Warren Bruene & The Warren Bruene Award

Warren Bruene at the whiteboard
Warren Bruene at the whiteboard

Warren Bruene W5OLY (SK)

A pioneer in HF communication, Warren Bruene had a stellar 44 year career at Collins Radio (Rockwell-Collins) followed by 6 years at Electrospace Systems. He worked closely with the late Art Collins, WØCXX, on many aspects of HF design at Collins Radio, and he gave us some of the transmitters that helped win WWII. In the 1950’s during the Cold war, he designed transmitters for the Strategic Air Command and the Voice of America. Bruene was a longtime member of the IEEE, the Richardson Wireless Klub, Collins Collectors Association and other organizations. He held 22 patents and authored numerous articles for technical publications. He received considerable recognition for his work, gave numerous technical speeches throughout the country, served on committees to write regulations and standards for the DoD, FCC and others, and was recognized for his work with the Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering from Iowa State University.

Warren went to work for Collins at the end of the depression in 1939. During WWII he worked mostly on Navy ground transmitters and then after the war on both commercial and amateur designs ranging from the 30K series to the 250kW Voice of America transmitters that were installed in the US, Canada and Australia. Most of Warren’s effort was spent developing linear RF power amplifiers. His team developed a way to employ feedback around two tetrode stages and still keep them neutralized. Tetrodes gave the most power gain per stage so a transmitter could be built with fewer tuned circuits and fewer servos. The largest tetrode available at that time was the Eimac glass 4-1000A. Warren’s team built a 5 kw SSB transmitter using three of these tubes in parallel. Eimac was starting to introduce ceramic seal tubes with external anodes so Warren wrote a spec for a tetrode tube suitable for a KW transmitter. The result was the Eimac 4CX5000A.

Bruene - Collins
Art Collins (l) and Warren Bruene

Under the leadership of Art Collins, Collins Radio undoubtedly did more than any other to develop SSB technology to the point where it was practical for general military, commercial and amateur communications. For at least a decade starting in the mid 50s, Collins was recognized as the leader in the SSB business.

The team formed by Collins to develop SSB equipment was put together in the early 50s. The interest in SSB was picking up and Collins with stable oscillators and the mechanical filter in hand, Art got together a team of nine engineers to launch a major investigation into SSB technology and develop the basic circuits needed to implement SSB for general commercial and military use. Out of this effort in 1952-53 came the circuits and “know-how” to launch Collins entry into SSB Communications.

“Some people still think Collins invented SSB and even Warren Bruene is sometimes referred to as the inventor or father of SSB. He has been known to not always bother to set them straight.” – John McFadden, K5TIP, friend and associate

Bruene W0TTK QSL Card
Warren Bruene, W0TTK QSL Card

Mr. Collins selected Warren to write the report on the results of this SSB investigation which was published in May 1954. He organized two or three teams of engineers to develop new SSB equipment. The first product was the AN/GRA-32 high performance exciter for the Army. Another group developed the 75A-4 which was the first ham receiver designed for ham SSB. Another group developed the KWS-1 KW PEP SSB transmitter. As part of a program called Bird Call, Warren’s team developed the 205J-1 45 KW automatic tuned transmitter which was the first at this power level. They also developed the 204C-1 manually tuned 10 KW SSB transmitter. Warren was project engineer on both of these transmitters. They were the first to use 3 stage RF feedback. The 204C-1 was the first to use zero-center meter tuning – no more tuning for dips and peaks – the operator just had to tune to center the meter pointer.

The Collins “S/Line”

Other gear developed during this time was the 100 watt KWM-1 mobile transceiver, Later the KWM-2 Mobile Hf transceiver was developed. Introduced in 1958, The Collins “S/Line” 75S-1 receiver and the 32S-1 transmitter were planned spin-offs of the KWM-2. This equipment set a new standard of excellence for amateur SSB equipment in areas of styling, reliability, frequency accuracy, stability, signal quality and linear amplification. The S/Line enjoyed a long production history and today still commands premium prices among classic radio enthusiasts and collectors. Features were copied by many but seldom equaled.

“I worked at Collins Radio for many years and knew Warren. He was very dedicated, intelligent, and a very quiet individual. He didn’t ‘blow his horn,’ because he didn’t need to. Everyone there knew he was an outstanding contributor to both the company and communications in general. With his death, the HF design world has lost an outstanding engineer.” – Earl Milliken Jr. WB5M from ARRL obituary of W5OLY.

Eimac 3-400Z
Eimac 3-400Z specified by Bruene

There is an interesting story about the 30L-1 500 watt linear amplifier designed by Warren’s team. They had an engineering model in the lab and showed it to Bill Eitel of Eimac, when he was in town for an IRE convention. He couldn’t stand it to see those old fashioned type 811A tubes in there. Warren told him they would like to use a nice new Eimac tube in it, and that if they could build a zero bias triode equivalent to a pair of 811s, was short enough to go into the 30L-1 box and didn’t cost more than twice what a pair of 811As would cost that they would try to use it. They made some sample tubes but the distortion was pretty bad. They did modify it to reduce the distortion and this design became the 3-400Z. This tube or a descendant is in many ham shacks today.

Overall, Collins Radio, and the development team including Warren Bruene, contributed immensely to the modern single side band communications and ham radio as we know it today. We all own a great debt to him for our enjoyment of HF communications and we are very proud to have known him and called him a member of the Richardson Wireless Klub.

(Content excerpts from John McFadden, K5TIP, and the Collins Collectors Association)

The Warren Bruene Award for Outstanding Service

Beginning in 2014, this prestigious award has been given by the RWK membership to honor Warren’s memory at the klub’s annual President’s Dinner. Warren Bruene W5OLY (SK) was a giant in the field of HF communication and the closest thing to a celebrity we’ve had in the RWK. The Bruene Award was proposed as a way to recognize a RWK Member that has an outstanding history of distinguished service to the RWK. Recipients of the Warren Bruene Award include:

2023 – Josh Barfield N4NZ

2019 – Hal Wolff, N5BT (SK)

Hal Wolff, N5BT

2018 – Bill Owens AD5EW

2017 – Danny Siminiuk, K5CG

Danny Siminiuk

2016 – Grant Laughlin, W5XJ

2015 – Doug Kilgore, KD5OUG

Doug Kilgore

2014 – Carl Soloman, W5SU

Carl Soloman W5SU

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