Phone Patch Net Overview
The USAF MARS Phone Patch Net provides worldwide* 24/7 Telephone service to US military aircraft via HF radio. All US Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard Aircraft are supported. The net is staffed by Amateur Radio (Ham) volunteers who are members of MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System). US Air Force MARS is sponsored by the Air Force Network Integration Center (AFNIC) at Scott AFB, Illinois. There is no charge for using the Phone Patch Net. Only DOD aircraft or units are authorized to use the net.
The Phone Patch Net is now listed in the Flight Information Publication as of April 2016. The FLIP has how to contact MARSRADIO and frequencies.
Contacting A MARS Station
There are several things to keep in mind when calling MARS Radio:
Use the Primary Frequency first and call MARSRADIO. All MARS stations monitor the primary frequency both day and night. The Secondary Frequency* is mainly utilized at night. (US Time). Contact us for the primary and secondary frequency.
Often times the MARS station can improve reception if the operator knows which way to aim the antenna. At times, having the antenna pointed correctly can make the difference between “Loud and Clear” and “Weak, Barely Readable”.
Call multiple times. To avoid confusion, the only station that will answer you on the first call is the “Net Control” station. If “Net Control” does not hear you, other stations will respond after your second radio call. This is why you should always call several times. Also, if you are answered by an operator other than the net control, he will usually first contact the NCS to see who will handle your patch.
EXAMPLE RADIO CALL:
“MARS RADIO, REACH 123, NORTH ATLANTIC, OVER”
If after calling several times you do not get any response try the secondary frequency. Try again in 20 – 30 minutes when propagation may be different due to the time of day, and/or your location if still unable to raise an operator.
Another station may be asked to run the patch. Operators are volunteer and every attempt is made to “spread out” the phone patches so all stations can be involved
Running A Phone Patch
Once initial contact has been established, the MARS station will ask you for your phone patch request. Give the operator the phone number to be dialed, and if making a “Morale” call, YOUR first name. The net normally does not need the name of the party being called unless you feel that is important. Keep in mind that the phone call is NOT secure, as it does go out over short-wave radio. This is the reason that last names are not normally used.
Morale calls are made courtesy of the individual operator who normally has unlimited dialing within the US. Some stations can do international calls. Official calls can be made to a DSN or commercial number.
Your phone call may be picked up by an answering machine. Normally, the MARS operator will give you the option of leaving a message on the machine. If you know that you do not wish to leave a message, you should advise the operator of this when placing the call.
Since this is a “radio” phone call, each party must take turns talking. (You cannot both talk and listen at the same time, as you can over a regular telephone.) It is proper procedure for both parties to say the word “OVER” at the end of each transmission so that the MARS operator knows when to key the transmitter.
Morale calls should be limited to 5 minutes. Official calls do not have a time limit, and have at times been known to run several hours.
When you are finished with your patch, you should advise the MARS operator to “TERMINATE THE PHONE PATCH” so that the end point of the patch is clear to the operator.
If you would like another patch, advise the operator that you have another request. As MARS operators take turns running patches, you may be routed to a second operator. If the reception of the second operator is not satisfactory, you may request net control to assign you a different operator. The Phone Patch Net wants to provide the highest quality patch possible.