CFARS badge. (Courtesy CFARS Operations site)
CFARS is a radio service of the Canadian Forces similar to the U.S. Military's MARS service. CFARS serves two main functions, one being that of a radio service to boost the morale  of service personnel stationed far from home, by providing via radio-link, telephone patches to family and friends. CFARS also serves as back-up communications support during various emergencies and contingencies. The system was established in 1977. In its up-to-date role, CFARS provides auxilary HF Voice/Data communications support for the Department of National Defence and participates in the development and co-ordination of emergency communications services.

During the Cold War, Canadian troops deployed CFARS radio to military outposts in West Germany.. In the 1991 Gulf War, CFARS provided a means for Canadian soldiers stationed in Qatar to call home, boosting morale. On October 6, 2011, a malfunction of Telesat's Anik F2 satellite disrupted communications to Canada's high Arctic region for several hours; CFARS operators were called upon to provide emergency backup communication. These are just two examples of the value of CFARS.

CFARS stations can be classified into three types; Military Stations, Coast Guard Stations, and Affiliated Stations.

a) Military Stations are obviously operated in a military establishment or vessel. callsigns associated with these stations tend to start with "CIW" followed by one or two digits for a fixed military station or in the case of a Maritime Command Vessel followed by four digits, starting with either a "2" for Pacific Vessels or an "8" for Atlantic Vessels. By observation it would appear that Military Stations previously established without CFARS capability (particularly overseas) tend to add the single digit "9" to their military tactical callsign once they add
CFARS capability. Hence the original callsign would be used on tactical operations frequencies, while the callsign plus "9" would be used on CFARS frequencies. Two good examples of this would be VET (VET9) -Damascus, Syria and VXV (VXV9)- Golan Heights, Syria. Other interesting notes on CFARS based Military Stations is the use of the callsign prefixes CHI, used by some, not all Militia Stations, and CIC, CIP, and CIS, used by some, not all Specialist Military Stations.

b) Coast Guard CFARS stations are currently installed on fifteen  (circa 1993) of the largest vessels of the fleet. These vessels are involved in a wide range of missions ranging from Arctic patrols to Search & Rescue. Coast Guard vessels use the CFARS callsign prefix CIW followed by four digits with the first digit being a "9".

c) Affiliated CFARS stations are operated by licenced Canadian Amateur Radio Operators from their homes or offices. They provide radio message handling and telephone patch services for Canadian Forces and Coast Guard personnel away from home. Affiliated CFARS stations all have the callsign prefix CIW followed by three digits.

CFARS callsigns with the prefix CIW, assigned to land stations (followed by one to three digits) always use the first digit to identify the general geographic location of the station. The code is as follows;

CIW1 - Yukon & Northwest Territories (note 1) . The prefix fir Nunavut is not known at this time.
CIW2 - British Columbia
CIW3 - Alberta
CIW4 - Saskatchewan
CIW5 - Manitoba
CIW6 - Ontario
CIW7 - Quebec
CIW8 - Maritime Provinces; Labrador & Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island
CIW9 - Canadian Forces Germany

Note 1 -  CFARS stations in the Yukon and Northwest Territories may be assigned the numeric identifier of the Province to the immediate south of the stations location. As of 1993, there were 178 authorized CFARS stations; 46 on-board maritime vessel stations, and 132 fixed land stations.

cfars_allocations_s.jpg CFARS "CIW" callsign prefix allocations for Canada circa 1993.  Click on thumbnail to enlarge.  (Image courtesy TCMRFG)

A working Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System station is on exhibit as part of the Military Communications and Electronics Museum at CFB Kingston in Kingston, Ontario.

This document is intended to be a quick overview of CFARS.. Further details on CFARS can be obtained from:

Credits and References:

1) The Canadian Military Radio Frequency Guide  (TCMRFG) ; 1993 - 3rd edition; Roberr S. Ing  ISBN 1-895377-06-4
3) Badge

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Feb 4/19