Operation "Atlantic Hop-II"
Dated - 24 March 1999
A. Wrng Order for AH-II dated 30 1615Z Nov 98
B. OpOrder for AH-II dated 15 1700Z Dec 98
C. Amend 1 to OpOrder for AH-II dated 13 1700Z Jan 99
D. OpOrder to AH-II(B) dated 03 1430Z Feb 99
E. Amend 1 to OpOrder for AH-II(B) dated 10 1520Z Feb 99
F. AH-II Report No. 1 dated 11 0333Z Jan 99
G. AH-II Report No. 2 dated 20 1800Z Jan 99
H. AH-II Report No. 3 dated 28 0400Z Jan 99
I. Logbooks VA3ORP & LA5MT for 30 Jan 99
J. AH-II(B) - 6 Feb 99 dated 06 2106Z Feb 99
K. AH-II(B) - Logbooks for 13 Feb 99
L. AH-II(B) - Logbooks for 27 Feb 99
M. Survey Results - Atlantic Hop - II (undated)
1. Operation "Atlantic Hop - II" (AH-II) was a vintage radio exercise in which trans-Atlantic communications was established using the World War II Wireless Set No. 19. There were approximately 30 stations participating - 20 of them with operational 19 Sets and ten acting as monitors.
Key factors in the success of the operation were the effective distribution of information via email, close adherence to operating procedures and the perseverance of the operators. Success was achieved between 0605 and 0618Z on 27 Feb 99 when WF2U (Central Islip, New York) and LA5MT (Oslo, Norway) exchanged signal reports and equipment serial numbers. The distance was 5,868 Km.
Exchange. Unlike the normal DX contacts heard on the bands, it was decided that success would be defined as the passage and confirmation of both signal reports and the serial numbers of the 19 Sets being used. This is a much higher standard than normally demanded in contests and yet a somewhat lower standard than required by the "Vintage Operators Award".
It roughly equates to the passage of a military grid reference, and in that regard is a highly appropriate criteria for military radio operation. It is recommended that passage and confirmation of a signal report and serial number be the criteria for success in future operations.
Net Control Stations. The intent was that the high powered NCSs would occupy and hold the frequency long enough to allow the 19 Sets to make contact. This plan seems sound and has proven to be highly effective in the weekly Morse Code Training Net. During AH-II, mainly due to poor propagation, control was almost non-existant leaving the out-stations without real-time guidance and without a "big station" to hold the frequency.
Nonetheless, the NCS did provide a "rallying point" for particpants. It also gave a strong signal against which to zero-beat. While this was not the intended function, it was very helpful. For future operations it is recommended that high powered NCSs continue to be used.
It was not always possible to have the NCS on the advertised frequency of 7,020 KHz. Out-stations were then required to search for NCS and zero-beat on that new frequency (ie the net frequency is where the NCS is operating, regardless of the advertised frequency). It was noted that the frequencies ending in 5 KHz seemed to be busier than those inbetween.
It may be advantageous to select an odd frequency (ie 7,032.5 KHz) as a means of reducing interference. Notwithstanding all of the above, it should be noted that all of the successful and partial contacts in AH-II were made without the benefit of a Net Control Station.
Other Contacts. There were a number of successful contacts made within each continent - some at distances of 2000 Km. Generally these were made after it became apparent that trans-Atlantic contact was not going to be successful on a particular date.
This activity was useful as it gave encouragement and experience for making the more difficult contacts. It must not, however be allowed to interfere with the main objective of the exercise and therefore should not be permitted until a time specified in the OpOrder.
Interference. Interference was experienced from both participating and non-participating operators. The former would have been eliminated had the NCSs been able to occupy the frequency and direct the activity. Without this, and without being able to hear all of the stations in the net, a certain amount of self-generated QRM resulted. Without effective net control, out-stations' only recourse was to follow the "Loss of Contact" procedure and keep trying.
This eventually did lead to success, however a better procedure may have been more helpful. For future operations it is recommended that the Loss of Contact procedure be prepared anticipating the probability of weak net control and sporadic propagation into target areas. Interference from non-participants was a significant factor.
Some stations joined the net without invitation and without knowledge of what was being attempted. The quickest way to clear the frequency was to tell them to stand-by. Due to the wide bandwidth of the 19 Set, QSOs nearby in frequency were a huge problem.
For future operations it is recommended that "unpopular" operating times be used and that contest periods be avoided entirely. In addition, the OpOrder should include a procedure for politely clearing the frequency of non-participants.
Operating Techniques. For AH-II, all stations were operating at the furthest limit of their capability. This is extremely valuable as it is only by such an effort that the strengths and weaknesses become apparent. . The use of "words twice" was found helpful on several occasions.
In addition, the use of full callsigns (repeated twice) allowed the receiving operator to confirm that he was copying the correct station before the actual start of the message text. In many regards, this is day-to-day operations for the modern QRP operators and much can be learned from their experiences. It is recommended that all vintage operators study QRP techniques and apply them to future operations.
Monitor Stations. The use of monitor stations had two benefits. First it gave useful information on both propagation and the source of the QRM (internal or external). Second, it allowed a greater number of people to participate, thereby extending the fraternity beyond the core of 19 Set operators.
There was great enthusiasm amongst this group and they are very keen to assist in future operations. It is recommended that the use of a monitor section be retained and expanded.
Chirp. The characteristic "chirp" of the 19 Set was found to be extremely helpful in identifying participating stations. Under weak signal conditions this was extremely important and a great asset when trying to zero beat.
Antenna. The use of antennae giving low angle radiation was essential. At 7 MHz this is most easily achieved with a 1/4 wavelength vertical and a number of radials. Stations using dipoles and random wire antennae were able to communicate up to about 2,000 Km but had less success on the longer hops. For future operations it is recommended that low radiation angle antennae be used by all participants.
Propagation. Propagation analysis was undertaken using a number of computer programs and reference documents. In the end, these proved to be useful indicators but did not give absolutely reliable information.
Success was achieved on 27 Feb 99 with a solar flux of 115.1, A index of 5 and K index of 0. Partial exchanges were also made on 23 Jan 99 when conditions were much worse (solar flux 165.9, A index of 16 and K index of 3). Nonetheless, the programs were useful in suggesting suitable operating times and frequencies.
A great many of the programs do not permit radiation angles to be specified and this greatly reduces their usefulness. For future operations it is recommended that computer analysis be used as a guide and that additional factors also be considered in selecting operating times.
It was found that solar flux and geomagnetic field predictions were unreliable even within a few days of a particular operating period. For example, the operating period on 20 Feb 99 was cancelled due to a forcast magnetic storm and the ARRL CW contest.
As it turned out, this may have been the best propagation of the two month period (SF=157.1, A=5, K=0)! Due to this unpredictability, it may be useful to schedule future operations at various times during an 27 day solar rotation. This increases the chances of having optimum conditions during at least one operating periods.
Zero-Beat. Inspite of many reminders to zero-beat using the proper procedure, and inspite of comments indicating that out-stations understood the necessity for being exactly on frequency, this continued to be done badly. Some stations were up to 2 KHz off of the Net Control Station's frequency.
When the transmitter is keyed there is a frequency shift (the chirp) that has been measured at up to 200 Hz (usually much less). This can be compensated for by listening on a monitor receiver with a narrow filter and making the necessary adjustment with the "Flick Adjust".
Generally this is not necessary. The 19 Set can net to within 10 Hz and one hour long QSOs have been conducted with only minor retuning being required. When zero-beating against a very strong signal, it has been found useful to monitor the sets AVC meter reading as this gives an pronounced dip when correctly tuned.
This avoids a zero-beat against one of the internally generated spurious signal. It is recommended that during all future training sessions, zero-beating procedures be checked with the goal of having all stations within 50 Hz.
Receiver Overload. This proved to be a significant problem, especially for those using the Mk II sets. A strong signal nearby in frequency will often lower the gain of the set, thereby causing a weak signal to be lost. In addition, the BFO injection is sometimes inadequate to cope with a very strong received signal.
The only solution to this is to turn down the RF Gain (or detune the APA Tuning on Mk IIs). This is a less than ideal situation but one of the unavoidable limitations of the 19 Set. Reducing the RF Gain can also be beneficial when there are a lot of static crashes. The overall signal to noise ratio seems to improve with lower setting of this control.
Power Supply. The 19 Set is stable as long as it has at least 30 minutes to warm up and the input voltage is at least 12.5 Volts. In most cases, an automobile battery and a small battery charger will prove adequate for this purpose, especially if the Supply Unit No. 2 and the vibrator are used.
A better solution is to use the AC supply, however original ones are not widely available. It has also been noted that supply units with poor or dry bearing in the dynamotor will not give proper outputs under load.
It is recommended that prior to all operations, power supplies be tested under load to confirm their surviceability. It must also be confirmed that storage batteries are fully charged and of adequate capacity for sustained operations. (Note: an average automobile battery in North America is rated as having an "80 Minute Reserve" capacity.
That means that at 25 deg C it will produce 25 Amps for 80 minutes and have a final voltage of 10.5 Volts. In practice, such a battery will only provide about 20 AmpHrs when driving a 19 Set).
Use of a battery and a charger is often preferable to using a modern regulated supply. Many of these supplies will not provide sufficient current to start thedynamotor. They detect the large initial load as a overcurrent situation and shut the supply down.
Alignment. Even with the most careful alignment, the IF stages of the 19 Set can be 8 to 12 KHz wide. It remains to be seen if this can be improved by the use of a sweep generator or by using a spectrum ananlyzer/tracking generator.
As this is the most severe limitation of the set, this alignment must be done with the greatest possible care. Setting of the BFO is easily done but it must be set to precisely 465 KHz. This will provide two useful marker frequencies with the 8th harmonic at 3,720 Khz and the 15th at 6,975 MHz.
(Note that due to internal interference, the 19 Set cannot be operated on CW at 3,720 KHz +/- 3 KHz). Following the procedure laid down in the EMERs, it is not difficult to bring the 19 Set up to its published specifications.
Completing this procedure gives the operator great confidence in the set's ability. It is recommended that all sets used in training or operations be given a complete alignment annually or after every 100 hours of use.
Equipment Switching. Several of the stations arranged some system for rapid switching between vintage and modern equipment. This proved to be invaluable when contact was lost due to fading or interference.
Switching back to modern equipment allowed contact to be quickly reestablished. Once conditions improved, it was equally simple to switch back to vintage gear. This also permitted the use of modern equipment for frequency spotting. Stations are encouraged to use such a system in all future operations.
Accessories. Unless better alignment procedures can remedy the IF bandwidth problem, an outboard audio filter is usually required. The amateur bands are extremely crowded and the 19 Set was never intended to operate in such an environment.
An internal crystal or ceramic filter in the IF section would be even better but may be unacceptable within the "vintage" definition. The use of the variometer is not practical unless operating outdoors and very close to the antenna base. This device introduces some loss and does not operate well into a 50 ohm resistive load. The use of an external antenna tuner and watt meter is preferable and will give an added degree of harmonic surpression.
Information Distribution. The use of the Internet and email was highly successful. It allowed all participants to remain informed on the basic plan and on necessary changes. It also gave the operators useful feedback and helped maintain the momentum of the operation. The distribution of photographs with the email was extremely popular.
Some problems were encountered with incompatable file formats, especially for attachements. With a world-wide operation like AH-II it is likely that a wide variety of computer systems will be in use, therefore a format must be used that is compatable with all participants.
This should be agreed upon at the start of the operation and detailed in the OpOrder. A standard format for Logbook extracts is also highly recommended. (these logbooks were invaluable in preparing the "after action" reports)
Distribution List. A standard distribution list, with all action and info addressees included, should be used for all communicaitons. Not only will this simplify sending mail, but it will allow participants to obtain information without it going to a central location for sorting and preparation of summaries.
There is a danger of losing control of the operation with everyone sending mail to everyone else, however this can be minimized by clearly stating that such communications is for "information" purposes, not for "action". Central direction is still essential in order to prevent chaos.
Operation Order Format. Instruction issued in the Operation Order format have proven to be an effective means of communications. While somewhat long, it does cause the planner to consider the important aspects of the operation and to ensure that all items are addressed.
It would be possible to shorted this considerably by the use of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) upon which everyone agrees. With the SOPs distributed to all vintage operator groups, preparation of an Op Order for a particular exercise becomes a very simple task.
This was shown by the difference between the Op Order for AH-II (eleven pages) and that for AH-II BRAVO (two pages). It is recommended that Standard Operating Procedures be adopted for vintage groups.
Media. The support of Radio Canada International (Marc Montgomery) and Radio Netherlands (Jonathan Marks) was most welcome. Not only did this significantly raise the profile of the event, but by making such a public committment, the group was under some pressure to persevere until success was achieved.
These broadcasts also brought in additional monitor stations from Germany and from the USA. To advertise the Group and its success, an article describing the event should be submitted to amateur radio and military collectors magazines in each participating country. (ED Note: With copies to VE3BDB for the WEB site, please!!)
Benefits of AH-II. Several comments were received concerning the long-term results of an operation like AH-II. Most importantly a number of groups and individuals have come together to share their common interest in vintage military radios.
This provides a good starting point for future cooperation and additional exercises. It was also noted that AH-II put the fun back in amateur radio and gave the participants a great boost to their confidence as operators. It is recommended that these contacts be maintained through regular communications and expanded to include other groups of collectors.
Regular Events. The activities of the W.S. No. 19 Group could be conducted in exactly the same manner as the annual training cycle within a military organization. Throughout the summer, interested personnel could be "recruited" for the Group.
Beginning in September new members could join the weekly training nets and begin to develop their Morse code skills. On 11 November everyone could join VE1NU in his Remembrance Day sked. The month of January is ideal for progagation and seems to have few contest so that would be a suitable time for trans-Atlantic work.
This could lead to a big operation for either D-Day (6 June) or later in June with the Vintage Field Day. In addition, monthly event could be scheduled within a specific geographic area (Europe, North America, etc) with recognition given for greatest distance or longest sustained QSO.
Special Events. There has been some interest shown for "Operation VR2K" - a Vintage Relay in the year 2000. This would involve passing a short greeting message around the world using 50 + year old military equipment. This will have to be organized soon so that it can start on 1 January 2000.
Another upcoming celebration is the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (year 2003). Undoubtedly there are many more celebrations and events which could be marked with vintage radio skeds.
Best Comment on AH-II. The following comment was received in response to the survey question about how to maximize fun and minimize frustration:
"To avoid frustration is very simple - switch off the radio! We are not forced to wake up and work on the radio - for me this is fun and I thank all of the operators for their cooperation. The real frustration would be if the propagation was good, there was no QRM, you called "19SN QNI" and got no answer because nobody else was on the air!"(IK0MOZ)
Let us see that this never happens.