Number Stations

Discussion in 'The Club House' started by Trunk Monkey, May 29, 2020.

  1. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Well-Known Member

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    I was listening to my radio at work this morning and around 2 a.m. right in the middle of a song the music faded out and the radio went silent. It wasn't staticy like the station was off the air, it was silent like the station was on the air but it wasn't transmitting.

    Then I heard a man's voice repeating four digit sets of numbers. Such as 1 2 3 4 - 2 3 4 5 - 3 4 5 6- 4 5 6 7. The man would repeat four groups and then the radio would go silent for 2 minutes or so and he'd repeat the same four groups again.

    Then the radio would go silent for another 2 minutes and again he'd repeat the same four groups of numbers. Then he would stop and after about a minute my station would come back.

    I wasn't paying close enough attention to tell if he was repeating the same 4-Digit groups but this went on approximately every 20 minutes from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. It was obviously some kind of code but I was thinking drug dealers or the numbers racket or something like that.

    So I Googled it and apparently there's a thing called a Number Station. A number station transmits coded messages to its own intelligence agents operating in a foreign country.

    According to everything I read no government on the face of the Earth will admit that they use these radio stations but they broadcast all over the world, usually on shortwave. However according to what I read last night North Korea broadcasts on FM which I assume would mean that they have to be broadcasting from somewhere in the United States.

    When I lived in Florida in the mid-80s radio Cuba would broadcast from Havana and their signal was so powerful that it would override radio stations as far north as Tampa. I remember one country station in particular although I can't remember the call letters that they would override every Saturday for about 4 hours.

    When I lived in Germany I heard radio Moscow a couple of times. I think you had to have radio that was tuned to European frequencies to get it but I heard it a couple of times when I was on guard duty. And I'm sure some of what they were broadcasting had to be code but I'd never heard anything like this.

    This station had to be Broadcasting nothing but coded messages. I wonder what I was listening to last night.

     
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  2. RJF22553

    RJF22553 Well-Known Member

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    I listen to FM 105.9 (WMAL - D.C. Area). On occasion, the signal just fades out to nothingness (silence). Could be for five minutes, could be for an hour; then the signal comes back gradually. Usually in the 0100-0600 timeframe, but not consistent. Other times, the signal will be so strong and loud as I need to turn down the moderate volume to very low. After a fashion, I'll need to turn the volume up a bit to properly hear the programming. During the day, it is normally okay but this occasionally happens then - most often on the weekends.

    Don't know if it is from the source or interference in-between. There is a large (seemingly military) antenna array directly between the signal transmission tower and my farm.

    Very many years ago (mid-'70s) when our Battalion was on a field exercise, we lost all tactical radio comms with CB-Radio transmissions from Louisiana (we were in Washington State) drowning everything else out. The Bn Signal officer got his butt chewed out when he couldn't explain what was going on. It went on throughout the night and he wound up driving back to post and contacting the Division Signal Bn.

    The answer????

    Sunspots!...

    It was true, but that poor LT was forever called "Sunspot" after that...

    We tactical pukes with PRC-77 Radios also discovered that tuning our radios to a particular freq (won't display here) could listen to (and talk over!) the local Channel 4 TV freq. That would have really pissed off the locals, the Brigade, the Division, the FCC, and pretty much everyone had a radio operator taken advantage of that...

    As for the OP, that is all very intriguing. Thanks for the input! My portable radio also does SW (receive only), but I'd hate to leave my beloved WMAL (conservative) station as they have pretty good programming 24/5, with some re-runs over the weekend interrupted with some "paid programming"/infomercials. But that might be a good time to switch over to the SW band...
     

  3. W.T. Sherman

    W.T. Sherman Well-Known Member

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    wow :eek:, what you said brings up a memory when I was stationed in Korea. when we got super bored or where on "hot Platoon" we would tune on to a N. Korean radio station that broadcasted in English. they played old 50s rock and roll sprinkle with a good dose of propaganda of the "great/dear leader", and how we were the "puppets of warmongering capitalists'" in-between all of that and the music they would repeat a set of numbers for like 10 minutes maybe more, I can't recall the frequency of them

    so thanks for that memory I had, but completely phased out :D
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
  4. MisterMcCool

    MisterMcCool Well-Known Member Supporter

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  5. Nmwabbit

    Nmwabbit Well-Known Member

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    trunk monkey what you probably listened to was one of the military units: Ft Carson, Schriever or Peterson AFB, USAF Academy or Cheyenne complex testing/tuning/installing new equipment; or even the radio station [unmanned these days or ran from an off-sites] was adjusting to see broadcast range perimeters.

    finally, local Amateurs also choose middle of the night to "tweek" their equipment & antennas and often times bleed over to commercial frequencies.
     
  6. W.T. Sherman

    W.T. Sherman Well-Known Member

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    I don't believe it was military radio communication he caught on his radio, maybe 30+ years ago that might have been the case, but all military communication now are transmitting in secure mode. meaning that all transmitting and receiving stations not only have to be on the same frequency but have to be "coded" to be able to pick up transmission.

    back in the "stone age" when I was in, only commanders and certain leaders ie. PLT LDRs, PLT SGTs had that capability through a SIGNARS or VINCON secure sets to be able to talk in "the clear" without resorting to using a Signal Operating Instructions (SOI) or Communications-Electronics Operation Instructions (CEOI), in civilian jargon it's referred to as a code book. now every military communication sets is transmitting in secure mode
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
  7. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator Lifetime Supporter

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    You just brought back memories of when I owned a GRC 46 Ratt rig (and the 3/4 ton truck it was mounted on). Figured if we ever went to war, I wanted that thing as far from me as possible. 5KW transmitter, that thing was going to be the target of every artillery tube in range. But if we tuned the receiver around a bit, we could get Radio Moscow and Radio Beijing. First time I heard them refer to their leader as "Mousey Dung" it cracked me up.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020
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  8. donthav1

    donthav1 Well-Known Member

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    4 or 5 years ago, driving home from a concert at about 2 am or so, i passed a radio tower along the highway that was doing the typical slow red light flash. Suddenly the reds went out & it strobed bright white light for about 10 seconds, went dark & went back to the reds again. When i got home i tried to google what that was but didn't get any answers.

    A couple years ago i was listening to our local 96.5 FM station & there was a crackle of static & then i was listening to a female-hosted conservative radio show. It lasted for about 20 minutes then it was back to local again. In the middle of it they had went to commercial break & gave the station call letters, turns out it was a station in Oregon....more than 1000 miles from where i was in Bismarck, ND. Probably sunspots to blame on that too.

    It just seems like it would be a bad idea in this day & age to use conventional radio to broadcast coded messages, considering how vulnerable AM/FM is to interference & hijacking.
     
  9. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Well-Known Member

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    SIGNARS was just coming online at the Battery level when I got out.
     
  10. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Well-Known Member

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    You're wrong but thanks for playing
     
  11. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Well-Known Member

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    Generally the broadcasts are on short wave originating in the country the intelligence agency is based in. They can transmit on multiple frequencies and it would be impossible to jam them all
     
  12. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member Admin Moderator Lifetime Supporter

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    Speaking of "sunspots"- Army posts have a "Range Control" group. When you are doing live fire, you have to change status with Range Control- by phone or FM radio- from cold to hot, back to cold. Simple call signs- they are Range Control, you are your range number. Always same frequency. Friend was OIC for the Demolition Range at Ft, Benning GA, They spent the morning assembling various bits of nastiness with C4, TNT, det cord, ANFO, etc. When all was ready, they called in for clearance by radio- Range 34 going hot- Roger range 34, you are hot at this time- FIRE IN THE HOLE- (insert earth shattering kaboom) Phone starts ringing- Range Control- Who the HELL gave you clearance to fire?!?!? Ummm- you did. We did NOT! Picked up radio mike for PRC 77- Range Control, this is Range 34- What is our status? Range 34, you are hot at this time.

    Took a while to figure out what was going on. His PRC77 radio- normal range 5 miles- was talking with Range Control at Ft Hood Texas. 800 miles away.
     
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  13. Nmwabbit

    Nmwabbit Well-Known Member

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    of course i am, you who is situated in an high complex of operational classified military environments as well as why you felt the need to post your extraordinary radio phenomenon experience on a gun forum all the while discussing espionage theory(ies) from planet krypton!

    generally speaking of course...
     
  14. Mongo

    Mongo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In Oregon we have a network of repeaters. It is amazing how far you can communicate with a small transceiver on 2 meters or higher frequency.
     
  15. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Well-Known Member

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    I know nothing about radio broadcasting. Does that work with FM stations?
     
  16. Trunk Monkey

    Trunk Monkey Well-Known Member

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    Yes, you are
     
  17. Ingramite

    Ingramite Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I was an active ham radio operator for years.

    My fascination began with CB radio and shortwave listening. CB radio back then was nothing like what it later became.

    The propagation of radio signals is interesting to say the least. I recall driving to work one spring morning when I heard my local FM music station fade out only to be replaced by a station several thousand miles away. It took me a minute to realize what was happening.

    I made a u-turn and headed back to my radio shack. I had heard this "band opening " on my FM car radio and played the hunch that a nearby ham band would also be experiencing the same signal propagation. Wow, I had the thrill of working many stations well beyond the normal range of that particular band.

    I was telling my boss about it the next day when he told me that I was easily amused. Yeah, I guess so.

    Anyway, numbers stations were pretty common on shortwave. I never paid much attention to them. What I really got into chasing was pirate radio stations. Low powered radio stations from obscure nations on the other side of the globe were interesting too.

    I haven't sat in front of a radio in years. I fear that the internet has made a lot of radio obsolete.
     
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  18. Nmwabbit

    Nmwabbit Well-Known Member

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    it is amazing trunk monkey to summarily dismiss then chastise this member for providing viable rationale to the radio phenomenon you experienced the other morning!

    then publicly state:

    next you will be claim the ROSWELL incident wasn't actually a weather balloon!
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
  19. Nmwabbit

    Nmwabbit Well-Known Member

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    ingramite...thanks mate for the blast from the past memory...

    during me early adolescent in southern Ohio, i used to chase WOLFMAN JACK as well as WLS out of Chicago on my portable AM radio station whose antenna was 'modified' with a long wire to the olde tv antenna.

    as i got older and traveled "a bit" i just used one of the "new" transistor tuned, an expensive, portable shortwave to track music and english speaking news, in fact the radio still gets packed on my extended road trip sojourns!

    "Dis here’s de Wolfman comin’ atcha..."
     
  20. sheriffjohn

    sheriffjohn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We'd get "Skip" on high-band emergency/L/E. frequencies sharing the same frequency at times. Dispatchers 100 miles away came in stronger than our own. In the 70's, dispatchers were supposed to give call signs announcing the agency but that stopped at some point. Cars would respond to 123 Golucky Lane for a wreck but there was no wreck. Officers would ask dispatch "Where is Mark Twain Avenue ?" We had no Mark Twain Avenue but Marion County had one. Our freq was 155.580 as was Marion County, Mo. and some place in Oklahoma. Late at night, some Sheriff's Office dispatchers shared recipes between counties.