Friday, 15 July 2016

Clansman Manpacks for Amateur Use - Part 1

I noticed that there is a letter in the back pages of Radcom this month becrying the lack of information on the usability and conversion of Clansman radios for amateur use. Im not sure exactly where the correspondent has been looking, but there is plenty of info out there. But, I will make a brief recap here on my blog, to try and collate some usable data.

I will only deal with manpack, and not vehicle, equipment, as that is what I have experience of.

The Clansman Series

There are seven radios in the manpack Clansman series, but not all are usable for amateur purposes. These radios are -


I shall treat first with those that are NOT suitable for amateur use


The PRC-349 is the 'smallest' of the Clansman range. Intended for section level comms, it provides 250mW FM output between 37 and 47MHz in 25kHz steps. As such it does not cover any amateur band and cannot easily be made to do so. Despite this they are readily available. It also requires a 150Hz subtone to open its squelch, and unlike other FM radios in the range is not capable of internally generating this tone. Also, although it uses the standard Clansman audio accessories that are common to most of the series, its antenna is not usable on any other radio, and its 12v battery is also unique, a shame that it isnt usable on the amateur bands really, as I have several hundred of those batteries!.


The PRC-344 is a UHF AM radio intended for Forward Air Control. Capable of operating throughout the UHF military airband, and able to provide a homing beacon transmission. For very obvious reasons this is of no amateur use whatsoever. It does however use the same 24v batteries as the PRC-320 and PRC351. But thats all it has going for it. Oh, and its flexible discone antenna, commonly known as the 'Bob Marley'!

SO with those two unsuitable radios out of the way, lets look at a couple of the rarer units

PRC-316 (A16)

I dont have any experience myself of the A16. As can be seen by the designation, it is not really a Clansman radio, rather a late entry Larkspur unit, intended for long range patrol use. It operates on a number of crystal controlled frequencies and features a rather groovey built in Morse key! Can be pressed to amateur service but the cost of crystals on top of the cost of such a rare set is probably prohibitive. Still, a nice unit for a collector.


Another set I have no personal experience with. The 319 is capable of CW and SSB comms throughout the HF spectrum, at I believe a respectable 50W, and with a built in auto-ATU. It is audio and battery compatible with the 320 and 351 radios. A big drawback for amateur use is that it operates on 10 direct entry frequencies, with no provision to 'tune around'. Its main military use was for sending 'burst' data - encrypted digital messages sent at a high rate to evade enemy RDF. Usable at a push for amateur radio, but fetch very high prices.

This leaves us with the PRC-320, PRC-351 and PRC-350, which are the radios that are most suitable for amateur use. I will treat of these radios in my next post.

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