Russia Suspected in GPS Satellite Signal Spoof

The website The Maritime Executive has a story up about an apparently successful bid by Russia to scramble GPS signals in the Black Sea–for reasons unknown:

An apparent mass and blatant, GPS spoofing attack involving over 20 vessels in the Black Sea last month has navigation experts and maritime executives scratching their heads.

The event first came to public notice via a relatively innocuous safety alert from the U.S. Maritime Administration:

“A maritime incident has been reported in the Black Sea in the vicinity of position 44-15.7N, 037-32.9E on June 22, 2017 at 0710 GMT. This incident has not been confirmed. The nature of the incident is reported as GPS interference. Exercise caution when transiting this area.”

But the backstory is way more interesting and disturbing. On June 22 a vessel reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center:

“GPS equipment unable to obtain GPS signal intermittently since nearing coast of Novorossiysk, Russia. Now displays HDOP 0.8 accuracy within 100m, but given location is actually 25 nautical miles off; GPS display…”

After confirming that there were no anomalies with GPS signals, space weather or tests on-going, the Coast Guard advised the master that GPS accuracy in his area should be three meters and advised him to check his software updates.

The master replied:

“Thank you for your below answer, nevertheless I confirm my GPS equipment is fine.

“We run self test few times and all is working good.

“I confirm all ships in the area (more than 20 ships) have the same problem.” 

The article goes on to describe further details of the incident, and to note that hundreds of thousands of cell phone towers in Russia are equipped with GPS jamming devices as a defense against US missiles–and also that Russia has previously jammed GPS signals in Russia and in Ukraine.

Point being, we should not underestimate Russia’s capabilities when it comes to spoofing satellite signals.

67 thoughts on “Russia Suspected in GPS Satellite Signal Spoof”

  1. @DennisW asked;
    “How can you put ground speed in the optional category for calculating Doppler offset?”

    No citation was given for that ‘ground speed (optional)‘ {for SDU} assertion, however
    I assume that that statement was sourced from reference material that was giving a
    generalized explanation of the requirements of SDUs, and which covers the requirements
    for SDUs covering a wider set of circumstances than the merely aviation setting.
    What I am suggesting is that an SDU in, e.g., a ship satellite installation may not
    need ground speed as an input, due to the (relatively) much slower speed that maritime
    vessels move on the water.

  2. @DennisW
    That is how I regarded your comment, however ALSM did not address your
    specific query as quoted above – hence, (after an appropriate amount of
    time allowed for a specific reply by ALSM) my comment to you, as it was
    not clear you had considered his use of a reference which probably lists
    the generalized requirements for SDUs operated on earth, sea and air.


  3. @buyer90

    Yes, I was disappointed in the lack of a response, but ALSM and I have had a checkered past (as I have had with DrB) relative to his oscillator transient response theory and oscillator behavior in general. I assumed he was just ignoring me. No matter.

  4. @CliffG, That’s quite a claim, unfortunately we have to take it with a grain of salt because the Polish president believes that the Russians were responsible for his brother’s death in this crash. A big problem with any theory that posits that the Russians were responsible for Smolensk is that there really was very low visibility due to fog at the time the plane crashed, and even a noted conspiracy theorist like myself has a hard time understanding how the Russians could have arranged for that.

  5. @Ge Rijn:

    I’m pleased to inform you that my comment to you, posted today at 1:43 am on the VI blog, has just passed the censorship.

  6. @Jeff Wise said:

    “A big problem with any theory that posits that the Russians were responsible for Smolensk is that there really was very low visibility due to fog at the time the plane crashed, and even a noted conspiracy theorist like myself has a hard time understanding how the Russians could have arranged for that.”

    Not difficult at all for the Russians to arrange that in theory, as was discussed here a while back and I provided media links to demonstrate: – Russia has used military-grade truck-mounted fog-producing machines before. They can flood a area the size of an airport in minutes.

    Not to say that happened here, but it was certainly possible. Need to look at the met reports of overall conditions and where the fog developed, wind direction etc.

  7. @Jeff Wise

    Here you go … again:

    “Russian armed forces caused the closed city of Severomorsk[1] to “plunge into the fog” for three days (10-12 August), reported Novosti Kratko and other Russian language news portals.[2] Special-purpose “stationary and mobile smoke screening (dymopuska)” devices[3] operated by the Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defense Troops[4] generated the chemical fog that blanketed the Northern Fleet’s homeport.”

    If they can blanket a city for 3 days they shouldn’t have much problem with an airfield for a few hours.

  8. Interesting article, if accurate:

    “STARTLING new evidence has virtually pinpointed the location of MH370 — 1258 days since it disappeared.

    The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has today released an explosive new report that effectively narrows the search zone for the missing plane down to an area half the size of Melbourne.

    The report places the most likely location of the aircraft “with unprecedented precision and certainty” at 35.6°S, 92.8°E — in between Western Australia and Madagascar.

    However the Australian Government, which led the search effort until it was suspended in January, is unlikely to resume the mission based on this new information.

    ATSB chief Greg Hood said he would have liked to see the search continue but admitted it would require more conclusive evidence to convince the government.

    “Clearly we must be cautious. These objects have not been definitely identified as MH370 debris,” Mr Hood said.

    Malaysian transport minister Dato Sri Liow Tiong said the newly defined area was not enough to go on and it was hoped debris drift modelling would help narrow the location further.

    GeoScience Australia has been examining four satellite images of objects floating on the southern Indian Ocean taken two weeks after the plane went missing in the area identified late last year as MH370’s likely resting spot.

    They found 12 objects in those images that they deemed man-made and 28 that they regard as possibly man-made.

    The images were taken by a French Military satellite in late March 2014 but were discarded by authorities. The ATSB was not involved in the search at that time.

    The drift modelling initially released late last year identified an area of 25,000sq km just outside the original search area.

    Today’s report combines a refinement of that drift modelling as well as the discarded satellite images to narrow the likely search zone down to an area of just 5000sq km.

    As part of the latest report, all satellite imagery of the relevant new area came up for review.

    MORE: How MH370 crash unfolded

    Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester hasn’t ruled out a future search for MH370 but has not indicated the latest report will spark a new operation.

    “As always, my thoughts are with the family and friends of the passengers and crew,” Mr Chester said.

    “I welcome the CSIRO and Geoscience reports but it is important to note that it does not provide new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370.

    “Malaysia is the lead investigator and any future requests in relation to searching for MH370 would be considered by Australia, at that time.”

    Their location near the “7th arc” of the search zone makes them impossible to ignore, the report states.

    The new plot is based on comprehensive drift modelling and testing — including the release of a real Boeing 777 flaperon to test the floating characteristics of the one belonging to MH370 recovered off the coast of Africa.

    “We measured its drift characteristics after modifying it to match the damaged one retrieved from Ile de la Reunion,” the report says. “This work did not change our estimate of the most likely location of the impact — it just increased confidence in the modelling by explaining more easily the 29 July 2015 Ile de la Reunion flaperon discovery.”

    The researchers combined ocean current modelling with the satellite images, assessing the motion of wind and water in the Indian Ocean between March 8 and 24.

    They’ve come up with a ‘bracket’ of locations based on these tested drift patterns, naming them West 1, West 2, East 1 and East 2. These locations straddle the arc from which MH370’s transmitters were last detected.

    Researchers “consider the location in East1 to be the more likely” because it is the only one indicated by both drift models, the report reads.

    It goes on to add that it cannot rule out all possible man-made debris came from the same impact location on March 8.”

  9. And one from CSIRO:

    “New evidence in the investigation into the fate of Flight MH370 has emerged that supports oceanographic analysis pointing to the location of the missing aircraft.

    High-resolution images from an Airbus Pleiades 1A satellite showing “probably man-made” objects similar to debris items since found, were taken on 23 March 2014, a little more than two weeks after the passenger airline went missing in the Indian Ocean.

    Geoscience Australia completed new analysis earlier this year and the location of the objects in the images at the time of the crash was estimated by CSIRO using drift analysis. GA’s and CSIRO’s reports to ATSB are released today.

    It is the third oceanographic report by CSIRO on the likely location of MH370 which disappeared on 8 March 2014 with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board.

    This imagery adds to the cumulative weight of evidence based on plane debris found in 2015 on Île de la Réunion and later along the African coast, as well as the absence of any debris on Australia’s west coast.

    CSIRO’s Dr David Griffin says it makes his team increasingly confident about a more precise likely crash site, more confident still than their last reported estimate provided in April 2017.

    New clues

    Oceanographic research has continued since the underwater search was suspended in January this year.

    While the initial surface search for missing flight MH370 was underway in March 2014, several high-resolution surveillance satellites were tasked to take images of the ocean near the 7th arc.

    Many objects of interest were to be seen in several of the images from a wide range of locations but nothing was recovered.

    Four of the images have recently been re-examined by Geoscience Australia.

    GA concluded that the images captured by the Airbus Pleiades 1A satellite showed 12 objects that were “probably man-made” and 28 that were “possibly man-made”.

    The CSIRO report says: The dimensions of these objects are comparable with some of the debris items that have washed up on African beaches and their location near the 7th arc makes them impossible to ignore….If at least some objects in the images are pieces of 9M-MRO, from where did they drift in the weeks between the disappearance of the aircraft and image capture?

    What makes this finding particularly interesting is that the images were located not far from the location identified by CSIRO oceanographic analysis in earlier reports to the ATSB as the likely crash site.

    Indeed, Griffin says CSIRO’s drift modelling shows that the objects were seen about as close to their predicted location as could be reasonably expected, given the uncertainties involved with modelling the drift of items at the sea surface.

    As he explains, some Earth observation satellites map swathes of the Earth’s surface like a lawnmower, where others can be tasked to look at one place at a time in great detail.

    These satellite images available to the team at GA were taken at 0.5m resolution over an area of 20.5km x 20km, 100km apart.

    CSIRO used sea surface height data from altimetry satellites to create daily maps of the surface currents. They used those current maps to backtrack the object locations from 23 March to 8 March, the day the plane went missing presumed crashed.

    Joining the dots

    The new report makes the point that this latest investigation required a very detailed knowledge of the surface currents “out in the middle of the ocean where almost no in-situ observations have ever been made”.

    The advantage for oceanographers this time was that the drift modelling only had to be applied to a two-week window – a much shorter interval than the many months relating to all the other evidence. This allowed for much greater precision.

    The oceanographic work by CSIRO has progressively incorporated new evidence as it has become available. In December 2016, based on debris found on Reunion and along the African coast, Griffin and his team reported to the ATSB putting the likely crash site between 36 degrees and 32.5 degrees South latitude. Testing of a real Boeing 777 flaperon in water earlier this year, with results reported to the ATSB in April, confirmed with increased confidence the recommended search area.

    This time they were able to use the same drift modelling to prioritise a subregion of the search area delineated by other clues.

    “Each step of these three reports has made the establishment of where it is more and more precise,’’ Griffin says.

    How precise? The report places the mostly likely location of the aircraft “with unprecedented precision and certainty” at 35.6°S, 92.8°E, a location consistent with the new information as well as all the other available clues to the location of the aircraft. It is not a unique location, but the other two candidates (34.7°S 92.6°E and 35.3°S 91.8°E) are not far away.

    This knowledge was provided by two types of Earth Observation satellites presented in the report, coupled with the interpretive power of Australia’s biggest super computer and “more than a decade of Government investment in operational ocean modelling”.”

  10. @PS9, Thanks, I’ll look into this. I believe that the weather was widespread, and the low visibility wasn’t just at Smolensk, but I’ll look into it.

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