Russia ‘jams signals’ on RAF plane carrying defence minister Grant Shapps

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Russia is believed to have jammed the GPS signal on an RAF aircraft carrying Grant Shapps during a trip to Poland.

In what has been called a “wildly irresponsible” act of electronic warfare, the GPS signal of the plane was said to have been interfered with for half an hour while passing the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, which sits between Poland and Lithuania.

The attack left phones unable to connect to the plane’s WiFi and the plan forced to use other means of navigation available to the pilots, The Times reported.

The defence secretary was aboard an RAF Dassault 900LX Falcon jet, named Envoy. It is unclear if Mr Shapps himself would have been deliberately targeted, though his flight path was visible to trackers.

Mr Shapps was assured the attack did not threaten the safety of the plane.

A defence source said: “While the RAF are well prepared to deal with this, it still puts an unnecessary risk on civilian aircraft and could potentially endanger people’s lives. There is no excuse for this and it’s wildly irresponsible on Russia’s part.”

It is not the first time that British planes have faced likely jamming by Russia. In 2021, planes flying in and out of RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus wre also thought to have had their GPS signals jammed by Moscow. The aircraft affected were believed to have been F-35 and Typhoon fighter jets, A400M transport aircraft and Voyager troop planes. No serious incidents were reported at the time, but the singal was thought to have been coming from Syrian territory, where Russia has had a presence.

Analysts have suggested that Russia is likely testing its electronic warfare technology in Kalinigrad. Poland and a number of nations in the Baltic region have reported kevels of GPS interference. The Institute for the Study of War think tank, which monitors the war in Ukraine, said in a report in January that areas of the nother and east of Poland on 10 January and 16 January, while areas of the south Baltic Sea saw something similar on 25 December and 27 December.

Swedish military officer Joakim Paasikivi told the country’s SVT broadcaster that month that he believed the GPS activity was a result of Russian hyprid warfare. „I believe this is part of Russian influence activities or so-called hybrid warfare,” he said. „This may be Russia’s way of sowing uncertainty.”

Mr Shapps was returning from a visit to a military training site in Orzysz, northeast Poland, about 100 miles from Kalinigrad. He watched troops taking part in the Steadfast Defender, Nato’s largest military exercises since the Cold War. The exercises, taking place until May includes around 90,000 troops from across the alliance.

During the trip to Poland, Mr Shapps hit out at Vladimir Putin’s “sabre-rattling” after the Russian leader used an interview with state media to claim that his nation was “ready” for nuclear war if the need arose. It is a threat that he has used repeatedly since invading Ukraine, with Western allies – including the UK – having rallied around Kyiv as it has defended itself. Mr Shapps called such rhetoric “irresponsible” and that Putin should “drive back east and get out of the democratic country he decided to invade two years ago”.

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