Numbers & oddities: Column 3

editor: Ary Boender

[Back to list]

Hello everyone ! In this edition of N&O we have the first update to the 'Brotherhood' edition of the Newsletter and further an interesting story about the 'Russian Man' numbers stations that I mentioned in WUN #2. The manuscript was written by Mike Chace and it looks great. Thanks Mike !

The 'Brotherhood'

Thanks for the many compliments that you sent me for the Brotherhood special. I hope that the story made you tune in to these stations. I wonder if the Brotherhood also has a network in Australia. Has anyone in this part of the world heard stations like this ? Does anyone know where the stations in Europe and America's are located ? Please, tune in as often as you can and let me know the results. It would be nice if we could unwrap this mystery. As promised there will be updates to this article in my columns. Here is the first update to the European frequency list: Callsign NQX must be NXQ.

Frequency UTC Link Mode / remarks
16008 kHz 9.17 10163 F1B-75
12136 kHz 15:32 00149 F1B-100 'DZR' to "Master" backup channel
11460 kHz 15:32 00149 F1B-200 !! "Master" to 'DZR' (sked 15.30)
12174 kHz 08.00 00052 F1B-75 to NXQ

The 'pip'

The mystery pip on 3754.7 kHz appears to be a time signal station in Krashnodar.

Jean Michel Jarre

The music that is used by the 'Jarre' numbers station that I mentioned in WUN #2 is 'Magnetic Fields'. The station is still there on 6645 kHz and can be heard on Monday night at 19.00 UTC.

The Russian Man and English Man Numbers Stations

Mike Chace, Bath, UK


Often heard, seldom mentioned is probably the maxim for this station. This may have something to do with the fact that the station seems to have no discernible schedule. If you want to hear it, you will need some patience (and a bit of the usual luck) but I can be pretty confident in saying that you'll find either (or both) on the air at any time and on any day. Both stations are believed to be part of the same general operation from within the CIS, sending to agents of the KGB and GRU (Naval Intelligence). I should also add that there are a number of CW stations and the so-called German Lady that carry the same message formats and one can only assume that these are part of the same operation as none of the agent numbers appear to overlap. There is also a "German Man" but I have only heard this once -- I would welcome any further reports of this variant in case my ears deceived me !


Message Formats

Both stations are unmistakable when you hear them. Broadcast quality AM transmitters appear to be used. In general, the signal strengths received are quite phenomenal at whatever frequency. Indeed, some of the signal strengths are so high that it has been possible on many occasions to unplug the antenna from the receiver and still hear the station with a massive signal ! Transmitters are usually switched on five to ten minutes before a transmission. If you hear a strong AM carrier that you haven't noticed before, stay on the frequency. The station often "tunes up" 5 to 10 minutes before transmission with a steady 1kHz tone for about 30 seconds and you'll often hear some short snatches of the voice calling the agent once or twice. The frequencies used are always exactly on a kilohertz point. In other words, if you hear a strong carrier on 13445.5kHz, it's almost certainly not a Russian or English Man -- they would be on 13445 or 13446kHz exactly.


The stations use the same two types of synthesized voice for each language. I call them the "thin" and the "thick" voice. The thick voice is lower in pitch, slower in delivery and generally sounds very labored. In contrast, the thin voice has a higher pitch, slightly faster delivery and sounds quite feeble. Both voices speak the same digits but, as we shall see later, are always associated with particular formats of message.


The numbers spoken by the English Man are unique and you'll know when you've found it -- three is spoken as "thlee" and eight as "ate" (as in the past tense). It's quite unmistakable. Both English and Russian machines also have the same characteristic delay after any zero (or "noll") that is spoken. Here are the numbers as they are heard phonetically:

No. Russian English
1 Adim Won
2 Dva Too
3 Tri Thlee
4 Chedearia Fore
5 Byad Fife
6 Shin Six
7 Shesht Seven
8 Vojim Ate
9 Devierd Nine
0 Noll Zero

Message Formats

There are a number of message formats that I have come across. Each is detailed below.

Format 1

This is always spoken by the thick voice whether in English or Russian.
123, 123, 123 -- for 5 minutes
Key, Key
Group count, Group count

5F groups, each repeated
Key, Key
Group count, Group count


Null Messages (No traffic) is given as:
123, 123, 123, 00000 -- for 5 minutes

Format 2

This is always spoken by the thin voice whether in English or Russian.
123, 123, 123 (pause) 1 -- for 5 minutes
Key and Group count
Key and Group count

5F groups, no repeat

Null Messages (No traffic) is given as:
123, 123, 123, 000 -- for 5 minutes

Format 3

This message format is sent if there are two messages for the agent to be sent in the same transmission (rare). It is basically the same as format 2 and is again only spoken by the thin voice.
123, 123, 123 (pause) 2 -- for 5 minutes
Key and Group count (Message 1)
Key and Group count (Message 1)
5F groups, no repeat (Message 1)
123, 123, 123 (pause) 2 -- for 1 minute
Key and Group count (Message 2)
Key and Group count (Message 2)
5F groups, no repeat (Message 2)

Format 4

The Russian version of the station sends a format 2 (or 3) message where 6 ("shest") and 0 ("noll") both result in a slight delay before sending the next digit and there is a marked pause after each ten 5F groups have been sent. This variant appears to be associated with long messages.

Format 5 (Control Transmission)

There also appears to be a short message format, directed at agent 615 (or rarely, agent 455). In this format, there is only one 5F group sent to the agent at a time. I have only heard the Russian Man send this format. Because of the similarity with the Counting Stations "Control Transmissions" I also name this short message format in the same way. It's format is as follows:
615, 615, 615, 1st 5F Group, repeated (for 10 minutes)
615, 615, 615, 2nd 5F Group, repeated (for another 10 minutes)

The two groups sent are rather curious. They are both different each day, do not appear to be used for more than a day and they both start and end with the same digit. Here are some recent examples:

Date (1994) Group 1 Group 2
15th July 89903 81783
16th July 71784 73804
18th July 63026 65506
19th July 80740 82140
20th July 60191 62021
21st July 99905 91355
22nd July 88873 80193
23rd July 48907 40577

My theory is that these groups are a code to the frequencies to be used during each day. I've attempted to find the key many times but have yet to succeed ! At the time of writing, this transmission can be heard daily at 08.00 UTC on 14890 kHz and on 11270 kHz at 08.20 UTC. The most bizarre example of this control transmission was heard on Sunday, 24th July 1994. Lasting nearly four hours in total, the Russian Man sent 615 three times, followed 22222 or 11111 once and then a 5F group. There then followed a 10-15 minute break before a new set of groups was sent repeatedly for 10 minutes. The message on that day was as follows:

Group 1 Group 2
72144 none
22222 71154
11111 72864
11111 73464
22222 74964
22222 72094
11111 72464
22222 72764
22222 72954
22222 71944
22222 72184
11111 72604
22222 72544
11111 00000

Message Content

Messages appear to contain random 5 figure groups although there are frequent occurrences of messages which possess many double digit groups eg 10233, 43305, 44553 and even more strangely, never have certain digits at all! As an example, the Russian Man sent an 81 group message to agent 258 on the 25th of June 1994. Not one single 5 figure group contained either an 8 or a 9. This is very odd and certainly indicates some non-random behaviour (anyone with any clues please let us know).


The list of agents heard so far is extensive and indicates a wide-scale operation -- (5 Zeroes or 6 Zeroes indicates whether the agent receives Format 1 or Format 2/3 messages):

Russian English
Agent Zeroes Agent Zeros
021 ? 139 6
031 ? 182-1 ?
087-1 6 192 ?
102 ? 235 5
127 5 261 5
139 5 309 ?
147 6 342-1 6
176 5 395 5
191-1 6 475 ?
236 5 501 5
258 5 & 6 541 ?
275 5 & 6 562 5
423 6 572 5
452 5 597 5
455 ? 729 5 & 6
456 6 746 6
467 5 & 6 785-1 ?
519 6 821 5
571 6 838 5
573 5 854 ?
583 5 897 ?
585-1 6 921 6
615 Control 934 ?
684 ? 947 5
697 5 982 5
724 5 & 6
738 5
748-1 6
758 5
798-1 ?
824-1 ?
828-1 6
841-1 6
846 5
891-1 ?
991-1 ?

The Transmission Schedule

I have to admit that after over two years of intensive monitoring of the stations, I have yet to discern a schedule for either. Transmissions can begin at any five minute interval but most tend to start on the hour with a fair percentage of the rest starting at ten, twenty, forty, or fifty minutes past the hour.

There also seems no pattern to the frequencies used. I have found the station as low as 4400kHz and as high as 16300kHz. One particularly fruitful area however is the range 12100kHz to 12250kHz. About 10% of transmissions seem to occur in this portion of the spectrum but I don't know why! Perhaps it's just a place where propagation tends to be optimum for the distances required.

To find the Russian or English Man, I have a set of frequencies that I sweep through every hour, on the hour, when I'm listening. With practice, you will find that such a sweep can be done within the 5 minutes taken by the station to send its preamble. I also find it useful to search these frequencies at a more leisurely pace ten to fifteen minutes before the hour, listening for the tell tale strong, wide AM carrier signal.

During Winter evenings (1700-0000UTC) or early mornings, Summer or Winter (0000-0800UTC), I search:
4400-4750, 5000-5850, 6500-7000, 7500-8200, 9000-9350, 10100-11300kHz, 12100-12250kHz.

During Summer evenings (to 2200UTC) or daytime, Winter or Summer, I search:
7500-8200, 9000-9350, 10100-11300, 12100-12250kHz, 13300-13600, 14350-15000, 15800-16300kHz.

The station follows the usual practice of following the daily and annual variations in propagation. This means that frequencies in the daytime are higher than those in the evening and Summer frequencies are generally higher than those in the Winter.

Repeat Transmissions

Repeats of messages (same time, same frequency) can often, but not always, be found at weekly or daily intervals. Hourly or twenty minute interval repeats are nearly always on a different frequency. A message is generally repeated on a lower frequency. I have heard messages repeated up to five times over a two day period.

Concurrent Operation

The station has at least three transmitters. Also, at any one time one, two or three can be in operation in any combination of languages. For example, the English (4474kHz) and Russian (5105kHz) stations were active on the 23rd Dec at 2200hrs.

Regular Transmissions

Despite the lack of any general schedule, each station has at least one regular, weekly transmission. The messages (most often null) are always directed to the same agent. At the time of writing these are:

English Man
Freq. (kHz) Day Time (UTC) Agent Season
8074 Monday 2010 947 Summer/Winter
10162 Wednesday 1910 947 Summer/Winter
8074 Wednesday 2010 947 Summer/Winter
6925 Friday 2200 572 Summer
5875 Friday 2300 572 Winter
14620 Sunday 1900 729 Summer
13572 Sunday 1900 729 Winter
13423 Sunday 1600 597 Summer
Russian Man
10882 Friday 2000 758 Summer
14890 Daily 0800 615 Control
13420 Saturday 1700 258 Summer

The frequencies of these regular transmissions often vary by up to +/- 15kHz according to interference.

The stations appear to keep UTC time i.e. when the UK moves to Daylight Saving Time (British Summertime) the schedule remains the same. The first of the English Man's regular transmissions has been the source of some interesting monitoring. Agent 947 receives very little traffic - practically all messages are null (947, 947, 947, 00000). In the past year there have been just two messages for poor old 947. The first occurred on Monday the 21st March 1994 when the message sent on this day consisted of 401 (yes! 401) 5 figure groups. The transmission lasted for nearly two hours. The most recent message occurred on the 27th of June 1994 when 251 groups were sent -- a transmission of nearly an hour's duration.

Any information about this station is welcome. You may address it directly to Mike or you may send it to me.

'till next month, Ary