GPS satellites orbit 12,500 miles from the Earth – resulting in very low signal strength

Can GPS be Trusted? Part 3

In my previous posts, I discussed the shortcomings and benefits of utilizing GPS as a primary Position Navigation and Timing (PNT) source. I also examined methods that provide Assured PNT (or A-PNT). These include hardening the GPS signal against jamming, while at the same time jamming the enemy’s receivers, utilizing encryption to provide spoofing immunity, and complementing GPS with other forms of PNT equipment.

This final post will focus on how complementing PNT systems can be combined together in a military vehicle and how this can be efficaciously integrated with other military ground vehicle systems.

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Veterans @MRCY: Edward Conant

Edward Conant, Colonel (retired), Operational Fighter and Test Pilot, served in the US Air Force for 26 years after graduating from the US Air Force Academy in 1988. He began his career flying the F-15C Eagle at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He’s pictured here in the cockpit of “his” F-15 (although the American taxpayer still owned the jet!).

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The Secret to Amplifying Your Impact

On my LinkedIn page, I posted an update inspired by the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. Motivated by the response I received, I wanted to explore this topic further in my first blog post!

No matter what job title is listed on my email signature, I’m an engineer by training and at heart. You can imagine my surprise, as I was reading Grit, when I came across these equations I’d like to share with you:

Achievement = Skill * Effort   (Eq1)

Skill = Talent * Effort   (Eq2)

Combine both equations, and you arrive at a formula that is the subject of today’s post:

Achievement = Talent * (Effort)^2   (Eq3)

Duckworth adeptly refers to this as “Effort counts twice.”

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Radar Basics: An Overview of Electronic Warfare Part 2

In the first post of this series, we discussed the history of the electronic warfare with an emphasis on the back-and-forth competition to develop systems that grant the owner control over the electromagnetic spectrum. When one country develops a new radar system, its adversary starts working on a jammer. In order to mitigate the effects of the jammer, the radar developer then must design a system that protects the radar from the effects of the jammer.

This invisible battle over control of the electromagnetic spectrum is critical to success on the battlefield and is the topic of the subsequent posts. However, understanding the technology to jam and deceive radar requires an understanding of the radar systems.

We’re all familiar with the applications of radar—that yellow warning light on your mirror telling you someone is in your blind spot, police radar monitoring your speed, images on the news showing the path of a storm. However, for the purpose of understanding electronic warfare, we’ll look at the types of radar in three main groups.

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GPS satellites orbit 12,500 miles from the Earth – resulting in very low signal strength

Can GPS be Trusted? Part 2

In my previous blog post, Can GPS be Trusted? Part 1, I explained why commercial GPS position, navigation and timing (PNT) cannot be trusted for critical systems. This blog explains how a trusted PNT system can still use a GPS as the primary PNT source.

Adding Trust with A-PNT

Assured Position, Navigation and Timing (also known as A-PNT) is an Army initiative that attempts to provide soldiers and systems with a reliable and accurate source of position, navigation and time even during compromised, denied or spoofed GPS transmissions.

A-PNT is a set of goals that are driven by the Army’s Direct Reporting Program Manager PNT (PM PNT) and the PNT System of Systems Architecture (SoSA). They derive from technologies developed by the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and generally follow COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) technological improvements.

A-PNT’s goals can be summarized by the following:

  • Harden – resilience to denial, both from enemy and friendly jamming
  • Trust – immunity to spoofing
  • Complement – redundancy to failure by complementing GPS with multiple non-GPS PNT sensor

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Think Global, Act Local

According to the web site Simplicable.com,

“’Think global, act local’, is a common principle that is applied to organizations, business, education and governance. It asks that employees, students and citizens consider the global impact of their actions.”

As a group, virtually all who are reading this blog (thank you) are all of the above – employees, students and citizens. It’s logical to assume the words global and local are relative terms – especially within an engineering context.

A friend of mine holds a PhD in Astrophysics from Caltech. Like a lot of super smart guys, he now excels in an area that couldn’t be farther afield from his education – although, Astrophysics speaks to a very large “field”. As the CTO of his current company, he has architected a very nice, one-touch disaster recovery system for data you just don’t want to lose. Marc likes to refer to the hardware behind the magic as, “the necessary evil”… In effect, he’s echoing the sentiments of Harvard Economist, Theodore Levitt, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole”.

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Finding new opportunities with Nashua Community College (NCC)

Part of the job of a talent attraction professional is uncovering ways to find talent with the right skill set to meet an organization’s needs. But what if the roles you’re trying to fill are in a niche market or the industry you’re searching is struggling to find, motivate and train skilled workers? Recently we ran into this very issue among our RF/M manufacturing and production workforce at our Hudson, NH Advanced Microelectronics Center (AMC). We had many qualified employees, but we needed more and that external talent pipeline had waned.

Enter the Microelectronics Bootcamp at Nashua Community College (NCC).

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GPS satellites orbit 12,500 miles from the Earth – resulting in very low signal strength

Can GPS be Trusted? Part 1

GPS is Everywhere

Most of us don’t think of GPS on a daily basis even though the technology has quickly become a quiet necessity in our lives. A vast majority of us walk around with an active GPS receiver in our pocket. The modern cellphone has been equipped with a tiny GPS receiver ever since the FCC mandated its use for location by rescue workers and 911 calls. We mostly take its presence for granted even when it is accessed by our favorite apps. Our GPS location allows us to navigate, browse the local big chain store inventory, tag our location on photos, get local news, and find our parking spot.

Similarly, the accurate navigation from GPS is also critical for efficient operation of commercial and military vehicles, aircraft, ships, UAVs, missiles, and smart bombs.

GPS Alone Cannot be Trusted!

We generally have pleasant experiences with GPS in our modern phones. With the right software, it gets you from A to B without any issues. However, occasional GPS dropouts do occur, leading to a “loss of GPS” or similar message from our navigation software, for instance, when driving in a tunnel. The fact that dropouts occur should not be surprising when you consider the technology.

GPS satellites orbit at an altitude of about 12,500 miles and each satellite has the radio power equivalent to a conventional light bulb. That results in a minuscule signal strength at the GPS receiver, which makes it very susceptible to radio noise, attenuation, and reflection from tall buildings. It also makes it very easy for attackers to jam with simple, low cost radio transmitters.

Back in 2013, Newark airport was inadvertently hit by a GPS denial attack when an employee, wanting to hide his company vehicle movements from his boss, was driving in the area with a GPS jammer that could be obtained for as little as $100.

The GPS signals are also at risk from legitimate terrestrial transmitters. In the US, the FCC is responsible for keeping the weak signal satellite bands separate from terrestrial ones. But even so, in 2011 a 4G LTE wireless company called LightSquared requested the terrestrial use of spectrum so close to the GPS band that it put the whole network at risk.

Worst still, commercial GPS receivers are susceptible to GPS spoofing attacks. Attackers can connect a strong transmitter to a GPS simulator programmed to fool a target GPS receiver into thinking that it is somewhere it isn’t. An infamous headline of such a spoofing attack was the capture of a US RQ-170 Sentinel UAV by the Iranian government in 2011. This was allegedly done by sending the UAV strong false GPS signals to make it believe it was flying over a friendly airfield instead of hostile territory.
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DDR4 -SWaP for Military Embedded Systems

Don’t believe what they say… Size DOES matter!

Don’t believe what they say…Size DOES Matter!

In this case the smaller the better – especially in the constrained spaces of an aircraft cockpit or an unmanned vehicle where every inch is precious real estate needed for additional functionality, including massive amounts of sensor processing. These applications require the latest field-programmable gate array (FPGAs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and Intel Xeon processors with the support of high-speed dense memory to ensure peak performance with extremely low latency for mission success.

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