Northrop Grumman tests new military aircraft jam-resistant GPS

Northrop Grumman has successfully tested its new EGI-M electronic warfare jamming-resistant GPS destined for United States aircraft.
Christopher McFadden
Image of the EGI-M installed on the Cessna testbed.

Northrop Grumman 

Northrop Grumman has successfully tested its new jam-proof aircraft navigation system, its groundbreaking Embedded Global Positioning System (GPS) / Inertial Navigation System (INS) Modernization, known as EGI-M. Installed and tested on a Cessna Citation V business jet, the EGI-M could one day be installed on fighter jets and other United States aircraft to keep them safe from electronic jamming in combat zones.

EGI-M should help US planes combat electronic warfare attacks

“This flight test is a major step forward in developing our next-generation airborne navigation system,” Ryan Arrington, a Northrop Grumman VP, said in a release. “The EGI-M capability developed by Northrop Grumman enables our warfighters to navigate accurately and precisely through hostile and contested environments," they added.

Electronic warfare (EW) is one hazard modern combat planes must navigate on the battlefield. EW systems include jammers and other electronic warfare systems that can interfere with the electromagnetic spectrum, depriving pilots and drone operators of vital information required to operate their aircraft. For decades, the United States military has operated in skies it could quickly and reliably control.

“Last time an American soldier died from an enemy aircraft was April 15th, 1953,” said James Hecker, a general in the U.S. Air Force, on a recent episode of the War on the Rocks podcast.

“We’ve gotten [slightly] spoiled, especially in the last 30 years. Desert storm, we had to fight for air superiority, but we got it quickly. We got it uncontested in other wars that we’ve been in in the last 20 years," he added.

But, "times they are a changing," with tensions rising with more technologically advanced nations like Russia and China. This is where EGI-M could help keep the USAF's edge over the competition.

The EGI-M is engineered to function in areas where the enemy obstructs or interferes with GPS signals. In such situations, the system relies on an inertial navigation system that utilizes gyroscopes to track the aircraft's speed and movement changes from a known point in space. To enhance navigation in GPS-contested environments, the EGI-M can receive GPS-M signals, which are more secure and challenging to obstruct as they are reserved explicitly for military applications.

During the May test flight, the Cessna testbed utilized three distinct models of the system to collect various forms of navigational information. According to some sources, the three types of navigational data gathered were solely inertial, solely GPS, and a combination of both through a GPS/inertial management system.

But it won't make them invulnerable

Once the system enters production, it will be installed on, first, the F-22 "Raptor" air superiority fighter with the E-2D "Advanced Hawkeye" tactical airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft receiving units shortly afterward.

Although these new navigation systems cannot ensure complete protection from hostile EW threats, they should be able to increase the timeframe within which aircraft can operate safely and effectively. Additionally, they can simplify the process of regaining air superiority in challenging situations for both the US and Allied forces.

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