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R-353 ZIP
Spare parts and tools

Each R-353 (Proton) spy radio set, was supplied with a selection of spare parts and tools, packed in a metal box, commonly known as a ZIP box. ZIP (Russian: ЗИП) is the abbreviation of the Russian expression Запасные части И Принадлежности, meaning: Spare parts and accessories.

Finding a complete ZIP box with all items intact will be difficult today, as most of them have been used in the field or may have served as a parts donor for other ZIP boxes. In most cases the toolkit and the solding iron will be missing as they were commonly stored outside the box.

Most of the spare parts, such as the fuses, the light bulbs and the spare sub-miniature valves, are held in the top lid of the case. The heavier items, such as the PA valve, the toolkit and the soldering iron are stored in the bottom half of the case, as shown in the image on the right.
Inside the ZIP box

As far as we know, there are two variants of this box with small differences between them. Variant 1 is the oldest one that was issued with the first R-353 sets in 1969. It can be recognised by a circular push-in lock. With variant 1, a reel with spare magnetic tape (for the tape cassette) is stored aside the large PA valve, sometimes in a metal container. Variant 2 can be recognised by its spring-clip lock. In this version, the reel with spare magnetic tape is stored inside the top lid.

Two different types of ZIP box in two different colours

In the same way as with the burst encoder and with the R-353 itself, the ZIP box was available in two different colours: grey hamerite and green/blue hamerite. The purpose of these colours is currently unknown but could be releated to the actual user or agency. In many cases, the colours of the various items in a complete set have been mixed, possibly as a result of an earlier repair.

Early type ZIP box (variant 1)
Later type ZIP box (variant 2)
Inside the ZIP box
Spare PA valve
Spare sub-minature valves
Spare light bulbs and fuses
Circular lock on the ZIP box lid. Press to unlock.
Case lock on the later type of ZIP box

Some of the early ZIP boxes were supplied with a checklist with 23 items [2]. The table below is a translation of such a table that was issued with an early type ZIP box on 26 August 1971. Please note that some items may have been omitted from later ZIP boxes, and that other items might have been added later. The items that are listed in blue can be clicked for further information.

# Description Qty Remark
1 Tape EP-31A 0.018 x 6.35 mm 100 m on reel
2 Rosin 10 gram in box
3 Soldering iron 12V 1 wrapped in green cloth
4 Cable 1 -
5 Valve (tube) ГУ-19 1 PA Valve
6 Valve 6Ж32Б 2 -
7 Valve 1П24Б 2 -
8 Valve 1Ж29Б 5 -
9 Lamp МНГ-16 13.5V/0.18A 2 For work light
10 Lamp СМ-36 - Scale lamp
11 Fuse 15A 4 -
12 Fuse 3A 4 -
13 Bag (toolkit) 1 green cloth
14 Insulation tape 15 gram in bag
15 Graphite 15 gram in bag (plastic tube)
16 Pliers 1 in bag
17 Tweezers 1 in bag
18 Solder 26 gram in bag
19 Suede 100 x 100 mm 1 in bag
20 Various wires 0.14, 0.35 and 1.75 mm2 3 m in bag (1 metre each)
21 Screwdriver 4mm tip 1 in bag
22 Screwdriver 1.6mm tip 1 in bag
23 Rubber belts 2 in bag (envelope)
Unlisted items
The items listed above, were supplied with the initial version of the ZIP box. Some of these items were omitted later, for example the small container with rosin (item 2) was left out after new types of solder (item 18) had become available. So far, we have recorded the following changes:

# Description Qty Remark
2 Rosin 10 gram in box
24 Oil tube with oiler 2 ml in box
The R-353 toolkit. Click to enlarge.
Inside the ZIP box was a green cloth toolkit (item 13) with several items inside, such as tools and maintenance materials. The toolkit has two flaps that should be folded inwards, before the kit is rolled-up. The toolkit is then stored inside the ZIP box and held in place by a wide metal bracket.

The first section of the toolkit holds a metal pair of pliers and two different screwdrivers. Each of the screwdrivers has a different tip width of 1.6 mm and 4 mm respectively and are intended for the removal of the knobs on the front panel. These screwdrivers should not be used for removing the receiver and transmitter from the case. A suitable coin should be used instead.

Also in the toolkit (in the 5th section) is a pair of tweezers that can be useful when repairing a tape cassette or when replacing one of the light bulbs of the two frequency projection scales.
Pliers and screwdrivers

Stored behind the toolkit is a small 12V soldering iron, wrapped in a piece of green cloth. It is held in place by the toolkit, which itself is held in place by locking the metal bracket. The remaining items of the toolkit, plus all other items of the ZIP box are further described below.

Unfolding the toolkit
Unfolded toolkit
Close-up of the pliers, screwdrivers and spare wires
Pliers and screwdrivers
Iron/carbon powder
Various pieces of wire
A piece of suede and some rubber belts
A piece of self-adhesive tape
Short cables for connecting the antenna and counterpoise
Various unlisted items
Small springs
Large springs
Oiler and oil tube
Oil tube (in the background the oiler)

Tools and supplies were present to allow certain soldered parts, such as the subminature valves, to be replaced in the field. A simple 12V soldering iron was supplied, along with solder and rosin. Furthermore, short pieces of wire of various thicknesses were supplied for other kinds of repair.

The image on the right shows the soldering iron that was supplied within the ZIP box. It can be connected to any 12V power source, such as the battery of a car, by means of two crocodile clips.

The iron and heats up in a few minutes and was used to repair any broken contacts, such as the wiring of the antennas and the wiring inside a broken connector, but also to replace a broken sub-miniature valve. In order to save space, such valves were not socketed like in most (larger) equipment of the era, but their wires were directly soldered to the rest of the circuit.
12V soldering iron

Just 26 grams of solder was supplied (approx. 35 cm), so one had to be careful not to spill any of it. As the (StPb) solder at the time didn't have a rosin core, rosin had to be added manually to make it flow properly. Suitable pine rosin was supplied with the kit. In order to allow a technician to perform other improvised repairs, three short pieces of isolated wire with varying thicknesses were supplied as well. The rosin was later omitted when rosin-core solder became available.

When unused, the soldering iron was wrapped inside a piece of green cloth (after cooling down of course) and stored in the bottom half of the ZIP box, behind the toolkit. The toolkit was then reseated and locked in place by lowering the metal clamp again.

Unlocked toolkit
Soldering iron stored in the ZIP box
Toolkit, soldering iron and rosin
Soldering iron
12V soldering iron
Solder and rosin
Various pieces of wire

Tape repair
One of the key components of the R-353 radio is the high-speed keyer, or burst transmitter. It is located in between the receiver and the transmitter and accepts a purpose-made magnetic tape cassette on which pre-coded messages have been stored by means of a separate burst encoder.

The tape cassette contains two reels with very thin (0.018 mm) magnetic tape that can easily break when mistreated. In order to repair a broken tape (cassette) in the field, each ZIP box contained at least 100 metres of spare tape.

Broken tapes were never repaired or glued back together; they were simply replaced by a fresh new contiguous piece of tape. Two types of magnetic tape have been found. The most common one is a shiny chromium tape (shown here), but over time some cassettes were loaded with the more common brown ferro-based tape.
Spare recording tape outside its metal container

In the early version of the ZIP box, the spare tape was held by a clamp in the bottom half of the case, aside the large PA valve. Sometimes it was even stored in a cylindrical container, such as the one shown here. In the later version of the ZIP box, the spare tape reel was stored in the top left corner of the lid. In addition to spare magnetic tape, the toolbox also contained a piece of suede and a couple of spare rubber belts, both of which were used for repair of a broken tape cassette.

Reel with spare recording tape
Spare PA valve, tape reel, rosin, etc.
Metal can with spare recording tape
Metal box with spare recording tape
Spare recording tape outside its metal container
Spare recording tape
Reel with spare recording tape
A piece of suede and some rubber belts

Spare valves
The R-353 is a hybrid of valve-based (tube) and transistor-based circuits, with valves being the dominant component for the more critical tasks, such as the receiver and the transmitter stages.

The image on the right shows the PA valve of which one spare is supplied. As it is socketed, it can be replaced within minutes. The other parts of the transmitter and the entire receiver, are built with sub-miniature valves, of which the legs are soldered directly to the circuits. A total of 9 spare sub-miniature valves are supplied. They are stored inside the top lid of the ZIP box.
Spare PA valve

Spare light bulbs
A small selection of three spare light bulbs and four fuses is normally stored underneath the white plastic panel at the left hand side of the top lid of the R-353 (behind the earphones).

An additional supply of 9 light bulbs and 8 fuses is stored at the right hand side of the top lid of the ZIP box. The light bulbs are used for the frequency projection scales. In addition, two normal light bulbs are supplied as spares for the bendable work light in the top lid of the R-353.
Spare light bulbs and fuses

Antenna cable
In order to connect the antenna wire and a suitable counterpoise to the banana-type sockets on the front panel of the R-353, short pieces of rubber-shielded wire (approx. 10 cm) with a banana plug at the end were used.

As these cables were easily lost, one or more spares were present in the ZIP box. In the older variant of the ZIP box one spare cable was stored under a metal clip aside the PA valve in the bottom half of the case. In the later variant they were usually supplied in a small envelope.
Short cables for connecting the antenna and counterpoise

Insulation tape
For insulating soldered joints, such as the antenna wires and certain improvised repairs, 15 grams of self-adhesive plastic tape (approx. 80 cm) was supplied on a brown Pertinax card.

The image on the right shows the blue plastic tape, which has become rather stiff after all these years, and can no longer be used.
A piece of self-adhesive tape

For lubricating gear boxes, ball-bearings and other open types of frictions, a small plastic tube with 15 grams of graphite [1] was provided as a non-liquid lubricant (also known as dry lubricant or solid lubricant).

The image on the right shows the plastic tube with graphite, which is normally stored in the second section of the toolkit.
Iron/carbon powder

At some point, probably in the mid-1970s, a small box with a plastic tube filled with oil was added to the ZIP box. The oil was used as lubricant for certain movable parts and was applied with a small pipette.

The image on the right shows the oil tube (right) and the glass-and-rubber pipette. They were stored in a small carton that was padded with wadding in order to protect the glass.
Oiler and oil tube

Various unlisted items
Small carton with oil
Small carton with oiler and oil tube
Oiler and oil tube
Oil tube
Oil tube (in the background the oiler)

  1. Wikipedia, Graphite
    Retrieved march 2015.

  2. ZIP Box original checklist (Russian)
    26 August 1971.
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Crypto Museum. Last changed: Wednesday, 16 August 2017 - 16:48 CET.
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