Cracking M-Code: Team Robins efforts to protect unseen battlespace

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

Defending the invisible battlefield against adversaries is a mission of Team Robins members in the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Positioning, Navigation and Timing Program Office.

One area of focus is using the encrypted M-Code, which modernizes the Global Positioning System to make it a more secure military signal. This technology would eventually be used across the Department of Defense in military ground, sea and air navigation.

“M-Code was mandated by Congress more than a decade ago to enhance our military PNT capabilities and improve resistance to jamming and spoofing in GPS devices,” said Frank Tisdel, PNT Logistics manager. “All future GPS products will house that latest technology, and it will enhance the warfighter’s capability to accomplish their mission and conduct operations in a challenged area.”

The unseen fighting realm has become so increasingly important that the Air Force created the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2021. This first-of-its-kind wing can enable, equip, and optimize fielding capabilities to give the U.S. and its allies a sustainable, competitive advantage over adversaries in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Last fall, Robins AFB, Georgia, held activations for the 350th SWW, Detachment 1 and 87th Electronic Warfare Squadron, Det. 1, the beginnings of what will become the 950th Spectrum Warfare Group.

The electromagnetic spectrum is an invisible battlespace centered around frequencies that can support radios, navigation, weapons and mobile phone networks. By utilizing the spectrum, it can assist in DoD operations in the areas of cyberspace, space, land, air and sea. 

“GPS is everywhere. We rely on GPS for the navigation of vehicles and planes,” he continued. “If we lose it, it can be detrimental during an operation. If the warfighter is out on a mission and that signal disappears, they’d possibly have to go old school using maps and a compass to navigate.”

Tisdel said the PNT office is also researching M-code-capable receiver equipment, circuit chips and the next generation of handheld radios capable of using M-code signals from GPS satellites. These components will need to be integrated into different types of weapon systems.

 “Our goal is to expand the use of this technology and make it as impenetrable as possible for our defense needs.”