Howard Lorenzen, W7BI

Long-time IARC member Howard O. Lorenzen, W7BI passed away peacefully on Wednesday, February 23, 2000. A funeral service was held today (2/26/2000).For many years, IARC on-the-air operations such as Field Day were done under the callsign W7BI. He will be missed as both a friend and fellow amateur radio operator. - Posted Feb 26, 2000

On June 26, 2010 the US Navy christened the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Howard O. Lorenzen in Pascagoula, Mississippi. This vessel is named in honor of Howard Lorenzen, W7BI, (1912-2000) who is widely credited as being the “Father of modern electronic warfare.”

Lorenzen began his Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) career in 1940 after leaving Zenith Radio. He got his first taste of electronic countermeasures when he unintentionally jammed the signal of radar being tested at the Lab’s Radar Division. As the US entered World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lorenzen’s research focused on developing electronic means to detect, locate, jam and otherwise deceive enemy radar and other electronic locating equipment, ushering in a new era of warfare to benefit US military countermeasures.

As the war progressed, Lorenzen, assigned to the Lab’s Special Developments Section, continued to expand on the idea of electronic countermeasures, or ECMs. He worked to develop radio detection and recording devices to defeat guided German missiles. He analyzed the control signals sent to Henschel 293 flying bombs and used the information to disrupt or distort their radio command signals.

During the 1950s and throughout the Korean and Vietnam military conflicts, ECM technology was advanced by Lorenzen and his team of engineers. They developed new techniques and systems of electronic signal interception and signal source location, which included direction finding, recording, analysis, jamming and deception of high-frequency signals. It was Lorenzen’s project engineer and prodigy, Jim Trexler, who first started calling Lorenzen “Father.” Trexler was the first to reveal that terrestrial radio signals reflected from the Moon could be intercepted back on Earth using a giant parabolic antenna. An immediate outgrowth was the Navy’s Communication Moon Relay (CMR) system, “moon bounce,” that provided our Navy with satellite communication a decade before artificial space satellites were operational.

In the mid-1960s as Cold War tensions were ramping up, Lorenzen inspired his team to again think of new, innovative means to thwart enemy attacks on US military targets. In September 1966, his branch was upgraded to division status and Lorenzen was named superintendent of NRL’s new Electronic Warfare Division with the chief role of developing advanced guided missile defenses for Navy aircraft and state-of-the-art electronic warfare (EW) components for the USS New Jersey.

In 1976, after being retired for several years, Howard and Etta Mae moved to Bellevue, Washington to be near their daughter and grandsons and he obtained the call W7BI.

Amateur Radio was rewarding to Howard and he gave generously in return. He was a life member of the ARRL and wrote numerous articles for QST. Over the years Howard Elmered many hams and generously lent his expertise to many radio clubs and organizations.

Howard became a Silent Key on February 23, 2000 at the age of 87. The Issaquah, Washington ARC obtained permission from his family to acquire his call sign, W7BI, for club use, so his legacy lives on. - Excerpted from ARRL article "Navy Honors Electronics Pioneer Howard Lorenzen, W7BI" (link) by Lynn Burlingame N7CFO.