The Global Positioning System is a valued military asset and part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. Without it, our smart bombs wouldn’t work, our smart phones would be less useful, and we’d get lost in strange neighborhoods. But there are problems with GPS. Its signals are easily jammed, and sometimes they are hard to receive due to nearby obstacles. So in 2000 the Air Force began developing GPS III, a next-generation satellite constellation that could improve the user experience. Getting the full benefits of GPS III requires a new ground-control segment too, which is being developed by Raytheon under the designation OCX. OCX will enable new signals that are more powerful and precise, but it has run into problems — particularly with its cybersecurity features. The Air Force has recently conceded OCX difficulties are partly its own fault, but the important point is that fixes were identified years ago and now are being implemented. If warfighters and civilians are to benefit from the advanced features GPS III will deliver, the OCX program must be executed as originally conceived. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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