HAM Radio 101

The Amateur Radio Station of the United Nations, 4U1UN

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of a team of dedicated Hams, led by key operators James Sarte, K2QI, and Adrian Ciuperca, KO8SCA, the United Nations Amateur Radio station, 4U1UN, is operating again after years of being off the air. Using an in-house remote design, the team located the station on the 42nd floor while the control head is located on the ground floor of the UN headquarters in New York City. On March 6, the first-ever FT8 QSOs (the initial one was logged by WSJT-X developer, Joe Taylor, K1JT), were recorded from 4U1UN as part of a ceremony honoring the 4U1UN team with the 2020 YASME Foundation Excellence Award. The project to reactivate 4U1UN took four years to complete.

Some History

Ranked number 30 on Club Log’s DXCC Most Wanted list as of March, 4U1UN is one of only two Amateur Radio stations to operate from the highly secure location of the United Nations headquarters. However, it is the only station to obtain ARRL’s sanction to operate as its own entity—a feat accomplished by Silent Key Maximillian C. DeHenseler, HB9RS, Chief Cartographer of the United Nations and president of the UN Radio Club during the 1970s.

4U1UN’s predecessor, K2UN, went on air in 1948, but the station never achieved the Secretary General of the UN’s approval to operate under the sanction and flag of the UN— so it remained only a hard-to-reach FCC-licensed New York station run by UN Radio Club members.

That changed in 1978 when a determined DeHenseler gained the Secretary General of the UN’s authorization to operate a new station, 4U1UN, as an official UN Amateur Radio Station and separate DXCC entity. However, when 4U1UN went on air for the first time, things did not go as planned and the station barely made it past its first surprise broadcast during the ARRL International Day phone contest.

At one in the morning during DeHenseler’s first night on air, three security guards raced into the room and demanded the station be shut down. Apparently, DeHenseler, working in the dark, had placed the tri-band vertical right next to the VHF antenna used by the security police. The misstep resulted in a complete breakdown of the UN’s security system and a close call for 4U1UN’s continued airtime.

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