Selective Availability
and Anti-Spoofing
Selective Availability
• The GPS system was originally designed for
use only by the military
• Potential budget cutbacks in the 1970’s
caused the program to become a joint-use
• The GPS code signals were made publicly
available and receiver design and
manufacturing began in the 1970’s and
Selective Availability
• Originally, it was expected that the accuracy
available with the C/A code would be no better
than 400 meters
• However, improvements in receiver hardware and
software, allowed position determination to within
15-40 meters
• This level of accuracy is acceptable for most
weapon delivery and targeting systems
Selective Availability
• Selective Availability was derived by the military that allows
the C/A code to be varied on a continuous and random basis
• The method involves varying the the satellite clock output
frequency to the C/A code generator (also referred to as
the delta process)
• Varying the clock frequency by a given amount will vary the
range accuracy at the receiver
• The basic C/A code is degraded to 100 meters in the
horizontal plane and 156 meters in the vertical plane
• The specifications also yield a velocity error of
approximately 0.3 meters per second and an error in time of
about 340 nanoseconds
Selective Availability
• The degrade accuracies assume a 95% probability of
reception and decoding
• Projecting a 99.9% probability of reception and decoding
results in an accuracy of 300 meters in the horizontal plane
and 500 meters in the vertical plane
• The dithering is achieved by introducing errors into the
output of the atomic clocks within the satellites, not the
clocks themselves
• The clock frequency varying capability was designed into the
Block II and IIa satellites and not included in the original
development of the Block I satellites
Selective Availability
• The atomic clock accuracies are kept to within a few
nanoseconds of GPS time and great steps are taken to
assure this accuracy
• If the fundamental clock frequency is even slightly
altered, the code and carrier pseudoranges are
• A receiver utilizing the C/A code with Selective
Availability turned off and measuring four satellites
would typically see accuracies around 5 to 15 meters
(due to GDOP and ionospheric variations)
• The same receiver, with Selective Availability turned
on would see accuracies around 10 to 140 meters
Selective Availability
• The effect of Selective Availability would result in
a stationary receiver that appears to wander
around a known point over time
• The receiver would appear somewhere within a
radius of 100 meters (horizontal) and 156 meters,
if the elevation of the receiver is known
• The ranges would normally vary between short and
long measurements but the military can cause
errors all in one direction (all too short or all too
Selective Availability
• Another aspect of Selective Availability is the ability of the
military to truncate part of the ephemeris message
– This is called epsilon process
• The DoD uploads daily ephemeris data to each satellite to be
included in the navigation message but shortens the data
over a certain period of time
• If the exact coordinates of the satellites cannot be
determined, the error in satellite position translates into an
error in receiver position
– These errors cannot be detected by receivers
– These errors are placed such that positions can vary between
50 and 150 meters
Selective Availability
• The images on the following slide show the variation of a
features position with and without the effects of Selective
• Each plot shows the positional scatter of 24 hours of data
(0000 to 2359 UTC) taken at one of the Continuously
Operating Reference Stations (CORS) operated by the
NCAD Corp. at Erlanger, Kentucky
• On May 2, 2000, SA was set to zero
• The plots show that SA causes 95% of the points to fall
within a radius of 45.0 meters
• Without SA, 95% of the points fall within a radius of 6.3
• Images courtesy of National Geodectic Survey, National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency
Selective Availability
Selective Availability
• Initially, it was intended that Selective
Availability be turned on only when the nation
faced a serious threat
• This would prevent the navigation system from
being used by hostile forces
• It was also suggested that Selective Availability
be turned on but to a lesser degree than possible
• On March 25, 1990, it was decided that Selective
Availability would remain on with the Department
of Defense (DoD) in control of signal degradation
Selective Availability
• In 1995, it was proposed that Selective
Availability be be reduced in most parts of the
world and be increased when over certain parts of
the world
• This could be accomplished by uploading special
software to the satellites that uses timing to turn
Selective Availability on when the satellites are
over certain regions
• On May 1, 2000, it was decided that Selective
Availability should be turned off permanently and
has remained so ever since
Selective Availability
• Selective Availability was turned off due to
– Differential correction available in many countries often
negated the effects
– Military started to see Selective Availability as a
hindrance to their own work
– The military often set Selective Availability to zero
during conflicts (Gulf War and Haiti landings)
– Potential competition from the Galileo program put
additional pressure to remove the error and make GPS a
world standard
– Galileo would be more compatible with NAVSTAR if the
error was turned off
• During the development of the GPS system, the P code
was given to civil receiver manufacturers for design
and enhancement purposes
• It was later decided by DoD that satellites should
include the ability to prevent access by unauthorized
• This was done so hostile forces would be prevented
from transmitting false signals that appear to be valid
• These false signals would then “spoof” the receivers,
allowing them to be identified by the receivers and
then resulting in incorrect location measurements
• Anti Spoofing is accomplished by binarily summing
another PRN code running at a slower rate (W code)
with the P code, forming another code known as the Y
• The W code characteristics are not common knowledge
but appears to run at 1/20 the rate of the P code
(approximately 511.5 kHz)
• When AS is switched on, the P code is replaced by the
Y code
• AS can only be switched on and off; there is no way to
vary the levels of encryption as with Selective
• Anti Spoofing was first activated on August 1,
1992 for testing but was permanently activated on
January 31, 1994
• Anti Spoofing is decrypted by authorized users by
the use of a read-only memory unit integrated
• This circuit is plugged into the receiver and
contains the W code
• When the W code from the receiver is mixed with
the Y code transmitted by the satellites, the P
code is attained