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MARS Adopts Winlink

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  • Radioguy
    Army MARS Implementing Winlink 2000 with Airmail Network NEWINGTON, CT, Mar 2, 2006--After a thorough study of security and connectivity issues, the Army
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2006
      Army MARS Implementing Winlink 2000 with Airmail Network

      NEWINGTON, CT, Mar 2, 2006--After a thorough study of security and
      connectivity issues, the Army Military Affiliate Radio System
      (<http://www.netcom.army.mil/mars/>MARS) has launched the final phase
      of implementing <http://www.winlink.org/>Winlink 2000 with
      <http://www.winlink.org/Presentations/Packet%20Primer.pdf>Airmail as
      a system-wide communication tool. A global MARS-Winlink 2000 network
      is expected to be in service by this summer. Winlink 2000 Network
      Administrator Steve Waterman, K4CJX/AAR4WU, a member of the Winlink
      Development Team, is the MARS team leader.

      "Army MARS identified a real need to provide digital messaging to
      complement the existing voice and digital systems," said Waterman,
      who also served on the ARRL Ad Hoc Committee on Amateur Radio
      Emergency Service
      Communications. "It becomes a critical need as the demand for more
      and more capacity approaches, and there's a tremendous amount of
      interoperability built in."

      In announcing the network, MARS Eastern Area Coordinator Grant Hays,
      WB6OTS/AAA9E, said Winlink 2000 will provide rapid and reliable
      interconnection among government entities served by MARS and the
      broad range of local and regional agencies accessed by Amateur Radio
      generally. "Winlink 2000 has the capability to automatically
      establish alternative communication routes utilizing its large number
      of participating Amateur Radio stations," MARS said in its news
      release announcing the network.

      Waterman said the amount of redundancy built into the system is
      really substantial. "Among other things, where appropriate, Internet
      accessibility will take the load off the limited number of
      frequencies available for the MARS service," he observed.

      For seven years, Winlink 2000 has supported emergency communication
      worldwide. During the catastrophic 2005 hurricane season, Amateur
      Radio operators provided indispensable communication backup when
      conventional telecommunication systems failed. In the wake of the
      earthquake and tsunamis that hit South Asia in late 2004, Amateur
      Radio operators with Winlink 2000 capability--many of them
      maritime--found Winlink 2000 to be especially helpful for handling
      emergency communication.

      Amateur Radio organizations already embracing the technology include
      ARES, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service
      (<http://www.races.net/>RACES)--a FEMA auxiliary--and many civil
      agencies. In past emergencies, these organizations have informally
      linked with MARS through members whose stations participate in
      multiple systems.

      With the addition of Winlink 2000 with Airmail, Hays said, the
      different networks will continue to operate separately and
      independently, and the new software will automatically move messages
      among them as needed. "It will also switch traffic to the Internet
      where available and appropriate to bridge any radio gaps or to
      deliver addressed e-mail," he said.

      Mainly for use with HF PACTOR, Airmail is a messaging program
      specifically designed for connection to an HF radio Winlink 2000
      participating station. The Airmail screen is very similar in
      appearance to the Microsoft Outlook e-mail client.

      Army MARS has long operated its own MARS Message Center System
      (MMCS), which uses HF radio to deliver messages throughout the US and
      to overseas military installations. "Before the advent of e-mail,
      keeping servicemen and their families and friends in touch was a
      major function," said the Army MARS release. "Disaster readiness has
      overtaken that function in the last decade and continues to expand."

      Hays says the Winlink 2000 with Airmail network augmentation is one
      of two innovative technology projects currently under way in Army
      MARS. In conjunction with Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps MARS,
      members are also testing an advanced Automatic Link Establishment
      (ALE) implementation. "This is the HF radio technology already widely
      used by military units and government agencies for moving traffic in
      large volume," he explains, noting that MARS volunteers developed the
      software. "Winlink 2000 and ALE can work in tandem to speed delivery
      of messages," Hays said.

      Since MARS members operate on military frequencies, only MARS members
      will be able to directly access the MARS Winlink 2000 system, Hays
      said. Messages to and from the amateur participants outside MARS
      would be interchanged automatically at designated Participating
      Mailbox Operation (PMBO) stations.

      "While only designated members are authorized to use ALE, all MARS
      members may use the Winlink 2000 system after registering their call
      signs and passwords at one of the MARS participating stations," Hays
      explained. "Four Winlink 2000 participating stations were fully
      operational for the start of system testing. Others will be added as needed."

      Early versions of Winlink and its predecessor Aplink have a long
      history in MARS going back to the early 1980s. Communication security
      concerns delayed adoption of the advanced Winlink 2000 facility until
      recently when it was further investigated and understood, Hays recounted.

      More recently, the Winlink Development Team and its participating
      station system operators have also been active with the ARRL in
      providing a national emergency digital network system for the Amateur Service.

      Working with Waterman on the MARS-Winlink 2000 project are Paul
      Drothler, WO4U/AAA4TN, Laurence Collins, K7DMB/AAA9NV, Don Nutt,
      N6TDM/AAR7JG, and John Scoggin, W3JKS/AAA9AC. Scoggin is the MARS
      National Automation Coordinator. Drothler and Collins are state MARS
      Directors and Nutt is a National Coordinator for SHARES, the Shared
      HF Resources network linking federal agencies including MARS. All are
      experienced engineers.

      A radio amateur since 1955, Waterman joined the original Winlink
      Development Team in 1986. In 1998 he participated in the decision to
      wrap store-and-forward e-mail connectivity into early Winlink
      versions. Other members of that group were Victor Poor, W5SMM, the
      team leader and the person who conceived Aplink and Winlink; Rick
      Muething, KN6KB, Hans Kessler, N8PGR, Ed Galipeau, WA1LRL, Lee Inman,
      K0QED, and Tom Lafleur, KA6IQA. They also assisted in the MARS project.

      Army MARS has some 2500 Amateur Radio operators specially trained and
      licensed for military communication. The Air Force and Navy-Marine
      Corps field similar volunteer teams. Their shared mission is
      providing emergency communication to the US Department of Defense and
      other government departments and agencies.

      (ARRL Web)
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