Why Is the Navy (We Think) Jamming The West Coast’s GPS This Month?

The FAA has issued a mysterious advisory telling pilots not to trust their GPS for several days this June.

Desert test range

If you live on the West Coast and are planning to visit the mountains on June 21, 23, 28, and/or 30th, you’d probably better get yourself a map, you know, one of those big paper things that fold up, or that come in books people keep in the trunks of their cars. That’s because between 9:30 and 3:30 Pacific time on those days, high-altitude GPS on the West Coast of the U.S. is going to be scrambled. The assumption is that it’s our government doing the scrambling, but they’re not saying. Surprise.

The FAA issued an advisory on June 4 to aircraft about “GPS testing,” saying that GPS would be “unreliable or unavailable” during those times. No warning’s been issued for the rest of us, but the scrambling may reach down as low as 50 feet above the ground.

Included in the advisory is this map that shows the area to be covered by the test: basically from Baja to south of Portland, Oregon, and as far east as the western edge of Colorado.

At the center of the area is the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake in the Mojave Desert. Not very surprisingly, the Navy offered little in the way of additional information when contacted by Gizmodo except to say “It’s general testing for our ranges.” Whatever that means exactly. This is near Area 51.

We are so reliant on our devices these days, the Navy, or whoever, better have a very good reason for doing this to us. It seems reasonable to imagine they’re just checking out some equipment, but why stop there? Maybe they’re seeing what it would take for a super-villain to jam our systems, or…wait…testing some kind of response to secret attacks on our satellites by terrorists, or…(gasp)…aliens? Maybe they’re testing the effects of a Top Secret EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon to send our adversaries back to the stone age, like on Dark Angel?

Or maybe they’re just they testing their GPS systems. Sometimes reality is such a disappointment.



Preview image: Amanda Slater

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