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[] U.S. Army awarded contracts to Russian GPS jammer vendor,


U.S. Army awarded contracts to Russian GPS jammer vendor

By Bob Brewin
MARCH 27, 2003

The U.S. Army awarded $192,000 in contracts in 2002 to a Russian company
identified in news reports as a supplier of Global Positioning System
(GPS) jamming equipment to Iraq. 

Moscow-based Aviaconversiya Ltd. has denied selling the jamming
equipment to Iraq, according to the news reports. Officials there
couldn't be reached for comment this week, despite repeated attempts by
Computerworld to do so. 

On Tuesday, President Bush personally complained to Russian Premier
Vladimir Putin about the sale of Russian military equipment to Iraq,
according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. In a press briefing
<> that
day, Fleischer said the White House was "concerned" about reports "of
ongoing cooperation and support to Iraqi military forces being provided
by a Russian company that produces GPS jamming equipment. ... We have
credible evidence that Russian companies provided the assistance and the
prohibited hardware to the Iraqi regime. 

"The President raised with President Putin our ongoing concerns about
support [that] would be provided for Iraqi military forces by Russian
companies that produced the equipment," he said. Putin promised to look
into the issue, Fleischer said. 

Iraq evidently tried to use those jammers against U.S. forces after the
U.S.-led coalition began strikes against Iraqi targets last week. "We
have noticed some attempts by the Iraqis to use a GPS jamming system
that they obtained from another nation. We have destroyed all six of
those jammers in the last two nights' airstrikes. I'm pleased to say
they had no effect on us," Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart, of the
U.S. Central Command, said yesterday. 

Air Force Lt. Col. Ken McClellan, a Defense Department spokesman,
acknowledged that the Army had let contracts to Aviaconversiya. The
company is included on an online list of all Defense Department
contracts worth more than $25,000 that were awarded in 2002 (download
PDF from Defenselink
But he declined to provide any details. 

"Because of the sensitive nature of what constitutes exact military
capabilities, or potential vulnerabilities, I doubt seriously whether
you'll find anyone willing to go beyond the previously released
information from Defenselink or Commerce Business Daily," McClellan said
in an e-mail reply to questions about the contract. 

GPS experts said the Army most likely bought equipment from
Aviaconversiya to test its capabilities, which in turn would help U.S.
forces avoid jamming or attack jammers being used against them. But,
James Hasik, a GPS consultant in Atlanta, said he doubts that the
jammers would have much effect on GPS-equipped smart weapons used in
Iraq such as the Tomahawk
cruise missile or Joint Direct Attack Munitions
<>, because they have backup
guidance systems such as gyroscope-based inertial navigation systems. 

Richard Langley, a professor of geodesy at the University of New
Brunswick in Canada, agreed and said the jammers would also have a hard
time interfering with an encrypted military GPS code broadcast at a
frequency of 1227.6 MHz. But the jammers could interfere with signals
broadcast at 1575.42 MHz, a band used by commercial GPS receivers. Such
receivers could have been bought by individual troops, but the Army
tried to derail that practice in January. In the January 2003
"Pathfinder" newsletter (download PDF
<>), the Army warned troops of
the "severe risks" associated with the use of commercial GPS receivers
on the battlefield. The newsletter is published by the Army's Program
Manager GPS in Fort Monmouth, N.J. 

"Never use them for calling in your critical position information," the
newsletter cautioned, urging the use of a crypto-protected Precision
Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR) made by Rockwell Collins Inc. in Cedar
Rapids, Iowa. The newsletter said the PLGR is "your best protection
against spoofing and jamming and the mission failure or death that could
result from their effect on a commercial" receiver. 

Hasik said jamming of civilian signals could be detrimental if pilots of
aging aircraft such as the Air Force A-10 or the Navy F-14 have bought
handheld commercial receivers to make up for those planes' lack of
built-in GPS. Jamming could interfere with critical navigation functions
of the receivers, he said. 

GPS receivers are susceptible to jamming because of the weak nature of
the signals as they travel to receivers on earth from 24 satellites in
space, Hasik said. 

This week's warning about the sale of Russian GPS jammers to Iraq and
the subsequent attack on them illustrate the Pentagon's concern about
interference with one of the core technologies of its smart weapons
systems. Earlier this year, McClellan said the Pentagon had a "somewhat
serious concern about an online article in 'Phrack' that detailed how to
build a homemade GPS jammer" (see story

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