Tag Archives: Spy Radio

The TAR-224 CIA Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, @K7al_L3afta, who suggested I post photos of the TAR-224 Radio. Obviously, he knows I’m a fan of this sort of rig!

He discovered the TAR-224 on the excellent CIA online museum where they give a brief description of the unit:

A compact, high-frequency, paramilitary transceiver, the TAR-224 enabled communications with field agents operating behind enemy lines. It saw service in Vietnam as well as during Operation EAGLE CLAW.

31 cm x 18.3 cm x 12 cm
(L x W x H)

A much better description of the TAR-224 can be found at the CryptoMuseum:

TAR-224 was a very compact, self-contained spy radio station, developed by AVCO Corporation in Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) around 1970 for the CIA. It was intended for communication with field agents operating behind enemy lines, and can be seen as a successor to the ageing GRC-109 (RS-1) of the 1950s. It was used for many years until it was phased out in the late 1980s.

The entire unit is completely waterproof, with all switches and controls at the front panel properly sealed, allowing the radio to be stored under harsh conditions for an extended period of time. A plastic lid can be placed over the controls to protect them against dust and dirt. It is held in place by three metal latches at the edges.

[…]The radio coverages all frequencies between 2 and 24MHz. The receiver has a Variable Frequency Oscillator (VFO), allowing continuous tuning of all 4 frequency bands, whereas the transmitter is crystal operated. The unit can be powered by an external 12V source that is connected to a 3-pin socket at the front left, or by a special 12V battery pack that is installed behind a watertight panel at the front left. A plastic grip, at the left of the radio, allows the unit to be carried around easily.

[…]Most TAR-224 units were used by the CIA on special (overseas) missions, but the radios were also used by intelligence services in Europe. It is known to be used on a mission in Angola in 1975. According to CIA communication specialist Teddy Roberts, the TAR-224 was still being used in operational context in 1983, when he trained a unit of US Army Green Barets on its use.

Continue reading…

Evidently, the TAR-224 is quite rare and I was not aware of it. Thanks for sharing, @K7al_L3afta!

Was Morse Code the smoking gun for this spy with no name?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares this story from the BBC News via Matthew M. Aid‘s blog:

[…]It was a cold Saturday morning in April 1988 when a van full of detectives arrived outside the North London home of Erwin van Haarlem. The self-employed art dealer, 44, lived alone in sleepy Friern Barnet, a smattering of brick homes beside the grim North Circular ring road.
The Dutchman’s apartment building on Silver Birch Close had become the centre of an investigation led by the British intelligence agency MI5. It suspected that Van Haarlem – whom neighbours described as an “oddball” – was not in the art business at all, but a sinister foreign agent.

Inside, Van Haarlem was hunched over a radio in his kitchen. He was still wearing his pyjamas, but his hair was parted neatly to one side. He was tuned in, as he was every morning, to a mysterious “number station”. In his earpiece, a female voice recited numbers in Czech, followed by the blip-bleep of Morse code.

At 09:15 detectives from Special Branch, the anti-terror unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, crashed into his apartment. Van Haarlem tried to lower his radio’s antenna. It jammed. When he pulled open a drawer and grabbed a kitchen knife, an officer tackled him, and yelled: “Enough! It is over! It is over!”

Hidden among his easels and paintings, detectives discovered tiny codebooks concealed in a bar of soap, strange chemicals, and car magazines later found to contain messages written in invisible ink. Investigators suspected Van Haarlem was not really from the Netherlands, but was a spy for the UK’s Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union.

[…]Mrs Saint, 61, who co-ordinated the local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, said she telephoned the police in November 1987 to report strange noises and a “Morse code” interference which affected her television reception every night at 21:20.[…]

Click here to read this fascinating in0depth story on the BBC Magazine website.

eBay find: The Mark 328 British Spy Radio

SpyRadio

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader Cap, who writes:

This little gem just popped up on eBay UK, it’s working and looks to be in very good condition and is also open to offers:

Click here to view on eBay.

[More info about the Mark 328 (a.k.a. MK.328) can be found here.]

This follows on from the FS5000 spy radio you posted about in April.

If I had a respectable amount to offer this Seller, I think I would.

True–by today’s standards–the Mk.328 isn’t a high-performance receiver. It’s single conversion and probably not über-sensitive.

Spy-Radio

Still, it’s a working piece of Cold War history and, back in the early 70s, probably packed the biggest punch for the size. I bet it’s over-engineered and will probably outlive most of us.

Mighty tempted to make an offer. I should probably distract myself about now.  Thanks, Cap! 🙂

Cold War Spy Radio: Videos of the FS-5000

FS-5000-Spy-Radio

In response to Guy Atkin’s recent post, Psst, Buddy! Wanna Buy a Spy Radio?, @Cipherguerrilla comments via Twitter with the following videos of the FS-5000:

Click here to watch the FS-5000 being unpacked and assembled, and here to watch the FS-5000 in operation. I’ve also embedded both videos below.

Many thanks for sharing these videos,@Cipherguerrilla! The FS-5000 is certainly a fascinating purpose-built radio.  I’d love to have one.

Psst, Buddy! Wanna Buy a Spy Radio?

This unusual Ebay posting is one of the most interesting I’ve seen in a long time: a genuine, new spy radio transceiver!

Given its rarity and new condition, the $1,900 asking price seems reasonable to me for what a well-heeled collector might pay. The set is referred to as a “FIELD SET MODEL FS-5000 SHORT WAVE SPY RADIO”.

It comes as one carton containing four larger fiber boxes and three smaller fiber boxes, all containing modules that are combined to make a digital radio transceiver system.

spy_radio

spy_radio_xmtr

The seller says that the equipment (complete with shock-absorbing transit containers) bears no manufacturer marks, but was likely made in Germany by Telefunken. The various components look to be extremely well made, and the seller has provided these links for more information on this unusual 0.5-30 MHz transceiver:

http://www.cryptomuseum.com/spy/fs5000/index.htm

http://www.tuberadio.com/robinson/Information/FS5000/

http://www.prc68.com/I/FS5000.shtml

Be sure to check out all the clear photos provided by the Ebay seller of this fascinating transceiver.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.