Norway’s military intelligence unit (Forsvarets Etterretningstjeneste) confirmed to state broadcaster NRK on Friday that Russian military training exercises taking place across the border from Norway’s northernmost county of Finnmark last month jammed the on-board global positioning systems (GPS) of airline flights from both SAS and Widerøe. The Russians reportedly were practicing electronic warfare when the jamming occurred.
Pilots for Widerøe and SAS reacted when their GPS on flights over Finnmak stopped functioning as usual. The GPS worked when the aircraft was on the ground, but dropped out as soon as the flights reached an altitude of 2,000- to 3,000 feet.
Interference was documented by experts from Norway’s national communications authority (Nasjonal kommunikasjonsmyndighet) in various measurements taken from helicopters around Kirkenes, which is located close to the Russian border.
“In connection with the military exercise Zapad 2017, the ingelligence service can confirm that we both have registered and alerted Norwegian authorities about electronic jamming from the Russian side of the border,” Kim Gulbrandsen, communications chief for the intelligence service, wrote in an email to NRK.
Gulbrandsen added that such electronic jamming is traditionally used against one’s own forces during military exercises. “The equipment used is meant to disturb communications and navigations systems,” Gulbrandsen wrote. The system used in this case “is of a character that it can affect communications and navigation systems, such as GPS, in the border area on the Norwegian side.” Disturbances were reported as far west of Kirkenes as Alta.
There were no indications the Russian directed their jamming at Norway. The Norwegian authorities view it rather it was a side-effect of the Russians’ activity in their military exercise.