Army looks for alternatives to GPS as enemies threaten to jam signals

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Gen. Murray: “We have to have multiple ways of getting PNT in the future battlefield because of the threat of jamming.”

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has to become less dependent on GPS-enabled devices as adversaries field increasingly more advanced electronic jammers , a senior Army official said Oct. 14.

“What we are trying to do is develop alternative ways to get PNT [positioning, navigation and timing] other than GPS,” Gen. John Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, told reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army annual conference.

“We have to have multiple ways of getting PNT in the future battlefield because of the threat of jamming,” said Murray.

The Army Futures Command, based in Austin, Texas, is a new organization created to provide long-term guidance to the Army on how to modernize and prepare for future wars.

Murray cautioned that the Army is not walking away from GPS and will continue to support U.S. Air Force efforts to develop a new generation of GPS satellites that emit stronger signals. But he said the Army intends to invest in technologies to reduce its reliance on GPS, and will train troops in electronic warfare tactics.

The immediate priority is to deploy anti-jam systems to Army forces in Europe and in the Korean Peninsula, Murray said.

Murray announced the Army this month has deployed a new anti-jam GPS device for the Stryker light armored vehicles of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Germany. Hundreds more vehicles across the U.S. European Command theater of operations will be equipped with these devices over the next several years.

The Stryker infantry carrier, like most Army combat platforms, uses multiple GPS receivers. A device called the Mounted Assured Precision Navigation and Timing System (MAPS) will be installed on Strykers. The MAPS kit replaces multiple GPS receivers with a single device that has a GPS receiver but also a chip-scale atomic clock for timing, Selective Availability and Anti Spoof Module (SAASM) for navigation, and has an anti-jam antenna to distribute PNT information. In tests, MAPS showed that it continues to work even when the GPS signal is weakened or compromised.

The Army said it plans to put MAPS in heavy armored vehicles such as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, M1 Abrams tank, and the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer. Similar devices also will be developed for dismounted soldiers.

The Army Futures Command formed a group called Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team to focus on this problem.

The team will “provide soldiers access to accurate and trusted PNT even when GPS signals are degraded or denied,” according to a Futures Command slide presentation.

Among the alternatives to GPS that will be investigated in the coming years is the use of low Earth orbit communications satellites to provide timing signals.

The Futures Command also will recommend that soldiers receive advanced training in navigation warfare so they’re better prepared for a GPS-denied environment. The Army this summer held a PNT Assessment Exercise (PNTAX) at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to rehearse how troops would fight when PNT signals are disrupted.

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