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Russia is jamming US drones in Syria, officials say

Northrop Grumman's first MQ-4C Triton drone. (Naval Air Systems Command)
April 10, 2018

Russia is now “jamming” U.S. military drones that are flying over Syria, officials say, NBC reported on Monday.

Four U.S. officials said American military operations are being affected because of it, NBC said.

Dr. Todd Humphreys, the director of the Radio Navigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, explained jamming as blocking or scrambling a drone’s reception of a signal from a GPS satellite.

Anticipating a retaliatory attack from the U.S., and after Russia jammed some less significant U.S. drones following suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in eastern Ghouta several weeks ago, Russians started jamming major U.S. drones in Syria, according to the four officials.

“GPS receivers in most drones can be fairly easily jammed,” Humphreys said.

In regards to the seriousness of the jamming, Humphreys said: “At the very least it could cause some serious confusion for the drone operator on the ground if the drone reports an incorrect position or is lost.”

Humphreys, a jamming expert, said this isn’t the first time the Russians have jammed drones.

The Russian military was exposed by U.S. analysts four years ago in eastern Ukraine after the attack of Crimea, Humphreys explained.

U.N. surveillance drones were the target then, and the Russians had the capability to ground the task force for days and significantly impaired the ability to gather intelligence from the air.

“The U.S. military maintains sufficient countermeasures and protections to ensure the safety of our manned and unmanned aircraft, our forces and the missions they support,” said Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon.