A November 2017 Department of Defense (DoD)-sponsored communications interoperability exercise involving Amateur Radio was a success, according to information received recently from US Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY. The November 4-6 drill, which focused on interoperability between DOD elements including MARS, other federal agencies, and the Amateur Radio community, simulated a coronal mass ejection (CME) event. Army and Air Force MARS organizations worked in conjunction with the Amateur Radio community, primarily on the 60-meter interoperability channels as well as on HF NVIS frequencies and local VHF and UHF, non-Internet linked Amateur Radio repeaters.
“Amateur Radio support for these DOD interoperability exercises continues to grow,” English said.
The Amateur Radio portion of the exercise kicked off with a high-power information broadcast on 60-meter channel 1 (5,330.5 kHz) from a military station on the east coast and the Fort Huachuca HF gateway station in Arizona. The high-power broadcast provided basic exercise information and requested that amateur stations make contact with MARS stations on 60 meters and provide county-by-county status reports for the 3,143 US counties and county equivalents, in order to gain situational awareness and to determine the extent of impact of the scenario. Radio amateurs also were given the opportunity to submit a reception report and receive a QSL card.
New for this exercise, planners divided the continental US geographically and assigned each region to one 60-meter channel, in order to make more efficient use of all five channels. Planners roughly divided the US into northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest, and central regions. Also new for this exercise, military planners incorporated a day-time informational broadcast on a DOD frequency, 13,483.5 kHz USB. The purpose of that broadcast was to extend the exercise outreach during the day to the amateur community and to provide exercise updates.
English said that of the 738 broadcast reception reports received, 494, or 67%, of them were from the 60-meter broadcast while the remaining 244 reports were for the 13-MHz broadcast. The 60-meter broadcasts were received by stations in Canada, Spain, and Switzerland, and reception reports came from several members of the Short-Wave Listening (SWL) community.
Nearly 2,000 Amateur Radio stations took part in the exercise, submitting 3,025 county status reports, nearly 1,300 of them unique. QSL cards for amateurs and SWLs who participated in this exercise are being processed and will be mailed in January.
“Leaders from the supported DOD headquarters as well as the chiefs of both the Army and Air Force MARS programs appreciated the nearly 2,000 Amateur Radio stations that trained during this exercise,” English said. — Thanks to US Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, and The ARRL ARES E-Letter