The U.S. Air Force needs this technology and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has developed it—to provide Military Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU) capability to the Global Positioning System (GPS). With the agreement comes the funding, $45.5Million, all part of the Air Force’s overall modernization plan for the GPS, M-Code. When people think of GPS they usually think of the satellites that provide the signals but neglect the importance of the ground system behind it.
This modernization includes an advanced, new signal designed to improve anti-jamming and protection from spoofing, as well as to increase secure access, to military GPS signals for U.S. and allied armed forces.
MCEU will provide command and control of M-Code capability to eight GPS IIR-M and 12 GPS IIF satellites currently on orbit, as well as future GPS III satellites, which the Air Force expects will begin launching in 2018.
MCEU is envisioned as a way to accelerate M-Code’s deployment in order to support testing and fielding of modernized user equipment in support of the warfighter.
The Air Force’s MCEU contract directs Lockheed Martin to upgrade the existing Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) Operational Control System (OCS) allowing it to task, upload and monitor M-Code within the GPS constellation. The contract includes new software and hardware development which will be deployed in 2019 to world-wide ground facilities that support the Air Force’s GPS.
Mark Stewart, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Navigation Systems said that when people think of GPS, they often think of the satellites that provide the signals, but do not remember the important ground system behind it. They recognize the ‘ground’ is critical for any major space mission constellation and they are proud that they can help the Air Force with this part of their GPS modernization plan.
The AEP OCS, currently maintained by Lockheed Martin under the GPS Control Segment (GCS) Sustainment Contract, controls the 12 GPS IIR, 8 IIR-M and 12 IIF satellites in orbit today. The company has successfully implemented several recent projects to modernize and sustain the system for the Air Force.
In June, Lockheed Martin deployed the first of its state-of-the-art GPS Monitor Station Technology Improvement Capability (MSTIC) receivers at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The software-defined MSTIC system replaces 30-year-old hardware, positioning the Air Force to take advantage of commercial off-the-shelf technology enhancements in processing power, reliability and cybersecurity in the future. Six Air Force AEP OCS monitoring stations around the world will receive the MSTIC upgrade by the end of 2017.
In February 2016, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin the GPS III Contingency Operations (COps) contract to upgrade the AEP OCS with new capabilities so it could support the more powerful, next generation GPS Block III satellites. The COps program passed a successful Critical Design Review milestone with the Air Force in December 2016.
Also in 2016, under the GCS contract, Lockheed Martin completed the Commercial Off-the-Shelf Upgrade #2 (CUP2) project—part of a multi-year plan to modernize the AEP OCS’ technology and enhance the system’s ability to protect data and infrastructure from internal and external cyber threats, as well as improve its overall sustainability and operability. CUP2 is now fully operational and managing the current GPS constellation.