Russia Jammed GPS Signals During NATO Military Exercise Involving US Troops

Russia Jammed GPS Signals During NATO Military Exercise Involving US Troops
Photo by Chris Michals via Unsplash.

The Russian military jammed GPS signals during a major NATO military exercise in Norway  between October 16 and November 7, according to multiple published reports this week. The military exercise involved thousands of U.S. and NATO troops, CNN reported, citing the Norwegian government.

The NATO exercise, Trident Juncture, ended Sunday and involved about 50,000 personnel. It was labeled the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War. Finland and Sweden, not members of NATO, also participated in the exercises that featured soldiers from 31 countries.

A spokesperson for the Norwegian ministry of defense confirmed the jamming and said it would defer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further questions to Russian authorities.

“Norway has determined that Russia was responsible for jamming GPS signals in the Kola Peninsula during Exercise Trident Juncture. Finland has expressed concern over possible jamming in Lapland,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu told CNN Wednesday. “In view of the civilian usage of GPS, jamming of this sort is dangerous, disruptive and irresponsible,” she added.

This latest incident is not the first report of GPS jamming alleged to involve Russia. The Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation (RNTF) has written about multiple such events in its blog. For more reports of this associated with Russian military exercises, see RNTF reports from April 2018 and October 2017, and commentary from December 2017.

“Russia has very little to fear from GNSS jamming and everything to gain,” Dana A. Goward, President, Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, wrote in an email to Inside GNSS on Wednesday. “Their civil populace and critical infrastructure has a very robust, high power, terrestrial Loran system called ‘Chayka,’ that they can rely on for PNT, and their military has developed a deployable PNT system called ‘Skorpion EV.’ Conversely, Europe and the U.S. have discontinued their Loran systems, and are almost entirely dependent upon weak GNSS signals for PNT. A situation the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has called ‘a single point of failure for critical infrastructure.’ So Russian has a lot to gain jamming GPS and Galileo to show how powerful they are and [to show] our vulnerabilities. Why would they not do this?”

The Russians seem to want to disrupt, or at least challenge NATO military exercises, the RNTF wrote in its blog, adding “It strikes us that this adds greatly to the realism of NATO’s exercise. Russian military doctrine holds that the first thing to do in an armed conflict is disrupt all signals from space. GPS signals are the weakest, the easiest to disrupt and would probably be the first to go.”

When asked about the report of Russian jamming, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was aware of the reports but did not offer additional information, CNN reported.

“We have seen there have been similar reports from Norway, and I cannot share more precise information with you,” Stoltenberg said Sunday at a news conference marking the end of Trident Juncture, according to a published report. “What I can say is that we see that cyber, electronic warfare, electronic means are used more and more frequent in different operations, and therefore we take all these issues very seriously.”

The Kola Peninsula is near the Norwegian-Russian border and is where the Russian Navy bases its northern fleet. Although Norway is a founding member of NATO, Moscow has voiced strong opposition to the presence of NATO and US troops in the country.

Related Reading: GPS Hackers Could Send Weapons to Wrong Target — GAO Report

This jamming of the location signals isn’t believed to have caused any accidents.

Over the weekend, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said his country’s GPS location signals were intentionally disrupted in the northern Lapland region, according to the Associated Press.

Finland’s state Air Navigation Services issued a warning to civilian air traffic earlier last week.

Without providing any further evidence, Sipila said Sunday that neighboring Russia may have been to blame. “It’s possible Russia was the disrupting party,” Sipila said in an interview with Finnish public broadcaster YLE, as reported by the AP.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

According to the AP, the Kremlin on Monday denied involvement in the Finnish GPS disturbance.

“We know nothing about Russia’s possible involvement in those GPS failures,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to TASS news agency. “There is a trend to blame all mortal sins on Russia.”

Russia is known to have substantial capabilities for electronic warfare. Experts say it has in recent years invested heavily in technology that can affect GPS location signals over a broad area, the AP stated.

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