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Air Force moves radios to narrowband

by Gerald Sonnenberg
Air Force Communications Agency Public Affairs

2/15/2005 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN)  -- As the demand for radio frequencies continues to grow, so does the need to increase efficiency. Air Force Communications Agency officials here helped create more capabilities by providing the roadmap for moving the Air Force away from wideband to narrowband radios.

Land mobile radio systems enable military forces to quickly establish command, control and other critical communications during training and deployed operations, and they are critical components of the global information grid, officials said.

In 1995, National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials mandated that federal agencies operating radios in selected UHF and VHF frequencies move from a wider emission band of 25 kilohertz to a narrower emission band of 12.5. Radios accessing the 162 to 174 megahertz frequency range were given until Jan. 1 to move.

Radios accessing other frequencies have until 2008 to move.

This gave Air Force officials the difficult challenge of converting 151,600 radios in its inventory. Not doing so could affect mission-critical radio communications support, officials said.

The Air Force manages its radio inventory at the base level, and it turned to agency officials to develop a plan to transition the entire, decentralized radio fleet to the narrowband configuration.

Agency officials said they worked with those of the Air Force Frequency Management Agency, major commands, direct reporting units and other field operating agencies to take the first steps and keep security forces and first responders in business.

The conversion plan broke down radio equipment into three categories: mission-critical, mission-essential and mission-support.

Mission-critical radios included force protection, medical response and airfield operations. Mission-essential equipment covered activities such as transportation and supply logistics. Mission-support assets encompassed activities that contained base services.

"What the Air Force is doing is replacing radios and infrastructures or reprogramming equipment for narrowband compliance," said Master Sgt. Reginald Sanders, of the communications agency. "Each radio can then be programmed by the base (radio) manager. The amount of labor depends on how many pieces of equipment need to be replaced and programmed."

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