Elements of the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment cross into Poland.
The Army intends to field a first iteration of its MAPS navigation system on armored vehicles this year, as it pushes to begin initial production of a more capable version in fiscal 2022.
“MAPS delivers … to every ground combat platform across the entire Army,” Mark Kitz, deputy program executive officer (PEO) for intelligence, electronic warfare, sensors (IEW&S), said today. “So
a significant effort for the Army, ensuring that we have assured PNT in a tiered and layered approach.”
MAPS is another of the Army’s horrid nesting acronyms, mercifully short for Mounted Assured Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT) System. “Mounted” refers to it being installed on vehicles; the portable version for foot troops is calls DAPS, D for Dismounted. Both are designed as rugged, jamming-resistant PNT systems to let ground units know exactly where they are — and exactly what time it is, a key feature for many communications systems — even when GPS signals are unavailable.
The Air Force has its own program to develop new hardware (a microchip and card module) to enable ground receivers to process the GPS encrypted M-Code signal. But this has been repeatedly delayed, according to a January report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). That delay is part of the reason the Army’s pushing ahead with MAPS and DAPS.
The Generation 1 MAPS receiver was initially fielded for testing and use on Stryker armored vehicles in 2019 to the 2nd Calvary Regiment in Germany to help troops overcome routine Russian GPS jamming in the region. It eventually will be deployed on Stryker armored vehicles, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the MI Abrams tank, and the M109 Paladin howitzers among others — more than 22,000 vehicles, GAO said. The Army requested $68.7 million in its 2021 budget request for MAPS.
According to charts Fitz presented today to the AUSA’s Global Force Next 2021 conference today, the plan is to deploy Generation 1 of the new receiver first with
- the 2nd Calvary Regiment, a brigade-sized Stryker unit based in Germany;
- the 1st Armored Division (a division is made up of multiple brigades), based at Fort Bliss, Tex.
- and the 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kans., which despite its name is a heavily armored force
Meanwhile, milestone C and low-rate initial production decisions on MAPS Gen-2 will be made in the second quarter of fiscal 2022, according to Kitz’s chart. The Army in October launched a program of record for MAPS Gen-2, awarding Collins Aerospace an initial development contract, but did not release the value.
The MAPS Gen-2 upgrades will bring the ability to tap into the M-Code, by integrating an L3Harris chip and a BAE ground receiver card developed under the Air Force’s Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) effort. An anti-jam antenna is included in MAPS Gen-2, as well as an ALTNAV (alternate navigation) receiver to pick up other sources of PNT data, such as Europe’s Galileo satellites, or even optical navigation based on star-tracking.
“As we move forward with software defined radios, there’s opportunities to get after some of those signals that are already out there and being able to use those signals to help you figure out where you’re at,” Jeffrey Langhout, head of the Aviation & Missile Center at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM). “And of course, you know, ‘navigate by the stars,’ that’s been around for a day or two. And so, how can we better use that? … What about star trackers that can that work with some of the [new] technology?”