GPS helps warfighters track ‘bad guys’ |
by Maj. April Jackson
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs
3/2/2006 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- When U.S. forces get to Iraq and Afghanistan, they’re finding dry, featureless terrain with no real landmarks or points of reference to use when they travel across these wide-open and often dangerous landscapes.
In the past, maps and a compass were the decisive tools used by servicemembers to track down the enemy and find their exact location in theater.
That’s no longer the case. Warfighters are now turning to a 12-channel device known as the Defense Advanced Global Positioning System Receiver, or DAGR, to get vital information. A screen about the size of a square yellow sticky note transmits invaluable maps, satellite sky view information, and situational awareness so that fielded forces can determine their position and then go back to a map to plot where the enemy sits, according to Army Col. Philip LoSchiavo, a program manager for GPS user equipment here.
“GPS has become a vital part of what the military does today and its use will increase over time,” said Dave Williamson, deputy product manager. “All units that are currently going over to Iraq are equipped with DAGR before they get there.”
The Navstar GPS Joint Program Office here developed and continually enhances this device, which replaces the last generation of equipment known as Precision Lightweight GPS Receivers.
Since 2004, more than 33,000 DAGRs have been fielded to the Air Force, Army, U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and foreign military forces, said Army Capt. Kurt Threat, another program manager.
The Air Force has tested 941 units while the Army has fielded 31,000 devices. The initial $490 million contract for the DAGR will run for eight years with two versions continually being updated with new software and hardware.
The DAGR weighs less than a pound and is small enough to fit easily into the palm of the hand, but it packs a huge punch. Forces can stand in a desolate location and receive real-time position, velocity, navigation and timing info, Captain Threat said.
“We get rave reviews from the soldier,” Mr. Williamson said. “It is a quantum improvement over the previous GPS receiver, the PLGR, because it’s lighter in weight, smaller, uses fewer batteries, picks up the satellites more quickly, and it’s more user-friendly.”
The DAGR, which costs $1,832 per unit, is also less vulnerable to enemy actions, Captain Threat said. It’s built to be much more difficult for unfriendly forces to jam signals and transmit false information or “spoof” our warfighters.
Forces can “utilize it better in a more hostile jamming environment,” Colonel
LoSchiavo said. The capability “allows use of electronic unclassified crypto keys.”
Although it’s primarily for land users, DAGR can also be used in water-borne vehicles and can be mounted or hand held.
Future plans call for buying more than 34,000 DAGRs and developing the next line of receiver equipment that will eventually follow the DAGR, Colonel LoSchiavo said.