MRGC-MVCC Battalion Communications Center

UPDATED: 2/3/18
Battalion Communications Center – Military Vehicle Collectors of California Rally’s:  A periodic display of Military Communications Equipment at the MVCC events. 

Some interesting “Joint Operations” were held at the MVCC’s Camp Delta at Tower Park events recently. Their annual event is the largest annual MV event in the West. There are approximately 200 military vehicles of all types in attendance. It’s about the size of a mechanized infantry Battalion.
Now that’s a Party!
There were numerous vintage military radio sets and ANTENNAS in attendance, many with Military Vehicles bolted to them. (A brief tangent):

Tactical NVIS Antenna – Mobile

Above: A reproduced example of a “High Frequency NVIS* (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) antenna” with a German Recon vehicle bolted to it. The Soviets also copied this antenna design and mounted it on their 8- wheeled BTR-60 Recon vehicles in a similar way. No, it’s not a ski rack….

(UPDATE: I have recently noted that this type of antenna on these vehicles may not have been for HF “NVIS” as widely assumed after all. It is probably configured as a top-loaded (non-loop) vertical antenna for an MW, mobile ground wave system as installed in that type vehicle in that time frame.
Photo below: Note the antenna lead-in bypassing the insulator support, upper left.

Those 8 wheeled recon vehicles as well as the Sd.Kfz/SPW Kommand halftrack carried antennas like these. However the installed radios were usually Fu-8 or Fu-12 MW sets with 30/80 watt transmitters operating from 1120 – 3000 kc. Planning ranges were 31/9 miles, CW/AM for the Fu-8 sets. (50/15 miles for the 80 watt sets.) (Reference 79.)

Hardly NVIS territory on those frequencies. This was especially true during the daytime and especially in the early 1940’s when the sunspot count and D layer absorption were at an 11-year maximum. These mobile sets were primarily ground wave systems for planning purposes.

The famous 1940, France photo of General Heinz Guderian in the back of his Command SPW with the Enigma operators is widely referenced as evidence the Germans were “using NVIS” techniques while mobile. I’m beginning to doubt that, given the equipment and the frequencies actually used. Photo Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-769-0229-12A / Borchert, Erich (Eric) / CC-BY-SA 3.0
“Nazi’s. I hate Nazi’s.” Indiana Jones

MW Antenna on SPW Command vehicle

More research needed on the system design and variants. Always interested in learning something new or to correct misconceptions! Anyone have hard evidence, either way?

*NVIS is not an antenna – It’s a technique. But I digress.

UPDATE – April 2014
The 2014 MVCC Camp Delta military vehicle collectors Spring rally is now history. A huge assortment of military vehicles from paratroopers folding bicycles to a US Marine Corps Ontos carrying six 106 mm recoiless rifles were rolling. The Battalion Comm Center was in full operation; below is the basic setup:

MRCG Battalion Communications Center, Camp Delta 2014

MRCG Battalion Communications Center, Camp Delta 2014

We had the following equipment on site and operational: SCR-284, GRC-9, GRC-109, RT-68/VRC-10, BC-683, PRC-25, PRC-10, PRC-6, and an EE-8 Field Phone pair off to Camp Patriot. We worked several Hams in the camp on 51.0 MC FM and several stations on 7050 KC CW including K6KPH, the Marconi Special Event Station at Coast Station KSM on the coast north of San Francisco. We also worked numerous 75 meter AM Phone stations on the nightly 3985 KC West Coast Military Radio Collectors Group nets. Thanks for all who checked in for radio checks – always fun to talk with friends from the boonies.

Battalion Comm Center, Camp Delta April 2012

Above: The Batt Comm Cen 2012 took up residence in a 20 man GP Medium tent provided by the Commander of Camp Patriot. Nice Digs… Thanks Chief Jim !!  Naturally, it didn’t rain.

Batt Comm Cen: Tactical VHF Position N6CC

We operated a VRC-10 set up on 51.0 MC to communicate with our patrols armed with a PRC-6 handy-talkie. This set (AKA an RT-68 for the transmitter-receiver unit) works quite well and was used to provide radio checks to several VHF-equipped Military Vehicles in the area.

Tactical Operations Center MRCG/MVCC Camp Delta 4-13

Above: The Battalion Communications Center setup at the April 2013 MVCC rally and camp out at Camp Delta. This setup included the GRC-9, PRC-6, 10 and 25 pack sets, a BC-683 for artillery support and the GRC-109 (in the big green box) for Force Recon Intel data fusion. We also had a PU-181/PGC-1 Generator available for power.  We used the GRC-9 to work many stations on 7050 KC CW, including K6KPH at the Marconi memorial site in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco.

VHF Jungle Antenna connected to the VRC-10 N6CC

The Jungle Antenna: We’ve all seen them in the Field Manuals – here’s a “Deluxe” model – coax feedline, detachable connectors – ready to be hoisted up. Working with the VRC-10 FM set on 51.0 Mc. Simple, effective. Wazzat?

The PRD-1 radio Direction Finder

“I think it needs some Relative Bearing Grease” We used the AN/PRD-1 Radio Direction Finder to perform an “RDF re-section” from local AM radio stations. We determined we were at – wait for it – Camp Delta!

Batt Comm Cen Tactical HF Position – MRCG Net Ops N6CC

Above: Tom used the AN/GRC-9 to talk with the Military Radio Collectors Group Net on 3985 KC on Saturday night. Got out to about 8 different military radio – equipped stations all over California. These things (still) work great.

HF SSB Comms with PRC-47

Time-warping into the Vietnam War, we used the PRC-47 to keep in touch with The War Office on SSB back home. Buddha optional but we had great Kharma….

From some previous MVCC Batt Comm Cen field Ops:

Battalion Comm Center MVCC 2010

(O) 011200ZAPR11 CLASSIFICATION: Burn Before Reading
SITUATION All tactical combat units require ability to Move, Shoot and Communicate. HQ has determined that MVCC Camp Delta Battalion has the mobility and firepower covered, but lacks Communications.

MISSION: Establish a joint Battalion Communications Center at Camp Delta, Tower Park at the Stockton Delta KOA Campground near Lodi CA: 20-24 APRIL 2011.
Operations: Relay Fire Support requests for Naval Gunfire from MVCC Battalion units.
Transmit outgoing message traffic for logistical support
Constraints: Frequencies utilized will be FCC authorized Ham Radio freqs to confuse enemy.
NOTE: Using suspenders to launch buttered rolls at the Comm Center is now prohibited. No Sniveling. Also, chewing Betel Nut or Qat by males is discouraged.
Weather: Expected to be mild at -6 feet AMSL elev. Temps: 70/45 degrees. Rain possible.
Astronomical: (4/22): Tides: Hi 0850/2326, Low 0340/1711. Geomagnetic activity: Unsettled. Planetary Index 7.2, Karma: 9.33 (Six Sigma), Ground conductivity: 27 millimhos.
Sunrise Azimuth=057 Magnetic; Sunset Azimuth=270 Magnetic. Times PDST.
Sunrise 0620, Sunset 1948, Moonrise 0017, Moonset 1003; Moon 73% Illum. LQ4/24
Intel: Enemy activity: random methane gas attacks likely; mosquitoes operating in AO

EXECUTION: Advance RECON team will infiltrate the AO at appx. 1400 Wednesday, 20 April and establish HF/VHF Comms with HQ; begin OPS/Eating/Emptying of Survival Cylinders. In the event of a Class III TIME WARP, provide comms with WW II era technology as required. The Fun Meter WILL be pegged.

ADMIN/LOGISTICS: Primary LZ is Tower Park, south side of the Pavilion building. LAT/LONG 38D 6.438N x 121D 29.754W. Road mobility: All weather roads. Observe light/sound discipline.
Establish tentage at DZ’s 900, 901, 902. Resupply at BassPro / Lodi Bait and Liquors

TOA EQUIPMENT: SCR-284, SCR-536, PRC-6, GRC-9, PRC-47, VRC-7, GRC-109, PRC-25, Type 12
CRYPTO SYSTEM: The use of Pig Latin (NATO Version) is authorized on Voice and CW circuits

3885 KC AM Voice Primary HF Tactical 4/20-24 0800-2200 as watchstanders permit
3952 KC LSB Voice Long Range Liaison WPSN 4/20-24 1930-2000 Only
3985 KC AM Voice MRCG Command Net: Night 4/23 2000-2100
7050 KC CW Morse Force Recon Primary 4/20-24 0800-2200 as watchstanders permit
7296 KC USB Voice MRCG Command Net: Day 4/20-24 0800, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800
51.0 MC FM Voice Primary VHF Tactical 4/20-24 0800-2200 as watchstanders permit
144.450 MC AM Voice Close Air Support 4/20-24 As Requested
146.565 MC FM VOICE ADMIN SIMPLEX 4/20-24 Continuous
145.410 MC FM VOICE ADMIN Diablo Relay 4/20-24 Continuous (PL=107.2 CPS, – Offset)

As noted in the above FRAG Order, all tactical combat units require the capability to move, shoot and communicate. The MVCC has the first two covered, so they invited members of the west coast Military Radio Collectors Group to participate and provide the third essential combat element. We experimented with a radio display at the September 2010 version of this event at the same campground and we all had a good time.

MRCG Det Alpha (FWD) arrived, set up and operated the following gear on Amateur Radio (HAM) frequencies for 4 days: PRC-25, GRC-9, ARC Type 12, BC-683, GRC-109, RS-6, SCR-284, PRC-6, SCR-536, PRC-47 and a VRC-7/RT-70 (if you are keeping track!). We also set up a functional PRC-77 / SB-22 switchboard and field telephones for a radio-wire integration demonstration. Included was a PRC-2000 man pack on single sideband although most gear was WWII through 1975 vintage. The MRCG team also provided technical advice and radio checks to the many MV owners who had military radios installed in their vehicles but needed some unique expertise or a “known good” radio to verify functionality.

The September 2011 Batt Comm Cen checked into the weekly MRCG high frequency net on Saturday night via CW (morse code) and got good signal reports from up and down the west coast. We worked lots of stations out to 1200 miles on 7 MC CW using the “knee key” for visitor demonstrations during the event too.

Battalion Comm Cen N6CC

Above is our tactical Battalion Comm Center display at the September 2011 camp out. It was pretty hot so we rigged the Duty T-10 Parachute to augment the cover and concealment of this position.  At this meet, we had the GRC-109, PRC-25, SCR-284, two GRC-9’s, a VRC-7/RT-70, a mobile TCS-8 and PRC-6 all operational.

SCR-284 at MVCC Batt Comm Cen – N6CC

The SCR-284 infantry field set at the September 2011 MVCC Batt Comm Cen. A favorite with the kids and WWII Vets alike.

The General wants to know how much it costs, the Colonel wants to know how many can he get, the Captain wants to know how far it can communicate, the Sergeant wants to know how long it takes to set up, the Private wants to know how much it weighs…..

Naval Gunfire Support to MVCC – N6CC

Above:  The Battalion Communications Center was in Comms with the USS Iowa during the event.  The USS Missouri (floating in a baking pan) standing by to receive our requests for Naval Gunfire Support to the MVCC Battalion combat units. (The actual USS Iowa is moored nearby in the Suisun Mothball Fleet, within 16″ gun range of our coord’s.) She could certainly ventilate a few tents and vehicle engine blocks from there…

We were pleased to have a former Marine stop by when he saw the model battleship. He had operated as a Marine Corps “ANGLICO” (Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company) officer during the War, calling in naval gunfire from ships offshore on the “gun line.” He had operated the AN/GRC-9 (“Angry 9”) in that capacity and knew his way around the radio and its tactical usage. He commented that they always used the AM phone function, not CW. Another bit of real world history noted. HOOYAH! Thank you for your service!
Many other combat veterans stopped by and related their experiences with some of the gear we were operating and displaying. Most had not seen it in actual operation since they were “in.”

PRC-25 Display at MVCC Batt Comm Cen – N6CC

Above is our PRC-25 display on a bamboo tripod, complete with a curious Bamboo Viper. We were operational on 51.0 MC FM and were able to talk with the UH-1H Huey helo (EMU-309) as it approached and landed for display and passenger rides during the Sept 2010 camp.

EMU-309 landing at Camp Delta

NOT a good time to ask for a Radio Check………..

The pilot, MVCCer Randy Parent, is a Ham and he was using the installed AN/ARC-131 system on the Huey. Fun! We also had FM comms with several MV’s operating in and around Camp Delta.

ARC Type 12, RS-6 Agent Net, GRC-9 Infantry Net N6CC

Above is the ARC Type 12 aircraft system, RS-6 “Spy” set and the GRC-9 on display. We used the GRC-9/AT-101 system to work many stations on 7 MC CW as well as the Military Radio Collectors Group Net on 3985 KC on Saturday night. During the day, we were also had comms with our coast watcher detachment. They were operating their SCR-694 and TBX-8 sets (on hand-cranked generators) on a beach along the Sacramento River about 11 miles away. Good signals both ways. We awaited the Bikini SITREPS – tough duty….
We had the ARC Type 12 tuned to VHF air traffic control freq’s to add some aircraft chatter to the overall “ambience” as our “Close Air Support” Net. The RS-6 set was operational but we did not try to make any contacts with it. It was tuned to the “Intel Net” as it would have been used under deep cover.

Future Radio Men – Batt Comm Cen – N6CC

Above are a couple of future Radio Men copying a morse code broadcast from maritime coast station KSM at Pt. Reyes CA on 4350 KC. The SCR-284 station was being powered by a young trooper on the GN-45 hand-cranked generator. Good signals…

”WOW! Mom! Come Here! This is cool !!”

Those Radio Men also got their first taste of “Handy Talkie” comms as shown above. They had fun talking with that SCR-536 / BC-611 and the PRC-6 radios back to the SCR-284 and the PRC-25 respectively. Pretty heavy for guys that size!

Soviet POW at Batt Comm Cen – N6CC

A passing Marine brought along a captured Soviet Spetsnaz POW. We put him to work cranking the SCR-284 so we could send a message across the lines suggesting a trade: “This POW for all the Lend Lease gear we loaned the Soviets.” No response yet…. Crank faster Tovaritch!
We were also visited by the Kiwi’s, General MacArthur, several WW2 rifle fire teams, a WW1 motorcycle courier, Indiana Jones, a Marine fire team, a high school ROTC class, a Huey helo crew, the Brit “Desert Rats,” and a large caliber raccoon as well.

Force Recon Net – Batt Comm Cen – N6CC

Above is our Force Recon Net setup using the GRC-109. Alongside is the GRA-71 code burst keyer which would send morse code SITREP traffic at 300 words-per-minute. This was done to evade interception and direction-finding efforts of the bad guys. This set was widely used by Special Forces communicators to good effect during the Vietnam War. We also had a WWII BC-683 Tank Receiver running, listening to the California Highway Patrol traffic for “atmosphere” on the “Armor Net.” (No armored attacks occurred down the Interstate that day).

Below: Andy arrived in his vehicle (captured from the Imperial Japanese Army) adorned with a fully functional, complete TCS-8 set.  We were able to work him as he made his way towards MVCC and also during daylight missions to the local resupply point in Lodi.  See below.

TCS Remote Control at the Coxswain’s helm.

Above is the TCS-8 Transmitter Receiver set with dynamotor power supply and dedicated 12 volt battery. This setup is removable and stand-alone for dismounted campsite Ops. He was running the MS-49/53 antenna while mobile.

Navy TCS Set mounted in an MZ Jeep

Above: The same type TCS radio set mounted in Mark’s superb WWII “MZ Radio Jeep”.

MZ radio Jeep

Above: The USMC MZ Radio Jeep ready for inspection. Note the unusual dual rear wheels to handle the extra weight and to improve traction across the beach.

We are looking forward to the next opportunity to combine groups in a fun field environment. All those cool Mil vehicles can haul all our cool radio gear to the most scenic spots and we can then talk to each other about the situation. We are thinking about the Camp Roberts Meet next year. A great place in California to practice off-road driving, boondocks exploration, and for putting period radio gear to the test!