Click for homepage
Pocket-size Automatic Crypto Equipment - wanted item

PACE, short for Portable Automatic Cryptographic Equipment, is a handheld terminal for off-line encryption and decryption of tactical messages, developed in the early 1980s by Lehmkuhl (now: Kongsberg) in Norway. The device is NATO-approved up to the level of NATO SECRET 1 and is also known as the MI-300 Cryptographic Field Terminal by NFT Crypto from Oslo (Norway) [5].

It is housed in a water-resistant aluminium case, has a full QWERTY keyboard and a 16-character LCD screen. The built-in memory can hold up to 3800 characters of either plain text or encrypted text. It has built-in acoustic and optical modems allowing messages to be transferred via virtually any medium, including phone, radio, mail and messenger service. Full forward error correction (FEC) is available, allowing error rates of up to 10% and burst errors up to 37 consecutive bits.

Message can be sent over regular voice circuits, including telephone lines and radio channels.

The image above shows a typical PACE as it used to be presented on the Kongsberg website [3], but there are some known variations. The device is suitable for both desktop and field use. It is battery-powered and can be connected to a personal computer (PC). PACE is interoperable with the ASCOM-mode of the RACE (KL-51) cipher machine, made by the Norwegian company STK.

A key variable consists of 30 characters, including the key identifier and the check character at the end. More than 1036 keys can be used and each key produces a key stream with a period of 1023 bits. The encrypted output of the PACE consists of the 26 letters of the alphabet, arranged five-letter groups [1]. Over the years, more than 20,000 PACE devices were sold to a number of NATO and non-NATO countries, making PACE one of the most widely used message devices in the world [4]. The specifications below were taken from the Kongsberg website [3].

  1. In Norwegian, NATO SECRET is known as HEMMELIG.

PACE has multiple functions for:

  • Encryption of free text
  • MERCS application
  • Authentication
  • Recognition and Identification
The PACE message terminal was initially developed by Lehmkuhl in Oslo (Norway) and was known as the Lehmcoder Mini. The product may also have been sold by other suppliers as an OEM product. The latest supplier was Kongsberg. The following names are known for this product:

  • Lehmcoder Mini (Lehmkuhl, Oslo, Norway)
  • MI-300 (NFT Crypto A/S, Oslo, Norway)
  • PACE (Kongsberg)
The following accessories were available for PACE:

  • Tempest Field Printer
  • RS232 serial interface
  • Radio Adapters
Technical specifications
  • Modes: 7 different operational modes
  • Modem: FSK, 2025/2225Hz (Bell 103)
  • Memory: 2 stores, dynamically divided, 3500 characters total
  • Crypto: Two NATO-approved algorithms
  • Device: Unclassified, CCI
  • Security: All classifications
  • Key variables: Storage space for 9 keys
  • Key setting: Physical (manually) or via electronic transfer
  • TEMPEST: AMSG 720B-approved
PACE was developed by Lehmkuhl Elektronikk in Oslo (Norway) in the late 1970s for the Royal Norwegian Army and was first known as Lehmcoder Mini [1]. The design was based on the earlier Omnicoder that was developed by Cato Seeberg, an officer in the Norwegian Navy, and produced by Lehmkuhl in the early 1970s [4]. PACE was one of the first microprocessor-based encryptors and the cryptographic algorithms were implemented entirely in software. 20,000 units were built.

Lehmkuhl was first acquired acquired by Elektrisk Bureau AS (LME) and then by Thales, who sold the product off to Kongsberg Defence Communications AS. Although Kongsberg has stopped supplying PACE devices in 2007, many of them are still in use today (2012).

  1. Jane's Military Communications, Lehmcoder Mini Cryptographic Terminal
    Seventh edition, 1986. p. 520.

  2. NATO Information Assurance, PACE (MERCS) (CCI)
    Brief description of PACE. Retrieved June 2012.

  3. Kongsberg Defence Communications AS, PACE, Pocket-size Automatic Crypto Equipment
    Information retrieved from Kongsberg website 11 March 2006.
    Removed from the website in 2006 or 2007.

  4. Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM), Årsmelding 2008
    NSM Annual Report 2008 (Norwegian). Noen kryptosuksesser. p. 15.

  5. Janes Military Communications, MI 300 Cryptographic Field Terminal
    ISBN 0-7106-1163-3. Fifteenth Edition, 1994-1995. p. 532.
Further information
Any links shown in red are currently unavailable. If you like the information on this website, why not make a donation?
Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 12 June 2012. Last changed: Wednesday, 30 September 2020 - 20:57 CET.
Click for homepage