27 December 2021

Pure Fleet

In the Army we had a concept known as 'pure fleet'. Pure fleet means that an Army unit, like a division, has only one type of vehicle for each mission. For example, back in the 90's, it was common for a division to have a mix of light utility vehicles - HMMWVs, militarized pickup trucks and SUVs (we called them Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicles, or CUCVs), mission specific vehicles like maintenance trucks based on the old Dodge Ram pickup series (M880 'contact trucks'), and more. One day some smart logistics guy took a look across all the motor pools stuffed full of this odd mix of rolling stock and said, "we need to standardize on just one type of vehicle, and it needs to be the HMMWV". The division commander agreed and the concept of the pure fleet was born. 

The benefits of a pure fleet are pretty obvious. You only have to train Soldiers to drive one type of vehicle, not three or four. Your mechanics only have to worry about maintaining one type of vehicle, not three or four. Your logistics guys only need to worry about supplying parts for one type of vehicle, not three or four. Assuming you make a good choice on the type of vehicle you standardize on - and the HMMWV was a great choice at the time - the pure fleet concept reduces a lot of headaches.

They all drive the same, function the same, use the same spare parts...

I've decided to adopt the pure fleet concept with HF radio and will likely extend it to VHF/UHF handhelds. I came to this decision after almost a year of struggling to get radios from different manufacturers working with a variety of digital mode software. I've worked with a number of Icom and Yaesu HF radios and a smattering of one-off rigs like the Elecraft KX2 and the Xiegu G90 (sorry, I'm just not a Kenwood guy). The only line of radios that was even remotely easy to configure across a wide variety of software packages - Winlink, JS8Call, FLDigi, Ion2G (ALE) and MS-DMT (MARS) - has been the Icom line. 

Yaesu's radio control settings are maddeningly complex, and it seems if you change one variable for one software package, you end up impacting settings for others. I can't tell you how frustrated I've become with Yaesu radios. Yaesu makes good, solid radios, and I think they are better sounding on SSB than Icom rigs, but configuring the radios for digital operations is maddeningly complex and confusing. The smattering of boutique rigs I've tested - the KX2, the G90, the CTX-10 - can be made to work on digital modes in some form or fashion, but they are QRP rigs, and not well suited to high duty cycle digital mode operations.

So I've decided to standardize on Icom and start shedding much of my Yaesu gear. My pure fleet will be Icom based.

Standardizing on Icom offers a number of significant advantages. 

  • My IC-7300, IC-7100 and IC-705 all share the same basic command set. For example, adjusting RX bandwidth (an important step for digital mode configuration) is the same process across all three radios. The button presses to get the the baud rate settings are the same across all three radios. The ALC level adjustments are the same across all three radios. Get the hint? Learn one, and the learning curve is flattened for the other two
  • Icom's current generation of radios are very well supported by digital mode software developers. In fact, the IC-7300 has become a benchmark radio for software development; developers today will code for the 7300 first, then branch out to other radios
  • With the exception of the IC-7200, every HF radio Icom has released since the introduction of the IC-7100 back in 2015 incorporates an SD card slot. This means the user can store different operating profiles on the card and recall them as needed. For example, on my IC-7300 SD card I have a rig profile for MARS MS-DMT, MARS ALE, Winlink, JS8CALL, and SSB voice. If I'm operating voice and want to reconfigure the radio to operate on MS-DMT it's a few taps on the rig screen, the profile is loaded from the SD card, and off I go
I'll still play around with other brands of radios. I'm particularly captivated by the dainty little Elecraft KX2 - it beats larger rigs so bad on both RX and TX that it's almost funny. But for primary voice and digital communications, particularly for EMCOMM work, it's all Icom.

W8BYH out

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