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Kris Osborn - President, Center for Military Modernization

The Army has spent years preparing to operate in what’s called a “GPS denied” environment, meaning a combat scenario in which GPS navigation and connectivity were jammed, interrupted, hacked or simply disabled.

Mounted Assured Positioning Navigation Timing Systems

Many weapons developers have for years operated with the understanding that one of the first moves a great power enemy is likely to attempt in war is an effort to jam or disable GPS. As part of this equation, the Army and other military services have been immersed in efforts to identify alternative methods of establishing Positioning Navigation and Timing technologies. These efforts have been based upon the premise that the US military is potentially over-reliant upon GPS. Should GPS get destroyed in a war, for instance, the US military might lose navigation, targeting, communications systems and an ability to operate unmanned systems programmed to follow GPS waypoints.

U.S. Army Live Fire Exercise

A soldier directs his squad in the direction to provide suppressive fire during a combined arms live-fire exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Aug. 9, 2018. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy

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How would the Army fight if it were “blinded” by a successful jamming of GPS? The service has for years now been working to answer this question, and is now making new progress through a program called MAPS, for Mounted Assured Positioning Navigation Timing Systems. The Army has just awarded a $500 million deal to Collins Aerospace for the purpose of acquiring MAPS systems in coming years. While some of the technological specifics may not be available for security reasons, an essay from the Army’s Program Executive Office, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, Sensors (PEO IEWS) says the system introduces cutting edge “anti-jamming” protections.

“MAPS utilizes enhanced anti-jamming and anti-spoofing protections to provide Assured PNT to Soldiers on Army platforms in contested environments. MAPS distributes PNT to onboard systems and clients that support navigation, mission command, fires and maneuver,” the Army essay says.

The approach with MAPS is two fold in that it both seeks to “harden” or secure GPS and also integrate new PNT technologies able to provide non-GPS-reliant connectivity.

“MAPS ensures access to modernized military GPS and fuses additional sources of PNT to include timing and alternate navigation technologies,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Johnston, Product Manager Mounted Assured PNT. “Assured PNT is a critical enabling capability to Multi Domain Operations and Army 2030, setting conditions for Soldiers to fight and win.”

It makes sense that the Army plans to integrate MAPS into tactical and armored combat vehicles, given the extent to which vehicle-mounted force-tracking technologies rely upon GPS and PNT. The service plans to put MAPS on the Abrams, Bradley and Paladin Howitzer as well as the Stryker, Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and Humvee. Added to these operational uses, the Army also reports it will use MAPS with Short-Range-Air-Defense and Indirect Fire Protection Capability, both systems which require precision tracking of incoming enemy threats and an ability to fire kinetic interceptors. 

Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn - President, Warrior Maven

Kris Osborn - President, Warrior Maven