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Spy fears: CIA, Pentagon ‘work against’ Russia building GLONASS station in US

 Boris Zyryanov, chief of division of electric and radio tests of navigating satellites, supervises the electric testing of the GLONASS-M space navigation satellite (Reuters / Ilya Naymushin)
Boris Zyryanov, chief of division of electric and radio tests of navigating satellites, supervises the 
electric testing of the GLONASS-M space navigation satellite (Reuters / Ilya Naymushin)

US intelligence and military are pressing the State Department not to license construction of monitor stations for Russia’s GLONASS navigation system on US territory, media reveals. The stations reportedly spark fears of spying opportunities.

Moscow sent a request to build monitor stations for GLONASS, a  Russian satellite system similar to GPS, on US territory in May  2012.

The White House has been pondering over the proposal ever since.  A number of meetings between Russian and American authorities on  the GLONASS monitor stations in the US have taken place, but so  far US security and military agencies have not agreed about how  to react to Moscow’s request.

The CIA and Pentagon suspect that such stations could be used for  collecting intelligence data and other military purposes, like  collecting exact coordinates of covert facilities in the US for  precision missile guidance, a weekend report in The New York  Times revealed.

In recent months, the Central Intelligence Agency and the  Pentagon have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State  Department from allowing Roscosmos… to build about half a dozen  of these structures, known as monitor stations, on United States  soil,” the report alleges, quoting anonymous US  officials.

The concerns are that the stations might help Moscow spy on the  US as well as improve the precision of Russian weaponry.

 

Also, American lawmakers don’t like the idea of cooperating with  the direct rival of the US national Global Positioning System.

Last week Mike D. Rogers, Republican Representative of Alabama,  wrote a mailout to Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense  Secretary Chuck Hagel and the director of national intelligence,  James R. Clapper, demanding their assessment of the Russian  proposal on the question of national security.

Apart from the US and Russia, China and the EU are also  developing satnav systems of their own, Baidu and Galileo  respectively.

They don’t want to be reliant on the American system and  believe that their systems, like GPS, will spawn other industries  and applications,” a former senior official in the State  Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology told the  newspaper. “They feel as though they are losing a  technological edge to us in an important market. Look at  everything GPS has done on things like your phone and the  movement of planes and ships.

Still, the White House so far has been opposing accusations of  the US intelligence community against Russia as “It doesn’t see  them as a threat,” an unidentified administration official said.

The Obama administration is currently trying to mend  Russian-American relations, damaged over Syria and asylum to  former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who  revealed document-supported evidence of the US spying on  unprecedented levels over global networks, including after their  closest allies.

In October 2012 Vitaly Davydov, the former deputy of Russia’s  Roskosmos space agency, revealed that Moscow needs to deploy  eight monitor stations in the US for correct operation of the  system in North America. He also disclosed that 19 monitor  stations of American GPS positioning system were operable in  Russia as of 2012.

On the contrary, in the latest report on the GLONASS in the US,  the NYT claims that there are no GPS monitor stations in Russia  whatsoever.

  What is GLONASS

The development of the GLONASS global navigation system began in  the Soviet Union, which put the very first satellite of the  system into orbit on October 12, 1982. The system was officially  commissioned on September 24, 1993.

Despite a number of faulty rocket launches with GLONASS  satellites in recent years, today the GLONASS orbit group  consists of 27 satellites, of which 24 ensure global navigation  and the remaining three are either in reserve or perform  experimental equipment tests.

Russia has been deploying augmentation system stations abroad for  some time already. So far there are 14 monitor stations in  Russia, one in Brazil and one on Antarctica’s continent at  Russia’s Bellingshausen station.

More GLONASS stations are expected to be built in the nearest  future: eight in Russia, two in Brazil, one in Australia, Cuba,  Indonesia, Spain, Vietnam and an additional station in the  Antarctic.

It was confirmed earlier in November that starting from 2014 all  mobile phones and portable handheld devices with navigation  functions, either imported or produced in Russia, must be  equipped with GLONASS, or GLONASS and GPS microchips.

At the command post for GLONASS management in the Titov Main Space Testing Center (RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)At the command post for GLONASS management in the Titov Main Space Testing Center (RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)

Today GLONASS is supported on products from world-leading  handheld device producers, such as Samsung, Nokia, Apple,  Motorola and others, simultaneously with GPS. This has become  possible largely because leading producers of microchips, such as  Qualcomm, have started producing GLONASS-enabled chipsets.

The introduction of a new positioning system has been welcomed by  customers worldwide, because using both GLONASS and GPS systems  increases the precision of positioning. European EGNOS project  unites signals from both systems and gives precision positioning  down to between 1.5 and 3 meters in Europe.

Within the next decade GLONASS is expected to replace existing  satellites with new generation platforms that would enable 0.1  meter precision positioning anywhere in the world, except the  polar regions of the planet.

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