ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, said the exercise offers an excellent opportunity for those amateurs with ALE capability. “It is a good exercise that highlights one of the key elements under which US amateurs were granted secondary status on the 60 meter band,” he said. “The amateur community’s ability to participate in an interoperability exercise with governmental communications is a great way to assess where things stand in this area — and to explore the next steps to take. We encourage those amateurs familiar with the ALE protocols and have the station equipment to participate in a meaningful way to do so.”
Amateur Radio, Federal Government Engaged in Joint 5 MHz Communication Exercise
Amateur Radio operators and federal government stations are engaged in a 12-day nationwide test of their capability to communicate with each other on HF in the event of an emergency or disaster. The High Frequency Interoperability Exercise 2014 (HFIE-2014) is running concurrently with the federal National Exercise Program (NEP) 2014. Activity is taking place on two of the five 60 meter channels. The primary center-frequency channel is 5358.5 kHz, and the secondary center-frequency channel is 5373.0 kHz. Amateur Radio is secondary to government users on the band. The joint readiness exercise that began March 27 will continue through April 7and include all areas of the US. Participants will use Automatic Link Establishment (ALE), a standardized digital selective calling protocol, to establish communication between stations.
“The HFIE has been a semi-annual exercise for some years,” explained HFIE-2014 Coordinator Bonnie Crystal, KQ6XA. “Previously, HFIE has been a ham-only exercise. This year, we scheduled HFIE so it coincides with the NEP.”
Participation in the interoperability exercise is open to all ALE-capable federal government radio stations and to all ALE-capable US Amateur Radio stations. A Special Temporary Authorization (STA) has been granted, giving permission for radio amateurs to communicate with federal government stations for the duration of the exercise.
Crystal said ALE signaling “sounds like turkey gobble,” adding that ALE calls last about 15 seconds. Stations listening “may also hear the operators then start talking on USB voice,” she said. “The signals can be up to about 40 seconds long, if there’s texting riding on it, using a very rapid type of ARQ [automatic repeat request] handshaking.”
“Once someone links with another station, they have the choice of using SSB voice or sending/receiving up to about 80 characters of text,” Crystal said. “Or they can switch to some other mode, such as CW or PSK or PACTOR.”