This electronic warfare (EW) carried out by Russia may affect the US troops stationed in the Middle East besides the risk of armed conflict between the US and Iran writes US magazine – The National Interest.
Among other things, electronic warfare by Russia including jamming poses a big threat to civilian air traffic, police and medical-related operations in peacetime.
Experts distinguish between jamming and spoofing. So while jamming amounts to creating electronic noise to disrupt GPS services, spoofing, on the other hand, involves deceiving and manipulating a satellite navigation system to provide false data.
In late June 2019, The Times of Israel reported that since last spring, pilots flying in the Middle East, in particular around Syria, had noted that their GPS systems showed the wrong location or stopped working altogether.
As per the data collected by American researchers, the signal that disrupted (and supposedly continues to do so until now) satellite navigation for aircraft flying through Israeli airspace comes from the Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria.
Khmeimim airbase is home to sophisticated Russian military hardware, including S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft systems and Su-57 stealth fighter jets
Russia most probably seeks to protect its troops in Syria including from drone attacks by interfering and carrying out active electronic warfare. According to The National Interest, Israeli sources are “more and more convinced” that the failure in GPS for civilian flights in the region “are a side effect of Russian radio interference in Syria.”
In recent years, ships have also reported GPS interference in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, with Russia suspected of carrying out electronic jamming to protect its troops in Syria fighting for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
However, the interference may well be the result of spoofing. Ships posting about GPS problems to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center reported having seemingly authentic satellite signals but could not receive any credible positioning information, echoing the spoofing events in Syria near the Russian airbase.
It is believed that Moscow is attempting to interfere with both western aircraft, including the latest stealth F-22 and F-35 fighters, and armed drones that periodically try to attack the Russian Khmeimim base in Syrian Latakia.
Beginning in April 2019, the U.S. Air Force deployed the stealth fighters F-22 and F-35 in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates respectively. This was part of a wider build-up of forces against the backdrop of the US-Iranian confrontation in the region.
Russia is also seen in the GPS war on the European continent. “Interference for GPS signals was first detected during a large-scale NATO Trident Juncture exercise in Norway in late October 2018” the Defense News noted earlier.
Norwegian military intelligence then stated that it recorded a source of interference from a Russian military base on the heavily fortified Kola Peninsula. The Finnish military intelligence also expressed that the analysis of the Norwegian partners reflects its own investigations and assessments.
The Norwegian government has decried what it calls continued “electronic harassment” of critical communications systems and networks by the Russian government. “The Norwegian government detested the electronic jamming actions of Russia and is strengthening collaboration with Nordic partner states to improve intelligence sharing regarding the Russian military’s signal-blocking technologies and measures,” said Bakke-Jensen, the Norwegian Defence minister.
The Norwegian Armed Forces are also exploring the use of new methods and technologies to brace against military communications interference and jamming of GPS systems by Russia. The U.S. Air Force is currently planning to test interference-resistant GPS systems in Europe. This will be done with an eye to counter Russian electronic warfare.