Click for homepage
← USA
Cold War
CIA
  
CK-8 →
  
QRC-222   RS-8
HF spy radio set · 2-20 MHz - under construction

QRC-222 is a compact solid-state spy radio transceiver for the short wave radio bands between 2 MHz and 20 MHz, developed in the early 1960s in the USA, either by the CIA or the USAF. It is suitable for the reception of CW and AM signals, and for the transmission of standard and high-speed morse code signals (CW), for which the CIA's CK-8 burst encoder (GRA-71) was used.

The device measures approx. 21 x 16 x 5.5 cm and weights 2140 grams. without the green TX plug-in that is shown in the image on the right. The receiver is freely adjustable between 2 and 20 MHz, but can also be driven by a crystal. It is suitable for AM (phone) and CW (morse code). It has a rather uncommon 1.75 MHz IF frequency.

The transmitter is crystal operated, but requires the use of a matching band unit, or plug-in, that has to be installed in the gap at the front side, together with the selected crystal. The output power of the transmitter is approx. 3 Watts [1].
  
QRC-222 with TX-plug-in installed

There are indications that the set was developed by the US Air Force Research and Development Laboratory Rome ADC (now: Rome Laboratory), under the code name Code-Clarion. As it was urgently needed and only a small number of units were required, it was developed under the USAF Quick Reaction Capability program (QRC), and was assigned project number QRC-222 [3]. In some cases, QRC projects were jointly carried out between the USAF and the CIA.  More

In his 1993 book – CIA Special Weapons & Equipment: Spy Devices of the Cold War – Keith Melton identifies the set as RS-8 [4]. It is doubtful however, whether this is the correct CIA designator, as no documents have been found to confirm this. Furthermore, the designator RS-8 1 is used by the CIA for a completely different device (a low-power homing beacon), that dates back to 1952.

It is unknown how many units were made, but it is likely that it was between 10 and 100 units. None of the devices that have turned up over the years have a printed model or serial number, but some carried a DYMO label with the identification QRC-222 followed by a serial number [2]. These labels were removed from the set featured here, so we can not determine its serial number. The plug-in units carry a handwritten label with an inspection date in August/September 1965.

  1. By the mid-1960s, the CIA was no longer using single-digit designators, and had moved onto two and three digit ones. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that the designator RS-8 was assigned to the radio set by a different CIA department, or that it was used as an intermediate name. The power supply unit of the set that is visible in the photographs in the book [4], carries a dymo label with the identification QRC-222.

Briefcase Complete CK-8 coder/keyer QRC-222 without TX plug-in QRC-222 with TX plug-in unit QRC-222 with TX-plug-in installed Four TX plug-ins and crystals Complete CK-8 coder/keyer Cables
A
×
A
1 / 8
Briefcase
A
2 / 8
Complete CK-8 coder/keyer
A
3 / 8
QRC-222 without TX plug-in
A
4 / 8
QRC-222 with TX plug-in unit
A
5 / 8
QRC-222 with TX-plug-in installed
A
6 / 8
Four TX plug-ins and crystals
A
7 / 8
Complete CK-8 coder/keyer
A
8 / 8
Cables

Features
The diagram below gives an overview of all controls and connections on the body of the radio. At the front are two circular sockets for connection of an external key or keyer, and a 12V/24V DC power source. Antenna, counterpoise and earphones are connected to the terminals at the front right corner. This should be enough to operate the receiver. If the transmitter has to be used as well, a suitable plug-in unit with a quarz crystal should be installed in the wide slot at the front.


The receiver is suitable for AM and CW signals, and can be VFO or crystal controlled, using the MODE selector at the top right. The frequency span of 2-20 MHz is divided over four bands that are selected with a rotary knob at the right side. Another rotary selector (towards the front) is used to select the required mode of operation. It has three settings: RECEIVE, OFF and TRANSMIT.

The transmitter is suitable for the transmission of CW (morse) signals only. To match the antenna to the transmitter, an external antenna tuner should be used, which is missing from our set. Once the transmitter is correctly setup, the CK-8 burst encoder is used for sending a pre-recorded message at high speed (burst). These messages were usually encrypted with a One-Time Pad.

Front Right side Top panel Crystal socket for receiver, with tuning knob Antenna and earphone terminals, and OPERATE selector Frequency scale Slot for TX plug-in TX plug-in installed in the transceiver
B
×
B
1 / 8
Front
B
2 / 8
Right side
B
3 / 8
Top panel
B
4 / 8
Crystal socket for receiver, with tuning knob
B
5 / 8
Antenna and earphone terminals, and OPERATE selector
B
6 / 8
Frequency scale
B
7 / 8
Slot for TX plug-in
B
8 / 8
TX plug-in installed in the transceiver

About the QRC program
The abbreviation QRC is used by both the US Central Intelligence Agence (CIA) and the United States Air Force (USAF), and can have several meanings. Which of these meanings is applicable to the QRC-222 device featured here, in not entirely clear. The following meanings are known:

  1. Quick Reaction Capability
    Both the CIA and the USAF have been running a Quick Reaction Capability program for several years. It allowed them — by special directive — to quickly respond to emerging adversary threats, by developing and building small quantities of special equipment and allocating the necessary funds for that. In some cases — for example with the U-2 spy plane project — these programs were jointly carried out by the CIA and the USAF.

  2. Quick Reaction Contract
    Since the mid-1950s, the CIA had a special division that dealt with contracts for the development of equipment that was urgently needed in small quantities, and that could not wait until permission had been granted through the regular (slow) channels. In the mid-1960s, this division was moved to the the Office of ELINT (OEL) at CIA headquarters.

  3. Quick Reaction Communication
    The expression QRC was also used by the CIA for brief and or urgent messages and replies, similar to a telegram. In that case QRC meant Quick Reaction Communication. It is unlikely that this meaning of QRC was used in connection with the QRC-222 transceiver.
Which of the above meanings is applicable to the QRC-222 is not entirely clear, and even within the CIA, the meaning of the abbreviation QRC was sometimes diffuse. Judging from surviving CIA documents about other QRC programs, it is likely that it was developed under the Quick Reaction Capability program (1), but it might have been funded through a Quick Reaction Contract (2).



Complete CK-8 coder/keyer
Parts
Briefcase Single-unit transceiver (without PSU) Transmitter frequency plug-in units TX and RX crystals Mains Power Supply Unit
PSU
Miniature headphones, or earphone CK-8 burst encoder (AN/GRA-71) Speed-X morse key
Key
Vertical telescopic antenna and wire antennas Antenna tuner External wiring Operating instructions
Briefcase   wanted
Originally, the QRC-222 sets were supplied in a metal briefcase, that was compartmented in such a way that each item had it own bay, including the telescopic antenna and the mains PSU.

The original metal briefcase is shown in a picture from John Pitts of 1998 [2]. It is missing from our set, but it is currently uncertain whether it was ever supplied with it.
  
QRC-222 items in briefcase

Transceiver
The image on the right shows the bare QRC-222 transceiver, which is the heart of the radio set. It is shown here without a TX plug-in and without the mains power supply unit (PSU).

In our case, the radio was supplied with a power cable that enables it to be operated from a common external 12V/24V DC power source, such as the battery of a car or a truck. At the front right are the terminals for connection of the antenna and an earpiece.
  
QRC-222 without TX plug-in

Transmitter plug-in units
Each transceiver came with a metal storage case, in which four transmitter plug-in units and 12 quarz crystals were stowed. It is shown in the image on the right (with the top lid removed).

The four plug-ins range from 2 to 13 MHz, so it is possible that a fifth one is missing, or that the range of the transmitter was limited to 13 MHz.

 List of plug-ins

  
Four TX plug-ins and crystals

Crystals
For each frequency, two crystals are supplied. One for the transmitter (marked with a green line) and one for the receiver (marked in green).

The frequency on the crystal is specified for series resonance, and the actual frequency of the receiver crystal (TX) is 1.75 MHz higher than what is on the label. This is done to compensate for the receiver's IF frequency of 1.75 MHz.

 List of crystals

  
Crystals

Power Supply Unit   wanted
The radio set was usually supplied with a power supply unit (PSU) that allows the transceiver to be powered from the AC mains (90-240V) or a DC source between 10 and 17V.

The PSU is missing from the set featured here, but a suitable cable for powering it from a 12V/24V DC source is present. This cable is shown in the image on the right. It is possible that this set was used without a mains PSU.

  
Power cable (for external 12V or 24V supply)

Earphone
The transceiver was supplied with a suitable pair of headphones, or a simple earpiece, such as the one shown in the image on the right.

The earphone should be connected to the contact terminals at the front right edge of the receiver, by means of the two straight contact pins at the end of its cable.
  
Earphone with contact pins

Burst encoder   CK-8
In order to minimise the risk of interception and discovery by means of radio direction finding (RDF), the radio was supplied with a so-called burst encoder, that allows pre-recorded data to be sent in morse code at very high speed.

The image on the right shows the CK-8, which was a standard CIA device at the time. It is also known by the military designator AN/GRA-71.

 More information

  
CK-8 burst encoder set (GRA-71)

Morse key   Speed-X
For emergency purposes, for example when the CK-8 (GRA-71) burst encoder was not available or was broken, it was possible to connect a standard morse key, and send a message at regular speed, at the risk of being intercepted and/or located by the adversary.

The Speed-X morse key, shown in the image on the right, was issued as part of the kit. It has a fixed cable that can be connected directly to the 3-pin socket at the front panel, instead of the high-speed CK-8 keyer.

  
Speed-X morse key

Antennas   wanted
The transceiver was supplied with two antenna systems: a vertical one — consisting of a ground spike, a loading coil and a 14-segment telescopic antenna — and a wire antenna, consisting of three spools with antenna wire.

The vertical antenna has instructions for adjusting it to the desired frequency printed on its exterior. Unfortunately, it is currently missing from our set, just like the separate antenna tuner. An example of a wire antenna is shown in the image on the right.

  
Antenna wire on spool

Antenna tuner   wanted
In order to match the antenna to the transmitter, a simple external antenna tuner, or matching unit, was connected between the terminals of the transmitter and the actual antenna.

Unfortunately, this antenna tuner is currently missing from our set, so we are unable to show any picures of it.

No image available

  

Cables
For connection to the peripheral equipment and to the outside world, a collection of cables was supplied with the radio set. In a minimum configuration the following should be present: If the mains PSU was supplied, then a power cable for that should be present as well. Note that the PWR and KEY cables have rather strange plugs, which might be difficult to find.

 List of cables

  
Cables

Operating instructions   wanted
At present, no operating instructions, service documentation, historical release papers, or any other form of documentation about this radio set is known. Please help us expand this page, by providing any missing piece of information.

 Contact us

  

Briefcase QRC-222 items in briefcase QRC-222 items in briefcase Metal box with plug-ins and crystals Four TX plug-ins and crystals TX plug-ins (one removed) and crystals Crystals Crystals
Cables Cable between transceiver and CK-8 burst encoder Power cable (for external 12V or 24V supply) Power plug PSU connections Cable for external morse key Earphone Earphone with contact pins
TX crystal (green) series resonance frequency 3.176 MHz RX crystal (yellow) series resonance frequency 4.926 MHz Antenna wire on spool Antenna wire on spool
C
×
C
1 / 20
Briefcase
C
2 / 20
QRC-222 items in briefcase
C
3 / 20
QRC-222 items in briefcase
C
4 / 20
Metal box with plug-ins and crystals
C
5 / 20
Four TX plug-ins and crystals
C
6 / 20
TX plug-ins (one removed) and crystals
C
7 / 20
Crystals
C
8 / 20
Crystals
C
9 / 20
Cables
C
10 / 20
Cable between transceiver and CK-8 burst encoder
C
11 / 20
Power cable (for external 12V or 24V supply)
C
12 / 20
Power plug
C
13 / 20
PSU connections
C
14 / 20
Cable for external morse key
C
15 / 20
Earphone
C
16 / 20
Earphone with contact pins
C
17 / 20
TX crystal (green) series resonance frequency 3.176 MHz
C
18 / 20
RX crystal (yellow) series resonance frequency 4.926 MHz
C
19 / 20
Antenna wire on spool
C
20 / 20
Antenna wire on spool

Interior
Images of the transceiver's interior are not yet available.

t.b.a.   

Connections
Power socket
The diagram below shows the pinout of the 5-pin power socket at the front of the radio, when looking into the socket. The unit can be powered by 12V for RX and TX, or 12V for RX and 24V for TX, using the external power cable that is supplied as part of the kit. Note that the 12V line is mandatory, and that the 24V line is optional. It is used for high-power TX only.

  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. (+) 12V input RX/TX
  4. (+) 24V input TX
  5. ?
  6. Ground (0V)
Key socket
The 3-pin socket at the front side of the radio, is for connection of an external morse key or a high-speed burst encoder. For a simple morse key, only pins B and C are used. When connecting the CK-8 burst encoder, pin A supplies +12V power to the keyer. The pinout is as follows:

  1. (+) 12V out (to CK-8 keyer)
  2. Ground
  3. Key in (connects to ground)
CK-8 keyer cable
When the QRC-222 radio set was used in combination with the CK-8 burst encoder (GRA-71), it could be connected directly, without the need to insert the KA-3 keyer adapter. This is possible because the transceiver supplies +12V DC through the cable, as shown in the diagram below.



Specifications
RX frequency bands
  1. 2 - 3.5 MHz
  2. 3.5 - 6 MHz
  3. 6 - 11 MHz
  4. 11 - 20 MHz
TX frequency bands
The following plug-ins were found with our set. The dates in the second column are the inspection dates, that are pencil-written on a label at the bottom of the plug-in. We assume that the transmitter has 5 bands, and that the plug in for the fifth band is missing from our set.

  1. 2 - 3 MHz
    30 August 1965
  2. 3 - 5 MHz
    13 September 1965
  3. 5 - 8 MHz
    30 August 1965
  4. 8 - 13 MHz
    30 August 1965
  5. 13 - 20 MHz
    missing
Crystals
It is likely that the transceiver came with four sets of crystals: four for the transmitter (green) and four for the receiver (yellow). Note that the actual frequency of a receiver crystal is 1.75 MHz higher than what is on the label. All crystals are used in series resonance mode. The following crystals were found with our set, some of which are unmarked and were probably added later:

  • 3.176 MHz
    yellow
     RX
  • 3.176 MHz
    green
     TX

  • 4.085 MHz
    yellow
     RX
  • 4.085 MHz
    green
     TX

  • 7.430 MHz
    yellow
     RX
  • 7.430 MHz
    green
     TX

  • 11.00 MHz
    yellow
     RX
  • 11.00 MHz
    green
     TX

  • 3.260 MHz
    unmarked
     TX
  • 3.265 MHz
    unmarked
     TX
  • 4.038 MHz
    unmarked
     TX
  • 4.820 MHz
    unmarked
     TX
    Crystals
Cables
The following cables were supplied with a complete set. The ones shown in red are currently missing from the set in our collection.

Components
A complete QRC-222 set consisted of the components listed below [2]. The items shown in red are currently missing from our set. If you have any of these available, please contact us.

Glossary
QRC   (1) Quick Reaction Contract
CIA expression for a Quick Reaction Contract, to be carried out by the QRC department. In late 1964, this department was transferred to the CIA's research and development department, but kept operating as an autonomous unit.
QRC   (2) Quick Reaction Capability
USAF procurement program, aimed to quickly develop and aqcuire limited quantities of special equipment in reaction to emerging enemy threats. Also known as the Quick Reaction Capability Program.
QRC   (3) Quick Reaction Communication
Expression used by the CIA for quick and short messages and replies, similar to a telegram.
Rome ADC   Rome Air Development Center
Research and development laboratory of the USAF. Currently known as the Rome Laboratory.  Wikipedia
Wanted
At present, there is very little information about the QRC-222 (RS-8) in the public domain. The information presented on this page is pretty much everything we could find about it. If you have any additional information or parts, please contact us and help us expand this page. We are currently looking for the following items:

  • Mains power supply unit (PSU)
  • Telescopic antenna and mast
  • Wire antennas
  • Antenna tuner
  • Earpiece
  • Speed-X morse key
  • Operating instructions
  • Original storage case
  • Documentation
 Contact us


References
  1. Pete McCollum, The QRC-222 HF Radio Set
    Retrieved December 2017.

  2. John Pitts (N5AGQ), Covert Radio QRC-222, S/N 8
    Retrieved December 2017.

  3. Per Nyström & Andreas Parch, QRC - Equipment Listing
    2001-2007, via Andreas Patsch. Retrieved December 2017.

  4. Keith Melton, CIA Special Weapons & Equipment: Spy Devices of the Cold War
    ISBN 978-0-8069-8732-3. 1993, p. 48.
Further information
Any links shown in red are currently unavailable. If you like the information on this website, why not make a donation?
Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 08 December 2017. Last changed: Wednesday, 28 February 2018 - 23:56 CET.
Click for homepage