Episode 22-40 is Part 3 of a series, covering non-permissive radio operations environments and ‘when ham radio is banned’.

This discussion is focused on a future potential scenario when operators must use tactics, techniques, and procedures, which might not be within current FCC regulations.  AmRRON policy is clear that all its members operate on the airwaves in a lawful manner.  We do not use encryption or otherwise intentionally obscure transmissions over the amateur radio bands.  If you see it, report it: johnjacob at amrron dot com.  It would be easy, and conceivable, for a malicious actor to ‘spoof’ a ham radio operator’s callsign and transmit illegally in order to bring scrutiny against an individual ham operator, whatever the motive might be.  This is why we emphasize and practice authentication measures.  

  • Assessing Communications goals
  • HF Renaissance in the US Army (Review)
  • Introduction to NVIS for HF
  • Antennas and Learning Your Footprint  (are you meeting your goals?) 
    • WSPRNet
    • PSKReporter
    • VOACAP
  • ATAK/CIVTAK battle tracking/incident tracking
  • Polarization of antennas on VHF (vertical vs horizontal)

This series is not a comprehensive course on operating in non-permissive environments. It is intended to be an introduction, with some practical tips, techniques, and procedures that you can (and may end up using) in the future.
So, we’ll cover some fundamentals that will increase your ability to effectively operate, and minimize the risk to you when you feel you MUST operate your radio when someone doesn’t want you to.

Assessing your communications goals.  What are you hoping to accomplish?:

In a WROL (Without Rule of Law) environment, what types of communications do you see yourself conducting, out of necessity?


  • Voice only, for quick coordination with others?  Digital/data mode capabilities for more in-depth intelligence and reports sharing?

Regional (up to 400 miles)

  • To an individual (family member or friends) just to stay in touch and check on their welfare, or supporting regional operations?
  • Welfare vs. Operational vs. Strategic communications
  • Voice vs. Digital modes

Continental (Intermediate to long range / 400 miles and  beyond):

  • To an individual (family member or friends) just to stay in touch and check on their welfare, or supporting regional operations?
  • Welfare vs. Operational vs. Strategic communications
  • Voice vs. Digital modes

Why will you be communicating? 

  • You and a family member (you and your brother), or multiple groups of family members or friends?
  • Mutual support, coordination and sharing of intel and coordination between multiple organizations?
  • Strategic communications supporting command and control for leadership to coordinate supplies.

Ask yourself, and answer these questions: 
– Who is it that I intent to communicate with?
– What is the purpose for our communicaitons?
– Why is this a permissive operating environment?

– Who is establishing the rule that I cannot communicate?
– Enforcement.  Who can stop me and what are their capabilities?  What type of threat do they impose?

  • Is it a local criminal or revolutionary element that’s forcing hams to work for them, or attempting to locate hams to take their equipment for their own use?
  • Is it low-intensity conflict, with skirmishes between rival factions with no RDF (radio direction finding) or jamming capabilities?
  • Is this a civil war, or an invasion, with portions of your country under enemy control?
  • Are you caught in hostile/occupied territory?
  • If you are in friendly territory, does your side have air superiority or air defenses?  Are you within, or outside of, artillery range (close to a border or forward edge of a battle line) ?
  • Is the threat/enemy force technologically advanced with RDF, jamming, or guided weapons capabilities?

All these things have to be factored in to your decision making and risk assessment processes.


The HF Renaissance in the US Army

Radio Club of America | Dec 30, 2021

Presented by Prof. Col. Stephen Hamilton KJ5HY, Chief of Staff and Technical Director of the Army Cyber Institute – United States Military Academy West Point.

JJS note:  The above video is worth watching in its entirety.  Please take the time to do so.  I think you’ll benefit from it.  If you have time constraints however, I’ve embedded the video to begin at the point where Col. Hamilton describes their NVIS experiment at NTC using ‘off the shelf’ ham radio equipment and software (FT8 and JS8).  Most interesting to me was the Watchdog analyzer allowing for DF’ing (Direction Finding) NVIS HF signals.

Points of highest interest:

“If we had an adversary looking for us, we wanted to see how low (power) we could go, and still make contact.” 

– Short transmissions / Small transmissions
– Low power transmissions

– 25w voice was the limit (how low they could go)

– Used JS8:  5w, then 1w, then 500mw, and finally 100mw and still able to make contact 21 kilometers away, but using NVIS (signal reaching the ionosphere and returning) 85 degrees (nearly straight up)


– How did they know they were transmitting 85 degrees from point to point?

  • Watchdog Direction Finding (uses 4 nvis antennas)
  • Determines transmitter location by:
    • Direction of arrival
    • Elevation of arrival (elevation of the F layer of the ionosphere)
  • This system was able to direction find (DF) our distant station within 1km while the station was transmitting 1 watt of power.
  • Could not get the Watchdog to DF at 100mw transmit power


Here are the main takeaways I’m hoping you keyed in on from this review of the The HF Renaissance in the US Army presentation.
– With NVIS operations, you can transmit just 20 miles, and up to 300 or so miles away without the use of repeaters or satellites. It’s ideal for rugged or mountainous terrain.
– It’s much more difficult and takes more specialized and expensive equipment, and adequately trained personnel, to DF High Frequency signals.
– Despite some commonly accepted myths, NVIS CAN be DF’d.  Take that into consideration.   I have heard statements like “you can’t DF NVIS.”  There was a time when that was true, but not any longer.  Fortunately, ground-based DF equipment does not provide the signal hunter with pinpoint accuracy.
– In the field test they did with the Watchdog HF DF Tactical Spectrum Monitor, it was accurate to about 1 kilometer. That’s a huge area, so it’s not pinpointing a station down to a couple meters, or ten, or even a few hundred meters.
– It became exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to DF the stations transmitting under 1 watt.  However, using JS8 software (something we use regularly), they were able to successfully message each other down to 100 milliwatts.
– In the field test described in the presentation, FT8 and JS8 modes were used on COTS equipment (commercial, off the shelf) — Elecraft KX3 or KX2, Buddypole, and a tuner. These modes are available to us, and in fact, many of us use this equipment and these modes on a regular, daily basis, and are already highly proficient with them.
– Without specialized DF equipment, it is virutally impossible for ground-based signal hunters to DF (Direction Find) NVIS signals. However, there are multiple air platforms that can identify a signal source very quickly, and with high accuracy.


The Android Tactical Assault Kit was mentioned, and I recommend AmRRON radio operators consider learning more about this excellent battle tracking/incident tracking and mapping tool.

There is a civilian version with the same functionality and many/most of the same tools as the military version.

Learn more at CIVTAK/ATAK

Raytheon (BBN) announced that they are building an ATAK plugin to manage Civilan Affairs tasks. The program is funded by Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate or IWTSD (Formerly the Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office).

There is a series of Youtube tutorial videos available as well. 


NVIS Resources

In the video embedded above, Col. Hamilton begins discussing NVIS at the 24:40 Mark

Other excellent resources I highly recommend can be found at:

American Partisan | NVIS techniques – Part one  (Parts 2 through 4 are listed at the top of the page at that link)

And the video below, from Military HF Radio – Episode 3 – HF NVIS  (I recommend the entire series, actually)



Can you reach who you want, when you want?

Do you know where your signal will land?   Which bands to use at various times of the day or night?

The following tools, PSKReporter and WSPRnet will help you understand exactly where your signal is reaching.





VOACAP (Voice of America Coverage Analysis Program) is free professional high-frequency (HF) propagation prediction software

Full VOACAP presentation — HF Military Radio Episode 4 – VOACAP Analysis



HF Military Radio

NVIS Presentation, includes introduction to VOACAP at about 5:38 min mark


Did you know?  …you can use online tools to DF radio signals on the HF bands?

The “Cuban Jamming Crisis” On 40 Meters Ham Radio?

from Ham Radio Crash Course  Youtube channel


Vertical vs. Horizontal polarized

This antenna demonstration is at the following Youtube channel (the owner of the video disabled embedding on other sites besides Youtube).  Go to about the 2:40 min mark to get past the “blah blah blah” part.


As you will see (or rather, hear), the station he is listening to absolutely vanishes when the Youtuber switches from a vertically polarized antenna to a horizontally polarized antenna.  Both antennas in the demonstration are yagi directional antennas pointed in the same direction.