This paper illustrates the importance of understanding and taking into account the presence of various structural features in the polar ionosphere (in particular, patches and arcs of enhanced electron density) when planning and operating HF radio links. These features result in radio waves propagating over paths well displaced from the great circle direction and impact on almost any HF communications system where the signal reflects from the ionosphere within the region poleward of the subauroral trough. The off–great circle mechanisms give rise to propagation at times that are not predicted by current prediction codes and may also suppress propagation at times that are expected. Techniques to account for this type of propagation are therefore required. A ray-tracing model that accurately reproduces many of the direction of arrival features observed in experimental measurements has been developed. Particular attention will be given in this paper to area coverage estimations undertaken by means of the ray-tracing model.