Finland’s prime minister said on Nov. 11, 2018, that GPS signals in the country were intentionally disrupted during NATO military exercises in the region over the past few weeks and the culprit could have been Russia.
Finnish air-navigation services issued a warning for air traffic on Nov. 6, 2018, due to a large-scale GPS interruption in the north of the country. Norway posted a similar warning about loss of GPS signals for pilots in its own airspace at the end of the October 2018.
The NATO exercise, called Trident Juncture, ran from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.
“It is technically reasonably easy to interfere with the radio signal in the open space,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila told public broadcaster Yle. “It is possible that Russia has been the disrupting party in this. Russia is known to possess such capabilities.”
Sipila, who is a pilot, said the goal of such interference would be to demonstrate the culprit’s ability to do so and that the incident would be treated as a breach of Finland’s airspace.
“We will investigate, and then we will respond,” he said. “This is not a joke. It threatened the air security of ordinary people.”
Finnish military personnel in formation at the Älvdalen training grounds in Sweden, Oct. 27, 2018.
(Finnish Defence Force photo by VIlle Multanen)
Finland is not a NATO member, but it took part in Trident Juncture, which NATO officials said was the alliance’s largest exercise in decades. Forces from 31 countries — all 29 NATO members, Finland, and Sweden — participated in the exercise, which took place close to Russian borders in an area stretching from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.
The exercise involved some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft. While much of the activity was based in central and southern Norway, fighter jets and other military aircraft used airports in northern Norway and Finland.
Russia dismissed Finland’s suggestion that it intentionally interfered with GPS signals. “We are not aware that there could be something to do with GPS harassment in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Nov. 12, 2018.
Finland shares an 830-mile border and a fraught history with Russia. In recent years, Helsinki has moved closer to NATO but stopped short of joining the alliance, in keeping with its history of avoiding confrontation with its larger eastern neighbor.
Russia has warned Finland and Sweden, which is also a close NATO partner but not an alliance member, against joining the defense bloc.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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