Reports link GPS interference in Baltic region to Russia

Aircraft flying over the Baltic region have been experiencing an unusual increase in the number of missing or fake Global Positioning System (GPS) signals, raising concerns about who may be to blame. More than 1,600 aircraft, including civilian aircraft, experienced the interference — known as GPS jamming — in less than two days earlier this week, according to an open-source intelligence account that regularly tracks GPS interference.The jamming seems concentrated around Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave — a key military area for Moscow. It is situated between NATO members Poland and Lithuania and serves as a base for one of Russia’s major naval fleets. GPS jamming has been occurring regularly since the beginning of the war in 2022.The EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) tells Politico that it is looking into the issue, but so far regulators say that the GPS problems are not a danger to flights.Interference cases reported by pilots “have been increasing steadily since January 2022,” the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) tells the publication. The travel safety agency received reports from pilots through its voluntary incident reporting system EVAIR.The organization says it received 985 GPS outages during January and February this year compared to 1,371 for all of 2023.Russia is understood to have significant electronic warfare (EW) resources in Kaliningrad. “Russian armed forces have a wide spectrum of military equipment dedicated for GNSS interference, including jamming and spoofing, at varying distances, duration and intensity,” a Lithuanian defense official told Newsweek earlier this month.Dana Goward, president of the U.S.-based Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, tells Politico that Russia regularly targets aircraft with the technology. “It is a real threat. There is one instance of accidentally jamming we know of that almost resulted in a impacting a mountain,” he said, referring to a case reported by NASA in 2019.In mid-March, a military plane carrying British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps was hit by GPS jamming on its way back from Poland, although EASA hasn’t been able to confirm the Russian origin of the interference or whether the jamming is intentional, Politico reports.In 2022 and 2023, EASA warned about an increase in reports of GPS spoofing and jamming incidents taking place in areas surrounding Russia, including in Finland, around the Black Sea and in the Baltic Sea area, according to the Wall Street Journal. In one bulletin, EASA said pilots were forced to reroute planes or change their destinations midflight. Aircraft are still able to fly safely without GPS and can switch to other sources when GPS is inaccurate, experts say.