European aviation safety authorities have warned of risks from increased incidents of GPS jamming, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The jamming or spoofing of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals has been observed by aircraft in various phases of flights, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said in a safety information bulletin (SIB) published on March 17, 2022.
EASA said that in certain cases the jamming and/or spoofing forced aircraft into “re-routing or even to change the destination due to the inability to perform a safe landing procedure.”
GPS is the most well-known type of GNSS, which is where satellites are used for positioning data. GNSS is a common way for commercial aircraft to navigate to waypoints in the air and can also be used to position for landing. Loss of GNSS data could also trigger issues with terrain avoidance and wind shear alerting systems, EASA said.
EASA said four areas had been identified where GNSS jamming and/or spoofing had intensified since February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine:
- Kaliningrad region, surrounding Baltic Sea and neighboring States;
- Eastern Finland;
- The Black Sea;
- The Eastern Mediterranean area near Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Israel, as well as Northern Iraq.
The safety agency therefore recommends that national aviation authorities (NAAs) ensure that conventional navigational aids are retained and fully operational, especially Instrument Landing Systems, which are commonly used for landing. Ground-based aids include distance measuring equipment (DMEs) and Very High Frequency omnidirectional range (VORs).
NAAs should also issue NOTAM (Notices to Air Missions) to describe any affected areas and the resulting limitations and work with air navigation service providers to collect information. ANSPs should also make sure they have contingency measures in place in the event of large-scale jamming or spoofing of GNSS.
Meanwhile, operators should tell flight crews to report any issues with GNSS equipment promptly to air traffic control and make sure they are aware of the possibility of jamming. Flight crews should also be prepared to verify their position using conventional navigation aids, be prepared to revert to conventional arrival procedures in affected areas and also make sure they don’t use an airport as an alternate destination if it only has a GNSS approach available.
“Under the present conditions, it is not possible to predict GNSS outages and their effects,” EASA stated. However, it said the current situation was not considered to be an “unsafe condition” that would warrant a Safety Directive.
The British Air Line Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said in a post on LinkedIn that it was aware of spoofing and jamming of GNSS in southern areas adjacent to the conflict zone, reaching as far south as Cyprus and Israel.
The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) said it was also receiving “worrying reports” of military and non-military projectiles crossing air traffic regions near Ukraine. It highlighted the drone that crashed in Croatia after crossing Hungary from Ukraine on March 12, 2022.
“States and Operators should continue to exercise extreme caution when flying in these areas and use all pertinent information to assess flight safety and security risk,” IFALPA said in a statement.