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When commercial communications systems are unavailable or overloaded, the Civil Air Patrol (“CAP”)’s national radio system stands ready to keep command and control (“C2”) channels open, keep CAP’s aircraft flying, and relay urgent traffic for itself, federal and other customers. Hobby Senior Squadron communicators play an important part in that system:
CAP’s national radio system includes over 500 High Frequency (“HF”) Automatic Link Establishment (“ALE”) base stations (1 currently available to Hobby), close to 750 non-ALE HF radios (3 currently at Hobby), and about 260 ground vehicle mobile HF units (1 currently available to Hobby). The HF system is supplemented by extensive Very High Frequency (“VHF”) networks composed of over 500 digital (P25) repeaters (1 serving Hobby) and thousands of VHF portable, mobile, and base stations (5 currently at Hobby). The CAP national radio system also includes nearly 150 portable (tactical) repeaters (1 currently available to Hobby) for temporary ground or air-mobile use in support of its missions. All equipment operates on federal frequencies assigned to CAP, and is capable of inter-operability with military, federal, state and local government agencies.
Over 19,000 CAP members are trained in use of these radio systems, and many (6 currently at Hobby) are amateur radio operators.
CAP’s national radio system is well-prepared to provide contingency communications when commercial communications systems are unavailable or overloaded. CAP holds 15 national voice nets a week on multiple HF frequencies with close to 120 daily check-ins from all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. CAP participates in Department of Defense communications exercises, in preparation and training for actual national emergency tasking. In addition, Texas Wing holds its own daily HF net on various schedules and Hobby Squadron communicators participate in a weekly VHF repeater net.
Formal traffic is passed daily on the national nets using military ACP-125 procedures. Members use USAF-assigned tactical call signs, but in inter-agency operation may also use functional designators, in accordance with ICS/NIMS standards. CAP also maintains duty station watch on a national suite of dedicated ALE frequencies, ready for unscheduled relay of internal and external traffic, and is developing an infrastructure of MIL-STD-188-110B data communications, which will have HF modems installed at all levels of the organization.