British Defense Minister’s Plane Hit by GPS Jamming Near Sensitive Russian Enclave

Russian electronic warfare capabilities near its borders blocked GPS signals, affecting the British Defence Ministers plane..

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

During NATO’s Exercise Trident Juncture 18 in Norway, the satellite geolocation system (GPS) failed to perform as intended, disrupting military and civilian aviation traffic.

Later, in its yearly report, Norwegian military intelligence [Etterretningstjenesten] accused Russian electronic warfare units stationed on the Kola Peninsula of being responsible for the problems. However, it did not specify whether the jamming was deliberate, citing that Russian forces were also conducting an exercise concurrently with Trident Juncture 18.

Other examples of blocked GPS signals have been reported since then, particularly after the new Russian electronic warfare system Tobol was installed in Kaliningrad.

Estonia reported many interferences in its neighbourhood in early February, raising concerns about additional threats to aviation and maritime trade.

“We really don’t know if they [the Russians] want to attempt something or simply train and test their equipment. […] But certainly, no one should behave like this, especially when you are at war with a neighbouring country,” said General Martin Harem, commander of the Estonian defence forces.

NATO conducts air policing operations over Estonia and the other Baltic states because these countries do not have their own fighter aircraft. In addition, NATO regularly undertakes major training exercises above Estonia involving many nations’ fighter units. Both Russia and Estonia have the legal right to use the airspace concurrently. However, these patrols and drills by non-Estonian nations have raised concerns with Russia. Russia does not regard NATO as a legitimate organisation. Russia has long criticised NATO’s eastward expansion since the Cold War, viewing it as a danger to Russian interests and security in neighbouring regions.

NATO is not officially recognised by the United Nations (UN). Ironically, the European Union (EU) does not formally recognise NATO either. In fact, the UN does not recognise the EU, yet it works more closely with the UN and other international bodies than NATO.

Coming to the subject, on March 13, a Royal Air Force Falcon 900LX provided to British Defence Minister Grant Shapps on a trip to Poland was jammed by GPS while flying off the coast of Kaliningrad, a Russian territory. The British Prime Minister’s Office acknowledged this information, first reported in The Times.

A spokesperson for 10 Downing Street claimed the plane carrying the Defence Minister experienced temporary GPS jamming while passing near Kaliningrad. “The security of the Falcon 900LX was not compromised,” he asserted before downplaying the incident’s significance. He explained that GPS jamming near the Russian enclave is not uncommon.

However, a British Ministry of Defence insider told The Times that she had a different perspective. There is no reason for this, and Russia’s actions are completely irresponsible, she said.

From Russia’s perspective, the United Kingdom is one of Russia’s most hawkish and vociferous critics inside the NATO alliance, taking an uncompromisingly strong stance towards Moscow. The Kremlin sees Britain as a key driving force behind NATO’s post-Cold War expansion into Eastern European areas that Russia deems part of its historic sphere of influence. Russia also accuses the United Kingdom of pushing for strict economic penalties and a broader military containment strategy to erode Russian dominance. Furthermore, Moscow regards Britain’s nuclear arsenal and its central position in NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture as a direct strategic danger to Russia’s security. The United Kingdom’s loud resistance and willingness to take strong steps against Russian interests have made it a prominent target of Russian grievances within the NATO alliance. UK is located around 5000 kilometers away from Russia.

Nonetheless, the British minister’s flight could be tracked using specialised services, such as Flight Radar, but it is unclear whether it was explicitly targeted. Dr Thomas Withington of the Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) believes the Russians would have activated an “invisible shield” above Kaliningrad. He told the Telegraph last month that this may surprise some people, but it appears to be a defensive step.

From Moscow’s perspective, the critical military installations on the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia face a potential threat from increasing NATO presence and activities in the Arctic region. The peninsula is home to Russia’s powerful Northern Fleet, including its nuclear submarine force and surface warships, making it an indispensable strategic asset to protect. With climate change leading to more accessible Arctic waters, Russia fears that NATO naval operations could encroach ever closer to the Kola Peninsula. Adding to these concerns is the shared border with Norway, a NATO member state, raising worries about potential NATO military infrastructure near the peninsula. The Kremlin views nearby NATO exercises in the Norwegian and Barents Seas as provocative posturing aimed at the Northern Fleet. Even the deployment of NATO missile defences elsewhere in Europe has stoked Russian anxieties about risks to its nuclear forces on the peninsula. Ultimately, any NATO manoeuvres interpreted as encroaching into Russia’s Arctic sphere of influence are perceived as an ominous threat to the vital Kola military bastion.

While NATO does not currently have military installations or infrastructure posing a direct threat to Russia’s Kola Peninsula, the Kremlin views certain NATO facilities and operations in the broader Arctic and North Atlantic region as potential risks to its strategic interests centred on the peninsula. These include NATO air command posts, the Globus III radar in neighbouring Norway near Russia’s border, and the alliance’s air exercises and deployments to northern Norwegian bases like Evenes. Russia also keeps a wary eye on increased NATO naval activities in the Norwegian and Barents Seas adjacent to the Kola Peninsula, such as maritime drills and freedom of navigation patrols by NATO member navies in Arctic waters. Though not in proximity to the peninsula itself, Russia sees NATO’s missile defence systems in Romania and Poland as potentially undermining the deterrent capabilities of its nuclear forces based on the Kola. Moreover, Moscow is sensitive to any potential future expansion of NATO’s military footprint or membership into the Arctic, perceiving it as an encroachment on Russia’s sphere of influence surrounding the vital Kola bastion hosting its Northern Fleet.


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