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Russia jams GPS signals near Kaliningrad – 2024-03-28 05:22:04

More than 1,600 aircraft in Eastern Europe experienced navigation problems over two days as they flew past the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Similar problems appear here repeatedly, and two weeks ago the government special of British Defense Minister Grant Shapps also encountered them. The Kremlin has electronic warfare systems in this territory and is increasingly using them.

According to an open news account that regularly tracks GPS problems, the less than 48-hour disruption affected 1,614 planes. Many of them were civilian aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea.

Aircraft have reported jamming or spoofing GPS and wider Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) signals. This can confuse the machines or trick their navigation systems into thinking they are in a different location, experts say.

While at first the incidents occurred all over Poland and in the southern part of Sweden, later they mainly concerned planes in the north of Poland, writes the Newsweek server. Airplanes using the air corridor that connects Kaliningrad with the rest of Russia did not encounter any problems.

This is far from the first such case. In mid-March, a Royal Air Force plane with British Defense Minister Grant Shapps on board, who was flying from Poland back to London, also experienced GPS interference, The Times reported.

Risk to civilians

During the flight, the phones could not be connected to the Internet and the pilots had to use an alternative method of navigation. But the plane was not in danger.

“While the Royal Air Force is well prepared to deal with this, it still poses an unnecessary risk to civilian aircraft and could potentially put people’s lives at risk. There is no excuse for this and it is wildly irresponsible of Russia,” an unnamed military source said.

Already in January, Polish radio station Zet drew attention to an unprecedentedly high level of GPS interference in northern and eastern Poland, including Warsaw and southern Lodz, which had already started last December. Polish media suggested that the December 2023 outages may have been caused by either an unspecified NATO military exercise in the Baltics or may have been related to recent Russian tests of electronic warfare systems in the Kaliningrad region.

No GPS signal

Electronic warfare represents the fight against the electronic equipment of the enemy, so it is precisely the jamming of signals or communication equipment, such as radio stations, radars or missile guidance sensors. It is in Kaliningrad, which is surrounded by the states of the North Atlantic Alliance, that the Russian army is centralizing systems that can hit NATO. But they also have an impact on civil transport.

On January 12, Sweden’s military secret service launched an investigation into the malfunctions in connection with the exercise of the Russian Baltic Fleet. Swedish Lt. Col. Joakim Paasikivi said at the time that he believed the recent level of GPS jamming was the result of “Russian influence activities or so-called hybrid warfare.”

He added that Russia has previously jammed GPS signals in northern Europe to protect Russian activities in the Murmansk region or disrupt NATO exercises, the US Institute for the Study of War recalls in its regular report.

Several pilots of Forbes magazine admitted that when flying near the Baltic Sea and surrounding countries, they began to turn off GPS navigation and prefer to use other systems, for example, inertial navigation. This is not a problem for military aircraft, but many commercial airlines rely on GPS.

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