The Battlefield That’s 5 KHz Wide

The airwaves are full of news from the battle in Ukraine, with TV and radio journalists providing coverage at all hours. But for those with a bit of patience there’s something else from the conflict that can be found with a radio receiver, the battle over 5 kHz of spectrum starting at 4625 kHz. This has for many years been the location on the dial for “the Buzzer“, a Russian military transmitter whose nickname describes its monotonous on/off buzzing transmission perfectly. As the current Ukrainian situation has taken shape it has become a minor battleground, and the Buzzer now shares its frequency with a variety of other stations broadcasting music, spectrograms, and other radio junk intended to disrupt it.

A spectrogram showing the wavy line of an air raid siren
The air raid siren produces a particularly distinctive spectrogram.

For the curious this can be watched unfolding on a spectrogram or through headphones by anyone within range who has an HF receiver, or for everyone else, with a WebSDR. In Western Europe it’s best listened to in hours of darkness, we suggest you consult the list to see which has the best signal. We’ve heard it on receivers in Poland, Russia, and the ever-reliable uTwente WebSDR in the Netherlands. Over the time we’ve been monitoring it we’ve heard overlaying speech, and music varying from the Soviet and American anthems through dance music and K-pop to 1960s British rock and of course Boney M’s Rasputin, with a few slightly macabre choices such as Final Countdown and an air raid siren. We’ve even heard TV intros from the Benny Hill Show, the A-Team and Mission Impossible, so whoever is doing this has a wide taste.

Alongside the music at about 4628kHz meanwhile we’ve watched a series of spectrogram messages scroll past in Ukrainian, Russian, and English, ranging from “Stop war” to lewd suggestions about the Russian President. It’s fair to say that none of these transmissions have obscured the Buzzer, but they have had the effect of significantly increasing the noise on the channel.

To have a listen yourself, point a receiver within range at the appropriate time of day towards 4625 kHz and select USB demodulation and a 5 kHz bandwidth. Meanwhile, for some background on the Cold War HF relics, have a read about numbers stations.

36 thoughts on “The Battlefield That’s 5 KHz Wide

  1. The airwaves are full of news from the battle in Ukraine

    Maybe that’s my rusty non-native English, but I suppose there is more of us here, that think war is a more accurate term. (Or at least plural form). Thank you.

    1. I suppose author avoids word “war” because it’s not in line with the de-escalation we all want.
      Some French ministry talked about “economic war” and steps back in exactly this way after “real war” threat from Russia.
      I’m not saying I don’t agree. Just adding some salt to the debate.

    2. True, it´s a war, and it´s a global one already, even if for the moment only two countries are directly involved. It´s not yet to the point it will engulf the whole world, but things can dramatically accelerate.
      There might be a semantic switch at that point to name it “WWIII”

      1. The world community already condemned the attack and I’m having no part in this “online battle” polluting the net. I’d rather have the UN sort it out than keyboard warriors. Too many hacker spaces are already political. I miss the times talking about solder, not soldiers.

    3. Some people just don’t get what’s going on in the world. Ivory towers. Blinders. Twilight Zone. Who knows what it is, but reality takes some time to sink in. At least “battle” is a step up from “Mostly peaceful excursion into Ukraine by Russian liberators.”

      1. They don’t get it? They don’t care. Most people are not “sheep”. Not everyone wants to play Tank Man like in 1989. After 42% income tax not much has changed since feudalism. Why make myself miserable constantly about things I cannot change.

        “External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”
        –Marcus Aurelius

        Just wait until you are 50.

    4. Earlier today I was wondering how a Russian, presently, might describe their circumstances as the consequence of the “not a war” that is going on (in that it puts the Russian people in an awkward position) – I get that it is a thing, just see it as here is a war against the truth with this might makes right attitude and flexible values from the upper class, etc. and this is a “battle” because this won’t be the last time we see friction from powerful elitists and their complex relationship with autonomous democracy? Vietnam was a “police action” and our present situation is the result of similar lubricious justifications that undermine the integrity for everyone and if there is a “war” it is against the truth which softens the blow for me of calling this a battle.

      1. Most Russians believe their troops are doing drills on the border or “peacekeeping” duties. So it’s a bit of a surprise when their sons are taken prisoner by the Ukrainians and given a mobile to call home and explain that they were captured attacking civilians in Kyiv.

      2. “There are Nazis in Ukraine, the Russian army is going to get rid of them.”
        ‘Ukrainians have been killing women and children for almost a decade!”
        “The Ukrainian people want our help”

        That’s been the official Russian stance that has leaked. It seems to be pushing that “we are there to help” angle.

    5. In older English (Elisabethan, Jacobean), “Battle” meant what “army” means today. Hence order of battle really meant the way the various units were arranged, not necessarily the order in which they engaged. This is a norman fench word, the English had an older norse/dane word for the same thing, which was “Hara”, hence all the Heralds, Harolds, Herewards, etc.

    1. English is the international language now (like it or not) so it’s not surprising that people are sending messages in English as well as Ukrainian and Russian, and since this is an English language website it probably just made sense to use an English waterfall display. (But I would like to see some Cyrillic waterfalls as well.)

      1. Ukrainians and Russians both speak Russian. It’s one of the sore spots that they are fighting about. Propaganda going either way would be in Russian.

        This is propaganda for us. You are being manipulated.

  2. It doesn’t matter how you named it.
    Having bombs and missiles above your heads, killing people and destroying kids’ future is the worst thing there. I have survived NATO bombing in Serbia 23 yrs ago and was not worying about either who is pressing the red button or is it war or just a BBQ party in the neighborhood…
    This story is really interesting anyhow ..

  3. Europe’s The Final Countdown is about a manned rocket launch. I did a space themed birthday party for my child, it was on the play list. So was Starman and Space Truckin’.

  4. Hopefully it’s not part of “Dead Hand” and interrupting the signal doesn’t trigger nuclear holocaust. Granted, it would take one hell of a broadcast to be able to jam the signal.

  5. About a month ago when, in the lead-up to the invasion, somebody was doing this with a Touhou medley — so there are several YouTube videos with titles like “Bad Apple but on a hijacked Russian military frequency”. ( is the least hyperbolic.) It’s just the audio, no attempt to do the video in the waterfall (which at the refresh rate would be more of a slideshow anyway).

    Really, “The Final Countdown” isn’t the ominous song; for that, you’d want “99 Luftballons”.

  6. Sorry, but this is the most useless and unnecessary activity ham operators could have done. What those mentally deficient people think they will accomplish by doing this?! I’ll tell you, what. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    Things to do instead:.
    1. Spread the truth about the russian invasion to russian hams.
    2. Jam all russian military bands, preferably with truth about this war.
    3. Build many, many simple ham radios and send them to Ukraine so civilians will have additional communications option in case their telecom infrastructure gets damaged or shut down.
    4. Build and send to Ukraine GLONASS jammers and spoofers to make it harder for their military to navigate.
    5. Support Ukraine via non-profit organizations, fundraising and other activities.

    1. “unnecessary activity ham operators ”

      And why do you think it’s “ham” ?? Anyone can, at least in the USA, buy a
      HF TX that will work on that freq.
      The software is free and you don’t even need a interface to
      the radio. Just hold the mic to the speaker.
      I am sure you know about “ass uming”

      1. Probably because transmitting on an HF transmitter without a license is likely to get you in trouble in a lot of the world. Although transmittting for the purpose of interfering with someone else is also illegal, it is a question of whether anyone cares. BTW I think the Russian buzzer was determined to be interference from a long range radar system.

    2. If hams have been told to go off them air, and they have, then authorities don’t want unlicensed operation.

      There have been times in the past where ham radio has supplied emergency communication. But there surely is a lot of radio equipment in the Ukraine. Authorities surely want that used, or reused, under control, rather than random people using radio.

      In WWII the US had the War Emergency Radio Service, kind of an auxilary. But it was controlled. Later, hams got involved with civil defense. The Red Cross in recent years has gotten pretty fussy abkut who they will use for emergency communucantion.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.