Spike in Russian GPS interference hit Estonia in early June

An Airbus A320 flying over Tallinn (photo is illustrative).
An Airbus A320 flying over Tallinn (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Global Positioning System (GPS) interference in recent days has affected Estonia and the Baltic region, with commercial pilots often having to resort to alternate navigation systems, news agency Bloomberg reports.

The signals jamming efforts have surged in the aftermath of drone attacks on the Kremlin and other locations in Moscow, and the interference is of Russian origin, Bloomberg says.

It is likely defensive in nature – the interference affects territories near to the source of the activity, thought to be in the Leningrad region.

The Estonian Ministry of Defense told Bloomberg that: "Jamming GPS signals is one of the potential means the Russian Federation has to ensure the protection of important facilities within that country," adding that this can affect GPS in adjacent territories, such as Estonia.

While air traffic control has been affected and airline crews are having to utilize navigation means other than GPS, commercial flight schedules have not been disrupted.

The  Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) told Bloomberg that the jamming originates from the Leningrad oblast,* which borders Estonia.

Drone strikes in Russia have in recent weeks hit an oil refinery, and various sites in and around Moscow.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any of these incidents, and denied responsibility in some cases; Russia's defense ministry did not respond to Bloomberg's request for comment.

Finland's air traffic control says it has also resorted to alternate navigation methods to GPS.

Erko Kulu, head of the TTJA's frequency management department, told ERR that "So far, individual reports have been received from overflying planes, while any loss of the GPS signal has not affected the navigation capabilities of commercial and passenger aviation, nor does it pose any threat to these."

"It also does not affect GPS, Galileo and other GNSS devices used on the ground," he added.

Galileo is the EU's global navigation satellite system (GNSS), managed by the European Space Agency.

Latvian authorities have also experienced a rise in GPS interference, for the same reason, Kulu added.

A rise in GNSS interference was detected June 1 to June 5, but as of the time of writing has halted, ERR reports.

Such disturbances and anomalies do occur from time to time, but are generally short-lived and not intentional; no noticeable spike in GPS disturbances had been detected in Estonia since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine from February last year.

The TTJA says it is continuing to monitor the situation.


*While the city formerly known as Leningrad reverted to its historical name of (in English) St. Petersburg after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the surrounding oblast continues to be named after the pseudonym of a notorious Russian 'revolutionary', and founder of what became the Soviet Union.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Bloomberg

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