WASHINGTON — With an eye on sophisticated Russian jamming and spoofing technology, the U.S. Army will field test jam-resistant position, navigation and timing gear with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany this September.
The decision comes amid a pattern of Russia jamming or disrupting all sorts of communications vital to Western forces in recent years, from mobile phone networks during exercises to electronic warfare against U.S. operations on the ground in Syria. NATO affirmed that Russia jammed GPS signals during its Trident Juncture exercise in November in Europe’s High North region.
The Army will field a system called Mounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing, or MAPS, on some of the regiment’s vehicles — news first reported by Inside the Army. The system uses the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module for GPS, a chip-scale atomic clock for timing an anti-jamming antenna to distribute position, navigation and timing information across a unit’s mission equipment.
Russia’s electronic warfare capability fueled the fielding to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Army Col. Nicholas Kioutas, the service’s project manager for positioning, navigation and timing, said on the sidelines of the C4ISRNET Conference held in Arlington, Virginia, June 6.
“Right now what we can learn is how the equipment can hold up, because unless we’re being specifically jammed, we won’t be able to tell what happened,” Kioutas said of the upcoming fielding. “We’re constantly taking those systems and stress-testing them and trying to upgrade them, so it’s not like that’s the static system and we’re done.”
The Army is using a flexible acquisitions vehicle called an Other Transaction Authority with three vendors to develop the second generation of MAPS. Program office is asking vendors to provide it with their best technological developments, which is a reflection of the service’s less prescriptive approach to capability development.
“We want industry to show us how to fight a different way,” Kioutas said, adding later, “We said, ‘bring us your best capabilities,’ we didn’t say what those should be.”
The Army plans to experiment with using assured PNT systems as sensors. One use would be for a group of linked systems to read the way a jamming signal strikes them to conclude where the jammer is located. “That’ll be an additional capability down the road that we’ll exploit,” Kioutas said.
The program office is also developing Dismounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing, or DAPS, for the Army’s version of a smartphone, the integrated dismounted leader situational awareness system Nett Warrior.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.