Baltic Ministers warn that Russian GPS jamming could cause an air disaster

Baltic Ministers warn that GPS jamming, attributed to Russia, could cause an air disaster. The interference with navigational signals forced two Finnish planes to turn back mid-flight after the interference.

Separately, the foreign ministers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania warned at the weekend about the increasing dangers of GPS jamming in the Baltic Sea Region.

Two Finnair flights, flying from Helsinki to Tartu in Estonia on Thursday and Friday were forced to return to Finland due to GPS jamming. They were unable navigate safely to the planned destination.

It’s dangerous if someone cuts off your headlights when you are driving at night. Gabrielius Landsbergis said that the situation in the Baltic near Russian borders is now too dangerous to ignore.

Margus Tsahkna is the Estonian foreign minister. He added, “We will discuss this with our allies and consider it part of Russia’s aggressive activities.”

“Such actions constitute a hybrid assault and pose a danger to our security and people, and we won’t tolerate them.”

Experts say that the GPS jamming has affected tens of thousands civilian flights in recent months. The jamming affects all GPS users within the affected area, and has impacted the signals used by ships in the Baltic Sea. This led to the Swedish Navy issuing warnings about the safety of the shipping.

Experts say that GPS jamming can be easily done with inexpensive equipment.

Officials in the Baltics said that there is little doubt that Russia, which has its exclave Kaliningrad nestled between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea, was responsible for the jamming.

One senior official suggested that Russia may have been trying to protect Kaliningrad against potential drone attacks from Ukraine.

The Kremlin has not responded to a comment request.

In March, the UK confirmed that a plane with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps on board had its GPS signal blocked near Kaliningrad as it flew home from Poland.

Dana Goward is a GPS expert who said that the chance of an aviation accident was increasing. Goward is also president of Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation (a group advocating GPS users). He added that although backup systems are available, crews receive less training than GPS.

Juho Sinkkonen is the head of flight operations for Finnair and has 22 years experience as a pilot. He said that interference with GPS was increasing since 2022, but it was only “a nuisance” without any imminent safety implications.

Sinkkonen said that most airports have equipment which allows planes to land even without GPS. However, Tartu is “one of the few airports in the world where the approach procedure requires a GPS signal”.

Baiba Braze said, “We take these incidents very seriously.” We are in contact with our colleagues in other countries.

Experts believe that there are multiple sources of GPS jamming. One is based in Kaliningrad and another in Estonia and Finland. A third source affects the far north region of Norway and Finland.

Baltic officials discuss the GPS jamming issue with allies and urge Russia to stop placing civilian aircraft in danger.

Marko Mihkelson is the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Estonian parliament. He said that allies must not be indifferent to Russia’s interference with the GPS signal, which puts international air traffic at risk.