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Letter Re: Radio Communications and SIGINT


I’ve been a follower of your writings since you wrote your shareware novel “The Gray Nineties“. After seeing some recent postings on SurvivalBlog regarding communications, I decided to write you.

I have been a licensed Amateur Radio Operator since 1984. Before that I was a “skip shooter” on the 11 meter band. My Army MOS [1] was 13E [2]. I’m presently a Certified Electronic Technician working in the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) industry.

Survivalists who use tactical radio communications, whether it is CB, MURS, FRS, marine band, or VHF/UHF ham, need to be aware of a police scanner technology called either “Signal Stalker” [3] or “Close Call”. This is a near-field detection and intercept function that is available in inexpensive (under $200)  police scanners which allow almost instant (2 seconds or so) frequency determination and monitoring of radio signals. With handheld radios, this distance is about 1,000 feet. With high-power base stations, the range can reach a mile with the right antenna. It doesn’t matter where in the spectrum you try to hide, a COMINT [4] operator with this readily-available technology will find you in a matter of seconds and in short order be listening to you.

Furthermore, even at extended distances, current police scanner technology is at about 100 channels per second. That means that a COMINT operator can scan through the entire 2 meter [5] ham band in about eight seconds. I have a list of about a hundred common handheld VHF and UHF radio frequencies (including FRS, MURS, and GMRS) used by handheld radios. It takes a second to scan through them all with a regular police scanner.

I advise SurvivalBlog readers to look into finding surplus (Motorola) LMR radios that support encryption (DVP-XL or DES-XL) and the respective key loader. These radios can be programmed up with GMRS (UHF) or MURS (VHF) frequencies and used legally on those frequencies. When TSHTF [6], users can then turn on the encryption.

Other options include the use of Nextel/Sprint “Direct Talk”. This off-network communications mode uses frequency hopping on 900 MHz and won’t be picked up by police scanners. Motorola and Trisquare also make frequency hopping radios that operate on the license-free 900 MHz. band.