Pentagon: Proposed EU satellites could interfere with GPS

Top Pentagon officials have expressed strong concerns that a planned $2.2 billion European satellite navigation system could interfere with signals from the satellite-based U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) used to conduct military operations, such as the extensive use of GPS-guided smart bombs in Afghanistan.

The frequencies the EU has proposed for Galileo are interleaved with the same frequencies the U.S. Defense Department has proposed for a new generation of GPS satellites and could cause interference with GPS, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Ken McClellan, a Pentagon spokesman. "The two proposed systems are on the same frequencies," McClellan said, adding that the result could be inadvertent "jamming" of signals from one satellite navigation system by another.

GPS satellites currently transmit position information in the 1,500-MHz frequency band with an accuracy of 100 meters to anyone in the world who has a simple receiver costing as little as $100. The satellites also transmit in the 1,200-MHz band an encrypted military signal with an accuracy as good as six meters. The new GPS satellites, planned as a part of a $400 million, six-year GPS upgrade in 1999, will add two civilian signals, one in the 1,200-MHz band and another just under that, at 1,176.45 MHz.

The Pentagon conveyed its concerns about potential Galileo interference to GPS in a letter from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to European defense ministers on Dec. 4. The letter from Wolfowitz expressly raised concerns that Galileo could cause interference with military operations, said a Pentagon official who declined to be identified. He added that since NATO enjoys the benefits of GPS and conducts joint operations with the U.S., the Pentagon wanted to participate in discussions with the EU on development of Galileo.

According to a report in the London-based Financial Times Saturday, the EU viewed the Wolfowitz letter as U.S. interference with its plan to develop a satellite navigation system free from Pentagon control. The European Commission has until March to obtain half the funding for Galileo, with the other half already budgeted by the European Space Agency.

French President Jacques Chirac urged development of Galileo to ensure that Europe doesn't become a "vassal" of the U.S., according to the Financial Times.

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