Monday, October 24, 2011

Radio Contact -- NB9QV -- USS Cobia (SS-245)

Sunday morning I made single-sideband radio contact with a WW2 submarine.  No I wasn't transmitting through some strange radio time warp but was fortunate enough to meet an operator from the NB9QV, USS Cobia Amateur Radio Club aboard the 69 year old Gato-Class submarine.

Working special event stations on ham radio is one of my favorite activities.  I stumbled upon this event quite by accident as I was well outside of my normal hf haunt at the bottom of the 40 meter band.  I tuned in the strong sideband signal at 7.233 MHz.  After listening awhile and checking the band plan to make sure my General Class license allowed me to transmit at that frequency I decided to give it a go and see if I could get this unique station in my log.  

After digging out a microphone and connecting it to my transceiver I waited for an opportunity to answer the CQ calls from the sub.  The Ops on board were working a steady stream of amateurs but it was not difficult at all to slip my call in and establish contact.  I've already sent out my QSL card in the mail to confirm the contact and request a certificate commemorating the event.  Never in my life did I think I would one day communicate via high frequency radio with a WW2 submarine.  Cool!
Photo: Dale C. Haskin
Here is the lowdown on the Cobia from the NB9QV page:

NB9QV is the callsign for the USS COBIA Amateur Radio Club aboard the WWII submarine USS COBIA SS-245 docked in the harbor adjacent to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The Museum is located in Manitowoc, Wisconsin which is about 80 miles north of Milwaukee. Why Manitowoc? Because the shipyard in Manitowoc built 28 submarines during the war or about 10% of the total fleet.

The COBIA was launched on the 28th of November 1943 and was assigned the wartime callsign NBQV by the US Navy. The original wartime radio equipment, which provided all communications for her six war patrols in the Pacific Theater, has been fully restored and is used for various club events.
The radio shack has two RAK-6 and two RAL-6 receivers. A TBL-12 transmitter puts out 400W to the topside longwire antennas. The TBL runs on standard ships power which is 250VDC via a motor-generator set. There is also a complete TCS-8 setup. This gear allows the COBIA to transmit and receive on any frequency from 30KHz to 22Mhz. All operating frequencies are set by a LM-18 frequency meter.
The COBIA’s Radar system has been restored to full working order. The radar is linked to a mechanical computer which calculates a target’s course. It has a usable range of 40,000 yards(22 miles) and is now the oldest operational radar system in the world.
During the COBIA’s six war patrols she sank 13 Japanese vessels to account for a total of over 18,000 tons of Japanese shipping. On July 13,1944 she sank the 9,500 ton NISHU MARU carrying troops and tanks to reinforce Japanese defenders on IWO JIMA. The COBIA experienced her most exciting encounter during her fourth war patrol in 1945 in a running surface gun battle with two Japanese Sea trucks. The COBIA sent both to the bottom, but suffered her only casualty of the war, Ralph Clark Houston a 20mm gun loader. She was also responsible for rescuing 7 downed allied airmen. After the war the COBIA continued to serve in various missions until 1959 and then an additional eleven years as a training vessel for the Naval Reserve. Since her arrival in Manitowoc the COBIA has undergone an almost complete restoration inside and out to bring the submarine to her World War II fighting condition.
The “USS COBIA” is open for tour’s year round at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc,Wisconsin. Sleepovers on the sub are also available. Reference website:  for more information.

Photo: Bill Gonyo


  1. Hello Mike...a excellent write up and indeed a great contact. (I worked them too). I also like to work these special event stations. Especially the ships and submarines.

    One of my highlights, a few years ago, was getting to use the "ships radio" on an old LST that was on the Ohio River. Sure brings back the memories of the destroyer I was aboard back in the last 60's. I too, had to dust off the microphone but it's worth it to work a submarine. I'm glad to hear you were able to work this one.

    I wrote up the LST contact on my blog. There's an interesting connection with a Marine Museum in Los Angelos California. Seems I walked right past this place while on vacation and recognized it from the picture on the web.

    These old Navy vessels are a real treat to work.

  2. Oh wow, Mike! That's awesome! That must have been fun to research the ship you were talking to. My wife's from Wisconsin, so we may have to check this thing out in person next time we're back there with the kids.

  3. recumbent cospiracy theoristOctober 28, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Hi guys, Yes the contact was good fun. Sometimes history and ham radio come together for me on the same page. I sure love it when it does.

    I'm sure the naval museum is full of interesting stuff. It's only a couple states away from me so a place I'd like to check out too.

  4. Wow man, that's so awesome! Will you get a card from your contact?

  5. recumbent conspiracy theoristNovember 1, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    I received an 8 x 10 certificate and a couple fact sheets in the mail just yesterday. The NB9QV organization is a FB outfit and they are on the ball.

  6. Cobia will be back on the air 2-3 June 2012 for Ships Afloat special event. 40M and 20M operations