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Recommendation: Military Surplus Aluminum Antenna Mast

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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First, I have no interest in the purchase of this equipment; my intent is to share what would be an excellent set of base antenna mast for anyone who may be starting out in the hobby. Just wanted to pass along and you can decide what to do. What I found is a small stock of 1.50" OD x 1.25" ID x 0.125" wall mast sections on eBay. These are NOT camo net poles--they are engineered MS-44, 5.5' antenna masts swaged at one end and are NOS military surplus from late 1970's. They were designed primarily for wire antennas, yagis and small beams; however, they have great utility for other antennas so long as you go with a reasonable size/wind loading. I have purchased two (2) sets myself and the poles are in fantastic condition. They are dark OD green, and the swaged end (about 6.0") is unpainted with a protective coating applied. Cost per set of eight (8) was $145 plus shipping, and the seller worked with me to get that down. This set makes 40' and will need to be guyed if you have any wind at all where you live. Military reference stated max height un-guyed was 25' with the associated tripod (he sells the tripod, too for $58). The seller, located in eastern PA also has NOS guy rings and NOS tilting anchor which goes into ground--you have to decide between that or guying the mast. Anyway, I will be buying another set myself for spares and I don't think these will be available too much longer. Other sellers are selling complete antenna sets for $500 or more befor shipping. Again, these are not the 48" camo net poles and IMOP a far better option for safety and strength. Good luck and best regards!

Link To eBay Listing (Poles only--see sellers other items for associated parts mentioned above):
 

prcguy

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I've had two of the same sets for about 25yrs and these are the best quality strongest mil surplus masts period. One of them went on Safari in Tanzania, Africa holding up a repeater antenna on the side of Mt Kilimanjaro and came back in great shape. I mostly use them now with a trailer hitch walk up mount when camping. The original set had guy ropes, stakes and a sledge hammer but I've never used them.
 

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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I've had two of the same sets for about 25yrs and these are the best quality strongest mil surplus masts period. One of them went on Safari in Tanzania, Africa holding up a repeater antenna on the side of Mt Kilimanjaro and came back in great shape. I mostly use them now with a trailer hitch walk up mount when camping. The original set had guy ropes, stakes and a sledge hammer but I've never used them.
Thanks, and your experience confirms for me that I made the right purchase! Have read nothing but great reviews on line that echo positive results. One thing is for sure--quality, well-engineered military surplus items like these masts are becoming scarce. I re-drew the tripod mount in CAD and will plasma cut the new design in 6061-T6 and see how it works. Also making my own legs so as to reserve three sections for uprights vice as legs. Reviews on line found fault with skimpy welds (fortified by epoxy, etc.) and crimped versus welded leg tubes. By observation, the tripod seems to raise overall CG and therefore negatively impacting stability. Anyway, playing with making a replacement will give me something to do.
 

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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We have 2 of those for SAR with the Tripod Mount and rings. They are great to setup and deploy for temporary situations. He was great to work with.
I agree with you--the seller, Jim was great! What has your experience been using the tripod vice the pivot stake in the ground? Some suggested changing the leg mount angles from 45- to 22.5-degrees; however, that would expand the base footprint quite significantly. As mentioned to prcguy, I'm going to make my own in the hopes of keeping the CG as low as possible. Also making legs at 3.5' instead of using a mast section at 5.5'. My design will allow the center mast to slide down to the ground and therefore allow using the pivot stake as well if desired/needed. Since you're a real-world user, any suggestions would be of great value!
 

prcguy

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I've used the matching military tripod adapter a lot and I was able to get two of them very cheap years ago. I use one set of poles to make the tripod then depending on how high I go and if there is wind I will hang a Home Depot bucket from the tripod and fill it with rocks as ballast. That has worked ok with 24ft of mast above the tripod and a 22ft long vertical antenna on top.

I did abuse one tripod adapter too much and broke the epoxy joint that holds the vertical tube to the plate. I ground off all the old epoxy and used aluminum solder to repair and I think its stronger than original. I only used the system once at full height using the ground stake and guy ropes. Life is too short for me to do that again and I stick with the tripod adapter or trailer hitch mount.

Thanks, and your experience confirms for me that I made the right purchase! Have read nothing but great reviews on line that echo positive results. One thing is for sure--quality, well-engineered military surplus items like these masts are becoming scarce. I re-drew the tripod mount in CAD and will plasma cut the new design in 6061-T6 and see how it works. Also making my own legs so as to reserve three sections for uprights vice as legs. Reviews on line found fault with skimpy welds (fortified by epoxy, etc.) and crimped versus welded leg tubes. By observation, the tripod seems to raise overall CG and therefore negatively impacting stability. Anyway, playing with making a replacement will give me something to do.
I agree with you--the seller, Jim was great! What has your experience been using the tripod vice the pivot stake in the ground? Some suggested changing the leg mount angles from 45- to 22.5-degrees; however, that would expand the base footprint quite significantly. As mentioned to prcguy, I'm going to make my own in the hopes of keeping the CG as low as possible. Also making legs at 3.5' instead of using a mast section at 5.5'. My design will allow the center mast to slide down to the ground and therefore allow using the pivot stake as well if desired/needed. Since you're a real-world user, any suggestions would be of great value!
 

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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Understand your comment on going full height, and I have yet to try it! I will probably stick to 25' as that seems most reasonable. The ballast bucket makes perfect sense and the version I'm making will have a provision to hang ballast plates underneath. No epoxy or crimps, and all the joints will be fully welded. Original plates were 3/16" think and I may go up to 1/4" 6061-T6 to offset the hanging ballast. One thing I'm puzzled by in what little documentation I've found is how many guy stakes--three or four. It's shown both ways and the guy rings support that, but the pivot stake base plate is designed for three only. Found and ordered a reproduction USMC AB-155A/U manual and will see what that shows.
 

prcguy

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Here is my repaired AB1089/U tripod adapter which I never repainted. These are only 1/8" thick but very strong. There is a machined ring in the base plate that the vertical post sits in for strength and under normal circumstances that and the original epoxy is strong enough. However I think the aluminum solder is better.

1674518799584.jpeg

Understand your comment on going full height, and I have yet to try it! I will probably stick to 25' as that seems most reasonable. The ballast bucket makes perfect sense and the version I'm making will have a provision to hang ballast plates underneath. No epoxy or crimps, and all the joints will be fully welded. Original plates were 3/16" think and I may go up to 1/4" 6061-T6 to offset the hanging ballast. One thing I'm puzzled by in what little documentation I've found is how many guy stakes--three or four. It's shown both ways and the guy rings support that, but the pivot stake base plate is designed for three only. Found and ordered a reproduction USMC AB-155A/U manual and will see what that shows.
 

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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Canandaigua, New York
Here is my repaired AB1089/U tripod adapter which I never repainted. These are only 1/8" thick but very strong. There is a machined ring in the base plate that the vertical post sits in for strength and under normal circumstances that and the original epoxy is strong enough. However I think the aluminum solder is better.

View attachment 134833AB-155 Base Plate.jpg
That looks great! Since I don't have a tripod, I assumed it was the same thickness as the base plate. After seeing your tripod base up close, my idea to go thicker may be a bad idea. I forgot about the three 45-degree bends required so staying at 1/8" makes more sense. I should probably not second guess their additional material choice!
 

jeepsandradios

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I agree with you--the seller, Jim was great! What has your experience been using the tripod vice the pivot stake in the ground?
So the kit we bought Jim cut the rings off the poles for the mast. They slide right thru the tripod mount. The legs on the tripod have the rings still attached. For us thats good as not all out folks are radio literate but all know those are for the tripod. I think its a perfect size with the 3 poles coming off the side. We have used it with no guys on a short stack sith just the tripod. Our mast drops down on the plastic base plate most of the time. I did have 1 spike but 90% of the time we are on blacktop or somewhere I can't spike it down anyway. For guy ropes we used basic yellow 1/2" nylon as it was cheap and I could braid the ends in with carabiners. We just clip them into the guy rings. Here is a pic of it setup at a PR event with the ropes on it for a flag, and another of it on a misison before we got the ropes on it. All deployments are normally in the woods or near woods so normally tie to trees or fence posts. I think we used the "stakes" once only. I love the unit as you can carry it into the woods (although its right at the holy crap stage after 1/2 mile of hiking) but is durable enough to not get beat up by volunteers. We have tried a pile of antenna's on the mast and still fight with the best one but not one complaint of the mast or kit.

tower 2.jpg

tower with antenna.jpg
 

serial14

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How do these poles differ in functionality to the aluminum camo net poles? I have a kit of the aluminum camo net poles and know they are shorter than these, know that they have a ribbed surface instead of this smooth surface. Though i don't recall the exact wall thickness off the top of my head.

So from a functional point of view what are some of the operational benefits of this mast than re-utilizing the camo net poles?
 

prcguy

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So Cal - Richardson, TX - Tewksbury, MA
The orange tripod adapter shown above is completely wrong, the mast should never go through the adapter to the ground and should end at the adapter. When the mast goes to the ground you loose much of the weight on the tripod legs and its less stable. This type of tripod adapter is not the original mil version. If you can modify that adapter so the mast stops at the adapter you will not only gain about 5ft of height, the weight of the mast and antenna on the tripod legs will make it more stable.

Here is one of my mil mast setups with original mil tripod adapter at a Baker to Vegas race comm area.

mast.jpg


So the kit we bought Jim cut the rings off the poles for the mast. They slide right thru the tripod mount. The legs on the tripod have the rings still attached. For us thats good as not all out folks are radio literate but all know those are for the tripod. I think its a perfect size with the 3 poles coming off the side. We have used it with no guys on a short stack sith just the tripod. Our mast drops down on the plastic base plate most of the time. I did have 1 spike but 90% of the time we are on blacktop or somewhere I can't spike it down anyway. For guy ropes we used basic yellow 1/2" nylon as it was cheap and I could braid the ends in with carabiners. We just clip them into the guy rings. Here is a pic of it setup at a PR event with the ropes on it for a flag, and another of it on a misison before we got the ropes on it. All deployments are normally in the woods or near woods so normally tie to trees or fence posts. I think we used the "stakes" once only. I love the unit as you can carry it into the woods (although its right at the holy crap stage after 1/2 mile of hiking) but is durable enough to not get beat up by volunteers. We have tried a pile of antenna's on the mast and still fight with the best one but not one complaint of the mast or kit.
 
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jeepsandradios

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That's the adapter Jim sells. We have had no issues with it. We do loose about 5' with it but we still are 25 with it on the base. I know other SAR teams that have the same kits and none have had issues. I guess in our case the nice thing is being able to stand up the mast with raising the base pole then adding another below and again until all 25-30' is in the air. I think the issue I'd have with the style you have is how do I get it in the air with one person ? While not fun I have packed in our mast and repeater and set it all up alone. Way easier with a second person but with the feed thru option its a lot easier for a volunteer. With a total of 6 poles on the tripod ours is probably 8-10 out and is pretty stable. We don't use it over 15' without guy ropes.
 

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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Canandaigua, New York
How do these poles differ in functionality to the aluminum camo net poles? I have a kit of the aluminum camo net poles and know they are shorter than these, know that they have a ribbed surface instead of this smooth surface. Though i don't recall the exact wall thickness off the top of my head.

So from a functional point of view what are some of the operational benefits of this mast than re-utilizing the camo net poles?
I did not mean to infer there's anything wrong or defective using the camo net poles vice those designed specifically for antenna mast. The greatest difference is the length in the majority of cases. Another difference is the MS-44 poles are one piece with an actual swage joint. As for the camo poles, the swage comes from the pole being double-walled. In addition, the camo poles were designed to include reinforcement rings to strengthen where mast sections fit together. Some versions of camo poles are actually have a larger OD at 1.75". Wall thickness is comparable among all the military items; however, the same is not true comparing the MS-44 mast sections and many commercial aluminum masts. MS-44 is 0.125" (1/8") wall while commercial tend to be of the thinner 16-gauge variety. One other opinion on using the fiberglass version of camo pole for antenna mast. The reinforcement rings on fiberglass poles are known for splitting/breaking and the mast section subsequently failing. That stated, walking up a fiberglass mast comprised of camo pole sections is risky business. The only fiberglass mast I have good luck with and no issues whatsoever, is telescoping or nesting sections with solid clamping between sections. All in all, there is one universal consideration we all face in these hobbies and that's budget. What works and is affordable many times dictates what we use. It's all a personal choice!
 

prcguy

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I put the tripod legs on myself then sometimes stick a 17ft fiberglass antenna on a mast, raise it and add 3 more sections for a total of 4 then raise that and stick in the tripod adapter, all by myself. That puts the top of the mast about 24ft high with no problems. I can go another section for about 29ft but that gets a little hairy. I never use guy ropes and sometimes I hang a bucket of rocks, maybe 60lbs from the tripod adapter and that will survive some good wind gusts.

The problem with Jim's tripod adapter is the mast always wants to tip the tripod over since none of the mast or antenna weight is transferred to the tripod legs. Adding that weight makes it much more stable.

I mentioned before one of my mast sets and tripod adapters went to Tanzania on the side of Mt Kilimanjaro with a big fiberglass repeater antenna exactly as I described above and ran for about 6 weeks until a crew went and fetched it. No guy ropes were used on that one. The picture above shows a Home Depot bucket of rocks on the tripod and at that particular event in Death Valley the wind came up so bad, probably 60-70M mph gusts that shredded some tents and my easy up and tore the tent stakes out of the ground but my antenna stayed up just fine.

That's the adapter Jim sells. We have had no issues with it. We do loose about 5' with it but we still are 25 with it on the base. I know other SAR teams that have the same kits and none have had issues. I guess in our case the nice thing is being able to stand up the mast with raising the base pole then adding another below and again until all 25-30' is in the air. I think the issue I'd have with the style you have is how do I get it in the air with one person ? While not fun I have packed in our mast and repeater and set it all up alone. Way easier with a second person but with the feed thru option its a lot easier for a volunteer. With a total of 6 poles on the tripod ours is probably 8-10 out and is pretty stable. We don't use it over 15' without guy ropes.
 
Last edited:

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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The orange tripod adapter shown above is completely wrong, the mast should never go through the adapter to the ground and should end at the adapter. When the mast goes to the ground you loose much of the weight on the tripod legs and its less stable. This type of tripod adapter is not the original mil version. If you can modify that adapter so the mast stops at the adapter you will not only gain about 5ft of height, the weight of the mast and antenna on the tripod legs will make it more stable.

Here is one of my mil mast setups with original mil tripod adapter at a Baker to Vegas race comm area.

View attachment 134876
This looks like a great setup and I love the size of the solar panel--can you post some details on it? I agree with your concern about the mast going to the ground without using ballast or anchoring. At the same time and when not using ballast, the mast going through the base to the ground actually eliminates a deflecting moment arm. The weight of the mast concentrated at the top of the tripod has to be offset and you did that with the bucket of rocks. My modified design will allow the mast to go to the ground and also affords the ability to pin the mast to bottom of the tripod base. That places the CG of the mast as low and stable as possible, and eliminates a negative moment arm. The modified tripod base will utilize ballast attached independent of the mast itself and therefore lower the tripods CG to its lowest possible point. IMOP those modifications increase stability and utility of employing a tripod base--especially at less than design height and without use guy wires. Also I found a good copy of the USA TM and it answered my question of whether to use three or four guy wires. It clearly shows four guy wires when not using the tripod. The three guy wires are illustrated when using the tripod such that the stakes intersect the center point between adjacent legs. Also found the mil spec design specification for the pivot stake if someone was interested in making their own.

1674596323288.png


1674596443311.png
 

dbrescia

USAF (Ret) ~ Space Ops ~ Weapon System Dev
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So the kit we bought Jim cut the rings off the poles for the mast. They slide right thru the tripod mount. The legs on the tripod have the rings still attached. For us thats good as not all out folks are radio literate but all know those are for the tripod. I think its a perfect size with the 3 poles coming off the side. We have used it with no guys on a short stack sith just the tripod. Our mast drops down on the plastic base plate most of the time. I did have 1 spike but 90% of the time we are on blacktop or somewhere I can't spike it down anyway. For guy ropes we used basic yellow 1/2" nylon as it was cheap and I could braid the ends in with carabiners. We just clip them into the guy rings. Here is a pic of it setup at a PR event with the ropes on it for a flag, and another of it on a misison before we got the ropes on it. All deployments are normally in the woods or near woods so normally tie to trees or fence posts. I think we used the "stakes" once only. I love the unit as you can carry it into the woods (although its right at the holy crap stage after 1/2 mile of hiking) but is durable enough to not get beat up by volunteers. We have tried a pile of antenna's on the mast and still fight with the best one but not one complaint of the mast or kit.

View attachment 134872

View attachment 134873
I see what prcguy is talking about and have seen tripod bases like yours for sale. Is it aluminum or steel? As I explained in a couple of replies here the modified design I have will afford the same option. It also employs ballast similar to what prcguy used so its really taking positive attributes from both of you and integrating them together. I'll post an update and more pictures depending upon what having the tripod plates cut and bent will cost. I no longer have a plasma table so will have to pay someone else to render for me. In the for what it's worth department, I've been using a company in Nevada named "Send Cut Send" (on the web) and they are quick and do quality work. I will but the 6061-T6 pipe pieces and replacement legs locally and quote I have for those is $68 minus tax.
 

dbrescia

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Ours are steel. Until we have an issue we will keep using them as is. We have had the sets for at least 10 years and never had an issue.
Understand perfectly. If it works well, no point in making unnecessary changes. I'm keeping fingers crossed the two I bought will serve me as well as those you and prcguy have. No longer doing LE/SAR (miss the SnoCats) since moving back from Colorado to New York. SAR out there was 501c(3) organization sponsored by sheriffs office, so lots of grant funding/budget meant quality training, vehicles and gear. Also plenty of hand-me-downs from the military given location in close proximity to five military bases. AOR was from high desert at 5,000 ft up through/to 14,000+ ft mountains within 2,200 mile footprint. SAR does not exist locally, but I'm no longer physically able to do hiking, grid searches, etc., anyway. Thanks for what you do with SAR.
 

jeepsandradios

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SAR does indeed exist in NY....I'm still infinitely involved in a lot of the radio side...Feel free to PM me directly if you'd like more info. I was just in your area before the end of the year working on a SAR radio site not far from you.

SAR in NYS is the same. All 501c3 organizations, grants or donations fund 90% and members normally fund the rest.

Oh and BTW...that pic of the mast setup by the trees was in Hector National Forest...Just SE of you !
 
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