Disruptions at Ben-Gurion Airport Likely Caused by Russian Electronic Warfare System

View of the Ben Gurion International Airport. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The Israel Airports Authority reported Wednesday on the ongoing disruptions to the GPS systems of planes landing at Ben-Gurion Airport in recent months, leading to the rerouting of flights to alternative landing routes.

Western sources suggested that the most probable cause of these disruptions is Russian electronic warfare systems situated in Syria. Although these systems in Syria lack direct line-of-sight access to most of Israeli territory, they do pose a threat to Israeli airspace.

Israeli authorities are examining this possibility, considering that such systems are known to be operational both in Syria and on ships in the eastern Mediterranean. Previous incidents have provided a precedent for such disruptions.

The acknowledgment of aircraft satellite signal disruptions came after the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council raised concerns about noise pollution from low-flying planes passing over its area. They inquired about why planes were not landing directly from the Mediterranean Sea and instead following a circular route over Hashmonaim.

Iris Raz, Head of the Environmental Department at the Israel Airports Authority, responded to the Council, stating, “In recent months, the State of Israel has been experiencing continuous GPS disruptions, presumably from factors outside of Israel. These disturbances almost completely prevent the ability to perform the landing processes.”

Various global navigation satellite systems exist, including GPS, Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou, and the European Galileo system, with an Indian system recently coming online. Modern satellite receivers can connect to multiple satellite signal networks, making them more resilient to disruption, though not immune.

Inertial navigation systems, which function independently alongside satellite receivers and do not rely on global navigation satellite signals, offer an additional layer of defense against jamming or spoofing.

The increasing reliance on external navigation information like GPS has created a new field of “navigation combat,” impacting location navigation and certain radio equipment dependent on precise timing information.

The United States has developed the Selective Availability and Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), integrated into some weapons systems, to mitigate some of these disruptions.

This evolving situation could ultimately benefit Israel due to its expertise in electronic warfare and its potential to export such technology.

In the past, Russia denied reports of GPS disruptions around Ben-Gurion Airport, attributing the claims to misinformation. However, reports of GPS signal interference during aircraft takeoff and landing have persisted, possibly related to a signals disruption system operated by the Russian military at the Khmeimim base on the Syrian coastline. Similar incidents were also reported in August 2022.

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