What is ALE?
ALE (automatic link establishment) is a specialized High Frequency radio which operates unattended most of the time and sends data continuously to other ALE radios in the same group so that when an operator makes a call to another station or group of stations, the radio has the ability to choose the best frequency for that transmission. This makes for a much better call, as the radio considers the time of day, season of the year, distance between stations and weather. The more often the data is updated, the better the transmission. The radio also alerts the station that he has an incoming call. It is like using a cell phone to dial the communications path to the person to whom you wish to talk.
The ALE radio scans up to 20 frequencies per net the frequencies for calls and automatically links with the station that called you or that you. The radio sounds a Link Alert to let the operator that the link is made and he may now talk. The operator then passes the message to the intended station. The radio performs these functions without operator intervention or the necessity for a person to constantly listen to the frequencies being scanned because the scanning and sounding audio is normally muted until a Link is made.
The radio knows which is the best frequency or frequencies to use because during the scanning period, some of the radios in the net perform a Sounding Call to all other stations who receive the Sounding and determine the quality of the communications path to the sounding radio on each of the frequencies sounded called a Link Quality Analysis. Note that an LQA is rated as zero on that frequency if the radio does not hear a sounding station. Radios sound at a predetermined determined interval from 30 to 120 minutes to monitor the changing propagation conditions that affect the radios’ signal paths.
So how does one make an Micom 3 HF radio do its ALE function? On the Micom 3 radios, the operator turns on the radio and after the power up computer checks are completed, he selects MENU, ALE and then types his net number and then the enter key. The radio immediately starts scanning the frequencies in the selected net (ALE Net 4 for SER Wings). If Sounding is turned on at that point, the radio will very quickly start sounding (transmitting) on its own. Therefore for safety purposes, when the ALE radio has its sounding activated, the radio should already be set up with its ground system and antenna connected after the operator has checked to make sure personnel are not near the antenna. Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) antennas near the ground will get out to about 300-500 miles successfully and antennas mounted higher are used for longer range communications.
ALE is a connectivity function that allows inexperienced operators to operate an HF radio and maintain communications with their other stations when the cell phones and internet are unavailable. Like all communications functions, occasional practice is required to maintain proficiency just like maintaining your landing currency in an aircraft. For further instruction and information, please contact your Wing Director of Communications and review the education programs in the NHQ eServices web site Learn Management System under the subject heading of communications and the ALE briefings in the Communications web pages under communications Library and then training.