Is Russia to blame for the spate of GPS problems plaguing flights across Europe?

Thousands of flights from all over Europe have reported GPS issues since last August, and now, officials are looking at Russia as the possible culprit of this disturbing trend. 

More than 46,000 flights have reported problems with GPS systems since last summer, with the vast majority stemming from Eastern Europe’s Baltic region, bordering with Russia. 

This has led to speculation that the Russians are behind these signal jams. 


Ryanair flights have recorded over 2,300 incidents of GPS interference since last August, according to a report based on flight logs from the website , with an additional 1,400 coming from Wizz Air, 82 from British Airways and four from easyJet. Every one of them was logged as the planes flew over the Baltic Sea, near borders with Russia. 

Specific incidents include a report from 23rd March, as reported by Géo Magazine, where “targeted operations” were made over Poland and southern Sweden. Then there was the case in March where an RAF plane carrying British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps saw GPS systems disrupted for half an hour as he flew near Kalingrad. 

This phenomenon was looked at back in January when a conference was held by the International Air Transport Association and the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on “spoofing”, or sending false signals, and jamming. EASA noted large increases in both and warned that putting a halt to these attacks should be a priority given safety factors. 


Some are more sceptical that this is a real threat. According to an article from UK publication The Guardian, the head of flight operations at the CAA, Glenn Bradley, said, “Aviation is one of the safest forms of air travel and there are several safety protocols in place to protect navigation systems on commercial aircraft.

“GPS jamming does not directly impact the navigation of an aircraft, and while it is a known issue, this does not mean an aircraft has been jammed deliberately.”

The airlines are also downplaying the events, making them seem more of a nuisance than anything more sinister. 

“In recent years there has been a rise in intermittent GPS interference which has affected all airlines,” said a Ryanair representative. “Ryanair aircraft have multiple systems to identify aircraft location, including GPS. If any of the tracking systems, such as GPS, does not work, then the crew, as part of standard operating procedures, switch to one of the alternate systems.”

A spokesperson from eastJet also weighed in, saying there were “multiple navigation systems onboard commercial aircraft as well as procedures in place which mitigate against issues with GPS that can occur for various reasons.” 

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