A new tool developed by NATO will help the alliance prepare for GPS jammers, allowing operational commands to see what impact the devices will have on their GPS receivers, the NATO Communications and Information Agency announced April 6.
“NATO’s adversaries have the ability to degrade or deny GPS-enabled capabilities," Jean-Philippe Saulay, a NATO navigation and identification officer, said in a statement. “NATO must take appropriate measures to ensure Allied forces can operate in a degraded or denied environment."
The Radar Electromagnetic and Communication Coverage Tool, or REACT, is able to estimate how large an area will be affected by specific GPS jammers. By inputting technical information and location data about known jammers, users can see on a map what areas will be affected by the devices and prepare accordingly.
The software also works for other global navigation satellite systems used by NATO, such as the European Union’s Galileo constellation.
According to the agency, REACT is only being used for testing and experimentation at the moment. It was shown to operators during the Trident Jupiter 2019 exercise for feedback. Developers are now working to ensure the software is interoperable with NATO’s classified networks and available to operational commands.
Sponsored by the NATO Navigation and Identification Programme of Work, REACT is available to NATO members free of charge.
Tools like REACT highlight the alliance’s dependence on global navigation satellite systems for accurate position, navigation and timing data, as well as the investments that China, Russia and Iran, among others, are making to develop and field jamming devices. And it’s more than just a hypothetical issue for NATO: In 2018, Norway officials publicly claimed that Russia had jammed GPS signals during NATO’s Trident Jupiter exercise.
“NATO must maintain superiority in the electromagnetic environment, including but not limited to, positioning, navigation and timing services," said Enrico Casini, a communications and navigation engineer at the NCI Agency. “The electromagnetic environment has become even more contested in recent years."
Meanwhile, the U.S. military has been pursuing efforts to overcome the threat posed by GPS jammers. For instance, the U.S. Space Force is working to enable a more secure military signal with GPS III, and just last year the U.S. Army fielded anti-jamming antennas to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany.
Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.