NEWS | Sept. 23, 2011

USSTRATCOM's JNWC Participates in USPACOM's Northern Edge 2011 Exercise

By Sheila F. Keane

You're all alone, stranded in the Arctic tundra, cut off from the rest of your unit. . .you don't know if you can trust the navigation data coming from your Global Positioning System receiver…what do you do? Where would you begin to look for help?

Thanks to realistic training exercises like Northern Edge, warfighting forces have less to fear and are less likely to face such a dire scenario.

The NE exercise is Alaska's premier joint training exercise designed to practice operations, techniques and procedures, and enhance interoperability among the services. More than 6,000 participants from all branches of service are involved including Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from active duty, reserve and National Guard units. NE is a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 10-day exercise event sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and is held in odd-numbered fiscal years.

This year's NE11 exercise ran from June 13-24. The premise of the NE series of exercises is to improve command, control and communication relationships, and develop interoperable plans and programs between participating services and agencies. NE11 provided the opportunity to hone current and test future applications of combat operations and weapon capabilities, including effective, flexible and capabilities-centered joint forces ready for deployment worldwide. The exercise enabled real world proficiency in detection and tracking of units in land, sea and air in response to multiple crises.

Headquarters Alaska Command serves as the USPACOM Executive Agent and manages all planning and execution in coordination with the respective component commands and supporting commands.

U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Navigation Warfare Center served as the designated navigation warfare (NAVWAR) integrator for NE11. The JNWC was responsible for developing the GPS threat laydown - a viable training environment to promote awareness of GPS degradation/denial tactics. JNWC's primary tasks were to create a jamming environment over Alaska to provide participants the opportunity to experience operations in a degraded GPS environment; the exercise also enabled them to observe impact-to-sortie generation and observe potential impact on mission accomplishment of NE11 aircraft.

The JNWC is a component of USSTRATCOM's Joint Functional Component Command for Space and is located at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M. Its standing mission is to provide operational-level joint warfighter support through planning, integrating and coordinating NAVWAR policy and activities within and across geographic areas of responsibility, functional communities and Department of Defense organizations.

JNWC's increased participation in the various geographic combatant command exercises is a logical progression, since it's very likely that adversary forces would attempt to deny the U.S. and its allies access to the GPS service during military operations, as proliferation of GPS jammers is a serious threat to the U.S. military. GPS works like a radio station in space, broadcasting position, navigation, and timing information from 12,000 miles above the Earth's surface. But like all radio-based signals, GPS is subject to interference from both natural and man-made sources (e.g. , Aurora Borealis, urban environments with tall buildings, mountainous terrain). In fact, the GPS signal received on earth is relatively equivalent to the light received from a 25 watt bulb 12,000 miles away. Modern GPS receivers work great when there is no interference, but the signal is weak enough that it can be blocked by low-powered jammer/transmitters, which can be hard to locate and mitigate.

JNWC's efforts contribute directly to each of USSTRATCOM's top priorities: to partner with other combatant commands to win today, respond to the new challenges in space, and prepare for uncertainty by improving the combat effectiveness of our trans-regional capabilities. Thanks to JNWC's outstanding work at preparing our forces to deal with GPS outages in real-life situations, we can be confident that our forces across all combatant commands will always be able/capable of guaranteeing our nation's security on a global basis.