GPS Goes to War
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The U.S. Military is constantly working to make GPS
equipment more jam-proof, on the ground and in the
air. Antenna systems can sense the direction from
which the jamming signals is coming, then cancel out
Future GPS satellites will come with a more flexible
transmission system that can be adjusted from the
ground to overcome jamming, the Air Force said.
readings were accurate only to a resolution of a 100 sq yards
or so — and that’s not what is demanded by today’s high-
precision applications.In 2000, the U.S. Military said it would
not return to the days of “intentional degradation” of GPS
signals. Rather, it would use more targeted tactics such as
signal-jamming in the area of military operations.
An enemy could conceivably send out “spoof” GPS-like signals
that would confuse the civilian-grade technology, however, but
they would not have the “P code” used by the military.
US Ground troops are cautioned not to rely on civilian GPS
receivers because they can be spoofed.
Jamming: For a long time, low-cost GPS jammers have been
widely available, and Iraqis and others have reportedly
purchased such devices. The dish antennas used for satellite-
TV reception can even be hacked to jam GPS signals.
Because there are two GPS frequencies, it is harder to jam U.
S. Military equipment — and enemy jamming signal itself
would quickly attract U.S. fire.
It is a powerful weapon — and a
valuable target — during any war.
Enemy forces may try jamming GPS
signals, or “spoofing” GPS
transmissions to confuse invading
GPS users have been debating whether
the U.S. Military will be “dumbing down”
the satellite readings for civilians, as it
once did. Until three years ago, civilian
The Global Positioning System began decades ago as a
satellite-based network for military navigation and location, but
in the past ten years it’s spawned a host of civilian applications
— including direction-finders for cars and hikers. But when
GPS goes to war it raises questions about what happens on
the home front.
The U.S. Military is deploying GPS not only as the backbone
for its battlefield communication system but as the guidance
system for a wide array of “smart bombs”.
Such satellite-based guidance systems are not foolproof, as
was learned during the Afghan war, but they are considered far
less vulnerable to the confusion of war than laser-guided
munitions that played an important role in Desert Storm.
The GPS network relies on radio readings from a constellation
of orbiting satellites.
Although the GPS system was completed
only in 1994, it has already proved to be
a valuable aid to U.S. Military forces.
Picture the desert, with its wide,
featureless expanses of sand. The terrain
looks much the same for miles. Without a
reliable navigation system, U.S. Forces
could not have performed the maneuvers
of Operation Desert Storm. With GPS the
soldiers were able to go places and
maneuver in sandstorms or at night when even the Iraqi troops who
lived there couldn’t. More than 1,000 portable commercial receivers
were initially purchased for their use. The demand was so great that
before the end of the conflict, more than 9,000 commercial receivers
were in use in the Gulf region. They were carried by soldiers on the
ground and were attached to vehicles, helicopters, and aircraft
instrument panels. GPS receivers were used in several aircraft,
including F-16 fighters, KC-135 aerial tankers, and B-52 bombers.
Navy ships used them for rendezvous, mine sweeping, and aircraft
GPS has become important for nearly all military operations and
weapons systems. It is also used on satellites to obtain highly
accurate orbit data and to control spacecraft orientation.
Changing the Battlefield