Russia attacks Norwegian web

GPS in Finnmark was knocked out by Russian jamming

Russian jamming

Photo: Vojennovo Obrozrenija
Russian military setting up mobile jammer on Kola Peninsula.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

Starting on Oct. 16, GPS signals over northeast Finnmark County fell silent for about three weeks. They had been jammed by interfering radio noise signals transmitted from near the Trifonov Pechengsky monastery, one of the world’s most northerly, close to Luostari/Pechenga, a Russian military airbase in the Murmansk Oblast, just 10 miles on the E105 road from Storskog on the Norwegian side of the border. The period of the GPS silencing was of national concern, as it extended over the Trident Juncture NATO-led military exercise held in Norway in October and November 2018.

On March 6, the GPS silencing over Finnmark was made public by Aftenposten (further reading). The Aftenposten article was meticulously based on four authoritative sources:

• Photos, maps, and tables released by Etterretningstjenesten (Norwegian Intelligence Service);

• An etterforskningsrapport (police investigation report) released by the Eastern Finnmark Police District;

• A report by the Nasjonal kommunikasjonsmyndighet (Norwegian Communications Authority); and

• Russian descriptions of the functions of the equipment used.

GPS jamming is increasingly common. It’s of particular concern for maritime authorities, as ships rely on GPS for accurate positioning information. So it’s been much studied; in 2014, a Master’s-degree thesis on jamming in the high north was published (urther reading), and GPS World, a professional journal, has devoted several articles to GPS jamming, including the one described here.

GPS has become an essential part of national and international infrastructures, so jamming GPS has become part of electronic warfare. According to a December 2018 article in the South China Morning Post, Earth and Planetary Physics, a Chinese professional journal in English, has recently published a description of a project by China and Russia to warm the atmosphere in ways that will jam GPS signals (further reading).

The difficulties caused by GPS jamming have become a significant international problem. Legally outlawing jamming is no solution; GPS jammers are illegal in the USA, but they are readily available online. Diplomacy has been tried. At the Munich Security Conference in February, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg took up the Russian GPS jamming of Finnmark with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The result of their meeting has yet to be made public.

Further reading:

• “Slik driver russere skjult elektronisk krig mot Norge. Men de foretrekker å krige i kontortiden” (This is how Russians conduct a covert electronic attack on Norway. But they prefer such warfare during office hours) by Per Anders Johansen, Aftenposten, March 6, 2019: (in Norwegian)

Jamming of GPS & GLONASS signals—a study of GPS performance in maritime environments under jamming conditions, and benefits of applying GLONASS in Northern areas under such conditions by Øystein Glomsvoll, MSc thesis, Norwegian Defence University College (NDUC), 2014:

• “China and Russia band together on controversial heating experiments to modify the atmosphere,” by Stephen Chan, South China Morning Post, Dec. 18, 2018:

This article originally appeared in the March 22, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.