A Brief History on the Development of Chinese Infantry Portable Transceivers (Part One)

I. The Beginning

Before 1949, China had very limited production capability in term of wireless communication equipments. The function of its radio industry was focus on repairing and assembling using imported design and parts. This is not only limited by its technology but also limited by its policy. The government at that time relies on US to supply most of its needs. PLA does not have this production capability either. All of its equipments were either captured from Nationalist force or purchased somehow.

In 1949, when nationalist government was kicked out and communist force took over the government, it took over about 12 wireless manufactories with it. They were mainly repair shops at that time; however, some of them would become very large enterprises and very famous in electronic industry in China. Amount them, there were Nanjing Wireless Works and Tianjing Wireless Works. They were called Works 714 and Works 712 accordingly in 50s.

This article covers only the field portable infantry transceivers and receivers developed by China from 1949 to nowadays.

II. First Generation

The development of Chinese first generation field tactical radio started when China stepped into Korea War. There was pressing need for field radios. Other than purchasing from USSR, requirements were also given to the manufactories that just took over.

Requirement was given to Tianjing Wireless Works (Works 712) for a Division-regiment level transceiver in August 1950. In June 1951, Works brought out its product and it is the Type Eight One Transceiver. It was a 15W short ware transceiver and it used a power amplifier tube made by Nanjing Wireless and imported tubes from Hungary. All other parts were made by the Works itself. It went into production in 1952 and saw action in later stage of Korea War. It is the main PLA division-regiment level radio in the 50s and 60s. The early production version has transmitter and receiver built into one container; and later version separates the transmitter and receiver to make carrying easier. The separated receiver in Type Eight One set is also called 139 SW receiver.

Tianjing Wireless was also given requirement for a Battalion-Company level VHF transceiver in end of 1950. Development started in November 1950 and the radio was based on BC-611 but used only two tubes. Works 712 successfully brought out this machine in April 1951. Its code name is 702 and saw action before the end of Korea War.

Requirement for a Regiment-Battalion level HF transceiver was given to Nanjing Wireless in November 1951. Sample was built in March 1952. It is the Type Seven One Regiment-Battalion level short ware transceiver. Other than the imported tubes, all of the part and components were made by the Works itself. It also saw action in Korea War.
At same time period, Nanning Wireless also developed 150 W Type Nine One transmitter and 7512 receiver (not really very portable, 91 itself weights several hundreds kg), which were copies of Soviet designs. They were supplied to troops starting in 1950.

In April 1953, a military cooperation treaty was signed between China and Soviet, this lead to license produce of a range of military hardware, amount them, there were A series VHF FM transceivers, which is copies of Soviet R-105, R-108 and R-109.

A series has four models (A130, A211, A212 and A233) covering four different VHF bands. They are adopted by artillery force to form artillery communication network. The A120 is a battalion-company level radio; however, it was not adopted by PLA.

In this period, Type Nine One (with 7512 receiver), Type Eight One, Type Seven One short ware AM transceivers plus 702, A series VHF FM transceivers formed the backbone of PLA infantry field portable transceivers.

III. The Hybrid

Since the first generation transceivers were bulky and heavy, urgent request from the troop to reduce the size and weight was there since the very beginning. There were two ways to reduce the size and weight. One is to minimizing the tubes and power supplies; the other one is to using transistors instead of tubes. Chinese choose the second one.

In November 1956, first transistor was developed. At the same year, a concept transistor transceiver was made in Shijiazhuang Communication Research Institute. However, there is no power amplifier transistor that can meet the transmitting power amplification requirement available at that time. The solution is to still use the tube for the power amplifier stage. In other stages, use transistors. It is a hybrid design popular in the late 50s.

In 1956, Troop 0038 (called 19th Search Institute later) started development on a hybrid transceiver. Wuhan wireless works joined this project in 1958. After 6 years of hard work, 8 samples were produced in July 1962. Full scale production started in July 1963, and it is certified by military as Type 62 VHF Battalion-company level FM transceiver, also known as 883 transceiver. It was in production until early 70s and replaced by 884 transceiver in early to mid 70s.

A portable version of Type Nine One is also introduced in this period as 116 150 W transmitter. The design is about the same as the Type Nine One, and it used some transistors to replace some tubes to reduce the weight and size. However, it was still largely a tube transmitter. It was in production until early 70s and equipped Army level HQs.