GPS Jamming- Aviation authorities increasingly warning of jamming activity

Russia is likely behind an increase in instances of jamming satellite signals used by airlines, smartphones and weapons systems in eastern Europe, according to a senior Baltic military commander.

Martin Herem, the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, pointed the finger at the Kremlin for disrupting Global Positioning System signals as interference with satellite-based navigation systems has picked up in the Baltic region since last year. A particular surge has been registered this month in an area stretching from Finland to Poland to the Black Sea region.

“Someone is causing it and we think it’s Russia,” Herem said in an interview in Tallinn last week, adding that Moscow may be war-gaming jamming capability amid risks of a future potential conflict with North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “I think they are learning and testing.”

Russia has a track record of jamming GPS signals in northern Europe and is able to deploy a range of capabilities for electronic warfare, including disrupting drone and missile activity in Ukraine. The Kremlin has also stepped up jamming activity in Moscow and St. Petersburg to avert potential drone attacks from Ukraine. A request to the Kremlin seeking comment went unanswered.

The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed in the past that its electronic-warfare units in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania, have held training exercises for disrupting radio and satellite signals.

The Estonian commander said the jamming activity could also be carried out from ships in the Baltic Sea. In December, Polish aviation authorities warned pilots about disruption, while officials from Sweden and Finland said earlier this month that they’re probing the matter.

Baltic Tension

“Russia has demonstrated its electronic warfare capabilities elsewhere, not just in Ukraine and the Baltic countries,” Herem said. “They’re definitely quite strong in this.”

The Estonian general also issued a warning over Russian aggression. Fresh intelligence on Russia’s ability to produce ammunition and recruit troops has prompted a re-evaluation among NATO allies and a spate of warnings to prepare for a long-term conflict, he told Bloomberg.

European aviation officials hosted a meeting last week to discuss the problem as incidents of jamming and “spoofing,” in which false signals are sent, are mounting in the backdrop of conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. The practices can inadvertently affect commercial jets.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the International Air Transport Association, a trade group, hosted a meeting in the German city of Cologne on Thursday, where officials from airlines, manufacturers, suppliers and other industry participants met to discuss ways to reduce the risks.

“We have seen a sharp rise in attacks on these systems, which poses a safety risk,” EASA’s acting executive director, Luc Tytgat, said Jan. 26. “We immediately need to ensure that pilots and crews can identify the risks and know how to react and land safely.”