1. Introduction

French Army Morse Key SARAM (1950)

Most Utility listeners in Europe will know the French Morse training broadcasts from station FAV22 on 3881 and 6825 kHz.

Since many years a second transmission - as well of French origin - is on the air. Until 2005 it has been considered as a Number Station with the ENIGMA designation M51. Much has been written about M51: 1999 by Ary Boender, 2000 by Valeriano Martin and 2004 by myself (all in Numbers & Oddities). ENIGMA as well presented a stations profile.

2005 brought changes in the transmission schedule and I tried again to find out more about it and namely to prove what Ary already in 1999 suspected: FAV22 and M51 are sister networks and in between we know, this indeed is the case. Both networks use the same transmitters and control centres and are operated by the 8th Signal Regiment. Read on for more about FAV22/M51.

2. The History of FAV22

In 1935 the magazin of Radio-REF (Réseau des Émetteurs France) organized the first transmissions of Morse lessons from station FLE on the Eiffel Tower in Paris on 4436 kHz. Later on and until 1939 the transmitters FLE, FYD (Pontoise) and FLJ (Issy les Moulineaux) disseminated the Morse lessons.
1947 the lessons started again from transmitters in Paris (6380 kHz) and Lyon la Doua (6285 kHz). Later on transmitters in Vernon were used, control center was Mont Valerien until 1982. Until July 2005 the transmissions were controlled from Bicêtre and since then from Favières.

The lessons are transmitted as follows:

- Frequencies 3881//6825 kHz (1 kW), call sign is FAV22.

- Mon to Fri 1030h...1100h and 1330h...1400h LT
- Sun 0900h...0930h and 1020h...1050h LT

- Text is random groups of letters and figures or plain French text with French accented letters (tricky, if not used to it!). The correct contents are published by REF, see link below.

- Speeds: Mon 420 gr/h, Tue 600 gr/h, Wed 720 gr/h, Thu 840 gr/h, Fri 900 gr/h.


For more infos (repetition cycle, text, etc) visit: http://www.ref-union.org .

3. The History of M51

FAV22/M51 related sites

The first loggings are from the year 1996, when a Morse station showed up, which was on the air Monday to Friday with the following format:

= nr 36 m 12 07:20:34 2004 = txt

Preamble  Meaning 
nr 36  Message number 01 ... 90, then reset to 01.  
First letter of month (French, hence Juin/Juillet ambiguous) 
12  Day of month 
07:20:34  Transmission time in CET/CEST 
2004  Year 
txt  Text is 100 5-Letter-Groups 

4. M51 in the last years

M51 stops, FAV22 continues

Until 2004
M51 has used 6 pairs of frequencies per week, which were up between 10 min and 8 h or more. No schedule has been observed, but most probably the transmitter was switched off for some hours in the night. The lowest logged frequency was 2366 kHz the highest 18444.5 kHz. Surprisingly the frequencies changed without prior notice and even between the characters of a group. The contents therefore couldn't be of great importance.

In 2004
M51 only was up from Mon to Thu and on few frequencies.

Since Summer 2005
it only could be heard sporadically from Monday to Friday, sometimes on parallel frequencies. 6825//3881 kHz, "home" of FAV22, often was used. I was convinced, M51 eventually will stop. The contrary was true. Traffic increased again 2005 with messages dated from the year 1983 onwards; in 2006 from 1984 and 1989, in 2007 from 1984, 1989 and 1990: They seem to use up the old tapes! There is still no obvious sked for M51, frequencies are chosen at random, sometimes buried under strong stations like DWD FAX on 7880 kHz, and are often repeated. FAV22 continued with its normal Morse lessons twice a day.
M51 always stops before FAV22 starts (see picture). Sometimes the last characters of the M51 transmission could be heard on 6825 kHz before the Morse lessons started or one can hear the keying-clicks of M51 just before FAV22 switches off. During the Morse lessons M51 "lost" some messages and resumes activity with a higher message number.

Jan. 25, 2007
F9TM, another Radio Amateur related Morse training transmitter, took over from M51 on 6825//3881 kHz with a CQ call and a short note about its Morse training transmission at 1830z on 3536 kHz the same day. This shows the affiliation of F Amateur Radio to F Mil organisations.

In Spring 2007
for the first time I noted parallel transmission on two, three and even four frequencies, some of them being only a few kHz apart. At the same time transmissions around the clock and even Sundays have been noted.

September 2007
M51 became a real nuisance. Scanning the bands for CW transmissions makes you stop again and again at the 4 frequencies of M51, which seem to be disseminated continously between 2 and 13 MHz. Messages are from 1984, the date (day) often is wrong.

2008
M51 continous operation without sked on ever changing frequencies. Messages were sent from 1980, 1986 and 1990.

2009
M51 continous operation without sked on ever changing frequencies. Messages were sent from 1987.

2010
M51 continous operation without sked on ever changing frequencies. Messages were sent from 1982, 1988 and 1993.

2011
M51 continous operation without sked on ever changing frequencies. Messages were sent from 1983.

2012
M51 continous operation without sked on ever changing frequencies. Messages were sent from 1984.

5. Operaters of the Network

A closer look to the French Army structure shows that M51 is operated most probably by the 8th Signal Regiment which is located in

- Fort of Mont-Valérien in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris (HQ)
- Fort of Bicêtre, a suburb of Paris
- Center of Favières, NW of Chartres
- Center of Vernon, 80 km W of Paris

These sites are operated for the CSTEI, the Centre for Telecommunication and Specialized Data Processing. Apart from the 3 CSTEI there are in France 8 CTEI, similar to CTEIM, but on a regional level and 16 CTEIM, Centre for Telecommunication and Data Processing, on a local level.

This makes evident, why in the past several transmitter sites of M51 have been published. As a conclusion one can assume that

- FAV22 teaches Morse code in several message formats for Radio Amateurs and Army Radio Operators.
- M51 is not a Number Station but a training network for F Mil Radio Operators in order to improve their skills to search and intercept Morse transmissions.
-for two other French networks - F9TM and the calibration transmissions for the 80m, 40 m and 20 m band limits - again the same transmitters and control centres were used.
- considerable efforts are put into this service. Broadband transmitters are used simultanously on up to four frequencies.

I asked responsibles of REF to confirm my assumptions, but never got an answer.

6. Antennas of M51/FAV22

RDF Site in Favières  Radio Center of Vernon