Juha Sipila, Prime Minister of Finland recently accused Russia of disturbing the Finnish Global Positioning System (GPS) in the countries northern airspace (Finnish Lapland) during recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) war games in the Scandinavian region of Europe.
We aren’t talking about a small issue, because it has endangered civil aviation safety,” Sipila said during his weekly interview with national public broadcasting company YLE Radio Suomi this past Sunday. “Let’s just say that technology-wise it’s relatively easy to disturb a radio signal transmitted across an open space. It’s possible that Russia was the cause of the disturbance; it’s known to have such capabilities,”
“The message to everyone involved in the military exercise is surely that [Russia] has such capabilities,” Sipila added. According to reports by DW, pilots in Norway also lost GPS navigation signals while near Russia’s western border.
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Sipila has stated Finland will investigate the issue further and is taking it seriously.
Purpose Of War Games
The NATO training exercise was the largest since the Cold War, codenamed Trident Juncture, the purpose of the games were to rehearse how the alliance would respond to the invasion of an ally.
Each of the 29 NATO members including Finland and Sweden took part during the games, which lasted between October 25 to November 7th of this year. At one point a Russian reconnaissance plane flew past warship USS Mount Whitney.
On their website, NATO gave the following description of the Trident Juncture mission:
- When: from 25 October to 7 November 2018.
- Who: Around 50,000 participants from 31 NATO and partner countries.
- Components: Around 250 aircraft, 65 vessels and up to 10,000 vehicles.
- Location: Central and eastern Norway; the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden.
- Objective: To ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.
- Commander: Admiral James G. Foggo, Commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is responsible for conducting the exercise.
History Of Russia Jamming GPS Signals
According to an April 2018 NBC News report, the Russian military had begun jamming United States military drone in Syria, hampering military operations in the area. The four U.S. officials who spoke to NBC on background gave further details:
The Russians began jamming some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago, the officials said, after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate for the attacks and began jamming the GPS systems of drones operating in the area.
Around this time, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested Russia to halt GPS jamming in the borderland. The Barents Observer details a September 2017 issue caused by Russian military training:
The situation was similarly serious in September 2017, when airliners from companies SAS and Widerøe in periods had to navigate with the help of radio signals due to loss of GPS when they entered the East Finnmark airspace. The jamming coincided with the major Russian military exercise «Zapad».
Analysts from the United States first suspected the Russian military of jamming drones in eastern Ukraine four years ago, after the invasion of Crimea, according to Todd Humphreys, the director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. Humphreys is an expert on the spoofing and jamming of GPS technology.