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Audit Faults US Air Force Planning for Military Use of Advanced GPS System

© Pilots Of SwissThe US Government Accountability Office warned that planes could be vulnerable to cyber attacks.
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The US Air Force continues its struggle with the Global Positioning System (GPS) modernization program (GPS III) by failing to coordinate development of software sub-programs and failing to plan for the integration of GPS III with 700 weapons systems, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The GAO explained in the report that additional work is necessary to integrate GPS III with over 700 weapon systems.

"The Air Force continues to struggle with keeping multiple, highly compressed, interdependent and concurrent program schedules synchronized in order to sustain and modernize the GPS constellation," the report said on Tuesday. "The Department of Defense therefore risks paying to repeatedly find design solutions to solve common problems because each program office is likely to undertake its own uncoordinated development effort."

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The GPS III satellites are built to last longer than their predecessors, and have improved signal accuracy and integrity, the GAO said.

GPS III will be controlled by a ground control system known as OCX. The satellites will beam a signal using military code, or M-Code, which is encrypted and has improved signal strength. GPS III will broadcast a civilian user signal — known as L1C — that will operate with European, Japanese and other satellite systems.

The GAO also said the next generation ground station control system, or OCX, is at risk for further delays and cost growth.

"To mitigate continuing delays to the new ground control system, the Air Force has begun a second new program — Military-code (M-code) Early Use — to deliver an interim, limited broadcast encrypted GPS signal for military use by modifying the current ground system," the report said.

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The GAO pointed out that of particular concern are the Air Force's troubles with GPS receiver cards, which determine a user’s position and time by calculating the distance from four or more satellites using the navigation signals on the satellites to determine the card’s location.

The preliminary estimate for integrating and testing a fraction of the 700 large and small weapon systems that need the receiver cards is over $2.5 billion through fiscal year 2021, and the cost will increase by billions when as yet unfunded weapon systems are included, according to the report.

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