GPS Vulnerabilities   [open pdf - 763KB]

"For centuries explorers have navigated by fixed stars. Today our increasingly expeditionary military navigates by orbiting emitters. Satellites enable flexible communication and precise navigation that were unimaginable a generation ago. Space-based technologies reach down into everyday military business so much that interrupted service immediately and fundamentally degrades operations. The author describes various threats to US satellites, systems that use their signals and a military that depends on falling stars. Before entering the 21st century dependent on space-based systems and commercially developed information-technology based systems, the US military must understand its capabilities, limitations and vulnerabilities. Dual-use and off-the-shelf technologies offer real advantages and are especially cost effective. However, they have serious disadvantages: (1) Dual use means that both civilian and military users employ the same technology. Technology training, documentation and product improvements are also available to potential adversaries. (2) Off-the-shelf merchandise provides civilian and military users with nearly identical systems. Systems designed to operate in a much less stringent peacetime environment could be chosen rather than those designed for combat. (3) States, political movements and individuals can obtain current military technology without costly research, development, manufacture, training capacity or espionage. A practical solution can possibly be found in a proposal now under study to use small-size, opticoelectronic, radar and electronic reconnaissance satellites that can be quickly manufactured and launched by light booster rockets during crises. These satellites will conduct reconnaissance with worse resolution than current methods. However, this is only a partial solution since it does not solve the problem of other satellites used for communications and navigation. Whatever their ultimate form, solutions to space vulnerabilities must enable the US military's information dominance."

Public Domain
Media Type:
Military Review (March-April 2001), p.10-16
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