Rockwell Collins: Wikis


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Rockwell Collins, Inc.
Type Public NYSECOL
Founded 1933
Headquarters Flag of the United States.svg Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA
Key people Clayton M. Jones, Chairman, President, and CEO
Industry Aerospace
Products Avionics
Revenue $4.42 billion USD ( $585M FY 2007)
Employees 20,000 (2008)

Rockwell Collins, Inc. (NYSECOL) is a large United States-based international company headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, primarily providing aviation and information technology systems, solutions, and services to governmental agencies and aircraft manufacturers.



Arthur Collins founded Collins Radio Company in 1933 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the purpose of designing and producing shortwave radio equipment.

The company steadily grew, and captured the world's attention when Collins supplied the equipment to establish a communications link with the South Pole expedition of Rear Admiral Richard Byrd in 1933.

During the next three decades, Collins continued to expand its work in all phases of the communications field while broadening its technology thrust into numerous other disciplines. New developments such as flight control instruments, radio communication devices and satellite voice transmissions created great opportunities in the marketplace. Collins Radio Company provided communications for America's role in the Space Race, including equipment for astronauts to communicate with earth stations and equipment to track and communicate with spacecraft. Collins communications equipment was used for Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, providing voice communication for every American astronaut traveling through space. In 1973, the U.S. Skylab Program used Collins equipment to provide communication from the astronauts to earth.


Broadcast Transmitters

In the mid 1930s, the Collins Radio Company constructed and sold transmitters and audio mixing consoles to the broadcast industry. The model 12H, which appears to be the first manufactured broadcast console to integrate the amplifiers into the control surface case, was called a "speech input assembly". Due to the Great Depression, fewer than 100 were sold and only a handful remain today. Extant 12Hs show revision numbers as high as 12H-10, and some of the tube types were changed over the course of the revisions. One variant is known called the 12N, almost identical in appearance.

In 1939, as war in Europe broke out, the model 12 Speech Input Console was licensed to Canadian Marconi Co. for both sales in Canada and Her Majesties Service in the UK. Collins success in constructing broadcast transmitters continued to grow, selling well over a thousand up to the start of the second World War. During WW2 Collins expertise grew in higher power transmitters producing designs which ran well over 15 kilowatts of RF power on a 24 by 7 basis. After the war a limited number of AM transmitters were produced called the 300G and remain the finest in AM transmitters ever produced. The 300G employed the lowest noise circuitry of the time using the 6A5G triode that was more than 10db quieter than its competition.

Collins remained an important manufacturer of broadcast radio transmitters for the commercial market surviving the drastic cost cutting market of the 1960s and 1970s. The transmitter line was later sold to Continental Electronics, which continued to produce a number of Collins designs under its own nameplate before phasing them out in the 1980s. Many Collins transmitters remain in service, primarily as backups for more modern equipment. As history would have it, Continental destroyed all the imported Collins documentation in a random & unexpected warehouse clean-up. Very few original documents remain today and what survived is essentially in the hands of collectors.

Shortwave Transmitters

Collins also produced several shortwave transmitters delivering what it learned in the production of amateur radio equipment to the commercial market. A "30" Series production catered to the growing need of state highway patrol agencies and Department of Commerce aviation needs. The most famous of the series was the 30J-18 which stunned the industry with an art deco appearance rivaling the best of the best. During WW2, Collins Radio combined both its broadcast experience and its shortwave expertise to produce high power transmitters capable of operating around the clock with minimum maintenance. Both their famous aircraft transmitter the ART-13 and their patrol boat radio equipment played fundamental roles in the Allied effort to defeat Germany & Japan. If it is true that the M1 Garand turned the tide of infantry combat to favor the Allies, it is also true that Collins Radio military equipment provided critical communications support when Allied operations needed it. This role was repeated in Korea and Vietnam. Collins military radios were in such continual demand that long after hostilities ceased, the surplus radio sales have remained an active market up to even today.

After WW2, Collins continued to support both broadcast and the quickly growing post-war amateur radio market. Legendary amateur radio transmitters, including the 32V-1, -2, and -3, KWS-1 and the rack mounted KW-1 can easily sell for several times their original cost. Like the no- expense-was-spared 300G, the KW–1 demonstrated Art Collins' ability to produce the finest in shortwave transmitters. Though comparatively few were built, it set the tone for his "S-Line" series which continued to serve as the standard by which all shortwave equipment was judged. [1] Even today, the "S-Line" station is bought, sold, restored and coveted by radio fans with true appreciation for both radio and what Art Collins brought to it.


Around 1947, the company introduced their first amateur radio receiver, the 75A-1 (originally simply called the 75A). This set achieved excellent stability for the time due to high build quality and the use of a permeability tuned oscillator (PTO) in its second conversion stage. It was one of the few double conversion superheterodynes on the market and covered only the amateur bands.

With the experience gained in the design of the 75A-1, Collins released the 51J-1 receiver, a general coverage HF set covering .5 to 30 MHz. It would be produced in somewhat updated versions (51J-2, 51J-3, 51J-4) for about a decade. It found use in military and commercial settings but was too expensive for most enthusiasts. In the military it was known as the R-388 and was used in multiple receiver diversity RTTY installations.

The 75A amateur line was updated throughout the early 50s, finishing with the 75A-4, which was released in 1955. The Collins mechanical filter was introduced to consumers in the 75A-3, and the 75A-4 was one of the first receivers marketed specifically as a single sideband receiver.

Collins R-390A radio receiver

Around 1950, Collins began designing the R-390 (.5 - 30 MHz) for the US military. This was intended to be a receiver of the highest performance available, with the ruggedness and serviceability required for military duty. It featured direct mechanical digital frequency readout. The set is composed of several modules for easy field repair--a bad module could simply be swapped out and repaired later, or junked. Sets built during the original 1951 contract cost the government about $2500 each and around 16,000 were produced.

Concurrently, Collins developed the R-389, a longwave version with fewer than 1000 made. The R-391, another variant of the R-390, allowed choice of 8 different autotuned channels. The three radios shared common power supplies, audio and intermediate frequency modules.

About three years later, Collins delivered the R-390A [2] to the military. While nominally a cost-reduced R-390 (savings of about $250 each), its design compromises were minimal, and it added mechanical filters for improved selectivity. The gear-driven tuning and band change mechanisms were simplified and the parts count reduced. About 54,000 were produced and the set was a military workhorse until the 1970s. Like the R-390, it can outperform many modern radios, to the point that it was designated top secret until the late 1960s.

In 1958 Collins replaced the 75A series with the much smaller 75S series, part of the S/Line, discussed in the next section. These featured mechanical filters, very accurate frequency readout, and excellent stability. At the request of the US government, Collins designed the 51S-1 general coverage set, which was essentially (in intended use) a physically smaller replacement for the 51J series. It was not intended as a replacement for the higher performance R-390A, and unlike the R-390A, it was extensively marketed for commercial use.

Collins produced a few high performance solid state receivers in the 1970s, such as the 651S-1. Like their tube predecessors, these are coveted by collectors today.

Transceivers and systems

With the introduction of the S/Line in 1958, Collins moved from designing individual products that could be used together, to ones that were designed to integrate and operate together, in various combinations, as a system. They were the first equipment maker to take this approach. Collins was also the first to introduce a compact HF transceiver, the KWM-1, the year before. Together, these two innovations put Collins temporarily ahead of its competition and set the stage for other manufacturers and the next generation of amateur (and military) HF radio equipment.

The 75S-1 receiver and 32S-1 transmitter, comprising the heart of the S/Line, operated separately or together to transceive. The units included crystal bandpass filters and a new compact PTO design that provided stable, highly linear tuning across 200 kHz band segments. The S/Line tuning dial mechanism was unique when introduced. It used concentric dials and a gear mechanism that provided precise dial resolution, better than 1 kHz.

Collins S/Line – 516F-2 power supply, 75S-3B receiver, 32S-3 transmitter, 312B-4 console, SM-1 microphone, circa 1969

Within a few years Collins had introduced additional S/Line components, including the 30S-1 kilowatt power amplifier, the 30L-1 desktop power amplifier, and the 62S-1 transverter, which provided coverage of the 6 meter (50 MHz) and 2 meter (144 MHz) amateur bands. The KWM-2 transceiver replaced the KWM-1 using many of the S/Line’s design features and matching its styling. Other accessories included speakers, microphones and control consoles.

Illustrating the uniqueness of their new, smaller units in the market, Collins advertisements in the 1950s and early 1960s emphasized the S/Line’s physical styling and size as often as they did its performance.[3]

Collins continued to improve the S/Line, first introducing the S-2, then the S-3 units, the 75S-3 (and -3A, -3B and -3C) receiver, and the 32S-3 and -3A transmitters. The -3A and -3C units were identical to the -3 and -3B units, respectively, except they provided an extra set of heterodyne oscillator crystals enabling them to cover extra bands – useful for military, amateur and MARS operation, where operation just outside the regular amateur bands was necessary.

Collins 30L-1 Amplifier ca. 1970

Among amateur radio operators, the S/Line established its reputation as perhaps the most solidly engineered equipment available – and the most costly. As a result, S/Line equipment, and the A-Line and other predecessors, are restored, prized, and operated on the air by collectors today.

Collins continued to produce the S/Line well into the late 1970’s and after its acquisition by Rockwell.

In 1978, with the move to solid state design, the S/Line came to an end after a two decade production run. The KWM-380 transceiver was introduced the next year – a break with the past both in its use of transistors and digital technology, and its styling. It would be Collins’ final entry in the amateur radio market until it was discontinued in the mid-1980s.[4]

Rockwell Collins

After facing financial difficulties, the Collins Radio Company was purchased by Rockwell International in 1973. In 2001 the avionics division of Rockwell International was spun-off to form the current Rockwell Collins, Inc., retaining its name. Rockwell Collins is highly concentrated in the defense and commercial avionics markets and no longer markets receivers to the public. The Collins mechanical filter is still in production and does, however, find consumer and commercial use.

The company has acquired several companies, including Hughes-Avicom's in-flight entertainment business, Sony's in-flight entertainment business (Sony Trans Com), Intertrade Ltd., Flight Dynamics, K Systems, Inc. (Kaiser companies), Communication Solutions, Inc., Airshow, Inc., NLX (Simulation Business), portions of Evans & Sutherland, TELDIX GmbH, and IP Unwired.

The company is among the major suppliers of in-flight entertainment on board aircraft. Rockwell Collins' key competitors in this industry include Panasonic Avionics Corporation, Thales Group, and JetBlue's IFE subsidiary LiveTV.

The company today employs over 19,000 people and has an annual turnover in excess of 3.4 billion US dollars. Its chairman, president and CEO is Clayton M. Jones.

Organizational structure

Rockwell Collins has two main divisions:

  • Commercial Systems (CS)
  • Government Systems (GS)

The CS division services the commercial airline industry and business aircraft, providing navigation, communication, In Flight Entertainment (IFE), Synthetic vision and other cockpit products such as autoland autopilots. The GS division services primarily the US government and military, but also provides some products and services to foreign governments with close ties to the United States. Notable government related projects that Rockwell Collins has involvement with are Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS), Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT), Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR), and Future Combat Systems.

Advanced Technology Center

The Advanced Technology Center is a large department inside of Rockwell Collins that focuses on research and development. It has several sub areas namely Advanced Computing, Advanced Radio, Communications and Navigation, as well as Information Systems. Other prominent divisions in the company include display systems, flight controls, and navigation systems.

Collector community

As with several other brands of vintage radio equipment, there is an active community of Collins radio enthusiasts, with clubs, web sites and on-line discussions dedicated to restoring and operating the equipment. The Collins Collectors Association (CCA)[5] and the Collins Radio Association (CRA)[6] are two examples of such organizations.

Groups of Collins users also organize meetings, gatherings at hamfests and regularly scheduled on-air discussions called “nets”.

See also


External links

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