Planes forced to U-turn due to Russian jamming

Suspected Russian signal jamming is reported to have forced two passenger planes to turn back. Estonia’s top diplomat has accused The Kremlin of being behind the latest report of GPS attacks on commercial jets.

Finnair flights from Helsinki to Tartu were forced to return to Finland after they reportedly failed to land in Estonia’s second-largest city last week. The carrier has been approached for comment.

One of the jets repeatedly circled over Tartu airport, according to The Sun, citing aircraft tracking systems.

Russia is alleged to have carried out scores of electronic attacks, affecting tens of thousands of commercial flights, the same publication reports.

Bogus data is allegedly forcing commercial jets to avoid obstacles that aren’t in fact there. Estonia’s Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said Russia was behind the attacks.

He added: “Such actions are a hybrid attack and are a threat to our people and security. We will not tolerate them.”

Approach methods at Tartu airport require a GPS signal. Finnair is reported to have said it will suspend its daily flights to Tartu from Monday (April 29) until May 31 to find an alternative.

Jari Paajanen, Finnair’s Director of Operations, in a statement reported by public broadcaster Eesti Rahvusringhääling, said the carrier cannot fly to Tartu due to GPS “interference”.

He added: “The GPS interference in Tartu forces us to suspend flights until alternative solutions have been established.”

Estonia’s public broadcaster said GPS interference has increased since 2022 – the year Russia launched its wider war on Ukraine – with Finnair pilots reporting incidents near Russia‘s Baltic enclave Kaliningrad.

There have also been reports of signal jamming over the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and eastern Mediterranean, according to Eesti Rahvusringhääling.

A suspected source for the jamming is Russia‘s Tobol electronic warfare system, which has reportedly been used against planes and ships along NATO’s eastern flank.

It is designed to scramble the satellite signals used for weapons, planes, and other devices so they miss their targets.

An RAF jet carrying British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps saw its GPS signal jammed while flying near Russian territory in March.

Its satellite signal suffered temporary interference near Kaliningrad while travelling between Britain and Poland.

Downing Street confirmed at the time that it didn’t threaten the safety of the aircraft and it is not unusual to experience GPS jamming near the Russian province.

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