U.S. Air Force Chief Warns against Over-Reliance on GPS

U.S. Air Force Chief Warns against Over-Reliance on GPS
Gen. Norton Schwartz, USAF photo

The Global Positioning System is vulnerable to threats such as jamming and anti-satellite weapons and the United States should reduce its dependence on the system while developing alternatives for precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), the U.S. Air Force’s top military leader said Wednesday (January 20).

The Global Positioning System is vulnerable to threats such as jamming and anti-satellite weapons and the United States should reduce its dependence on the system while developing alternatives for precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), the U.S. Air Force’s top military leader said Wednesday (January 20).

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz made the comments during his opening keynote address, “The United States as an Aerospace Nation: Challenges and Opportunities,” at the Tuft University Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA) Fletcher Conference on National Security Strategy and Policy. The 2010 conference’s theme is "Air, Space, and Cyberspace Power in the 21st Century." 

The Air Force is the Defense Department’s executive agency charged with maintaining and operating GPS.

“Another widely-known dependence that creates an exploitable vulnerability is that of GPS,” Schwartz told the IFPA conference audience. “From efficient mission planning to lethal precision munitions, global positioning has transformed an entire universe of warfighting capabilities.

“Our dependence on precision navigation and timing will continue to grow,” he said. “So, physicists at the Air Force Research Laboratory are exploring promising new technologies like cold atoms, pseudolites, and image-aided inertial navigation systems that use laser radar, which move us toward achieving ultra-accurate, less GPS-dependent, navigation systems.”

Schwartz said the U.S. military and its allies must be able to operate in a GPS-denied environment because efforts by adversaries to prevent allied use of GPS-provided PNT will only increase.

“It seems critical to me that the Joint force should reduce its dependence on GPS-aided precision navigation and timing, allowing it to ultimately become less vulnerable, yet equally precise, and more resilient,” Schwartz added. “The global value of GPS will endure, but our forces must be able to operate in GPS-denied environments in the future.”

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