China’s Military Now Has Its Own GPS

China is now one step closer to become the top economic and military superpower in the world: their Beidou geo-positioning system is now fully armed and operational.

What does it cover?

Right now they have 10 geo-positioning satellites in orbit covering China. By 2012 they will have 16 to cover most of Asia and, by 2020, they will cover the entire world with 35 satellites. That means that their navy, aeroplanes and land troops would know where they are in any part of the world without depending on the American GPS.

How accurate is Beidou?

Like with the United States’ GPS system, Beidou will have two modes: civilian and military.

Civilian transports would be able to know where they are within a range of 10 meters. They would also be able to record speed with a 0.2 metres-per-second error margin and synchronise their clocks with an accuracy of 0.02 millionths of a second.

The Chinese military, however, will have the same accuracy enjoyed now by American forces, at least until the third generation of the GPS system. Right now, GPS III is in the prototype phase.

Why is this important?

Accurately knowing where you are on planet Earth is one of the most powerful technologies any country can have.

Beidou cuts China’s dependency on the American GPS system completely. It means that they would be able to launch any attack and move their forces around the world without any US interference. Right now, the United States can deactivate their Global Positioning System so nobody can use it in certain areas. That includes enemy armies. After Beidou, however, this will be impossible.

How can they use Beidou?

China will be able to move their civilian transport ships and aeroplanes all over the world without being dependent on any other country. Their military would also use this system to direct their ships, combat aeroplanes, drones and land forces in battle.

They would also be able to use Beidou to target any kind of weapons with great accuracy, including cruise missiles.

Who benefits from this?

Apart from the Chinese military, their economic system will have a big boost thanks to Beidou. According to the head of the project talking to China Daily, it “will create a market as big as 400 billion yuan ($61.54 billion) by the end of 2020.” The Chinese government is investing $US25 billion on it.

Is it compatible with GPS?

According to Beidou, their system will be compatible with the American GPS, the Russian Glonass — which is also fully operative — and the European Galileo. [Beidou and China Daily via BBC]

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