Signal interference continues to increase in geopolitical areas
Users of satellite-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems have long been engaged in an arms race, with various threats preventing these systems from operating.
Some of these threats have become endemic. From the Arctic Circle to the Suez Canal, from China to the United States, global navigation satellite system (GNSS) interference has made life very difficult for PNT system users this year, especially in commercial aviation and maritime operations.
The number of GPS jammers jamming events has increased globally. In the Middle East in particular, incidents of jamming of civilian and military platforms are equally common, with aggressive electronic warfare in Ukraine and the Baltics.
Commercial shipping operators "continue to experience severe interference events ... resulting in loss or inaccuracy of GPS signals, affecting bridge navigation, GPS-based timing and communications equipment. Much of this activity may be related to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Reports from individual ships show what this interference looks like operationally. Two different captains reported that GPS interference around Port Said was so severe that they decided to switch from GPS as the primary location sensor to a secondary receiver that also used the Russian GLONASS system.
Switching to GLONASS may be useful for these users, but workarounds like this are not a viable long-term solution to persistent signal interference issues. Conversely, commercial GPS users in geopolitically sensitive areas need practical advice to protect and harden their systems and, where possible, enhance them with additional positioning technology.
Signal interference doesn't just happen in conflict zones. The dramatic increase in domestic military jamming testing in the United States has created problems for commercial pilots.
Aircrews were so accustomed to jamming near missile range that when they encountered heading errors, they assumed it was due to military testing. In fact, the crew introduced errors themselves through inaccurate data entry. "The expectation bias has led me to become complacent with the required descent briefing," admitted the crew member who submitted the report.