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Miniature pocket AM/FM radio - under construction

The RF-015 was a miniature domestic AM/FM radio, introduced in 1977 by Panasonic (National, Matsushita) in Osaka (Japan). The device was supplied in an artificial leather wallet that could easily be carried inside the inner pocket of a coat, looking like un unobtrusive wallet. The device was succeeded in 1978 by the similar RF-016, that had a built-in clock, and by other models.

The device measures 127 x 75 x 16 mm and weights just 176 grams, wallet and batteries included. Although merely a domestic receiver, Western intelligence services sometimes used it during the Cold War as a monitoring receiver, especially in the USSR and in the Warsaw Pact countries, where the upper part of the VHF-FM band – from 100 to 108 MHz – was used by the surveillance teams of the intelligence services.

This part of the FM band was therefore stricktly prohibited and was omitted from the domestic receivers that were avilable in these countries.
Panasonic RF-015 in open leather walled

It is known that an RF-015 was used in 1979 by Peter Burke, a case offficer of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Burke had assumed his cover as Second Secretary of the Political Section of the US Embassy in Warsaw (Poland) in mid-1979, and was under surveillance by Department II of the Polish MoI and Bureau B of the SB, under the cryptonym Amon-79 [2].

When Burke was arrested on 18 November 1979 (see below), the Polish intelligence service SB found an SSR-100 surveillance receiver under his clothing, and a Panasonic RF-015 in the inside pocket of his coat, both tuned to the radio frequencies that were used by the Polish surveillance teams. During a surveillance detection run (SDR), e.g. before planting a dead drop or meeting an informant, Burke used both receivers to ensure that he was black (i.e. free from surveillance).

Panasonic RF-015 in leather walled
Panasonic RF-015 in open leather walled
Panasonic RF-015 in leather walled, with earpiece
Earpiece connected to the RF-015
Rear side
Battery compartment
Panasonic RF-015 with earpiece
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Panasonic RF-015 in leather walled
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Panasonic RF-015 in open leather walled
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Panasonic RF-015 in leather walled, with earpiece
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Earpiece connected to the RF-015
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Rear side
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Battery compartment
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Panasonic RF-015 with earpiece

The image below shows a complete RF-015 kit, as it was used by the CIA. At the left is the leather wallet in which the receiver could be stowed. A metal locking button that mates with a hole at the rear of the receiver prevents it from falling out of the wallet. At the bottom right is a professional earpiece with plastic ear-clip, that replaces the original (cheap) earpiece that came with the radio.

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Use by the CIA
The video below was taken by the Polish intelligence service SB, following the arrest of CIA case officer Peter Burke on 18 November 1979. Burke, who had assumed his position as Second Secretary of the Political Section of the US Embassy in Warsaw a few month earlier, was known by Polish intelligence by the cryptonym Amon-79. As the SB suspected him of working for the CIA, he was placed under surveillance by Department II of the Polish MoI and Bureau B of the SB [2].

In the early morning of 18 November 1979, he was caught red-handed whilst retrieving a dead-drop that his Polish agent had failed to pick up on 29 September. Violating the diplomatic status of Burke's car, the SB — disguised as police officers — found the dead-drop package under his seat, along with an SRR-100 receiver, fitted with crystals for the radio frequencies of Bureau B in the 102 MHz band. They also found a commercial Panasonic RF-015 pocket radio on him [2].

The SB had also made a video of the entire operation, probably for training purposes, which is now available on YouTube, complete with an introduction (in the Polish language). The Panasonic RF-015 radio appears at 41:03. The CIA's SRR-100 appears at 40:37 and again at 41:39 [3].

Original SB footage — I am an American Diplomat [3]

  • User Manual
  • Service Manual
  • Principle
  • IF 1
    10.7 MHz
  • IF 2
    455 kHz
  • Transistors
  • Bands
    2 (see below)
  • Power
    3V DC (2 x AAA-size battery)
  • Output
    0.12 W into speaker or earpiece
  • Dimensions
    127× 75 × 16 mm
  • Weight
    100 grams (without batteries)
  • 520-1730 kHz
    Medium Wave (MW) broadcast band in AM
  • 88-108 MHz
    VHF broadcast band in FM
  1. Radiomuseum, RF-015
    Retrieved August 2021.

  2. Jan Bury (2012), Finding Needles in a Haystack:
    The Eastern Bloc's Counterintelligence Capabilities

    International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Volume 25:4.
    29 August 2012. pp. 751-754.

  3. IPNtv, I am an American Diplomat
    YouTube, 27 May 2015.
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Crypto Museum. Last changed: Tuesday, 17 August 2021 - 19:44 CET.
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