U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with L-3 Communications - Interstate Electronics Corporation today to improve personal navigation capabilities for the warfighter.

A CRADA represents a non-Federal Acquisition Regulation legal agreement between USJFCOM and one or more non-federal parties, such as private industry and academia. CRADAs offer both parties an opportunity to share knowledge, personnel and facilities when conducting mutually beneficial research and development (R&D). This is highlighted by the fact that no funds are allowed to be passed to the industry party.

The CRADA between USJFCOM and L-3 Communications is a three-year cooperative agreement with two one-year options, focused on providing personal navigation capabilities in areas where complete global positioning system (GPS) coverage is not available.

Richard Carter, science and technology advisor for USJFCOM's Joint Urban Operations Office and USJFCOM's principal investigator for the CRADA explained what kind of technology is being looked at as a possible solution.

"Current navigation technologies rely heavily on GPS," he said. "This is a hybrid that cooperates with GPS but has its own embedding capability, which allows you to maintain accurate navigation as well as location information in a GPS-deprived environment."

Carter said that "GPS-deprived" refers to the urban environment, more specifically inside high-rise buildings located in dense areas.

"Not only will this be for urban areas, but it will be a specific capability for urban internal to buildings, subterranean, and GPS-blocked environments, such as areas with multi-story buildings where you don't have the line of sight that you need to keep the GPS signals active," he said.

The purpose is to yield a technology that will help the warfighter navigate in an environment to allow friendly forces to keep track of each other when going into one of these buildings to rescue a hostage or track down insurgents.

As part of the agreement, L-3 Communications will provide researchers with technical expertise in DoD modeling and simulation, management expertise, laboratory and conference facilities and materials, such as laptops and GPS tools.

Carter said USJFCOM will provide GPS subject matter experts and coordinate L-3 Communications access to test venues, particularly the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana.
"The overall reason for the CRADA is to develop a prototype collaboratively and then evaluate that in an urban environment to evaluate the worth of having such a technology," he said. "We're going to assist them in getting to an urban location to facilitate their testing."

Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is an ideal urban environment for urban technology testing. It's a complete town consisting of approximately 70 buildings, a hospital, power station, and subterranean tunnels located on a thousand acres of rural, isolated property in the heart of Indiana.

Dr. Russ Richards, who heads the USJFCOM Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA) explained how working with L-3 Communications on this CRADA will benefit the warfighter.

"In the urban warfare, it's very common that U.S. joint forces would be in a high-rise building either looking for terrorists or trying to rescue a hostage and in order for us to have good situational awareness we need to know where in that building they are at all times," he said.

"We need to be able to locate the friendly forces in that building and what the CRADA is all about is how you locate forces in an area where GPS would be denied. You may not be able to get GPS in a high-rise building because of the shielding of the signal from the satellite.

"You need other ways to let you know where everybody is and L-3 Communications has a methodology and some systems that will enable you to have that kind of location information even if you are denied GPS."

USJFCOM Deputy Commander Army Lt. Gen. Bob Wood discussed another benefit to the agreement.

"It continues to grow a relationship that's important to us between the joint warfighter and corporate America focused on our priority needs," he said.

The agreement with L-3 Communications is one of many that USJFCOM has entered into since the Office of the Secretary of Defense delegated technology transfer authority to the command in 2005.