The History of Military Communication

The room display includes two parts. The first section is dedicated to a short history of the signal corps from their origin until World War II, and the second one concerns their development after 1945.

General view of the room

The extension of economical relations inside Russia and with other states in the first half of the 19th century led to the necessity of creating newer, more effective means of communication. The electric telegraph was one of them. First, attempts were made to design telegraph lines of the electrostatic type. However, because of the complexity and insecurity of their design they were not put into practice. The problem was solved with the discovery of the magnetic effect of electric current. In 1832, Russian scientist and diplomat P. Schilling invented the first electromagnetic telegraph in the world, which was good in practice. He also offered an idea of how to construct telegraph lines above ground. An exact copy of Schilling’s telegraph as well as a number of photos elucidating the scientist’s activities are on display.

Russian scientist and academician of the St. Petersburg Science Academy B. Jacobi became an adequate successor to P. Schilling. The first synchronous-­synphase type-­printing telegraph in the world invented in 1850 became the crown of his activities. B. Jacobi also did much for designing and working out the technology of underground and submarine cable production. A reproduction of the scientist’s portrait and photos of his type­-printing telegraphs are displayed on the stand.

Many other inventors were engaged in working out telegraphs. Visitors may see a code patented by American S. Morse in 1837 and up to a dozen different types of telegraphs using the Morse code produced by different companies at different times. Russian inventors also made a significant contribution to the improvement of telegraphs. The portable field telegraph designed by I. Dereviankin, chief mechanical engineer in the St. Petersburg telegraph district in 1879 is of particular interest.

The construction of rail roads required arranging good communication for their successful exploitation. This caused the rapid development of the state telegraph. The length of telegraph lines in Russia grew to 5,000 km by late 1855.

An attempt was made during the Crimean war of 1853–1856 to use the electric telegraph in the army; for commanding the army on the battle field. The field telegraph made just for this purpose in 1854 consisted of two apparatuses placed in special carriages with 17.6 km of copper wire. This equipment was brought to Crimea by the end of the war, but was not used in combat conditions.

Since the early 1860’s, reform of the Russian army was undertaken by the initiative of Minister of War D. Miliutin. In the course of the reform the War Ministry issued Order #292 dated September 29, 1870, according to which six field telegraph stocks were formed. They were intended for providing communication between staffs in significant formations of the Army in the Field and state telegraph stations. The staff and inventory for the field telegraph stock, along with samples of apparatuses added to the Russian armory are on display.

In 1876, field telegraph stocks were reorganized. Their battle equipment was increased and they were called military­-telegraph stocks.

5 military­-telegraph stocks were used in military operations during the Russian-­Turkish War of 1877–1878. Visitors may see a scheme organizing the connection in the Avlijar-­Aladzhin battle of September 1877. Also exhibited are awards of signalers which were conferred for their courage, bravery and resourcefulness.

The telegraph led to considerable improvements in the commanding of troops. However, it required a great number of qualified specialists. In 1876, American A. Bell patented the telephone which opened new possibilities in the sphere of telecommunications. One of the stands in the room displays photos of the inventor and his telephone. Telephone sets appeared in Russia in late 1877, and were immediately widely used, including in the army. They made a revolution in the combat use of artillery, since they allowed fire from defilade with aiming adjustments. At the same time, the introduction of telephones required a significant expenditure of cable, power and time for its laying, since one and the same wire could not be used both for telephone sets and the telegraph. In 1880, Russian officer G. Ignatiev worked out a scheme for simultaneous telephoning and telegraphing which is displayed in the room.

Lieutenant­-Colonel V. Jacobi was appointed for testing telephone sets in the army. The first field telephone sets were bulky and weighed about 22 kg. He created a portable set called Telekal which was the first sample of a Russian field telephone set. A photo of the set is displayed on the stand.

The signal units were reorganized in 1894. Military­-telegraph depots as independent units were disbanded and telegraph companies became a part of sapper battalions. Such a structure existed until the end of World War I.

The invention of the radio became one of the greatest achievements in the late 19th century. On May 7, 1895, A. S. Popov, professor at the mine officers’ class, made a report about his invention of a system of wireless connection and showed the radio set in action at a meeting of the Russian Physical­-Chemical Association. This day is celebrated as the birthday of the radio.

The display includes exhibits telling about A. S. Popov and his scientific activities. Among them is the scientist’s first original radio set, as well as a model intended as a gift to India’s Minister of War in 1955, along with Popov-­Dukrete radio sets, physical instruments, and documents showing the priorities of the Russian scientist in inventing radio communication. On March 24, 1896, A. S. Popov together with his close assistant P. Rybkin showed the transmission and reception of a radiogram from a distance of 250 m. A. Shimko’s painting pictures the moment of receiving the radiogram.

The number of signal units increased significantly during World War I and they were supplied with various equipment that is displayed in the room.

After World War II new kinds and branches of communications which had never been before appeared, and traditional kinds of communication were developed even further. It is reflected in the structure of the display.

Two notions: a kind and a branch of communication are used in the military communication. A medium and a mode of electromagnetic wave propagation are meant under the kind of communication. Radio communication, radio-­relay and troposphere communication, satellite and space communication, wire communication are different kinds of communication. In addition, there is signal communication and courier-­mail communication.

The branch of communication characterizes the form of presenting the information transmitting in the system of communication and providing to officials. The following branches of communication are used in the armed forces: telephone communication, telegraph communication, facsimile telegraph and data transmission.

The post­-war period is characterized by a significant development of radio-­relay communication. The first radio-­relay stations were added to the German army during World War II. In 1942–1943, attempts were made in the Red Army to use trophy German radio-­relay stations of the Michael type, as well as similar Soviet elaborations. Since the early 1950’s, several generations of light radio­-relay stations with two to four telephone and telegraph channels were added to the signal corps equipment. These are the R­401 and the R­403, working in a very high-frequency band, and the R­405, working in a very high­-frequency and ultra high­-frequency bands. The modern state of development of this equipment is associated with the radio­-relay station R­415.

All aforementioned stations are on the display dedicated to the post-­war period. Among the exhibits in the room is the radio­-relay station for military purposes that has the fewest number of channels in the world. This is the portable R­407, which provided the formation of only one channel of high quality.

The experience of radio­-relay stations proved their efficiency, but revealed an inadequate channel capacity for high levels of commanding.

R-118A radio station. 1950

communication equipment of medium capacity is represented by the R­409 station which enables them to have from 6 to 12 channels.

Elaboration of heavy or multi-­channel radio­-relay stations started in the late 1950’s. They were divided into two types of stations depending on their capability to provide many channels. One of them is the R­406, a station with frequency separation of channels. It enables 60 radio channels or displays one television channel instead. The display includes the station that provided communication with the space­-vehicle launching site Baykonur during the flight of the first astronaut Yurii Gagarin. It was the channel of this station that was used for transmitting his image from orbit.

The generation of stations with time separation of channels is represented by the R­400 station, one of the first stations in the world with impulse­-code modulation and 6‑channel capacity (its development started at the close of World War II). Its modification in the 1960’s, the R­404, has 24 channels and is adopted in the Russian army until the present time.

In the early 1950’s, study of the problems of radio-­relay communication revealed the effect of electro­magnetic wave dispersion on heterogeneities in the troposphere, the ionized atmosphere layer at a height of 8–14 km from the Earth’s surface. Making use of this phenomena led to the creation of stations for troposphere communication, much analogous to radio-­relay ones, but which did not require direct visibility between the aerials of correspondents. It allowed placement of stations at a distance of up to 150 km from each other (and not 20–40 km as in radio­-relay communication).

Visitors can see the R­122 station, the first troposphere station made in the USSR. It was added to the armory in the early 1960’s. However, its exploitation revealed a number of significant shortcomings, which were connected with the fact that the station worked in a low­-frequency section of the USW band, where troposphere dispersion is rather small.

The R­133 and R­408 were the next generation of radio­-relay stations. The latter was intended for providing communication at high levels of command. Troposphere stations require a very narrow diagram of directed aerials. At the same time the aerial’s size must be several times as long as the length of the working wave. The diameter of the aerial’s mirror for the R­408 working in the 480–600 MHz band was about 10 m. It made the station difficult to mask and required much time for it’s unfolding. So troposphere stations started to work in the GHz band in the early 1970’s, and the R­408 was removed from the armory. One of the first samples of this station is on display, and an unfolded aerial is exhibited at the esplanade.

Another kind of communication, which was mastered in the post-­war period and literally changed the world, was space communication and its variations; satellite communication, i. e. communication between surface objects was achieved through the orbital satellite. A model of the first Soviet communication satellite of the Molnia [Lightning] series is on display.

As stated above, the development of traditional arms of the service took place along with mastering new ones. First of all, this concerned military systems of wired electro-communication. Several generations of this equipment, with the number of channels in one cable ranging from one to twelve as well as fragments of communication cables for different purposes used in field and stationary systems of military communication are on display.

Radio communication, the most mobile arm of the service, was developed even further. The display includes general types of radio sets starting from the company up to strategic links of the command. These were adopted in the army in 1946 and are still in use today. The first radio set of mobile communication in the world, the R­132 is the most interesting among them. It was used in the Soviet Union’s armed forces in the early 1960’s, i. e. several years earlier than the famous French system of mobile communication Rita. The R­132 set was placed in command­-staff vehicles (it was of a large size). Its significant shortcoming was the fact that conversations made while using it could be easily taped through the wire by an enemy at a considerable distance. So it was taken from the armory when more up-­to-­date modifications appeared in the early 1970’s.

Visitors can also see radios and telephone sets produced in countries of the Warsaw agreement and adopted in their armies. There are rather complete collections of radio receivers and telegraph sets used in the Soviet and Russian armies for about 70 years.

Systems of automatic security classification for communication were rapidly developed at the end of World War II. One of the first systems of guaranteed security classification for telegraph communication, the T­204, is displayed in the room. Among the exhibits are also systems of automatic security classification for speech with temporary durability for operational links of command, the T­217, and tactical ones, the T­219. The temporary durability of security classification is not used in the Russian army at present.

The command­-staff vehicle R­125, the most wide­spread in the armed forces of the 1960’s is placed in the center of the room. It was the beginning of several generations of command­-staff vehicles. It included working places for commanders and wireless operators and allowed radio communication to be organized both on the spot and during movement, using one SW and several USW radio sets.

The display is completed with the command­-staff vehicles placed at the esplanade of the Museum. These are the BTR­50 PU, a working place for division link commanders in the 1960’s­1970’s, and the BMD­1 KSh adopted for air-­landing troops.

Since 1981, the signal corps has been responsible for functioning automated control systems with general purposes. In this connection, personal computers adopted in the Soviet army are displayed in the room, as well. Elektronika T3–29, one of the first personal computers in the world, is of special interest among them, given that it appeared several years earlier than the famous IBM­PC/AT. It was intended for use in military-­industrial complex research institutions and could be used even with traveling objects.