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Software Glitch Renders Dark Thousands of GPS Receivers, For Days

While installing software upgrades to ground control stations for a new fleet of GPS satellites, Air Force inspectors discovered a glitch in software compatibility that rendered dark up to 10,000 GPS receivers for at least two weeks.

The new software was installed back in January and initially the Air Force blamed the contractor for writing a bad program, but now says it was a compatibility problem instead of defective code; the affected receivers all came from the same source. It took Air Force techs less than two weeks to discover the outage and begin putting in place a temporary fix; a more permanent fix is being distributed.

Apparently, the outage affected GPS receivers on the Navy’s in development carrier-launched drone, the X-47B. While willing to identify that Navy program, the Air Force refused to identify other weapons that might have been impacted by the software problem.

A spokesperson for the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center told the AP that the military’s GPS system, and its heavily encrypted communications channel, is safe from cyber attack and that its never been hacked.

Some influential military leaders, such as Gen. James Mattis, who heads Joint Forces Command, aren’t so confident in GPS infallibility. He has repeatedly said the military must prepare to fight without its many battle command networks and sensors as any future enemy will target the system because they know full well how overly dependent the military is on systems such as GPS.

-- Greg Grant

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