Force
A total of 30 homemade bombs were dropped from drones that day and three more on Aug. 11, center officials said in a statement. The center also shared a cellphone video in which a drone is seen flying over trees and an explosion is heard.
While this isn't anything new—the cartels and ISIS have been doing this for about five or six years now—the usage does seem to be increasing.
It is only a matter of time before this becomes a normal part of low-intensity conflicts and terrorism. We WILL see drones used as the insurgent's and terrorist's missile and smart bomb. We WILL see partisans in civil conflicts using drones in lieu of mortars and artillery. We WILL see gang assassinations using drones.
Frankly, it's surprising how a terrorist group or lone wolf hasn't employed these against local infrastructure or larger targets. A few of these could easily start a massive oil refinery fire, wreak havoc at a nuclear power plant, or destroy sensitive military aircraft. If we go to war with China, expect to see smart munitions and small drones (sUAS) used in this manner in CONUS for a total war strategy.
Learn more, including practical defense tips in my book Poor Man's Air Force.
Police are often caught in the unenviable position of being the strong arm executing some dumbass politician’s or bureaucrat’s brilliant idea. That’s what seems to be happening in West Maui following the fire. Police have a checkpoint up and are restricting entry to residents. Make sense, but it all appears to be poorly executed after a MASSIVE public safety and public relations failure. Incompetence compounding upon incompetence.
I don’t actually know what the real deal is on Maui, but looters, safety hazards, and crime scene preservation is a real thing. However, let’s assume that the cordon is excessive. So for the SHTF minded folks out there, what can you do in such a situation? We’re gonna go from practical, to civic minded, to um, kinetic.
First, have enough gas. In a crisis, you should be filling up daily. My advice on filling up daily under normal circumstances varies from others, but if things are sketchy, you should always have plenty of gas. On an island, you don’t necessarily need a full tank but in the aftermath of a disaster a quarter tank isn’t going to cut it.
Having stored gas at home is a brilliant idea. Rotate this out monthly or whatever by using it in your gas tank. Use high-quality, metal gas cans of NATO spec (Wavian is the brand), add Stabil or another long-term storage gas treatment, and label the can. For labels, use a piece of metal, like from a soda can, with the date lightly scratched/engraved/stamped in. You can do this with a pair of dikes and a flathead screwdriver. Some go ever further and use sealant on the bottoms and seams of the can to further protect against corrosion. (Thanks to Commander Zero for this method).
Okay, gas problem solved. That leaves access. Roads make great controlled access points especially if the cops/National Guard are smart and establish their checkpoints well. Your job should be to know alternative routes around, such as through neighborhoods, undeveloped areas, and even on dirt roads or off-road. Now if you’re skirting a roadblock, make sure you have some plausible deniability if you’re going around it. Try not to be seen and so draw attention to yourself.
“But I am stupid and only know one way to get home.” Chances are, if this is you, you aren’t reading this. Spend some time on Google Earth/Maps and check out some topographical maps of your area. Do an area study. Physically drive and walk around you area to explore it and find alternative routes.
Consider getting utility magnets to slap on your vehicle. Wear a helmet and reflective vest; they are stupid cheap preps and “gray man” camouflage to have around. Maybe the cops won’t even look that hard at you and ask to check ID. On the downside, they might suspect you of being a looter in disguise. Maybe be a police volunteer too so you’ll have friends on the force or they’ll just let you through as if you’re a relief worker.
Walking and biking (for shortage distances and loads) is another great idea. Bikes are nearly silent and can go pretty much anywhere a person can walk. Cycling and walking is very low profile and allows you to sneak through many places that probably aren’t being monitored.
Engage in human engineering. If the cops are being too restrictive, probably at the behest of someone higher up the food chain, start talking to your local politicians. Mayor, city councilmen, county commissioners/supervisors, and even your congressman. You don’t need to be annoying, just let them know what the problem is and ask them (preferably with dozens of neighbors doing the same thing) to remediate the situation. If the local politicians are being asses because they’re covering up the space lasers or the dragon, make noise with the media. Be polite, but be a squeaky wheel.
Be sure to film all interactions with police. Don’t shove the camera around like an a-hole or try and hide what you’re doing like a coward. Be sure to capture faces, badge numbers, vehicle numbers, or nameplates. Record the particulars of the roadblock, such as the cone pattern, signage, and vehicle positioning. If the cops are being jerks on their own initiative, this will help your case.
Don’t harass the cops. Don’t enter areas that are closed for a good reason. Go to your property or about your business and don’t become a problem. Why? It hurts your case, can cause real safety/evidentiary problems, and gives the authorities an excuse to crack down on entry.
On the more exotic front, say if you lived in a totalitarian situation where force would be applicable, let’s note some things. First, we see police, not the National Guard. Soft-skinned police vehicles and no physical barricades. Cops are out, on foot, in soft armor in small numbers without long arms. The checkpoints are probably very few in number. You do the math.
A fascination seems to have gripped conservative Baby Boomers ("boomer" is largely a mentality, not an age group) regarding the unfolding saga surrounding Hunter Biden. It is a curious observation I have noticed, with older friends constantly providing regular updates, while a dear relatives reliably sends me the latest news reports on the matter. Instead of harboring frustration, I find myself genuinely intrigued by this phenomenon from a sociological standpoint. Is it merely an interest in tabloid-like drama that captivates them, or could it be an indication of a deeper sense of significance, perhaps implying its relevance in the grander scheme of things?
Drawing an analogy of the greatest generation's loyalty to FDR despite evidence he wasn't all that and a bag of chips, one might surmise that these Boomers' attachment to the Hunter Biden issue is born out of familiarity and deep-rooted beliefs. It is possible that this controversy has become an integral part of their narrative, a symbol of their political identity that they are unwilling to let go of easily.
In essence, it is what they know and understand, and changing these long-held perceptions could be akin to challenging the core of their beliefs. Eventually, the country will see the truth and justice will prevail. The courts will mete out punishment and Biden will do the graceful thing and resign, or else he will be impeached. Many of these people were teens or young adults in the Watergate Era so it is logical that they would expect the same rules to apply and a similar outcome.
Nonetheless, what sets this generation apart from others is their seemingly relentless obsession with the day-to-day developments surrounding their favored political characters. Millennials are often criticized for being glued to their devices, but this is a different manifestation of the same underlying phenomenon. These Boomers eagerly await updates, as if each new twist and turn in the narrative promises excitement and satisfaction. It is a spectacle of political intrigue that they are unwilling to miss, akin to a captivating television drama that keeps them hooked episode after episode. Indeed, that is what cable news seeks to do, so that element is not so surprising.
Moreover, it is worth noting that Baby Boomers laid the groundwork for the voracious appetite for news consumption that we observe today. Long before the internet dominated the media landscape, they were the generation that pioneered the art of following news 24/7 through the television. This early exposure to constant updates and coverage has likely played a role in shaping their continued fascination with political happenings, even in the digital age.
In conclusion, the preoccupation of conservative Boomers with the Hunter Biden controversy is a multifaceted and intriguing phenomenon beyond the misplaced hope that our political/justice system will prevail upon the corruption. It represents a complex interplay of entrenched beliefs, political identity, and a long-standing propensity for consuming news relentlessly.
While it may be easy to dismiss it as mere tabloid drama or unimportant in the long run, this phenomenon will come to be an important factor in the unfolding 2024 election. These "boomers" represent the normal, nominally engaged American who will expect that the system will play out, if not fairly, at least according to the unwritten rules of their lifetime. That is, the economic tables will reverse, the government will not become totalitarian, and they will not be persecuted for their right-wing beliefs. This view is naive and inconsistent with the way the Washington establishment, the media, and the Biden Administration has conducted itself.
At its heart, normalcy bias controls this reaction. While the son of the American president being involved in massive corruption and a disgustingly decadent lifestyle while potentially implicating the president himself in decades of graft is a huge news story, the Hunter Biden story itself is small beer. What this group should be concerned about is the lengths to which the media and politicos have been going to to minimize the narrative and the lackadaisical efforts the GOP has made to get to the bottom of it.
As an indicator of things to come, this obsession with "trivial" details like the soap-opera of the Biden family warn of the shock and surprise that the next election will bring. These "Days of Our Bidens" fans will be taken aghast when nothing inevitably happens to the Bidens, or, if it does, is parlayed into some sort of advantage for the Democratic Party. In their mind, the ship will right itself and they cannot possibly conceive of a USA that goes down the path of third-world corruption.
Old narratives have set the wrong expectations. Rather than being signs of impending disasters, a lifetime of "we didn't start the fire" type problems has set them up to assume nothing will get much worse. Today's stagflation is a repeat of that of the 1970s, not the failure of the post-Bretton Woods financial system. The events of the 2020 election was not a coup, but election games that have always happened. Being on the brink of war with China and Russia have always been on the menu since the Cold War started.
So what is the problem here? In short, these people will shit the bed when nothing happens to the Bidens (legal consequences, that is), they'll be astounded when Trump loses, again, and is possibly imprisoned and/or assassinated, while the Democrats finally grab Congress and the White House. As America nose-dives into a depression, tyranny, and WWIII, they are going to be "shocked, just shocked, I tell you!" that all of this seemingly came out of nowhere.
Ultimately, what the Hunter Biden addition represents is a failure to see the forest for the trees. These cable news political junkies are so busy looking at the salacious fine details they can't see the large picture of America beginning to collapse. Thus, like the person who stares at a spot five feet ahead of their front bumper while driving, the "BRIDGE OUT" signs will be quite the awful surprise.
Author’s note: the accounts mentioned in this article are taken from Falkland Islanders at War by Graham Bound (2006), published by Pen & Sword Military.
Imagine you live in a remote, small community that is invaded one day by a vastly superior military power to the local token military/militia forces. How would you communicate with your neighbors or your own military? How would you gather and send intelligence? What tricks could you play with ham radio? In 1982, for the residents of a remote British colony, this was no thought exercise.
Far south in the Atlantic, off the eastern tip of South America, sits the rocky, windswept Falkland Islands. Half the world away from Great Britain, this little outpost of Albion was the subject of a brief, nasty war in 1982 when Argentina invaded what they call (and claim) “Islas Malvinas.” Make no mistake; as trivial was this footnote in history may have seemed on the news, it was a real war with ferocious fighting, heroism, and daring risks taken by the islanders.
The Falklands had been little more than an outpost for the wool trade and a stopover for ships since Britan colonized the islands in the 1830s, following a brief attempt at settlement from Argentina that was abandoned. Despite the islands having little to no strategic value, these treeless islands that resembled Scotland were in a natural position for neighboring Argentina to claim them.
In the decades leading up to the war, the UK and Argentina had tried various means of rapprochement over the islands. In an era of decolonization it really did seem like Whitehall wanted to give the territory over to Argentina. One could almost call the islands neglected by their motherland where, at the time, the almost entirely British-heritage population was denied full British citizenship. Despite all this, the islanders felt themselves to be British, even those whose families left the UK generations ago.
No islander wanted to be handed over to Argentina like a dirty memory of the colonial past only to be under the heel of a military dictatorship. The green-eyed suitor was decidedly a worse choice than the inattentive UK. Argentina was currently governed by a military coup known as the Junta in the years following its Dirty War against what we would call progressivism. It is argued with much merit that the war was launched as a distraction against public dissatisfaction with the Junta’s repression and economic policies.
While readers may sympathize with the Junta’s heavy hand against socialist forces at home (throwing communists out of helicopters), the totalitarian tactics bled into the occupation force’s behavior towards the civilians islanders. Thankfully, aside from some selected abuses, the invaders remained fairly well restrained towards the “kelpers” who endured the two-and-half month war. However, the suspicion, and treatment, of civilians was harsh but thankfully not deadly.
Death for the islanders who resisted would have been an easy stretch for Argentina. However, reprisals of this type were nil. Knowing that the small detachment of Royal Marines, about 40 (as a troop exchange was happening at that time), and small Defense Force would be overwhelmingly outnumbered, Governor Rex Hunt ordered that there be no guerilla warfare. The help the islanders did provide through intelligence gathering, minor sabotage, and scouting was invaluable to the British task force.
This article looks at the use of radios by civilians. The accounts highlight the risk of radio operation in a non-permissive environment. There were many intrepid islanders who, at great risk to themselves, passed intelligence back to Britain and even interfered with Argentine communications. Radio is a powerful tool of resistance and some plucky kelpers used it to good effect.
Radio communication was, and still is, a way of life in the Falklands. The islands consist of one major settlement (Stanley), numerous hamlets, and isolated sheep farms across approximately 4,000 square miles of the two main land masses. Especially in the 1980s, communication was largely by radio as the telephone exchange only worked in the city. 2-meter radio formed the backbone of the “bush telegraph” communication system as their form of citizen’s band radio. Many islanders also had high-frequency (HF) radio sets to communicate over longer distances, with ships, and to the outside world.
Families owned multiple VHF radios. Sets were in every vehicle. Longer-ranged sets provided communication across the craggy islands and even across the world. Total confiscation, even with registration, would never be possible due to their prevalence, proliferation, necessity, and the huge distance required to reach remote settlements. The Argentine occupation government realized this and allowed rural radios mainly for the purpose of radio consultation with doctors during their regular “radio surgery.”
The islands’ radio operators were apparently all licensed. In such a small place, although enforcement probably was not much of a concern, unlicensed transmission would be obvious among such a tiny population. Records of operators’ licenses were kept at the Post Office which meant that once the islands fell to the Argentines, intelligence officers seized these records. Immediately the security officials knew not only who was licensed but the particulars of their equipment.
At once, we see the problem of government registration and licensing; it is a roadmap for confiscation and harassment. Americans tend to think in terms of firearms but the same problems we fear over guns the islanders faced with radios. Sad Hams delight in government approval and tracking, but its easy to see how gatekeeping can be a liability during exigencies.
Once the order to turn in radio sets was broadcast via the local commercial radio station, it would be easy for military police to raid the homes of those who failed to comply with the order. House-to-house searches to check compliance and even searches for clandestine transmitters was commonplace throughout the war. The level of fear of illicit transmissions the Argentines had belied the actual level of spying that went on, at least up until the final counter-assault.
While Sad Hams are proud that they are registered with the government, such behavior can be a double-edged sword. Americans may not face the same prospects of invasion as the islanders did, but one can imagine how a registry could be used inappropriately. One benefit to the American scheme in combination with the advance of modern technology is that individual equipment is not registered and it is quite affordable to have separate radio sets, particular dual-band VHF/UHF sets like the Baofeng. Unaccounted for sets are a buffer against confiscation, which one fortunate islander used to his advantage.
Lighthouse keeper Reginald Silvey, shortly after the invasion began, made a contact on the 15m band and passed a simple message to his relatives through an English ham 7,800 miles away. What began as a desperate dispatch to family, turned into the passing of actual intelligence to British defense authorities, requiring a cat-and-mouse game to outfox the Argentinian communications specialists.
Ostensibly, Silvey complied with the military orders and surrendered his transceiver. Silvey turned in his registered radio and made “a fuss” when handing it in. He intended to make it memorable so to remove any suspicion that he had a transceiver. Additionally, he tore down his large antenna. During the dismantling process, a helicopter flew by and he and his friend were sure to wave to make sure the work was noticed.
To get around the problem of radio confiscation, he turned to his friend George. George captained a small ship and his HF radio had not been taken out of his ship. He retrieved it in secret, using a subterfuge to access the restricted waterfront, and smuggled it into a hiding place for Silvey to receive. Should the Argentinians notice the radio was missing from its place on the ship’s bridge, George would claim that while the ship was unattended, soldiers stole it—an entirely plausible answer.
Two problems now confronted Silvey; a power supply and an antenna. For the former, he turned other friends who drove hospital Land Rovers. A 12-volt battery was delivered that would provide power for the rest of the war. For an antenna, the steel clothesline made do, although it was not ideally matched to the frequency. Argentine troops still raided homes on a daily basis which meant Silvey was at risk. A pass issued by the commanding general, Mendez, served to notify troops that the house had been cleared and that they should not enter, although this was not an ironclad guarantee.
Silvey, now back on the air, made contact with a Briton who passed intelligence on to the Ministry of Defense. From his window, the lighthouse keeper could see the airport and wanted the authorities to know that the area, packed with troops and supplies, could be attacked without harming civilians. Following messages contained counts of weapon emplacements and their locations. One important bit of info passed on was the presence of a surface-to-air missile (SAM) launcher near the airport.
The authoritarian military occupation forces were quite serious about stopping illicit radio transmissions although their reach exceeded their grasp. Direction-finding vans combed the only city and capitol of Stanley as well as the rural portions of the island, known as the “camp.” Aiding his evasion of the foxhunters, Silvey used terrain against the Argentinians. Despite some islanders who were very remote from the bulk of the troops in town, Silvey sat on Cape Pembroke only five miles away.
However, terrain, propagation physics, and human nature were somewhat in his favor. First of all, the Argentinians were focused mainly on short-range VHF (2m) transmissions as this was the most common form of radio used in the islands. A major concern was local communicating with missing Royal Marines or SAS/SBS commandoes landed on the island to conduct reconnaissance. Hence the focus was less on high-frequency (HF) radio.
Direction finding (triangulation) of radio signals is affected by terrain, which can block both the propagation of transmitted signals and inhibit reception. Stanley is sited on the slope of a hill above a bay, which would place it below Silvey’s radio horizon (and that of much of the island). Putting terrain features between the transmitter and an interceptor can be an effective tactic, depending on the antenna, the band’s propagation characteristics, and other factors.
HF signals, being subject to ionospheric variations and skywave propagation, may exhibit non-linear paths and inconsistent signal strengths over different paths. This can introduce errors and uncertainties in triangulation calculations, making it more challenging to precisely determine the source location. On the other hand, VHF signals' line-of-sight propagation provides more predictable and direct paths, allowing for more accurate signal source triangulation.
Signal source triangulation requires the use of multiple receivers to measure the signal arrival times and calculate the intersection point of the signal paths. While the propagation characteristics play a significant role, other factors like receiver accuracy, timing synchronization, and environmental conditions also influence the overall accuracy of the triangulation process. Hence at least two mobile vans would be required to narrow down the suspected transmission location for house-to-house searches.
Silvey transmitted using a mixture of voice and morse code. His signals were often sent “in the blind”, that is transmitting without first establishing that someone is actually receiving. GCHQ, the UK’s version of the NSA, with their incredible global radio signal detection capabilities, likely detected these signals once they were aware Silvey was passing transmissions.
He also kept his transmissions short (around 15 seconds), which aided being able to evade detection. Longer transmissions give the direction-finders more time to detect and triangulate the signal (lowering the signal strength and using directional antennas, in line-of-sight bands, also decrease the probability of interception). Other islanders reported good results by decreasing their transmitting power to limit the propagation of their signals, thus preventing the distant interception sites/vans from receiving them.
Understandably, the Argentines were paranoid about British commandoes spying. Signals were detected, or believed to have been detected, in town by the Argentine foxhunters. However, no actual source was ever found. The area of interest for the electronics crew was some distance from where Silvey was transmitting from. While it is possible that others were transmitting, this information has not been revealed.
Several islanders did mention mysterious British men who seemed out of place moving about the town in the later phases of the occupation. As the Paras and the Royal Marines advanced, these mysterious men even made contact with particular islanders apparently making sure that they had not been arrested or killed. Many are certain these were British intelligence officers or commandoes. If MI6 or the armed forces infiltrated spies into Stanley prior to the British counter-invasion, it is still classified.
Another tactic Silvey employed was the use of another islander’s call sign, that of Bob McLeod, who lived across East Falkland in the small community of Goose Green. Silvey would drop Bob’s name, well known among hams who sought to make contact with the coveted, remote VP8 callsign. This bit of deliberate misinformation would lead any potential interceptors to assume McLeod was transmitting, which would be impossible since his radio had already been confiscated and himself interned. To this day, this “disinfo” had led people to believe in the legend of “Radio Bob.”
In a separate incident, after the residents of Goose Green had been interned, Argentinian troops occupying McLeod’s home came across a photo of him in uniform. McLeod was a member of the Falkland Islands Defense Force, the island militia. Already suspect for being a licensed ham, the occupiers accused him of being a spy. Much pleading had to be done on Bob’s behalf to convince the troops that his radio had already been impounded and he had been confined with everyone else. This the troops should have known, but the Argentinians did not send their best, and many such incidents involving the hair-trigger and largely conscript soldiers occurred.
Even if the information provided was not helpful, the continued transmissions forced the Argentines to monitor and hunt civilian radios. This dissipated their efforts which might otherwise have been focused on searching for special forces radioing back to the task force. Even the house-to-house searches that followed ensured that the population remained hostile to the occupiers.
A Chilean immigrant, Mario Zuvic, who hated Argentina devised a concealed aerial in a treetop that he and his friends used to listen to Argentinian forward observers on nearby hills. Some of the traffic they intercepted was mundane. Argentinians would be phone patched via radio back to their families. This was the only link, aside from mail, that the mostly conscript army of little more than boys, had with home.
Other efforts were considerably more dangerous. Despite all of the interference and the incredible frustration it caused, Mario’s transmitter was never found. In the rolling terrain of the “camp”, it wouldn’t be easy to triangulate the signal. Mario and his friends would send false signals to the occupiers’ radio control center including fake orders to disrupt forward observers.
In addition to this, they scanned the airwaves until they detected Argentine radio traffic then jammed the conversation by transmitting at maximum power. After one of the British landing ships was attacked, the following day when it seemed like it would happen again, Mario jammed the frequencies by simply keying the mic. This left the occupiers unable to send messages to their headquarters all day and probably disrupted both attacks on the ships and other combat operations.
Not long after an auxiliary airbase was completed at Goose Green, it was attacked by Harriers. Though the anti-air defenses scored one kill, the uneducated troops insisted that there was a spy among the civilians passing radio traffic to the British task force. This resulted in a house-to-house search for the radio that didn’t exist. One little girl even asked her father “Daddy, are we going to be shot?”
It is questionable whether or not the Argentines would have executed anyone. Given the lack of physical resistance in the islands and the rather hopeless position the occupying forces were in, it seems unlikely. General Menendez said that anyone caught transmitting intelligence to the British “would have been considered a spy and that that traditional treatment of spies” (being shot) would have been applied. Perhaps if Britain had not moved to recover the islands or if there was an active resistance taking Argentine lives the clandestine radio operators would have been treated more harshly.
Even so, Argentinians committed many war crimes, generally conducting or threatening mock executions. One captive civilian in Goose Green tuned a radio to the BBC, but in doing so, came across a conversation between hams. The troops thought that the islanders were somehow communicating with British forces and cocked their weapons threateningly. Eventually the occupation government’s sympathetic civilian administrator intervened and managed to get a senior military officer to parole the men to a hotel.
After an incident where an islander attempted to contact the British flotilla, helicopters were loaded with men and radios then flown back to Stanley. At the police station, one man was forced to write a statement and threatened with a knife. Others were taken outside, ordered to dig a trench (presumably) a grave, then forced to kneel in wet grass before soldiers dry-fired pistols in their backs.
The brave acts of the islanders during the Falklands War shows that radio is an important tool not only for communication, but for passive resistance. We won’t know for a few more decades what impact the passed intelligence had (until it is declassified) but even if it was redundant, much effort and time was expended by the occupiers trying to counter it. Civilian radios do have a place in creating electronic warfare as long as it is done smartly. And finally, to the consternation of Sad Hams everywhere, registration and licensing leads to confiscation. Always have radios no one knows about hidden away.
If this topic intrigued you, also check out NC Scout’s book The Guerrilla's Guide To The Baofeng Radio.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) for your defense force to fight from? A gun truck does two things; provides an armored platform for fighters to shoot from (on the move, if necessary) and serves as a delivery vehicle for your troops.
What differentiates a gun truck from a technical is that a gun truck is carrying men, who will fight from the truck bed or on foot, using rifles. A technical is generally a vehicle mounted and mobile heavy weapon, like a medium to heavy machine gun. As said earlier, the problem will be sourcing weapons that can be mounted, so we’re using the humans in the gun truck as the gun mounts.
The easiest way of making a gun truck is putting several guys in the bed of a pickup truck. They can shoot from there and then jump out to fight. An unmodified pickup bed will require your men to be seated so they don’t fall out. This limits their arcs of fire and the number of men who can safely fit. Three men should be sufficient to cover both sides and the rear of the vehicle.
With a heavy-duty truck, some steel, and fabricators the possibilities increase. Probably the best vehicle to have to break up an ambush or provide serious fire support against a bad guy’s attack would be an armored vehicle. One of those roaring out of the darkness and opening fire with machine guns, grenade launchers, and even cannons would be a gamechanger. It is a mobile defensive position that can go where help is needed.
Like as a technical is a substitute for a military fighting vehicle, a gun truck is a substitute for an armored personnel carrier. Obtaining an APC is not going to happen for most. What you can do is create a gun truck to not just transport a number of shooters but allow them to fire on the move and with relative safety.
Gun trucks are non-passenger vehicles filled with guns and shooters used to provide a base of fire and increase the firepower available to defenders. Being a truck, it’s mobile and can move from locations quickly while shooters are firing or it can participate in a convoy. Gun trucks are usually flatbed vehicles modified to support shooters in the cargo area. In a civilian context, shooters firing rifles in the truck bed are going to be more common than mounted crew-served weapons.
These really took off in Vietnam when supply convoys were ambushed. Modified 2.5-ton or 5-ton cargo trucks could quickly advance down a convoy column and return fire into the thick of it. These trucks had armored plating added on. Many farm trucks can be similarly modified to provide light armor protection and a good platform for shooting out of the cargo area. Mexican cartels do this to make their own improvised APCs and gun trucks, called “Monstrosos” or monsters.
Dragoons are mounted troops that got off their horses to fight, unlike the cavalry that fought from horseback. Pretty much all your fighters will be on foot. Whether people arrive via auto, ATV, or horseback, they will have to park their cars somewhere. This place should be behind cover and you will need someone to guard the vehicles. For example, cops always have vehicle guards at riots and when breaking up large parties. An unguarded vehicle is theft, vandalism, or sabotage waiting to happen.
If gun trucks or technicals are used in a convoy, deploy them where their firepower makes the most sense. This may be the center, the front, or the rear depending on variable factors. These are the ideal vehicles to stop and provide overwatch at a potential ambush point as the rest pass.
Up close, armored vehicles have poor visibility and weapons traverse. While this is a problem with traditional military vehicles, it is not so much for civilian vehicles unless they are so armored that visibility and firing angles are impaired. Typically, tanks and such are always accompanied by dismounted soldiers who can protect against enemies getting too close and deploying mines, “sticky bombs,” or rocket launchers.
Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.