Department of Defense to Run National Blackout Drill starting on November 4th

by Robert Richardson, OffGridSurvival:

On November 4th, the Department of Defense will run a  “communications interoperability” training exercise across the United States.

According to The National Association for Amateur Radio (ARRL), the test is meant to simulate a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) event which takes down the power grid and all forms of traditional communication, including landline telephone, cellphone, satellite, and Internet connectivity.

Army and Air Force MARS organizations will work in conjunction with the Amateur Radio community to test emergency communications methods which could be deployed after a CME type disaster.

Army MARS is a Department of Defense sponsored program which utilizes Amateur Radio operators to contribute to the mission of the Department of the Army. Army MARS members must have access to HF radio equipment, file a monthly report, and participate a minimum of 12 hours total, including a minimum 6 hours on HF radio each quarter.

The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is a United States Department of Defense sponsored program that was formed in November 1925

The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is a United States Department of Defense sponsored program that was formed in November 1925

The Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., is responsible for the Army MARS Program. Its main focus is providing contingency communications support to the Army and Department of Defense. The command also provides support to civil authorities, said Paul English, Army MARS program manager.

The military and the rest of the government, as well as the private sector, rely on satellites for much of their communications. MARS does not, English said. He explained that it instead relies on high-frequency radios which bounce their signals off the Earth’s upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere, to provide long-distance communications.

The majority of MARS stations are manned by volunteers, usually in their homes. But there are also several hundred government-run MARS stations at both the state and federal level. The latter include the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration.

Blackout Drill Preparing for CME Style Event

Elements of the US Department of Defense (DOD) will conduct a “communications interoperability” training exercise November 4-6.

“This exercise will begin with a national massive coronal mass ejection event which will impact the national power grid as well as all forms of traditional communication, including landline telephone, cellphone, satellite, and Internet connectivity,” Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, explained in an announcement.

During the exercise, a designated DOD Headquarters entity will request 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 the impact of the scenario. Army and Air Force MARS organizations will work 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.

MARS operators putting an HF antenna up at Ft. Meade during a Training Exercise

MARS operators putting an HF antenna up at Ft. Meade during a Training Exercise