Survival Equipment

Brooke Clarke, N6GCE


Warning - There are satellites constantly monitoring 121.5  243.0 and 406 MHz and are designed to pick up the feeble signals from these survival radios.  DO NOT Transmit on these frequencies unless you want to be visited by SAR personnel.

General Information
Survival Kit - separate web page
First Aid Kit Individual - separate web page
ALICE - separate web page
Aircraft
    AN/PRC-90 & AN/PRC-103, AN/PRC-106
    PRC-96 Navy Lifeboat Survival Radio
    PRC-112
    PRC-149
    RT-159A/URC-4
    URC-10
    RT-285 A/URC-11
    URC-4
    URC-14
    URC-64
    URC-68
    URT-33
    ACR/RT-10
Frequency & Function Table
Ship
    Gibson Girl
    Cospas-Sarsat

Distress Marker Lights
    SDU-5/E
    SDU-30
FRS/MS-2000M Distress Marker Strobe Light with built-in IR and Blue filters
IR Signaling Lights
Panel Markers
Test Equipment
    AN/PRM-32 (TS-20)
    TS-23
    TS-24B
    BT-2B Battery Tester
    TS-23 Light Output & Battery Tester

General Information

Radio has been used as a way to call for help for many years.  Although now discontinued 500 kHz was the international distress calling frequency for ships at sea.  In modern times satellites monitor 121.5, 243 and 406 MHz.  The early satellite systems gave a position, but the newer 406 MHz beacons transmit digital data about what kind of ship or plane is in trouble and possibly a GPS based location.

In the case of someone behind or near enemy lines there is a problem with rescue radios that work in the clear.  The enemy may hunt the survivor by direction finding his beacon.  The enemy may capture a beacon transmitter and use it to lure a rescue team into a trap.  In all other cases these problems do not exist.

In some cases, like a pilot ejecting from a jet, you want the emergency beacon to turn on automatically.  In other cases you want the survivor to turn on the beacon when they decide that's the thing to do.

SARSAT

In the beginning they used doppler to locate emergency beacons on 121.5 and 243 MHz.  This service is scheduled to end next year on 1 Feb 2009.  The current service is  based on transmitters operating on 406.025 MHz using digital data including a transmitter serial number.

Will there still be a requirement for mil aircraft to have a "guard channel" at 243 Mhz?  What about civilian aircraft guarding 121.5 MHz?

Argos

Argos is a unique worldwide location and data collection system dedicated to studying and protecting the environment.  It's based on polar orbiting satellites and uses transmitters on 401.650 MHz that send digital data including a transmitter serial number.  Mainly used for animals and environmental data like ocean buoys but also for expeditions and yacht racers.  Based on the French Space Agency CNES.  Animal transmitters are made by Sirtrack and others.

Aircraft

There are a number of ways that an aircraft survival radio might be used. 

AN/PRC-49

AN/PRC-63

This appears to use the same 14.0 Volt Mercury BA-1568/U that is used on the PRC-90.
eBay Photos:  Mike Side, Label & both narrow sides, Antenna & Label close up -

AN/PRC-90 & AN/PRC-103, AN/PRC-106

PRC-90-2 Rescue Radio with 90BAv3 battery
          adapter
PRC-90-2 Rescue Radio with 90BAv3 battery adapter

These radios are part of the bail out kit that aircrew members carry.  It is turned on by the user, not automatically like the URT-33.
The improved PRC-90-2 survival transceiver is  familiar to most military aviators as the rugged,  hand-held survival radio that has saved the lives of  thousands of downed pilots and crew members. It  has voice and beacon capability on the military  distress frequency of 243.0 with voice Tx and Rx only on 282.8  MHz.  282.2 MHz is used by the Civil Air Patrol for ground - air coms with military aircraft during SAR operations.

The PRC-106 is a derivative of the PRC-90-2 and provides both beacon and voice Tx/Rx capability on the civil and military distress frequencies of 121.5 and 243.0 MHz, but does not have the 282.2 MHz channel.
The PRC-103 and PRC-195 are other derivatives of the PRC-90.
The AN/PRC-90 Legacy by Alan D. Tasker, WA1NYR - also has the PRC-106
Military Survival Transceivers -  ACR PRC-90-2 and PRC-106 with table of specifications
PRC-90 Separate Web Page -
PRC-103 eBay photo -

PRC-96 Navy Lifeboat Survival Radio

PRC-112

This unit replaced the PRC-90.  It is a synthized radio that covers 225 to 400 MHz and has a transponder function to help rescuers locate the radio.  My guess is that when the location mode is turned on the radio turns on and off at a rate depending on how far it is from the rescue aircraft giving the aircraft range to radio.  I think this is the radio in the movie "Behind Enemy Lines".

The civilian and military have gone to the 406 MHz digital rescue radios that are supported by the SARSAT system.  
The PRC-112 transmits the digital signal at 406.028 MHz.  (SARSAT Report 708-1)

Major components to the AN/AYD-1 Personnel Locator System (PLS).
The PRC-112 has two fixed channels assigned to 121.5 and 243 MHz that can be used in either beacon mode or AM voice mode.

It too uses a specialized BA-5312/U 3.4 AH battery instead of commonly available batteries, but there is an official battery adapter being developed by the government.

There are a large number of variations on the PRC-112.  The later ones have a built in GPS receiver to allow reporting position.  The design constraints for the PRC-112 are different than for a civilian survival radio in that the PRC-112 probably will be used behind or near enemy lines.

I doubt that the AN/ARS-6(V) can be used with civilian 406 MHz beacons.
If the PRC-112 is sending a SARSAT compliant digirtal message then it can be picked up by an enemy receiver, seems like a problem.

patent 5726663 Survival radio interrogator  March 10, 1998, Motorola, 342/419 ; 342/357.09; 342/386; 701/213 -

Motorola - PRC-112 - was the origional contractor for the PRC-112 and General Dynamics has now taken over production.
General Dynamics Decision Systems - PRC-112B1 -
AN/PRC-112 COTS Battery for Navy Air Crews - after 9/11 the BA-5112/U NSN 6135-01-439-6229 was very hard to get

Survival radio on Space Shuttle - upgraded Motorola PRC-112
FAS - PRC-112 - Hook-112
PS Magazine - 3 item free upgrade -
Operation Allied Force (OAF) deployment order on 17 February 1999 to the completion of OAF in June 1999 - "VMAQ-2 aircrews were not issued the latest survival radios (PRC-112) prior to arriving in theater due to a DOD wide shortage."
Market Survey for the AN/PRC-112 Feb 2002
Ultra Life Batteries -  BA-5312/U - Replaces the BA-5112/U
The CSEL will eventually replace the PRC-90, PRC-112, and the Hook 112 survival radios -- all of which are only capable of transmitting voice and in some cases data line of sight.
IFR Systems - RCTS-003 test set for survival radios
Indicator (Standard Embeddable Module) -  voice crypto for the PRC-112
Cubic Defense Systems - AN/ARS-6(V) Data Summary  - 225 - 300 MHz  both passive homing (RPC-90) and active transponding with PRC-112 for range.
AF - Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL) System - AN/PRQ-7 Hand Held Radio (HHR)
Pilot's widow files suit - not much of a case
Capt. Scott F. O'Grady used PRC-112 (rough plot of movie "Behind Enemy lines)

PRC-149

NSN 5826-01-466-0186
Beacons on 121.5, 243 and 406.025 MHz, voice on 121.5, 243 and 282.8 MHz and has a burilt in GPS position locating capability.
SAR radio for troops not forward deployed and recsue swimmers.
The URT-140 is the ejection seat beacon only version of the PRC-149.
Designed to run from a couple of ordinary "D" cell flashlight batteries or a sleeve holding a couple of "C" cells.  There have been a number of reports about battery venting, sparking, etc. that has resulted in the development of a very special battery just for this radio.   Also there's a problem when the radio is carried loose in a bag where it can get turned on accidently.  A lockout clip has been designed as an add on fix.
SARSAT Report 703-1 shows two Saft "D" cells LSH-20.

RT-159A/URC-4

Works on 121.5 mhz VHF and 243.0 mhz UHF. Uses 1 miniature and 5 sub-miniature tubes. Dual antennas can be used as a   single whip or a double horizontal. eBay Photo -  Manual is TM 11-510 November 1956. Korean conflict
Carried on the Viet Nam  era Patrol Craft Fast (PCF).
Movie credits: Ice Station Zebra, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Bombers B-52Flight from Ashiya, Battle Taxi

URC-10 (see RT-10 below)

eBay Photos - A, B, C, D -
TM 11-5820-640-15.pdf

RT-285 A/URC-11

Radio R/T RT-285 A/URC-11 Survival Radio, Cont. No. AF33 (604) 26183 Philharmonic Radio & Tel. Corp. Tuned to 243 MC. Has 4 Raytheon sub miniature tubes some are JRP 6397's and CK 6526's.+ Raytheon (2), 2N467 transistors. Battery is external via connector wire. Approx. 20" telescoping ant. eBay Photo -

URC-14

Description said tubes and 121.5 MHz. eBay photo

URC-64

U.S. Military Portable Radios  by Alan D. Tasker, WA1NYR - has URC-64 information

This radio is part of the bail out kit that aircrew members carry.  It is turned on by the user, not automatically like the URT-33.
Programmable in the 225 to 285 MHz range.

"The Air Force developed the URC-64 four channel device. The Army opted instead for the URC-68, a four channel two band (VHF/UHF) radio for helicopters that allowed downed airmen to communicate directly with ground troops as well as aircraft. Both of these were ultimately replaced by the Navy developed and improved PRC-90-1 and then -2 two channel unit (243 and 282.8 MHz), the first tri-service SAR radio." eBay Photo -
BAT-21 - "The URC-64 survival radio was his most important survival item."

URC-68

Radio Set, Rescue, Army, 38-42 and 230-250MHz, 4 chan, xtal control
Normally turned on by the survivor, but optional kit to allows automatic operation when a lanyard is pulled, like in an ejection seat.

URT-33D/M Beacon Radio set (Ejection Seat)

This is a Vietnam era survival beacon transmitter (it has no receive capability).  Commonly used in conjuction with the SDU-5/E Strobe light. 
Maybe featured in the movie "Behind Enemy Lines"?
Featured in the book "The Rescue of Alpha Foxtrot 586" by Andrew C.A. Jampoler (Navy Institute Press).
MIL-B-38401A  16 Feb 1965 discontinued 7 July 1992
For use with AN/ARA-50 or AN/ARC-34 aircraft receivers.

Antenna

There are two possible antennas.  The built-in telescoping antenna or the external flexable antenna.  Only one antenna can be used at a time.
The flexable antenna is deployed in ejection seats along with a lanyard that turns on the radio when the seat ejects.

Versions

URT-33
URT-33A
URT-33B-1
AN/URT-33C - w/o magents.

AN/URT-33C/M, 5826-01-099-6404 - A Magnet p/n A1-17-0672 added to actuation plug p/n A1-18-0921 forming automatic activation plug assembly p/n A3-06-0802 and a magnet p/n A1-17-0670 added to manual switch button p/n A1-18-0920 forming switch and magnet assembly p/n A3-06-0785.

Battery

BA-1516/U Mercury.
NSN: 6135-01-50-3193LS   Mercury for URT-33A
NSN: 6135-01-009-9135LS Mercury for URT-33A
NSN: 6135-01-478-3935
BT-70129 AnMn (Alkaline)
BT-70529 LiMnO2
NSN: 6135-01-050-3193 Alkaline, Eveready

Test Set

URM-95

URT-33 Beacon
                    Radio set (Ejection Seat)
URT-33 Beacon
                      Radio set (Ejection Seat)
URT-33 Beacon
                    Radio set (Ejection Seat) URT-33 Beacon
                    Radio set (Ejection Seat)

These radios are built into the ejection seat survival pack.  They automatically are activated when the seat ejects.
LCDR Castle Rescue in Laos by Nail, Sandy & Pedro 28 Dec., 1970- "The URT-33 is presently not connected to the aircraft because the kits required for the installation are not available, but VA-L5 will not connect them up automatically anymore. Since we feel that the VC have a sufficient number of radios that they can use to home on the beacon. Additionally the beacon virtually eliminates use of 243.0 until it is shut off, and if evasion is immediate the URT-33 might not be deactivated, and this could easily reduce or eliminate the possibility of radio contact." eBay Photo - URT-33B eBay Photo -

Ejection Seats - PRC-90-2 & URT-33 -
CBD ad - The beacon is a first alert device that activates upon separation from a disabled aircraft, and transmits a swept tone signal at 243 MHz. Approximate dimensions are 4.8 X 2.5 X 1.2 inches. Opportunities for improved performance include: ability to transmit on 121.5 MHz (civil emergency), 243 MHz (military emergency), 245 MHz (training), and 406.025 MHz (COMPAS/SARSAT); ability to operate normally and unassisted during parachute descent and after touching down on land or water; features to impair an adversary's ability mimic its signal. Beacons should be reparable by a commercial source, compatible with existing means of activation (magnetic plug assembly or remote cable and switch assembly), and interface with existing parachute harnesses, survival vests, and survival kits

ACR/RT-10 URC-10

243 MHz with a battery that has a flange and slides into a slot.
eBay photo Front, Back -

Frequency & Function Table

 
Radio
40.5
121.5
Civil
243.0
Mil
247.3
248.2
282.8
406.025
Satellite
PRC-17,A
-
am mcw
am mcw
-
-
-
-
PRC-32
-
-
am mcw
-
-
-
-
PRC-63
-
-
am mcw
-
-
-
-
PRC-90,-1,-2
-
am
am bcn mcw
-
Y
-
-
PRC-96
-
am
am
-
-
-
-
PRC-103
-
           
PRC-106
-
am bcn
am bcn
-
-
-
-
PRC-112,A
-
           
PRC-195
-
           
URC-4
-
am mcw
am mcw
-
-
-
-
URC-10
-
-
am mcw
-
-
-
-
URC-11
-
-
am mcw
-
-
-
-
URC-64
-
am mcw
am mcw
am mcw
am mcw
am mcw
-
URC-68
am mcw
-
am mcw
-
-
-
-
URT-33
-
-
bcn
-
-
-
-

Ship

Gibson Girl CRT3

This is a famous life boat rescue radio.  Tx on 500khz and 8364 khz.
eBay photo - came with a box kite

Cospas-Sarsat

"Cospas-Sarsat is a satellite system designed to provide distress alert and location data to assist search and rescue (SAR) operations, using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of distress beacons operating on 406 Megahertz (MHz) or 121.5 MHz. The position of the distress and other related information is forwarded by the responsible Cospas-Sarsat Mission Control Center (MCC) to the appropriate SAR authorities. Its objective is to support all organizations in the world with responsibility for SAR operations, whether at sea, in the air or on land."

Users of the 121.5/243 MHz beacons will have until 2009 to complete the switch over to 406 MHz beacons.

Since 1982, more than 11,000 people have been rescued world wide with the assistance of the Cospas-Sarsat System.

Digital data beacon used in the CONUS -

ACR TerraFix 406 Beacon has 2 models one with and one without builtin GPS.

Test Equipment

AN/PRM-32 (TS-20)

Uses two like kind PRC-90, -103, -106 radios with their antennas replaced with connectors on the test set.

TS-23

Tests the SDU-5/E flash rate and the BA-1574/U Mercury battery used in the SDU-5/E

TS-24B

This is a patented by ACR set that places the antenna in an RFI tight box and the antenna thinks it's talking to/from free space, but no signal is transmitted, thus not setting off a false alarm.

BT-2B Battery Tester

For testing survival radio batteries and also the survival strobe light SDU-5/E battery.
TS-884/PRM-30 used with the RT-159/URC-4. Has cable to connect to the battery and a smiliar cable to connect to the radio, plus a coax probe.

TS-3527/PRC-96

 

Distress Marker Lights

SDU-5/E

This is a personal strobe light typically carried by each aircrew member.
Can use my battery adapter instead of the BA-1574/U Mercury battery.

SDU-30

This is a aircrewman distress marker light that uses a 3 Volt flashlight bulb and a special lens
Uses two each BA-1328/U batteries, can substuite two AA cells that have a modification.

IR Signaling Lights

For marking position or fratricide prevention
Note an IR light stick can be attached to a short parachute cord and spun overhead making a "buzz saw" that's very visible to searching aircraft.

Panel Markers

There are a number of standard panel markers.  But as far as I can tell the meaning is not standardized, but rather is by agreement between the ground and aircraft users.
There may be some standardized meanings and if you know of them please let me know.

Signal Panel Marker

NSN:8345-00-140-4232
This is a single piece of cloth with edges that have no seam.  1.7 ounces and about 40" x 40".
Probably based on the idea of MIL-P-43743, but should have a label and the cut ends should be fused, so this may be a modern unoffficial copy.
Signal Panel
        Marker NSN:8345-00-140-4232

Panel Marker: Aerial Liaison Fluorescent

This may be an early version of the VS-17?
MIL-P-22655

Panel Marker, Aerial Liaison, VS-17/GVX


VS-17/GVX
                  Signal Panel NSN: 8345 00 174 6865



NSN: 8345 00 174 6865
MIL-P-40061B
2' x 6' .  One side is fluorescent orange, sometimes referred to as international orange, and the other side is cerise, commonly referred to as red. It has six tie-down points used to attach the panel to stakes. It also has three snap fasteners on the short ends in the stow pocket. It should be folded up so that the olive drab green is showing. The color of the panel used should be the one that best contrasts with the surrounding area.
Note there is a "civilian" VS-17 but it does not have any eyelets.


Test Equipment

AN/PRM-32A (TS-20)

Uses two like kind PRC-90, -103, -106 radios with their antennas replaced with connectors on the test set.

TS-24B

This is a patented by ACR set that places the antenna in an RFI tight box and the antenna thinks it's talking to/from free space, but no signal is transmitted, thus not setting off a false alarm.

BT-2B Battery Tester

For testing survival radio batteries and also the survival strobe light SDU-5/E battery.
TS-23 Light Output & Battery Tester

Links

ACR Electronics - radios & lights & test equipment
Navy Advancement - Aircrew Survival Equipmentmen 1 & C, Aircrew Survival Equipmentmen 2, docs on line
Night Vision Systems - IR beacons
Prosar Technologies - lights & radios & test equipment - eBay intermercllc -
Equipped to Survive - SAR The Americas Conference Reports: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Back to Brooke's PRC68, Products for Sale, Military Information, Electronics, Personal Home page

[an error occurred while processing this directive] page created 11 June 2001.