While surfing the Internet one day I came across the web site for USS Pillsbury, DER-133.   http://www.angelfire.com/amiga/fivekiller1n0/

I contacted the webmaster, Michael Lambert, ETC, retired and asked if I could use some of his photographs on this web site. As a former ET, these photographs were images of the past.


The venerable R-390 series HF receivers are still in use today by ham radio operators and collectors. It is one of the best receivers, of it's type, ever made.

The Collins designed, R390A/URR general coverage HF radio receiver is considered to be the finest HF radio receiver ever built. Tuning .5 to 31,999 mhz and employing 21 vacuum tubes and weighing in at 85 lbs, this electro-mechanical wonder was designed in the early 50's and released for military use on February 24, 1954. Thanks to features such as a 6DC6 first RF amplifier, a suite of 4- Military Grade Collins mechanical filters teamed up with full tracking RF and IF sections, the R390A is capable of copying AM and CW signals down to its -143db noise floor, close to the galactic limit. All this while maintaining the capability to operate in high overload, strong signal environments.

Originally built by Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids, IA, the R390A was designed by 2 teams. The mechanical team was lead by Fred Johnson while the electronics team was overseen by Collins' Ernie Pappenfus, K6EZ. Besides Collins Radio, 12 other sub-contractors built R390A's until the last one rolled off the assembly line in 1984. Banks of these fine radios served the country in all branches of the military. Additionally, they found service with the CIA and NSA to monitor communications from behind the Iron Curtain. During the Cold War years, the R390A was so valued it was classified TOP SECRET, a security measure which remained in force until the mid-1960's. From:

The GRC-27 was a UHF (short range) radio system. For the time, it was an amazing example of local and remote control. I remember a remote GRC console installed in CIC, just below an R-390. Click here to see a picture of Gene Spinelli sitting in front of a GRC-27 Remote console (below the R-390), USS Calcaterra, circa 1965
Behind the operations area of Radio Central was Radio II. These 2 photos show the VHF - UHF racks. Not shown, across the room would be the HF transmitters. WRT-2, SRT-15,  and the URC-32.

URR-13 UHF receiver.

Radio Central, USS Pillsbury. All contemporary DERs looked the same.

The SPA-4 repeater was the workhorse of the fleet. These units were installed on the bridge, and in the radar control room. Best I can remember, there were no SPA-4 repeaters in CIC. On the DERs, these were incidental use repeaters. The SPA-8 was the unit of choice for extended use.

URR-27 VHF receiver

Found in CIC, SPA-8A repeater was the predominant repeater for extended use, navigation and picket operations. Click here for a photo of Gene Spinelli sitting at the SPA-8, CIC, USS Calcaterra, circa 1965.

Identification Friend Foe (IFF) console, UPA-24. Click here to see a UPA-24 in a photo of Gene Spinelli.

The SPS-8 required a special repeater to display height of an object. The unit we had aboard was the "VL". I believe the above picture is the VL. It's been a long time since seeing one of these units.

SPS-8B was the height finding radar. Here's a shot of the unit's control console. When you walked into CIC, you were looking right at this console.

During my tenure on DERs the workhorse high frequency transmitter was the WRT-2; If I remember right Westinghouse was one of the manufacturers of this unit. They were built like nothing I've seen since. With today's technology the same function is available is a unit significantly smaller and lighter than the WRT-2.



The back-up high frequency transmitter was the SRT-15. There were 2 SRTs on the DERs, one in Radio 2 and one in Emergency Radio, that I think was also called Radio 3.You would have to go through the 1st Class Petty Officer's compartment to get to Radio 3.

The SRT-15 was a mechanical monster, with gear trains and other Rube Goldberg architectures. But it did work, mostly, and those who maintained it practiced their craft well.


The Single Sideband transmitter of the day was the URC-32. This unit had a power output of 500 watts and was one of the most current technology (of the day) boxes in Radio Central. Even today these transceivers can he found in use by ham radio operators, although replacement parts are not readily available.



The BLR was part of our "Electronic Counter Measures" (ECM) capabilities. The tuning units were installed in the TACAN Room, afterdeck house. If I remember, this box was installed in CIC near the DRT.