Able Archer 83\Davidsonville 2019

The annual Able Archer 83 event is an opportunity to set up and operate military radios from the sixties, seventies and eighties and make contacts with other Ham stations during a twenty four hour period. The event has a special issue call W3A and takes place at a former Nike Missile site (W-25) in Davidsonville Maryland.

Although we are hosted by the Anne Arundel Radio Club we do not use any of the modern equipment thatís located at their club station. All equipment is brought to the site and set up that day.  All equipment is period correct.


Walt, KB3SBC on twenty meters.

I departed Salisbury around six in the morning to arrive at Davidsonville just after eight. Two things I wanted to accomplish were working the MMRCG Net on 7296 (USB) at ten and the MRCA M&S Net on 5357 (USB) at noon. I unloaded the M151 with the GRC-106 on board and set up the mutt mounted antennas for HF, 51.0 and 147.105 for the local repeater. Six fiberglass poles were used to support an inverted V antenna for operating the nets.

Checked into the MMRCG Net with no issues and did copy all stations. I used my call for the MMRCG net and not the W3A call sign at that time. At noon using the W3A call I operated as net control for the Moose and Squirrel Cold-War Clandestine and Long-Range-Reconnaissance-Patrol Net. This was also the unofficial kickoff for the operations at Davidsonville with the W3A call for this year.

Walt (KB3SBC) arrived around eleven that morning and set up a push up mast system for supporting the VHF antenna for 51.0 that provided a great way to get the inverted V antenna higher off the ground then my fiberglass poles. We installed the inverted V and used that on forty for an hour or two before we were allowed to occupy the AARC building. They were doing a VE session and we were not allowed to use that space until it was over.

Being forty meters tends to be a band that most Hams insist on using LSB and the GRC-106 is USB only I had a KWM-2A and we set that up just above the GRC-106 in the mutt and Walt operated around a dozen stations using that set up. I was able to complete one contact on 51.0 and that was to a local at the site using a PRC-77 that Walt brought. Later in the afternoon Walt decided to operate on twenty meters running the GRC-106 into the whip antenna on the mutt and I decided to drag the KWM-2A out and set it up on the hood of the mutt and we were able to have two stations operating at the same time.

Around three or four that afternoon we were allowed to set up the main operating position in the AARC building. With great difficulty we drug the Harris RF-350k into the building along with the Collins KWM-2A and set the radios up using a Windom antenna connected to the big Harris.

I spent much time before the event playing around with a pair of analog four wired field telephones. Had to do some repairs along with finding a bunch of D cell batteries and all that with the idea of setting up a phone system between the mutt and the main operating position in the building. The problem was by the time we were able to set up in the building it was getting late and I was planning on departing before it got too late so the phone system was never put into operation. I did set it up so we were at least able to play with them and several of the people at the event got to talk on them. But did notice that the one that had a bad connection on the receive side that I thought I had fixed had started having issues again so looks like I will need to do more work on them.

Around five that evening I loaded up the mutt and departed the site leaving Walt and the crew to carry on for the rest of the event. I did return around noon the next day to collect up a radio and was told that they did at least another thirty or so contacts overnight. That gave us a total of just under a hundred contacts for the event, but it is important to understand thatís itís not about the number of contacts as much as it is an excuse to drag out all the radios and play with them.

What aspects of the project work?


The M151/GRC-106 set up worked great. This time the VRC-43 (RT-246) worked and did not fail although we did not have much activity on that other than one contact and calling CQ. The KWM-2A worked surprising well out in the field. Having LSB capabilities was a big plus. The big Harris worked without issues but man that thing is heavy. Thinking that maybe I can pair the 500 watt amplifier with it also but have no ways how to make all that weight portable.


What didn't work and why?


Think the biggest issue is getting others to come out and take part. Itís a twenty four hour event and I was only on site for around ten hours. If we had more people take part I am certain that we can push the contact count way up. Back when this was on top of a mountain up in Hamburg PA they had a larger turn out but moving down to Davidsonville has resulted in a smaller turnout and additional operators are needed, It would also be an opportunity for people to bring out and show off their radios in a field environment along with demonstrating operating skills, and we are located right between Baltimore and Washington but none of that crowd shows up.

Hardware failures were limited to small things like the field phones and a short problem with the push to talk switch on the Collins needing a field repair. And there were poor band conditions overnight.


What would you change if given a second chance?


Unlike Gilbert MRCA and the Aberdeen MVPA shows we use shore power or battery power so no generator noise but I could have used another hundred feet of extension cord. Also I use an external AC power supply that feeds the mutt twenty eight volts for running all the radios and may look at adding an AC power outlet to the big power supply so any additional equipment like the KWM-2A that may show up can be powered. Ended up using a modern plug strip and that takes away from the base idea of the event seeing a plastic plug strip.

Side panels for the mutt may be good for keeping the wind and cold out, know that the back window dose help so may add a panel or two on the sides.

And maybe the idea that if we added a backpack or field exercise that would generate additional interest? Its nice country around the site and would give the opportunity for all the people who have PRC-25/77, PRC-74 or 104 sets or anything else a chance to take the radios out in the field and use them.




Link to the "Official" Able Archer 83 website:



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Nov 19