Science and Technology News

Monday, July 20, 2015

As GPS celebrates its 20th year, Robins' 567th EMXS maintains units used by Air Force, Navy

by Jenny Gordon
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2015 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For the last 20 years, the world has experienced the unique capabilities of a satellite precision navigation and timing system that has enhanced the quality of our everyday lives. The technology's fast-tracking, real-time capabilities, used by civilians as well as the military as part of national and global security efforts.

This month we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the GPS, or global positioning system -- July 17, 1995, when Air Force Space Command declared full operational capability of the system.

During this time, a shop in the 567th Electronics Maintenance Squadron here has been responsible for repairing and testing receivers used on various weapon systems supported by the Air Force and Navy.

Bathed under bright lights and a maze of wires and work stations, there's a shop in the 567th EMXS responsible for repairing and testing several types of receivers used to communicate with GPS satellites.

John Fullington, a 402nd Electronics Maintenance Group electronics technician, has been at Robins since 1989. He said he remembers the shop getting its first assets in 1990, starting with prototypes.

"We've been going pretty strong ever since," he said.

He remembers the shop busily repairing receivers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the workload is still active today. In 2014, nearly 500 units came through the shop.

Technicians use one of several test stations to test individual circuit cards located inside a receiver. Among several receivers tested by one of the shop's seven technicians is the 12-channel 3A SAASM receiver, which has been modified over the years to use less circuit card space, making it lighter and more efficient.

There's also JPADS, or the Joint Precision Airdrop System, which is used to direct equipment to the ground once it's deployed from an aircraft.

According to AFSPC, today's Airmen conduct resupply missions with battlefield precision airdrops to combat forces with GPS-guided parachute-delivered equipment pallets; and during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, significant contributions were made, including the delivery of 5,500 GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions with pinpoint precision.

Glenn Collins, an electronics mechanic at Robins for 33 years, has worked in the shop since its inception. He operates a 'hot mock-up' station where satellite signals are searched in real-time to make sure receivers are working properly.

"We can now see which satellites are available," he said. "I've enjoyed many years getting things out back to the warfighter. I'm proud to have been a part of this."   

The station's configuration was fabricated in the shop years ago and is still used today. Within about 15 minutes, Collins can get a quick fix on which satellites are in view at the moment, giving him a good read on whether information that's been downloaded on a receiver works or not.

Whether GPS guides stormtrackers to accurately forecast the next big storm or successfully leads troops out of harm's way, there's little doubt its benefits have impacted the world and will continue for many years.

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