RAF flights have recently been disrupted by GPS interference near Akrotiri base, in Cyprus. The British military accuses Russian forces deployed in Syria.
British military intelligence sources reported several attempts at disrupting the satellite communications of Royal Air Force aircraft as they had just taken off from RAF Akrotiri base in Cyprus. The planes affected include Typhoon and F-35B fighter jets, A400M transporters, and A330 MRTT Voyager tankers, according to a British Ministry of Defense source quoted by the Telegraph.
RAF Akrotiri is the main base of operations for the Royal Air Force assets participating in Operation Shader against the Islamic State. Aircraft based in southern Cyprus regularly carry out strikes both in Syria and Iraq.
While the exact location of the jammers was not specified, the British military suspects the interferences to be linked to the Russian forces deployed in Syria, given they are the only ones in the region with such capability. Disrupting GPS navigation may be used as a way to forbid the operation of drones around an area.
It is not the first time that Russia is accused of interfering with satellite navigation systems in the Middle East. In June 2019, Israel reported multiple interruptions in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) equipment reception during take-off and landing at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV). A NOTAM was published, requiring pilots to use Instrument Landing System. Israeli security officials accused the jamming to be originating from Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, 385km away from Tel Aviv. The Russian ambassador to Israel denied those allegations, qualifying them as “fake news”.
A couple of months before, the Norwegian intelligence service (Etterretningstjenesten) reported that during the NATO exercise Trident Juncture 18 organized in the country in October 2018, multiple cases of GPS malfunctions were reported. Norway explicitly accused Russia of jamming the signal in what was described as a “continuing trend”.