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Army Looks at Chip Scale Atomic Clock for GPS Blocked Combat

by Kris Osborn on November 8, 2013

GPSThe Army is trying to figure out how to function in a combat environment where GPS signals could be blocked from soldiers.

One potential solution is through a small device called a Chip Scale Atomic Clock, or CSAC. It is a technology which results from the miniaturization of atomic clock components to a chip-sized scale, Army documents explain. The CSAC can provide units with precision timing for up to three days in a GPS-denied environment, said Mary Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, Research and Technology.

“You are measuring vibrations at an atomic level,” Miller said.

The CSAC is being developed through a partnership between the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency, or DARPA, and the Army’s Communications-Electronics Center Research Development and Engineering Command, or CERDEC.

DARPA originally developed the technology and CERDEC is now working on maturing manufacturing technology in order to make CSAC more affordable, said Miller.

“If you lose track of your GPS then you can very quickly start drifting off of your path. This matters because we talk about these very precise munitions which can precisely hit the wrong target. We’re working on alternative ways to get that same level of confidence where we know we are going to hit that target precisely. The Chip Scale Atomic Clock provides us that precision timing,” Miller said.

CSAC can also be integrated with GPS receivers to improve and stabilize timing as well as proving “jamming” protections, Army officials indicated.

As part of the Pentagon’s “re-balance” to the Pacific, the Army is hoping to prepare for certain challenges and anticipate potential future conflicts across its vast areas. A substantial portion of this effort hinges upon the realization that potential conflicts in the area are not likely to be fought against lower-tech adversaries as was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan it was pretty much a low-tech adversary. The Army is very concerned as it makes this shift to the Pacific rim. We are going into a much more conjested and contested environment. We have potential peer adversaries or people that have purchased peer-adversary-like capabilities. We know that our stuff will not work as seamlessly was it was designed to do,” Miller said.

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