China Has Radio Antenna to Talk to Submarines and It Covers Five Times Area of NY City

China has built a giant radio antenna that uses five times the area of New York City. It will be used to communicate with submarines.

The Wireless Electromagnetic Method (WEM) project took 13 years and will emit extremely low-frequency radio waves (ELF waves). Those waves have been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation.

Its transmissions could be picked up by a submarine lurking hundreds of meters under the sea, thus reducing the vessel’s risk of having to resurface to receive transmissions.

China built its first military-grade Super Low-Frequency transmission station in 2009. The United States and Russia already have submarine communication systems.

Project WEM’s main surface structure is a pair of high voltage power supply lines stretching from north to south, east to west on steel lattice towers, which form a cross that is 60km (37 miles) wide and 80km to 100km (50 to 62 miles) long.

At the end of each power line, thick copper wire goes underground through a deep borehole. Two power stations generate strong currents and electrify the ground in slow, repeating pulses, turning the earth underfoot into an active source of electromagnetic radiation.

The radio pulses not only pass through the atmosphere, but travel through the Earth’s crust as well, with a range of up to 3,500km (almost 2,200 miles).

In 2007, the WHO documented a large number of studies linking ELF radiation to a range of illnesses including delusions, sleep deprivation, stress, depression, breast and brain tumors, miscarriages and suicide.

The US Navy built a smaller transmitter, the Wisconsin Test Facility, with two 45km power lines in the Clam Lake area, a place with a low population density. The station emitted ELF waves at 76 hertz and was decommissioned over a decade ago.

In the 1980s the Soviet Union constructed Zevs, a considerably more powerful facility on the Kola Peninsula inside the Arctic Circle.

The Zevs antenna was powered by two 60km electric lines and had a main frequency turned at 82 hertz. The radio waves it produced were believed powerful enough to reach Russian nuclear submarines hidden deep under the Arctic ice cap.

Russia has since provided technical support to China as it started building its own systems, which may include other ELF stations in coastal areas.

The US Navy shut down its Wisconsin transmitter in 2004, saying it no longer needed to rely on ELF radio. The US nuclear submarine fleets use very low frequency or VLF radio waves, with a frequency ranging from 3 to 30 kilohertz, for long-distance communication. The VLF radio waves can carry more information than ELF signals because of this higher frequency, and can penetrate seawater to a depth of up to 40 meters (130 feet).

28 thoughts on “China Has Radio Antenna to Talk to Submarines and It Covers Five Times Area of NY City”

  1. Can you link to the article that indicates ELFs can cause cancer, as all the studies I have read regarding them have shown no correlation between cancer and any frequency in the radio spectrum.

  2. And the base jumpers spent 20 minutes climbing up a radio tower putting out a MWs of power.

    Flux. Not something most people think about.

  3. Flocks of birds landing on the HF antenna (the transmitting part of which was above ground and, looking something like an enormous wire Christmas tree, did not retract) were also a problem. Keying the mike, without having someone first go chase them all off, would kill every bird in a heartbeat. Quite aside from the huge guilt factor, no one wants to go clean that up.

  4. Ya, US and Russia have had VLF since forever. The wavelengths are so long the antennas can be buried deep underground where they are less that vulnerable, even to things like near misses from nukes. Of course, you wait several seconds to get a single character <ka-chunk> then several seconds more for the next. Tends to encourage the practice of keeping messages very short and encoded.

    The worst part was the paper changes. Desperate people would call me in the middle of the night asking me to help walk them through the process. Everybody should know what a knurled thumb screw is, shouldn’t they?

  5. Good point. But don’t forget that power levels drop by the square of the radius, so even a powerful transmitter will quickly drop to low power densities.

  6. Because the USA had its birth rate collapse in the decades after the 1930s? Is that where you are going with this? I don’t understand.

  7. *whoosh* Right over your head. The point isn’t about the technology, the point is China is now using it. Since it’s a China story, of course Brian is going to cover it.

    Yeaaaahhhh….GreenCone got you there, Orange8Ball

  8. To put this in perspective go back and read Wiki or old issues of the NYT about the first radio and television broadcasts in New York City during the 20s and 30s. I can’t wait for the Chinese to crank up their new WEM full blast and find out that the entire male population of that part of China has been non-surgically castrated.

  9. Thing is… 

    That the US has decided to NOT use SELF (super extremely-low frequency) radio transmission to subs, because it really isn’t needed: in this era of scores of gigahertz EHF satellites, whizzing overhead … like GPS (and secretly piggy-backing on GPS), with submarines able to “send up a microbuoy”, all of a quarter meter in diameter, on the end of a tough, tiny optical fiber … any degree of high bitrate transmission can be had, without detection. 

    With classified transmission and reception timeslots, it becomes easy to stay secret. Bursts get everything done. Encryption protects them. Changing keys protects the encryption. Safes and codebooks, triple key access, does the rest.  

    Make no mistake: our sub fleet is in nearly continuous contact with their “handlers” in SAC and the Pentagon. As they should be.  

    Just saying,

  10. Radio emissions are nothing to be trifled with.  

    Thing isthe powers-of–1000 system has produced “scale illiterates”. People who don’t know kilo-anything, mega-anything and giga-anything (and just FORGET deci, deka, centi, hecto, milli, micro and nano!!!)

    Very, very few people are scientific/engineering numerically literate. 

    I used to be a HAM operator (a amateur radio station operator); to become a General Class, I had to take a BEAR of an examination, requiring detailed knowledge of radio frequency bands, allowable usage, expected behavior in a regional or national emergencies, tolerances, dozens of antenna designs and tradeoffs, amplifier design theory, every aspect of HF transmission, propagation, ionospheric hops and more. DETAILED… 6 hours long.

    I passed.
    And used my father’s friend’s ham shack.
    Fun to “play” with the “old timers”.
    For awhile… 
    Then let it lapse. 

    Radio waves can kill you, and most insidiously. Local heating of things that “don’t feel getting too hot” like your organs, eyes, cornea, brain. That nausea would well be from brain heating.  

    Thing tho’ is, the blanket mumblechucks warning about WHO linking ELF to wasting diseases, forgets the first and foremost causal criterion. POWER. You’ll never in 3 million years get cancer from a 5 watt transmitter that fits in a cigarette pack. Ever. But climbing a tower with a 100 kilowatt transmitter blasting away… that’s insane.  

    Just saying,

  11. ELF isn’t for complicated messages, though. It’s basically to notify lurking subs to execute one of a list of preplanned maneuvers. As long as the list is reasonably secret, you don’t care that somebody knows you transmitted “53”.

  12. Sure everyone can listen in… if they have the proper encryption codes. China’s purpose, and Russia and the US before them, in using ELF is to ensure the signal reaches distant assets. Give China time, they’ll get there eventually by whatever means necessary.

    Edit: “Red Submarine” HA! How’s that for the perfectly timed autogen’d username?

  13. Thanks, that’s what I expected. Usually when you see “x causes cancer” it really means “in some specific test cases, under specific circumstances, we observed a barely statistically significant increase.”

  14. Everyone in the US lives in the midst of a broadcasting network of wires running 60 Hz continuously, it’s your house wiring. Those within visual range of a high voltage line, typically about 5,000 volts atop a pole transformer, get a double dose.

  15. I would think a satellite laser beacon would work better. Everyone can listen onto the low frequency broadcast.

  16. The US had a similar megawatt 76 Hz ELF transmitter running for decades: 

    There have been studies of the biological effects of the ELF transmitter; 
    and many controlled studies on animals of the effects of proximity to power lines, and medical review of electrical workers. 
    There is no statistically relevant evidence that there is a threat of cancer or neuralogical disorder.

    The IIT Research Institute has summarized the various studies in a 700 page book: “Biological Effects and Dosimetry of Static and ELF Electromagnetic Fields”

    The only hazard is reading the report may render you unconscious.

  17. *whoosh* Right over your head. The point isn’t about the technology, the point is China is now using it. Since it’s a China story, of course Brian is going to cover it. That’s not a knock on him, it’s just what he does on his own site.

    I find it more interesting that, despite the evidence that the technology kills and both the US and Russia are shying away from it, Russia was more than eager to help China adopt the tech. I find it difficult to believe Chinese military authorities were unaware of the dangers of using it. How sordid. Russia still operates a ZEV outside Murmansk. Hopefully China built their invisible death radio transmitter in a low population area at least.

    Edit: Yeah, no, of course they didn’t. Huazhong region, population 230 million.

  18. “The US Navy shut down its Wisconsin transmitter in 2004, saying it no longer needed to rely on ELF radio.”

    Remember watching a documentary on base jumpers who climbed to the top of this tower and jumped off. At the top they were complaining of headaches/nausea due to the radio emissions.

    Narrator voice: The base jumpers died several years later.

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