Do individual US soldiers wear GPS devices in combat situations? If so, is "friendly fire" reduced?

I am curious to know if individual GPS systems (or whatever you call them) are worn by US soldiers during combat situations or when the likelihood of combat is high.

More particularly, I was wondering whether soldiers’ GPS systems are tied into some grand overarching network such that neither US artillery nor US aircraft could fire into any zone in which the soldiers are located. (Ultimately, I would even think it’s likely that such a system could prevent even lesser weapons systems from being used mistakenly on ones comrades, e.g. mortars, heavy machine guns).

I am sure what I’m getting at must be relatively old hat. Still, I could find very little on it using Google, and certainly nothing that seemed right up to date.

So, do individual soldiers get their own GPS device?
Is their location thereby fed into some network in order to prevent friendly fire?


For better searching, use “FBCB2” and “Blue Force Tracker”.
There is an overacrching network showing the locations of US personnel and vehicles, but nothing that will mechanically or electronically prevent shooting at them.

Thanks, I wasn’t familiar with those systems (or terms).

Still, not down to individual soldiers (yet). And, as you say, nothing to lock out friendly fire (yet).

I can see three areas where such a system would not be practical:

  1. Cost: Thousands and thousands of GPS transponders that must either be rugged enough to not be damaged by soldiers running around, getting shot at, etc., would add up quick in cost.

  2. Bandwidth: Thousands and thousands of GPS transponders that are all sending their information out onto some big network are going to take up a lot of bandwidth that you might want to use to transmit other information. You can’t have two seperate things transmitting on the same channel without them jamming each other.

  3. “Tracers work both ways”: If friendlies can see you with your GPS and avoid shooting at you, the bad guys can see you with your GPS and aim at you better. Same reason why soldiers don’t wear uniforms in Hunters Orange to avoid friendly fire.

  4. Loot and Conquer: How do you keep the enemy from stealing one of these transponders (take them from a fallen or captured soldier, steal a crate of them from a truck, whatever) and using them to make themselves bomb-proof? Even if you could remotely disable them, you’d have to have a very very good inventory system in order to know which ones have been stolen, which ones have been misplaced, and which ones are being worn by a friendly squad out on patrol.

All of those issues have been overcome with the Joint Tactical Radio System. See more details at the manufacturers website.

No lock outs, but definitely down to individual soldiers.

Number 3 is the critical one. The original GPS system was designed to be one-way only. Satellites beam radio signals towards GPS devices, which can then calculate your position. The devices do not need to send any signals outward, so that the enemy cannot use it to locate your position.

Nowadays many GPS devices do send the location informtion outward to other devices, for example a server. But this is an extra add-on, not intrinsic to the GPS system itself.

JTRS was canceled by the Army in 2011 due to cost overruns and delays.

It’s GP System. GPS System is Global Positioning System System. Redundant.
(I’m leaving now…) :wink:

Uh…not sure where you got that information, because my company along with many others here in San Diego, work on JTRS and if it was cancelled a year ago, that’s new news to us, and the large Government office that runs it through the Navy over at SPAWAR. Check out: for more information…

My pet peeve is people thinking this as a pet peeve.

The way English properly works is to repeat the last word in an acronym when the original has been lost in the abbreviation.

ATM machine is correct. PIN number is correct. And GPS system is correct.

The technology is obviously available, but it’s going to be a while before these things are past the experimental/evaluation stage and actually issued to the Army as a whole.
The current standard is still the AN/PRC 148 and/or AN/PRC 152 down to the Fire Team level, and neither is used to stream location data. If a team/squad leader wants his location shown on the FBCB2, he just calls up his location to someone the old fashioned way. That person can then manually update the squad’s location in the system.