(IQT-BLOG) PNT (Position, Navigation and Timing) information is crucial on the modern battlefield for navigation and delivering smart munitions. Global Position Systems (GPS) have been the mainstay of military PNT since the late 1970s. But, as seen recently in both the Ukraine and Syria, electronic warfare (EW) countermeasures are increasingly effective at reducing the accuracy of smart munitions to the level of unguided munitions.
Indeed, what we believe at Inside Quantum Technology is that we are already nearing an inflection point where GPS will begin to diminish in important applications. As a result, we foresee a growing market for EW-resistant guidance techniques using quantum sensors that will be worth about $150 million in 2026.
In essence, what we see happening is smart munitions making a transition from an external frame of reference guidance (meaning GPS) to an internal form of guidance not susceptible to EW interference.
What we think the smart munitions market is also looking for is lower costs. What we are being told is not just that the current GPS-based artillery systems are susceptible to GPS interference but that the flagship US GPS guided round is unacceptably expensive. Each GPS guided Excalibur 155 mm round is estimated to cost around $100,000. The other GPS option for artillery systems is a fuse substitute GPS guidance system that costs around $2,000 per round, but it is not as accurate as the Excalibur system.
CSACs, CSQAs and Smart Munitions
We see the development of Chip Scale Atomic Clocks (CSACs) and Chip Scale Quantum Accelerometers (CSQAs) as key to this effort. But for the next couple of years Inside Quantum Technology, believes that much of the money in this space being spent on R&D, but this will change:
- An analysis of US military smart munitions markets by Inside Quantum Technology estimates a smart fuse guidance system based on CSACs and CSQAs could be ready for prototyping in artillery and air-to-ground munitions within
- CSACs have already been demonstrated and are available commercially, but effective CSQAs which can fit in an artillery shell form factor are still under development. If a CSAC and a CSQA can be fitted in an artillery shell fuse form factor, this would enable an inexpensive smart munition free of interference from the GPS blocking EW countermeasures of an adversary.
Where the Money Will Get Spent
Given the cost and technological imperatives described above, Inside Quantum Technology believes there are two areas where much of the money will get spent in the next few years:
- The largest amount of funding will go to the development of a CSQA that is operational at room temperature, and while not of the sensitivity needed for a quantum compass, is enough of an improvement over current classical chip scale accelerometers as enablers of smart munition functionality without GPS
- Inside Quantum Technology also believe that significant amount of money will be spent on refinements of CSACs to reduce cost and minimize form factor.