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Russian signal jammers accused again of interfering with flights entering Israel

Airplanes flying into Israel from the west are again experiencing problems, due to a signal spoofing system installed by Russia in Syria, Israel’s Kan news outlet reports.

According to the report, pilots began having issues a few weeks ago, and Israel has sent a message to Moscow informing it that the system is interfering with its civilian airspace, but Russia has insisted the system is needed to protect its soldiers.

The interference with the airplanes’ GPS reception appears to stem from a form of electronic warfare known as “spoofing,” which Russia has been accused of doing in the past as a defensive measure, despite the disruptions it causes to nearby aircraft and ships.

According to the report, the issue is related to a signal jammer installed at Hmeimem air base in Latakia, close to where some alleged Israeli air strikes have taken place recently. However, officials reportedly believe the jamming to be aimed at other targets, with Israel just collateral damage.

Crew members leave a Russian Tu-22M3 bomber upon its landing at Hemeimeem air base in Syria, on May 25, 2021. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

One pilot tells the station that the spoofing has caused pilots to have to react suddenly, such as when a plane’s GPS guidance system tells it is in a different place than it is, or that it suddenly has to pull up immediately.

“What we’ve run into is [electromagnetic] spectrum interference from the east, which has taken us a while to understand what it is,” the pilot says.

Even before the report on the jamming, some had taken notice of odd behavior by Israeli planes nearing Israel.

In 2019, Israel civil air authorities complained publicly that similar Russian interference was having a “significant impact on all aspects of operating a plane from the cockpit, as well as on managing air traffic.”

Russia dismissed the allegations as fake news, but the problem was dealt with, until recently.

This time, there has been no official confirmation or complaint about the interference.

The pilot charged that officials knew of the problem but were “burying their heads in the sand,” rather than issue an official complaint.

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