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SD Wing Tests Communications Capabilities

November 22, 2022

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South Dakota Wing demonstrated the ability to use aircraft relay to communicate across the state during a sortie Nov 20. The objective of the test was to determine the effective range and usability of a “high-bird” communications relay in central SD.

“A worst-case scenario for America would be loss of commercial communications over a widespread area,” said Lt. Col Craig Goodrich, CAP’s incident commander for the exercise. “If that happened in South Dakota, alternative means of relaying command and control communications across the state would be needed, both for CAP’s internal tasking and for our partner agencies.”

During the test, a CAP aircraft orbited at 10,500 feet above Fort Thompson. Operators in the plane were able to maintain analog and digital communication with ground units in the Sioux Falls and Vermillion areas via a fixed CAP repeater 120 miles away. The aircraft also had reliable contact with ground operators in Pierre, where the state Emergency Operations Center is located. The aircraft made limited contact with a Black Hills VHF CAP repeater and operators in the Rapid City area. As the United States Air Force Auxiliary, CAP performs operational missions for local, state, tribal, and national agencies as part of the Air Force support for civil authorities.

“In CAP, we have to train for the worst-case scenarios,” said Col. Michael Marek, South Dakota Wing commander. “A disaster situation, cyber-attack, or other bad actors could incapacitate commercial communications, and possibly even the state government ‘trunking’ communications network. “CAP has independent assets for statewide communication using the VHF systems we tested this weekend, as well as long-distance HF radio systems, that can preserve continuity of communications for our own units as well as our partner agencies in disaster situations,” Marek said.

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