GPS Jammers Causing Safety and Time Problems Around the World
What do Finnish civilian pilots who lose air navigation signals have in common, ships in the Black Sea indicating their position 65 km over land, and American drivers avoiding tolls? Every situation involves jammers that affect the global positioning system (GPS).
What is the Global Positioning System?
The Global Positioning System is a network of satellites that transmit signals. Receiving devices use these signals to determine a geographic location by trilateration.
To determine a ground position, for example, the minimum requirement is three incoming signals. But with more signals coming in, the accuracy improves. To determine both a geographic location and an altitude, there must be at least four signals.
GPS not only determines geographic locations, but also provides a critical fourth dimension that many ignore: time. Each GPS satellite contains several atomic clocks that send extremely precise time data to receivers. Receivers decode this information and allow an electronic device to determine the correct time to less than 100 billionths of a second.
Why is GPS important?
A myriad of infrastructure, businesses and electronics rely on GPS synchronization of time and location. They understand:
Communication industries Electricity and utility companies Emergency services (police, fire and medical) Financial markets Transportation (air, sea, rail and road) Medical equipment ATMs Gas stations Smart home appliances
In addition, many other devices depend to some extent on GPS. The number and types of items incorporating GPS are increasing as technology advances.
Besides the United States, other countries rely mainly on the Chinese BeiDou, Russian Glonass and European Galileo programs. All of these systems, along with the US GPS system, are part of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).
Russian use of jammers interferes with GNSS
In recent years, the Russians have started to jam GNSS. Initially, Russia sometimes blocked or usurped GNSS to obscure President Putin's location. The tactic was aimed at ensuring Putin's safety and preventing any weapon based on satellite tracking from tracking him.
For example, an incident involving ships in the Black Sea occurred when Putin crossed the Kerch Bridge from Russia to Crimea. This prompted 24 ships anchored nearby to show their location at Anapa Airport, over 65 km away.
Putin's lavish summer home near the Black Sea is also protected by a permanent GNSS spoofing zone. This gives his house the same level of airspace protection and GNS interference as the Kremlin.
However, Russia has extended its GNSS jamming, blocking and spoofing in recent years. Their GPS jammers have advanced to a point where they are likely capable of conducting widespread "attacks" against GNSS receivers, potentially jamming all navigation systems in a selected area.
US use of GPS jammers is also a problem
There is also a threat of GPS jammer in our own country. While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made GPS jammers illegal in the United States, they still exist.
In 2015, pilots heading to the Northeast Philadelphia Airport reported losing their GPS navigation signals as they approached the runway. The incident was caused by a truck driver, parked in a nearby parking lot, disabling a tracking device using a GPS jammer he had purchased.
LORAN, the first American GPS
During World War II, the United States developed the Long Range Navigation System (LORAN) for ship convoys crossing the Atlantic Ocean and for long range patrol aircraft. In 1958, the US Coast Guard took control of LORAN.
But due to the accuracy of the GPS, the Obama administration decided in 2009 that LORAN "no longer fulfills any government function and is not capable of serving as a backup for the GPS." The government declared the system obsolete and the United States and Canada closed their LORAN beacons.
In 2015, other countries around the world also closed their beacons. An improved trial version of LORAN, known as eLoran and accurate to within 20 meters, has also been discontinued.
National law of 2018 on resilience and security over time creates a back-up system for GPS
The use of GPS for location and time is so crucial that U.S. Senators Cruz (R-Texas) and Markey (D-Mass), as well as Congressmen Garamendi (D-CA) and Hunter (R-CA ) worked together to pass the National Timing Resilience and Security Act of 2018. President Trump signed it last December.
This law requires the creation of a back-up system for GPS by the end of 2020. The requirements include that the back-up system must have the following characteristics:
Wireless Terrestrial The ability to provide extensive coverage Synchronized with Coordinated Universal Time Elasticity Extremely difficult to degrade Capable of being deployed to remote sites
In addition, the back-up system must work in concert with and complement other similar positioning, navigation and timing systems, which include enhanced long-range navigation systems and nationwide differential GPS systems. It must also be able to adapt and develop to provide positional and navigation capabilities.
In addition, the law specified the use of applicable private sector expertise to develop, build and operate the system. It must be fully operational for at least 20 years.
In a 2018 press release, Senator Cruz (R-Texas) said, "If the current system were disrupted for even a few hours, there would be an immediate threat to the American people, the economy and our way of life. same. Senator Marley (D-Mass) added, "The banking, communications, power and transportation sectors of the country are dependent on the precise timing provided by GPS. We cannot allow this vital system to be turned on. endangered by natural phenomena such as solar flares or coordinated attacks such as jamming.
More progress is needed on the GPS backup system
In early March, Congressman DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, concerned about the slow progress in GPS backup, “We are concerned that 14 months after the mandate ... became law, and 11 months after Congress provided substantial funds ... the administration has made little observable progress.
In a bipartisan letter, Congressmen Larson (D-Washington) and Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, Maloney (R-New York), Chairman of the Coast Guard and Shipping Subcommittee, and Garamendi (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, has asked Transportation Secretary Chao for a status update. At the beginning of May, no update seems accessible to the public.
As the United States increasingly depends on technology to manage many aspects of our lives, the fact that this technology requires extremely precise timing is not lost. As the US Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions has pointed out, GPS jammers causing timing issues are a point of failure for the wireless system and in our growing Internet of Things.