Russia ‘jamming’ RAF jets over Cyprus

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Russia has allegedly tried to jam signals in an act of electronic warfare against British aircraft taking off from RAF Akrotiri, outside Limassol, UK media reports claim.

Military intelligence sources said a “hostile state” had regularly attempted to interfere with the A400M transport aircraft’s satellite communications, leaving RAF Akrotiri while troops were on board.

UK newspapers The Times and The Daily Telegraph both carried the story.

The attacks could have prevented the pilot from knowing where the aircraft was or the direction it was flying in and potentially resulted in casualties.

None of the attempts was successful.

The only two hostile states close enough to try to jam the signals were Syria and Russia, with Russia understood to be the only country capable of doing so, said The Times.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the chief of defence intelligence warned Britain is being confronted by “brinkmanship and threshold warfare”.

The British military aircraft affected, flying in and out of RAF Akrotiri, are believed to be Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets, A400M transport aircraft and Voyager troop planes.

As yet, no serious incidents have resulted, but experts warn this type of activity – dangerous but not serious enough to trigger a conventional military response – is typical of Russia’s recent aggressive approach to international relations.

A defence source told The Daily Telegraph: “If it doesn’t involve direct violence, they think they can do it with impunity.”

The news comes as the UK chief of defence intelligence at the Ministry of Defence warned: “the future battlefield will not be defined by lines on maps or by geography”.

Lt Gen Jim Hockenhull said: “We will be confronted by complex and integrated challenges below, and potentially above, the threshold of conflict.

We will likely be confronted by state and non-state actors who will employ brinkmanship, threshold warfare. terrorism, proxies, coercion and economic warfare.”

The GPS jamming source is thought to be from Syrian territory but could have been conducted by spies on the ground in Cyprus.

GPS-jamming equipment can be operated by aircraft, including drones, but is usually carried on ground vehicles.

Security sources believe Syrian forces would not have the technical capability of conducting such attacks on their own but may have been trained by Russian military personnel supporting the regime.

Equally, forces belonging to President Bashar al-Assad could have trained Hizbollah militia members in Lebanon after guidance from Russia.

Britain has a large, permanent military presence in Cyprus.

RAF jets operating from the Akrotiri airbase fly combat missions over Syria and Iraq, and listening posts on Troodos conduct intelligence-gathering operations in the Middle East.

Given Britain’s intelligence and military footprint on Cyprus is known to be of great interest to Russian spies, said The Daily Telegraph.

The Global Positioning System (GPS), a constellation of 24 US satellites, is used worldwide for highly accurate location and timing services.

The loss of GPS signals could have a serious impact on daily life, including the economy, if electronic trading systems were affected.

Like most civilian planes, military aircraft have backup systems meaning the loss of GPS is unlikely to be catastrophic.

However, the “spoofing” of GPS whereby the system reports that it is in a different location could be serious.