Tactical Communications

Air Force adds funds for developing better GPS equipment

The Air Force has awarded another contract in its effort to accelerate development of new, more powerful GPS receivers and meet congressional demands to get them into the hands of service members sooner rather than later.

The service’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base has awarded Rockwell Collins a $21.8 million contract modification to support the Military GPS User Equipment, or MGUE, program, a joint military program to develop M-Code-capable GPS receivers capable of functioning when conventional receivers are disrupted or offline.

Earlier this month, the Air Force also awarded an $8.3 contract modification to L-3 Communications to speed up work on the same program.

M-Code, which stands for Military Code, is a fairly new, high-powered GPS signal designed to resist jamming and other interference, and ensure the transmission of accurate military signals. It features enhanced security, messaging formats and frequency modulation techniques, and operates in a part of the spectrum separate from civil signals.

Its development began in the late 1990s after concerns were raised about the potential for blocking existing GPS signals. M-Code’s design was completed in 2001 and the first M-Code signal was broadcast from a GPS Block II satellite launched in September 2005. The MGUE program has since been working on developing the M-Code receivers—and one reason for the recent moves to accelerate the program is that Congress, concerned that development was too slow, mandated that the military buy only M-Code-capable equipment by fiscal 2018.

As with L-3 Communication, Rockwell Collins’ next phase of the project will focus on adding pre-prototype receiver cards and conducting test support activities, with the goal of fielding M-Code receivers to the U.S. military services and NATO troops more quickly. Work on this phase is expected to be completed by the end of September 2016.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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