Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Russian GPS Jammer

We’ve talked a great deal about the US military’s blind obsession with electronics and networks and their susceptibility to disruption.  Despite this, the US continues to increase their dependence on electronics.  We’ve noted, in passing, the Russian’s heavy use of electronic warfare in Ukraine although details are sparse.  The US Army is certainly worried and is frantically initiating multiple electronic warfare measures and training – a belated good, for them.  Now, we see this article from a Russian website about deployment of a GPS jamming device called POLE-21.

“An integrated jamming system to screen strategic facilities from cruise missiles, smart bombs and drones using GPS, …” (1)

Any Russian pronouncement has to be taken with extreme caution but this development seems both plausible and inevitable.

The issue is not the absolute accuracy of the report but rather the fact that this is one more warning to the US military to begin weaning themselves off their electronic and GPS dependence.  Nearly every ranged weapon in the US inventory uses GPS.  An enemy who can effectively neutralize GPS signals either through jamming, disruption, false signal injection, or satellite destruction will have neutralized a huge portion of our weapon inventory.  Some of our weapons, especially the newer ones, can also utilize inertial navigation, terrain mapping, and other forms of guidance, however, the accuracy falls off significantly.

We need to begin developing other forms of guidance while simultaneously hardening the guidance systems we have.  The world is preparing for high end war and we’re preparing to fight idiots in the back of pickup trucks.  We need to wake up.

Related note:  Birds can navigate thousands of miles during migrations and wind up in the exact same spot year after year.  Salmon return to the exact spot they were born to spawn.  Nature abounds with examples of precision navigation that rival our best electronics.  There are other possible methods of guidance.  We would do well to investigate them!



(1)Sputnik website, “Silent Protector: Russia Develops Hi-Tech Jammer to Block Enemy Electronics”, 25-Aug-2016,


  1. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Nearly every ranged weapon currently in the US arsenal and under development has dual guidance systems...
    GPS, plus inertial guidance, or, GPS, with laser guidance, or GPS with 2 way link and terminal man in the loop guidance.
    Im not saying that the russians aren't good at EW, in fact, its always been one of their strengths, well, relatively speaking, US weapons have so far destroyed all soviet systems they've ever faced (from Soviet built missile boats, to tanks, planes, hardened bunkers, etc), all I'm saying is that weapons manufacturers never seem all that keen on one trick ponies?

    1. You're repeating the post which stated that all/most of our weapons use GPS and some have alternate guidance like INS.

      Do you have a comment about some aspect of the post?

    2. Do you have a comment to make that has any data or logic to support it?

  2. They could expand use of inertia navigation.

    Even smart phones today have Acceleration, roll,pitch, yaw, gyroscopic, and even magnetic sensors. They do get updated position from GPS but they don't need to do it constantly since they can use their internal sensors

    1. We are expanding the use of INS but my understanding is that the accuracy goes way down, on a relative basis.

      Now, one of the ways to compensate for reduced accuracy is to increase the explosive power. You can be further off target and still achieve an effective hit. Another way to compensate is to use are bombardment. Blanket the area and you're bound to hit the target.

      However, both of those approaches are contrary to current US military trends. These trends need to be re-thought.

    2. My understating is that INS is undergoing a huge revolution in hyper accuracy


      As the backup to GPS, i think you'll find EW may not end up being as effective as you state.

    3. "My understating is that INS is undergoing a huge revolution in hyper accuracy"

      Your understanding is wrong. The article you cite describes a developmental program which may or may not pan out some day in the future. As the article noted, it's a developmental effort. The current mechanism is the size of a 1 meter shoe box (won't fit in any missile), can only measure perturbations in one dimension, and can't distinguish small movements from gravity fluxes.

      This is an interesting research effort but the historical reality is that most research efforts ultimately fail - ask the LCS program!

      This is a classic example of non-existent technology being touted as useful.

  3. This "new" capability doesn't seem to be all that scary considering they are "shielding" stationary targets which any weapon that can read a map can hit.

    What am I missing?

    1. "read a map"?? I'm not sure what guidance technology you're referring to.

      What you're missing is that other guidance systems like DSMAC (mapping matching), TERCOM (terrain mapping), etc. have significant limitations and greatly reduced accuracy. Many targets are hardened or co-located with civilian targets and a miss of a matter of meters produces no effect and/or unacceptable collateral damage.

      There's a reason why DSMAC, TERCOM, INS, and the like were nearly abandoned in favor of GPS. To have to return to those alternate guidance methods would negatively impact accuracy and flexibility.

      An enemy who can negate our GPS guidance has a huge advantage.

      Further, while the article mentioned shielding stationary targets, nothing in the description seemed to preclude making the system mobile. It was simply described as being mounted on a pole - not difficult to make mobile.

    2. But they are only suppressing GPS over a limited geographical area, most likely based on a ground transmitter. A weapon deployed outside of this bubble starts off with a solid position fix, leaving only terminal guidance. Vidual identification of targets using a computer is not revolutionary tech.

      What I'm saying is that this is not a real game changer. Standoff weapons are already the rule in order to stay away from AA threats.

  4. A question to ask is how strong is the POLE-1 jamming signal? If its strong enough, you might be able to fire a HARM at it.

  5. CNO;

    Although you raise a good point on our over-dependence on Technology, I am skeptical of the threat here. Too often have the services blown capability out of proportion just to fund their empires. Missile Gap anyone?

    I would like to know how this system is employed. You jam the receiver not the transmitter. I the case of a cruise missile the receiver is on the topside looking up. Therefore only an airborne jammer would work. I imagine PGMs have the same limitation although based on their descent angle they may have some susceptibility to a jammer on the ground in front of them.

    In any case an airborne high powered Jammer is not gonna last long and a ground based one is of doubtful use.

    If this threat gets us to rely on tech so much it is great. If it leads to another more complex gee-whiz toy (that probably doesn't work as advertised) then we need to really ANALYZE it first.

    Let's try jamming a car GPS.

    1. opps NOT rely on tech so much

    2. "Too often have the services blown capability out of proportion just to fund their empires."

      You raise a very good and valid doubt. It has happened in the past and will happen in the future. However, from my meager knowledge about GPS, it is a very low power, narrow band signal which is ideal for jamming. Add to that the fact that we've seen some pretty unsophisticated users both within the US as mere demonstrations and outside the US as actual electronic warfare attacks succeed in jamming or otherwise disrupting GPS signals. That tells me that a peer state would have no trouble disrupting GPS. Beyond that, the US military is requiring new weapons to have alternate guidance systems available which, again, suggests that the threat is real.

      So, I'm keeping your doubt and the history of overstatement of threats firmly in mind but this one seems both plausible and likely.

  6. I never understood why the AGM-122 Sidearm (Sidewinder anti-radiation) missile is not in service. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGM-122_Sidearm

    It should be carried in case GPS jammers or other AA systems arise.

  7. In June over six days US military tested gps jammer to block/degrade signals over all of California. Jammer based at China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center. FAA sent NOTAM,notice to airmen, flight advisory warning of potential gps disruptions of unreliable or unavailability of gps.

  8. I am reminded of the Pigeon guided bomb.

    The problem with having TLAM following migrating flock south for the winter is that the removal of the Florida everglades each winter will have only a LIMITED stabilisation effect on the middle east situation.

    Although the idea of a tomahawk cunningly painted as a Canada goose did make me giggle for quite some time. HONK. HONK. BOOM!



    1. I know you're kidding and I smiled. However, the biological guidance systems that some animals use are nothing short of unbelievable. We need to look at the mechanisms they use (solar position, magnetic fields, star maps, chemical memory, ???) and see if we can't adapt them.

    2. Star maps have been used for some time on ICBM,

      Obvs terrain mapping has also been available on TLAM for a while too. Both have issues dependant on applications.

      Laser cooled quantum inertial guidance has some great applications but since it was deployed last year for testing on RN subs the thing has gone black. prob means its working. it promised to be 100-1000 times better than the current generation and that would allow for MOST weapons deployment down to a CEP of just a few meters. Given just a few hour flight time.

      Iv'e always been suspicious that scientist don't fully know how whales ( for instance ) navigate and just put it down to star fix and magnetic fields.

      This type of work would be needed when dealing with long travel time. Assuming regional GPS denial.

      I do agree however that it bears some serious investigation.


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