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Special Forces VHF FM radio

SPIDER was a compact tactical portable and mobile VHF FM radio transceiver with optional voice encryption and data capabilities, developed by Hollandse Signaalapparaten NV (HSA) 1 in Huizen (Netherlands) around 1987. It covers 30 to 107.975 MHz in (3120) 25 kHz steps and was the last radio produced by HSA before the company was taken over by Thomson (now: Thales) in 1990. The radio is also known as 9556 304 14800 with the last two digits indentifying the variant. 2

The radio has a simple and clear control panel with 15 rubber push-buttons, a rotary selector, a large display and sockets for handset, data and antenna. Up to 9 frequencies can be stored as presets. A power socket is available at the right.

The image on the right shows the highly compact SPIDER transceiver with the enhanced handset that has remote capabilities. No antenna is installed here. The unit measures 2 x 17.5 x 6.5 cm and weights just 2.6 kg. The complete manpack, including the batteries, the handset, the antenna and accessories weights ± 5 kg.
SPIDER with H-189/GR

The radio can be extended with an (optional) cypto unit, which is mounted at the bottom. This requires a 'bulged' bottom lid to be used instead of the normal one, in order to accomodate an extra PCB which is fitted on top of the control board. When the crypto unit is present, it provides full voice encryption and decryption capabilities, as well as transmission of data at a variety of speeds. In addition, the crypto unit supports burst transmission of up to 99 pre-coded messages. The transmitter output power has three levels (20mW, 200mW and 2W), plus a 5W booster (B).

SPIDER, or S.P.I.D.E.R., is an acronym for Signaal Portable Infantry Digital Encrypted Radio [1]. The radio was produced in small quantities especially for the Dutch Special Forces (SF) and was mainly used abroad for short-range communication, complementary to the existing long-range LAPR (SE-6861) HF radio sets. Although the radio is intended as a manpack transceiver, it can also be converted into a vehicular radio set by adding an external power supply unit (PSU). When used as a manpack, it can be used with dry cells as well as with a rechargeable battery block.

  1. HSA Huizen was formerly known as Philips Telecommunicatie Industrie (PTI) and was taken over by Thomson (now: Thales) in 1990.
  2. At present there are no known manufacturing variants.

SPIDER manpack radio SPIDER with H-189/GR SPIDER front panel Battery compartment - open H-189/GR handset SPIDER with H-189/GR handset SPIDER tactical manpack radio SPIDER radio installed on manpack harness
All controls and connections, with the exception of the power socket, are located at the control panel at the front of the radio. In the diagram below, the radio is placed vertically with its control panel at the top. When used in manpack configuration, the radio is positioned this way. At the left are two audio sockets, one for a common US/NATO-standard handset with a 5 or 6-pin U-229 connector, and a 10-pin one that is suitable for both audio and data. 1 At the right is a 50Ω BNC socket with a threaded ring for connecting a rod-antenna 2 or an external vehicle/base antenna.

At the bottom right is a 9-position rotary selector that is used as ON/OFF switch and volume control. The audio volume can be adjusted in 6 steps 3 with an extra Whisper Mode (W) before step 1. The last step of the rotary switch is momentary and is marked (Z). If the switch is held in this position and the Z-button on the keypad is pressed simultaneously, the radio is zeroized. 1

All other functions are controlled from the 12-button rubber keypad at the center of the control panel, in combination with the clear LCD display. It allows quick selection of a preset channel, programming of the frequencies, adjustment of the RF output power and control of the squelch. The display can also be illuminated. For a full description of the functions look under operation.

  1. This requires the optional crypto/data board to be fitted.
  2. When using a rod-antenna, an Antenna Matching Unit (AMU) has to be fitted.
  3. An additional volume control is present on the enhanced handset.

Front panel Audio sockets Antenna socket and channel selector Right side Power socket

All features of the SPIDER, are accessible via the control panel at the front (or top) of the radio. The control panel consists of a clear and bright illuminated LCD display, Zeroize (Z) and Booster (B) buttons, and a 12-button rubber keypad. The buttons of the keypad are marked with the numbers (0-9), (F) for Function and (ENT) for Enter. Volume control is at the bottom right.

Most keys have a extra function which is printed above it. In normal use, the extra function can be used directly, with the exception of the frequency setting (FREQ), which requires the F-key to be pressed first. This is done to avoid accidental changes to the preset frequencies. The functions LD, MODE, SEL, GEN and MESS are only available when the optional crypto/data board is present.

Display illumination
Three levels of brightness are available for illumination of the LCD display. In normal use, display illumination is OFF at all times. It can be enabled by pressing LAMP, followed by the required level: 1, 2 or 3. The backlight can be turned OFF by pressing LAMP followed by 0. Once enabled, the display backlight is turned OFF automatically after approx. 10 seconds of inactivity.

RF output power
The RF output power of the SPIDER's transmitter can be set to any of 4 levels: 20mW, 200mW, 2W and 5W. Note that 5W is only available temporarily after pressing the Booster key (B). This is done to minimise the risk of detection, interception and radio direction finding, which is of particular importance when the radio is used by Special Forces (SF). In Booster-Mode, after releasing the PTT, the output level reverts to the last programmed setting. The following settings are available:

Channel selection
The SPIDER can receive and transmit on 9 preset frequencies or channels. Once programmed, the required channel can be selected in two ways: directly from the keypad, or (when using the special extended handset), via a rotary selector on the handset. This rotary selector has 9 settings (0-8). In positions 1 to 8, the corresponding channel is selected directly and channel selection via the keypad is disabled. In position 0, the channel can be selected via the radio's keypad.

Frequency setting
The frequency for each of the 9 preset channels can be set with the FREQ-function. Please note that this function is protected against accidental changes. Before altering the frequency, select the required channel and press the F-key to enter Function-mode. Then press FREQ, enter the frequency (e.g. 52.100 MHz) en press ENT to confirm. This sequence is illustrated below:

The receiver has a noise canceller (squelch) that can be switched ON and OFF by the user. The treshold level is preset and can not be changed by the user. Simply press the SQ-key to turn the squelch ON and press it again to switch it OFF. The current squelch state is shown in the display. Note that the squelch will only open automatically if a 150 Hz CTCSS tone is received.

Enhanced handset with channel selector Rod antenna with adjustment coil Vehicle mounting bracket Power Supply Unit
Manpack carrying case Replaceable and rechargeable batteries Crypto, data and burst expansion GRA-3686 Radio Remote Control Unit
The standard version of the SPIDER does not have cryptographic facilities, but the radio can be extended by adding an (optional) crypto/data board, which adds the following features:

  • High-speed data transfer
  • Voice encryption/decryption
  • Low-speed data encryption
  • Burst transmission of pre-coded messages
  • Selective calling
The crypto/data board is mounted at the bottom of the radio, on top of the existing Audio/CPU board. It connects to the Audio/CPU board by means of two 20-pin headers. As a result, the bottom lid of the case has to be replaced by a variant with a 'blob' in order to accomodate the board. The crypto-variant of the radio can easily be recognised by the thicker bottom panel.

When the crypto/data board is present, the extra functions of the keypad (LD, MODE, SEL, GEN and MESS) become available. The additional features of the expansion board are explained in a separate manual [H] which we have not been able to uncover yet.

Power supply
The SPIDER can be powered in the following manners:

  • Replaceable batteries
    The radio can be powered by a replaceable battery pack that contains dry Alkaline cells. These battery packs should not be recharged.

  • Rechargeable batteries
    Alternatively, the radio can be powered by a rechargeable battery pack that contains 10 type R14 NiCd cells. In this case the batteries can be recharged by supplying a current (100mA max.) to pin C of the supply socket.

  • External power supply unit (PSU)
    In addition, the SPIDER can also be powered by an (optional) external power supply unit (PSU) which should be connected to the 10-pin supply socket at the right rear. It should supply 10-15V DC with a maximimum current of 2A. A suitable PSU is available for connecting the radio to the 24V of a vehicle when using it in a mobile configuration.
Battery compartment - closed Opening the battery compartment Battery compartment - open Rear side with open battery compartment Battery contacts Battery contacts Connections of the power socket Power socket
Although the SPIDER radio can be used with virtually any type of handset with a U-229 connector, it was generally supplied with the enhanced one shown in the image on the right, which has remote control facilities.

Apart from setting the speaker volume, any of 9 preset channels can be selected directly from the handset, whilst the operator carries the radio on his back using the special manpack harness.
H-189/GR handset

H-189/GR handset Handset Handset Microphone Volume control and channel selection on the handset SPIDER with H-189/GR handset SPIDER with H-189/GR handset Handset
For connection of an antenna, a standard BNC socket is available at the top right of the front panel. Apart from an external vehicle antenna, this socket is also suitable for a wide-range manpack antenna rod that is screwed in place.

The antenna consists of three parts: an Antenna Matching Unit (AMU) as shown here, a gooseneck and a five-piece antenna rod that is approx. 1.5 m long. The gooseneck is mounted between the AMU and the rod, and is an active part of the antenna. It allows the antenna to be bended during military operations.
Antenna Matching Unit (AMU)

Antenna socket and channel selector Antenna Matching Unit (AMU) Label on the AMU Antenna and AMU Antenna with AMU Antenna rod and gooseneck SPIDER with handset and antenna SPIDER with handset and antenna
When used as a manpack radio, the SPIDER is powered by an internal 12V battery that was placed inside the battery compartment at the radio's rear end, behind a hinged panel.

Two types of battery were available: (1) a dry non-chargeable Alkaline battery pack and (2) a rechargeable NiCd battery pack.
Rear side with open battery compartment

Vehicle mounting bracket
A portable SPIDER manpack radio could easily be converted to a vehicular radio set, by mounting it inside a special frame that in turn is mounted inside a vehicle. The radio is held in place with a velcro strip at the top.

The vehicle bracket was normally used in combination with a special 24V DC vehicular power supply unit (PSU), a vehicular antenna and suitable cables, all of which are described in manual HTG5-2541e [E]. The image on the right shows how the radio was fitted inside the special vehicle mounting bracket. The matching Vehicle PSU is shown below.
Spider being placed in the vehicle mount

For infantry use (manpack), the radio can be powered by any DC source between 9 and 16V (typically 12V). When used as a vehicular radio set however, a special Power Supply Unit (PSU) is needed in order to power the set directly from the 24V battery of a tank or truck.

The 24V PSU is mounted externally and connects to the 10-pin Supply Connector at the side of the radio. It accepts a DC voltage in the range 22 to 33V, which is converted into 14V DV for the radio. Features and installation of the Vehicular PSU is described in manual HGT5-2541e [E].

Remote control unit   GRA-3686
SPIDER could be remote operated via the GRA-3686 Remote Control Unit (RCU) that was originally developed for the RT-4600 radio.

The GRA-3686 can be connected via the 10-pin Supply Connector at the side of the radio, in which case a 47 kΩ resistor is used to enable the required function (i.e. the peripheral address).

Rear side with open battery compartment Spider vehicle mount Spider being placed in the vehicle mount Spider placed in vehicle mount Locked in place with velcro
SPIDER was primarily designed as a portable tactical radio, mainly for use by Special Forces (SF), hence the low RF power outputs of 20mW and 200mW that were used for communication at very close range. This way the radio could be operated from the internal batteries for many hours.

When used as a manpack radio, SPIDER was usually mounted in a frame and carried on the operator's back, much like a backpack. The image on the right shows the original canvas camouflage manpack with a plastic frame to hold the actual SPIDER radio and a small zipper bag for the accessories and a spare battery.

The plastic frame has two pins at the bottom side that mate with two holes in the upper side of the radio, close to the battery compartment. This is done to prevent the radio from slipping away and to ensure that it is correctly installed.
SPIDER Manpack harness. Kindly supplied by Marcel Rohrs [3].

The radio is held in place by a velcro strip that is fixed to the plastic frame. When installed this way, the bottom of the radio is facing outwards, so that it can be operated by another member of the team. When used in this configuration, the enhanced handset is recommended as it allows the operator to select the channel and set the audio volume without accessing the radio's front panel.

SPIDER manpack harness Should straps SPIDER radio installed on manpack harness Fixating pin on the plastic frame Holes to mate with the pins on the plastic frame SPIDER installed on the harness - seen from the battery compartment Fastening the velcro strip ID plate
SPIDER installed on a manpack harness. Kindly supplied by Marcel Rohrs [3].

The highly compact SPIDER radio is housed in a die-cast aluminium enclosure, that consists of two large sections, one at the top and one at the bottom, a battery compartment at the rear and a removable front panel. The top and bottom sections are covered by sealed aluminium panels.

After loosening the four screws at the corners of the top panel, the upper compartment can be accessed. It contains the RF section of the transmitter and the receiver on a single board, as shown in the image on the right. The antenna connection is at the bottom left. At the bottom right of the board are two RF power transistors BLF242 and BLF244. The Power Amplifier (PA) has been dimensioned in such a way that it survives a full short or a non-terminated output.

The RF board can be extracted after removing 4 bolts in the corners, one at the centre and four smaller ones around the power transistors.
Interior - RF section

Most of the components are fitted to the top side of the RF board, but some smaller parts, mainly resistors, capacitors and diodes, are fitted at the bottom. At the centre of the bottom side is a 18-pin header that connects the RF board to the EXC/SMPS section at the other side.

All other parts are located at the bottom side of the radio and can be accessed by removed the bottom lid. The image on the right shows the radio's bottom side with the Audio/Logic board partly removed at the left. This board connects to the radio's front panel by means of flex PCBs.

Inside the radio is a large board that holds the internal SMPS power supply 1 , the exciter and the synthesizers. Mounted on a separate PCB at the centre is the reference oscillator. Note that the SMPS and the synthesizers are individialy shielded in order to avoid RF and IF interference.
Interior - seen from the bottom of the radio

The Audio/Logic board has two 20-pin sockets that are positioned in such a way that they can be accessed from the solder side of the PCB. When the Audio/Logic board is mounted in place, the (optional) Crypto/Data board can be fitted on top, connecting to these two 20-pin sockets.

  1. SMPS = Switch Mode Power Supply.

Interior - RF section RF board - top view RF board - bottom view Filters Filters Relais RF detail PA stage
RF board removed from the radio Interior - bottom view Interior - seen from the bottom of the radio Audio/CPU board Power supply, reference oscillator and synthesizer Synthesizer Power supply Reference oscillator
Block diagram
The simplified bock diagram below shows how the various parts of the SPIDER are connected together. At the left is the LF/Control board that contains the audio section as well as the microcontroller which is separately shielded in order to avoid interference. The front panel is connected directly to this board by means of several flex PCBs and dual-row headers.

At the right are the IF/RF section and the internal SMPS power supply. At the center is the reference oscillator that provides the various frequencies needed by the other boards. It is mounted as a separate board at the center of the EXC/SMPS board. For a more detailed overview of the connections between the various boards, please refer to the original block diagram [I].

The SPIDER manpack radio has a total of four connectors, three of which are located at the front panel. The fourth socket is located at the right rear. Pinout and specifications of the connectors are given below. The following sockets are present:

This is a standard 50Ω BNC socket with an additional threaded ring, allowing a short manpack antenna rod with extension coil to be used directly. When used in a vehicle, a normal BNC plug can be connected directly. The antenna input/output is suitable for the entire 30-108 MHz range.

Audio 6-pin socket
At the top left of the front panel is a U-283/U male audio socket for connection of a microphone, headset or handset. Whilst it follows the standard US/NATO U-229 conventions for pins A to D, pins E and F are used for additional features here. Also note that the pinout of this socket is different from the earlier RT-3600 radio. This socket is not used for connection of a FILL unit.

  1. GND
    Common ground
  2. SPK
    Audio out 1
  3. PTT
    Transmit contact
  4. MIC
    Audio in 2
  5. SQL
    Squelch contact 3
  6. CH
    Channel preset selection 4
  1. 2V RMS into 500Ω.
  2. Sensitivity deping on setting.
  3. This is an open-collector output which can be used for retransmissions.
  4. A resistor in the handset determines the selected (preset) channel.

Channel selection
Pin F of the 6-pin U-229 connector of the handset can be used to select one of the 9 preset channels. This is done by connecting a 2% resistor between this pin and ground, using the following table:

  • 470 kΩ
    Channel 1
  • 180 kΩ
    Channel 2
  • 100 kΩ
    Channel 3
  • 68 kΩ
    Channel 4
  • 47 kΩ
    Channel 5
  • 33 kΩ
    Channel 6
  • 22 kΩ
    Channel 7
  • 15 kΩ
    Channel 8
  • no resistor
    Channel 0 - selection via keypad
Audio 10-pin socket
In addition to the 6-pin audio socket shown above, the SPIDER also has a 10-pin audio socket which allows a wider variety of peripherals to be connected to the radio. When the (optional) crypto unit is fitted, this socket is also used for connection of a FILL gun and for data.

  1. GND
    Common ground
  2. SPK
    Audio output
  3. PTT
    Transmit contact
  4. MIC
    Audio in
  5. SQL
    Squelch contact
  6. NOGO
    'NOGO' information (active low)
  7. not connected
  8. ADR
    Peripheral address 2
  9. PWR
    +12V supply for peripheral
  10. DATA
    'Data mode' information (active low)
  1. The V24/28 data interface is only available when the crypto/data unit is fitted and DATA-mode is selected.
  2. A 2% resistor between this pin and ground selects the required operation.

Peripheral address   on the 10-pin audio socket
As the 10-pin audio socket at the left bottom corner of the front panel can be used for the connection of various types of accessories, such as handset, data terminal and FILL unit, a 2% resistor may be connected between pin H and ground to select the required function:

  • 470 kΩ
    Retransmission cable
  • 180 kΩ
    Message exchange device
  • 68 kΩ
    Intercom system
  • 33 kΩ
    FILL gun
  • no resistor
    Handset or headset
Supply/peripheral socket
At the right side of the radio, a 10-pin male socket is available for connection of an external power supply unit and/or peripheral equipment, such as a remote control unit or test equipment.

  1. External supply ground 1
  2. External supply input (+10 to +15V DC) 1
  3. Battery recharge current input (max. 100mA)
  4. Data ground 2
  5. Data output 2
  6. Data input 2
  7. 5V DC output for peripheral use
  8. Peripheral address 3
  9. Common ground
  10. not connected
  1. Internally connected if external supply is present with correct polarity.
  2. Data interface for control of peripheral equipment (V24/28, 2400 baud).
  3. A 2% resistor (connected to ground) determines the function of the interface.

Peripheral address   on the power socket
As the Supply/Peripheral socket at the right rear can be used for a variety of purposes, a sensing resistor 1 (usually mounted inside the peripheral or its cable) should be connected between pin H and ground to select the required operation. The following addresses have been defined:

  • 47 kΩ
    Remote control
  • 6.8 kΩ
    External equipment
  • 2.2 kΩ
    Test equipment
  • no resistor
    Supply cable
  1. The sensing resistor should have an accuracy of 2%.

By using an appropriate retransmission or crossover cable, two SPIDER radios can be combined to form a repeater or transponder. This can be used, for example, to extend the range between a platoon and the base camp, or for connecting two different radio nets. This is done by crossing the audio in/out connections as well as connecting the PTT of each set to the squelch contact (SQL) of the other one. The pinout of a suitable retransmission cable is given here:

Retransmission is also possible by linking two radios via the 10-pin audio connector, in which case a 470 kΩ resistor has to be mounted inside the connectors in order to enable the appropriate function. This is the recommended method. The wiring is as follows:

Main unit
Description HSA code (12NC) NSN
Transceiver 9556 304 14800  
Carrying harness 9556 304 20600  
Antenna Matching Unit (AMU) 9556 304 20400  
Antenna (long) 9556 004 14100  
Handset H-189/GR (standard) 9556 004 08200  
Rechargeable battery block 9556 304 20700  
Operators Manual - Manpack (provisional) HGT5-2515e ?
Operators Manual - Manpack HGT5-2531e 7610-17-104-9220
Operators Manual - Vehicular Radio Set HGT5-2541e 7610-17-104-9221
Field Maintenance Manual - Manpack HGT5-2542e 7610-17-104-9222
Field Maintenance Manual - Vehicular Radio Set HGT5-2543e 7610-17-104-9223
Instruction card HGT5-2528e ?
Battery holder for 10 dry cells 9556 304 20300  
Handset with channel selector 9556 004 08300  
Handset with channel selector (later version) 9556 004 08301  
Headset 9556 304 27400  
Retransmission cable 9556 820 60000  
Antenna (short) 3522 023 17370  
Replacement parts
Transmitter/receiver PCB 9556 820 27500  
Exiter/PSU PCB 9556 820 27600  
LF/Control PCB 9556 820 27700  
Reference circuit PCB 9556 820 33100  
Front panel PCB 9556 820 27400  

Technical specifications
  • Frequency
    30.000 - 107.975 MHz
  • Spacing
    25 kHz
  • Channels
  • Presets
  • Modulation
  • Deviation
    5 kHz (nominal)
  • Speech
    300 - 3400 Hz
  • Squelch
    150 Hz CTCSS
  • Power
    12V nominal (9V-16V DC)
  • Storage
    -40 to +70°C
  • Operation
    -30 to +65°C
  • Weight
    2.6 kg (5 kg for complete manpack)
  • Sensitivity
    0.4µV (at 10dB SINAD)
  • AF output
    max. 2V RMS into 500Ω
  • Rejection
    60dB or better
  • Selectivity
    60dB or more suppression of signal ±25kHz from RX frequency
  • Current
    approx. 140mA
  • RF output
    4 levels: 20mW, 200mW, 2W, 5W
  • Impedance
  • Max. SWR
  • Harmonic
    50db or better suppression (60-400MHz)
  • Current
    1.2A at 2W output (2A at 5W output)
AMU   Antenna Matching Unit
Small unit that is fitted between the antenna socket and the actual antenna rod. It makes the antenna rod suitable for the full frequency range of the radio.

CTCSS   Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System
Continuous sub-audible sinewave tone, added to the audio signal of a transmitter, in order to open the squelch of the receiver. In the case of SPIDER (and the older RT-3600) a 150 Hz tone is used.

FM   Frequency Modulation

HSA   Hollandse Signaalapparaten.
At the time a Philips subsidary. Sold in 1990 to Thomson (now: Thales).

IF   Intermediate Frequency

LCD   Liquid Crystal Display

LD   Load
This function is used for loading cryptographic keys. It requires the optional crypto/data expansion card to be fitted.

LF   Low Frequency
Also known as AF (Audio Frequency).

PCB   Printed Circuit Board

PSU   Power Supply Unit

PWR   Power
In this context, PWR is used for setting the transmitter's RF output power.

PTT   Push-To-Talk
General expression for the tranmit button on the handset, headset or microphone.

RF   Radio Frequency

SF   Special Forces

SQ   Squelch
Noise cancelling system.

Help wanted
If you have any additional documentation, circuit diagrams, leaflets, etc., please contact us. We are also looking for photographs of the items that are missing from this page. Any additional information is much appreciated.

  1. SPIDER Leaflet
    HSA, October 1987. 2 pages. 1

  2. SPIDER Instruction Card
    HGT5-2528e. HSA, date unknown. 1

  3. SPIDER Manpack Transceiver - Operators Manual (provisional)
    HGT5-2515e. HSA, December 1988. 39 pages. 1

  4. SPIDER Manpack Transceiver - Operators Manual
    NSN 7610-17-104-9220. HGT5-2531e. HSA, October 1990. 25 pages. 1

  5. Vehicular Radio Set - Operators Manual
    NSN 7610-17-104-9221. HGT5-2541e. HSA, October 1990. 15 pages. 1

  6. SPIDER Manpack Transceiver - Field Maintenance Manual
    NSN 7610-17-104-9222. HGT5-2542e. HSA, October 1990. 41 pages. 1

  7. Vehicular Radio Set - Field Maintenance Manual - WANTED
    NSN 7610-17-104-9223. HGT5-2543e. HSA, October 1990.

  8. SPIDER Crypto/Data expansion unit - Operators Manual - WANTED
    Number and date unknown.

  9. SPIDER Block diagram
    HSA, date unknown. 1
  1. Documentation kindly supplied by Marcel Rohrs [3].

  1. Klaus-Peter Jung (DH4PY), SPIDER
    Retrieved November 2015.

  2. Don Parry, Special Forces Communications Requirements...
    Armada International, 1 February 1990. SPIDER announcement.
    Retrieved via The Free Library, November 2015.

  3. Marcel Rohrs, SPIDER Documentation and Manpack - THANKS !
    Personal correspondence, November 2015.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Sunday 08 November 2015. Last changed: Tuesday, 19 July 2016 - 09:52 CET.
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