While ground systems can use direct radar and transponder interrogation to track high flying aircraft with relative ease, what about those aircraft that move around and hover near the ground? The Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps need have no worries about one of their hovering aircraft (mainly helicopters given they have given up their Harrier jets) going missing now that the UK Ministry of Defence has contracted with Airbus Defence and Space for a new GPS-based asset tracking system using the Iridium satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to communicate with moving assets on or flying near the ground.
Airbus will provide Iridium Short Burst Data and Iridium Rudics Data Minutes as an addition to the UK Ministry of Defence’s already established Asset Tracking System (ATS), Helicopter ATS (HeATS) and Ground ATS (GrATS) which gives the Air Marshals, Admirals and Generals the situational awareness they need.
The system will use the US Iridium satellite constellation to track their chopper assets in near real time and adds to the capability already provided by the UK Skynet satellite network in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO). The contract is for an initial 12 months.
Obviously in time of war, the satellite GPS tracking system aboard the aircraft can be switched off when required.