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With warfare quickly evolving from guns and bombs to technology-enabled approaches, GPS (Global Positioning System) signals become crucial for missile guidance, troop movement, and communications, among many other uses. Navigation warfare, or NAVWAR, grew from the need to secure the integrity of navigation and timing solutions even when GPS signals are degraded or unavailable in both war and peace.
Since radio frequency attacks on GPS receivers could cause chaos and put our country at risk, the Army urgently needed to know when its critical GPS signals were being spoofed—when enemies confuse signals—or jammed.
The Army had a solution in hand, but it had to be tested. Testing in an open environment, however, can disrupt other critical GPS receivers, and there are federal laws against it.
Knowing that Booz Allen’s PNT (Positioning, Navigation, and Timing) Center of Excellence in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had the capability to test GPS signals in a closed-loop (no broadcasting) environment, an order came through: Test the new system quickly, confirm that it works, and get it out in the field.
“Booz Allen analysts helped the Army gain rapid-fire information that kept their GPS signals safe and secure.”
When the Booz Allen team brought the potential solution into its PNT testing lab, fundamental flaws in the design and implementation of the hardware and software were quickly discovered. After an additional search, we discovered there was no solution then available that met the Army’s requirements.
Failure, however, was not an option.
Using commercial and government off-the-shelf equipment, we tested, integrated, and validated the solution as rapidly as possible.
Where we found flaws, we engineered new solutions that saved development time and resources by using existing components to keep costs low and efficiencies high.
Key to our approach was original thinking, which doesn’t come in a box. Smart people armed with the right tools and collaborating toward a common objective produced new ideas and better approaches that were low risk, could be implemented quickly and provided new capabilities the Army had not realized possible.
We found a commercial off-the-shelf system explicitly built to detect and locate RF interference and added a spoof-detection capability that we developed. We then tested the solution using an automated testing and analysis architecture capable of running hundreds of tests without operator intervention that we engineered specifically for this project.
Now, in addition to the completed sensor testing, the Army has a more thorough and replicable capability to test GPS receivers, antennas, and sensors. Officials can respond quickly to emerging threats and have confidence in test results.
The team’s work meant we delivered our client’s requirements in time to meet an urgent operational need and enhanced our client’s standing in the military PNT community. We also left residual capability that will benefit the Army, and possibly other clients, as they address other PNT challenges.