- 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for pretend bow-and-arrow shooting
- Tea partiers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
- Budget deal to get quick vote in the House
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro ‘marriage’
- Sebelius calls for review of Obamacare rollout woes
- American dream dying, but many see free market as solution: Poll
- Air Force base in South Carolina boots Nativity scene
- Israel poised for a $173M boost from the U.S. for missile defense
- Leon Panetta named as source of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scriptwriter’s information
- Mandela service sign language interpreter: ‘He made up his own signs’
North Korean jamming of GPS shows system’s weakness
U.S. and South Korean military commanders will be on the lookout for North Korean efforts to jam GPS signals as they take part in exercises on the divided peninsula this week and next.
North Korea repeatedly has jammed GPS signals in South Korea, which has “very serious implications” because U.S. and South Korean military system rely on the navigation system, said Bruce Bennett, a North Korea scholar for the California think tank Rand Corp.
The jamming also underscores the vulnerability of a satellite-based tool on which civilian systems from car navigation to air traffic control rely upon.
North Koreans have used Russian-made, truck-mounted jamming gear near the border to disrupt low-power GPS signals in large swaths of South Korea. By broadcasting powerful radio signals on the same frequencies as the satellites, the jammers drown out the GPS signals.
Mr. Bennett said the jamming has occurred three times in the past two years and has coincided with joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
The timing strongly suggests the jamming was “an experiment … a test … to let [the North Koreans] see what effect it would have and maybe disrupt the exercises,” he said.
Defense officials declined to comment on the jamming, or discuss what measures U.S. forces are taking to guard against further incidents during this week’s exercises, which end Aug. 31 and involve more than 80,000 troops from the United States and South Korea, plus observers from seven other countries.
For North Korea, the jamming is an attempt to turn the tables on the more technologically advanced U.S. and South Korean forces.
“Neutralizing those [technological] advantages could have big psychological benefits in peacetime and major military benefits in war,” Mr. Bennett said.
He added that the jamming equipment is easy to locate because of the powerful signals it broadcasts. “If you use this kind of weapon, you must assume that sooner or later, the other guy is going to destroy them,” he said.
Determining how North Korea might use the jamming as a weapon is difficult because its military does not produce publications, unlike China’s, which publishes academic journals and policy documents, Mr. Bennett said.
“The way we try to understand North Korean [military] doctrine is watching how they train and exercise,” he said.
In September, there were reports that North Koreans were developing their own, more-powerful jamming technology. Mr. Bennett said it appears that this new equipment was being tested in the most recent jamming incidents in March and April.
The incident in April caused the most significant disruption, even though the jammers were switched on only intermittently. The South Korean capital, Seoul, is only a few miles from the border, and its airport, Incheon International, was badly affected by the jamming. Aircraft had to rely on alternative navigation aids, and even cars in the city’s northern suburbs found their GPS equipment affected.
“GPS signals are not difficult to jam because they are weak in the first place and a very, very long way away,” said Todd Humphreys of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas in Austin.
Global positioning satellites hovering 22,000 miles above the planet produce the signals that ground-based detectors use to triangulate locations on Earth’s surface.
Even military GPS signals, which are 10 times stronger than civilian ones, can be jammed easily, at least in small areas, with cheap commercially available equipment, Mr. Humphreys said.
He noted that Chinese-made jammers are advertised for sale on the Internet — pocket-sized devices that block GPS signals from several feet to more than 100 feet away.
And it is not just rogue nations such as North Korea that are interested in jamming GPS signals.
In Britain, a clandestine government-sponsored network of 20 roadside GPS monitoring posts this year found dozens of incidents of jamming with small-scale devices. Most were caused by truckers trying to defeat the electronic surveillance devices that tell their employers how long they drive and how fast, and when they stop for mandatory rest breaks.
But some of the jamming appeared to be caused by thieves seeking to disable security tracking devices in commercial vehicles, according to Charles Curry, whose company Chronos Technology Ltd. set up the network.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
- Democrats proceed with Mayorkas vote despite pending investigation
- Game players don't think peace has a chance in Syria
- NSA monitored 'World of Warcraft' players
- New Internet security challenge arises for cybercops
- Britain eyes new powers to thwart Islamic extremists
Latest Blog Entries
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Teen thugs in DC run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- New budget accord saves $23 billion -- after $65 billion spending spree
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- More than a quarter million sign up for Obamacare in November
- Gov't Motors: Obama fudges math on auto bailout, $10.5 billion loss for taxpayers
- MILLER: Dick Heller challenges D.C.s gun registration, files for summary judgement in Heller II
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
An objective, analysis-based perspective of D.C. sports as seen through the eyes of lifelong D.C. sports enthusiast, John Heibel.
All of the world’s problems, solved on your back porch
Human interest stories to feed interest, satisfy curiosity and see outside the box.
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow