The Equipment of Collins Radio

Welcome to the Equipment of Collins Radio archives section of your Collins Collectors Association website. In order to organize this wealth of material, it is divided into some relevant categories that are somewhat arbitrary. If you have difficulty finding a particular model or type of equipment, you can use the search engine at the top of the page and this should also take you to what you are looking for.

These equipment archives have been divided into five groups. We start with the Pre-World War II equipment, the War Production, then Broadcast and Commercial post war (this includes Avionics at this time), the Saint James Grey (Post War) boxes, and then the Grey boxes including the S-Line.

As the amount of available material expands in the area of military, space and avionics, these categories will be broken out as individual groups, but for now they are lumped into Saint James Grey (military) and Commercial (Avionics) where we do have information to present.

Each of these categories, along with its obvious content, carries very significant historical significance in the totality of the company’s history. Prewar, the emphasis was on development, rapid movement of many models with increasing levels of technology to a constantly changing and maturing production capability. This was the period that established Collins Radio as a supplier of equipment that could be depended upon – in all senses. This is also the period where the relationships were forged which would bring Collins to the forefront as one of the leading suppliers of equipment that would go on to help win the emerging war.

As Collins entered the War Production expansion, their forte of rapid technology development coupled with expansion of their production capability was tested and proved in the fire. Significant developments in the area of mechanical/electrical tuning – the Autotune – and Permeability Tuned Oscillator (PTO) development led to equipment designs that would provide significant strategic advantage to the US when they needed it the most. Few people realize the strategic advantage that multichannel radios offered to the US during the years that it took the enemy to capture and reverse engineer these developments. By the end of the war, Collins had proved their mettle repeatedly by growing orders of magnitude in production capacity while maintaining the quality and performance that customers expected from Collins.

Collins was well aware of the impact that this war phase of their growth would have upon their commercial future. In an advertisement for the Autotune ATC (AN/ART-13) run during the latter period of the war, Collins was already looking forward to stepping off the “Platform” of their war record and resuming commercial production.

“In advanced design and rugged construction, today’s ATC reflects the lessons of war learned in every quarter of the world. It is a foretaste of the reliability and efficiency to be expected of Collins by commercial and private users after victory.”

The post war St. James Grey period started with a challenge of a different sort. Following the end of the war with Japan, all production contracts and orders were overnight canceled by congress and Collins had a huge problem. With production capacity (and employment) at an all-time high….and they found themselves with almost no orders or established customers.

Some judicious hiding of employees (higher level engineers were given low level jobs and kept on the payroll) and severe cutbacks, along with that famous engineering development capability, quickly brought the problem under control and Collins forged ahead stronger and ready for the 50s – and the ensuing world communication challenges. Some of these challenges were brought about by the development of the post WW II Cold War between the US and Russia and the emerging Soviet Union. The WW II era had been the time of CW and AM modulation. These modes of modulation were quickly becoming inadequate to serve the needs of the second half of the 20th century. Again, Collins’ engineering capability and penchant for studying effective communication prevailed and the Single Sideband Era (SSB) was born…..and so were the 75A-4 and the KWS-1.

As the 50s gave way to the 60s, and AM modulation passed into relative history, competition and the industrial design revolution hit the communication industry full on, and again Collins was up for the game. The result was the maturing of the KWM-1 concept and the introduction of the S-Line Grey Box era. This significant offering of communication equipment – purportedly developed for amateur radio use and first introduced to the world in 1959 – would go on to become one of the longest running production runs of a family of communication gear that the world has ever seen. Such was the success, that this “Amateur Radio” equipment was used by the military without change in both field and fixed station applications. Truth be known, I think there are probably still some S-Line KWM-2As still in the service of our country some 60 years later. For sure there were 50 years after this significant introduction.

To get more perspective on the history and capability of this equipment, click on the links to the right to enter the area that you are interested in.

The start here is modest, but it will grow. With your help, it will grow more quickly. If you have any knowledge (no matter how small) of this early prewar equipment, the associated written information, or even stories about the people and times that are relevant, please put it in an email and send it to Bill Carns, President – Collins Collectors Association – via this included email link.