April 2010
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Chief Executive Officer of Northeast Public Radio gets it wrong.

I was listening to locally produced program “The Media Project” on Northeast Public Radio this afternoon when Alan S. Chartock began speaking about HD radio®.  It was particularly interesting to me because it became very apparent that he really had no idea of what he was talking about.  What is more interesting and the point of this post is that Dr. Chartock is the CEO of Northeast Public Radio and thus should have a thorough understanding of the technology he is promoting.

He began by saying that most broadcasters where rushing to install IBOC (HD radio®) equipment.  According to the FCC.gov web site, there are currently 1,542 FM stations out of 9,630 total FM stations broadcasting in IBOC.  That represents approximately sixteen percent, which is a rather low number.  Further, many of those stations are National Public Radio member stations which received very generous grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (e.g. your tax dollars) to purchase and install the said digital radio equipment from the sole manufacture and licenser of IBOC radio in the US, Ibiquity.  Incidentally, there are 292 out of 4,790 AM stations currently broadcasting in IBOC, or roughly six percent.  Those numbers have been relatively static over the last several years.  It could hardly be called a rush to install.

I have a distinct problem with this scenario.  As Keep public radio public noted:

It is categorically wrong for public money to be used to subsidize a monopoly such as iBiquity, proprietary licensor of HD radio. Millions of dollars of funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have been used to promote the spread of HD radio by grants to local public radio stations for conversion to a substandard IBOC system, which not only fails to deliver on claims of superior quality but also interferes with signals from adjacent stations. Even FCC Commissioner Michael Copps admitted, “Everybody involved pretty much admitted from the outset that the digital radio initiative is all about giving the broadcast industry more avenues to make money rather than actually improving radio from the perspective of the listener.”

Secondly, Alan stated that there is no analog radio anymore, “It’s all digital.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I suspect that Dr. Chartock is simply ignorant of the technology in spite of his title as CEO.  That, in a nutshell, is the problem with IBOC technology.  No one in a position of authority seems to understand what it is all about.  While the technical spec looks better for main channel IBOC vs. analog FM if one is considering total frequency response only.  Unfortunately, to attain that 20 kHz spec, some very aggressive bit reduction is required to make the digital signal conform with the alloted bandwidth.  A well designed and maintained analog FM station will sound as good as any IBOC signal out there.  Add to that, the difficulty receiving the IBOC signal in mobile environments or lack of building penatration of the IBOC signal, and the digital carrier is far inferior to the analog stereo system that has been in use since 1961.

Most broadcasters see it as an opportunity for second program channel on the HD-2 carrier.  While that is one advantage of the technology, doing so means a revenue sharing agreement with Ibiquity.  If the main channels use aggressive bit reduction schemes, the second and third channel use bit reduction butchery.  If the audio quality of Sirius Satellite radio sounded bad, this sounds worse.   The quality of such secondary data streams is so low and I would think that organizations such as NPR and CPB, both of which pride them selves on the quality of their product would not want to degrade it thus.

Finally, IBOC (HD radio®) is not the same as HDTV.  On the TV side of things the HD stands for “High Definition.”  This notes an actual improvement to TV technology by increased picture size and screen definition.  On the radio side of things the HD stands for nothing, it is merely two letters that Ibiquity chose to represent its IBOC system.   The fact that the letters are “H” and “D” is a coincidence.

Copper theft and how to avoid it

One of the unfortunate signs of the times is increased theft of valuable materials. Copper, while not as expensive as it once was, still fetches a fair amount at the scrap dealer. One local telephone company has been having a difficult time keeping their aerial cables intact in certain areas. For radio stations, the situation is compounded by remote transmitter sites with lots of copper transmission lines and buried ground radials around AM towers.  Reduced staffing levels also means that the weekly trip to the transmitter site is now every two weeks or perhaps once a month or even less.

Site that are not visited or monitored very often are prime targets for copper theft.  Forget asking the local constabulary to patrol more often, the few times I tried that I was met with a blank stare.

A few common sense type things that I have learned over the years may keep your site intact:

  1. Keep  up appearances.  A neglected transmitter site is more likely to attract the wrong type of attention from the wrong type of people.  Clean up any rubbish, dead equipment, keep the weeds and trees cut down, etc.  If a site looks well tended and often visited, a thief may think twice about lifting valuable metals.
  2. Along with #1, keep things buttoned up.  Secure all transmission lines to ice bridges, remove any dead lines, etc.  If there are ground radials poking out bury them, same with ground screens, copper strap, etc.  Out of sight, out of mind, leaving this stuff exposed is asking for somebody to come along and give a tug.
  3. Fences and locks.  Towers are required to be fenced and locked to prevent electric shock hazard.  It is also a good idea to fence the building, generator and fuel tank if possible.
  4. Post all sorts of warning signs, RF warning, high voltage, no trespassing, under video surveillance, pretty much anything to deter trespassing and vandalism.
  5. Add video cameras with a video recording device since most theft occurs during non-working hours.  Last year, the company I used to work for traded a video surveillance system for the studio location.
  6. Compensate a neighbor to keep an eye on the place and call you if they see any suspicious activity.  It doesn’t even have to be money, I once worked out a deal with a neighbor for some T-shirts and CD’s.   That was the best alarm system we ever had.

In the long run, keeping all the copper parts where they belong is a great way to avoid those annoying “the station is off the air” phone calls not to mention the expense of replacing damaged transmission and ground systems.

The loudness wars are over, Apple has won!

Excuse me while I gag…

Okay, that’s a little better.  I was just reading up on the newest, greatest, holy cow, gee whiz, gotta have that expensive box processor, also known as the Omnia 11.  I have to hand it to Mr. Frank Foti and his marketing team.  They have created one heck of a buzz about this thing, and it seems like folks are jumping on board to shell out $10 – $12 K for the box.  But let us review a few things.

I will admit most freely that I tend to be an audio purest.  I do believe that a limited amount of processing has its merits, especially for those listeners in high noise environments like automobiles, work sites, etc.   With sloppy DJ’s working the consoles, there is a minor need for some limiting, gain reduction and so on, just to the air product levels aren’t all over the place.  Those are the real world considerations.

Does and Ipod have an air chain processor? No, if the Ipod user want more loudness, they turn up the volume.  Since most Ipod users are normal people and not some burned out DJ with bad hearing, the volume control on an Ipod has plenty of head room to satisfiy.  Does a Droid or a Blackberry or whatever else people are listening to these days have an air chain processor? No.  And most users/listeners of those devices are perfectly happy with the quality and quantity of audio.

Back in the day when loudness meant a bigger transmitter, more carrier power, bigger signal, was easier to tune manually with the non-digital dial readout, etc., perhaps a loudness war with the cross town rival was part of the game.  Nowadays, nobody cares except the program directors.  I repeat, NOBODY CARES.  Ask anybody on the street what the loudest radio station is.  They very likely won’t even understand what you are trying to ask and you likely could not explain it in terms that would make them understand, much less care about.

The average person doesn’t give a rat’s ass about loudness.  Nor do they really care about how deep and full the DJ’s voice is, or how well the noise gate works, or the six band EQ or any of that crap.  In fact, if the music sounded just like it does on the Ipod, e.g. completely unprocessed, they probably wouldn’t even notice.  The competition has changed and radio is being left behind because many people are stuck with old ideas about how things used to be.  Times have changed, what should be the driving force in radio, the listeners, want to hear the music that they like.  That is what the program director should be worried about, finding and playing good music that the listeners want to hear.  Or having the best talk show, the most interesting news, or whatever other programming the station carries.

If the programming content is good, compelling radio, they will listen.  Never mind the air chain processor, the mic processor, the limiter, how loud the station is, what power the transmitter is running at, etc.  That is for the Engineers to take care of.

The first radio stations

On this, the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, some radio history is in order.  Before broadcast stations, radio was mainly used by ships at sea sending messages in Morse Code to coastal radio stations.  These messages could be routine; we are on schedule, we are carrying such and such cargo, request port clearance, etc.  They could also be urgent; the ship is sinking, we need medical advice, etc.

RMS Titanic, April 10, 1912

RMS Titanic, April 10, 1912

Most of these early radio stations were owned by Marconi Company, which later became RCA.  One of the first Marconi Stations was in Wellfleet Cape Cod, original call sign MCC (for Marconi Cape Cod) later changed to WCC.

On April 14th about 11:45pm, the Titanic struck and ice burg and sank about two and a half hours later.  The RMS Titanic call sign MGY was equipped with a radio transmitters at a time when ships were not required to be.  Sadly, the finer details of distress procedures for radio equipped ships had not been worked out.   After this incident, radio distress procedures were codified and the SOS evolved into the internationally recognized distress signal.

On the night the ship sank, the Marconi employed radio operators were sending routine traffic to Cape Race, Newfoundland radio.  Because the radio apparatus used spark gap transmitters and crystal radio receivers, interference from other ship stations often caused problems.  Earlier in the evening, a Titanic radio operator had strongly rebuked the operator from the closest ship, the SS Californian, telling him to “Shut up, shut up, I am busy; I am working Cape Race.” About 11pm the SS Californian operator retired for the evening and the Californian never received the distress call.  Sadly, this incident probably led to the high loss of life because the Californian was just over the horizon to the west and would have likely been able to rescue many of the passengers before the Titanic sank.

Coast Guard radioman Jeffrey Herman has a good SOS story from the late 70’s.  Being stationed on Hawaii, he was on duty late one night at Coast Guard Radio Station Honolulu, call sign NMO.

John Davies, the radio operator on board the Eriskay also has a story about receiving an SOS while at sea. Fortunately, that one turns out a little better.

I remember one night, myself hearing an automated SOS on the international lifeboat frequency (8364 kHz).  I imagined some poor guy cranking the life boat radio not knowing if it was going out or not (I was right, it turns out).  We heard him on Guam and DF’d him to off the coast near Australia.  We notified the Australian authorities, who diverted a nearby ship that picked 26 survivors up the next morning.

I am sure there a quite a few old CW (morse code) radio operators out there that have similar stories.  By the 1990’s most maritime communications had moved to INMARSAT, CW and coastal radio stations became redundant.

The end of commercial Morse Code in the US came on July 13, 1999, when KFS, the last coastal radio station, signed off.  Most of them have been scrapped and the valuable coastal land sold off to developers.

The development of broadcast radio was a direct offshoot of these radio stations.  AM radio, or rather AM technology was developed by ATT as an adjunct for their long distance system.  ATT used High Frequency (HF) voice circuits to span oceans for several decades, up to about the mid 1960’s.  Amateur radio operators began fooling around with voice broadcasting, using ATT’s patented AM technology around 1915 or so, after tube type transmitters and receivers became available.   Somebody realized the money could be made with the new fangled radio contraption and commercial broadcasting was born.

Radio Headed in the wrong direction

Inside radio seems to be hitting its stride, the latest story about a survey they took hits the nail squarely on the head.  Of the survey takers, 74% say that radio is off the rails.  According the Inside Radio, 854 surveys were completed.

Granted, most readers of Inside Radio likely work in the industry.  The Recession (on which all bad things seem to be blamed) has cast a pall over the working environment in most radio stations, especially those owned by the big three.  If anything, this survey is a good inside look at how radio station employees feel.

What is more telling are the thirteen pages of comments that survey takers left, many of which state precisely what I have said in the past:

It’s about live local connection to the community!

That cuts right to the heart of the matter.  Radio has lost its connection with the local community and has marginalized itself.   Now the major owners are riding the wave which is in decay.  Radio is no longer about the listeners or even the advertisers, it is about maximizing profits and minimizing expenses until the day they throw the big switch and turn off the last transmitter.

I wonder if they’ll talk about that issue at the NAB, or will it be drowned out by happy talk of The Recession ending and a bright future ahead.   More likely the latter, no one in high levels of radio management wants to admit there is a problem.  A problem they created.  Firing most of the local talent will be the undoing of radio.  That being said, radio equipment manufactures and vendors will do pretty well this year.  After all, equipment is an asset, employees are liabilities.

15 ways to (un)motivate your employees

Radio stations, at least when I first started in this business, were always upbeat happy places.  Even in the worst of times and conditions, there were enough characters around to keep things lite, even if it was sometimes gallows humor.  Back then, radio was an entertainment business, and who better to practice on then each other.  Working late at night on a crappy transmitter, there was usually plenty of company and pizza.  Even though the pay was low, the perks normally made up for it; diner or a movie trade for overtime, etc.  In short, it was a fun place.

That was then, this is now:  There is no fun in radio anymore, anyone who attempts to have fun will be disciplined or fired.  Here are fifteen ways to ruin your staff’s moral if you think they are having too much fun:

  1. Give the general impression that you don’t care about them, or better yet, don’t care about them.
  2. Slowly erode whatever benefits are left.  Start with vacation time, reduce it by 1/3 or more.  Force give backs on sick days and personal days.
  3. Stop 401k matching contributions.
  4. Make them pay a greater and greater share of health and dental “benefits.”  Make sure the benefits have very high co-pays and yearly deductables.
  5. Place the blame squarely on other shadowy exterior forces such as “The Banks.”
  6. If the employees really have you up against the wall, fire the general manager then blame him/her for every bad thing that has happened in the last ten years.
  7. Don’t give raises.  Make an announcement at the Christmas Party that there will be no raises this year.
  8. Micro-manage.  Make sure that every decision to do anything, no matter how small or insignificant, is run by you first.  No one is capable of independent thought or action.  Delay everything for no purpose whatsoever, just to show them who is boss.
  9. Fire all senior staff members because they are making too much money.
  10. Don’t replace terminated employees, rather spread the work around to those left.
  11. Continually ask the staff why it is taking so long to get their work done, hang around and offer meaningless suggestions on how to be more efficient.
  12. To motivate sales people, attend sales meetings.  Make each sales person stand up and state what their budget is, whether they are meeting it and what steps they plan to take if they are not.  Have the spread sheet in front of you in case they lie.
  13. Do not to any building maintenance:  Roof leaks?  Wear a rain coat.  Furnace doesn’t work? Keep your coat on.  Don’t have a coat?  Here’s the address for the Salvation Army.  Floor rotting out in the production room?  Watch your step, else you may have to crawl through the spider webs under the building to get out.
  14. Strongly “suggest” that all employees should work two Saturdays per month.  If you think they are not meeting that “obligation” harass them every opportunity you get, e.g. the men’s room, staff meetings, the hall way, call them on Saturday at home and ask when they might be coming to work, etc.
  15. If anyone complains, tell them the are lucky to have a job and if they don’t like it, they know where the door is.

Those are the best fifteen, there are many more.  These are tried and true methods that have worked wonders for my former employer’s moral.  Not so much, however, the staff.  Those poor bastards.

You know, when your job interview seems a little off, perhaps it would be better to seek employment elsewhere:

Why “New Media” is no replacement for “Old Media.”

200px-NetNeutrality_logo.svgThe DC circuit court struck a stinging blow to any thoughts about so called “Net Neutrality” when it overturned the FCC attempts to force Comcast the abide by its rules regarding internet access.  The three judge panel ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to force Internet Service Providers (ISP) to give equal access to all its customers.  In a nut shell, this means that companies like Comcast, ATT, Verizon, can filter search engine results and traffic, baning  websites for no specific reasons.

So much for net neutrality.  Say I type something here that is critical of one of those companies, or any ISP for that matter.  With a few key strokes, my site will disappear.  Gone.  Just like that.  For those that think the internet is this wonderful open global village thing that can spread the word and and as a sort of modern day check and balance system, think again.  In this day and age, when corporations have the same rights as people, look for the large ISPs to spend significant lobbying dollars to keep the laws tilted in their favor.  I would expect to also see quite a few campaign contributions to legislators that are friendly to large corporations.

There are several letter writing campaigns, urging the FCC to change its classification of ISP’s to a common carrier status, something that would put the ISP’s squarely under the FCC’s control.   I look upon those with a jaundiced eye.  Perhaps the FCC can be convinced to change the rules, this time.  What will happen when a new FCC gets appointed?  Will those changes stay in effect?  The cynical side of me says no.

Independently run media outlets have traditionally acted as a backstop in our society.  There are fewer and fewer of those left these days.  I will readily acknowledge that the current crop of radio station owners, with some minor exceptions, have left the industry in a shambles.  Their decision to place profit above all considerations, in spite of  the license being granted in the public trust, has decimated news rooms, reduced staffing, and relegated community involvement  to a minor paper work shuffle at license renewal time.  All of this and more have conspired to make radio dull and uninformative.   Bland canned formats created and programmed thousands of miles away have ruined local radio flavor.  No wonder why people spend money to download from Itunes.

Yet, radio listenership is still high.  Radio’s saving grace is it is nearly universal, everyone has a radio, most households have four or five radios.  The technology is time tested and it works well.  Almost every square mile of the US is covered by broadcast radio signals.  Some areas are sparse, but there is at least one or two stations that come in.  People are used to radio, there is no learning curve, no subscriber fees, no censorship from a huge faceless mega corporation.  Well, that last part is in theory, anyway.  It is almost too much of a coincidence that mega corporations also own the majority of radio stations too.

Television as a medium is almost gone.  Very few people actually watch over the air TV, most people get their TV piped into their house via cable.  Once again, as those in the NY metropolitan area know, there is no guarantee that the local cable operator will carry a broadcast station, vis a vis the WABC-7 Cablevision dispute from last month.

Newspapers are struggling to stay afloat, even the once mighty New York Times has seen better days.

That leaves us with Radio to fill in role of un-censored informer.  Can they?  Will they?  It would be a radical departure from the current course and only time will tell.

The Buzzer

If you have a shortwave radio and are feeling a little bored late, late (or early depending on your perspective) at night, tune around to 4625 kHz AM.  If the propagation is right, you might hear a peculiar buzzing noise.  That is a Russian radio broadcast station, call sign UVB-76, it has been nicknamed “The Buzzer.”

This shortwave radio station has been on the air since sometime in the early 1982.  It’s exact purpose is somewhat of a mystery.  It transmits a 0.8 second buzzing sound followed by 1 to 1.3 seconds of silence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The station’s transmitter is located about 25 miles northwest of Moscow (56° 4′ 58″ N, 37° 5′ 22″ E) in an area thought to be near the communication’s hub of the General Staff of the Russian Army.  It transmits with a carrier power of 10KW into a horizontal Dipole antenna about 65 feet high.

Dipole antenna for UVB76 transmitter

Dipole antenna for UVB76 transmitter

There are only 3-4 times during it’s almost thirty year history that voices where transmitted on the station.  They said (from Wikipedia):

At 21:58 GMT on December 24, 1997, the buzzing abruptly stopped to be replaced by a short series of beeps, and a male voice speaking Russian announced: “Ya — UVB-76. 18008. BROMAL: Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 742, 799, 14.” The same message was repeated several times before the beep sequence repeated and the buzzer resumed.

A similar voice message was broadcast on September 12, 2002, but with extreme distortion (possibly as a result of the source being too close to the microphone) that rendered comprehension very difficult. This second voice broadcast has been partially translated as “UVB-76, UVB-76. 62691 Izafet 3693 8270.”

A third voice message was broadcast on February 21, 2006 at 7:57 GMT. Again, the speaking voice was highly distorted, but the message’s content translates as: “75-59-75-59. 39-52-53-58. 5-5-2-5. Konstantin-1-9-0-9-0-8-9-8-Tatiana-Oksana-Anna-Elena-Pavel-Schuka. Konstantin 8-4. 9-7-5-5-9-Tatiana. Anna Larisa Uliyana-9-4-1-4-3-4-8.

There seem to be two semi-official explanations; One website claims the station is meant to “Transmit orders to the military units and recruitment centers of the Moscow military district,” the other is the constant buzzer is the High-frequency Doppler method for ionosphere research.  Both of these seem implausable since the station was on the air for fifteen years before any voice transmissions and the station’s location is not near any known research facilities.

Naturally, there is youtube video of it:

Other possible uses include some type of dead hand system.  Is Russian, this is called Perimetr or “Hand from the coffin.”  It is an automatic or semi automatic launching system for nuclear ballistic missiles.  In theory, if an incoming first strike is detected, the system is turned on and it waits for input from the military leadership.  If none is received, as would be the case if all military and civilian leadership were killed in the first strike (as so called “decapitation strike,” or more recently “shock and awe”), then the surviving nuclear weapons would be launched automatically in a retaliatory strike.

Think of something like 4 8 15 16 23 42

Is this the true purpose of The Buzzer?  The only ones who really know are the Russians and they, of course, are not saying anything.

If this radio station is used in a system like that, I would imagine that there are radio receivers tuned to 4625 kHz at Russian military installations.  That frequency likely propagates well to most of the Russian landmass.  In addition to an automated launching system, it might also be used as a “communication of last resort” type system.  If the buzzing stops, an alarm sounds and the speaker un-mutes.  This would be a good reason to use AM vice some other type of pulsed or digital modulation scheme, which would likely perform better for an automated system.

If that is the case, then we each should say a little prayer every night that UVB-76 aka “The Buzzer” keeps on buzzing.

I’ll leave you with this one:

I do not speak Russian.

You speak English.

Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself

Delta Current Sample Toroid

Another example from my blown up shit collection, artifacts division:

Delta TCT-1HV current sample toroid destroyed by lightning

Delta TCT-1HV current sample toroid destroyed by lightning

This is a Delta TCT-1HV current sample toroid that was pretty well destroyed during a thunderstorm.  I mounted it on a piece of plexi-glass because I think it looks cool.  This unit was installed at the base of the WGY transmitting tower.  One June evening, I received a call from the station operator (back when they had live operators) that the air signal sounded kind of “funny.”  So I turned on the radio and sure enough, if one thinks a radio station that sounds like a motor boat is funny, then, why yes indeed, it did sound funny.

Since I only lived a few miles away from the site, I jumped in the trusty truck and headed over.  Upon arrival, I found the MW50B on the air at full power, with the carrier power swinging wildly from 20-90 KW with modulation.  Hmmmm, bad power supply?  Turned the transmitter off and tried to place the backup transmitter on the air.  Now the old Gates BC5P had never been super reliable in the first place, but it was odd that it would not even run at all.

Then I had a hunch, lets walk out to the tower I said to my assistant who had showed up to help.  When we got to the ATU building it was filled with blue smoke.  Ah ha!  Somebody let the magic smoke out of one of the components!  I was expecting a capacitor blown in half but was surprised to fine the copper tubing that connected the ATU to the tower melted in half.  Lightning must have caused an arc between the tubing and the toroid and for some reason the transmitter kept on running while it was arcing.  The copper tubing in the picture with toroid is only missing about six inches, the way the system was mounted at the tower base, fourteen inches of copper tubing was missing, or rather melted into a puddle on the bottom of the ATU.

I quickly found another piece of 1/2 inch copper, cut it to length and flattened out the ends with a hammer and drilled mounting holes.   Luckily I was able to get everything back in order quickly and the station returned to the air about an hour or so after it went off.

Everything has a cause.  Investigation showed that the VSWR circuit on the MW50 had been disconnected from the directional coupler.  The lead was un-soldered and taped off, so it was quite intentional.  I spoke briefly with two of the three prior engineers that had serviced the MW50 over the years, they both blamed the other one.  I surmise this; The WGY tower was prone to lightning strikes because of it’s height.  Even if the tower was not directly struck by lightning, often times the guy wires would arc across the insulators, causing the MW50 to momentarily interrupt the PDM signal and drop the carrier for about a second.  Some programming people at the station did not like this, it sounded bad on the air, so one of those guys undid the VSWR circuit and voila! No more momentary outages during a thunderstorm! Brilliant!  Except for the 60-90 minute outage one night…

Sometimes it is better to tell the program directors that their idea is not good, then move on.

STEELYARD Over The Horizon Radar

This does not have much application for broadcast radio, other than the technical facilities are fascinating.  I did once hear the slow speed version on 500 KHz distress and calling frequency, which is below the broadcast band.    DUGA-3 Over The Horizon Radar (OTH) was a Soviet early warning radar system that operated on HF (between 3-30 MHz).  When I was military communications, stationed on Guam, we were often plagued with the “woodpecker” sound, often times pegging the signal strength meter on whatever frequency we were using. On any typical day, at least once or twice we would have to change frequencies due to the “RAT TATATATATATATATATATATATATAT!” coming in over top of what we were trying to do.  Anyone who listened to shortwave radio or was a ham radio operator from the mid 70’s on through 1989 will be familiar with the sound.

The NATO classification for the system was STEELYARD.  I don’t know if it is a coincidence or not, but the name fits the system design. There where three systems, one located near Chernobyl, inside the evacuation zone, which was abandoned intact.  The second was near in the Ukraine, outside of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and the third was on the Russian Pacific coast, near the island of Sakhalnsk.

Basically, it operated in the HF frequency range, 3-30 MHz with a power of about 10 million watts (some sources up to 40 MW).  The propagation conditions where continuously monitored with an ionospheric chirp sounder (civilian version looks something like this).  The best frequency for the target area was then chosen and used without regard to band plans or frequency planning.  In fact, often the soviet shortwave propaganda station Radio Moscow was also interfered with.  The target areas were the missile launching and testing areas used by the US and Great Britain.  The object resolution was about 15 km, which is not that good, but good enough to determine origin and flight path of a potential missile.

Distant view STEELYARD OTHR array, Chernobyl, Ukraine

Distant view STEELYARD OTHR array, Chernobyl, Ukraine

The remains of the DUGA-3 array near Chernobly represents some real engineering feats.  First off, the tall towers are 146 meters (479 feet tall), the short towers are 90 meters tall (295 feet)  and system is aligned in a row 750 meters (2,460 feet long). The taller towers are for lower frequencies because they have larger transmit antenna elements, thus the shorter towers are for higher frequencies.

Side view STEELYARD OTHR, Chernobyl, Ukraine

Side view STEELYARD OTHR, Chernobyl, Ukraine

The array itself is quite impressive close up.  The cage like devices are the radiating elements of the antenna.  The elements are feed by open wire feed line from the bottom of the tower.  Behind the radiating elements, you can see a series of wires, these acted as a reflector, directing the energy transmitted out the front of the array.

Active transmitting elements, OTHR

Active transmitting elements, OTHR

Considering the wind load, these are substantial towers.  I would say the wind load on the face of the tower would be almost equivalent to flat plate.  The towers are strongly back braced.

Under the towers, OTHR

Under the towers, OTHR

The ionospheric chirp sounder receive antenna is also located at a site known as “The Circle.”  An ionospheric chirp sounder sweeps the HF spectrum from one location and is received in a second location.  This give real time radio propagation information.  The Circle is about ten miles away from the STEELYARD array.

Ionospheric chirp sounder antenna, Ukraine

Ionospheric chirp sounder antenna, Ukraine

The other DUGA-3 radar stations were scraped after the system was turned off in 1989, this one was abandoned intact.  Over the years looters have made off with most of the transmitter and receiver apparatus, wiring and associated scrap metal.  Only the towers remain and empty buildings remain.

Pictures from Lost Places, more pictures and information there.


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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