SHILO, Manitoba — Canadian Army (CA) artillery gunners have run successful live fire tests on an innovative device designed to protect military Global Positioning Systems (GPS) from jamming.
The CA conducted the tests October 27 and 28, 2016 in support of the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP), a federal government initiative designed to foster innovation in Canadian businesses.
Created in 2010, BCIP supports Canadian suppliers with investments in the late stages of research and development, just prior to taking products to market and testing, which helps manufacturers make pre-market improvements to their products.
The tests, carried out at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba, were an assessment of GPS Anti-Jam Technology (GAJT) developed by Calgary-based NovAtel Inc.
The CA’s M777 Howitzers have three GPS-based systems, including GPS-guided munitions, and the GAJT is designed to ensure they are able to retain their accuracy if an enemy force employs jamming devices or in the case of unintentional interference.
GAJT is essentially an antenna that counters any jamming signals, allowing GPS receivers to acquire the satellite signals they need to function properly. Testing with the M777s included assessing GAJT’s durability by subjecting it to the powerful shockwave produced when the weapon is fired. Prior testing confirmed the anti-jamming capability had already occurred.
Captain Thomas Booth, Trial Officer on the project, explained that there are currently no plans to purchase more than the 10 GAJTs already acquired by the CA through BCIP but that such technologies are of interest and may again come under consideration in the future.
The GAJT trial, and the BCIP in general, he added, are a good example of collaboration not only between government and industry, but also within the various elements of the CA that sprang into action to help facilitate the testing.
“This is an interesting window into how the military works and how we coordinate with the government and civilians,” said Capt Booth. “We’re all part of the same team. When a Canadian company benefits, all of Canada benefits. Within the Army, everybody’s on board. Working through all the administrative processes between departments takes time and effort, but we can still be creative and help each other out.”
This trial, he said, is the result of collaboration among six different government departments, agencies and directorates, one regiment and a Canadian Forces base, no small undertaking.
GPS, like the Internet, is a creation of the U.S. Department of Defense and was only made fully available for public use in 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton.
“The Internet provided an ability for decentralized command and control so that there’s no single point of failure,” Capt Booth explained. “GPS is another vital link in that because it provides position, navigation and timing information. It is integral to almost everything we do.”
“There is still a significant cadre within the military that does not want to solely rely on GPS,” he added. “They want to make sure they keep up their skills with map and compass. In the military we always look at the worst-case scenario and as long as we can still function in the worst-case scenario, then with everything else we can work our way through.”
“Despite this necessity to keep up with basic skills, the military is always on the lookout for new technologies and capabilities in order to give us an edge in conflict situations. Due to the relative ease of jamming a GPS signal, innovations such as those provided by NovAtel’s GAJT could make the difference between victory and defeat.”