Firedrake Jammer on the Loose Again in Asia
Amateur Radio operators throughout the United States have reported hearing an intruder signal -- dubbed Firedrake -- on 20 meters. ARRL Field and Regulatory Correspondent Chuck Skolaut, K0BOG, said he has received reports from Intruder Watch monitors in Texas, Montana, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Nevada and Pennsylvania hearing the jammer on 14.010 and 14.070 MHz. Hams in IARU Region 1 have heard the jammer on 14.000, 14.005, 14.010, 14.030, 14.050, 14.050 and 14.090; Uli Bihlmayer, DJ9KR, Assistant Monitoring Coordinator for Region 1 (IARUMS) said he has had reports of hearing the jammer on three frequencies at the same time.
Skolaut said he heard it on 14.070 at 1500 EDT on June 6 from ARRL HQ, but has not confirmed Firedrake on any other frequencies. "We have reported the jammer to the FCC's High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) facility in Columbia, Maryland. They have also heard the jammer and have sent a harmful interference report to the Chinese government," Skolaut said. The FCC has no authority to make intruder stations outside the US stop transmitting on Amateur Radio frequencies; such situations typically are dealt with through diplomatic channels.
"All three IARU regions are coordinating efforts to collect observations and forward them to the proper authorities to follow up on this," Skolaut said. "As you probably remember, this jamming occurred almost two years ago and was primarily heard on 14.260 and 18.160 MHz."
W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, said the jammer is interfering with PSK transmission on 14.070 MHz at W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station. "It is sounding clear now, but when the jamming was present, signals peaked around S9 + 5-10 dB, depending on antenna orientation. Weak PSK31 signals -- normally copyable -- were obliterated, with only strong PSK31 signals making it through. So while operating PSK31 was still doable, the interference/jamming greatly curtailed casual operating," Carcia said.
According to Bihlmayer, the jammer (whom Region 1 monitors have dubbed Firedrake) plays oriental-type music and originates from the Chinese government in an attempt to block out the Sound of Hope short wave broadcasts. The Sound of Hope refers to itself as "a Chinese language media network providing an alternative to China's state controlled media with news and cultural programming. Radio Free China (RFC) is Sound of Hope's project to reach listeners in Mainland China with programming beyond the control of China's omnipresent blockade of free information."
Information on the Intruder Watch program can be found in the June 2007 issue of QST.