At least 100 US military systems rely on GPS

Posted on June 1, 2010

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By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

Glitch shows how much US military relies on GPS

At least 100 U.S. defense systems rely on GPS, including aircraft, ships, armored vehicles, bombs and artillery shells.

A problem that rendered as many as 10,000 U.S. military GPS receivers useless for days is a warning to safeguard a system that enemies would love to disrupt, a defense expert says.

The Air Force has not said how many weapons, planes or other systems were affected or whether any were in use in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the problem, blamed on incompatible software, highlights the military’s reliance on the Global Positioning System and the need to protect technology that has become essential for protecting troops, tracking vehicles and targeting weapons.

“Everything that moves uses it,” said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, which tracks military and homeland security news. “It is so central to the American style of war that you just couldn’t leave home without it.”

The problem occurred when new software was installed in ground control systems for GPS satellites on Jan. 11, the Air Force said.

Officials said between 8,000 at 10,000 receivers could have been affected, out of more than 800,000 in use across the military.

In a series of e-mails to The Associated Press, the Air Force initially blamed a contractor for defective software in the affected receivers but later said it was a compatibility issue rather than a defect. The Air Force didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification.

The Air Force said it hadn’t tested the affected receivers before installing the new software in the ground control system.

One program still in development was interrupted but no weapon systems already in use were grounded as a result of the problem, the Air Force said. The Air Force said some applications with the balky receivers suffered no problems from the temporary GPS loss.

An Air Force document said the Navy’s X-47B, a jet-powered, carrier-based drone under development, was interrupted by the glitch. Air Force officials would not comment beyond that on what systems were affected.

Navy spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove confirmed the X-47B’s receivers were affected but said it caused no program delays.

At least 100 U.S. defense systems rely on GPS, including aircraft, ships, armored vehicles, bombs and artillery shells.

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