American Spy Plane Pilots Use China’s Satellite Navigation System BeiDou As Backup To GPS

American spy plane pilots use China’s satellite navigation system as a backup to GPS on their missions, according to a US Air Force general. The second generation of the Chinese system, known as BeiDou, began providing global services at the end of 2018 and a third phase, with more satellites, is expected to be fully functional later this year. While the Global Positioning System (GPS) is the first choice for pilots of U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance aircraft, BeiDou, along with Russia’s Glonass and Europe’s Galileo, serves as an alternative if GPS becomes unavailable.

“My U-2 guys fly with a watch now that ties into GPS, but also BeiDou and the Russian system and the European system,” US Air Combat Command Chief General James Holmes said at a conference in Washington on Wednesday 4 March.

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