05/22/19 23:26:03 UTC
308.125 MHz
"...17SPU...""...triangle shaped field.." CAS work. First time noted. 05/22/2019 1915h and prev 2hrs. Based on players involved, one w/ "new orleans accent" as was on 123.475 05/21/2019 likely N611MG/MAG Aero in Moore Co vic. Very weak RX Stanly Co NC -AJ
05/22/19 20:26:14 UTC
310.600 MHz
"...knock it off! Knock it off!" 05/22/2019 1615h Stanly Co NC. Ok Rx. -AJ
05/22/19 11:45:49 UTC
288.4 MHz
Air-to-Air chatting
05/22/19 11:45:10 UTC
268.725 MHz
Bored mil pilots chatting
05/22/19 11:44:32 UTC
236.75 MHz
Refueling Ops

05/21/19 17:43:03 UTC
310.600 MHz
"...bullseye, one three two point one..." First time noted. Ok Rx. Presume distant. 05/20/2019 between 1030-1300h -AJ
05/19/19 21:04:56 UTC
130.300 MHz
"...Team Rescue this is Red Leader, Red Leader..." "...(?)broke(?) one, Red Leader, Red Leader, one-thirty-thirty..." 05/19/2019 between 12-1500h. Weak Rx. Poss Related to 236.0/251.9 comms -AJ
05/19/19 21:01:46 UTC
236.000 MHz
"...have your condition, number in your party?" "...this is Red Leader...clear comms...I have report of unknown personnel directly west of your position...window for...cache...concealment..." 05/19/2019 between 12-1500h. Weak Rx. Poss Relaed to 130.3/251.9 comms -AJ
05/19/19 20:56:59 UTC
251.900 MHz
"...light...wait for contact then say position..." "...08, 98, 179...(?)Strike King(?) grids are...17SPU...6(missed digit here?)308...98179..." 05/19/2019 1615h weak Rx. poss related to 130.3/236.0 comms -AJ
05/16/19 01:11:53 UTC
49.150 MHz
"...one this is DUSTOFF35 in the blind, we are 30 sec out calling for smoke for a clear...in for landing..." "...here are the patients you have to pickup, one bravo four alpha..." "...one this is 279..." PL151.4. 05/15/2019 1330-1400h. GUARD26279, H60, heard on 126.275 "8mi west" of KVUJ minutes later. First time 49.15 heard in use. -AJ
05/15/19 12:32:35 UTC
42.000 MHz
"...operations, DUSTOFF37 radio check on fox mike..." due to good Rx w/ suboptimal antenna prob in KVUJ vic. 2006h 05/14/2019 -AJ
05/10/19 18:24:04 UTC
173.4125 MHz
"Test one two, radio service" new NAC:911h. between 1300-1400h 05/10/2019 -AJ

Center for Cryptologic History
Telemetry Intelligence
During the Cold War
This publication presents a historical perspective for informational and educational purposes, is
the result of independent research, and does not necessarily reflect a position of NSA/CSS or any
other U.S. government entity.
This publication is distributed free by the National Security Agency. If you would like additional
copies, please email cchpubs@nsa.gov or write to:
Center for Cryptologic History
National Security Agency
9800 Savage Road, Suite 6886
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755
Cover: Graphic by Savan Becker
Telemetry Intelligence (TELINT)
During the Cold War
Richard L. Bernard
National Security Agency
Center for Cryptologic History
Background and Introduction
Context of the Early Cold War Missile and Space Intelligence...6
Post-World War II Analytic Challenges for
Intelligence Analysts
Technical Problems Presented by
Telemetry Signals Information
U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitations Treaties
Directions for NSA to Manage DoD ELINT and TELINT
TELINT Planning, Operations, and Management at NSA
The Defense Special Missile and
Astronautics Center (DEF/SMAC)
National Telemetry Processing Center
Telemetry Analysis and Reporting
Collection and Processing Development and Examples
Telemetry Data Collection System (HARDBALL)
Telemetry Data Processing and Analysis (RISSMAN)
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum TELINT Exhibit
Specialized Telemetry Signal Data Collection Assets
STONEHOUSE Deep Space Data Telemetry Collection Facility
Shipborne Data Collection—ARIS Ships and
USNS Observation Island
Airborne Telemetry and Optical Collection—EA-3B (SEABRINE)
Transportable Ground-Based Telemetry Collection (LEFTOUT)
Observations and Conclusions
Acronyms and Project Names
Author’s Biography
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
This document was developed with a key pur-
cepting Signals from Space” exhibit at the Smith-
pose of providing information for the docents at the
sonian. The full displays for HARDBALL and
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (in the Space
RISSMAN are at the NCM facility, along with an
Gallery at the Washington, DC, facility) and the
EA-3B aircraft.
National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) at NSA at
Most of the information in the sections on pages
Fort Meade, Maryland. The display of one rack of
6-9 was originally prepared by Mr. James V. Boone
equipment from the HARDBALL telemetry collec-
and Mr. Edward A. Hart, former NSA technical
tion system at the ANDERS station and one rack of
managers and now retired NSA senior executives.
equipment from RISSMAN are part of the “Inter-
Background and Introduction
Telemetry from foreign missiles, satellites, and space probes was often collected from
overhead intelligence resources, ground-based locations, airborne platforms, and
seaborne intelligence collection platforms. Graphic by Savan Becker
Background and Introduction
Office (NRO) to develop sophisticated signal col-
lection equipment that could collect and process
Telemetry intelligence (TELINT) (later to be
foreign telemetry signals and keep pace with the
called FISINT) was a critical source of performance
ever-changing technology of those signals.
information on foreign missiles and space vehicles
while they were being developed and tested, as well
As described later in this brochure, the HARD-
as a source of telemetry from military aircraft dur-
BALL telemetry data collection system was one of
ing their development. TELINT could also provide
the major systems developed and installed for oper-
much operational information on foreign satellites
ational use in the late 1960s. This system design was
and space vehicles. The National Security Agency
optimized and located on Shemya Island, Alaska,
(NSA) became responsible for U.S. TELINT under
to collect data from Soviet intercontinental ballistic
a Department of Defense (DoD) directive in 1959
missiles (ICBMs) that impacted in the Soviet Kam-
as part of NSA’s electronic intelligence (ELINT)
chatka peninsula test range impact area. HARD-
responsibilities. TELINT prior to 1959 was being
BALL could also collect data from Soviet military
conducted by all of the DoD military departments.
satellites that sent data to Soviet telemetry receiving
locations in the far eastern land area of the Soviet
All during the Cold War years, NSA contin-
ued to sponsor or participate with the DoD mili-
tary departments and the National Reconnaissance
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Context of the Early Cold War
Just a bit later, he said:
Missile and Space Intelligence
From what I have seen of our Russian
World War II was brought to a formal end just
friends and allies during the war, I am con-
as an increasing variety of new technologies was
vinced that there is nothing for which they
evolving into an entirely new class of weapon sys-
have less respect than weakness, especially
tems. The American development and use of the
military weakness. For that reason the old
atomic bomb, delivered by a conventional aircraft,
doctrine of balance of power is unsound.
is the most prominent example; however, Germany
We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work
had effectively used guided cruise missiles (the V-1
on narrow margins, offering temptations to
series) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (the
a trial of strength.1
V-2 series) in significant numbers. Fortunately for
His observations became a new strategic doc-
the Allies, Germany had only conventional high-
trine, to avoid narrow margins of power, which was
explosive warheads on its missiles. Neither the
soon implemented.
Soviet Union nor the United States paused in their
weapon system developments during the Cold War.
The tension was real, not imagined, and the pace
Winston Churchill summarized the world situa-
of advanced weapon systems development increased.
tion in his now-famous speech given at Westmin-
Thomas Reed, secretary of the U.S. Air Force at that
ster College in Fulton, MO, on 5 March 1946. He
time, has written a book on weapons2 that provides
titled his speech “The Sinews of Peace,” although
his personal view of the Cold War and the associ-
today it is usually called “The Iron Curtain Speech.”
ated arms race. It contains information about the
Only about six months after the formal conclusion
atomic and hydrogen bomb developments, ICBM
of World War II, it was clear that the Soviet Union
developments, and related intelligence systems and
had a very serious agenda of world domination. In
a portion of that speech, Churchill put it this way:
On the weapons delivery side of the weapons
I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires
development activity:
war. What they desire is the fruits of war
• The Soviet Union successfully tested its first
and the indefinite expansion of their power
ICBM, the R-7, on 21 August 1957. 3
and doctrines. But what we have to consider
• The Soviet Union launched the world’s first
here today while time remains, is the per-
artificial satellite, Sputnik, on 4 October 1957
manent prevention of war and the establish-
using a modified R-7 as the booster.
ment of conditions of freedom and democ-
• The United States successfully conducted its
racy as rapidly as possible in all countries.
first full-range (5,500 nautical miles) ICBM
Our difficulties and dangers will not be
test, with the series B ATLAS, on 28 Novem-
removed by closing our eyes to them. They
ber 1958.4
will not be removed by mere waiting to see
what happens; nor will they be removed by
a policy of appeasement
Post-World War II Analytic Challenges
weapons were deployed, operational readiness and
Post-World War II Analytic Challenges
the detailed functionality of the command and con-
for Intelligence Analysts
trol systems became essential intelligence targets.
New technologies and applications always pres-
ent both challenges and opportunities to the weap-
Sometimes it was not easy to even determine
on system developers and to those in the intelligence
the location or timing of a test flight. The huge
community who must determine, from the outside,
landmass of the Soviet Union presented challenges.
not only general developments, but also detailed
There were many test ranges and impact areas. Most
technical information. Our intelligence community
of these key areas were inaccessible to our existing
had many new challenges.
intelligence systems. As a result, many new collec-
tion and sensor systems were developed and oper-
U.S. Cold War missile systems intelligence ana-
ated. There were many types of both platforms and
lysts faced an array of questions:
sensors, including radar, infrared, optical, and, of
• What type of propulsion systems are being
course, TELINT. Military units from all services
were involved, as were all segments of the intelli-
• What is their power?
gence community and many of our allies.
• What is their fuel composition?
No single “technical” (e.g., TELINT, ELINT)
• How reliable are the boosters?
sensor system could provide the data required to
• How much weight can they lift?
answer the wide variety of important questions that
• What is the range capability?
were being asked. True weapon system performance
• What types of guidance systems are used?
could be determined only by using a variety of data
• How accurate are they?
types in a highly interactive and coordinated man-
• What are possible flight profiles?
ner. A variety of analysis teams were created and
• How do the re-entry systems work?
worked effectively. Of course, there was also some
• What seem to be the developmental problems?
competition, but that usually provoked a great deal
• What is the pace of the development program?
of creativity since the working analysts knew that
Furthermore, as each general question was
they were doing important work. As is usually the
answered, there was a natural continuing drive for
case, talented and creative people are the key to suc-
increasing the accuracy of the answers. Then, as the
cess in any complex endeavor.
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Technical Problems Presented by
U.S. The Cold War made it clear that signals intelli-
Telemetry Signals Information
gence (SIGINT) challenges are provoked by a wide
variety of issues; some are technical, some political,
Many very basic problems were presented to
but they all have an important time dynamic. This
those faced with using telemetry as an information
is one of the features that required continual tech-
source. Consider the following simplified list:
nical attention from a talented and well-equipped
• The signal itself must be reliably identified as
containing telemetry data as opposed to some
The areas of telemetry signals collection, analy-
other set of data.
sis, and reporting all evolved over time. It was not a
• A reliable connection must be made between
smooth evolutionary process because of the nature of
an individual signal and a specific weapons
the problem and had little to do with formal organi-
zation of the community. Those who had informa-
• Since a wide variety of test measurements are
tion or talents did work together. This was partly
often conducted on a given missile/weapon
because of the professionally challenging nature of
test, some determination must be made about
the problem, but perhaps largely because they all
the goals of the test.
had a personal understanding of the importance of
• Most telemetry signals are multichannel, and
the topic.
the assignment of individual data elements to
From a technical point of view, the collection
a specific system test measurement must be
and analytic challenges were also not smoothly dis-
made accurately.
tributed in time because they were associated with a
• None of the above is generally useful unless
development process that was truly state of the art.
the nature of the original instrumentation
Progress in such programs has never been smooth
measurement is understood and the coding
or predictable simply because the programs are, by
schemes are determined.
their very nature, experimental. Thus, the results
Now consider what would happen if sources of
are unknown to all parties in the early stages of the
Soviet missile/space telemetry were to be lost to the
development process.
U.S.-Soviet SALT Treaties
U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms
Presidents Ford and Carter, and in June 1979, Presi-
dent Carter and General Secretary Brezhnev signed
Limitations Treaties
the SALT II agreement (with minor word changes
A major milestone was reached in May 1972
to make it clear that the telemetric information
when President Nixon and General Secretary
segment was a part of the treaty) and then added a
Brezhnev signed a document officially called “Inter-
“Second Common Understanding” which reads as
im Agreement Between the United States of Amer-
ica and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on
Certain Measures with Respect to the Limitations
Each party is free to use various methods of
of Strategic Offensive Arms.” This soon became
transmitting telemetric information during
known as SALT I and entered into force in October
testing, including its encryption, except that,
in accordance with the provisions of para-
graph 3 of Article XV of the Treaty, neither
Article V (of VIII) of this interim SALT agree-
Party shall engage in deliberate denial of
ment stated in part:
telemetric information, such as through the
Each party undertakes not to use deliber-
use of telemetry encryption, whenever such
ate concealment measures which impede
denial impedes verification of compliance
verification by national technical means
with the provisions of the Treaty. 7
of compliance with the provision of this
In 1991 as the Cold War ended, the U.S. and the
Interim Agreement. This obligation shall
USSR entered into a new “Strategic Arms Reduc-
not require changes in current construction,
tion Treaty,” abbreviated START. It was implement-
assembly, conversion, or overhaul practices. 6
ed on July 31, 1991. This treaty included an agreed
As is often the case with such diplomatic lan-
“Telemetry Protocol” that called for the exchange
guage, it was not exactly clear what some of the
of very specific telemetric data on certain ICBM
terms really meant. In particular, the term “national
and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
technical means” was probably intentionally left to
tests conducted by each party.8 The data was to be
the imagination. The interim agreement was accom-
exchanged on magnetic tapes that contained all of
panied by a number of “agreed statements, common
the telemetric data broadcast during the designated
understandings, and unilateral statements...” regard-
flight test. The treaty also contained limitations on
ing the basic topic. Discussions continued under
the use of telemetry encryption.
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Directions for NSA to Manage
powers. Within DoD it was implemented in early
1959 by an updated 1955 DoD Directive S-3115.2
Starting in
1954, a number of presidential-
and focused DoD top management review within
level committees recommended that all ELINT
the office of the Deputy Director for Research and
be brought under NSA’s purview. Both the Mark
Engineering (DDR&E)—soon to be headed by Dr.
Clark subcommittee of the Hoover Commission in
Eugene Fubini, a staunch supporter of ELINT. With
1954 and the William O. Baker committee in 1957
certain exceptions, the directive gave NSA “operational
made such a recommendation. Strongly backed by
and technical control” of all DoD ELINT/TELINT
President Eisenhower, the Baker committee efforts
activities. Foreign telemetry at that time was consid-
culminated in the issuance of National Security
ered part of ELINT. The directive made it quite clear
Council Intelligence Directive
(NSCID) No. 6,
that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, component command-
“Communications Intelligence and Electronics
ers, and the military departments and services were to
Intelligence,” in early 1958.
fully support these NSA-managed ELINT activities.9
NSA headquarters, Fort George G. Meade, MD, in the 1970s
Directions for NSA to Manage DoD ELINT and TELINT
Soviet R-7 ICBM booster for the SL-4 space launch vehicle
The 1960s were a period of extensive devel-
lection assets. The Soviet SL-4 space launch booster
opment of ballistic missiles by the Soviet Union,
pictured above was initially developed during the
particularly medium range (MRBM) and ICBM
1960s as the R-7 ICBM.
weapons. Many of the Soviet test ranges were within
The SL-4 remains in use today as a Russian
the borders of the Soviet Union, which often made
space launch vehicle, and the photo shows the
advance knowledge of the tests and collection of test
launch of a Russian-manned mission to the Inter-
data very difficult. Fortunately, the Soviet ICBM
national Space Station, where the U.S. and Russia
test range impact area was on the Kamchatka pen-
now have a cooperative venture.
insula and provided for limited access by U.S. col-
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
TELINT Planning, Operations,
tems, DoD formed the Defense Special Missile and
and Management at NSA
Astronautics Center (DEF/SMAC), a joint NSA
and Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) center.
Many TELINT signal collection and telemetry
DEF/SMAC served at the forefront of U.S. missile
signal processing systems were built and deployed
and space intelligence and defense. The center coor-
during the 1960s by NSA or sponsored by NSA.
dinated the collection of intelligence information on
A ring of sophisticated TELINT systems was
foreign missiles and satellites from the ground, sea,
developed and deployed to gather information on
and in aerospace based on intelligence requirements,
the missile development and space activities of the
and then analyzed the initial collection results and
Soviet Union. At the same time, the DoD military
provided reporting based on the information.
departments modified various aircraft and ships to
be able to collect missile telemetry. It was often nec-
DEF/SMAC was an “all-source” operations and
essary to position and use these telemetry collection
intelligence center that served as the focal point for
platforms during many types of Soviet missile tests.
real-time mission operations, analysis, and reporting
of foreign missile and space events. It provided time-
The Defense Special Missile and
sensitive alerts, initial-event assessments, and mis-
Astronautics Center (DEF/SMAC)
sion support to national agencies, national command
One of the major technical and managerial
authorities, DoD combat commands, and field-
problems that made collection of Soviet missile
deployed data sensor platforms and stations. Below
and space technical data difficult was how to alert
is the DEF/SMAC logo from that time. The DEF/
all intelligence sensors of impending missile test
SMAC acronym was later changed to DEFSMAC
events. In 1964, to better orchestrate the various
and the full title changed to the Defense Special Mis-
U.S.-sponsored intelligence collection sensor sys-
sile and Aerospace Center. 10
DEF/SMAC logo from the early 1970s
National Telemetry Processing Center
National Telemetry Processing Center
Telemetry Analysis and Reporting
One of the first actions taken in response to the
Once the telemetry tapes were processed, the
DoD ELINT directive in March 1959 was to incor-
signal analysis phase began. Signals associated with
porate the National Technical Processing Center
Soviet individual missiles or satellites were analyzed.
(NTPC) at Nebraska Avenue in Washington, DC,
In the case of missile data, the analysis contributed to
into the NSA organization as the “Non-communi-
the determination of flight characteristics described
cations Signals Analysis and Processing Division.”
on page 7 of this document, for example, “What is
NTPC had been established in 1955 and by 1959
the range capability for that particular missile test?”
employed about 100 people, who primarily worked
NSA had a major role in missile signal analysis and
electronic intelligence (ELINT) signals and foreign
in managing the U.S. intelligence community ana-
radar signals.
lytic activities. Once the analysis phase was com-
The NTPC also processed, or managed the pro-
pleted, then reports were prepared and distributed
cessing of, foreign telemetry signals obtained from
to the U.S. intelligence community, particularly the
missiles, satellites, and space probes while being
DoD intelligence agencies, and to the Army, Navy,
developed or placed into operation. This data was
and Air Force Intelligence Centers.
collected from a large variety of collection facilities
and platforms.
The NTPC processed Soviet telemetry sig-
nal data until the end of the Cold War. The word
Technical in the organization name was changed to
Telemetry when that became the major type of sig-
nal processed by the NTPC.
National Telemetry Processing Center logo
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Collection and Processing
information about their weapons systems’
Development and Examples
capabilities. NSA’s involvement in For-
eign Instrumentation Signals Intelligence
By the early 1970s NSA had completed, or
(FISINT) began in 1959. Throughout the
sponsored, a network of ground-based foreign
Cold War, it grew and improved, push-
telemetry collection facilities and worked with the
ing computer development and improving
DoD military departments and services to develop
warfighters’ countermeasures.
aircraft and shipborne TELINT signal collection
facilities. In 1971 elements of the NSA Research and
As the Cold War progressed, foreign coun-
Development (R&D) organization and other NSA
tries began intense efforts to develop a broad
SIGINT operational elements were merged to form
range of weapons systems. As these systems
the Electronic Intelligence and Systems Manage-
went from research and development to
ment Group. This group provided an institutional
operational status, each step required exten-
base for NSA to manage TELINT and the develop-
sive testing. Designers carefully monitored
ment of new collection and processing systems for
their systems through telemetry. This same
TELINT efforts. TELINT attained its DoD formal
telemetry could sometimes be obtained
status as a separate “INT” in 1971 with the publica-
and processed by the United States as well.
tion of the revised DoD Directive 5100.20, which
The desire to closely monitor an adversary’s
gave NSA its updated charter at NSA. TELINT
weapons development led the United States
activities were managed by the Advanced Weapons
to a commitment to collect, process, and
and Space Systems Office.
analyze the foreign telemetry signals.
Examples of collection and processing equip-
Adversaries’ telemetry data can be collect-
ment are displayed in an exhibit at NSA’s National
ed from a variety of platforms. In WWII,
Cryptologic Museum at Fort George G. Meade,
converted bombers flew over the Aleutian
Maryland. The overview description of the exhibit
Islands to electronically map the Japanese
reads as follows:
radars on the islands. EA-3B Navy aircraft
Telemetry literally means remote measur-
not only worked against Soviet-built SA-2
ing. Something is measured and the data is
missiles in Vietnam, they also helped target
received at a distant location. This can be
Iraqi antiaircraft missiles in the First Gulf
the strength of an earthquake, the tempera-
War. In the 1960s, the GRAB and POPPY
ture on Mars, or the speed of a launched
satellites collected Electronic Intelligence
(ELINT) from Soviet air defense radar sig-
nals providing their locations and capabili-
Telemetry from missiles includes speed,
ties. By the 1970s, NSA had a network of
location, engine status, tracking, and other
ground-based foreign telemetry collection
data. Telemetry from satellites may include
facilities gathering information on mis-
similar information as well as imagery used
sile development and space activities of the
in reconnaissance. Understanding the adver-
Soviet Union.
saries’ telemetry signals provides crucial
Collection and Processing
The National Cryptologic Museum’s HARDBALL and
RISSMAN telemetry exhibit
The photograph above shows the NCM display
equipment called HARDBALL. It also shows part
on the ground-based telemetry collection facility
of the RISSMAN signal preprocessing equipment
called ANDERS located on Shemya Island, Alas-
ka, and some of the included telemetry collection
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Telemetry Data Collection
track the satellite or missile as it passed within view
of the station. Shown below is a photograph of the
ANDERS station (now closed) where HARD-
Typically, four large “horn” antennas, protected
BALL was located on Shemya Island, Alaska. The
from the weather by a radome, received foreign
HARDBALL system was designed and built by
telemetry signals from the roof of a two-story col-
Sylvania Electronics Systems Western Division,
lection facility. The antennas collected telemetry
now part of General Dynamics Mission Systems,
from foreign satellites and sometimes from missiles
under contract to NSA in 1965-66, and installed at
within the HARDBALL “view area.” On-site ana-
ANDERS in 1967.
lysts also used the signal to automatically follow or
ANDERS Telemetry Collection Facility on Shemya Island, Alaska
Telemetry Data Collection Sysytem
The second floor of the collection facility held
The overall facility for the HARDBALL system
most of the HARDBALL telemetry collection
was the DoD ANDERS station. An informal logo
equipment. Racks of equipment received, displayed,
used by the station is shown here.
and converted several signals before they were
recorded on magnetic tape and forwarded to NSA
for processing.
The HARDBALL system at the ANDERS
location primarily contained:
• Antennas to initially receive the signals from
satellites and missiles in view of ANDERS.
These signals contained data on the satel-
lite’s purpose or missile’s performance, such
as reconnaissance photographs or rocket
• Receivers to manipulate the signals and prop-
erly format the signals so that human opera-
tors could use oscilloscopes to graphically
display the signals. This allowed the opera-
tor to make sure the equipment was adjusted
properly to ensure that the signal could be
DoD ANDERS Station logo
processed correctly.
• Equipment which further converted the sig-
nals and then combined several foreign telem-
etry signals into data streams, which were
then recorded on magnetic tape at the facility
or at a processing facility at another location
• Equipment to initially analyze and report the
results of the telemetry received
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
The photograph below shows three “racks” of
be recorded on magnetic tape for further signal pro-
telemetry signals collection equipment typical for
cessing and analysis, either at the site location or at
such a ground site collection facility. Each rack of
other processing facilities.
equipment could receive one signal and convert it to
Signal collection equipment racks for three operator “positions”
Telemetry Data Collection Sysytem
The photograph below is a view of one rack of
equipment holding signal receiver equipment and
signal manipulation (“demodulation”) equipment.
Demodulators: Changed the signals from
the receivers into a form that was suit-
able for recording on magnetic tape. The
tapes would then be played back on RIS[
MAN in the NTPC
Displays: Operators used oscilloscopes
to graphically display the signals. This
allowed operators to make sure the
equipment was adjusted properly,
ensuring the signal could be processed
Receivers: Picked up telemetry from
satellites and missiles. These signals con-
tained data on the satellite’s purpose or
missile’s performance, such as reconnais-
sance photographs or missile trajectory.
One signal collection “position” rack of equipment including the operator console and displays
During the Cold War period many technology
tronic equipment advanced, signals receivers had to
advances were made in TELINT collection and analy-
keep pace. NSA also continued to modernize and
sis equipment. These advances increased capabilities
expand the TELINT signals processing and analysis
via more reliable configurations and used less elec-
equipment at selected data collection locations and
trical power. As the state of the art of foreign elec-
at NSA facilities.
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Telemetry Data Processing
ware. For a decade, from the early 1980s through the
and Analysis (RISSMAN)
end of the Cold War, RISSMAN processed these
tapes daily, often around the clock.
Special-purpose telemetry processing equip-
ment configurations, often computer-based, were
Prior to RISSMAN was TELLMAN, the
also developed and operated by NSA in the Nation-
Agency’s first telemetry processor to make exten-
al Telemetry Processing Center (NTPC). Different
sive use of a general purpose computer. RISSMAN
types of equipment sets were needed to process and
processed a wider variety of signals with higher sys-
analyze different forms of telemetry used by differ-
tem reliability and lower maintenance costs. RISS-
ent telemetry transmission equipment.
MAN’s custom-designed chassis for the front-end
of the signal processing is shown on the rack on the
The telemetry signals were collected by various
left in the NCM exhibit. RISSMAN used three
collection platforms. Magnetic tape recordings of
8086 microcomputers to perform real-time
the collected data signals were then sent to NTPC
process control. Not shown are the Digital VAX-11
for processing. These measurements were then sent
computers that provided data “demultiplexing,” data
on computer tape to various analysis centers which
file storage, and user-interface. RISSMAN also pro-
identified the function of the various transducers
vided local area network (LAN) access within the
and developed performance estimates. The resulting
NTPC, digital tape generation, and quality-control
information was used to formulate defense policy
plotting services.
and guide treaty negotiations.
RISSMAN was one of the computer systems
specially designed for this work using custom hard-
Telemetry Data Processing & Analysis
RISSMAN telemetry signal preprocessing equipment and description at the
National Cryptologic Museum
The knowledge gained from foreign telemetry
Above is a photograph of the RISSMAN equip-
collection and analysis, as well as other ELINT sig-
ment display.
nals, provided information for the United States to
The RISSMAN telemetry preprocessing sys-
design electronic countermeasures. Equipment such
tem was designed and constructed by NSA engi-
as radar warning systems and jamming equipment
neers and technicians.
were designed and helped protect those in harm’s
way. Decision and policy makers also used the data
gained from these signals to formulate defense poli-
cy and guide treaty negotiations.
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Smithsonian Air and Space
the public learned about just a few of them.
Museum TELINT Exhibit
The United States began developing sat-
ellites in the late
1950s to augment the
The National Air and Space Museum in down-
aircraft, ships, and ground stations it had
town Washington, DC, has had a “Missile Gallery”
used for reconnaissance since World War
exhibit for many years. After the Cold War, it began
II. Satellites have important advantages
to include Soviet (and now Russian) artifacts. The
over these other platforms. They provide
initial emphasis was on the manned flight programs
greater coverage and are much less vulner-
of both the United States and Russia in the “Race to
able to attack. The United States conducts
the Moon” display several years ago. Other displays
reconnaissance to acquire imagery intelli-
included the joint Apollo-Soyuz effort and continu-
gence and signals intelligence. Along with
ing joint efforts on the International Space Station.
other sources of intelligence, reconnaissance
When the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office
provides civilian and military leaders with
declassified several of the U.S. photographic recon-
timely and accurate information on politi-
naissance satellite programs, it loaned the museum
cal, military and economic developments
several spacecraft components, particularly on the
around the world. It also assists the military
first major photographic CORONA program. NSA
in its operations.
provided a replica of the early GRAB ELINT space-
The Smithsonian requested that Cold War
craft. The U.S. Navy provided information on U.S.-
SIGINT information collected by the United States
collected ELINT from satellites; it covered the Soviet
be added to the “Secret Eyes in Space” display. It
defense radars that detected any bomber threat to the
was agreed that NSA would loan the museum the
Soviet Union. The CORONA and GRAB spacecraft
HARDBALL single rack of equipment and one
have been included in the “Spying from Space” dis-
rack from the RISSMAN three-rack assembly,
play. The display overview graphic states:
along with pertinent information. These items and
Satellite reconnaissance programs are
associated information were added to the Air and
cloaked in secrecy. Only since the 1990s has
Space Museum exhibit in 2014.
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Exhibit
The introductory panel text that describes the
HARDBALL/RISSMAN area is shown below:
Verifying Arms Control Treaties
The United States and the USSR signed the
Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I)
in 1972 and the follow-on SALT II in 1979.
These were the first agreements between the
superpowers limiting their strategic nuclear
weapons systems, including intercontinen-
tal ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The treaties permitted both nations to use
“National Technical Means”—satellites and
other platforms conducting imagery and
signals intelligence—to verify compliance.
Ground stations in countries bordering the
Soviet Union were critical to this effort.
Equipment with the Ground Station inter-
cept receivers, like the one displayed here,
and other hardware, collected telemetry sent
from the Soviet ICBMs to their ground
controllers during flight tests. The magnet-
ic tapes with the data were brought to the
United States for analysis to ensure that the
missiles did not exceed the treaty limits
HARDBALL and RISSMAN equipment racks
The United States and Russia have signed
additional treaties beginning in the 1980s
A photograph of the NSA equipment in the
that have further reduced their strategic
National Air and Space Museum display appears
nuclear weapons arsenals. National Tech-
nical Means remain a key instrument for
A photograph of the STONEHOUSE anten-
nas and operations building, as shown on the fol-
lowing page, is included in an adjacent Smithsonian
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Specialized Telemetry Signal
located in Asmara, in Eritrea province, Ethiopia.
Data Collection Assets
This location had telemetry access to the Soviet
command station for Soviet deep space objects and
An adversary’s telemetry data could be col-
allowed reception of the command responses and
lected from a variety of platforms. The U.S. Army,
telemetry from the probes. The antenna shown
Navy, and Air Force employed shipborne and air-
on the right is an 85-foot reflector, and the one
borne collection platforms to gather data from for-
on the left is a 150-foot diameter antenna. These
eign missile tests. NSA also sponsored a network
large antennas were needed to receive the very weak
of ground-based telemetry collection facilities that
telemetry signals from Soviet space probes that were
gathered information on the missile development
as far away as the Moon, Mars, and Venus. Radia-
and space activities of adversaries.
tion, Inc., now part of Harris Electronic Systems
Division, designed, constructed, and installed the
STONEHOUSE Deep Space Data
STONEHOUSE system under contract to NSA in
Telemetry Collection Facility
the early 1960s. The facility closed in 1975.
The photo below is of the now-closed STONE-
HOUSE deep space TELINT facility that was
STONEHOUSE antennas and operations building
Shipborne Data Collection
Shipborne Data Collection—ARIS
when Soviet ICBM tests were anticipated. The ships
operated during the 1960s and 1970s. The Vanden-
Ships and USNS Observation Island
berg was retired and now serves as an artificial reef
The USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (AGM-
off Key West, Florida.
10) and the USNS General H.H. Arnold (AGM-
9) were U.S. Atlantic range instrumentation ships
Starting in 1973, DoD began development of a
(ARIS) that were modified for intelligence data col-
multisensor collection ship to monitor Soviet stra-
lection. These major mobile technical intelligence
tegic missile testing. It was designated the USNS
collection platforms provided radar signature data
Observation Island. The primary mission equipment
and collected telemetry data from Soviet ICBMs
was a sophisticated precision missile-tracking radar
that impacted on the Kamchatka peninsula or in the
designated COBRA JUDY that was developed by
Pacific Ocean when they were tested to their full
Raytheon Corporation under a USAF contract. The
range. The modified ARIS ships deployed on Pacific
ship became operational in 1982 and was retired
Ocean intelligence missions several times per year
from mission duties in 2014.
USNS General H.H. Arnold
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
EA-3B signals intelligence and optical airborne platform
Airborne Telemetry and Optical
Army Security Agency personnel since at that time
the U.S. Army had the DoD overall responsibility for
Collection—EA-3B (SEABRINE)
intelligence on foreign ground-to-ground missiles.
The EA-3B was an unarmed, electronic support
The project was a very successful joint Army-Navy
measures (ESM)/reconnaissance variant of the A3D
effort. The project’s short title for this configura-
carrier-based bomber. Twenty-four of the variants
tion was SEABRINE. The aircraft modification for
were built and four were modified for technical col-
the SEABRINE equipment system was performed
lection of optical, radar, and telemetry information.
in the early 1960s by Sylvania Systems-Electronic
SEABRINE operations started in 1961 and were
Defense Laboratories, which also provided system
targeted against Soviet missiles impacting on the
maintenance at the operating locations.
Kamchatka peninsula. EA-3B aircraft were based
on Shemya Island, Alaska. The SEABRINE air-
An EA-3B aircraft is on display at the NSA
craft were flown by U.S. Navy personnel, while the
National Cryptologic Museum at Fort George G.
telemetry collection equipment was operated by U.S.
Meade, Maryland.
Trnasportable Ground-Based Collection
Transportable Ground-Based
and early 1980s. Other smaller, limited-capability,
transportable telemetry collection equipment sys-
Telemetry Collection (LEFTOUT)
tems were also used during the Cold War for special
During the Cold War, the land-based AN/
collection opportunities. The system project name
MSQ-90V telemetry collection system was avail-
was LEFTOUT, and the system was developed by
able for air transport to locations around the Pacific
E-Systems in Greenville, Texas, now part of L-3
Ocean. It was operated and maintained by the U.S.
Communications Holdings.
Army Security Agency (USASA) during the 1970s
LEFTOUT transportable telemetry collection system
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
Observations and Conclusions
SALT I and stated that neither party would inter-
fere with the technical means of the other party. In
Only a few months after the end of World War
1979 the SALT II agreement contained the “Second
II it was clear that the free world needed to be con-
Common Understanding,” which stated:
cerned about the spread of communism, and that
the activities of the Soviet Union might be used to
Each party is free to use various methods of
forcefully gain its political and geographic objectives.
transmitting telemetric information during
Winston Churchill summarized the world situation
testing, including its encryption, except that,
in his so-called “Iron Curtain Speech” in 1946.
in accordance with the provisions of para-
graph 3 of Article XV of the Treaty, neither
The Soviet Union had already started, and
Party shall engage in deliberate denial of
continued, development of nuclear weapons as well
telemetric information, such as through the
as missile and space systems. The Soviets tested
use of telemetry encryption, whenever such
their first ICBM in 1957. Starting in 1958, NSA
denial impedes verification of compliance
technical and management initiatives and expertise
with the provisions of the Treaty.
made significant intelligence gains for the United
States and its allies from TELINT information.
These provisions attested to the value of the
The information provided critical data on foreign
information gained by both parties through the use
missiles and space vehicles that were a threat to the
of TELINT from each other’s missile and space
United States, including vital intelligence infor-
developments. NSA sponsored an aggressive pro-
mation for use by U.S. missile and satellite system
gram to collect, process, analyze, and report on Sovi-
designers and system operating personnel.
et Union telemetry for use by U.S. policy makers and
technical managers.
The U.S. had also started political actions to
limit the world-wide use of possible weapons of
The information presented in the Nation-
mass destruction. In 1972 the United States for-
al Cryptologic Museum displays, including the
malized an agreement with the Soviet Union on
HARDBALL and RISSMAN equipment, attempts
strategic arms limitations called SALT I. SALT
to portray some of the system developments spon-
I contained wording that allowed each party to
sored by NSA to accurately and thoroughly monitor
use “national technical means” to verify aspects of
Soviet achievements in the missile field.
Acronymns and Project Names
Acronyms and Project Names
NTPC - National Technical Processing Center; the
name used by NSA to describe the ELINT and
ANDERS - The now-closed station on Shemya
TELINT signal processing laboratory at NSA
Island, Alaska, that housed the HARDBALL
R-7 - Soviet ICBM that was developed in the 1960s
telemetry collection equipment
and was the booster for the Soviet SL-4
COBRA JUDY - Project name for the precision
RISSMAN - A project name for telemetry process-
radar on the USNS Observation Island that mon-
ing equipment at the NTPC
itored Soviet strategic missile testing
SL-4 - Soviet space launch booster based on the
DEF/SMAC - The Defense Special Missile and
Astronautics Center; responsible for DIA and
SALT - Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty; SALT
NSA collection coordination and early report-
I was implemented in 1972 and SALT II was
ing on all DoD intelligence collection and early
implemented in 1979
processing activities on foreign missile and space
START - The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,
activities. The name was changed to Defense
signed on July 31, 1991
Special Missile and Aerospace Center, and the
STONEHOUSE - The facility, now closed, that
acronym became DEFSMAC in 2002.
collected telemetry from Soviet deep space probes
ELINT - Electronic intelligence; a category of elec-
from a U.S. Army base at Asmara, Ethiopia
tronic signals that includes TELINT
TELINT - Telemetry intelligence; defined as an
FISINT - Foreign instrumentation signals intelli-
NSA management responsibility in the 1959
gence; the current acronym for TELINT
Department of Defense Directive that was
HARDBALL - The project name for the equip-
updated in 1971
ment system that collected Soviet telemetry from
TELLMAN - The equipment that was replaced by
missiles and satellites that could be viewed from
RISSMAN in the early 1980s
the Shemya, Alaska, location
NSA - National Security Agency; responsible for
Telemetry Intelligence During The Cold War
5. A detailed narrative of the U.S./USSR process of
developing SALT I can be found at http://www.
1. Churchill’s speech is contained in many referenc-
es and is surely worth reading completely. One of
6. Full text of the SALT I Interim Agreement can be
the easiest ways to find sources on his speech is:
7. Full text of the SALT II treaty can be found at
2. Thomas C. Reed, At the Abyss: An Insider’s History
8. “The Treaty Between the United States of Amer-
of the Cold War, New York: Random House/Bal-
ica and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
lantine Books, 2004.
on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic
3. Robert Godwin, editor, Rocket and Space Corpora-
Offensive Arms” (START) was signed in Mos-
tion Energia: The Legacy of S.P. Korolev, English
cow on July 31, 1991. It can be found at http://
edition, Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Apogee
www. state.gov/t/avc/trty/146007.htm.
Books, 2001. This is an English edition of a Rus-
9. Richard L. Bernard,
“Electronic Intelligence
sian publication that covers, with photographs
(ELINT) at NSA,” Center for Cryptologic His-
and illustrations, the early missiles and space
tory, National Security Agency, 2009.
activities of one of the major contributors to the
10. Richard L. Bernard, “In the Forefront of Foreign
Soviet Union’s efforts in these areas. It is also a
Missile and Space Intelligence: History of the
reference for Soviet R-7 flights and “Sputnik”
Defense Special Missile and Aerospace Center
data and booster types.
(DEFSMAC), 1960-2010,” Center for Crypto-
4. See “Key dates in ICBM history” at http://afspc.
logic History, National Security Agency, 2012.
Author’s Biography
Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC) in
the early 1980s. (The name was changed to Defense
Special Missile and Aerospace Center in 2002.)
Mr. Bernard was one of the first set of NSA
personnel in 1959 assigned to address NSA’s new
ELINT/TELINT responsibilities. He was an
active participant in working with the DoD mili-
tary departments, CIA, and foreign partners on
TELINT matters. As Director of DEFSMAC from
1980 to 1983, he was active in using TELINT to
fulfill the Center’s mission. He retired from NSA in
1985 to work in private industry. In 1996 he became
a consultant to CCH. He has completed several
documents on the history of ELINT and TELINT,
the latter now designated foreign instrumentation
signals intelligence (FISINT).
Mr. Bernard has an electrical engineering degree
from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of
Engineering Administration degree from George
Author’s Biography
Washington University. He also completed the
Federal Executive Institute Executive Management
Richard L. Bernard is a consultant and volun-
Program. Mr. Bernard was a 1982 charter member
teer in the Center for Cryptologic History (CCH)
of the NSA Senior Cryptologic Executive Service.
at the National Security Agency (NSA). He is a
He received the NSA Meritorious Civilian Service
retired NSA Senior Executive with over forty years
Award in 1983 for his achievements as DEFSMAC
of SIGINT experience. He joined NSA as a USAF
2d Lt. in 1953 and was assigned to the Office of
Machine Processing at Arlington Hall Station. He
Mr. Bernard has been a consultant and volunteer
became an NSA civilian in 1954 and served in a
for CCH since his retirement from private industry
succession of engineering and engineering manage-
in 1996. He has held the honorary title of DEFS-
ment positions involving TELINT throughout his
MAC Historian since 1997. He is also a member of
career, including Deputy Chief of the Line-of-Sight
the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation and
Systems Group in the Research and Engineering
assists in preparing and obtaining information for
Organization and Director of the Defense Special
current and future museum exhibits.