Digital Comms for the Survivalist

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by WA4STO, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. WA4STO

    WA4STO Digital Communications Monkey

    One of the best kept secrets in the wonderful world of ham radio is that we have developed a number of digital networks that allow the survivalist to transmit and receive messages from around the country, and around the world.

    From BOL to BOL, from bunker to bunker, these networks are on high alert, 24/7/365, and are scanning numerous frequencies on numerous bands, searching for your puny little pre / post and during SHTF signals. Trust me, this is a good thing. Stay with me and you'll learn why that is.

    I'd like to tell you about two of those networks as well as some reasons why you might wish to avail yourself of them.

    But first, spider monkeys, I'm going to step back and see who's interested, who has questions, and how best to pique the interests of those assembled herewith.

    Yes, that's a Ruger SR40. To date, I have no evidence that radio frequency energy will ignite powder.

    73 de "Luck", WA4STO

    Dont likes this.
  2. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    The digital modes are something I've wanted to get into but simply haven't devoted the time to it. I have recently acquired an HF rig (160-10) and have a 2m/440 handheld (Wouxun...don't think there's an interface to do digital with that though) and will be putting up an antenna (80-6) in the next week or two.

    Definitely something I would like to learn more about.
  3. WA4STO

    WA4STO Digital Communications Monkey

    Aha! Which HF radio did you get?

    I'm not familiar with the new generation of hand-helds, but I can tell you if your's has an available microphone jack and a 'speaker' jack, you can certainly do what you gotta do.

    In 43 years of being a ham radio operator, I've fired up just about every transmitter I've ever had on the digital modes.

    'Course, back in the 70s, 'digital' meant RTTY and that was about it. Today, we have slow scan television, PSK31, Feld Hell, MFSK16, ALE, AX-25 packet, Olivia, etc etc.

    But for this particular discussion, I'll focus on WINMOR and Pactor as those are the modes that are incorporated in the two digital infrastructures that we have available for your use.

    Both modes provide:

    1. OPSEC and COMSEC. Since the messages are 'squished' prior to transmission, you can be reasonably sure that the nosy neighbors, the local newspaper reporters sittin' on their scanners, and the mutant zombie bikers aren't going to be reading your stuff.

    2. Relay infrastructure. Uber important, so that you don't need ridiculous amounts of power, gigantic antennas, or the need to talk directly to the bunker at the far end. Myself, I use a hunk of wire, hidden in the trees, so as to connect to my local digital hub, who will automatically relay my (your!) message traffic along the way to the ultimate destination.

    3. Error correction. Also extremely important. What's received is what was sent in the first place. What gets relayed from point to point is what you spat out originally. Guaranteed.


    Luck, WA4STO

  4. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus

    Got a Kenwood TS-430S (with EVERYTHING installed) from kind of an elmer (he knows who he is but I don't want people abusing his INCREDIBLE generosity).

    I have some VERY restrictive covenants in my HOA so I'm looking at getting a MFJ-1625. Probably order it this weekend.
  5. WA4STO

    WA4STO Digital Communications Monkey

    Ah, the TS-430S. The folks over on the eham reviews really love that olde gal.

    Perfect for digital operation, too. Keep the power down to 40-ish watts and it'll keep burpin' 'n beepin' for decades.

    Best 73

    Luck, WA4STO

  6. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Welcome aboard, Byron. You'll find most monkeys are OPSEC oriented, you won't pick up too much info on individuals until you've been here a while. BTPost is our radio comms specialist, you'll no doubt be reading his posts and blog. There are a few other hams aboard with varying levels of experience on the air, and a couple others that are thinking about taking the tests.

    Motomom34 likes this.
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Welcome to the Comms forum, WA4.... Yes, we have a good group of Hams here... to share Ideas with, and educate our Newbies, on the more advanced Modes available to Hams. Just an aside here, you might want to read the Communications White Paper... MonkeyNet is here.... and see if the concept is something you might be interested in. The technology is Free, and available to ANYone, and Everyone, however the actual MonkeyNet Group is by Invitation Only, and Vetting takes a while, as we need to get to know you, a bit better. If you do decide that this might be of interest to you, Let @DarkLight know, via PM, and he can hook you up to the Place where the Technology can be downloaded. I see in your Bio on, that your .Mil Service, is similar to some other Monkeys, here-bouts. Looks like you are a contemporary of @tulianr. Maybe you served together. .......
  8. WA4STO

    WA4STO Digital Communications Monkey

    Heh, yes, I've run into Bruce many a time on the other forums that we mutually frequent.

    Thanks kindly for the warm welcome.

    73 de Luck, WA4STO
  9. WA4STO

    WA4STO Digital Communications Monkey

    Of the two digital data networks that we make available for free use to all preppers, the statistics are now out for at least one, the NTS(D) Pactor network, for the month of July:

    July NTS(D) Stats
    Eastern Area Hub - 13,012 messages
    Central Area Hub - 16,199
    Pacific Area Hub - 12,529
    Total for July 41,740

    So it's not at all like nobody's using it, that's for sure.

    Still, the point can be made that it's up and running, 24/7/365 and is available for YOUR use.

    And the NTS(D) Pactor network is FAR smaller than the WL2K system. I don't have stats for WL2K, but I can guesstimate that it transported a hundred times more messages last month than NTS(D) did.

    Winlink 2000 is used by a lot of mariners and full-time RVers who are stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no commercial power and no internet. Sound familiar, maybe? For them, it's a mini-SHTF, made a lot more comfortable by the fact that they can remain in touch with loved ones, all around the world.

    Many (most?) of the NTS(D) and WL2K node operators aren't in it for the utility of being able to communicate with others. Rather, we find it much more gratifying to make error-corrected, non-voice communications available to anybody who feels the need.

    And yet many of you could easily wonder why not just pick up a mike and yack?

    Well, you could.

    Except that by doing things that way, you'd have no error correction, you'd have an EXTREMELY limited path of reliability, and you'd end up having to accept those limitations.

    Instead, you could consider using the digital networks that we have available to you. Did I mention that they are free?

    Best 73

    Luck, WA4STO

    BTPost likes this.
  10. WA4STO

    WA4STO Digital Communications Monkey

    Then, there's the WL2K system.

    WL2K is a LOT more useful to the survivalist than even the NTS(D) Pactor system.

    Why? Because it has a lot more nodes that are near to your own location, meaning that it will take a bare minimum of power and the smallest of stealth antennas to enable you to connect with them, and get your message traffic out to its ultimate destinations around the country, and around the world.

    Here's a somewhat simplified (not to mention poorly done) graphic of how I (or YOU) can get into the WL2K system.


    Note that the callsigns (N9LOH-5 for example) are for my location in Nebraska. In your case, you can use any of the large number of relay points that are available in your area.

    WL2K flexibility has other important aspects as well. It may prove to be your experience that the 40 meter band, as shown, might not work during a given point in the day; that's the nature of HF propagation.

    Not to worry, though, the WL2K stations typically scan numerous frequencies on numerous bands. That way, if you can't connect to a given station, you can always switch bands and connect to one that will support your SHTF comms.

    Flexibility is great. For you.


    Luck, WA4STO
    BTPost likes this.
  11. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Luck, It would be nice if you could write up a simple Tutorial, that covered a Starter Hardware System, say with a TS-430, or similar, and a low cost Modem, that includes wiring etc. Then present an operational Tutorial of making a connection, passing a messages, retrieving a message, ect. This might give some newer, non-Digital Hams an idea, about the specifics, of this type of Comms... Just a suggestion....
    melbo, Hammerhead and ghrit like this.
  12. Dont

    Dont Just another old gray Jarhead Monkey

    Now this is some good information. was talkin with someone just about this and how to do seccomm.. Esp with other like minds in the AO..
    melbo likes this.
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