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Module 10 - Introduction to Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines, and Antennas

Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series (NEETS)
Chapter 2:  Pages 2-31 through 2-40

Module 10 − Introduction to Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines, and Antennas

Pages i, 1−1, 1−11, 1−21, 1−31, 1−41, 2−1, 2−11, 2−21, 2−31, 2−40, 3−1, 3−11, 3−21, 3−31, 3−41, 3−51, 4−1, 4−11, 4−21, 4−31, 4−41, 4−51, Index


SPORADIC E. - Irregular cloud-like patches of unusually high ionization, called sporadic E, often form at heights near the normal E layer. Exactly what causes this phenomenon is not known, nor can its occurrence be predicted. It is known to vary significantly with latitude, and in the northern latitudes, it appears to be closely related to the aurora borealis or northern lights.


At times the sporadic E is so thin that radio waves penetrate it easily and are returned to earth by the upper layers. At other times, it extends up to several hundred miles and is heavily ionized.


These characteristics may be either harmful or helpful to radio wave propagation. For example, sporadic E may blank out the use of higher, more favorable ionospheric layers or cause additional absorption of the radio wave at some frequencies. Also, it can cause additional multipath problems and delay the arrival times of the rays of RF energy.


On the other hand, the critical frequency of the sporadic E is very high and can be greater than double the critical frequency of the normal ionospheric layers. This condition may permit the long distance transmission of signals at unusually high frequencies. It may also permit short distance communications to locations that would normally be in the skip zone.


The sporadic E can form and disappear in a short time during either the day or night. However, it usually does not occur at the same time at all transmitting or receiving stations.


SUDDEN IONOSPHERIC DIsTURBANCES. - The most startling of the ionospheric irregularities is known as a SUDDEN IONOSPHERIC DIsTURBANCE (sid). These disturbances may occur without warning and may prevail for any length of time, from a few minutes to several hours. When sid occurs, long distance propagation of HF radio waves is almost totally "blanked out." The immediate effect is that radio operators listening on normal frequencies are inclined to believe their receivers have gone dead.


When sid has occurred, examination of the sun has revealed a bright solar eruption. All stations lying wholly, or in part, on the sunward side of the Earth are affected. The solar eruption produces an unusually intense burst of ultraviolet light, which is not absorbed by the F2, F1, and E layers, but instead causes a sudden abnormal increase in the ionization density of the D layer. As a result, frequencies above 1 or 2 megahertz are unable to penetrate the D layer and are usually completely absorbed by the layer.


IONOSPHERIC STORMS. - Ionospheric storms are disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field. They are associated, in a manner not fully understood, with both solar eruptions and the 27-day intervals, thus corresponding to the rotation of the sun.


Scientists believe that ionospheric storms result from particle radiation from the sun. Particles radiated from a solar eruption have a slower velocity than ultraviolet light waves produced by the eruption. This would account for the 18-hour or so time difference between a sid and an ionospheric storm. An ionospheric storm that is associated with sunspot activity may begin anytime from 2 days before an active sunspot crosses the central meridian of the sun until four days after it passes the central meridian. At times, however, active sunspots have crossed the central region of the sun without any ionospheric storms occurring. Conversely, ionospheric storms have occurred when there were no visible spots on the sun and no preceding sid. As you can see, some correlation between ionospheric storms, sid, and sunspot activity is possible, but there are no hard and fast rules. Ionospheric storms can occur suddenly without warning.


The most prominent effects of ionospheric storms are a turbulent ionosphere and very erratic sky wave propagation. Critical frequencies are lower than normal, particularly for the F2 layer. Ionospheric storms affect the higher F2 layer first, reducing its ion density. Lower layers are not appreciably affected by the storms unless the disturbance is great. The practical effect of ionospheric storms is that the range of




frequencies that can be used for communications on a given circuit is much smaller than normal, and communications are possible only at the lower working frequencies.


Q32.   What are the two general types of variations in the ionosphere?


Q33.   What is the main difference between these two types of variations?


Q34.   What are the four main classes of regular variation which affect the extent of ionization in the ionosphere?


Q35.   What are the three more common types of irregular variations in the ionosphere?


Frequency SELECTION Considerations


Up to this point, we have covered various factors that control the propagation of radio waves through the ionosphere, such as the structure of the ionosphere, the incidence angle of radio waves, operating frequencies, etc. There is a very good reason for studying radio wave propagation. You must have a thorough knowledge of radio wave propagation to exercise good judgment when you select transmitting and receiving antennas and operating frequencies. Selection of a suitable operating frequency (within the bounds of frequency allocations and availability) is of prime importance in maintaining reliable communications.


For successful communications between any two specified locations at any given time of the day, there is a maximum frequency, a lowest frequency, and an optimum frequency that can be used.


Maximum Usable Frequency


As we discussed earlier, the higher the frequency of a radio wave, the lower the rate of refraction by an ionized layer. Therefore, for a given angle of incidence and time of day, there is a maximum frequency that can be used for communications between two given locations. This frequency is known as the Maximum USABLE Frequency (MUF).


Waves at frequencies above the MUF are normally refracted so slowly that they return to Earth beyond the desired location, or pass on through the ionosphere and are lost. You should understand, however, that use of an established MUF certainly does not guarantee successful communications between a transmitting site and a receiving site. Variations in the ionosphere may occur at any time and consequently raise or lower the predetermined MUF. This is particularly true for radio waves being refracted by the highly variable F2 layer.


The MUF is highest around noon when ultraviolet light waves from the sun are the most intense. It then drops rather sharply as recombination begins to take place.


Lowest Usable Frequency


As there is a maximum operating frequency that can be used for communications between two points, there is also a minimum operating frequency. This is known as the LowEST USABLE Frequency (LUF).


As the frequency of a radio wave is lowered, the rate of refraction increases. So a wave whose frequency is below the established LUF is refracted back to Earth at a shorter distance than desired, as shown in figure 2-23.





Refraction of frequency below the lowest usable frequency (luf) - RF Cafe

Figure 2-23. - Refraction of frequency below the lowest usable frequency (LUF).


The transmission path that results from the rate of refraction is not the only factor that determines the LUF. As a frequency is lowered, absorption of the radio wave increases. a wave whose frequency is too low is absorbed to such an extent that it is too weak for reception. Likewise, atmospheric noise is greater at lower frequencies; thus, a low-frequency radio wave may have an unacceptable signal-to-noise ratio.


For a given angle of incidence and set of ionospheric conditions, the LUF for successful communications between two locations depends on the refraction properties of the ionosphere, absorption considerations, and the amount of atmospheric noise present.


Optimum Working Frequency


Neither the MUF nor the LUF is a practical operating frequency. While radio waves at the LUF can be refracted back to Earth at the desired location, the signal-to-noise ratio is still much lower than at the higher frequencies, and the probability of multipath propagation is much greater. Operating at or near the MUF can result in frequent signal fading and dropouts when ionospheric variations alter the length of the transmission path.


The most practical operating frequency is one that you can rely on with the least amount of

problems. It should be high enough to avoid the problems of multipath, absorption, and noise encountered at the lower frequencies; but not so high as to result in the adverse effects of rapid changes in the



a frequency that meets the above criteria has been established and is known as the OPTIMUM Working Frequency. It is abbreviated "FOT" from the initial letters of the French words for optimum working frequency, "frequence optimum de travail." The FOT is roughly about 85 percent of the MUF but the actual percentage varies and may be either considerably more or less than 85 percent.


Q36.   What do the letters MUF, LUF, and FOT stand for?


Q37.   When is MUF at its highest and why?


Q38.   What happens to the radio wave if the LUF is too low?




Q39.   What are some disadvantages of operating transmitters at or near the LUF?


Q40.   What are some disadvantages of operating a transmitter at or near the MUF?


Q41.   What is FOT?



Weather is an additional factor that affects the propagation of radio waves. In this section, we will explain how and to what extent the various weather phenomena affect wave propagation.


Wind, air temperature, and water content of the atmosphere can combine in many ways. Certain combinations can cause radio signals to be heard hundreds of miles beyond the ordinary range of radio communications. Conversely, a different combination of factors can cause such attenuation of the signal that it may not be heard even over a normally satisfactory path. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on the effects of weather on radio transmissions since the weather is extremely complex and subject to frequent change. We will, therefore, limit our discussion on the effects of weather on radio waves to general terms.




Calculating the effect of weather on radio wave propagation would be comparatively simple if there were no water or water vapor in the atmosphere. However, some form of water (vapor, liquid, or solid) is always present and must be considered in all calculations. Before we begin discussing the specific effects that individual forms of precipitation (rain, snow, fog) have on radio waves, you should understand that attenuation because of precipitation is generally proportionate to the frequency and wavelength of the radio wave. For example, rain has a pronounced effect on waves at microwave frequencies. However, rain hardly affects waves with long wavelengths (HF range and below). You can assume, then, that as the wavelength becomes shorter with increases in frequency, precipitation has an increasingly important attenuation effect on radio waves. Conversely, you can assume that as the wavelength becomes longer with decreases in frequency, precipitation has little attenuation effect.




Attenuation because of raindrops is greater than attenuation because of other forms of precipitation. Attenuation may be caused by absorption, in which the raindrop, acting as a poor dielectric, absorbs power from the radio wave and dissipates the power by heat loss or by scattering (fig. 2-24). Raindrops cause greater attenuation by scattering than by absorption at frequencies above 100 megahertz. At frequencies above 6 gigahertz, attenuation by raindrop scatter is even greater.





Rf energy losses from scattering - RF Cafe

Figure 2-24. - Rf energy losses from scattering.




In the discussion of attenuation, fog may be considered as another form of rain. Since fog remains suspended in the atmosphere, the attenuation is determined by the quantity of water per unit volume and by the size of the droplets. Attenuation because of fog is of minor importance at frequencies lower than 2 gigahertz. However, fog can cause serious attenuation by absorption, at frequencies above 2 gigahertz.




The scattering effect because of snow is difficult to compute because of irregular sizes and shapes of the flakes. While information on the attenuating effect of snow is limited, scientists assume that attenuation from snow is less than from rain falling at an equal rate. This assumption is borne out by the fact that the density of rain is eight times the density of snow. As a result, rain falling at 1 inch per hour would have more water per cubic inch than snow falling at the same rate.




Attenuation by hail is determined by the size of the stones and their density. Attenuation of radio waves by scattering because of hailstones is considerably less than by rain.




Under normal atmospheric conditions, the warmest air is found near the surface of the Earth. The air gradually becomes cooler as altitude increases. At times, however, an unusual situation develops in which layers of warm air are formed above layers of cool air. This condition is known as TEMPERATURE INVERSION. These temperature inversions cause channels, or ducts, of cool air to be sandwiched between the surface of the Earth and a layer of warm air, or between two layers of warm air.


If a transmitting antenna extends into such a duct of cool air, or if the radio wave enters the duct at a very low angle of incidence, VHF and UHF transmissions may be propagated far beyond normal

line-of-sight distances. When ducts are present as a result of temperature inversions, good reception of VHF and UHF television signals from a station located hundreds of miles away is not unusual. These long




distances are possible because of the different densities and refractive qualities of warm and cool air. The sudden change in density when a radio wave enters the warm air above a duct causes the wave to be refracted back toward Earth. When the wave strikes the Earth or a warm layer below the duct, it is again reflected or refracted upward and proceeds on through the duct with a multiple-hop type of action. An example of the propagation of radio waves by ducting is shown in figure 2-25.


Duct effect caused by temperature inversion - RF Cafe

Figure 2-25. - Duct effect caused by temperature inversion.


Q42.   How do raindrops affect radio waves?


Q43.   How does fog affect radio waves at frequencies above 2 gigahertz?


Q44.   How is the term "temperature inversion" used when referring to radio waves?


Q45.   How does temperature inversion affect radio transmission?



As the lowest region of the Earth's atmosphere, the troposphere extends from the Earth's surface to a height of slightly over 7 miles. Virtually all weather phenomena occur in this region. Generally, the troposphere is characterized by a steady decrease in both temperature and pressure as height is increased. However, the many changes in weather phenomena cause variations in humidity and an uneven heating of the Earth's surface. As a result, the air in the troposphere is in constant motion. This motion causes small turbulences, or eddies, to be formed, as shown by the bouncing of aircraft entering turbulent areas of the atmosphere. These turbulences are most intense near the Earth's surface and gradually diminish with height. They have a refractive quality that permits the refracting or scattering of radio waves with short wavelengths. This scattering provides enhanced communications at higher frequencies.


Recall that in the relationship between frequency and wavelength, wavelength decreases as frequency increases and vice versa. Radio waves of frequencies below 30 megahertz normally have wavelengths longer than the size of weather turbulences. These radio waves are, therefore, affected very little by the turbulences. On the other hand, as the frequency increases into the VHF range and above, the wavelengths decrease in size, to the point that they become subject to tropospheric scattering. The usable frequency range for tropospheric scattering is from about 100 megahertz to 10 gigahertz.






When a radio wave passing through the troposphere meets a turbulence, it makes an abrupt change in velocity. This causes a small amount of the energy to be scattered in a forward direction and returned to Earth at distances beyond the horizon. This phenomenon is repeated as the radio wave meets other turbulences in its path. The total received signal is an accumulation of the energy received from each of

the turbulences.


This scattering mode of propagation enables VHF and UHF signals to be transmitted far beyond the normal line-of-sight. To better understand how these signals are transmitted over greater distances, you must first consider the propagation characteristics of the space wave used in VHF and UHF line-of-sight communications. When the space wave is transmitted, it undergoes very little attenuation within the line-of-sight horizon. When it reaches the horizon, the wave is diffracted and follows the Earth's curvature. Beyond the horizon, the rate of attenuation increases very rapidly and signals soon become very weak and unusable.


Tropospheric scattering, on the other hand, provides a usable signal at distances beyond the point where the diffracted space wave drops to an unusable level. This is because of the height at which scattering takes place. The turbulence that causes the scattering can be visualized as a relay station located above the horizon; it receives the transmitted energy and then reradiates it in a forward direction to some point beyond the line-of-sight distance. a high gain receiving antenna aimed toward this scattered energy can then capture it.


The magnitude of the received signal depends on the number of turbulences causing scatter in the desired direction and the gain of the receiving antenna. The scatter area used for tropospheric scatter is known as the scatter volume. The angle at which the receiving antenna must be aimed to capture the scattered energy is called the scatter angle. The scatter volume and scatter angle are shown in figure 2-26.


Tropospheric scattering propagation - RF Cafe

Figure 2-26. - Tropospheric scattering propagation.


The signal take-off angle (transmitting antenna's angle of radiation) determines the height of the scatter volume and the size of the scatter angle. a low signal take-off angle produces a low scatter volume, which in turn permits a receiving antenna that is aimed at a low angle to the scatter volume to capture the scattered energy.


As the signal take-off angle is increased, the height of the scatter volume is increased. When this occurs, the amount of received energy decreases. There are two reasons for this: (1) scatter angle




increases as the height of the scatter volume is increased; (2) the amount of turbulence decreases with height. As the distance between the transmitting and receiving antennas is increased, the height of the scatter volume must also be increased. The received signal level, therefore, decreases as circuit distance is increased.


The tropospheric region that contributes most strongly to tropospheric scatter propagation lies near the midpoint between the transmitting and receiving antennas and just above the radio horizon of the antennas.


Since tropospheric scatter depends on turbulence in the atmosphere, changes in atmospheric conditions have an effect on the strength of the received signal. Both daily and seasonal variations in signal strength occur as a result of changes in the atmosphere. These variations are called long-term fading.


In addition to long-term fading, the tropospheric scatter signal often is characterized by very rapid fading because of multipath propagation. Since the turbulent condition is constantly changing, the path lengths and individual signal levels are also changing, resulting in a rapidly changing signal. Although the signal level of the received signal is constantly changing, the average signal level is stable; therefore, no complete fade out occurs.


Another characteristic of a tropospheric scatter signal is its relatively low power level. Since very little of the scattered energy is reradiated toward the receiver, the efficiency is very low and the signal level at the final receiver point is low. Initial input power must be high to compensate for the low efficiency in the scatter volume. This is accomplished by using high-power transmitters and high-gain antennas, which concentrate the transmitted power into a beam, thus increasing the intensity of energy of each turbulence in the volume. The receiver must also be very sensitive to detect the low-level signals.




Tropospheric scatter propagation is used for point-to-point communications. a correctly designed tropospheric scatter circuit will provide highly reliable service for distances ranging from 50 miles to 500 miles. Tropospheric scatter systems may be particularly useful for communications to locations in rugged terrain that are difficult to reach with other methods of propagation. One reason for this is that the tropospheric scatter circuit is not affected by ionospheric and auroral disturbances.


Q46.   In what layer of the atmosphere does virtually all weather phenomena occur?


Q47.   Which radio frequency bands use the tropospheric scattering principle for propagation of radio waves?


Q48.   Where is the tropospheric region that contributes most strongly to tropospheric scatter propagation?




Now that you have completed this chapter, let's review some of the new terms, concepts, and ideas that you have learned. You should have a thorough understanding of these principles before moving on to chapter 3.


The INDUCTION FIELD contains an E field and an H field and is localized near the antenna. The E and H fields of the induction field are 90 degrees out of phase with each other.




The Radiation FIELD contains E and H fields that are propagated from the antenna into space in the form of electromagnetic waves. The E and H fields of the radiation field are in phase with each other.


a Harmonic Frequency is any frequency that is a whole number multiple of a smaller basic frequency. For example, a radio wave transmitted at a fundamental frequency of 3000 hertz can have a second harmonic of 6000 hertz, a third harmonic frequency of 9000 hertz, etc., transmitted at the same time.


A VERTICALLY POLARIZED antenna transmits an electromagnetic wave with the E field perpendicular to the Earth's surface. a HORIZONTALLY POLARIZED antenna transmits a radio wave with the E field parallel to the Earth's surface.


Vertically & Horizontally Polarized Antennas - RF Cafe


 A WAVEFRONT is a small section of an expanding sphere of radiated energy and is perpendicular to the direction of travel from the antenna.


Radio WAVES are electromagnetic waves that can be reflected, refracted, and diffracted in the atmosphere like light and heat waves.


REFLECTED Radio WAVES are waves that have been reflected from a surface and are 180 degrees out of phase with the initial wave.





Reflected Radio Waves - RF Cafe


The Earth's atmosphere is divided into three separate layers: The TROPOSPHERE,



The TROPOSPHERE is the region of the atmosphere where virtually all weather phenomena take place. In this region, RF energy is greatly affected.


The STRATOSPHERE has a constant temperature and has little effect on radio waves.


The IONOSPHERE contains four cloud-like layers of electrically charged ions which aid in long distance communications.


Ground WAVES and SKY WAVES are the two basic types of radio waves that transmit energy from the transmitting antenna to the receiving antenna.


Ground Waves & Sky Waves - RF Cafe


Ground WAVES are composed of two separate component waves: the SURFACE WAVE and the SPACE WAVE.




NEETS Modules
- Matter, Energy, and Direct Current
- Alternating Current and Transformers
- Circuit Protection, Control, and Measurement
- Electrical Conductors, Wiring Techniques, and Schematic Reading
- Generators and Motors
- Electronic Emission, Tubes, and Power Supplies
- Solid-State Devices and Power Supplies
- Amplifiers
- Wave-Generation and Wave-Shaping Circuits
- Wave Propagation, Transmission Lines, and Antennas
- Microwave Principles
- Modulation Principles
- Introduction to Number Systems and Logic Circuits
- - Introduction to Microelectronics
- Principles of Synchros, Servos, and Gyros
- Introduction to Test Equipment
- Radio-Frequency Communications Principles
- Radar Principles
- The Technician's Handbook, Master Glossary
- Test Methods and Practices
- Introduction to Digital Computers
- Magnetic Recording
- Introduction to Fiber Optics
Note: Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series (NEETS) content is U.S. Navy property in the public domain.
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