Aircraft upgrades open communication doors
10/16/2012 - Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea -- It doesn't seem too long ago when people only had the option of using maps and stopping at gas stations to ask for directions.
Some still do, but the ability to grab a smart phone and instantly receive directions has, arguably, become the norm for many travelers.
And who is to thank for this ability? The US Military of course.
According to a publication on space research from Air University, Space Primer, it wasn't until the 1990s that GPS, or the "Global Positioning System," was conceived by the US Department of Defense, using two dozen satellites positioned around the globe to accurately trace a single location.
Since then, this technology has become an integral part of the day-to-day lives of millions across the globe and continues to affect military operations worldwide.
The Wolf Pack mission recently received a major upgrade to its own aircraft GPS systems with the help of the 309th Maintenance Wing from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
The men and women of the 309th MXW work to maintain, repair, overhaul and modify aircraft around the globe to include the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A total of six teams from the 309th MXW worked a full year, rotating every two months, upgrading several F-16 computer systems, from both Kunsan and Osan Air Base, to include GPS.
According to Dennis Price, 309th MXW depot team chief for the project, several upgrades were made to the aircraft, which included an imbedded navigation and GPS together, an upgraded Identify Friend or Foe system, and installation of Beyond Line-Of-Sight software, which overcomes communication hurdles experienced by traditional systems.
To understand these upgrades, Master Sgt. Timothy Bliefnick, 8th Fighter Wing avionics manager, compares them to issues experienced by smart phone and commercial GPS users.
"It's similar to using a GPS while you're driving in a city with sky scrapers; it doesn't work because the GPS cannot 'see' the satellites with the buildings in the way," said Bliefnick. "It's the same thing when flying. If there is a mountain in the way and you're trying to communicate with another pilot, you can't."
With the new upgrades, the doors of communication between pilots and ground forces are now wide open in addition to giving commanders greater control to meet mission requirements.
The upgrades also cut down on maintenance time and space by imbedding the GPS and Inertial Navigation System, eliminating an obsolete part.
"It increases our capability here on the peninsula, helps with situational awareness, and gives our pilots the ability to respond and communicate with leadership in ways they didn't have before," said Bliefnick.