GPS - An Important Technology to U.S. Troops

The GPS Provides Critical Information In Combat Zones

U.S. Soldiers from the 702nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 16th Sustainment Brigade, illustrates the function of a GPS device to Romanian demolition students.
heraldpost/Flikr/CC BY 2.0

With its navigation and image capabilities, Global Positioning Systems have become one of the most important technologies to the U.S. military over the past 15 years.

Helping Soldiers Navigate and More 

Known by its initials "GPS," the Global Positioning System has only been commercially available since 1994. And the U.S. space-based global navigation satellite system is best known for helping civilian drivers navigate their way through suburban streets.

But the technology – which provides reliable navigation services and detailed images anywhere on earth – has proved to be an invaluable tool to the U.S. military and other defense forces around the world.

With the ability to provide accurate positioning continuously, day or night, in any conditions, GPS has helped ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan navigate across expansive, barren deserts that have few markers or distinguishable features. They have also proved reliable in sand storms when visibility is reduced. The GPS device also enables the U.S. military and its allies to distinguish friendly soldiers from enemy troops – reducing incidents of friendly fire in combat zones.

Wide Application

When GPS first became available, the U.S. military ordered only 1,000 of the devices for trial use. Today, GPS are carried by ground soldiers, and are attached to most vehicles and aircraft deployed in combat zones.

The devices are in place on F-16 fighter jets, B-52 Bombers, naval warships, minesweepers, and aerial tankers.

The GPS has become critically important for all military operations and is being added to an increasing number of vehicles. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has made GPS devices standard for use by its member nations.

The detailed satellite images provided by GPS are also critically important to military intelligence. Soldiers working in intelligence rely on GPS for information that allows them to make operational and tactical decisions in real time.

New Uses for the Device

Militaries around the world are looking at new uses for GPS. The devices are being added to weapons and firearms, and some militaries – such as the Israeli Army – are exploring the possibility of embedding GPS devices into soldiers vests and uniforms so that field commanders can track their soldiers’ movements in real time. The Israeli government has stated that embedding GPS devices in soldiers uniforms would also help reduce incidents of friendly fire.

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