Balance The Odds Pt.III – and interview with Arquebus Control Group
The name Arquebus comes from a renowned Norwegian WW2 Radio Operator, and aptly has been adopted by Task Force Exorbitance‘ Communications Section – Arquebus Control Group.
In the third part of our serialization we sit down ARQ01 who talks us through the teams comm’s role, its importance and immersion it brings, their CCT and TACP inspired gears, blasters and much, more
S23: Welcome aboard bro, a huge thank you for taking time out to sit down with us. In preparation for this I decided to re read The Reptile House‘ piece you did a few years back. Arquebus‘ inception is quite unique, in fact it’s unique in its ethos to bring something different to TF Exorbitantance, has bringing your communications expertise and equipment added to not only the experience, but broadened the capabilities of the group ?
ARQ01: Hello, thanks for taking an interest in us! Well communications have always been something the Airsoft community in Norway has struggled to get right. It’s always been a last priority for most people, and when they finally get a hold of some radios it’s usually some cheap PMR446 from a toy store or some such similar option.
I’ve been a part of the Norwegian Airsoft community for almost fifteen years now, and I’ve seen a lot of change during that time when it comes to communication. After the toy walkie-talkie era we saw a big shift as most teams changed over to the PRC343, or H4855 if you will, to get more of a military look. That obviously had some implications when it came to range and this was offset by the Norwegian Airsoft Association when they acquired a license to use the 68Mhz frequency and we got what we’ve dubbed “The NASF radio”.
That meant that teams could use the PRC343 for shortrange (500 meters) communication and the Zodiac radios to reach the higher ups so to speak. But the Zodiac radio is basically a hunting radio and thus is not compatible with a whole lot of military looking aftermarket accessories. Another big problem with this approach was the prohibitive cost.
The Zodiac is really quite expensive, and you have to be a member of NASF (Norwegian Airsoft Association) to get one. The PRC343 is also expensive. So the community has circled back to the PMR446 as standard, but this time it was helped along by the Chinese electronics industry.
Baofeng and Puxing radios are super cheap, offer a lot of accessories and perform well in most situations. The Zodiac 68Mhz radio is still used, but more and more people have made the switch to China made radios as they offer more compatibility when traveling to other countries to engage in Airsoft events. What these cheap China radios lack however is that military look and feel.
Enter to – their PRC152 and PRC148 replicas has really made a huge difference when it comes to building good impressions while not sacrificing good comms.
But back to the actual question; I wouldn’t say it has made the group more capable but it has sort of outsourced the nuisance of getting a hold of other elements in the field or the HQ. By letting Arquebus handle the comms from within the Task Force and out, the rest of the group can focus more on their respective tasks and specialisms. In some scenarios, Arquebus team-members might join an element of the Task Force, or we can set up a relay-station/OP somewhere central in the AO to make sure communication traffic flows smooth from all corners and up to the HQ. As more and more people in the community invests in good radios, it’s no longer about us having the best equipment, it’s about how we make us of said equipment.
S23: Has your day to day career and expertise given you added advantage in setting up your comm’s net ?
ARQ01: Yes and no. Since I work with telecommunications for a large US oil company I obviously have some extra baggage that helps. I work with radiolinks, satphones, UHF/VHF and IP networks all the time but there is a lot I don’t know. I’m a licensed VHF operator but I’m really no radio expert. We don’t fix anything anymore. If it’s broke, we chuck it and buy a new one. Those guys that are true radio amateurs, those are the guys with the real know-how and knowledge. And there’s quite a few of them in the community. I’ve recently gotten in touch with Tactical Associates UK, and their knowledge on comms and TRI radios is a massive help! Great guys who really know their way around a radioset.
As for setting up a network that we use in the field I mainly rely on my experience as a Lieutenant in the Norwegian Civil Defense. The effort there is mainly on fire and rescue, but the principal of communication and setting up a comms net is the same if it’s a simulated Airsoft battlefield or an actual forest fire.
ARQ02 is a NCO in the same unit so we see things from the same perspective and that always help.
S23: Having the ability to seamlessly communicate and manage and troubleshoot comm’s in the field must open up endlessly possibilities on how to approach taskings and objectives, particularly when combined with other assets you employ such as mapping and the use of live drone feed ?
ARQ01: If more teams took the time to plan ahead of a game and get a hold of topographical maps and GPS and combined that with good communication a lot of the “battlefield chaos” would disappear and make the commanders job a whole lot easier. When we’re at an event we regularly check in with coordinates to make sure we know where we are and perhaps more importantly, the HQ knows where we are. Pre-event planning is also essential. We can spend weeks or months ahead of an event to get maps, plan OPs, set up communication diagrams and such. It’s really part of the fun!
S23: You’ve spoken previously of initially starting CCT inspired gears, subsequently evolving through to TACP driven Load Outs, has this improved, streamlined and assisted with your role and performance within the TF ?
ARQ01: It was supposed to be CCT from the start, but a lack of understanding between the difference of CCT, TACP, SOF TACP and a JTAC qualified soldiers, meant we headed for trouble right at the start. Over time the loadouts have ended up as more of a mix between CCT and SOF TACP and we’re quite happy with that. The impression part might be kick started it all, but this has since evolved more into a “works for me but is still plausible and/or picture perfect” kind of thing.
We still mainly use pictures of AFSOC CCTs for reference, but if myself or any of the other two members want to use something that’s only been seen on SOF TACPs we’ll go ahead and do it anyway. The Task Force has evolved a lot over the years and most teams within it are now more relaxed about the picture perfect impression standard and approach it with a bit more common sense now.
S23: Blasters, now these have some slightly unique variances, being Air Force inspired. Was researching and sourcing alternative parts difficult ?
ARQ01: No not really. Of all the special forces branches in the US, AFSOC has perhaps the smallest budget. They still use top notch gear, but it might be a few years behind CAG for instance. The two most common rifles seen with AFSOC STS (Special Tactics Teams) are the M4a1 CQBr Block II/Mk18Mod1 and the M4a1 Block II. They also use the Mk17 and even had the Mk16 for a while.
The biggest difference between Army and Air Force is volume of fire. You simply seldom see any squad automatic weapons in an STS unless they’re mounted to a UTV or such.
We in Arquebus, like the rest of Task Force Exorbitance, use the Tokyo Marui Next Gen series as our base. That little bit or recoil coupled with the durability really makes it a joy to run. And the fact that a fresh mag is never far away is a real bonus for the door kickers as they obviously do most of the actual shooting. Currently we all run CQBRs with 10.3″ barrels and DD rails as our main platform. ARQ02 has also built a sweet M4 Block II rifle with 14.5″ barrel that he uses for recon events. I’ve recently acquired a Mk12Mod0 SPR for the same purpose. Our newest member ARQ04 has yet to build a recce rifle, but I guess he might land on a M4 Block II as well.
S23: You’d previously talked through with Rich over at the Reptile House, having been involved in the hobby for some twelve years plus, and running a broad selection of gears and load outs. Has that experience proved beneficial in your current incarnation. That experience surely makes building and researching such a project a little easier ?
ARQ01: Oh absolutely! We’ve all been there. You’ve just been introduced to the hobby of Airsoft and you want everything. You say that in this movie, and this in that movie. Your friend has this and that, and that guy on YouTube endorsed those.
What you end up with is good enough to play with, and for some that’s enough. But if you want to take it to the next level and try to replicate an actual unit, you have got to do our research! It’s better to spend an extra three months researching and saving up a few bucks and get it correct the first time, then to buy everything twice!
Even though I’ve been in the impression scene for a long time I didn’t do good enough research, which caused the beforementioned mix-up at the very beginning. That has proven to be quite expensive. So the best advice to anyone starting to build any kit: read up before you pay up.
That being said, the whole process of collection reference pictures and reading up on subject matter was known to me. That made it easier to get off to a flying start. Just make sure you google any abbreviations you don’t understand, and make sure you’re not getting things mixed up. We made that mistake, so now you don’t have to.
When we started we focused on the 2014 timeframe and went with LBT6094s. These are some great platecarriers but have become a bit outdated over the past few years. In this latest version of our kits we’re all running Crye JPCs for a more streamlined function. The AVS was an option as well, but we found it to be more than we actually needed.
S23: You spoke freely and openly about HHK’s open, welcoming attitude to building such a collective, it’s rare to see such a large gathering of likeminded enthusiasts – has it proved to be beyond your expectations, it’s certainly attracted its fans and the adoration of the community the globe over ?
ARQ01: Far beyond what I thought possible to be honest. But it just goes to show what can be accomplished with a little elbow grease. It was extremely important for everyone in TFE to avoid the pitfalls that had demolished so many impression groups in Norway before. The number one reason has always been the perception that hardcore impression groups are “elitists”. We wanted to change that. We wanted everyone to know that even though we spend thousands and thousands of dollars on gear we’re not BB proof. We’re not unbeatable. If we attend a Sunday skirmish we don’t mind having the newbie with jeans, sneakers and a G36 with a Hi-Cap join us. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone. He might learn something and it might spark an interest to pursue the impression line? And who knows? That new kid with the jeans and G36 might be a really cool guy and then you go out for a drink the following weekend and before you know it he’s part of the crew. That’s how a few of the TFE members became part of the group. So it just goes to show that if you treat people well and lift them up instead of putting them down, everyone gains something.
What’s important is that you treat a Sunday skirmish as what it’s supposed to be. A good time for everyone. An invite only event with hardcore impression teams only is a different thing all together. Then it’s all business. And if you choose to travel around the country, or neighboring countries, it’s important to keep in mind what kind of event you’re going to. Is it mainly an opportunity to be social or is it something else? We try to do both every year. Strive for excellence, but get back to the roots every now and then and just have fun.
: In the field it must be certainly rewarding managing comm’s and being a vital component helping move all of S23Exorbitantance’s components into place, directing HHK onto target, Trident to clear and breach obstructions and Hermes to get them back in the fight all the whilst taking real time intelligence, observations and field reports from Sky One from afar …
ARQ01: For me personally there is nothing that beat the feeling of good comms chatter. Being perched at a good vantage point of the AO and watching each element move into position is magical! But it’s also really exciting to get up close and join a team and be part of the execution of the plan. Over time the way Task Force Exorbitantance communicates via radio had evolved and it’s now getting very efficient. “In house training” with radios has made the different teams more comms capable. That might mean less work for Arquebus, but it makes the whole task force that much more effective.
S23: Now, naturally Plastic Deth (Airsoft) is many things to many different people. But do you think the openness of TF Exo to work together, and explore the endless possibilities of what RealSim can be, and what experiences to be had are by many are a missed opportunity – could perhaps more positive attitudes from us all to collaborate achieve something truly spectacular ?
ARQ01: : I would say so. A RealSim event offers a real chance to really work as a team in ways a skirmish on a paintball field cannot. If you’re an outdoorsman and an airsofter a RealSim event is something you should definitely try. The feeling of walking for hours, not knowing how many are out there or maybe even where they might be, is extremely thrilling. The last few years I’ve measured an events success in the amount of BBs fired. The ones where none were fired during the entire 24/48 hour event are the best in my experience! But then again, I’m all about the comms. (laughs)
That might mean less work for Arquebus, but it makes the whole task force that much more effective.
S23: Now, we recently quizzed Trident about Op Garden Centre but saw that you also participated in Op Rudna, what can you tell us about Arquebus‘ time deployed in the field during that event ?
ARQ01: Op Rudna was the first event where we really got our comms working properly. At that time we were only two members so we split up and followed a recce element of HHK each. Due to the rugged terrain of the Op Rudna area comms was a big problem with the tiny antennas on the Baofengs and Puxings. Our TRI 152s with whip antennas however had the range needed to keep the elements in touch with each other and the HQ. The AO was quite large so we spent a few hours trekking through dense forest and across steep canyons to reach a vantage point from where we could see the objective. Just outside target area we linked up with the other element of HHK with ARQ02 attached and then came under fire from anenemy patrol. We called in the contact to HQ who then deployed the QRF. When the recon portion was done, we linked up with Trident that had established an overwatchposition at the edge of the AO. Here we had a perfect view of the entire target area as the QRF rolled in. That was a magical evening in the snow.
The last few years I’ve measured an events success in the amount of BBs fired. The ones where none were fired during the entire 24/48 hour event are the best in my experience! But then again, I’m all about the comms. (laughs)
S23: … Really appreciate you taking the time out to talk, obligatory last question I always like to ask (kind of a trademark), I’m a fan of RS mag counts – 30 Rounds per mag, what’s your thoughts on this – could you see this perhaps bringing something new and fresh to game play if embraced by the masses?
ARQ01: For practical reasons and to offset the fact that airsoft rifles have shorter range than real rifles low cap mags with 60-80 rounds seems to work best. If everyone used 30rds mags however fire exchange would be more dynamic as everyone actually would have to make their shots count and reloads would be more frequent. SAWs and MGs would also be more important for volume of fire. Sadly the range and accuracy of airsoft rifles are so poor that the increased capacity of the mags is a necessary evil I guess. But I must admit that all my mags are set to 30rds, but I don’t use it as much as the others so it really does not matter. But at least it gives me the opportunity to do a mag change once in a while.
On behalf of myself, ARQ02 and ARQ04, I would like to thank you for showing interest in what we do and we hope this is informative and interesting for the readers and maybe inspires someone to look at comms and what it can do a little differently.
We try to answer questions about comms and AFSOC on our page as best we can, but if we can’t the online community is big and has a lot of great people eager to help out.
Check out the TRI/TCA radio group on Facebook and of course our friends at Tactical Associates UK.
Huge thanks to ARQ02 and Arquebus Control Team, as I’m sure you’ll agree he’s put a great turn in the interview chair, you can keep up to date with all their exploits at the links below – S23
Arquebus Control Team Instagram: http://instagram.com/arquebus_control_team
Arquebus Control Team Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arquebus.control.team/
Task Force Exorbitance Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaskforceExorbitance/
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