Norway has stunned the international community by presenting “proof” Russia was behind a sophisticated GPS attack during war games.
War games are supposed to test a military’s ability to deal with the unexpected. But NATO got more than it anticipated last year when its warships’ navigation systems started acting up.
There was no way they could be where their computers were telling them they were.
This was no small issue: warships from 31 different nations were manoeuvring together in what was one of NATO’s largest exercises in decades.
But the implications went far beyond safety.
It means weapon systems without alternate means of finding out where they were could end up hundreds of kilometres off course.
It wasn’t the first time this GPS ‘glitch’ had been observed in Nordic nations such as Finland, Norway and Sweden. Civilian air traffic has reported several instances of their navigation systems going haywire.
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In all, GPS signals have been reportedly disrupted five times in the northeastern region of Norway, Finland and Sweden since autumn 2017. But Trident Juncture exercise in October and November last year experienced the most intense attack.
A member of staff of the NATO naval and marine works with a navigation display on the bridge of USS Mount Whitney of the US Navy during the NATO-led military exercise Trident Juncture. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
Suspicion immediately fell upon Russia.
Moscow dismissed the claims.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Larov went so far as to call the allegations “fantasy”.
But, now, Norway says it has proof.
“Russia asked to give proof. We gave them the proof,” Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters after a bilateral meeting with Russia in Oslo.
Norwegian civilian science outposts had recorded the type, strength and origins of the signals used to distort signals emitted by GPS satellites, he said.
This data has now been handed over to Moscow.
“Russia said ‘thank you, we will come back when our experts review that’. To have such an answer from Russia is a positive thing,” he said.
Minister Bakke-Jensen said Russia would have had to be well aware of the impact of its jamming systems.
A map provided by Norway’s intelligence service showing the source and intensity of GPS jamming signals. Picture: Norway Defence MinistrySource:Supplied
“They were exercising very close to the border and they knew this will affect areas on the other side,” he said. “We recognise Russia’s right to exercise and train its capacities [but] it is not acceptable that this kind of activity affects security in Norwegian air space.”
And international conventions dictate notice be given of any kind of major military test.
The dates and locations of NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise was known to Russia for years.
But Moscow called a snap ‘live-fire’ exercise of its own warships on the boundaries of the NATO games. It also appears to have engaged in an undeclared test of its electronic jamming systems, encompassing Trident Juncture’s designated exclusion area.
Russia shows little regard for the ‘fallout’ of its electronic warfare testing.
Norways’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs was forced to contact Moscow in October 2017 to request jamming exercises along its border as part of Russia’s annual Zapad war-games be halted due to public safety concerns.
“It was a large military exercise by a big neighbour and it disrupted civilian activities including air traffic, shipping, and fishing,” defence minister Bakke-Jensen said at the time.