Tips & Basics

Advanced Field Telephone Techniques – Part 1, by Tunnel Rabbit

The odds of survival for those attempting to defend themselves in a Mad Max kind of world, or less dangerous environment, are higher if we have a solid communications plan.  The amount of time and effort applied to establishing easy-to-use, and redundant communications is a critical investment that could pay dividends in many ways. As always, I’d rather have too much of a critically essential, rather than not enough. And surprisingly, the cost could be less than that of an HF transceiver.  I could do without an HF transceiver as those whom are closest in proximity will be far more important than those only a few miles away, let alone a hundred, or thousands of miles away.

First, consider that without communications, we’ve got nothing.  Communications of various types are central to any security plan.  In other words, all of our efforts to prepare could be meaningless if we are unable to coordinate a strong defense that enables us to keep what we have. It is better to have a stronger defense than needed, than a lack of it.  When we are developing a commo plan, we are sculpting a future battlefield to our favor. It is not only an electronic battlefield. We should not strive for parity, but for an advantage over potential future attackers — such as roving gangs.  If we examine the capabilities of Mexican drug cartels, and the potential warloads that may have serious military experience, we could be faced with a very capable ‘gang’.

An ability to thwart current high-tech SIGINT efforts could be the difference between success or failure. Fortunately, there is an affordable low-tech option.  As the threat goes high tech, we could go low tech with good old-fashioned military surplus field telephones. Using those as a primary means of communication, with transceivers as a supplemental means, we would have a tiered and redundant system that attains a much higher level of COMSEC. And there are many other advantages as well.

The Advantages of Using Field Phones

A communications plan may or may not include field phones, yet we could greatly increase COMSEC with them, and lower the need to train others to use radios (transceivers), and operate them in a secure way. Long-winded conversations can be had if necessary to address an issue. Even the most secure radio traffic however is not actually secure unless we use a One Time Pad.  Even if it is only mic clicks, we are creating an RF footprint and establishing a pattern of life that would be helpful for their SIGINT effort. Field phones can allow us to be completely radio-silent, or mostly radio-silent.  Also, field phones reduce greatly, if not eliminate, our reliance upon any power generation method needed to recharge transceiver batteries. A reduction of the number of ampere hours needed to be generated reduces the expense required to provide a guaranteed amount of power to continue an operation based upon only transcievers.

In the long dark winter months of Montana, any electrical power produced would be precious unless we could afford a large PV system, and an alternative PV system in the event the first one is lost. Field phones require at most, only 2 or 3 pairs of standard D batteries to operate each phone set over the a course of one year. The cost savings realized when only a small PV system is purchased, more than pays for the field phone. And field phones are rock solid reliable, as well as EMP/CME resistant if the wire is underground. Finally, field phones cannot be jammed.

Field phones are underutilized because they are underappreciated, and because they are not easily deployed, or easy to relocate, because of the need for very long runs of a wire pair (typcially WD1a surplus wire) to connect two or more phones, each point-to-point. (Platoon ‘hot loop’ wiring phones is not recommended.)  Yet, they are very desirable for fixed locations, for the reasons stated.  Unlike operating a radio, one can talk freely, and solve issues in the field in real time, and at one’s convenience. The discipline, and techniques for operating a radio ‘securely’ are not needed. And it is far easier to operate a field phone than the simplest transceiver available.

As technology rapidly progresses, drones are becoming less expensive, more widely available, and increasingly capable.  Drones are redefining the battlefield. Many drones costing less than $5,000 are now capable of Radio Direction Finding (RDF). Consider that if a drone can locate the source of a radio transmission, then it has acquired a target.

AVOIDING Ground SIGINT and Drone sIGINT

Because I know how easy it is to use a USB SDR Dongle and a laptop computer (a poor man’s spectrum analyzer) to find radio transmissions, and how drones are used to DF, I’d rather use field phones whenever possible, and certainly on those occasions when, or if a drone might be in my remote area. Using low-powered transceivers and directional antennas can be effective in most situations, yet in extreme situations, I would use a field phone if at all possible to conduct daily business. I would attempt to maintain complete radio silence. Not only drones could be used to listen in.

Field phones are apart of my commo plan and will be used along side transceivers at a primary LP/OP. Currently, the lowest-cost field phone option on the market is the Swedish M37 that was produced into the late 1960s.

Field phones would become the primary means if the threat conditions were very high. Transceivers are certainly useful, yet should be used mostly in a tactical situation when and where tactical surprise cannot be lost, just before and after an attack. And field phones can be used from house to house as an intercom as well.

If at all possible, it is best to lower our radio frequency (RF) footprint to the bare minimum feasible.  So, if one could afford to do so, field phones would be my primary means of communications.  To keep one Baofeng transceiver operational during the cloudy months of winter, one 100 watt photovoltaic panel would be needed to recharge each Boaoeng UV5R during the darkest winter days. These are very power efficient transceivers drawing only 75mw (0.075 watts) on standby (listening).  Yet with continuous 24/7 operation and the severe lack of insolation (sunshine), the power supply requirement is a huge cost and vulnerability. The actual cost of owning and operating field phones therefore competes with transceivers, and in my book is far superior solution for a rural retreat location.

The EE8 of WW2

I acquired two EE8 field phones in remarkably good and refurbished condition in exchange for radio work.  They were both manufactured in 1944, and I have tripled my collection over time, to include two  pairs of Swedish M37 field phones.  These and most other field phones will operate with the EE8.

My other field phones are made from commercial phones. But that topic is enopgh for another article and may not practical for most SurvivalBlog readers.  Most field phones that use a magneto, and standard D batteries can be operated together regardless of the country of origin.

Inspection of the internals of all of my EE8s found them to be in excellent condition.  There was no corrosion at the battery connections, and none of the wiring was found to be brittle or cracked.  Generally, they appeared to be all original, but it is thast likely the handset cord had been replaced, and these handset cords were in a partial state of disrepair. After watching a few videos on these phones, I was able to test and diagnose the cause of the weak audio.  The cause was the transmitter (the mouth piece) was not working to its full potential.  
This video provided excellent instructions on how to test these phones:

WW2 EE-8 TS-9 Handset Testing and Rejuvenation Tips for Earpiece & Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece, or “transmitter” is usually the cause of malfunction. Ideally the ohms (ohms of resistance as measured by a multimeter) should not be greater than .500 Ohms.  The best transmitters are under .200 ohms and produce audio on the other end (earpiece or receiver) that is noticeably much louder.  It is important to bring the phone back to original operating specifications because as the wire runs become several miles long, volume suffers. The D-cell battery sets should also last longer as well. A good working transmitter could make all the difference in whether the phone is useful or not, in the field, and not just one that tests “good enough” on the bench. I have replaced all of the transmitters on my EE8s with excellent-condition parts that are worth the price through this source.

All of them tested to be below .200 Ohms.

At any given time on eBay, there are many good-looking examples of an EE-8-Bs that are very similar to mine.  Army Surplus in Idaho Falls also has a good selection of earlier EE8-As that are in typically aging and dry leather cases.  As with most examples of EE8-Bs in hard canvas cases that I prefer, were likely refurbished, and possibly used in Vietnam and even later.  These phones are impressively rugged and simple.  In most cases, these old phones can be made to operate well. If there is an issue, the trouble could also be the “receiver” (ear piece), but usually it is more likely the transmitter (mouth piece), or a faulty connection where the phone cord attaches to the set. Plan on replacing the transmitter and the phone cord, and oiling up the gears and bearing surfaces on the magneto.

These are also available at phonesurplus.com (Steve Hilsz) for only $3.50 for the earpiece, and $2.50 for mouth piece (transmitter).  For technical advice and service, call Steve Hilsz on the phone  520-370-3267.  Here is a link to his website: http://phonesurplus.com/  I purchased two sets, and more transmitters on eBay. Including shipping, the total was just $16.50.

It is easy to test these phones.  Simply install two D batteries, and operate the toggle switch to talk.  If you can hear yourself, then the phone works.  If there is any problem with the phone, I would consult with phonesurplus.com.  He likely can send you the correct replacement part, or do the repair himself. These are simple devices. I am confident that I could disassemble and replace any part of these phones myself, but if sent to a technician who had the parts available, the phone could be refurbished as needed.

While I’ve enjoyed the nostalgia and process of refurbishing many EE8s, I cannot recommend that SurvivalBlog readers attempt these unless they are technically savvy and confident.  For most folks, a more modern and easily-found phone. The price of EE8s on eBay seemed to be around $90. Instead, I would look for Swedish M37s or perhaps AN/TA-312 phones. (Pictured.) would probably be a better choice.  I purchased one pair of M37s on eBay for only $25. They were in excellent physical and operational condition.  The same company produced many of the field phones used in Northern Europe.  I would also check with Ready Made Resource, since the last time I checked, they had the German variation at a reasonable price.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, I will explain how to operate a transceiver remotely using field phones. In future articles, I would like to discuss the wire needed for field phones, how to install, and to recover it, and the various types.

Also on my list to write, are articles on how to make commercial phones as a poor man’s substitute for field phones, and how to make a crude general alert alarm and signalling device on the same line used by phones.  And there are many other topics as well.  I expect it will be a long and boring winter, and a good time to write about various topics.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)

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