Letter Re: eXRS Radios and Texting in the Field

A current discussion forum thread {at AR15.com] on eXRS two-way radios is worthy of mention. Also see this description.

In searching the SurvivalBlog archives, I only found one post mentioning eXRS Radios. Here is a description of test by a paintball team.

What are your thoughts for secure short range comm? Text messaging could have some uses for silent comm. – Craig W.

JWR Replies: The eXRS radios are fine in the voice mode, but I am very dubious of the tactical practicality of text messaging, at least once the lead starts flying. Who in their right mind is going to want to take their eyes off the immediate situation for that long? The US military uses handheld text and graphics devices only in very limited situations, such as artillery fire control, and relaying information for close air support. Special Forces field tests with sophisticated graphics systems such as the Inter-4 Tacticomp (made, BTW by one of my former employers) showed that they only had genuine utility in setting up tactical situations. Once the first shot was fired, the gadgets were often tossed aside and operators reverted to good old fashioned shouts and hand-arm signals.

In contrast to the complexity of texting, voice communications are proven and fairly reliable. Also, keep in mind that we are living in the era of light amplification night vision equipment. This will turn even a small backlit LCD display into a huge “shoot me” beacon at night. (I should mention here that most currently-produced full mil spec electronics have a very dim “NVG” mode, which these radios lack. It is probably feasible to do a modification that would disable the back-light element(s). Failing that, an improvised cover using a strip of ubiquitous duck tape will suffice.) You can of course also use the expedient of working under a draped poncho. This method has been used for many years for map reading at night, with a red lens flashlight. But again, the tactical utility of texting is doubtful. In essence:, if you are in a situation where you are close enough that you would worry about opponents hearing you use voice communications, then that is also close enough (read: within rifle range) that you wouldn’t want to sacrifice situational awareness to be looking down at text messaging device. Ear buds and small boom microphones seem far more practical for most short range tactical communications.

The bottom line: Buy the best hand-helds that you can, and when outdoors use them exclusively with ear buds. The eXRS radios are a good option, particularly in a signal-dense urban environment. And I am also a big believer in rock solid radio communications and intrusion detection sensors as effective force multipliers. (In a rural retreat situation, with limited manpower, I can foresee that have one radio frequency for both voice comms and intrusion detection will be ideal.)

I’ll close with one big proviso: Don’t make the mistake of becoming overly dependent on gadgets. Time and weather will take their toll. (As The Memsahib is fond of saying; “It’s entropy, Jim, entropy.”) Always have a Plan B and C for communications, and be ready and able to revert from high tech to no tech. Train for both best case and worst case situations, when it comes to your electronics.

Economics and Investing: