Number Stations & Oddities Spy Station Special Part 1
Welcome to the Spy Station Special. In this special show we’re unravelling the cold spooky truth of a shortwave number station. We will cover undercover agents, past and present number stations and the rise of Asian number stations.
Audio: from https://soundcloud.com/maxhallvstpx
I’m sure most of you know what shortwave is but there may be some hearing us that do not. Shortwave is in a nutshell the internet before the internet existed. Shortwave is an international radio band that operates just above the AM radio band from 1711kHz up to 30MHz. The FM radio band starts around 87.5Mhz here in Australia. But shortwave is unlike local radio. Local radio covers a certain area likely no further than say 100 kilometers. Shortwave on the other hand has a much larger distance; a whole continent or two. A good and simple example is the fact I can tune into Radio Havana Cuba. Their signal comes into my radio at home in Hobart, Australia from their transmitter near San Felipe, Cuba at a distance of 15,219 kilometers.
Shortwave can reach vast distances because the signal bounces off the ionosphere, the layer above the earth’s upper atmosphere and back down to earth. This characteristic allows stations to transmit and be received halfway around the planet, or with good propagation nearly the whole way . I remember back on some occasions in 2008 during the Tibetan unrest the Chinese jammer known as the Firedrake was pumping out so much power that reports came in all across the world from listeners hearing it on the same frequency at the same time.
Because shortwave is a fantastic medium to transmit, you can see why it is also used by Government Intelligence Agencies. The messages they send are destined for undercover agents in the field. They are the real James Bond. [James bond theme]
There’s no concrete way to trace signals and all you need is a simple shortwave radio to listen. An undercover agent wouldn’t stick out using what would look just like an AM radio, compared to using complex data decoding equipment or erecting a large C-band satellite dish.
Surely someone can track down the transmitters? In short, no. Number stations are of an unknown origin, of an unknown source from an unknown location. Some broadcast in voice blocks of numbers, others morse code or information in a digital mode. We may have an idea who runs them, and a rough idea where they transmit from, but generally it’s an educated guess. Shortwave number stations have complete anonymity.
Jamming. It’s not uncommon in the shortwave field to hear a station being jammed, especially clandestine stations and often the culprits are from Asia. China has happily jammed the BBC World Service, Voice of America and Sound of Hope. Also of interest is the jamming that occurs on number stations. Some Governments might be getting nervous hearing them or worry undercover agents are in their hostile country. [Audio: CIA E5 being jammed]
Number stations broadcast in many different languages and the voices heard are often mysterious and disembodied or robotic sounding. Here is one of the most well-known stations, the Lincolnshire poacher.
From all the evidence available, it indicates that this station could be connectected to espionage from secret services such as Mi5 or Mi6. The Lincolnshire poacher ceased on the 29th June 2008.
No Government agency will admit the existence of Number stations. No official will comment. I emailed the Australian and Canadian communications authorities back in 2006 and still to this day, no response. Surely I’m not imagining it, we have numbers stations on CD’s with the Conet Project, on websites and if I tune around the shortwave bands I can hear them today.
The espionage station oddity dates back to World War 1 when they first appeared on the shortwaves. During the Cold War they were at their peak. Europe was divided with the Eastern and Western Bloc. Many number stations ceased after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Today we still have a good handful still on the air, at least 44 stations.
Some stations operate on fixed rigid schedules while others are sporadic. Some even are only ever heard once.
The European Numbers Information Gathering & Monitoring Association “ENIGMA” allocated number stations a formal name. E stands for English, G for German, S for Slavic and V for all other languages. M is for morse code, X for noise, Xp for polytones, T unknown, SK for digital mode, HM for hybrid modes and DP for digital pseudo-polytone. Some stations also have a letter at the end after their number. It means they are a variant.
It seems clear some stations want to be known and others don’t. Many Russian spy stations only use digital modes and to the casual listener and myself, you’d just simply tune past it thinking it’s just a utility station. [Audio: XPA/XPA2] Espionage may not only occur by shortwave. The concept of sending blocks of numbers and decoding it with a one time pad has been a highly effective method and laptops are so commonplace today that agents could use one hooked up to their shortwave radio to decode the digital transmissions. Of course it’s pretty easy to make a discrete shortwave antenna as well.
One of the most talked about stations these days is the Cuban HM01, and even more interesting was from the Washington Times, “Chris Simmons, a former Cuba analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said Cuban intelligence still likes to use shortwave to communicate with its agents in the United States.
Former DIA senior analyst Ana Montes, arrested in September 2001 and convicted of spying on behalf of the Cuban government, also received her orders in shortwave communiques. So did Jennifer Miles, who in the 1960s was the last State Department official before Mr. Myers to be arrested on charges of spying for Cuba.
“While some countries have moved to computer-based communications [for clandestine operations], Havana still largely relies on shortwave broadcasts,” Mr. Simmons said.” From the Washington Times
Welcome back to the Spy Station Special on Hobart Radio International. We’re very pleased to announce a special spy edition eQSL is available to you if you hear this broadcast via your own radio or even a web SDR. Our email address is hri radio @ gmail dot com We also have another two parts that are online as a web only edition at hriradio dot org
The good thing about radio is that you can fake what may look like a big spy operation. It’s a keeping up with the Joneses. Let’s now have a look at active stations for 2015, and you can find schedules to these on the website priyom.org (p-r-i-y-o-m.org) I can’t go through them all but here’s a taste what you can tune in:
E06 The English Man “00000”, E07 The English Man “000 000” (and E07a), E11 Oblique (and E11a Oblique Message) and E17 The English Lady “674”, G06 German Lady, S06 The Russian Man and S11a Cherta.
You can see the whole list of active stations at number-stations.com
There’s a large collection of past number stations. At a time when spying was big business and the world was divided with military and political tension; the Berlin wall made East and West Germany and the Eastern Bloc including the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact versus the Western Bloc which included the USA and NATO allies. It seemed after the Cold War despite many number stations ceasing, many remained and I wondered if today many stations are used or just on air to show a presence? Here are some of the stations of the past:
[Audio: Chinese music]
Our last segment on number stations interests me the most and is of importance to what we are seeing now as a tense military situation in the South China sea as the US and China dispute land. China has also become a sleeping giant with an ever growing military. We also continue to see North and South Korea deal with provocations. Welcome to the world of Asian number stations and oddities. We start off looking at V24, a South Korean number station which broadcasts from South Korea to North Korea for its spies:
New Star Broadcasting V13 is an interesting station. It’s believed to be by Taiwanese Intelligence. This would make sense due to the current issues Taiwan faces against China. This station is only heard around Asia and North West America. The station signs on with flute music then says; “Here is New Star Broadcasting” and after all the numbers are read it signs off says “The preceding special programme [has] now finished transmission. Thank you for listening. We wish you health and happiness. Goodbye” (Via CVNI.net) which makes one wonder what it’s all about.
China has a large shortwave presence and a good percentage of transmissions are military related. Some however are possibly number stations. A number station that isn’t a number station. If you’ve never heard the US global HF network, it could quite easily sound like a number station when they announce Emergency Action Messages. [Audio US HF-GCS] and since China has an ever increasing military so too are an increasing amount of shortwave stations.
VC01 The Chinese Robot is an oddity. It is reported to be used by Chinese Air Defence and sends 3 number per second.
V22 Chinese II (Two) is another oddity. It might be either a number station or military related. It starts off with “All listening stations in the Country, this is Beijing”.
V26 TXSA/XSE23 is an interesting station. It’s in a mix of English and Chinese. It’s possible military related. Call ups in English followed by Chinese.
There’s also many other utility stations from China.
This station is V30, The Lighthouse from Vietnam. It’s still active logged 10th April this year. It is normally on air daily on 10255 USB at 16h00UTC.
It is the end of our special show here on Hobart Radio International., Just a reminder we do have a special eQSL for you if you hear us on shortwave via your own radio or a web SDR. We also have two more specials for you to check out online at hriradio dot org
From the bottom of the world, thank you for tuning into our number station special. Goodbye
“The Spooky world of ‘numbers stations’”http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24910397
“Chinese Numbers Stations” http://www.numbersoddities.nl/Chinese-stations.pdf
V13 “New Star Broadcasting Station” http://www.kentfoto.com/spooks/newstar.htm
V13 “Thirty-eighth edition of the N&O Column / Spooks Newsletter “http://www.cvni.net/radio/nsnl/nsnl038/nsnl38v13.html”
“Number Stations” http://priyom.org/number-stations
“Shortwave Espionage” http://www.simonmason.karoo.net/page30.html
Page Number Stations & Oddities Special
© 2008 - 2015 Hobart Radio International. All rights reserved.
Hobart Radio International has copyright on all radio productions, shows, features, pictures and logos that are produced by Hobart Radio International and what is stated under Australian Copyright Law; permission must be granted to copy, broadcast publicly, re-distribute, edit, extract or manipulate all audio files herein. Pictures from Hobart Radio International may be copied, but with recognition of the owner such as an active link "From: DX Extra www.hriradio.org". All items of media on this and other pages are either copyright unknown or extracted from copyrighted materials as per Australian copyright regulations. External links, images and media have no association with Hobart Radio International and are copyright to their owners.