All CIS Forces - in principle - use the same formats for Morse Code traffic. Most messages do consist of groups of 5 letters or 5 figures. In tactical networks both are used, in Navy networks nearly all messages are 5-figure-groups ( 1.1. Standard Format for Morse Messages ). Navy - and Fleet HQ use always the same frequencies to contact their outstations.
Tactical networks operate Duplex on 2 day - and 2 night frequencies, which change periodically:
Period 1: 1. March until 5. May
Period 2: 6. May until 31. August
Period 3: 1. September until 31. October
Period 4: 1. November until 28./29. February
Not all figures are sent as such, but are replaced by letters, because they are shorter in Morse Code. CIS Forces use Cyrillic Morse - adding new Codes to the Latin alphabet
( 1.5. Cyrillic Morse, Cut Numbers and Abbreviations ).
Sometimes two stations exchange seemingly endless rows of letters in Simplex traffic, that are 1.8. Online Encrypted Morse Messages
Important, short instructions are broadcast on all levels of the CIS Forces, comparable with the Emergency Action Messages (EAM) of the US Air Force ( 1.9. XXX Strategic Flash Messages ).
There are broadcasts, which are yet not fully understood in its content, one example being the 1.10. RADIOPROGNOZ Messages .
Some ships do transmit Sea State and Weather conditions to their HQ. They are formatted as WMO Buoy Meteorological Data in FM-13 code. 1.11. FM13-Code Meteorological Data
Short Status Reports of ships are described here 1.12. Short Status Reports
In the former Warsaw Pact (WP) Forces every branch had its own "style" to drop a message. When, e.g. the Black Sea Fleet left Odessa, Morse traffic could be traced until the ships arrived in their operating area. The desastrous, because badly prepared, invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 revealed even more weaknesses of the WP communications. Supplies did not arrive in time and sometimes in despair were ordered in plain language, etc.
As a consequence the WP Radio troops in several steps have been reorganised. A very important measure was the introduction of a standardized format for Morse messages. It is still valid for tactical and strategic CIS Military Morse networks .
In its most basic format, a Morse message will contain these elements:
TU5J 162 30 18 1202 162 = 517 = ppppp 5LGx28 azkbz = 667 +
|TU5J||Sender of the message. This is a tactical callsign, it's format is LLLL or FFFF or LFLL or LLFL but not FFLL or LLFF . L = Letter. F= Figure. See Call Signs in Morse Code Networks for their callsigns.|
|162||Message number, between 1 and 999. Is repeated after the time group.|
|30||Group count, not consistent. May include procedure groups, traffic mode group and service group.|
|1202||Local time of message preparation (see below).|
|517||Address, is referred to as ads or message priority code (see below). The address specifies the receiver of the message, may be a command post or a person. Sometimes Z-Codes with trigrams.|
|ppppp||Procedure group for procedure M-125 (see below).|
|5ALGx28||Text of 28 accentuated five letter groups (30 minus procedure and service group). All messages are encrypted, no exceptions.|
|azkbz||Service group, indicating day and group count. See Cyrillic Morse, Cut Numbers and Abbreviations for code.|
|667||sig (signature) of the sender. Can be a command post or a person. Navy stations sign here with their callsign.|
|+||ar (end of message). Other endings may be: k, rpt al or rpt QLN (repeat message via landline)|
The preamble time (message preparation time) can tell more about the Time Zone of the sender. Ukraine and Belarus local time for example is 1 hour later than Moscow time, 4 hours later than Kazakhstan and so on. This and Daylight Saving Time (DST) easely can lead to confusion.
Tom, DL8AAM, offered this compilation in UDXF about the possible origin of a message.
PT = Preamble Time and UTC = Time of reception in UTC
PT - UTC = 0 up to 2 h: Sender in Moscow Time Zone or in Ukraine
PT - UTC = 2 up to 3 h: Sender in Moscow Time Zone
PT - UTC = 3 up to 6 h: Sender in Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan or Far East Russia, etc.
and during DST:
PT - UTC = 0 up to 3 h: Sender in Moscow Time Zone or in Ukraine
PT - UTC = 3 up to 4 h: Sender in Moscow Time Zone
PT - UTC = 4 up to 7 h: Sender in Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan or Far East Russia, etc.
The former WP (Warsaw Pact) Forces used several priority levels to specify the time between teletype-message preparation and reception, which depended on the length of the message as well.
Priority level "Monument", for example, meant "at once", but a normal message with 300 words/groups arrived only 2 hours later at the addressee.
Some priority levels - wzd, rkt, sml - are used for Morse messages as well and are sent immediately after the preamble or the address.
|Monument (monument) not used in Morse Code||Highest||m|
|Platinum (pdatina), not used in Morse Code||p|
|Gale (chturm), not used in Morse Code||cht|
The following part is based on information from "SAS und Chiffrierdienste" Website. See here Links . It is not clear, how many of the historical informations still are valid, but I'm convinced, the basic structure still is in use.
Depending of the nature of a message the first few text groups may contain additional information, although they are not easely recognisable.
The first text group can be a procedure group, which describes the treatment of this message, most probably encryption/decryption. Procedure M-125 leads to groups like "11111" or "aaaaa". "11111" probably is used for exercises/training.
The following traffic mode group specifies, how the network is handling messages. Circular traffic results in groups like "55555" or "ddddd".
The decode group specifies the encryption key. In circular traffic this group is looked up in encryption tables, in normal traffic each letter/cipher is sent three times.
Top of page.
Non Russian speaking people will make use of some Latin letters in order to copy Cyrillic Morse traffic. Personally I use the following substitutes: (the complete Russian/Latin/Morse Code Alphabet is here: Downloads )
|Cyrillic Morse Code||"Translation" I use.|
|- - - -||ch|
|. - . -||ä|
|. . - -||ü|
|- - - .||ö|
|. . - . .||é|
CIS forces use Cut Numbers in their 5LG messages; long figures are replaced by shorter letters. We can evaluate the final group containing day and group count. Several sets of Cut Numbers are in use, these are the two mostly used:
CIS Forces use Standard - and special Q and Z-Codes. In many cases "Q" is replaced by "Z", hence "ZSA" means "QSA". Even more confusing the codes may have different meanings dependant of the branch. More than 100 special codes are observed - many of them are understood; you may download my list here: Downloads.
CIS forces use the normal abbreviations, but additionaly there are some, which you may be less familiar with (some kindly have been published by UDXF members):
|abs||Station not on duty.|
|abv||Repeat / I repeat.|
|ads||Addressee (at command post).|
|corcol||Rus. for group.|
|guhor||Rus. for: Nothing heard from you.|
|rk||Always use this frequency.|
|sig||Signature (of the sender).|
|sld||Rus. for "sledite": You're listening for my signals.|
|slv||Rus. for "slezhu": I'm listening for your signals.|
Sometimes CIS Forces use Online Encrypted Morse. The plain text is entered manually via a keyboard and will be sent online encrypted by the modem. This is why these messages are at varying speed. A series of dots indicate a completed message. Normally the stations work Simplex.
This following sample shows how RIW transmits an encrypted Morse message to RDND. Other Z-Codes may be used as well in this procedure, ZGR means "I will start Online Encrypted Morse now", and sometimes ZBD or ZBM indicate technical problems.
|11000||RDND de RIW QRR 3 QDW 10388 k||Go to 10388 for online encrypted Morse tfc.|
|12464||RIW de RDND ok QRR 3 QDW 10388 k||RDND acknowledges.|
|10388||RDND de RIW ZZD 3 ZNÉ tridewätxtri k||I read you with QSA 3. My authentication is tridewätxtri.|
|10388||RIW de RDND ZZD 3 ZSL ZNÉ tridewätxtri ZNÉ odindwaodin k||I read you with QSA 3. Confirm your authentication tridewätxtri. My authentication is odindwaodin.|
|10388||RDND de RIW ZKM? k||Are you ready for Online Encrypted Morse Traffic?|
|10388||RIW de RDND ZKM k||RDND affirmative|
|10388||RDND de RIW ZDS gugch ZZT kkvmlllkvmlllvklklvllvkll uwpliasdzhrttzsg...||Machine setting is gugch (normally used), the decryption key is ....... (made up of 25 characters of l, m, k and v), then message follows.|
Since many years the Warsaw Pact / Russian / CIS Forces transmit xxx Flash Messages on their Morse networks, but voice - and digital mode networks may as well transmit flash messages. They are the counterpart to the EAM voice messages of the USAF on the HF-GCS network.
xxx Flash Messages are rather short and contain the following elements:
- intro: xxx xxx (not always used!!)
- one or several codewords
- identifiers of sender and addressee(s)
- instructions about who is going to act or react.
xxx Messages are initiated by a high ranking station and may be repeated by other stations within 5 to 20 min after the first transmission. Many xxx Messages first are heard on the High Command (VGK) VLF network and then are repeated by the Fleet HQ and even tactical networks. There are, however, Flash Messages being heard first on a Fleet HQ frequency and later on VLF.
What are these Flash Messages for?
Is their a connection between the number of messages and the activity of the Navy? That may be true for Navy exercises, but during multinational drills or political tensions I never saw increased traffic.
The messages are too short for much information, they are only used to put into force a pre-determined scenario, details of which have been agreed upon in advance or on other comms channels. One good example sometimes can be found with luck: Flash Messages do activate sleeping, tactical networks. These become quite busy with traffic shortly upon reception of a xxx Message, even if you didn't hear them before for many hours.
The "k" after Flash Messages indicate, a reaction of the called station is expected, but only with luck, we can hear outstations repeating a Flash Message.
We only look at a few communication channels of the Navy, but there are many others beyond our technical possibilities. Our findings are very limited therefore, and we even may assume, that xxx Messages don't turn the Navy upside down, there are simply so many of them.
Strategic Flash Messages on the Navy's VLF Network seem to be significant, as they are issued by the General Staff/High Command. Read more about these transmissions here: The Navy in the Strategic Nuclear Forces
xxx Messages do come in many flavours:
This was a standard Flash Message from RMP on 6873 kHz:
xxx xxx REO REO 90326 brosanje 8616 7037 (repeated) k
- REO is the addressee, in this case a collective callsign belonging to the Baltic Fleet.
- 90326 probably indicates who should act.
- brosanje is the codeword, always a noun.
- 8616 7037 belong to the codeword and this seems to be sort of an "instruction set"
- k indicates an acknowledgment is expected on some channel.
There are many exceptions:
Virtually any message format is possible, even this one:
xxx xxx IR43 050: P-16606 niöeskaa prowerka atos-838 chawyrin 838 k.
These are operational/service messages.
The codewords podarok and ustrelina are used for a special (yet unknown) purpose:
xxx RDL 52378 podarok 01 1030 175 225 1130 k.
1030 and 1130 suggest time, but that doesn't fit always.
This message was broadcast on 18.1 kHz at 12.04.2006 1319z by the General Staff:
xxx xxx RDL RDL 25001 95801 brennyj 5369 1092 k
4 min later, on 11155 kHz, the Northern Fleet HQ RIT in Severomorsk repeats:
xxx xxx RLO RLO 95801 brennyj 5369 1092 k
The "instruction set" did not change, but the message now goes to the collective callsign RLO, which belongs to the Northern Fleet and therefore the group "25001" is void.
Another message on 18.1 kHz at 01.05.2006 0700z issued by the General Staff:
xxx xxx RKS RKS 27342 paraplica 5202 3615 k
5 min later, on 11155 kHz, Northern Fleet HQ RIT repeats:
xxx xxx RKS RKS 27342 paraplica 5202 3615 k
Unit RMGB, most probably a vessel, didn't get it and asks on 12464 kHz:
RCV de RMGB rpt xxx k
Now we know, the message has been disseminated by the Black Sea Fleet HQ RCV as well and it will now repeat the Flash Message for RMGB on the primary 10201 kHz.
Later on RMGB confirms on 12464 kHz:
RCV de RMGB rpt 27342 paraplica 5202 3615 k
RKS is not repeated, because RMGB is part of RKZ.
Flash Messages may contain several codewords:
xxx xxx RDL RDL 63191 83795 waloprowod 8067 4649 taikarpin 7436 4920 baläbus 7969 5452 k
Up to five "instruction sets" I have heard in the same Flash Message.
Some codewords may be used again after years, some can be translated, giving results like "banquet", "youth" or "thread", others cannot.
Only once I heard a codeword, which (possibly) made sense:
The codeword nitka was used October 27th 2004 by Navy HQ Moscow. One week before, during CIS Navy exercises in the North Atlantic, an emergency was noted onboard the Northern Fleet's Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, when a SU-25 UTG aircraft made a hard landing and damaged the superstructure. There was much critisism about these exercises, because for 7 years the carrier was not on sea with its air wing for practice. 2004 the pilots tried to keep in trim by flying from a simulated takeoff and landing pad on the Crimea peninsula. This facility, built by the former Sovjet Union, is named "Nitka". (Source RIA Novosty)
In fact there are even xxx Messages which can be decoded:
31.12.2008, RIT on 7954 kHz sent this message:
xxx xxx xxx RLO RLO weter 2 po belomu morü k (wind 2 over the White Sea)
If appropiate "xxx" is used even for surface weather data.
|Crimea: Nitka Air Base||Crimea: Nitka Air Base training ramp|
Fleet HQ sometimes broadcast a sort of report/outlook to collective callsigns, but do not use their primary frequencies. These RADIOPROGNOZ messages have been heard on 6456, 5753, 7954, 6948 and 6877 kHz.
I don't think these are weather forecasts, because those use the header prognoz or prognoz pogody, gale warnings are chtormowoe preduprevdenie.
The Sovjet Technical Encyclopedia offers the following translation:
Radio Prognoz = Forecast of the Ionosphere (Propagation Forecast)
And this, most probably, is it.
This is an example:
31.12.2008 1000z 7954 kHz
RLO RLO RLO de RIT RIT QTC 106 40 31 1257 106 = radioprognoz =
31127 63003 42222
00001 01218 30080
00002 01218 30090
00005 01218 60014
00006 01218 50010
00102 01218 40090
00001 01824 30070
00002 01824 30080
00005 01824 60012
00006 01824 40010
00102 01824 30090
00022 01218 50012
00022 01824 40011
The first row may indicate the region of the forecast,
the second row obviously indicates the period of validity (12...18h or 18...24h),
the third row may indicate forecast values.
What worries me is the fact, that I haven't seen yet forecasts for the period of 0000...1200z, that doesn't make my nice interpretation too convincing....
Some ships do report Sea State and Weather conditions to their HQ using WMO Buoy Meteorological Data in FM-13 code. As these messages do include a position report in groups 2 and 3, we may find out the ships name, if we compare her way with external information from shipspotters or the Navy's press office.
A message may start like this
(Station identifiers are suppressed):
28121 99259 70859 46/// .....
28121 28th day of the month, at 12 h UTC
99259 25.9° N latitude
70859 85.9° W longitude at globe quadrant:
10 N latitude, E longitude
30 S latitude, E longitude
50 S latitude, W longitude
70 N latitude, W longitude
following meteorological data.
It seems FM-13 coded messages are sent by ships of the Hydrographic Service of the Russian Federation Navy, as well as by certain auxiliary ships. All messages are addressed to certain callsigns: 3. Special Purpose Callsigns
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These are short messages of 3 to 6 groups with a CIS preamble, most probably used for routine reports. Their structure was revealed by Tom for UDXF more in detail.
... = sml = snaxä iwwrt äoppw = + k will read:
... = sml = snax 182245 19002 = + k
(snax probably adress, 182245 = date/time of report, 19002 = actual time/group count
... = kökyw eäyep weppw = + k will read:
... = köky 231630 23002 = + k
... = sml = 98471 71509 17002 = + k will read:
... = sml = 9847 171509 17002 = + k