The U.S. Air Force conducted tests last month of an Air Force Research Laboratory position, navigation and timing (PNT) AgilePod prototype for use in GPS-denied or limited environments, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) said last week.
The pod flew eight sorties between Nov. 1-10 from Edwards AFB, Calif., on a T-38C training aircraft–sorties that included “the first test of the PNT AgilePod on a high-dynamic-range platform, the first test of fully-remote interfacing and alt-PNT data transmission, and the first demonstration of overland/overwater transition performance,” AFMC said on Dec. 15.
The command said that last month’s flight tests will influence Air Force plans to operationalize the AgilePod this fiscal year and next to meet “Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) and Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) requirements for robust PNT and Navigation Warfare (NAVWAR), as well as Air Combat Command (ACC) requirements for resilient unmanned aerial system (UAS) navigation.”
AgilePods’ open architecture is to allow them to meet various missions across different aircraft through the use of ad hoc plug-and-play sensors, “including high-definition video, electro-optical and infrared sensors, and devices with other capabilities – including PNT,” per AFMC.
Maj. Andrew Cottle of the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office said in a statement that the tests showed “how the AgilePod could be integrated and operated on a representative high-performance military airframe.”
“We encountered and overcame a range of challenges associated with computational, power, and electromagnetic environments that were very different from previous tests,” he said. The first AgilePod tests were exclusively overland in April on a lower-end testbed aircraft, per AFMC, which intends to mature the design of the pod and integrate it on a number of military aircraft.
One of the Air Force’s main technology advancement efforts has been the experimental Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) Vanguard program, which is to demonstrate next generation PNT technologies and to test reprogrammable software-defined receivers for use by military forces. (Defense Daily, Sept. 10).
The technologies on NTS-3 are to counter attempts by adversaries to jam PNT signals from GPS and other PNT satellites. L3Harris [LHX] is building the first NTS-3 for launch in 2023.