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NIWC Atlantic Sets Stage for Marine GPS Test Event at White Sands

28 October 2021

From Steve Ghiringhelli

WHITE SANDS, N.M. - NIWC Atlantic wrapped up its support of a month-long test event on Sept. 22 at White Sands, N.M., where new GPS technology capable of boosting U.S. Marine Corps dominance on the information warfare front was assessed.

The Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) Field User Evaluation (FUE) at the White Sands Missile Range assessed the performance of multiple receiver cards onboard the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

Receiver cards, which are critical components of MGUE, help decipher powerful and encrypted military GPS codes known as “M-Code.”

M-Code is part of several efforts to modernize U.S. military GPS capabilities. It was designed to enhance positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions in constrained-access environments while also mitigating threats to GPS like jamming and spoofing

The FUE, which began in mid-August, marked the first time Marines used M-Code. During the test exercise, NIWC Atlantic had the lead in getting all key equipment and technologies up and running for the Marines.

“Our main mission was to configure and integrate the receiver cards onto the JLTV to not only provide Marines access to M-Code but also maximize data-collection opportunities for post-performance evaluations,” said Jake Witmer, NIWC Atlantic’s project lead for MGUE.

Ahead of the event, NIWC Atlantic spent over a year engineering data collection methods, developing M-Code app training, conducting regression testing on newer software builds and providing manpower resources that included technical assets for rapid field test requests and repairs.

To create the right conditions for the FUE, the Navy engineers worked tirelessly to align equipment and capabilities on the range, according to Maj. Bob Schronski, GPS operational test project officer at Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity (MCOTEA).

“Every night, these guys worked on making the JLTVs operational while also configuring the monstrous amount of test hardware inside of the vehicles,” he said.

The JLTVs ran a 40-mile circuit, where jammers created a dynamic and challenging environment for the receiver cards to operate in. Meanwhile, Marines in a makeshift command center reported out exactly what information each card produced.

As a result, the 16 infantrymen and radio operators from 5th Marine Regiment who participated in the FUE developed a very good assessment of the jamming environment.

“Understanding what kind of situational awareness the cards provided was important,” Schronski said. “But ultimately, the primary goal of the testing was to verify the accuracy and survivability of the cards under threat conditions.”

This wasn’t the first time NIWC Atlantic was in the New Mexico desert working with Marines and M-Code. Last year, the command integrated and tested receiver cards on the JLTV, resulting in the U.S. Space Force certifying M-Code receivers on the MGUE Increment 1 program as ready for operational testing on the JLTV lead platform.

At the time, NIWC Atlantic played a crucial role in making the Marine Corps the first service to achieve the certification milestone within the effort across the Department of Defense to deliver a stronger, more secure signal to the joint forces.

Following this year’s FUE, data collected from each card’s performance will inform a future Marine Corps Systems Command down-select decision on follow-on systems.

“We are proud to be a part of this pioneering work that will culminate in delivering better defenses and assured PNT capabilities to the Marines,” said Capt. Wesley S. Sanders, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer. “Access to M-Code in a contested environment will keep our warfighters safe, keep them connected and keep them dominant.”

About NIWC Atlantic

As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.


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