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CIA spy radio set · 1965

RS-49 was a clandestine radio set, also known as a spy radio set, developed between 1963 and 1965 for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was intended for agent communication and for use in other clandestine operations. A complete station consists of an RT-49 transmitter, an RR-49 receiver (that was also used stand-alone), and an RP-49 power supply unit (PSU) [1].

The set is comparable to the earlier RS-6, but is fully solid-state, whereas the RS-6 was valve-based. Development was started in early 1963 and took until 1966, altough the receiver was released as a stand-alone device in 1964. It was used with the CK-8 (AN/GRA-71) burst encoder – to reduce the risk of radio direction finding – and was supplied in a watertight metal briefcase.

Complete RS-49 radio set in metal suitcase. Crypto Museum archive [2].

The Polaroid photograph above is one of the very few original images of a complete RS-49 radio set, and was probably made by the CIA as part of a series of two [2]. The image shows a black metal Haliburton-style suitcase, with the RR-49 receiver at the front left, RT-49 transmitter at the rear right and the RP-49 power supply unit at the rear left. At the front right is a KE/C-8 keyer with two black CA/A-3 tape cartridges. They are part of the CK-8 burst encoder (AN/GRA-71).

RS-49 spy radio set
RS-49 spy radio set
RS-49 spy radio set
Secret CIA polaroid photograph of RS-49 agent radio [2]
Secret CIA polaroid photograph of RS-49 agent radio [2]
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RS-49 spy radio set
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RS-49 spy radio set
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RS-49 spy radio set
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Secret CIA polaroid photograph of RS-49 agent radio [2]
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Secret CIA polaroid photograph of RS-49 agent radio [2]

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RT-49 transmitter
RR-49 receiver
RP-49 power supply unit for RT-49 transmitter
Burst encoder and keyer CK-8 (AN/GRA-71)
Transmitter   RT-49
The RT-49 transmitter, shown in the image on the right, was supplied with the RS-49 radio set. Its controls are similar to the ones on the earlier RS-1 (T-784) and RS-6 (RT-6), but the device is much smaller as it is fully transistorised.

The device is crystal-operated and delivers approx. 15 Watts of RF output.

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RT-49 with crystal installed

Receiver   RR-49
The RR-49 is a portable miniature short wave receiver for AM and CW, manufactured by Collins Radio and by Delco. It was part of the RS-49 set, but was also used as a stand-alone receiver.

The receiver can be freely adjusted between 3 and 24 MHz, but can also be crystal-operated. It can be powered by an internal standard 9V block battery, which lasts for 18 to 20 hours.

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RR-49 receiver with crystal installed

Power supply unit   RP-49 — WANTED
The RS-49 came with a dedicated power supply unit (PSU) – actually a DC/DC converter – that could be attached to the DE9 connector at the left side of the transmitter. It also has a 12V socket to which the receiver can be connected.

The PSU itself should be powered by a 12V DC source, such as the battery of a car. At present, the RP-49 PSU is missing from our collection.

Images of the RP-49 can be found on the website of Pete McCollum [1].

Connectors on the RP-49 PSU. Image kindly supplied by Pete McCollum [1].

Burst encoder   CK-8
To reduce the chance of discovery by means of Radio Direction Finding (RDF), the RS-49 was commonly used in combination with the CK-8 burst encoder/keyer set shown in the image on the right. It consists of one or two encoders (one for morse tokens and one for the latin alphabet), a keyer – that was connected to the transmitter – and one or two blank CA-3 tape cartridges.

The CK-8 was also used with other CIA radio sets, and by the intelligence services of several European countries.

 More informations

The CIA's CK-8 burst encoder set. Click for further information.

  1. RR-49 Receiver, Operating Instructions 1
    CIA, date unknown.

  2. RT-49 Transmitter, Operating Instructions 1
    CIA, date unknown.

  3. RP-49 Power Supply, Operating Instructions 1
    CIA, date unknown.

  4. Instruction Book, Receiver RR-49 — WANTED
    Collins Radio, 2nd Edition, February 1966.
  1. Approved for release by CIA on 23 April 2014.

  1. Trip Report - Development f the RT-49 and RP/A-49
    CIA Memorandum, 28 February 1963

  2. Chief, OC-OS to Chairman, Equipment Board, Equipment Procurement
    CIA Memorandum, 2 January 1964

  3. Equipment Board staff meeting, Agenda
    CIA, 9 January 1964

  4. CIA Equipment Board staff meeting, minutes
    9 January 1964

  5. Trip Report - RT-49/RP-49
    24 November 1964

  6. Trip Report - RT-49/RP-49
    22 December 1964

  7. Trip Report - RR-49
    22 December 1964

  8. Inspection Report No. 1 - AN/B-62
    CIA Memorandum, 11 May 1966

  9. Inspection Report No. 5 - RT-49/RP-49
    17 June 1966

  10. Inspection Report No. 6 - RT-49
    CIA Memorandum, 21 June 1966

  11. Inspection Report No. 2 - AN/B-62
    CIA Memorandum, 24 June 1966

  12. Equipment Board Meeting, Agenda
    CIA, 8 November 1967

  13. Long-Range HF Communications Equipment
    7 April 1969
  1. Pete McCollum, The RS-49 HF Radio Set
    Retrieved November 2020.

  2. Unknown source (probably CIA). Secret images of RS-49 set in suitcase
    Crypto Museum archive CM303622. Date unknown, but probably ~ 1965.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 04 November 2020. Last changed: Thursday, 20 April 2023 - 13:55 CET.
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