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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The ultimate war strategy

29 July 2021

The world is hotting up, in more ways than one.

Not only are we facing the effects of global climate change but there appears to be an increasing level of tension between nations with significant military might.

Russia continues to taunt the West by flying missions into or very close to the airspace of sovereign nations such as the UK. China is engaged in skirmishes around the Indian border whilst also constantly rattling its sabre in respect to the "pending" annexation of Taiwan.

So what would be the first step any combatant would do in the case of a significant military engagement -- especially if we're talking a "world war" scale event?

Well if this story is anything to go by, the answer would be to take out your enemy's GPS satellites or at least jam their signals.

I was aware that both civilian and military ships, aircraft and ground vehicles have become highly reliant on GPS for navigation purposes but I didn't realise that this reliance was so total.

Clearly, taking out your enemy's GPS system would devastate their ability to accurately deploy many smart weapons such as cruise missiles or ICBMs but it appears it might also see a significant reduction in the effectiveness of all troop and ordinance movements.

With this in mind it is easy to see why we now have so many satellite-based navigation systems in operation these days. Russia has Glonass, China has BeiDou, Europe has Galileo and the USA has the original GPS system.

There can be very little doubt that these systems become a very strategic part of the "assets" of the respective countries and in case of war it's almost certain that a high degree of dithering would be applied to the unencrypted signal available to non-approved parties. In fact, when the original GPS service was launched the "open" signal was deliberately dithered to reduce accuracy because the USA knew full-well that enemy nations could use this for their own targeting purposes.

Any military force that has not already hatched plans to "take out" their enemy's GPS system would be at a huge disadvantage in the event of a significant military conflict and would likely suffer accordingly. We've seen a lot of work taking place with "satellite killer" technologies and it's easy to see why.

While it's true that ICBMs and cruise missiles will still operate without GPS by relying primarily on inertial guidance, this significantly reduces their accuracy and their ability to take out "key targets" early in any conflict. In any war of the future, the victory will likely go to whichever nation is able to neutralise the offensive assets of their enemy before they're launched. This requires pinpoint targeting.

The other worrying thing about the BBC report is the way that such reliance on GPS systems exposes a vulnerability in the event of a significant CME (coronal mass ejection) event taking place. If a blast of solar radiation and ionised particles was to take out all the navigational satellites in orbit around the planet then it seems that we could end up with major impacts on freight movements around the world -- as if they're not already stuffed up enough by Covid.

Given that a catastrophic CME event is only a matter of time and that China is now threatening to nuke Japan, I wonder if I should invest in sextant and compass futures?

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