Thirty-second edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2000 11:43:47 +0100)

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Russian HF beacons [MX]

The mysterious single letter morse stations have been with us since the early sixties. During recent years we have gained some useful information about these stations, but the mystery is still not 100% solved.

What are they and how are they called?

The stations are known under various names:

It would be nice if everyone would use a similar code, though. I would like to suggest to use the ENIGMA code [MX], or even better, an extended ENIGMA code:

Well, that takes care of the code, but what should we call these stations? In my opinion, we are talking about two different types of stations here. The so called 'cluster beacons' are most probably propagation/navigation beacons. The solitary letter stations and the related pip/buzzer like stations, are definitely channel markers for Russian military stations, like Navy Kaliningrad (P).

Dots and dashes in...... Cyrillic

A few words about the call signs. Actually we are reporting the wrong call signs as our Russian friends can confirm. As you can see on the Russian CW chart (http://home.luna.nl/~ary/ruscw.jpg), we should report the Cyrillic equivalents of the letters that we normally report. But as most of us cannot write or read Cyrillic, or our word processor cannot handle the characters, I suggest to keep it simple and not to change the characters that we hear. In reality though, it is wrong to say that the stations transmit the letters C, S, P, etc, and Cyrillic characters like ..-- and .-.- because all we hear is in fact Cyrillic, including C, S, and P.

See also the morse page that was in Newsletter 11 for a Cyrillic CW chart.

Known locations of channel markers and cluster beacons.

B Arkhangelsk
C Moscow
D Odessa
F possibly Gdynia (not to be confused with the Vladivostok beacon)
F Vladivostok
K Peteropavlovsk Kamchatskiy
L St. Petersburg
M Magadan
O Moscow
P Kaliningrad
R Izhevsk
S Arkhangelsk
V Khiva
W Cuba (a new European based 'W' popped up recently)
X Prague
Yu Kizyl Orda
Z Mulachevo
PIP Rostov-Volgograd area
BUZZER Moscow area

 

Cluster beacons

The so called 'cluster beacons' are most probably propagation and/or navigation beacons. I have never heard anything else but the beacons, nor did I ever see a log of a message being sent by these stations.

Since the 60's, many suggestions were made about the purpose of these stations. Some say that they are beacons for vessels on the Russian inland waterways. Others are convinced that the stations are being used for satellite tracking. Propagation beacons for the navy is another one. A nice one appeared in Popular Communications back in July 1994:

"The explanation given was that a DF net control would transmit an idle marker on several frequencies to keep the channels open. When an intercept site would tip-off the control station regarding a target, the callsign, frequency and other pertinent details were sent to the DF net stations. Bearings were taken by those stations and the results sent back to control where they were placed on a plot board."

Over the years the clusters have moved up and down the SW spectrum. The current clusters are grouped around the following frequencies: 5154, 7039, 8495, 10872, 13258, 16332, 20048. The stations in these clusters are: C,F,K,P,S.

Notes:

Channel markers

A couple of years ago I had the chance to speak to a Russian naval radio operator who works on a Russian frigate. He confirmed to me that the channel markers are military stations, mostly used by the navy. His English was poor so I could not ask for more detailed info, and as I don't speak Russian, you can imagine that it was a really nice conversation. I had to write down the morse characters of the call signs of the stations and he told me the locations. It was really fun, believe me :-) A couple of the markers that he mentioned have now disappeared but still exist as cluster beacons. The radio operator identified 'L' as St.Petersburg, 'P' as Kaliningrad (HQ of the Baltic Fleet), 'S' as Arkhangelsk and 'C' as Moscow (naval HQ). He knew that there were more stations but didn't know which ones because they were not relevant for his vessel.

At the moment there are a number of channel markers active, or were active during the past months: A, D, E, EO (or J), F, H, I, K, L, OB, P, R, T, V, W, Y.

Ever since the 1960's traffic has been noticed on the marker frequencies. Callsigns as RUT, UMS, RMP and ROD were used. One of the most active stations was navy Kaliningrad (P) with callsign RMP. A typical RMP transmission started with 'P' marker being transmitted, followed by either morse or RTTY traffic to REO, RMA91, RJD69, REE5, RLA88, or naval vessels like UHEl and RWRI, to name just a few. The messages consisted of weather reports for the Baltic or other northern areas, or off-line encrypted messages. After the messages were sent, 'P' appeared again. Sometimes for hours, or just for a couple of minutes. Kaliningrad is still active, but the channelmarker 'P' isn't used as often as it was in the past. RMP now often begins its transmissions without the marker.

Related stations

When I think of stations that are closely related to the channel markers, five of them immediately come to mind: 'U', the 'Pip', the 'Squeaky wheel', the 'Yelper', and the 'Buzzer'. Although mentioned above as single letter channel marker, 'R' fits better in the 'related' section. The known channel markers are all naval stations, while 'R' is most likely an army station.

In Russian English translation
Dlya 854 032 471 331 629 008 For 854 032 471 331 629 008
Kak slyshno? V priyom. How do you read? Over.

 

In Russian English translation
Rotor-35, ya - Plavets-41. Rotor-35, I am Plavets-41.
Reskript: 22 80 39 90 Reskript: 22 80 39 90
Moskovskoye vremya 0 chasov, Moscow time 0 hours, 2 minutes.
2 minuty. V priyom. Over.

 

In Russian English translation
Ya UZB76. Ya UZB76. I am UZB76
180 08  
BROMAL  
74 27 99 14  
Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Leonid  
7 4 2 7 9 9 1 4  
(repeated)  

 

Callsign and frequency lists

Cluster beacons

All currently active or active during the past six months.

Frequency c/s location ITU branch
4557.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
4558.0 C Moscow RUS navy
         
5153.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
5153.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
5154.0 C Moscow RUS navy
5154.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
5154.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
7038.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
7038.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
7039.0 C Moscow RUS navy
7039.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
7039.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
8494.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
8494.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
8495.0 C Moscow RUS navy
8495.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
8495.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
10871.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
10871.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
10872.0 C Moscow RUS navy
10872.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
10872.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
13257.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
13257.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
13528.0 C Moscow RUS navy
13528.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
13528.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
16331.8 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
16331.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
16332.0 C Moscow RUS navy
16332.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
16332.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
17015.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
17016.0 C Moscow RUS navy
17017.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet
         
20047.5 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet
20047.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS navy
20048.0 C Moscow RUS navy
20048.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS navy
20048.2 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet

 

Channel markers

All currently active or active during the past six months.

Frequency c/s Location ITU Branch  
3043.0 OB unid location RUS    
3070.5 X unid location; not Prague      
3088.0 L St. Petersburg RUS Navy  
3090.0 L St. Petersburg RUS Navy  
3092.0 L St. Petersburg RUS Navy  
3167.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3175.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
3194.4 A unid location RUS    
3195.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
3208.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3262.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3264.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3290.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3322.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
3335.0 L St. Petersburg RUS Navy  
3415.0 A unid location RUS    
3415.0 OB unid location RUS    
3564.0 C Moscow RUS Navy  
3649.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3658.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
3699.5 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3807.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
3814.8 I unid location      
3837.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4031.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4043.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4051.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4301.0 S Arkhangelsk RUS Navy  
4302.0 C Moscow RUS Navy  
4325.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
4446.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
4476.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4498.5 V Khiva UZB Navy  
4555.8 F Gdynia (?) POL   a)
4558.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
4575.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
4605.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4646.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
4828.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4848.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
4878.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
4899.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
5111.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
5154.0 E unid location      
5154.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
5154.9 S Arkhangelsk RUS Navy  
5306.0 C Moscow RUS Navy  
5308.5 L St. Petersburg RUS Navy  
5465.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
5862.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
5920.0 K Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy RUS Navy  
5982.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
6203.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
6390.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
6550.0 D Odessa UKR navy - Black Sea Fleet  
6934.0 T unid location      
7002.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
7064.4 H unid location      
7452.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
7550.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
8190.0 L St. Petersburg RUS Navy  
8492.0 P Kaliningrad RUS navy - Baltic Fleet  
9111.0 W unid location     b)
10308.0 C Moscow RUS Navy  
10612.0 C Moscow RUS Navy  
13527.0 Y unid location      
13539.0 V Khiva UZB Navy  
13636.0 C Moscow RUS Navy  
20126.5 EO unid location     c)
20126.5 J unid location     c)
20127.0 F Vladivostok RUS navy - Pacific Fleet  
25250.0 R Izhevsk RUS army ?  
26170.0 L St. Petersburg RUS navy  

 

  1. Operates only during daytime. Irregular.
  2. Probably not related to the old 'W' stations from Cuba.
  3. Unclear whether it sends EO or J. Both have been logged by a number of people.

Related markers

All currently active or active during the past six months.

Frequency signal / nick name ITU branch
3650.0 'Yelper' RUS army ?
3756.0 'Pip', Rostov-Volgograd area RUS army ?
3815.0 'Squeaky wheel' RUS army ?
4625.0 'Buzzer', Moscow area RUS army ?
5448.0 'Pip', Rostov-Volgograd area RUS army ?
5461.5 'Squeaky wheel' RUS army ?
More about 'Squeaky wheel' in this Newsletter and more about Yelper in Newsletter 39.

 

Historic _now defunc_ stations

frequency callsign location ITU branche
  Ch (---.) unid location    
  Yu (..--) Kizyl Orda RUS  
3533.0 W Cuba CUB navy
5308.0 O Moscow RUS  
5309.5 Z Mukachevo UKR  
5922.0 X Prague CZE  
6802.5 J unid location    
6803.5 G unid location    
7383.0 N unid location    
7395.0 U Kholmsk and other loc. RUS jammer related
8682.0 M Magadan RUS  
8698.0 B Arkhangelsk RUS navy
9001.6 Y unid location    
9160.0 Ya (.-.-) unid location    
9322.0 X Prague CZE  
12149.5 I unid location    

 

Sources:

WUN newsletters, Spooks reflector, ENIGMA, SPEEDX, Monitoring Times, Popular Communications. A special thanks to the people who wish to remain anonymous and a very big 'THANK YOU' to Takashi Yamaguchi, Albert W. Hussein, and Rimantas Pleikys.

Additional information can be found in the "various modes" section of this edition.
See also Newsletter 33.

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