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AN/PRC-90 Family of Survival Radios

The AN/PRC-90 is an emergency UHF transceiver tuned to two preselected frequencies for voice and beacon transmissions. It has no secure or low probability of intercept capability. Because the enemy can intercept its signal, isolated personnel should limit radio transmissions and use code words until the recovery or extraction phase.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jean C. Trakinat communicates with aircraft using AN/PRC-90 radio as part of Search and Rescue training at Khao Na Ting, Thailand, on 13 May 1996
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jean C. Trakinat communicates with aircraft using AN/PRC-90 radio as part of Search and Rescue training at Khao Na Ting, Thailand, on 13 May 1996.

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AN/PRC-90 Family of Rescue Radios

Royal Thai Air Force Sgt. Sutthiphan Jankeeree (left) and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joe Sitterly (right) communicate on AN/PRC-90 radios as part of Search and Rescue training at Khao Na Ting, Thailand, on 13 May 1996
Royal Thai Air Force Sgt. Sutthiphan Jankeeree (left) and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joe Sitterly (right) communicate on AN/PRC-90 radios as part of Search and Rescue training at Khao Na Ting, Thailand, on 13 May 1996.

The PRC-90 radio is a dual-channel, self-powered, personal, emergency-rescue radio that is primarily used for two-way voice or modulated continuous-wave (MCW) communications between a downed crewman and a rescue aircraft. It has a provision for transmitting tone and swept-frequency, homing-beacon signals to guide rescue efforts. It operates on two fixed frequencies and is compatible with all UHF AM radios and UHF direction-finder groups.

The distances for line-of-sight transmission depend on a variety of conditions — weather, terrain, or battery power. At 10,000 feet, voice mode is 60 nautical miles, MCW and beacon is 80 nautical miles, and auto direction finder is 50 nautical miles. On the ground, effectiveness is one-half to one mile or more, depending on terrain.

The newest generation of this radio is the AN/PRC-90-2. It combines the features of the AN/PRC-90-1 into a more useful design that closely resembles the original radio. The typical communication range is similar to the AN/PRC-90-1, but a high-power mode increases the voice range to 125 nautical miles at 10,000 feet. The -2 radio also is rated to operate in water 50 feet deep for five minutes or 2 feet deep for 24 hours.

The AN/PRC-90-2C and AN/PRC-90-T are training radios and operate on a radio frequency that will not interfere with normal search-and-rescue operations.

Radios Related to the AN/PRC-90

AN/PRC-90 Survival Radio
AN/PRC-90 Survival Radio

The highly successful AN/PRC-90 design led to a series of radios based on it. These had specialized purposes or were cost-reduced variations on the basic design. The family eventually included:

  • AN/PRC-90-1 (first cost reduction)
  • AN/PRC-90-2 (second cost reduction)
  • AN/PRC-90A (HAZMAT version)
  • AN/PRC-106 (121.5 and 243.0 MHz freq.)
  • AN/PRC-103 (para-rescue)
  • AN/PRC-125 (para-rescue)
  • AN/PRC-96 (lifeboat)

The operator's manual for the RADIO SET AN/PRC-90-2 is TM 11-5820-1049-12 dated 15 August 1990.

The AN/PRC-112 Survival Radio, with multichannel capability, superceded the AN/PRC-90 family, but at significantly higher cost.

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