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Best Gps To Take To Iraq


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Steven's headed to Iraq the end of November as a Combat Engineer assigned to an infantry unit. He's seen me with my GPS Geocahing, and wants to know which one would be best to take with him - the least expensive, most durable one that is WAAS enabled - obviously, mapping not an issue.. Any help would be appreciated - we'd like to make an early XMas gift to him.. and possibly save his life... I've searched for this question before, but with no luck.. if there's been a discussion on this before, please direct me..





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i don't believe that waas will work in iraq, only in the u.s. i would think that the etrex units would be conveniently sized. i believe also from other discussions that there may be mapping softwear available for the area that could be purchased once in country. if no mapping is needed then, in addition to the etrex series, the foretrex series are convenient and accurate. there are probably magellan units that would suffice, but i don't have any knowledge of them personally. i'm sure others here can guide you on them. good luck to your son. i hope that he'll come home successful in his mission and in good health. -harry

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I'd suggest you contact CavScout, he is currently on active duty in Iraq and has a GPS with him. My thoughts would be is to get two Garmin E-Trex's, one to use, one as a back up, in case the first one gets damaged.


New ones will be under $100 if shop around on the internet or try E-Bay, maybe you can save some money if you are careful.

Edited by magellan315
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Actually, mapping might be very important! Just think... we probably never would've heard the name Jessica Lynch if the lead driver (or all drivers) in her unit was equipped with a mapping GPSr.


GLOBAL MAP makes some highly detailed maps of Iraq. Yeah, they're a bit pricey, but if they save a life, I'd say that's dirt cheap.


Be advised that I am NOT personally recommending these maps. I've never used them and have not heard anything from anyone who has. TravelByGPS.com mentions the maps on their Web site.


Still, if thats gonna break the bank, Garmin has worldwide basemap detail maps in their WORLDMAP product.



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I took the AN/PSN-11 PLGR with me the first time. What a beast, but it has anti-jamming capabilities and was a better option when the Iraqi's still had that ability. I took an Etrex Vista with me the second time, but fortunately never had to use it for more than mapping out locations for airfield and aviation procedures when the PLGR was too big to carry (and expensive/hard to find batteries at times, since I didn't have the AA adaptor).


I've heard the US Army is using an application that issues a Garmin mapsource map for Iraq now. He'd do well to ask as many questions as possible if he's in the Army. If he's in the Marines, he'll have maps all around him and we learn to use them - so folks like the aforementioned and their convoy can look at their PLGR (or etrex) and compare to maps without having to rely on their jammed/sandy weapons when ..it hits the fan. Personal commentary is that a GPSr wouldn't have kept us from hearing her name.

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I appreciate the input - If I get him a Garmin Legend with the WorldMap, can he open it here, load the Iraq map, but then use the GPS around here to get used to the functions? I know that you have to "Initialize" the GPS before it can find you - if he initializes the GPS here in Idaho, what would he have to do when he get's in Iraq for it to recognize the Sat's over there? - Or is that all automatic? Are the instructions clear on how to switch BaseMaps ??

Edited by ottor
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Absolutely he can. After being initialized here, it can be re-initialized over there. When it is turned on, the GPSr assumes that it is in the same place as it was when it was previously turned off. If it is 200 miles or more away from its point of last use, it will become disoriented and sense that it's "not in Kansas anymore" and prompt the user to re-initialize, or mark its current location on the map. The user can also do a few menu commands and manually initiate the re-initialization. I recommend that your son learn how to do this because it will save a few minutes of time as it takes a while for the GPSr to recognize that it's not in the same place as it was before. The procedure is in the front of the manual.


The Legend has a built-in basemap of the US - it will NOT be erased. When you load maps to the unit for the first time, it's going to warn you that data will be erased, and it is worded in such a way as to make you think that the basemap will be erased. Be assured that the basemap will remain after uploading maps. Garmin preloads some marine points of interest (POIs) like navigation bouys and lighthouses and whatnot - Those POIs are what will be erased when loading maps for the first time, and they can be downloaded from Garmin's Web site and re-installed if so desired (but re-installing them would erase the maps that you have loaded :unsure: ).


After loading the WorldMap maps, the GPSr will automatically changeover to the Iraq maps when it recognizes it is within the boundaries of the loaded maps, and the US basemap will disappear from view at that time. When the unit leaves the confines of the loaded Iraq map map boudaries, the US basemap will reappear.

Edited by Neo_Geo
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Do not rely on the civilian receiver for military or safety of life applications. Below is an article comparing civilian vs military recievers. Best of luck to your son in the sandbox and thanks for his service.



Mixed Signals: Using Civil GPS Receivers in Combat

D Scott Grantham. United States Naval Institute. Proceedings. Annapolis: Oct 2005.Vol.132, Iss. 10; pg. 72, 2 pgs


Abstract (Document Summary)


The analysis presented in this article illustrates possible consequences of using civil SPS receivers in combat. First, the civil SPS receiver provided acceptable accuracy in an interference-free environment but was not as consistently accurate as the PPS DAGR. Second, electronic interference from friendly UHF radio transmitters and GPS denial jammers adversely affected both receivers.


Full Text


Due to budgetary and manufacturing constraints, the DoD handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver supply has fallen short of perceived demand. Less expensive, smaller, lighter, and easier to use civil receivers are more widely available than the military models. Why shouldn't acquisition officials fill the gap with commercial SPS receivers? Isn't a civil GPS receiver better than no GPS receiver for our deployed warriors?


Many in our military believe that the relatively inexpensive and widely available civil GPS receivers provide the same positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities as the DoD models. This belief, along with insufficient numbers supplied through official channels, has led American troops to buy handheld civil GPS receivers and use them in combat. In its 2003 and 2004 Annual Report, Garmin International, a civil GPS receiver manufacturer, published letters from Marines, sailors, and soldiers describing how they used Garmin receivers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many cite a perceived shortage of DoD handheld receivers, and offer the rationale that "something (a civil GPS receiver) is better than nothing (a map and a compass)."


Others prefer the civil receivers because all but the newest handheld military receivers require cryptography which makes the devices "classified when keyed" and a major security headache if lost or stolen. A final group believes that the widespread availability and relative small cost of civil receivers make it a requirement to have one. This "If everyone can get one, then everyone should have one" philosophy fuels the argument that DoD is not supporting our military's GPS receiver needs.


To determine if civil GPS receivers perform as well as military receivers in a combat environment, I compared the performance of both using Navigation Tool Kit, a software application that analyzes GPS performance in complex environments. My analysis shows that the belief that the two systems offer similar capabilities depends on the user's equipment and the electronic environment in which he is operating. To understand why this is so, we need to understand the difference between civil and military GPS services.


Two GPS Services


Central to NAVSTAR GPS is a constellation of 24 orbiting satellites each broadcasting two navigation signals, L1 at 1575.42 MHz and L2 at 1227.6 MHz. L1 carries the Coarse Acquisition Code (C/A Code) and the Precise Code (P Code) and L2 carries only the P Code. A GPS receiver acquires and correlates the appropriate signals from four satellites to compute a position.


The C/A Code on L1 provides the "civilian" GPS service known as Standard Positioning Service (SPS). The receivers purchased for personal navigation from civilian vendors are SPS receivers. The SPS architecture is wide open to everyone for exploration and exploitation. The civil GPS service can be very accurate in benign environments but because of its "openness" and signal structure it is vulnerable to electronic interference and electronic attack.


Military GPS service, called Precise Positioning Service (PPS), is designed to be very accurate and resistant to electronic interference and electronic attack. DoD encrypts the P Code to control access to this service. The encryption "closes" the PPS architecture making it exclusive to users whose receivers have the keys to decrypt and read the PPS signal. To access the military GPS service, a military receiver first acquires the C/A Code then switches to the P Code. Once acquired, PPS is more resistant to interference than the civil SPS signal.


My anaysis used the industry standard algorithms and precise satellite data in the analysis software to compare the performance of the PPS Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR) and a multi-channel civil SPS receiver during three scenarios near Baghdad. Scenario 1 featured a benign environment with no GPS interference. During Scenario 2, I introduced unintentional friendly radio interference on L1. Scenario 3 involved a denial jamming array. The three scenarios used a High Mobility Multi-wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) carrying both a PPS DAGR and a multi-channel civil SPS receiver as it traveled along a 46 minute route into Baghdad. The results highlight the shortcomings of civil SPS receivers in environments where GPS interference is present and the potential danger of using civil receivers in combat.


Scenario 1: Benign Environment


In this scenario, I compared the position accuracy of the PPS DAGR and the civil SPS receiver along the test route in an interference-free environment.


Both receivers consistently computed positions. The PPS DAGR position error plot was tighter and more consistently accurate than the wider spread civil SPS receiver plot.


The mean position error for the PPS DAGR was 2.02 meters compared to the civil SPS receiver mean position error of 4.03 meters. In the interference-free environment, my analysis showed both the PPS DAGR and the civil SPS receiver to be sufficiently accurate for most combat operations, with the PPS DAGR being the more consistently accurate.


Scenario 2: Signal Interference on L1 (1575 MHz)


The second scenario used the same route and the same PPS DAGR and civil SPS receiver. However, in this scenario, I introduced signal interference on L1 from a series of U.S. military AN/GRC226 UHF radio communication retransmission sites northeast of the test route. The friendly radio transmitters emitted 10 watts each.


Jam-to-signal interference contours ranged from 20db (least interference) to 60dB (greatest interference). The test route in the southeast transited high jamto-signal areas. In these areas, the civil SPS receiver produced position errors as great as 1 kilometer. Over this portion of the test route, the PPS DAGR warned it was being jammed and refused to calculate erroneous positions.


Comparing the position errors produced by the PPS DAGR and the civil SPS receiver illustrated three interesting points. First, the U.S. military can adversely affect its own GPS performance by emitting 10 watt radio signals on or near the GPS navigation signal frequencies.


Second, the PPS receiver's mean position accuracy rate was eight times better than the civil SPS receiver during this scenario. Recall from the benign environment in Scenario 1 that the PPS DAGR was only slightly more accurate than the civil SPS receiver. In this scenario, Navigation Tool Kit analysis showed both receivers suffered degraded accuracy but the civil SPS receiver produced exponentially larger position errors when friendly GPS signal interference was introduced.


The third point concerns how the PPS DAGR and the civil SPS receiver responded to high jam-to-signal areas along the southeast portion of the test route. During this period, the DAGR detected a critical level of signal interference. In such a situation, the DAGR would display, "Warning! Jamming Environment Detected" on the receiver screen as it attempted to navigate in the jammed environment. However, during the same period, the civil SPS receiver calculated erroneous positions with no indication of signal interference to the user other than lost satellite tracking. In this experiment, civil SPS position errors during periods of high jam-to-signal interference ranged from 100 meters to more than 1 kilometer.


Scenario 3: Denial Jammer Array


The third scenario represented a GPS countermeasure threat that the U.S. could encounter. In this scenario, I made the GPS environment challenging by placing six 20-watt GPS jammers in a circular pattern around a portion of Baghdad. The intent of this jammer array was to deny accurate GPS solutions within the confines of the jammer circle. The orange and red jam-tosignal contours, which indicate the highest levels of interference, overlapped toward the center of the jammer array, showing degraded GPS positioning accuracy in that area.


The PPS DAGR and civil SPS receiver position error scale differed between the DAGR (0-100 meters) and the civil SPS receiver (O-1000 meters) because the civil SPS receiver produced position errors far greater than the PPS DAGR.


The Scenario 3 position error plots showed the DAGR and civil SPS receivers responded to interference similar to the response in Scenario 2. Both receivers were affected by the signal interference, but the PPS DAGR generally refused to calculate a position if it was being jammed. In the cases that the DAGR could calculate a position, the worst error was less than 60 meters.


As it did in Scenario 2, the civil SPS receiver calculated erroneous positions during half the Scenario 3 test route travel time with no indication of interference to the user. Civil SPS receiver position errors were often more than 500 meters, with excursions exceeding 1 kilometer in several instances.


The Bottom Line


Since Operation Desert Storm, GPS has become the core positioning, navigation, and timing technology for the U.S. military and our allies. Our system-wide reliance on GPS, combined with the fact that GPS signals traveling 12,400 miles through space to your receiver are vulnerable to interference, makes GPS a prime electronic warfare target in our enemies' eyes. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, enemy forces repeatedly attempted to jam GPS signals. Threats to GPS are very real in the modern battlespace.


The analysis presented in this article illustrates possible consequences of using civil SPS receivers in combat. First, the civil SPS receiver provided acceptable accuracy in an interference-free environment but was not as consistently accurate as the PPS DAGR. Second, electronic interference from friendly UHF radio transmitters and GPS denial jammers adversely affected both receivers. However, in the scenarios where GPS interference was present, the civil SPS receiver position error was consistently eight to sixteen times that of the PPS DAGR, with multiple position error excursions of more than 1,000 meters. Finally, when the jam-tosignal ratio became too high during the test scenarios, the PPS DAGR provided interference warning and refused to calculate an erroneous position. When exposed to the same interference, the civil SPS receiver produced gross position errors while providing no jam warning to the user.


The Navigation Tool Kit analysis shows that the civil SPS receiver user simply cannot be sure the position he reads from his receiver screen is valid in the modern battlespace. Today's combat environments are rife with friendly and enemy induced electronic interference that can accidentally or purposely spoof or jam the unprotected civil GPS receiver, forcing it to produce a positioning error with no warning to the user. Such an error could prove deadly under fire.



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a family member is in the same position with regard to deployment. she has found that most are carrying an etrex series gps becuase of size and weight (packs easily). if this is the case, and since all other things are pretty equal, i would go with the garmin etrex. if it is widely used, he could perhpas get help/support/mapping if he needed it. when i rome!


the article posted by cheifwino is interesting. the fact remains that most in combat in the middle east are relying on civil gps receivers and not the millitary ones. seems that combat controllers out in the field are using them and are still equally effective. so although i would not disregard what that article is saying, i also wouldn't worry very much about it either, especially if they aren't going to deploy with an issued receiver. the civillian gps is better then nothing and, in fact, is just fine for getting around out there. best of luck. hang your blue star.


Edited by dboggny
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The article posted above notwithstanding, a friend of mine in a reserve unit used his Rino 110 (no maps, occasionally used the radio, but not often) quite often and quite well in Afghanistan for 9 months.


He used it to mark positions of everything ranging from "potential threat points" to the local bazaar. It's precision was "good enough for government work", according to him. Quite a few members in his.. lets say "unit".. also carried civilian Garmin units, most often Rinos or Etrex Legends.


As long as your son is not setting up target points or lines of fire, a civilian unit will do him just dandy.

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I saw all kinds of different units while I was in Iraq. While Geocaching in Western Baghdad it definitely would have been helpful to have had a detailed map :rolleyes: since one of the caches was on the edge of a rather large lake that has sections with one-way roads. We had to take a circuitous route to get back round the lake.


However, you might want to consider that many people have purchased GPS units as well as other commercial items that they are not always able to ship back home (size, time constraints etc). Service members may want to wait until they arrive and see what they outgoing troops want to get rid of. TVs and DVD players are high on the list.


Your money may be better spent on items that are difficult to obtain or premium consumables (under armour is VERY popular).


If you do choose to send a GPS over be sure that any service members practice good operational security and do not email (or phone) any coordinates of their activities. Please do not ask for them. Also have them verify that their unit is in compliance with frequency management. It's a lot to consider, but it's worth it to make certain that their safety is not compromised.


There are a few caches around and adding a few more would be greatly appreciated. Placing them inside VERY large camps and in unpopulated areas of the camps would likely be best. My first Geocache was in Baghdad and I've been hooked every since.

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The article was particularly interesting, and I had some friends that ran into this during the initial OIF. Fact is, for general purpose - the military has to assume that not every person in a unit needs a GPSr. Thus, the perceived GPSr shortage. Actually, most units I've dealt with on the USMC side have plenty of PLGRs (Precision Lightweight Global positioning system Receiver - now quite the misnomer compared to their counterparts on the civilian side) to do what they came into the service to do.


During OIF, I traveled by convoy throughout southern Iraq, and three out of the 10 vehicles in the convoy had a PLGR with our maps. Convoy routes were planned by GPS waypoints based on MGRS. Our battallion and flying squadron knew the threat for GPS jamming capability. It's the standard party line when describing the capabilities of the PLGR. (oddly, some are still briefing that the PLGR is more accurate like the article does, though I'm betting it has more to do with the huge 6"x1"x1" antenna sticking off the side than anything else.)


On my return trip, I settled at an air base to do "occupation" style operations and wasn't so equipped. After all, no one expected that I would have to go on a convoy. The unit had access to two PLGRs. Knowing all the downsides, I had great comfort knowing I had a commercial GPSr with me. Knowing the threat caused me to carry the backup of maps. If you're a whole click off in position, even in the desert, and you don't know it (whether by maps or by GPSr), the GPSr probably ain't gonna do you know good anyway. At the end of the day, your only guaranteed positioning capability is knowing where you were, looking at a map, and plotting where you are. Everything else is susceptible to electronic interference, even if your PLGR is keyed with the proper crypto (provided you can find someone that knows it well enough to fill it and they have the right key with the right supersession dates).


What this comes down to, is the civilian GPSr just doesn't fill all the roles that a PLGR does. There are other functions regarding communications that the PLGR is used for, and the civilian GPSr's don't have the interface to meet these roles.


I'd be curious to know where this is in the development process - if it's not already being fielded. Never seen one live, myself.



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This should go without saying, but since it hasn't been said, I feel the need to say it anyway.


If you plan to give your son a GPSr to bring with to Iraq, make sure you stress to him to NOT rely on it as a primary means of navigation. Any soldiers primary means of navigation should be a map, compass, and pace count. Murphy's Laws of combat says that this wonder piece of technology will fail, break, or run out of batteries when it's needed the most.


I got a lot of bad noise from other soldiers and officers the first time I pulled out a GPSr when training with my unit. Land Navigation skills are highly perishable and carrying around a GPS.. even to just "check" to make sure you're on the right track.. will contribute to the loss of these skills. Don't THINK you're right... KNOW you're right... PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!

Edited by edschminke
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I would also like to remind folks that there are other innate dangers of GPSr's "in theatre." For instance, young guy tosses in waypoints of his weekly convoy route. He loses his GPSr and it's now in the enemy's hands. It has the same ramifications of losing crypto or comm-sec keys. Many of the bases are now well know, but who wouldn't want to be able to "GPS" plot a location for attacks?


Also, folks may find that around certain areas the DoD is intentionally jamming GPSr signals so that only the military issue GPSrs with the correct comm-sec can plot locations in areas. Losing a GPSr in a combat environment - if a person has been careless - is like dropping the location of all your "hideouts" and the maps to get there in one fell swoop.


Loose lips sink ships, while lost GPSrs aim mortars.



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WAAS should work fine in Iraq. Its known as EGNOS this side of the pond and there are EGNOS satellites over mid Atlantic and Africa.

Just because you can receive signals from a WAAS, EGNOS, or other SBAS satellite doesn't mean that the corrections will be of much help. These systems depend on a network of ground stations to model the correction data and those networks cover a limited geographic area (the US and southern Canada for WAAS and much of Europe for EGNOS). Iraq is not covered by the EGNOS ground station network.

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As someone using a gps in Iraq, go with a 60CS. I use a Rino 130 but wish I had a 60cs. WAAS is no help, I just leave the feature turned of. The radio feature on my Rino is useless because our ECM on convoys jams all the radio frequencies. I rcommend the 60cs or similar. Legends are okay too. OH!, if he is going to be doing any convoy stuff try for something with an external antenna or a re-radiating antenna, up-armor trucks and hummers wont let signal in.


pc mobile(re-radiating antennas)

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I would have loved to have a GPS when I was over there. My NCOIC and I tried for almost 6 months to get access to one. We never could. Heck, we couldn't even get access to a map unless we traveled two hours to the rear and then had to write all the directions down! During convoys, we were told to follow the vehicle in front of us. They knew where they were going. Needless to say, we occasionally got lost and were places we shouldn't have been. Thanks God, we all got home safe.


I know that given a choice, I would not take my Magellan. I overshoot my points all the time and have to backtrack. It's great for getting me going in the general direction but not to the exact spot unless I stop and wait for it to catch up with me.


Good luck to your son.



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I realize this post is quite old, but the topic may come up again. So my apologies.


I took my Vista with me in 2005. I spent time in both Mosul and Tall'Afar. Honestly, I had very little use for it. As Engineers, we spent our time in the cities building Combat Ops Posts or COPs. Trust me when I say that road maps will be more helpful when navigating cities. Even then, we might have to change routes due to other circumstances. The convoy commander should have a good idea where he/she is going and how to get there. The CC will, or at least should, have what is called Blue Force Tracker. It is a satellite linked GPS/battlefield map that is used to link smaller forces with the operations center. We knew where we were at as well as where other units were. Regardless of where our lead vehicle took us, we followed. You do not want to get separated from your convoy. Mistakes do happen though.


If operations are being held in remote areas, a GPS might be handy. I just know that my company had several Pluggers(military term for issued GPS) and we were Guardsmen. They are fairly large and basic. At one time, we might have had two, three at most, go out with us as a platoon. I would much rather have had the Army's reciever get broken and not mine.


I know that snipers and Special Forces prefer the civilian models mainly because of the size and weight. We used vehicles so that was not an issue.


In a nutshell, in an urban area rely on the arial maps, keep a close visual on who's in front of you, and know the area and route. In open terrain, whether or not you choose to carry GPS is up to you. If buying a reciever, for a deployment, don't spend too much. You won't use the bells and whistles but you will want something that can take some rough handling.


Hope this helps any of our soldiers or their families.

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Go with the etrex Legend. My bro survived fallujah with just a foretrex...thats an option as well, and, its small. Downside, is it take AAA instead of AA. AA batts are in abuyndant supply over there, so any AA GPS would work. Legend is camo, so he should be fine with it. One thing when he gets there; he NEEDS to make Camp Freedom (or wherever he is) as a waypoint, just in case.

As far as maps; there arent even any good maps over there for soldiers. Most are satellite overlays. Alot of streets arent named, are confusing, and, the farther away you get from a proper city, the more confusing it becomes.


EDIT: OOps...didnt realize this was an older thread.

Edited by oldsoldier
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