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Air systems Jammer in the works


Global navigation satellite systems like the US’s Global Positioning System have become deeply embedded in both the function of modern militaries and society as a whole. However, this dependency could leave the technology vulnerable to exploitation. Nicholas Kenny speaks to Alexandra Stickings, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, and Elisabeth Braw, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, about the growing threat of jamming and spoofi ng.


I


n January 1991, the US and its allies launched Operation Desert Storm in response to the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, sparking the conflict that would become known as the Gulf War. The weeks-long air offensive, while devastating for the Iraqi army, was not sufficient on its own to drive Saddam Hussein’s forces out of the country. The coalition needed to launch a ground campaign to end the war, but it faced a number of challenges when this began on 24 February 1991. The speed of warfare had changed – US Army artillery had historically required a day or so to survey its targets and set up munitions, but the speed at which its opponent’s armoured tanks, trucks and other vehicles moved at meant that artillery guns would need to be set up, fired and redirected far more swiftly.


The Pentagon hoped that the Global Positioning System (GPS), at that point untested in war, would provide the solution to this problem. However, the system it had at the time was far more rudimentary


than the version currently in use. Accuracy fell within about 16m, rather than the to-the-centimetre precision possible today. Despite this, GPS was cited as a key element in the success of the ground war – which lasted only about 100 hours – aiding hugely with land navigation and artillery support. “If you look back to the first Gulf War in the early


’90s, it’s often referred to as the first ‘space war’, or ‘space-enabled war’, because that was where we saw GPS really being used,” says Alexandra Stickings, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). More than that, though, the Gulf War demonstrated the value of GPS in military systems. Modern air forces now use GPS for navigation, target tracking and reconnaissance, and it has become an integral part of how they operate. However, therein lies the key danger: unlike many technologies used for military purposes, GPS is dangerous in part due to its invisibility. “It’s become so ubiquitous,” Stickings explains. “So many aspects of our daily lives use this


Defence & Security Systems International / www.defence-and-security.com


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Don Pablo; Illus_man/Shutterstock.com


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