What do radio operators actually do?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Johnny .45, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. Johnny .45

    Johnny .45 Member

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    For example, a Bristol Beaufighter, they stick a man in the back to operate the radio system (I'd have made him navigator as well...or did they?). Is he the only one who can communicate with others, or can he "patch" the pilot in, and the pilot does the talking while the RO just finds the proper channels? What happens if the RO gets hit: is the pilot SOL and stuck without a radio until he gets home? And from what I've seen, although aircraft could communicate verbally at closer ranges, for longer ranges, the operator had to use Morse code. Did the same apply to single operator planes like fighters, or were there radios so limited in range they could only speak to those in the vicinity? And what the hell does he do for the majority of the trip...the only plane that would need to transmit long distance is the commander's. If the RO doesn't do all the talking for the aircraft, what does he do? Monitor the stations in case there's a mission abort?
    And while I'm thinking of it, did RO's transmit in the clear, or were they given codebooks? You see the scenes in Germans propaganda films were the He 111 successfully sinks a British ship, and the RO is tapping out a message to home base...seems like transmitting in the clear "we just sank an enemy vessel at X location. Returning to base" is a bad idea. I don't know if anyone has answers to any of these questions, but I figured it was worth a shot; it's on the long list of little details that I don't know and which drive me nuts when I'm trying to visualize the operation of the aircraft.:cry:

    Edit: BTW, yes, I'm aware that the RO operates the radar system when applicable. And oddly, I just realized that the Beaufighter appears to lack a DF aerial, which is kind of odd for a aircraft that spent so much time on over-sea patrols. Maybe they figured it'd sap performance. Interesting to note, too, that the Beaufighter's RO wasn't even given a rear gun, except in rare torpedo bomber versions. Must suck to just sit there in the back of the plane while people shoot at you! (Although I guess that was a problem for a lot of crewmembers in a lot of aircraft types)
     
  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Depends on aircraft type.
    In Beaufighter or Mosquito, for example, the radio operator (Wireless Op in RAF parlance) would also be the navigator and, if fitted, radar operator /observer.
    In bombers, such as the B-17 or Lancaster, he would normally be radio op only.(or Wop/AG - Wirelss Op /Air Guner - in some RAF aircraft.)
    Radios of the time were big, bulky affairs, with separate, valve-powered receiver and transmitter, and often more equipment such as antenna tuners, trimmers, tail radar warning etc etc., normally operating in the HF band.
    He would receive info on current winds at varying altitudes, as well as other Met info, and would be able to get a navigational 'fix' for the navigator by holding down his Morse key for a certain length of time, to transmit a given signal, when the return signal from a ground station would provide Lat and Long.
    The radios operated on W/T, and Morse messages were mostly sent in code. He would also be able to control the frequencies of the R/T, so that the pilot could talk in voice to other aircraft or ground stations on the same frequencies, normally operating in the VHF band.
    He would also receive any information concerning diversion of target(s), change in conditions over the target, or any recall order, and so on.
    It was (and is) a quite complex and important role, and the qualified operator would not only have to be able to send and receive Morse at a high rate, but he would also need to be able to calculate antenna lengths for a given frequency at varied altitudes and ranges in differing atmospheric conditions, at differing times of the day or night. Apart from the fixed wire antenna on WW2 aircraft, most large types also had a 'trailing' aerial, a long wire on a reel, with a weight on the free end, which could be reeled out to the required length for best signal reception.
    As the war progressed, the role became more complex, and in some instances the radio op would also be responsible for some radar equipment, including such items as 'Fishpond', a rear-warning radar, and assist the navigator with up-dates on wind, position etc etc.
     
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  3. Johnny .45

    Johnny .45 Member

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    Vermont. That's a state in the US, if you hadn't heard of it.
    Thank you for an excellent, comprehensive reply. I would give it a "Like", but for some reason I can't find anything to click on...when I hover over what looks like a "Like" button, it just acts like it's an image. Won't let me click on it. :?:
     
  4. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Thanks very much, and you're welcome.
    The 'Like' button is second from the left (thumbs up icon) in the row of 'pastel' - coloured icons at the bottom, right, of each page .
     
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  5. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    Like that!! I was going to give you a rainbow as well but you only get one choice. Gonna have to talk to Horse about that.


    Geo
     
  6. herman1rg

    herman1rg Well-Known Member

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    I Bacon'd Terry, great info
     
  7. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Ah, bacon - thanks !
    Now where did I put those eggs ......................
     
  8. herman1rg

    herman1rg Well-Known Member

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    My chickens lay Great eggs
     
  9. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    I haven't seen one lay an Easter egg yet though .......................
     
  10. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps you haven't been looking in the right places, Terry? :lol:
    makin_eastereggs.jpg
     
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  11. herman1rg

    herman1rg Well-Known Member

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    Bacon heading your way
     
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