GPS disturbed: Russia is playing with America’s F-35

Russian forces have blocked GPS systems in the Middle East. The electronic warfare campaign could affect US forces gathering in the region ahead of possible strikes against Iran.

“Since last spring, pilots flying through the Middle East, particularly in Syria, have found that their GPS systems have displayed the wrong location or have stopped working,” The Times of Israel reported in late June 2019.

According to a US-based researcher, the signal that has disrupted satellite navigation for aircraft flying through Israeli airspace in recent weeks comes from a Russian air force base in Syria.

This disruption in the reception of the Global Positioning System does not appear to be specifically aimed at Israel, but rather the Jewish state is likely to be collateral damage as Moscow tries to protect its troops from drone attacks and assert its dominance in the field of electronics, Professor Todd Humphreys at the University of Texas, told The Times of Israel.

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Israeli sources “are increasingly convinced” that three weeks of GPS glitches for civilian flights is a side effect of Russian interference and spoofing in Syria, Breaking Defense reported. “Moscow is trying to interfere with both Western aircraft – including state-of-the-art secret F-22 and F-35 – and improvised terrorist drones.”

The US Air Force, which will take off in April 2019, has dispatched F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, respectively, to strengthen the armed forces, while Washington, following the decision of the US President Donald Trump clashes with Tehran unilaterally for the United States to withdraw from the agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

Now the situation is rife with rumors as the Israeli government eschews any official statement and continues to investigate other sources. But if Russia actually accidentally disrupts a friendly nation’s GPS, then why didn’t they stop?

The answer could lie within the confines of Russian electronic warfare, which, while far more effective than the US military [electronic warfare], is still based more on raw power than on precise aiming.

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations and the Israeli Airports Authority announced in late June 2019 that many flights lost GPS satellite signal while flying in or out of Ben Gurion International in Israel, Breaking Defense reported. According to the IAA, there is no risk to passengers. The affected aircraft simply switched to backup systems.

“Interestingly, ground-based GPS systems are not affected,” stated Breaking Defense. “That makes the aviation GPS malfunction suspiciously specific – another sign that it is not a simple glitch, but some kind of electronic weapon. And the Russians have invested heavily in powerful spoofing systems, the wrong GPS Send signals that are up to 500 times stronger than the real ones, which leads civilian navigators astray for miles. ”

Russia also disrupted GPS in Europe

“In late October [2018], encrypted GPS signals were first discovered during NATO’s large-scale Trident Juncture exercises in Norway,” Defense News reported.

“Norwegian Intelligence said it was tracking the source of the signal blocker to a Russian military base on the nearby heavily fortified Kola Peninsula. Finnish Military Intelligence said Norway’s analysis reflected its own research and assessments.”

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In late 2018, Finland and Norway filed complaints with Russia about the disruptions. “Defense and civil aviation chiefs in Finland and Norway warned that the GPS jammer posed a serious risk to military and commercial aircraft using the affected airspace in the far north,” said Defense News.

“Russia has asked (us) to provide evidence. We gave them the proof, ”Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told Arctic Today. The evidence consisted of measurements that showed that signals had been jammed.

“Russia said, ‘Thank you, we will come back when our experts review,” said Bakke-Jensen. “To have such a response from Russia is a positive thing,” he said.

Bakke-Jensen implied the interference was intentional. “They trained very close to the border and they knew that this would affect areas on the other side,” Bakke-Jensen said of the Russians.

The US Army plans to test jam-resistant GPS systems in Europe to counter Russian electronic warfare.

The 2nd Cavalry Regiment of the Army in Germany is to receive the new interference-resistant GPS by the end of 2019.

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