NAVSTAR Should Improve the Effectiveness of Military Missions--Cost Has Increased

PSAD-80-21: Published: Feb 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 1980.

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Recently the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System has demonstrated that it can provide significantly more accurate navigation data than any current navigation system. It is not deterred by adverse weather conditions, and has the potential to improve certain weapons delivery and coordinated operations. NAVSTAR is being developed in three phases: demonstration and validation, full-scale engineering development, and production. The demonstration and validation phase has been completed, and the system was approved for full-scale engineering development. During this phase, new satellites, control segment, and user equipment will be designed, built, and tested to meet operational requirements. This phase will include substantial testing of the system in an operational environment by the Air Force, the Army and the Navy. The production phase is scheduled to begin in 1981 for satellites and in 1983 for user equipment. Initial operation capability with 18 satellites is planned for September 1986 and the full operational satellite constellation of 24 satellites is planned for September 1987.

Generally, NAVSTAR has met technical performance objectives, but some problems still exist which, if not solved, could have substantial implications. For example, current Soviet testing of an antisatellite system could eventually result in a weapon which could threaten the survivability of our forces. Satellite clock reliability has not been demonstrated in space. The clocks must work well for users to obtain reliable and accurate navigation information. If the problems which caused eight of the clocks to fail or operate abnormally are not solved, alternate solutions could cost millions of dollars. Space Shuttle problems could jeopardize the plan to have NAVSTAR fully operational by 1987. The use of Titan or Atlas boosters in place of the Space Shuttle to meet launch requirements could cost an additional $12 million to $38 million for each satellite launched. The estimated $8.6 billion cost to acquire and maintain NAVSTAR through the year 2000 includes several items which have not been included in previous estimates such as user equipment procurement, cost of replenishment satellites, and Space Shuttle launch costs. Because the cost of NAVSTAR far exceeds any expected savings from reducing the Department of Defense's use of other systems, the NAVSTAR implementation depends heavily on the benefits provided by its increased navigational accuracy, global coverage, and other characteristics. The services have defined specific mission requirements for improved navigation accuracies not met by any current navigation system which will be satisfied by NAVSTAR.

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