back to article GPS jamming around Cyprus gives our air traffic controllers a headache, says Eurocontrol

GPS jamming of airliners not only causes navigational havoc but delays commercial airline flights too, EU airspace regulator Eurocontrol has complained in a new report. Jamming of the essential navigational satellite signal has caused enough headaches for the EU air traffic control organisation to prompt an investigation, …

  1. MJI Silver badge

    The blocker needs a present

    of a cruise missle

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The blocker needs a present

      How are they going to aim said missile?

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: The blocker needs a present

        If the GPS blocker is a ground installation, good, old fashioned inertial navigation should do fine provided that the warhead's destructive radius is about the same size as the inertial navigation system's error circle.

        If the blocker is being carried by a drone, then IR terminal guidance should do nicely.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: The blocker needs a present

          A home on jam missile is another option. I asked somebody from the military about this option a good few years ago. He said (without going into any secrets) that there are certainly options for seeking and destroying a jammer that way. If you can DF a transmitter based on the power I can't see why a missile couldn't. Have to make sure no one else is using that frequency first I'd imagine.

          1. brotherelf

            Re: The blocker needs a present

            Well fortunately, most legitimate GNSS signal sources are higher up. (I'd be totally unsurprised to hear of rogue jamming sats in orbit, though.)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The blocker needs a present

            > A home on jam missile is another option.

            *Looks at jar*

            Gulp..

            *Puts jar back in fridge*

            1. Korev Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: The blocker needs a present

              If the middle hits then it’ll be toast...

      2. DJV Silver badge

        Re: The blocker needs a present

        A man with a paper map and a red flag will walk in front of it.

      3. James Ashton
        Mushroom

        Re: The blocker needs a present

        Anti-radiation missiles would be a possible answer. See the AGM-88 for example. They're designed mostly with air-defence radars in mind but I'm sure you use the same principle on GPS jammers, though their signal strength is probably much lower.

      4. James O'Shea

        Re: The blocker needs a present

        Multiple ways.

        1 Many (most? all?) modern radar-guided air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles have a home-on-jam mode. This tends to make the life of an airborne jamming system exciting, but short. Have the civilian aircraft, or the air traffic controllers, have a word with the local military. If said military aren't the ones doing the jamming, they may elect to have a SHOOTEX. If they are the ones doing the jamming, then... oops.

        2 There are dedicated anti-radiation missiles, such as HARM and ALARM. Where the AAMs and SAMs primarily hunt airborne targets, ARMs primarily hunt surface targets. HARMs are fast enough to go for air targets, too. They specifically hunt emitters. Including jammers.

        3 GPS systems are _supposed_ to detect GPS emitters. Just include some extra logic in the seeker head avionics. "IF emitter is NOT in orbit AND IF emitter is stronger than cell phone THEN set collision course AND send 'Banzai!' over voice comms frequencies." (Other available words and phrases to replace 'Banzai' include 'Hell waits for thee' and 'God send the right'.)

        1. Jon 37 Silver badge

          Re: The blocker needs a present

          Minor correction: Cell phones don't emit GPS signals. GPS receivers, like the one in your cell phone, only receive the GPS signal, they don't transmit.

          1. The First Dave

            Re: The blocker needs a present

            All receiving antennae re-radiate signals, to varying degrees.

  2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Anti-Jam

    "..other than flying around jamming zones, what else can pilots do?"

    There are military null-steering antenna systems for GPS, which can block multiple jammers but still see satellites, but they are probably quite expensive.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Anti-Jam

      What they can do, as a body, is to refuse to fly in or out of any country found to be responsible for the blocking. Once a few countries find themselves without any air service for a few days the message will get through - act like a pillock and you become a pariah.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Anti-Jam

        How many flights to Syria are there?

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Anti-Jam

          Depends on how you count them, too damned many Russian military flights, not enough carrying bombs with the name of Bashar al-Assad on them.

          1. Muppet Boss Bronze badge

            Re: Anti-Jam

            I heard that President Biden already ordered and the US military executed an illegal rocket attack on Syria a few days ago, the first military action of the new President and apparently illegal under both international and US law. Simply bringing precision-guided democracy to the Syrian people, I assume.

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Anti-Jam

              I gather that killing foreigners isn't illegal.

              Neither is destroying civilian aircraft in flight.

              Not when the U.S. does it, anyway.

              I think all of that was made official during President Obama's term, but it probably applied before then anyway.

              1. Muppet Boss Bronze badge
                Terminator

                Re: Anti-Jam

                I gather by the number of downvotes that many people are pretty happy with the status quo. I wonder whether they would change their mind if other countries solved their problem with terrorists, drug lords and wanted criminals hiding in the US by unsolicited rocket strikes on the US soil. This is exactly what the US is doing to other countries while apparently forgetting the Golden Rule that is one of reciprocity or in some cases they call it, retaliation.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Anti-Jam

              Perhaps nobody believes it's Biden's fault? They became fixated on blaming Trump. Now they are wondering WTF is going on.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Anti-Jam

        > fly in or out of any country found to be responsible for the blocking

        Problem is the blocking doesn't originate in the affected country. In this case, I very much doubt Cyprus is blocking GPS in its own airspace.

        1. seven of five Silver badge

          Re: Anti-Jam

          Cyprus should be either Greece to annoy the turkish occupation forces in Cyprus or the Turks to do the very same to Greek forces.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Anti-Jam

            > either Greece to annoy the turkish occupation forces in Cyprus or the Turks to do the very same to Greek forces

            In both cases it would be a very stupid and counterproductive move, because the only one really affected is the Cypriot civilian population both sides want to keep happy.

            As for Greeks and Turkish butting heads, they have a way easier and more immediate playing field, the Aegean Sea and its dozens of Greek islands...

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Anti-Jam

              As for Greeks and Turkish butting heads, they have a way easier and more immediate playing field, the Aegean Sea and its dozens of Greek islands...

              With lots of them (and about all of the more well known) within easy shooting range from the Turkish coast (and vice versa).

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Anti-Jam

          "Problem is the blocking doesn't originate in the affected country."

          Read it again and not the words "responsible for".

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Anti-Jam

            > Read it again and not the words "responsible for".

            Sure, but as already stated by others, if the perpetrator is a country at war (it usually is), chances are civilian flights to it have already stopped long ago, so a flight embargo won't even be noticed.

            The problem here is the "collateral damage" in neighboring countries which are not responsible, and have no means of pressure on the real perpetrator.

      4. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Anti-Jam

        See this quote from the article - "air forces from West and East alike have long been jamming GPS as part of their military operations there.". It's everyone from all sides doing it. You can't threaten to boycott anyone involved when your own military and all their allies are just as much responsible as anyone you might dislike.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Anti-Jam

          "The question was "What can the pilots do?". That's the civil aviation pilots as I read it. If it's their own military is endangering them why should that stop them going on strike?

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Anti-Jam

            > why should that stop them going on strike?

            Because it would be utterly pointless? Have you ever seen any army yield to a strike? Especially during war?

            At best they will ignore it, at worst the strikers will get charged with high treason and face great unpleasantness.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Anti-Jam

        That'll m,ake flying into Heathrow difficult (lots of jammers moving on the M25 for various reasons)

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Anti-Jam

          Don't think Heathrow uses GNSS approaches. AFAIK they have good old ILS on all their runways. Theoretically spoofable (there's some proof of concept attacks out there) but in practice that is REALLY hard to do.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anti-Jam

        You mean, uk and us, mainly? The pilots wont do that.

  3. Len Silver badge

    ILS?

    Could this be partially solved by Larnaca airport upgrading its Instrument Landing System (ILS) so aircraft can lock into a glide path early enough to be less dependent on GPS? At the moment you can probably find more planes out there that are ILS CAT III capable than ones that are Galileo capable.

    1. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Re: ILS?

      Larnaca already has VOR-DME, which will let you determine the heading and range to the airport. ILS is far too directional to be of use beyond flying the approach. These older technologies are being phased out in favour of GNSS procedures as they are expensive to install and maintain, plus systems like ADSB/TCAS (which are required for most commercial flight these days) will still be reporting the aircraft’s position to ATC/other aircraft based of what GPS says.

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: ILS?

      Mostly probably not. The GNSS approaches bring them onto the final ascent and into the ILS range. ILS points straight up the runway, whereas the approaches are way off centre line.

      Have a look at the following approach into Queenstown. Admittedly, it's difficult to see when they might have got on ILS, but it should give you an idea of how much they rely on GPS.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhkbia1dMcI

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: ILS?

        Have a look at the following approach into Queenstown.
        Watching that plane descend blind through clouds while banking in front of a mountain gave me the willy's.

        If I was on that plane I'd need a change of clothes.

        1. swm Silver badge

          Re: ILS?

          There was an approach in Lebanon, NH, (near Dartmouth College) that used a VORTAC approach (in the late '60s). The approach guaranteed no mountains within 10 miles of the VORTAC station. A NE airlines plane was 12 miles from the VORTAC and clipped a mountain. Everyone aboard died.

          Very sad. We lost several good professors.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ILS?

      >At the moment you can probably find more planes out there that are ILS CAT III capable than ones that are Galileo capable.

      Is that really the case? Every smartphone under the sun has supported simultaneous GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou for donkeys years now, because the chips they use support all the systems together. Are avionics versions of the same tech that far behind?

      1. John Riddoch

        Re: ILS?

        They could well be that far behind. Smartphones don't have to go through a highly regulated sign off procedure with multiple countries' authorities before being allowed to be used. Remember aircraft have a lifespan of decades and some of those solutions are relatively new. While replacement/upgrade of the GNSS system in a plane is technically fairly simple (I'd assume), the red tape surrounding it would be much harder.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: ILS?

          " While replacement/upgrade of the GNSS system in a plane is technically fairly simple"

          Except that a Boing aircraft relying on russian/european/chinese navigation satellites won't happen, for political reasons unless regulators tell them they have to do it for airworthiness certification

          The scary part is that aircraft are using _only_ the trivially hjammable L1/E1/G1 signals for this stuff at all rather than using using multiband receivers to pick up the L2/L5/G2/G3E5/E6, etc transmissions which are less susceptable to jamming

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: ILS?

            Boing?

            No they do not bounce

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: ILS?

              Even if you throw them really hard at the ground?

        2. JohnG

          Re: ILS?

          For a commerical aircraft to use an RNAV approach or departure, they will typically be required to used an SBAS - a system that augments GNSS, adding corrections to the positioning data (mostly compensating for refraction of the ionosphere), deciding which satellites are offering reliable data and if GNSS/SBAS navigation can be used at any time. The European (EGNOS) and US systems (WAAS) currently only augment GPS signals, although augmentation of Galileo and L5/E5 bands is planned, along with a full CAT1 Autoland capability.

          1. Steve Todd Silver badge

            Re: ILS?

            Not so much of a need to augment Galileo signals, they can manage a precision of +/- 10cm without help.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: ILS?

        "Is that really the case? Every smartphone under the sun has supported simultaneous GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou for donkeys years now, because the chips they use support all the systems together. Are avionics versions of the same tech that far behind?"

        No and yes. Your phone might be able to do all four, but most phones do not. Lots of chipsets only do three of those, some are GPS/Glonass only, and the really cheap ones do AGPS which can use regular GPS but will take forever to actually get anywhere if that's all you have. In all cases, a lot of initial information comes from local towers before the location chip comes in for the fine details. The phones with all of those services enabled usually are the high-end ones or ones where the manufacturer got a nice supply contract. For context, while the iPhone 12 supports all four (plus QZSS), the iPhone 11, released about fifteen months ago, doesn't have BeiDou. Most won't have all four.

        As for avionics equipment, it needs very thorough testing. Few make avionics equipment to use just one of the other services. Russia's is incomplete because they haven't replaced satellites. China's and Europe's are newer, at least in terms of whole-world coverage. Thus, if they're building it, they'll build it to use multiple services. The problem is that that equipment needs a lot of certification for safety, including the safety of all the code running on it. What will it do if GPS says one thing and Galileo says another? What if an entire satellite system can't be seen for some reason, either equipment fault or someone flipped a power switch? These situations need to have regulatory approval, meaning that they're only likely to get into new planes. There are lots of old planes that won't get retrofitted with that unless it becomes an issue of pressing safety concerns.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: ILS?

          They also all use such close frequencies that a simple jammer is going to jam all of them.

    4. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: ILS?

      No. They already HAVE an ILS DME. The problem is that there's lots of lovely mountains in the area that planes don't want to fly into, so the approach to Larnaca isn't a simple straight vector into the ILS. The approach plate is full of lovely squiggly lines for how to get from the "safe zone" into the ILS without encountering Cumulus Granitus. (see: https://skyvector.com/airport/LCLK/Larnaka-International-Airport if you're interested)

  4. Peter Prof Fox

    TITSUP

    Terrible Interference To Suddenly Upset Pilots

  5. steamnut

    How?

    Assuming the GPS "jammers" are on the ground then it is difficult to see how this is happening.The plane's GPS antenna will have it's lobes pointing above the plane ideally, with a hemispherical coverage. If the GPS jammer is below the plane then the only way it could prevent normal GPS reception is by overloading the plane's GPS receiver. As GPS signals are almost in the noise (we need correlation detectors to capture them) then that is easily possible. The solution would be install better GPS antennae or, even better, electrically steerable antennae, which could move the focus away from jamming signals. The military already know how to do this so sharing the technology should be possible. Alternatively, as Kenny Everett would say, just "bomb the bastards"!

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: How?

      If the GPS antenna is on the top of the aircraft with hemispherical coverage then what happens when the plane is climbing, descending and banking? It needs more than hemispherical coverage and hence is susceptible to jamming.

      Although the GPS signals are below the noise, it's a spread spectrum system with 43dB processing gain, so the jammers still need a fair bit of power and ought to be pretty easy to find by anyone who was interested enough.

      The military do use GPS anti-jam antenna systems. They don't focus away from jammers, they put nulls in the directions of jamming signals.

  6. Andre Carneiro

    Surely it would be relatively easy to issue a NOTAM and say GPS is unavailable so fly on inertia and NAVAIDs.

    And surely Larnaca has published RNAV approaches that dispense GPS entirely?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Why is it an issue?

      It might affect light aircraft, but I thought modern airliners are equipped with an integrated navigation system that contains a triple-redundant GNSS-updated solid state inertial reference platform that can be augmented by terrestrial radio beacons.

      So the GNSS failing or suddenly deviating from the inertial reference systems, whilst those all stay aligned, should just cause the GNSS data to be ignored.

      1. whitepines
        Boffin

        Any INS will drift over time, and is not something you want to rely on for an approach threading between mountains. With modern approaches requiring ever-increasing precision (RNP) and fewer (less precise) ground stations available than before, it's entirely possible that some regions now simply cannot safely accept air traffic in the case of a widespread GNSS outage. The net effect should just be redirected flights and angry passengers (not CFIT incidents), but that also depends on the quality of the spoofing equipment if more than simple jammers are in use.

        1. Barrie Shepherd

          "Any INS will drift over time, and is not something you want to rely on for an approach threading between mountains."

          Don't know if it is true or not but some years ago (when passengers were allowed onto the flight decks) I was up front on a 747 SIN to LHR. I asked about the inertial navigation accuracy and the Captain said that if he dialled in the LHR gate No at SIN then the plane would be no more than 20 metres off when it got to LHR. Laser gyros can maintain very high accuracy - they got a little run around to Mars! (I think)

          1. Diogenes

            Laser gyros can maintain very high accuracy - they got a little run around to Mars! (I think)

            Meh, modern tech. I am in awe of ye olden days RN. Capt Arthur Phillip ended up exactly where he wanted to be (Botany Bay 1788) using nothing more than a clock and a sextant.

  7. IJD

    GPS signals are indeed way below the noise floor and extracted by correlation. Which means you only need a low-powered jammer to block them by raising the receiver noise floor, you don't need to overload it. I remember our GPS chipset test receiver being driven round to test accuracy, and in one particular area it sometimes went haywire -- but not all the time. Speculation was that there was some machinery chucking out RF noise but only when it was turned on. Never did track down what it was...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "causes the map to shift and the plane then decides that it's currently inside a mountain. Sets off all of your terrain warnings.”

    Worse would be if the map shifts and the plane thinks it's in the safe corridor, but is actually about to be inside of a mountain. If you think terrain warnings are loud, the noise of a jet meeting a mountain is much louder.

    Insert old ATC joke about the Cessna pilot being asked to change altitude for noise control purposes. Pilot complained that his little bug smasher wasn't a big noise source. Controller asked "no? You ever hear the sound a Cessna makes when it hits a 737?"

  9. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Fucken military and their stupid conflicts

    The really annoying thing about these insignificant wankers is they’re too pussyfied to push the damn “I’m losing button” and launch those nukes finally

    Cant wait for that particular shitshow

    1. LoPath
      Pirate

      Arrgh!

      Not just military... also pirates and smugglers.

    2. DarkwavePunk
      Mushroom

      I clicked the up arrow purely because your post at least matched your name. Not that I agree, but fair is fair I say.

    3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: insignificant

      To which specific insignificant wankers are you referring, who are:

      a) at war near Cyprus? And...

      b) possess nuclear weapons, and therefore an "I'm losing button"?

      Also why do you believe the millions of innocents caught up in those conflicts deserve nuclear annihilation?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And if you get jammed, it causes the map to shift

    > And if you get jammed, it causes the map to shift and the plane then decides that it's currently inside a mountain

    Which aircraft?

    A large position shift would indicate spoofing rather than jamming. In either case(*) you get a RAIM alert, which tells you to disregard the GNSS (and yes, you break off the approach and either fly a conventional procedure or try again or divert to the alternate).

    (*) I think. In theory a carefully spoofed signal could defeat RAIM (an integrity monitoring algorithm) but that would be quite a feat.

    1. whitepines
      Coat

      Re: And if you get jammed, it causes the map to shift

      I was just about to post this. RAIM failures, which remove the GPS as a primary navigation source instead of just allowing garbage / incorrect position data to be shown / used, should be pretty hard to defeat. Doubly so if the altimeter is factored in to the RAIM checks.

      I wonder if a badly flown VOR approach after a GPS outage was more to blame for the terrain warnings than straight out GPS spoofing. Yes, I'm being snarky and will grab my coat!

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Should not rely on GPS so damn much!

    We got along fine before GPS. People have gotten lazy.

    1. David Pearce

      Navigators

      There was a time when there was a navigator on board and later an engineer to give the pilots time to navigate.

      Aircraft fly much closer together these days and in bad weather, which makes manual navigation inadequate

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Should not rely on GPS so damn much!

      > We got along fine before GPS. People have gotten lazy.

      Very true, we also got by for Millenia with no computers, so please shut your laptop down and get out your pencil and slate

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Should not rely on GPS so damn much!

        You had a pencil? You don't know you're born.

        Clay slab and a pointy stick, mate.

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: Should not rely on GPS so damn much!

          You 'ad a pointy stick???

          Looxury.

          At least we 'ad these ------>

  12. Sparkus Bronze badge

    stop depending on a single system

    for safety of life and safety of flight..........

  13. JohnG

    When considering jamming of GNSS, it is worth noting that all the current GNSS are military systems, with the exception of Galileo i.e. first and foremost, these systems are for military use and they are managed by the military arms of the various countries that own/operate them. Galileo were obliged to accede to American demands that the US military would jam Galileo signals at local/regional level, when they deem it necessary.

  14. david 12

    GPS was always a civilian system

    President Reagan authorized the development of GPS - a civilian navigation system for civilian airliners - in 1983, after the Soviet Union shot down an airliner. The first satellite was launched 6 years later in 1989, and the constellation was complete in 1994

    It didn't take 10 years just to notice that civilians were permitted to use an existing military system: it took 10 years to develop a new civilian navigation system suitable for airliners.

    Electronics and Communications weren't at some kind of dead stop during the 1980's: like computers and networking, satellite technology completely changed in the 1980's. The GPS satellite launched in 1983 was not 1970's military technology: it was new technology, developed for civilian airliners in response to the loss of a civilian airliner that went off course and was shot down.

    9:30AM AEDT

    The military was able to piggyback on the back of the new civilian navigation technology, as they always have: the Allies collected civilian maps and photographs of Europe prior to D-Day landings in Europe, and removed road signs in Britain for the same reason. And the development did happen inside the "Military Industrial Complex": this is the well known method of pork-barreling and industry protection in the USA, but that's much to the disgust of the military, which would like to appropriate all of the 'military' budget for military purposes, rather than having it used for things like developing a civilian navigation system for civilian airliners.

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