Tactical Communications

Air Force looks to speed development of modernized GPS gear

The Air Force has modified a contract for modernizing its current GPS infrastructure, with the goal of getting upgraded, more powerful receivers into the hands of service members more quickly.

The service has awarded an additional $8.5 million to L-3 Communications, which has been providing hardware for the Air Force in related contracts since 2012, to accelerate its development of the Air Force’s Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) program. The next phase of L-3’s project includes procurement of pre-prototype receiver card deliveries as well as test support activities. The receiver card deliveries will greatly increase the fielding of Military Code (M-Code) capable GPS receives to soldiers.

The MGUE program is a joint service program that aims to develop modern military GPS receivers that are capable of providing accurate and reliable positioning, navigation and timing when conventional receivers could be offline or otherwise disrupted. The GPS modernization effort started in the 1990s as a response to various threats from adversaries blocking GPS services. As an additional defensive measure, the program also sought to prevent adversaries from using GPS service. Following the launch of its own GPS satellites, in 2006 the military initiated development for its services to access advanced GPS technology, first under the MUE program, for Military User Equipment, which was followed by MGUE.

Under the MGUE program, prototypes for GPS receiver cards mitigate concerns and risks associated with various receiver designs. The current prototype receivers are similar to military ground and aviation platforms.   

The M-Code signals, acquired and processed through the MGUE program from updated GPS satellites, are capable of more powerful signals, better resistance to jamming and interference, greater security protection and more accurate readings through improved message formats and signal modulation.

The MGUE program will seek to develop more enhanced GPS receivers for joint services and NATO applications. Additionally, smaller and lighter GPS applications are being developed for operations and situations in which devices must be more compact. 

The Air Force expects L-3 Communications to complete its work by Sept. 20, 2016.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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