I'd like to thank the many people throughout the world who have worked hard on V13 and then made available the fruits of their labor for others. I have gathered what information there was and added my own to create this page. But I don't think I can get much more information out of this.
I have been dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for about 10 years. Chasing numbers stations has been too great a drain on my limited supplies of energy and I have been neglecting other things that I do (I'm a writer and musician). So numbers stations and this page are being pushed toward the end of the line.
I will leave this page online indefinitely and will try to keep the frequency information up to date. The basic information in it seldom changes, so it should be a useful reference for some time. Besides, it's cached on Google, so it will probably be available even if I were to take it down today.
*** Station #4 is currently being heard on the U.S. West Coast on 7688Khz at 1200z and 1300z. ***
It's not uncommon for New Star to reuse a frequency, so it is worth checking these when a freq change is suspected.
A frequency change is expected around the beginning of April 2013.
There are a lot of sites with information about New Star Broadcasting to be found on the internet. Unfortunately, most of them quote the same source without ever identifying said source.
I am going to discuss some of this information and offer some thoughts of my own. I am, by no means, an expert in the field; but I do have some experience. I invite anyone with differing thoughts or information to send it my way. Let's make this page as complete as we can.
I can be reached via the enigma2000 Yahoo group.
Establishing my level of credibility, or lack thereof, in discussing this subject.
I was in the U.S. Air Force over 20 years, all of it spent in the radio intercept business. I was trained as a Chinese (Mandarin)/Hebrew/Spanish linguist. During that time I was assigned to duties in Thailand, Taiwan, Greece, and Panama, with some assignments in the U.S.
As a Chinese linguist, I worked with a lot 4-figure group activity.
There is a Standard Telegraphic Code that has pages and pages of 4-digit numbers that represent Chinese characters. That is how Chinese can be sent via morse code. If secrecy is needed, they could encrypt that standard code pretty easily.
I was in Taiwan around 1975 and never heard New Star messages, but that doesn't mean anything. There were several other numbers stations heard, and some of them came in loud and clear in the U.S. All you needed was a piece of wire hanging out the back of a shortwave radio. Sadly, those days seem to be gone.
I am a licensed amateur radio operator somewhat proficient in morse code. It's the only mode I work, but I'm lousy at it.
It should be borne in mind that any references to signal strength or readability refers to my location in Southern California. Likewise, as of May 2010 we are slowly climbing up from the low point in the sunspot cycle. HF propagation is slowly improving, but is not expected to come anywhere near the highs of the last sunspot cycle.
Propagation to Southern California is seasonal in nature and as the sun's position in relation to the earth changes, so will propagation. In 2010, in the weeks approaching the autumnal equinox (September 24 in 2010) signal strength began to drop
It appears that frequencies change in the Spring and late Fall. The Spring change seems to take place on or about the 1st of April. They were heard on Thursday, March 31, 2011 and not heard on their usual frequency after 1 April 2011. In 2011 there was a known frequency change in late October and then again in late December.
V13 is the designator given to New Star Broadcasting by the Enigma 2000 group, which tries to bring some order to the many mystery numbers stations that are heard on HF radio.
A website called everything2.com has the following description of V13:
New Star Broadcasting. New Star is broadcast from a location in eastern Asia, most likely China or Taiwan. Whereas most numbers stations seem to discourage listening if you are not one of the intended recipients, according to the New Star Unofficial Home Page: "New Star is not your run-of-the mill number station. It features fancy presenters, hip music, and cool announcements like "We wish you health and happiness," to get you through the day." New Star cheerfully identifies itself at the start of its transmissions: "This is Channel Four Broadcasting Station in Taipei, Republic of China, on 8300 KHz". There's even a picture of one of the presenters at the New Star homepage.
The URL given for "the Unofficial New Star Broadcasting Station homepage" is ns4.swl.net/radiochina/newstar/newstar.html, but it's broken. There is, however a webpage at http://newstarbroadcasting.com which has nothing except a single image on it.
A look at the source code for that page shows nothing except the image shown above, which is titled "shipping.gif".
New Star Broadcasting LLC is irrelevant to what we are discussing here. Thanks to research by Zach K., New Star Broadcasting LLC has been found to be a corporate entity in the United States, so don't be led down that path if you are researching this yourself.
I don't know if any of the early broadcasts mentioned by everything2.com bear any resemblance to what they have described. A little later on this page you will find a discussion and some sound clips from the mid-1990's. They don't resemble what everything2.com describes, either.
Thanks to the diligent search efforts of Zach K., who is obviously a much better internet researcher than I am, the real "unofficial New Star Broadcasting Station home page" was located. The URL is http://web.archive.org/web/*/ns4.swl.net/radiochina/newstar/newstar.html and the page is the first link in the table presented there. This site was created by Mr Hans Van Den Boogert, whom I mention below. In many cases, he has also not seen or heard much of what others claim to have experienced, and much of the information to be found on the internet originally came from him.
The main thing to keep in mind as you read over his description of what they say, is that they've changed that a little bit. They seem to be saying the same things in the preambles, but they have re-ordered how they say them. Also, they have changed the way they say the numbers, as will be described later in excruciating detail.
The frequency mentioned by everything2.com has been reported up to 2007. V13 frequently identifies itself as "New Star Broadcasting station #4", but I have never heard of the New Star we are discussing as V13 broadcasting that they are in Taipei, Taiwan.
By the way, if it makes any difference, the number 4 in Chinese is considered unlucky because it sounds like the word for 'death'. However, in Shanghai dialect it sounds like the word for 'water' and is considered lucky there.
Clandestineradio.com wrote that in 2003 two people reported receiving QSL cards from this station via Taiwan's Central Broadcasting System. That can't be confirmed at this time.
An email to the CBS in May 2010 bounced back.
QSL cards are postcards used as hardcopy confirmation of a radio contact. Amateur radio operators, hams, send and receive them all the time. Especially prized are the ones from rare contacts, like Inner Mongolia. Likewise, a finely illustrated card is treasured. One would think that a QSL card from a numbers station would have been scanned and uploaded somewhere for all to see. I've never seen one.
The Numbers and Oddities Newsletter has done a good job of following New Star for quite a long time.
In 2002 they published a letter from a listener with some new information. From the letter it appears that the listener is in Japan.
He reported that a member of the Asian Broadcast Institute, which describes itself as "a nonprofit organization established in 1979 to research and analyze broadcasting in Japan, South and North Korea, China, Hongkong, Taiwan, Macao and Mongolia in addition to international service around the world in languages used in those countries and regions", explained to him that V13 has been broadcasting requests for letters or email from listeners. A postal box number in Taipei and a Hotmail email address were given. The listener reported getting an email reply informing him that the station is called "Star Star Radio Station" and even asked him to send his resume, although no explanation was given why.
The word for "new" in Chinese is "xin" pronounced like "shin" with a high, level tone. Think of a child imitating a ringing telephone: "Ring! Ring!". (I'll get into tones in more detail later.) The Chinese word for "star" is "xing" pronounced like "shing", also with a high, level tone. It's very difficult to tell which words are being spoken, even in fairly clear HF radio. The clearest recording I have gotten so far is inconclusive. I think I hear xin xing, but you can make yourself hear anything, especially when they are so similar.
However, two-character (two-syllables, in other words) brand names in Chinese are quite common; and many of them begin with "new". I am by no means an old China-hand, but in the years I spent in Taiwan and Thailand (storefront signs in Thailand are usually in Chinese, Thai, and English), I can't recall ever seeing a brand name made up of two nouns. It would make no sense. Numbers and Oddities continues to refer to V13 as New Star and not Star Star.
That being said, one thing I forgot to take into consideration is the fact that every sound/tone combination in Chinese can have many meanings. Let's play a little 'what if...' here. Let's first assume that the first lady really is saying xin xin with high and level tones, because that's really what it sounds like. Below is a table of descriptive words and nouns taken from just one dictionary for the word xin with high and level tones.
|new, meso-||lamp pith|
|8th heavenly stem, tired|
Like on a menu at a Chinese restaurant, you can pick one from column A and one from column B and make your own meaning for xin xin.
As you can see, it could just as well mean "happy lamp pith". But I think I'll just stick with New Star because it sounds like something the Chinese would use and Star Star just sounds silly.
The description of "Star Star Radio Station" sounds like a propaganda broadcast entity. The organization calling itself "Star Star" could be the same thing as the New Star with the QSL cards. Likewise, this propaganda group and V13 could be under the same bureau, each with a different mission.
Chinese is a tonal language. A word can have several meanings and the only difference in pronunciation would be the tone used. In fact, there are many instances where sound and tone are the same and only the character differs. In addition, different dialects use some different tones. For example Mandarin has four tones, Cantonese has five to nine, depending on who you ask.
One reason that China has remained one huge unified country despite the fact that a speaker from one region may be completely unintelligible to a speaker in another is that the characters are the same regardless of pronunciation.
The four tones in Mandarin are often referred to by number. This comes in handy when you use the English alphabet to write a word.
The four tones in Mandarin can be described something like these:
|1||High||Similar to how a child might imitate a ringing phone. "Ring! Ring!"|
|2||Rising||Think of hour your voice rises when asking a question. "Who, me?"|
|3||Low||Starts low, goes lower, them comes up a bit.|
|4||Falling||The way you might say "Pow!" when reading a comic strip out loud.|
The speakers on V13 have two additional tones. These tones are heard in Cantonese, Vietnamese and probably other southern dialects of Chinese and some Southeast Asian languages. I'll give them numbers 5 and 6 for simplicity.
|5||Mid-rising||This starts at a tone lower than the high tone for a short beat then rises. It's more musical sounding than #2 rising.|
|6||Low-falling||Starts a little higher than #3 low tone and falls off at the end. A little like a disappointed "Oh" someone might say when a mistake is corrected.|
While it is most common to use numbers to represent tones, I find tone-marks to be more descriptive. Tone-marks are part of the Yale Romanization System devised at the Institute of Far Eastern Languages (IFEL) at Yale. I'm guessing that the typists at IFEL were writing their textbooks with IBM Selectronic typewriters and constantly swapping font-balls to get letters with the proper marks. (Of course Yale undoubtedly got custom balls made as soon as the realized they needed them.)
Since some computers may not have character sets with these marked vowels, I have used images for each one.
Some broadcasts in Chinese, especially military and government use "radio Numbers". These are different words for some of the numbers in order to enhance readability. V13 doesn't use many radio numbers (none in the messages themselves) but they do use some non-Mandarin, words that could be mistaken for them. No doubt the words reflect the way Chinese is spoken in the broadcast's target area. The numbers being used have changed a little from the 1995 recording that the Conet project has. Perhaps the target area has changed since 1995.
Here is a comparison: (I am using the Yale Romanization system to better reflect the sounds. "Tone marks" are used instead of numbers. I think they make the words easier to read. A couple of tone marks are non-standard)
Click on one of the words below to play its clip.
* I have never heard the sound floong.
** This number is very difficult to distinguish from 3 (san 1). One way to identify it is that she seems to hesitate just a bit as if she isn't sure she is saying the right thing. It also has a slightly nicer "singing" quality. Here is the best sample I've heard yet of the numbers in one group 9733 for easier comparison. The sound sample they use is distorted and, of course, the same sample gets used every time the number comes up.
*** This may actually be du which is used for the number 5 in another numbers station with the Enigma 2000 designator V26. V26 has even more dialectical differences from Mandarin. Unfortunately, I haven't heard enough to do any analysis.
The Conet Project is a large collection of numbers stations recordings. A call for clips went out around 1995 and one of the recordings they got was V13.
At about the same time, Mr Hans van den Boogert was living in Taiwan and was hearing it. He published a write-up on the transmissions. In July, 2001, it was republished in the Numbers and Oddities newsletter #38. I owe him a big Thanks for getting me started on getting my ear tuned to this stuff.
The Conet Project clip has probably had the repeats edited out. Mr van den Boogert said that the introduction was repeated several times with music in between. The Conet recording only has the introductions and music one time, and there is radio printer and later morse code interference. This was probably not intentional, although it could be another way to pass messages.
Here is a clip of the music from 2010. (21 seconds) It seems to be about the same as the mid-1990's Conet clip. Hopefully, your browser will allow you to abort playback when you've heard enough and go on to the next thing.
Here is a recording of the introductory message from the Conet Project. (17 seconds) This was said to have been repeated several times with music in-between.
The introductory message now being used sounds like this. (15 seconds). This is said once. Both versions say “This is Xin Xing broadcast station #4. We have prepared a message for you. Pay special attention to the program. Prepare to copy.”
Information for each unit comes next. I get the impression that in the 1990's, the introduction and information for each unit are sent together and then repeated with the music in-between. There is no way to tell for sure from the Conet recording. Presently, the introduction is sent once with no repeats and the set of info messags (preambles?) is sent twice.
The Chinese word for "unit" is dan wei. If the recipients of these messages are indeed spies, perhaps "cell" would be a better translation for dan wei in this context.
Here is one info clip from Conet. (32 seconds) The Chinese in this clip clearly gives unit number, in what sounds like five digits, message date and group count.
Here is an info clip from 2011. (20 seconds) Although she speaks considerably slower, the information isn't as clear. The unit numbers still sound like five digits but some other message elements are harder to make out. The month and then maybe a number is sent next. During the month of June she clearly says liu yue, literally "six month". Months are named with the number of the month followed by the word for month (yue)..
Months are referred to by a number, 1-12, and the word yue, which is the word for month. They do the same on V13 except that they use the same forms of numbers that they do in messages. As far as I can tell, the only exception is the month of January, which is yuan yue.
The character yuan is often used in official documents for the number one. The common spoken word for one (yi) can disappear into the static on the radio, therefore in radio communications the word yao is commonly used. V13 uses yuan, but only for January.
What follows is four quickly spoken indistinct syllables and what sounds like the number 5 (wu but occasionally the number 2, er, and least often the number 3, san, being substituted. The numbers are spoken they way they normally say numbers on V13. After that she says the sound ka with a quick falling tone. This often represents a slant bar in Chinese, and is usually followed here by wu dong dian bao. dian bao means 'message' and wu dong are spoken like regular Mandarin radio numbers and not V13-eese. This seems to be the only time they 'say them right'. They have said this most often, so I don't think it signifies a 50-group message. In fact, thus far I have not heard a 50-group message. Perhaps it means a 'type 50 message'. Occasionally she has said liang dong dian bao for a unit, meaning '20 message'. Again, the numbers were said using "normal" radio numbers.
Doubled messages. Occasionally a unit is sent the same message twice in a row during the same schedule. So far I have seen this only with unit 14283. Doubled messages ocurred twice in April 2011, both times 20 dianbao messages. In the opening preamble the group count was the sum of the two messages. The twin messages in message set 11-04-3 are identical. (I know I earlier wrote that they were very similar but not identical. That assessment was made using messages received under poor conditions. A later intercept clearly showed the messages to be identical. But the question remains: Why?
Up until 29 July 2010 (msg set 10-07-5) There had been a maximum of four units per message. Five units were sent to in 10-07-5. All five had the number 2, instead of 5, just before the ka in the preamble. This still happens, but rarely. See Part 6 of the transcript below.
Note that the term "message set" is something that I made up to identify units and messages that are sent for a particular period. A complete message set designator would be V13-10-06-1, which would indicate the year 2010, month of June, and first message set of the month. Usually I would just refer to a set by the month and number pair.
Beginning in June, 2011, the number for the month in the message set number will be the the month they send during the preamble. That is the one mentioned above as possibly referring to an encryption page. So it is possible that the month indicated in the message set number may not be the month that the messages were passed.
Message sets appear to run for about 7 days. Apparently the change-day varies, but it doesn't change very often. For example, for most of 2010 message sets would change on Thursday. But then message set 10-10-1 began on Friday, 01 October 2010. Message set 11-03-1 changed on a Saturday. Perhaps it has something to do with what day of the week the 1st of the month falls. There is a little catching up to do since the winter loss of copy.
After the introductory preambles have been sent twice, the messages will begin. Each message will be preceded by another preamble which is a little shorter than the ones at the beginning of the broadcast. Instead of sending '5 / 50 message' and the group count, they will just send '5 / ' and the group count.
The present style sounds like this. (25 seconds) and the 1990's version sounds like this. (25 seconds)
If you listen carefully you will hear chee, the normal spoken word for seven. The dialect numbers mentioned above were used then but sound a little different.
Every twenty groups they will announce that the 20th (30th, 40th, etc) group has just been sent. It sounds like this. (5 seconds)
Now, the only place they use five digits for the unit is at the beginning of each preamble. After that they drop the first digit, which has always been yiao.
Just about any plaintext spoken language on the radio is hard to copy. There will be a lot of jargon and unusual syntax. Experience has shown that even native speakers of a language don't necessarily make good intercept operators. As you have seen and heard already, substitute words and numbers can be even more confounding.
In 2010 I first heard them on 11430KHz and in June they moved to 10522KHz. They were also heard on 10182KHz during the 0500z and 0600z hours, but barely audible. In December 2010 Mr Hans Van Den Boogert tipped me off to the frequency of 9505KHz during the 0600z hour. The best hours for reception for me continue to be 1200z and 1300z and 9505KHz was the place to be at the time. The current frequency is always listed at the beginning of the page when it is known.
They seem to be using a somewhat unusual transmission mode. One source I have read calls it CSSB for Compatible Single Sideband. Unlike regular Single SideBand signals, the carrier is still transmitted rather than suppressed as in regular SSB. Regular SSB signals require a receiver capable of demodulating a SSB signal and precise tuning. CSSB does not. In the below screen shot from my panoramic display unit you can clearly see the carrier and the upper sideband.
You can copy V13 in AM mode but it comes in better in USB mode. I had been copying it as an AM signal for quite awhile until I finally got to the radio early enough to see what the signal looks like.
It should be noted, however, that the sometimes frequency they use is within a shortwave broadcast band and there may be a station on that frequency.
There seems to be less atmospheric interference when copied in USB mode.
A couple of court cases in the U.S. have identified Cuban number stations, designated by Enigma as V2 and M8, as senders of messages to spies in the U.S. I don't know of any court cases involving Chinese numbers stations. The target for V13 is probably not the U.S..
My own guess is that these messages originate in Taiwan and are intended for recipients in the coastal provinces of South China. The argument could be made that the messages could just as easily be sent from the mainland to Taiwan because there are people from many different mainland provinces there as well as native Taiwanese. Taiwanese dialect is very different from Mandarin.
There may be other transmission of spy traffic between the two Chinas. Of course not much power would be needed between Taiwan and the mainland coastal provinces, but to broadcast to the interior of the mainland would require some significant wattage. At one time, such transmission could be heard right on the regular AM broadcast band, enabling the recipient to receive them without a special radio. They could also be using some fairly tightly focused antennas. Even a simple inverted vee dipole could be made more directional with the addition of a couple of wires. Perhaps with the continuing improvement in the current sunspot cycle, more stations can be heard. There are also some morse code frequencies listed in various places on the internet. I haven't found any morse yet, though.
Maybe someday somebody "on the inside" can give us a more complete story.
What follows is a transcript with sound clips of a typical V13 transmission. This particular schedule was sent on 24 Jun 2010 at 1300z.
A couple of abbreviations and notations are used here:
[Ux] the letter u with a number indicates that number of syllables (characters) were not understood.
[sl -] sounds like. Valid Chinese-Mandarin sounds, but they don't seem to make sense.
(music. This is edited for time. It runs for one minute and is cut off abruptly. Sometimes the transmitter is switched on late and the music, and sometimes more, is not heard.)
zhe li shi xin xing guangbo diantai, di si tai.
This is xin xing broadcast station number four. (to my ear, she is definitely saying xin xing here.)
Xianzai woman yujian kaishi bodao dianbao gei nin.
We are now prepared to begin to broadcast a message for you.
Zhuyi jiemu. zhunbei chaoshou.
Pay special attention (and) prepare to receive.
(different woman's voice)
xianzai [sl - shi fa wu] yiao san yiao san su (93937) danwei
Now sending for unit 93937
liu yue [sl - san ling wu ka wu dong] dianbao. Se shi liu
June (missed) message. Four-ten-six (probably 46 4-digit groups)
(Note that ka is sometimes used for 'slant bar'.)
(Note also that occasionally er, the number 2, is used just before the ka. In message set 7-4, two units had the number 2 here and one had the number 3. I don't know why, yet. However, the syllable that is changed normally sounds like wu 1 which could be the number five in the form V13 says it. I still don't know what that means, though.
[U2] xianzai women kaishi boda di san yao san su[sl - san liu si zu] zhunbei chaoshou.
(missed) now we will begin to send 3937's (message). (She may be saying danwei, si zu, which in above sentence could be "now sending 3137th unit. four (figure) groups", however she says it as if it were one term with no pause. She has said the same thing for every preamble heard so far.) Prepare to receive. Note that she drops the first digit, which is always a 1 anytime she says the unit number after the first reading. This probably indicates that all unit numbers begin with 9.
(She sends a very similar preamble for the other three units and then repeats all four one more time.)
Xianzai kairshi boda di san yao san su danwei liu yue [sl - san ling fa ka wu dong] dianbao. Se shi liu.[U2] dianwen.
Now we are sending unit 3137's message, June (missed), four-ten-six (46 groups). (missed) message:
(note that in everyday Chinese the word dianwen normally means "telephone number".)
di san yao san su [sl - san liu si zu] >zhunbei chaoshou.
3137's (message) (missed) prepare to receive.
Part 10 the Numbers:
9167 7824 3219 1377 3718 3872 2821 0608 8008 6114
8514 4180 4828 2143 4015 6920 7049 7513 0537 9619
gangcai boda di er shi ge dianwen.
The 20th group was just sent.
(She will continue to send in groups of twenty until done.)
[U4] san yao san su danwei liu yue [sl san ling fa ka wu dong] dianbao. Se shi liu. [U2] dianwen. Xianzai jeige baogao wanle.
(That was) unit 3937's message four-ten-six. This message is now finished.
(She will send messages for the other three units in the same manner.)
wuzhang te bie ge ye kanshu] bosong wanbi. xiexie nin de shouting. zhu nin jiankang kuai le. zaihui.
(missed). Transmission finished. Thank you for listening. Wishing you health and happiness. Out.
updated: 22 March 2013.