Monday, April 21, 2008

Firedrake Jammer Revealed (CD Available)

Every so often, I run across a web page that just makes my jaw drop off. The latest Oh My God is this Satdirectory article on the source of the Firedrake (Firedragon) jamming signal used by China to cover Falun Gong's "Sound of Hope" broadcast from Taiwan.

One can make a case that this item pertains to world broadcasting, not utilities. However, the signal pops up on or near utility frequencies regularly, as it chases SOH around the bands. Lately, it's been heard daily in the fertile ute hunting ground just above 20 meters, on 14410 kHz around 2300 UTC.

It's actually rather good music, when conditions permit clear reception. It has some real nice drumming. It certainly beats all the other noise blasted into the HF bands by governments that can't handle freedom of opinion.

Well, here's what Satdirectory has to say on Firedrake:

Shortwave Radio Enthusiasts and Ham Radio operators have been watching China's Firedrake with interest. They believe that the primary Firedrake transmitter location is on Hainan Island off the coast of Southern China, however it is believed that there may be other transmitter sites also in use. It has also been noted that the Firedrake audio is a one hour loop with no announcements. This got us thinking at Satdirectory; how does the Firedrake programming get to the transmitter site? Is it delivered by a tape or CD on repeat, or is it like most other Chinese radio, delivered by a satellite link to the transmitter?

Well, a search with our 3 meter dish has found Firedrake! The audio is transmitted on Chinasat 6B within the China National Radio (CNR) satellite feed circuits. Many of the China National Radio feeds are in stereo, however one channel that is solely mono is CNR 8 - The Voice of the Minorities broadcast which features programs in the Kazakh, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan and Uighur languages. The CNR 8 audio feed to the Chinese transmitter sites can be found on the left audio channel of a feed circuit labelled "Lzh8Rdjy". On the right audio channel of this feed is the audio for the Firedrake transmitters.

Following our discovery we tuned up a shortwave receiver to 17780 kHz which at the time also had the jammer running. The audio from the satellite feed and the shortwave radio were synchronised with no delay. This confirmed that the Firedrake shortwave transmitter site was also being fed by the same satellite feed, otherwise we would have expected a delay of a second or so due to the satellite uplink and downlink path delay when compared to the shortwave broadcast.

Satdirectory has actually made a CD with the full, 60-minute cycle. Since the copyright status is unknown, this one is available for non-commercial use only, from support(at) The only costs are to cover shipping and duplicating.

There's also a 4-minute sample of the high-fidelity audio right off the downlink, in Windows .wma format. Yes, there's some of the cool drumming.

Get it right here. But do go to the site and check out the whole story, with technical paramaters for those with a shot at Chinasat 6B, and some hilarious propaganda art.