MARS and C-FARS Join Hands:
Bill Sexton (N1IN)
April 1, 2013
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there’s one characteristic shared by hams, it’s their affection for challenge—whether
last weekend’s CQ Worldwide SSB contest, a storm named Sandy last winter or complicated new digital software
just coming on line. For MARS members there’s a historic one shaping up next
Sunday: the long-awaited inauguration of formal interoperability between Army
MARS and its northern partners, the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System,
better known as C-FARS (as in see-fars).
Five years and more of patient
spadework by the amateurs in both organizations were culminated Monday (1 April
2013) by a terse but vibrant message to the U.S. side from Bob Mims (AAA1RD),
joint net manager: “The details of the
joint MARS/CFARS nets have been resolved . . . MARS stations are asked to
support this national interoperability effort.”
operators who join the initial twice-a-month introductory nets on first and
third Sundays (time and frequency available to members from State Directors)
should be impressed by their new emcomm partners. Established by the Royal
Canadian Air Force after World War II, C-FARS or a predecessor has been providing
HF links to the Canadians deployed on U.N. peacekeeping missions around the
world since the 1950s. That’s on top of defense support in the vastness of
Arctic Canada, where polar conditions sternly limit propagation. Now the
equivalent of a unified MARS, C-FARS reports to the Ministry of National
Defence (Canadian spelling with a “c”,).
the strategic outlook alone, the new connection is long overdue. Quebec, the
world’s fourth or fifth largest source of hydropower is a significant supplier of
electricity to the northeast U.S. In the past its transmission lines have
experienced terrorist activity. And few border residents will forget the shared
1998 ice storm that left millions in both countries without power for weeks
including Montreal, Canada’s second largest urban area. The two amateur auxiliaries
have a support role in both kinds of contingencies. Now they will share the operational
affiliation both countries’ armed forces already have within the joint North
American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
initial joint net is labeled “long haul,” to be followed later by an “NVIS” net
(for Near Vertical Incidence Skywave, or short haul.) This architecture harks
back to the first cross-border test on April 20, 2008. U.S. net manager Mims recorded afterward: “The
frequency was long, requiring a lot of relays. Stations in the East could not
copy other eastern stations, nor could western stations copy each other, but
relays were made east to west as is the normal procedure for C-FARS.”
The Canadians provided the
frequencies and the net control station. Four U.S. stations checked in (three
in the Northeast, one in Montana [AAT8AU]) and three Canadian. One Pactor
connect supplemented the voice exchanges. Both sides followed NATO net procedures
but the call signs took getting used to at first (CIR681 in the case of the
first NCS, Cliff Fairbank, then C-FARS net manager and still a key player).
“This net was a one-time
experiment,” Mims said in his net report. “[It] proved to be (in my opinion) a
trials followed. Fairbank calculated that 135 different stations joined the 27
nets over a 90-day test period. Then international bureaucracy intervened. Washington
regulators determined it as was illegal for the government-licensed MARS stations
to operate Canadian frequency. The MARS members’ hopes of opening some U.S.
frequencies met no response.
the two nations’ collaboration on North American defense, a partnership on
backup communications from the two amateur communities made perfect sense
alongside the activation of the new Army MARS National Operations Net last
year. Following the NORAD/NORTHCOM model, the opnet and U.S. cross-border ham
contingent will share a single manager.
Monday’s announcement, Mims included a call for help. “Stations are needed to
act as net controls,” he wrote, adding an under-stated reminder just how big an
undertaking this project will be: “Several NCS stations are needed for each net
to cover the continent.”
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MARS and C-FARS Join Hands:
by VE1PGC on April 5, 2013
Mail this to a friend!
This is to become a great asset to both countries and shows the co-operation than can exist between good show guys