Numbers stations radios

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Premium Subscriber
Jun 18, 2010
Mojave Desert, California, USA
Not sure why you apparently took my post to be antagonistic. For the most part I was adding to what you said, clarifying a few points that were vague, and correcting one or two things that could be taken incorrectly.

Some numbers stations never send a “null” message. This means you can not know which transmissions contain good data and which are “padding” just sent so that operational tempo can not be derived from message traffic. Other stations send regular and clearly defined “null” messages when they have no traffic for their specific assets.

Yes.."Some" numbers stations
Not sure what you mean by that, I assume you are agreeing with what I said.

AM is a modulation technique, not specifically a band. In the US we have what is called the “AM broadcast band”, but this frequency range is seldom used by numbers stations.
Yes. AM an FM is specific modulations, I agree. Not going to get in a long drawn out argument, but frequencys...such as Citizens band ( 27 Mhz ), Uses AM..Or as I and others descibe.."The AM band"
CB uses AM, but it also uses Sideband, both USB and LSB. CB is in the High Frequency (HF) band. To describe CB as in the “AM Band” is incorrect and not in common or widely accepted usage.

Most numbers stations are found in the HF Band, and in many modes.

The use of the term “AM Band” in the United States most often refers to the Medium Wave (MW) Broadcast Band from 520 to 1710 kHz. I have never heard a numbers station in that band in the US, although I have heard them there in Europe and Asia.

Possibly, this is a question, not an accusation, your use of the term “AM Band” comes from a scanner background? On the assumption that below scanner freqs (most of them being FM) AM is used most of all?

The use of AM (DSB with full carrier) by numbers stations is older information. Today many, maybe even most, numbers stations do not use AM modulation. Many of the old school established numbers stations still use AM, but most “new” numbers stations use SSB, with USB being the most popular. The use of USB with carrier is also seen, and could be called an AM mode, and has replaced full AM in some older stations.

I was replying to the question of what is a numbers station. I did not want to get all "Technical" with jargon, various bands and modes.
Wanting to get technical or not, you said most of the numbers transmissions are in the “AM band”, I wanted to point out to readers who might be gathering information that this is not correct to avoid confusion. And to also let the potential new reader know that numbers stations use multiple modes of transmission.

Some numbers stations are known to have converted or started to use to digital modes, others are suspected of having done so. Example, Cuban V02/M08 is associated with digital mode SK01. And the Chinese language numbers station V26, and its CW sister station M97, are often seen following a digital mode referred to as the “Chinese 4+4 modem”. XPA and XPA2 are assumed to be digital modes for Russian intel, and are sometimes seen on frequencies known to be used by Russian based numbers stations.

That is news to me. Why "digital mode" is beyond me. I always new of highpowered "AM" broadcast, but nothing more than that. Seems to me digital comms would be making it more complicated. A simple AM receiver and code pad seems sufficient to me.
Except that as I said above, a simple AM receiver will not receive most numbers station. While the distribution of AM vs SSB voice numbers stations is probably close to 50/50, if you add up all of the numbers stations, voice, CW, and digital, you will find that a SSB capable receiver is needed to receive most of them.

Why digital? Why not (other than it does not have the listening mystique of a voice numbers station), depending on where the receiving asset is located and depending on what safeguards you can put in place to transfer the keys. In someplace like the US where it is not unusual for a person to have a smart phone, a tablet, or a laptop with them it makes sense. For an asset working in an area like North Korea or some 3rd World country that hardware would draw attention.

Numbers station schedules, the frequencies and times they use, change often. If you do find information on the net look at the age of the information. The older it is the less likely it is to still be usable.
I disagree. "Some" numbers stations use the same frequency, or same set of frequencys
If you disagree with my statement you are incorrect. Everything I said in that paragraph is 100% correct. You said you could find numbers stations frequencies and times with a web search, I agreed but warned the reader that the older the data is the less likely it is to still be usable.

While a VERY few numbers stations are still using the same frequencies and schedules they have been using for many years (example V02a has been using 5883 kHz at 0700 UTC on specific days of the week since about 2007 and 5898 kHz at 0800 UTC on certain days since 2008), but that is an exception. A slightly larger set is still using some combination, maybe the same frequencies but new times, or the same times and new frequencies (this last is most frequent).

But most, a big most, do not use the same schedules today that they did, say, 4 years ago. And much information to be found on the web is older than that.

For example, in February of this year South Korean numbers station V24 had a major change and stopped using several frequencies. They did not add new frequencies but rather condense their operations form 8 to 4 frequencies. This means the schedule on the remaining 4 frequencies changed. At the same time they also changed the voice used in their numbers.

South Korea had a change. Not to many do this. Annnnd, what does changing the voice in the numbers have to do with anything? They are still transmitting the information.
I added the bit about the voice change as a side point, so that the new numbers station listener would understand that sometimes stations sound different than their audio examples on the web. My main point in that paragraph was that stations change schedules.

Your comment that South Korea changed but not many do is incorrect. Most numbers stations that have been around for any length of time have gone through changes of habits, techniques, and voices. They ALL have gone through changes of time and or frequency over the years, I cannot think of one numbers station today that is using the same frequency and schedule that it was 30 years ago….assuming it was around then.

I generate several of the schedules for numbers station frequency and times to be found on the web. I think I understand this pretty well.

Another example, Chinese numbers station V16 recently appears to have been re-activated, it had not been reported since before 2000. So any past schedules you find for it, pre-2000, would not apply.

Stations deactivate and activate all the time. No big deal.
My point, and what I said, used the example that any schedule you find online for V-16, except for the one I published last week, will NOT be correct for this station, since they are all pre-2000.

However, in the world of numbers stations, a station re-activating after an absence of 12+ years has never happened before that I am aware of. As a general statement once a numbers station has not been active for 5 or 6 years it is never seen again. Numbers stations most certainly come and go, but generally once they go for any real length of time they stay gone.

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