GPS Safety at Stake: Russian Electronic Warfare Weapon Raises Concerns for European Ships and Air Traffic

Participants in the Russian military action in Ukraine attend a meeting with Nikolai Kharitonov, Russia's Communist Party presidential candidate, and Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov (both not pictured) as part of the campaign ahead of the upcoming presidential election, in the Moscow region on February 1, 2024.

There have been reports of a Russian electronic warfare system causing disruptions to the GPS guidance of airliners and ships on Nato’s eastern flank.

According to Estonia’s military chief, there has been a significant increase in disruption in a region that spans from Finland to the Baltic states and Poland, as reported by the Telegraph.

“There has been a malfunction in the GPS systems used by ships and air traffic,” stated General Martin Harem, the commander of the Estonian Defence Forces.

It remains uncertain whether Russia has any specific goals in mind or if they are simply using this opportunity to practice and test their equipment.

He stated, “However, it is absolutely unacceptable to exhibit such behavior, particularly during a conflict with a neighboring nation.”

Estonia becomes the first member of NATO to publicly address concerns regarding the Kremlin.

Estonia was the first member of the NATO military alliance to openly address the Kremlin’s involvement in the disruption.

According to Western intelligence, Russia has allegedly deployed a significant jamming system called Tobol to its military exclave Kaliningrad, located between Lithuania and Poland.

It is estimated that there are fewer than 10 advanced electronic warfare systems currently in operation throughout the country, including the one stationed at the outpost.

Images circulating on social media depict what appears to be a sizable satellite dish installed on the ground.

Dish causing disruption to GPS signals in various directions has been reported.

According to Dr Thomas Withington, an expert in electronic warfare at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, the dish has the capability to disrupt GPS signals in various directions.

According to the expert, the measures taken to disrupt signals could potentially create an imperceptible protective barrier around Kaliningrad. This is due to Russia’s apprehension regarding Nato’s collection of satellite-guided missiles.

Russian Military Concerns on Satellite Navigation Threats

The Russian military has expressed significant concern regarding weapons that can target Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).

According to the source, the Russian Tobol has the potential to disrupt the accuracy of weapons that rely on satellite signals for guidance, potentially causing them to miss their intended targets. 

However, it should be noted that the Tobol does not have the capability to prevent missile explosions.

Causing disruption among civilian use of satellite navigation systems

However, instead of preventing the interception of munitions launched by Nato, it is creating significant disruption for civilian satellite navigation systems.

There have been recent incidents where commercial airliners have unexpectedly disappeared from tracking sites.

 Additionally, concerns have been raised about the potential collision risks for ships if they lose connection to satellites.

The Russian jamming is anticipated to have a significant socio-economic impact on the countries in close proximity to Kaliningrad.

Potentially causing a catastrophic breakdown in the logistics system.

If GPS signals were to experience a prolonged interruption, it could have a significant impact on logistics, potentially leaving delivery drivers without functioning navigation systems and causing major disruptions.

However, there is a possibility that this could erode the trust in Nato and the West among those who are most impacted by the jammers

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