DoD Mars Exercise

There is a challenging opportunity coming up that will allow RI ARES members the chance to participate in a national DoD MARS exercise, using military digital communications of the 60 meter shared amateur and government frequency “channels” and contacting DoD MARS stations directly. The following sections are excerpted from the operations order:

“This is an Army and AF MARS coordinated order.

MARS trains quarterly to support National military requirements. The exercises for each year conclude in a cap-stone exercise that builds on the experiences of the previous exercises each year. The fourth quarter exercise also focuses on coordinating activities with Amateur Radio.”

“Throughout the period prior to the DOD COMEX, the RJMOG (Regional Joint MARS Operations Group) shall coordinate with any local Amateur Radio Simulated Emergency Tests (SET) that may be occurring in each Region, conduct RF tests on 60 meters, VHF/UHF and 80/75 meters.”

“At the start of the DOD COMEX, The RJMOG shall complete a call up of all local Amateur Radio ARES and RACES points of contact in each Region and State, and inform of these contacts of the related objectives in the COMEX.”

“During the DOD COMEX, the RJMOG shall assign MARS members to prepare local amateur radio communities to receive DoD data broadcasts on both 60 meters and WWV in last days of COMEX. Coordinate in person and telephone technical support sessions to install, configure, tune and test the MS-DMT software at Amateur Radio stations. Conduct two way Plain Text (PT) tests with Amateur Radio using MIL-STD 188-110A Serial PSK waveform on 60 meters. Note that the 300 baud symbol rate restriction in 47CFR 97.307(3) does not apply to Amateur Radio use of the 60 meter band, and the Serial PSK waveform conforms to 2K80J2D when transmitted as audio through a 2.8 KHz Single Side Band filter.”

“Phase 3 is characterized by on-going Amateur Radio coordination and support. MARS at Region, State and Local levels will interface directly with Amateur Radio clubs, organizations and individually to facilitate two way information flow. Phase 3 includes individual MARS members providing individual Amateur Radio operators technical support to receive DoD broadcasts using Mil-STD Serial PSK. Phase 4 follows DoD voice and text broadcasts, and focus on county reports and other information products. MARS stations will reach out to amateurs on 75, 60 and 40 meters, VHF and UHF bands, primarily making use of existing Amateur Radio nets, except on 60 meters where MARS will be available for Amateurs to call.”

“Phase 3

6 NOV 1201Z through 17 NOV 0300Z ? Sustained Operations Phase 

Phase 4

17 NOV 0301Z through 17 NOV 0330Z ? DoD Digital Broadcast 

17 NOV 0331Z through 18 NOV 2359Z ? 60M Amateur to MARS reporting 

18 NOV 2359Z ENDEX.”

RI ARES members can install and test free MIL STD 188-110A PSK soundcard software to prepare top receive DoD broadcasts on select 60M channels. In addition, there will be DoD voice broadcasts on WWV. Previously these voice announcements have been at 10 minutes past each hour on WWV.

As noted, MARS members, who are all licensed amateur radio operators, will establish contact on existing amateur radio nets and frequencies using their amateur callsigns. MARS members may be requesting status information regarding infrastructure and public services. However, because the 60 meter channels are shared by both DoD and amateur services, MARS members will communicate with amateur radio operators using their MARS callsigns. This operation is approved by FCC during the COMEX.

ARMY MARS (www.usarmymars.org) provides free soundcard software to amateur radio operators so that amateur radio operators may receive MIL STD 188-110A unencrypted (PLAIN TEXT or PT) messages from military stations, including MARS stations.

The direct link to the Google drive location for this software is: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pYDj7kQbm-QAyY4RPtx0dOXKohjaEjq9

The soundcard software modem (MS-DMT) is currently available in 32-bit (x86) version, and I suspect a 64-bit version will not be released in time for the COMEX. In order to use MS-DMT, you will need a soundcard interface between your radio and computer, such as the Signallink. If you are already operating using soundcard digital amateur modes, such as PSK-31, you should have the hardware you will need. Although MS-DMT provides a simple terminal capability, a more fully featured M110Terminal program is also provided, which can be linked to MS-DMT through a virtual serial port.

Free virtual serial port (null modem) software is available here:

http://www.eterlogic.com/Products.VSPE.html (the 32-bit version is free.)

http://com0com.sourceforge.net/

RI ARES members may contact Matt Hackman/KB1FUP for assistance in setting up the MS-DMT and M110Terminal software: