WASHINGTON — The suppression of GPS signals in Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing invasion is informing the development of next-generation U.S. Army navigation and targeting technologies.
The service is investing in alternative sources of situational awareness — where troops are and where they are headed, for example — in anticipation of future fights and digital interference at a massive scale.
The jamming and spoofing seen in Eastern Europe provides an “incredible learning environment,” according to Michael Monteleone, the director of the Army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team. The U.S. considers Russia a top-tier national security hazard.
“You can see real-world, potential-adversary capabilities, and then we can put that up and measure how we’re doing on our side,” Monteleone said in an interview with Defense News. “Underpinning everything we do, whether its a signal, a sensor, whatever it may be, is continuous experimentation in a realistic threat environment.”
The cross-functional team participates in the so-called PNT Assessment Experiment, which puts both emerging and established tech through the wringer. The experiment in 2020 looked at dozens of systems including Stryker combat vehicles and the M777 howitzer.
“I talk about resiliency via diversity. That’s one of the things that we can measure up and say: ‘Hey, in these types of environments, one, are we experimenting correctly, and, if GPS isn’t there, can we still operate? How long can we operate? And how confidently can we operate?’ ” Monteleone said. “We need that human factor of what it’s going to mean to the soldier on the ground to operate in an environment or to not have a weapon system work the way, perhaps, that they expected it to.”
The Army in recent months dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to jam-resistant navigation gear.
The service in late September inked a $318 million deal with BAE Systems for embeddable M-code GPS cards.
In April, the Army tapped TRX Systems to produce second-generation Dismounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Systems, which soldiers can carry in the field. That deal was worth $402 million.
“Across the board, GPS isn’t the only game in town,” Monteleone said. “You have to have other capabilities to achieve [assured positioning, navigation and timing].”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.