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Spectrum Analyzers

A good Digital Spectrum Analyzer is the "workhorse" of the TSCM industry. When coupled with a computer, printer, and vector signal analyzer will detect virtually any RF eavesdropping device made (including the ones used by the FBI, NSA, CIA, SVR, CSE, MI5, GCHQ, etc).

The Tektronix 494A/P and 497A/P Spectrum Analyzer are the more recent additions to the 490 family. They include better frequency stability, markers, and better programming functions.

Typical frequency of the 494A/P is from 10 kHz to 22 GHz, external mixers will increase the range to 40 GHz (or 325 GHz). The 497A/P model has operations similar to the 494 but the frequency coverage is limited to 100 Hz to 7.1 GHz.

The 490 series has since been replaced by the FSE series out of Germany. Used instruments are commonly available for around $25,000 for a 494A/P, and $15,000 for the 497A/P.

The 494A/P is the only spectrum analyzer in the Tektronix 490 family that ever saw wide spread usage in the TSCM industry. The 494 A/P version was fairly popular with all U.S. government agencies performing TSCM. The units are fairly easy to operate, lightweight, but temperamental when "bumped around".

When used with an external demodulator the 494A/P becomes an excellent instrument for TSCM teams who travel heavily and are unable to transport a lab grade instrument.

The Tektronix 492 and 496 Spectrum Analyzer are older instruments which are still commonly used. Typical frequency coverage is from 20 kHz to 22 GHz. Used instruments are often available for between $2,500 - $6,500.

The Tektronix 2782 and 2784 High Performance Microwave Spectrum Analyzers are excellent units for TSCM work with performance similar to the HP 8566B.

The 2782 is an older unit with coverage from 100 Hz to 33 Ghz. The 2784 is the newer version with coverage from 100 Hz to 40 GHz. The frequency coverage of either unit may be increased to over 325 GHz with the use of external mixers. Both units weigh just under 45 lbs (without mixers) and are very sensitive to shock and vibration. Both units sell new for between $60-65,000, with a typical used price between $48,000 and $52,000.

When used with an external demodulator the 2784 becomes an excellent instrument for TSCM teams who travel heavily and are unable to transport a lab grade instrument.

Recommend the purchase of 2874 controller software (S26UT00), and a full set of hardware and software programming manuals.

Also recommend option 18 (external mixers) to extend the frequency coverage of the 2784 to 110GHz.

In TSCM we require highly sensitive laboratory grade instruments, but have to trade that off with instrument portability and durable construction that can take a lot of field abuse.

The ESA-E family was announced by Hewlett Packard in February 1999 as a fairly rugged platform built for speed, durability, and high sensitivity. A wide range of models are available which provide a range of frequency coverage from a lower baseline of 30 Hz to over 110 GHz. While the ESA is still a bit flaky, prone to unexpected crashes and periodic "brain-flatulence" it is still a fairly decent instrument for TSCM (but you will simply have to deal with its moods). As the more serious problems get corrected by the designers and the instrument "matures" it will become an asset to the TSCM community (but it still has some serious issues).

The HP E-4402B (3 GHz) provides a decent entry level TSCM instrument, with the E4404B (6.7 GHz) offering coverage of the high threat 5.8 GHz ISM band. The HP E4407B (26.5 GHz) provides coverage of the 8.5, 10, and 18 GHz threat. Addition of the mixer interface option extends coverage to well over 110 GHz.

The ESA-E provides 28 updates per second, which exceeds the 24 updates per second of the HP 8566B with the turbo option. Also the entire span of the analyser can be swept up to 5 uS or 1uS to catch the wide band digital frequency hopping or burst devices often used by modern eavesdropping devices. Of course as your bandwidths narrow, more points then 401 are collected, or you do more with the data collected, the slower the sweep speed becomes.

Optional built-in preamplifier, demodulation, extended memory, frequency reference, tracking generators, fast time-domain sweeps, digital resolution bandwidths, and other options allow the system to be configured for specific TSCM applications. The video demodulation option permits the viewing of various video signals including AM and FM video signals (including microwave FM video signals up to 5 MHz bandwidth).

The "E" at the end of ESA-E indicates that it is an expandable model, as opposed to the ESA-L which indicates a "low cost" model with has very limited growth possibilities.

The Hewlett Packard ESA-L Series Spectrum Analyzer is a lower cost (and earlier version) of the ESA-E, which does not offer the expandability of the ESA-E and should be avoided for TSCM activities.

While the ESA-E system is fairly new it is only a matter of time before government TSCM agencies "discover" it as a replacement for the aging 494 A/P, 8566, 8563, and 2790 series analyzers.

The instrument has a 21.4 MHz IF output (at an extra cost), fast warm-up, computer control, and VGA video output. Benchlink PC software permits a limited communications link between the instrument and a laptop computer, but proprietary software packages specifically designed for TSCM are more appropriate.

While the instrument has an internal speaker the quality is so poor as to render it virtually useless. The "FM demodulation" interface is kludgey at best, and the file operation system is a real problem (but then what do you expect from a new "bleeding edge" product). Of course the design problems with the instrument will eventually get resolved, but you will have to be patient if you obtain one of these units.

Also, the base instrument is not excessively priced but HP seriously gouges customers (IMHO) for accessories and very basic enhancements (ie: preamplifier, oven, narrow filters, etc.)

The Hewlett Packard HP 8563 Spectrum Analyzer is also popular due to its low cost, low weight, and frequency coverage. However, it lacks the sensitivity and interoperability of the larger units such as the HP 71910A/P and HP 8566B. The HP 856x series lack the extended IF bandwidths used for the detection of modern eavesdropping devices.

The HP 8590 is very popular with TSCM teams. They are easy to use, expandable, modestly priced, and offer very narrow bandwidths. Strongly recommend the low cost E-series, with special consideration to the HP 8594E, with coverage from 9 kHz to 2.9 GHz (at a cost of under $15,000).

While the frequency coverage is fairly limited the light weight and "carry-on" size of the 8594E make it invaluable for TSCM inspections at low threat facilities.

An excellent spectrum analyzer for medium threats is the HP 8564E, which offers frequency coverage from 9 kHz to 40 GHz (and is comparable to the 494 A/P). The instrument weighs only 44 pounds and costs just over $50,000. The unit is also small enough that it can be carried on to most aircraft. Strongly recommend option 008 (Signal Identification), and option 042 (Carrying Case/Backpack).

The Hewlett Packard HP 71910A/P Wide Bandwidth Receiver and the HP 89410A Vector Signal Analyzer provide the ideal combination, but tend to only be used by government, military, or large corporate teams due to the weight and cost involved.

One attractive feature of the HP 70000 series, is the HP 8566B programming language is virtually identical. This allows the software written for the older HP 8566B to be also used on the HP 70000 series.

The HP 71910 is also available in a single rack system which does not include the monitor mainframe. This allows the unit to be controlled by an external laptop, and allows the entire system to be transported in a compact suitcase.

The frequency range is 100 Hz to 26.5 Ghz, with extended coverage to 40 Ghz. Through the use of HP 11974 preselected mixers the range may be extended to just over 75 Ghz. Coverage from 75 GHz to 325 GHz is available, but only with HP 11970 lower performance fundamental mixers which lack preselection.

One of the great benefits of the HP 71910A/P system is the IF bandwidths from 10 Hz to 100 Mhz (200 Mhz and 300 Mhz require a special modification). This extended bandwidth is of great benefit when the threat includes spread spectrum, frequency hopping, or digital modulation eavesdropping devices.

The analog I/Q outputs provide a convenient interface to a dual channel Vector Signal Analyzer such as the HP 89141A. However, an internal MMS card version of the HP 89141A Vector Signal Analyzer should be available late in 1998.

The HP 71910A/P may be used as a excellent Non-Linear Junction Detector, and will control an internal microwave pulse or sweep generator. The color video outputs may be connected to a set of Virtual I/O goggles. The operator then wears these goggles while passing the waveguide over the surface being inspected during the NLJD sweep.

A Hewlett Packard HP 71910A/P Spectrum Analyzer configured for TSCM work will cost at least $97,000 (plus the cost of a Vector Signal Analyzer).

The Hewlett Packard HP 8566B Spectrum Analyzer has been in the TSCM mainstream for many years, but has recently been replaced with the HP 71910 mainframe system (see above).

The HP 8566B is popular with military and government TSCM teams, and any graduate of IATC has a love/hate relationship with this instrument.

The basic instrument weighs in at just over 112 pounds, and covers 100 Hz to 22 Ghz without the use of external mixers. External mixers will increase the range to 40 GHz, and often to 110 ghz (the analyser covers up to 325 GHz).

Hundreds of TSCM, signals analysis, TEMPEST, and SIGINT software programs are available to drive this unit and facilitate TSCM functions including In-Place Monitoring.

Hewlett Packard phased this unit out in July 1997, however; hundreds of units are still in service, and make excellent TSCM instruments.

A Hewlett Packard HP 8566B Spectrum Analyzer configured for TSCM work will cost between $86,000 and $126,000 depending of the configuration. Used instruments are often available for between $15,000 - $48,000.

The Hewlett Packard E4900 series Spectrum Monitoring Systems integrates a spectrum analyser into a system which detects RF transmissions. The system uses a laptop PC as a controller, and outputs directly to a plotter or printer. The spectragram display is by far the most valuable feature (which can also be performed by other instruments).

The E4900B (to 1.8 GHz) is virtually worthless for TSCM due to its limited range.

The E4901B (to 2.9 GHz) is fairly popular, but expensive for a portable instrument that only goes to 2.9 GHz.

The E4902B-002 provides an excellent transportable system with a cost just below $100,000 for the complete system. This system is frequently used for the In-Place Monitoring of corporate board rooms and law firms.

Spectrum Spectrum

The Tektronix/Rhode & Schwarz FSE series (w/ option 07) enables TSCM specialists to identify virtually any type of modulation and transmission type or technique known to man (all in one box).

While the frequency range is a bit limited (20 Hz to 7 GHz), the speed and computer interface make the unit very valuable. The 7 GHz frequency limitation can easily be overcome by using external microwave mixers.

The FSEB30 may also be used as an excellent Non-Linear Junction detector by controlling an external microwave pulse or sweep generator. The FSE has a color VGA output which may be connected to a set of Virtual I/O goggles. The FSE and pulse generator may then be located in the center of the room. The operator then wears only these goggles while passing the waveguide over the surface being inspected during the NLJD sweep.

The LCD display panel in the FSE tends to work poorly, and is prone to failures when subjected to heat, cold, or normal transport vibration. The series should be avoided unless the team is working in fairly static situations (no travel outside of a lab). Also, the FSE radiates an excessive amount of EMI which tends to interfere with effective TSCM measurements.


The author recommends that all TSCM teams keep a lightweight, battery powered, low band (to 3 GHz) spectrum analyzer as a secondary spectrum analyzer. If your budget will permit doing so obtain a backup digital spectrum analyser instead of an analog unit.

This provides a backup unit as microwave spectrum analyzers tend to be temperamental when bounced around in the field (or when transported by aircraft).

It is also good to have a lightweight system which can be carried up phone poles, ceiling plenums, air ducts, crawl spaces, and elevators shafts easily (the capability to take battery packs is a real plus).

The Tektronix 2710 series or AVCOM PSA-65C is an excellent buy, and fits in well here. The older Tektronix 7L12 or 7L13 also makes an excellent analog unit, but tends not to be used due to the weight and bulk involved.

Additional Comments:

| Spectrum Analyzers | Vector Signal Analysers | Demodulation | Time Domain Reflectometers |
| Antenna | Oscilloscopes | Multimeters | Craft Instruments | TSCM Specific Instruments |
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Advanced TSCM Signals Detection and Analysis
TSCM - Sweeping the Spectrum for Eavesdropping Devices

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