The Army will use a militarized version of a tool long used by hunters, kayakers, hikers and climbers to keep track of individual soldiers.
A crucial area that has seen focus in recent congressional hearings and has been called an Army priority is to operate in a GPS-degraded or denied environment. Tracking friendly forces down to the soldier level is part of the coordination of units on a dispersed, complicated battlefield.
The device, slightly thinner than a beer can, will become part of the service’s Personnel Recovery Support System.
The locator beacon, or personnel recovery device, is expected to operate in degraded environments, the company that manufactures it claims.
Military pilots carry similar such devices; one is the Combat Survivor Evader Locator. But that piece of equipment came into service more than a decade ago and isn’t built to operate in GPS-degraded or denied environments.
In the decades since the GPS satellites first launched, position, navigation and timing services have gone from being a luxury to becoming a minimum requirement for military planners across all the services.
The McMurdo Inc. company, a subsidiary of Orolia, was awarded a $34 million contract in April to produce a personal locator beacon up to military specifications that works both in open and secure transmit modes, according to a company release.
“The PRD will be capable of transmitting in both open and secure signals (training-combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to the Orolia release.
The company was previously awarded a $3 million contract two years ago to produce 16,000 such beacons for the Coast Guard.
The Orolia company uses “resilient positioning, navigation and timing” data for “everything from navigation and positioning of ground vehicles and dismounted ground forces to weapon guidance” and synchronizing other technological assets.
The company uses PNT data and alternate and encrypted signals 1,000 times stronger than jamming signals to counter jamming and spoofing efforts and declutter the electronic environment so that commanders can better track their soldiers and units.
Orolia was one of four companies in 2016 awarded contracts to produce prototypes of the PRSS. Others included Boeing Co. Defense, STS International Inc. and BriarTek, Inc.