The FAA intends to abandon radar, and rely on GPS-based ADS-B for
NextGen ATC despite its proven vulnerability. Space-based satellite
communications signals are puny and easily overwhelmed by ground-based
higher powered transmitters, but NextGen is dependent on satellite
communications. Is this a good idea or folly?
Russia has figured out how to jam U.S. drones in Syria, officials say
Four U.S. officials said Russia's signal scrambling has seriously
affected military operations.
by Courtney Kube / Apr.10.2018 / 1:32 AM ET
An unarmed U.S. Shadow drone is launched in this undated photograph,
released on January 5, 2011.AAI Corporation via Reuters /
WASHINGTON — The Russian military has been jamming some U.S. military
drones operating in the skies over Syria, seriously affecting American
military operations, according to four U.S. officials.
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, the officials explained.
Jamming, which means blocking or scrambling a drone's reception of a
signal from a GPS satellite, can be uncomplicated, according to Dr.
Todd Humphreys, the director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the
University of Texas at Austin.
Israel shoots down Iranian drone, sparking attack
"GPS receivers in most drones can be fairly easily jammed," he said
Humphreys, an expert on the spoofing and jamming of GPS, warns this
could have a significant impact on U.S. drones, causing them to
malfunction or even crash. "At the very least it could cause some
serious confusion" for the drone operator on the ground if the drone
reports an incorrect position or is lost, he said.
U.S. analysts first caught the Russian military jamming drones in
eastern Ukraine four years ago, after the invasion of Crimea,
according to Humphreys. He said the jammers were initially detected as
faint signals from space, bouncing off the earth's surface. The
jammers "had a pretty significant impact" on the United Nations
surveillance drones that were attempting to monitor the area,
grounding the fleet for days and halting intelligence gathering from
The Defense Department will not say whether the jamming is causing
drones to crash, citing operational security. "The U.S. military
maintains sufficient countermeasures and protections to ensure the
safety of our manned and unmanned aircraft, our forces and the
missions they support," said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV),
carrying a Hellfire missile lands at a secret air base after flying a
mission in the Persian Gulf region on January 7, 2016. The drones
impacted to date by Russian jamming are smaller surveillance aircraft,
as opposed to the larger Predators and Reapers that often operate in
combat environments. John Moore / Getty Images File
But one official confirmed the tactic is having an operational impact
on U.S. military operations in Syria.
The officials said the equipment being used was developed by the
Russian military and is very sophisticated, proving effective even
against some encrypted signals and anti-jamming receivers. The drones
impacted so far are smaller surveillance aircraft, as opposed to the
larger Predators and Reapers that often operate in combat environments
and can be armed.
Dr. Humphreys says that though the attacks occur in cyberspace, the
results are still serious.
"They are a little less hostile looking than a kinetic bullet but
sometimes the effect can be just as damaging," he said. "It's like
shooting at them with radio waves instead of bullets."