GPS Jamming by Russia is On the Rise in Northern Europe, Officials Warn

GPS jamming

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… recently, officials in Europe have been on alert following the observation of a concerning rise in the use of GPS jamming near the borders of NATO nations. In this week’s analysis, we’ll be looking at 1) how Russia uses GPS jamming, and why it appears to be on the rise, 2) why the problem is nothing new, and 3) what experts have had to say about the use of GPS jamming, the intention behind it, and whether it is tantamount to warfare.

Quote of the Week

“The Kremlin eats GPS for breakfast.”

– Kevin Rothrock, Moscow Times, 2016

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With that all behind us, it’s time now to look at the rise of GPS jamming by Russia, and why it has officials in northern Europe concerned.

Use of GPS Jamming by Russia on the Rise

Along the borders shared between NATO countries and Russia, the tactical use of GPS jamming by the Kremlin has reportedly been on the rise, providing officials a constant reminder of tensions over contested regions and strategic locations throughout parts of Europe.

This week, Newsweek featured a series of reports on the apparent rise in GPS jamming in parts of northern Europe which has become a daily occurrence near strategic sites, particularly since Russia invaded Ukraine.

GPS jamming causes a reduction in the accuracy of capabilities pilots rely on to gauge their position, presenting significant threats to both civilian and military aircraft safety.  Citing a spokesperson for the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, Newsweek reported this week that Russia’s use of GPS jamming “has, and will likely continue, to negatively affect the civilian aviation in the region.”

Although officials in several countries say they have seen a rise in GPS jamming in recent months, the tactic is nothing new, and in fact, warnings about its increased use have persisted now for the better part of the last decade.

Past Warnings, Present Problems

In 2018, the Norwegian military reported that Russia had “persistently jammed GPS signals” while the country was participating in a Trident Juncture exercise in southern and central Norway, with parts of the operation also occurring in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea.

Between October 16 and November 7, 2018, Norway’s Ministry of Defense said the jamming incidents occurred during training that occurred in the Kola Peninsula along Russia’s northwestern coast, arousing concerns among NATO officials at the time.

Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Wikimedia Commons 2.0)

“[W]e see that cyber, electronic warfare, electronic means are used more and more frequently in different operations, and therefore we take all these issues very seriously,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the incidents.

“In view of the civilian usage of GPS, jamming of this sort is dangerous, disruptive, and irresponsible,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu at the time. “In general, we see cyberattacks and electronic warfare used with greater frequency and severity.”

Similar concerns were expressed by Norway’s neighbors in Finland over jamming incidents that reportedly also occurred in Lapland in 2018.

GPS Jamming and Aviation Safety

Based on current data made available by, a website that provides global data on areas where GPS jamming has been detected, some of the highest concentrations of jamming occurring anywhere in the world have been detected near Russia’s borders with countries that include Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Belarus.

Although GPS jamming is frequently used by Russia, they aren’t the only country that frequently relies on it as a defensive capability. Militaries in several other countries also employ it, as indicated by similar concentrations that are visible on which show its use near Israeli cities close to the Gaza Strip.

In the U.S., federal law prohibits the use of signal jamming that can interfere with the operation of GPS, as well as similar jamming used to block radio communications, cellular and personal communication services, and radar systems used by law enforcement.

Last year, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency updated its Safety Information Bulletin on interruptions to global navigation satellite systems and other interruptions potentially impacting GPS, which the agency said “has shown [a] further increase in the severity of its impact, as well as an overall growth of intensity and sophistication of these events.”

GPS jamming

However, not all GPS disturbances in Europe can currently be attributed to Russia. Moreover, in many cases, the GPS disturbances that pilots have experienced can only be detected at high altitudes, with some officials saying there were very few cases where jamming was viewed as a direct threat to aviation safety.

Into the Gray Zone

Given that it can be innocuous at times, GPS jamming is considered a “gray zone” tactic by some experts. Still, the apparent rise in its use seems to warrant concern among many European officials, especially with its potential for endangering aviation, as well as the fact that intentional GPS interference is currently recognized as a violation of international law. Add to this the concerns that arise when viewing GPS jamming alongside other tactics employed by Russia presently, including disinformation and propaganda, which have also seen increased use since the invasion of Ukraine.

In January, Dana Goward, president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, pulled no punches in characterizing the ongoing Russian jamming incidents near borders shared with NATO countries as tantamount to warfare.

“The International community must recognize that the kind of electronic warfare being seen in the Baltic is just that — warfare,” Goward wrote in an OpEd for Breaking Defense.

“And despite not having issued a declaration of war,” Goward added, “Russia has deliberately and systematically conducted a series of low-level attacks on others, especially targeting NATO members.”

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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