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GPS in the Military

written by: •edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 5/31/2011

GPS technology has powerful enough implications for civilians, but what about for the original developers of the technology, the military? Here's some of the military applications of GPS.

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    Navigation & Mapping

    The most basic answer to the question what is GPS used for in the military is for straightforward navigation. From far-flying jetplanes to ships across the sea to jeeps in the desert, military personal have to know exactly where they are at all times to get their tactics to work right. It's easy to get lost in the vastness of the world, which is something that no military can afford.

    How the military is equipped with GPS may vary from handheld portable devices for ground soldiers to fully loaded satellite dishes on mobile units. Either way, it's a powerful technique to really make tactics work and give the GPS-enabled troops the advantage over those still relying on maps and compasses.

    Furthermore, having it all digitalized and online means that updated maps can be quickly supplied to all relevant parties. This is especially true on unfamiliar terrain, making it so that native soldiers lose something of their edge.

    Routes through foreign cities can be quickly charted, nearby resources plotted out, bases mapped, troop movements displayed, rendezvous points marked within a few feet of accuracy meaning every piece of the military machine is quickly accessible for any soldier who needs to know to make the most out of what they're doing. After all, logistics are the backbone of any military, and GPS technology forms a powerful part of that.

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    Missile Guidance

    It's vital to have a missile that will actually hit its target and not that civilian's house next door. With GPS technology, the guesswork has been taken out of dropping missiles out the back hatch, as it was in the old days. This means fewer civilian casualties, and fewer missiles required to do the same task.

    Self guided missiles, utilizing GPS technology, can also be launched from further afield, even thousands of miles away. This means that human soldiers don't actually have to be too close to the field of action, minimizing casualties on at least one side of the action.

    (Whether the missile target is a necessary one... that's another article entirely.)

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    This also means that, if either a soldier or civilian has a GPS locator beacon on their person, then it is made considerably easier to locate and rescue someone. This could be life-saving in a variety of situations such as a sunken ship, a crashed airplane, a crippling accident on a remote mountain, or any other situation where the military might be called in. With the precise location of the accident known, then the response time is shaved down considerably which is invaluable during rescue situations.

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    Conclusion: Military of the Future

    The military is just getting more and more high tech as the years go on, but it isn't so much the guns and bombs that make the military more efficient at what it does. All the bombs in the world won't win a war on terrorism, or at least not in a way that anyone desires. Nor will super-powerful sniper rifles and magnums really get your anywhere either. The battlefields of the world are different now, and it's increasingly clear that different technology is required as well, regardless of the cause or country you might support. GPS is part of that change.

    Check out this article for a great detailed guide to GPS technology and its military applications.