Monday, June 19, 2006

Problems with China and GPS

According to an article in last week’s Space News, the Europeans and the US are disturbed by China’s planned Compass military satellite navigation system. The Chinese are going to try to do to both America’s GPS 3 and Europe’s Galileo systems what the Europeans, under French leadership, tried to do to the US. Europe originally planned to neutralize the military advantage of the US system by putting their signal on a frequency so close to the US M-code one that any attempt to jam their signal would interfere with the US system’s operation: a neat trick that was aimed at giving France a de facto veto over all US military operations. The rest of Europe didn’t care to follow France into a conflict of this kind with the US so they forced France to swallow an agreement on this (See “What’s the frequency, Jacques?”, The Space Review, March 1, 2004)

The Chinese are not part of anything like ESA or the EU and are thus not subject to any of the pressures that led France to “be reasonable”. It will be quite a while before the Europeans fully sort out the implications of this for their system, but it is obvious that China has used its role in Galileo to gain both knowledge and expertise in military satellite navigation technology from Europe and is now going to make good use of those lessons. The Europeans, who claimed that they could separate the civil from the military aspects of this technology and only share the non-offensive parts with China, are left with egg on their face.

From the Space Review.

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