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R-014D (Datchik)
Electronic burst encoder - USSR

The R-014D is a fully electronic burst transmitter, developed in the USSR around 1979. It was used during the Cold War by Special Forces (SF) in conflict areas such as Afganistan, and allowed pre-coded numerical messages to be transmitted at high speed. The device was sometimes used in communications vehicles, often as part of an R-142 radio station. It is also known as Datchik.
 
The R-014D is a fully self-contained device. It can be powered by an external 4.8V DC source, such as the TE-20 PSU, but also from the built-in battery pack. The device is connected directly to the morse key input of a radio station (e.g. R-142) and transmits its data at 75 or 150 baud.

The image on the right shows a typical R-014D. At the front is the keyboard that consists of 16 rubber keys. The dark rectangle at the centre is the lamp panel that is used when entering data. Behind this panel is the battery compartment. The input power supply should never exceed 5V.
  
R-014D (Datchik)

Despite the size and weight of the Datchik, the device can store just 62 characters in its internal memory. This means that messages can never be longer that 62 characters. Although this might seem a serious limitation, in practice it was sufficient for pre-coded messages, for which often a simple matrix table was used. An example of such a Slidex-style message table is given below.

Like most Russian devices of the same era, the front panel of the D-014D is painted in grey hammerite. The case however, has the typical Russian military yellow/green colour, indicating that the device was also used stand-alone in the field. It was used, for example, by Russian Special Forces (Spetsnaz [1]) in Afganistan during the Soviet war in Afganistan (1979-1989) [2].
 
R-014D with 'raincoat' R-014D with closed lid R-014D (Datchik) Keyboard and lamp panel Mode switch and power check Radio and power connectors (caps removed) Tools and spare fuses stored in the top lid Spare fuses

 
Operation
Installing and operating the R-014D is pretty straightforward. Power source and transmitter are connected to the sockets at the right. The device is switched on with the black switch at the bottom right marked ПИТАНИЕ. At the bottom left is a 4-position rotary switch marked РЕЖИМ which is used to select the desired mode of operation. The leftmost two positions are used for selecting 75 baud, whilst the rightmost two position select a transmission speed of 150 baud. The settings '1' and '2' are used to select the appropriate interface for the radio station in use.


Above the MODE selector is another rotary switch, marked КОНТРОЛЬ (kontrol), that is used in combination with the meter above for checking the internal voltages of the device. The lamp panel, located at the center of the device, consists of 12 lamps, marked 0-9, П and K. When entering a message, the lamps indicate which number is pressed. Lamp П indicates that the space key is pressed. When finishing a message (pressing the КЦ key) lamp K should light up.
 
Keyboard
The keyboard is fully waterproof and consists of 16 keys with rubber key tops. On each key top the corresponding number or letter is embossed. In the dark however, it might be difficult to read the embossed characters, which is why it is shown with white lettering in the drawing below.

The keyboard of the R-014D


 
Entering a message
  • Set the mode switch РЕЖИМ to the correct position
  • Press У followed by the data (numbers 0-9), 62 characters max.
  • Use П to insert spaces wherever necessary (e.g. after each group)
  • Press КЦ to terminate the message (if less than 62 characters are used)
  • Press У + ПР to check the input (optional)
  • Press У + ПЗ to send a synchronize command
  • Press У + ПИ to send the message
Message table
As the Datchik can hold just 62 characters in its internal memory, it was necessary to simplify any messages and use a so-called message table to replace frequently used words and phrases by numbers. Such tables generally consisted of 100 cells, divided over 10 rows and 10 columns.
 
Each cell contained a number, a letter, a word and/or a phrase. Along the sides of the table, the rows and columns were numbered (0-9) in a random order as per daily security instructions.

The image on the right shows an example of such a message table that was issued by the East-German Army (NVA) during the Cold War. It was used in combination with the R-014D. The table was called Parolen und Gesprächstabellen (expressions and conversation table).

 More information
  
Close-up of the matrix on page 1

Various tables were used (commonly indicated as 'series') and commands were provided to switch from one table to another from within the message. When creating a message, the operator wrote down the row and column number of the selected cells. Once the message was complete, it was intered into the Datchik and transmitted at hight speed (75 or 150 baud). At the receiving end, the operator would simply lookup the original text from the individual row and column numbers.

This system of using a message table to convert text into a series of numbers or letters is similar to the well-known Slidex system that was used by the British Armed forces and by others. It was invented during WWII, around 1943, more or less simultaneously by the British and the Russians. Systems like these are not very safe, but are generally sufficient for short-term tactical messages.
 
R-142 Radio Station
During the Cold War, most countries of the Warsaw Pact used a variety of Russian communication vehicles and radio stations. To allow communication in the vicinity of the vehicle (short range) as well as over greater distances (long range), such radio stations were often equiped with HF, VHF and sometimes even UHF transceivers. They were commonly built inside trucks like the GAZ-66.
 
One popular radio station was the R-142. It consisted of a large metal frame with a variety of transceivers, control panels, intercom systems, amplifiers and switch boxes. It could be used stand-alone as a base station, but was often built inside a shelter mounted on a GAZ-66.

The image on the right shows a typical GAZ-66 truck with a communications shelter on its back, as seen from the rear. The open door at the right is the entrance to the radio shack. Inside this compartment is the R-142 radio station with a number of secret devices as discussed below.
  
GAZ-66 truck with radio shelder (R-142)

The open door at the rear is the entrance to the commander's cabin. Inside this compartment is a table with chairs at both sides. The commander can operate the radio set in the other room from a remote control set mounted above this table. To the left of the door is a power generator.
 
Two foldable window antennas are mounted at the roof of the shelter. They are used for HF communication. A retractable mast with the VHF antennas is mounted behind the door of the radio shack. Furthermore, a selection of rod antennas and wire antennas can be mounted to the shelter. Some can be used whilst driving.

The image on the right shows a typical R-142 radio station at it was built inside a GAZ-66 communications vehicle. Various radio sets are visible in this picture. The sloped device at the bottom center is the operator's control panel.
  
R-142 radio station mounted inside a GAZ-66 truck

The empty space to the left of the control panel is reserved for the M-125 (Fialka) cipher machine. To the right of the control panel, the R-014D is just visible. It is shown here with its top cover present. The radio station can be controlled from four different places: from within the radio shack, from the commander's cabin (twice) and finally from the driver's seat (even whilst driving). Frequencies and cryptographic keys can only be controlled from the radio shack.

Block diagram of the R-142 Radio Station

The image above shows a block diagram of the R-142 radio station as it was mounted inside the GAZ-66. Click the image to view the block diagram in full resolution. The R-142 radio station had space for three secret devices that are highlighted in yellow in the drawing above: the M-125 wheel-based cipher machine (Fialka), the T-219 voice encryption device (Jachta) and the R-014D burst transmitter (Datchik) described on this page. The latter is at the top of the diagram. It is connected to the R-130 HF transceiver. The 4.8V voltage is supplied by the existing TE-20 PSU.


The image above shows the position of the various components inside the GAZ-66 truck. The blue-coloured section is the R-142 radio set. The various pink-coloured units are the remote control panels. Note that the command post has two control panels plus a recording device.

The PCBs inside the R-014D

 
Interior
Compared to other burst encoders of the same era, the R-014D is rather large and heavy. It was the first fully electronic burst encoder developed by the former USSR and it shows the state-of-technology in Russia in 1975. In this respect, one should bare in mind that western technology wasn't available to the Russians at the time. Heavy use is made of first generation of Russian ICs.
 
The unit can be opened by loosening the 12 bolts at the edges of the front panel. Note that two of these bolts might be sealed with black or red wax. If the wax is still present, the case has not been opened after the device was released.

Once the bolts have been loosened, the entire interior can be extracted from the case by lifting the front panel. Despite the fact that the R-014D can hold only 62 characters in its memory, it contains a surprisingly large number of parts. About one-third of the volume is taken by the battery compartment. The rest is for the PCBs.
  
R-014D removed from its case

The circuitry is build around a large number of first-generation Russian Integrated Circuits (ICs) that are spread over 12 small PCBs. The PCBs are all mounted in a six-layer hinged assembly. Despite its complexity, the R-014D is very service-friendly. After removing the 8 long bolts that hold the PCBs together, the stack of boards can be 'browsed' like the pages of a book.
 
Battery compartment Fuse R014D interior R-014D removed from its case Browsing the PCBs like the pages of a book Folding out the PCBs
Close-up of some transistors 120 kHz Crystal

 
Technical specifications
  • Power supply: 4.8V DC +10/-15%
  • Power consumption: 1.5A (receive), 2.1A (transmit) at 4.8V DC
  • Memory: 62 characters
  • Clock speed: 120 kHz
  • Output amplitude: 5V (into 1KOhm), 10V (into 5 KOhm)
References
  1. Wikipedia, Spetsnaz
    Russian Special Forces. Retrieved October 2013.

  2. Wikipedia, Soviet war in Afganistan
    Retrieved October 2013.

  3. Datchik R-014D Technical Documentation, part 1
    2.016.005. 1 August 1975 (Russian).

  4. Datchik R-014D Technical Description, part 2
    2.016.005. 1 August 1975 (Russian).

  5. Datchik R-014D, Operating Instructions
    2.016.005. Part 2. 1975 (Russian).

  6. Datchik R-014D, Delivery form, serial number 008776
    2.016.500 - Part 3. Printed 1975. Issued 1 January 1980.

Further information

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