What Would It Take to Take Out Our GPS System?

I happened to be watching a CBS news report (Preparing the next generation of GPS) about the newest Global Positioning System (GPS) III and the reporter asked some great questions that I thought would make a great story.

  1. A team of technicians at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs are the ones at the GPS Master Control Station 24 hours a day, watching over the satellites. “The operators, go through a very rigorous training program, and then any time we talk to the satellites, two people have to actually look and approve what’s going to that satellite.”
  2. Is there a way that an enemy of our country could take out the whole GPS system? Dana Goward, president of the Resilient Navigation Timing Foundation (a group dedicated to protecting GPS), replied, “Oh, absolutely. And they wouldn’t necessarily have to attack the satellites. It’s much easier to attack the signals. GPS is so integrated into all of our systems that any significant disruption would be catastrophic, almost an existential threat.”
  3. The reporter even imagined a Hollywood scenario:“So, if you and I were writing a screenplay about North Korean bad guys, would it be plausible to think of a scenario where they could bring down the whole system?” “Yes, it could happen,” Goward said. “A suitcase-size GPS jammer, for instance, could have a massive impact on a major metropolitan area.”

What if there were two technicians that decided to work together to interfere with the GPS system and what if in the middle of the mission, the technician changed their mind?


What would life be like without a GPS system to a day, a week, a month or longer?


The article explained how jamming works “by drowning out the GPS signal here on Earth. If you’re an evil-doer, you don’t have to build some expensive rocket to blow up our satellites; you can just broadcast so much radio gibberish that nearby receivers can’t hear the satellites.” So maybe one of the bad guy’s crew is a radio DJ that has access to broadcast radio gibberish at just the right time to help the boss’s plan.

Who wants to talk more about how you can use this idea in your current or next story?

[Credit: flickr/Vormingplus.foto]
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