Russia is actively jamming US military electronics
Russian forces are actively trying to jam U.S. military drones flying over Syria, disrupting flight operations by interfering with the signal broadcast by the worldwide Global Positioning System (GPS). The jamming is “seriously affecting” U.S. drone operations, but it’s not yet clear how serious the Russian meddling really is.
NBC News, citing four sources inside the Pentagon, reports that the GPS signal jammer began weeks ago. It started shortly after suspected chemical attacks by the Syrian regime in the rebel-held Ghouta region. Russian forces were reportedly concerned that the U.S. military would retaliate for the use of chemical weapons and jammed drones to prevent U.S. forces gathering information.
Weapons capable of jamming or destroying U.S. military and commercial satellites will reach initial operational capability in the next few years, according to a new intelligence report.
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It’s not clear exactly which drones are being impacted, though NBC News claims that it’s affecting smaller drones and not MQ-9 Reaper or larger drones. This implies that the jammers, while effective, have a short operating range and that larger drones can simply fly above them. Then again, as Maritime Executive points out, larger drones also have backup inertial navigation systems and are not completely reliant on GPS. The jamming may affect smaller tactical drones such as the RQ-7 Shadow or ScanEagle.
Russian use of jamming in situations short of all-out war would reduce their effectiveness during an actual war, as U.S. and Allied forces study the signals and figure out ways to overcome them and field improved, jam-resistant system. The U.S. Army is already looking to field weapons that don’t rely on GPS to achieve pinpoint accuracy. Providing military support to a regime that gases its own people could end up hurting Russia militarily, not to mention politically, in the long run.