A US spy plane was forced down by a GPS system that was jammed by the North Korean forces in September of 2011.
Iran has close ties to North Korea and the GPS jamming system may have been the reason the US drone was confused and crashed in Iranian territory.
Their close ties and the loss of the stealth drone once dubbed the Beast of Kandahar could show case an increase in cooperation between the two rouge states.
|North Korea, East Asia’s most annoying Stalinist dictatorship, tends to get a little cranky when its neighbor to the South drills with the American military. Usually, that means Pyongyang using its GPS jammers to try and throw a wrench in the exercise. Now, South Korea’s military says the North’s electronic interference has done more than just bug folks trying to get satellite-guided directions to their favorite bibimbap spot. North Korea’s jamming pushed an American military aircraft out of the skies.|
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported Friday that North Korea’s GPS jamming forced an American spy plane to make an emergency landing during joint U.S.-South Korean exercise in March. The incident took place during the Key Resolve-Foal Eagle exercise, and was revealed by a South Korean Defense Ministry report.
“If the report is accurate, the North Koreans may have acquired a more powerful GPS jammer, capable of affecting navigation systems over a wider area, (potentially) impacting a host of activities, from intelligence collection to precision weapons applications,” one former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer notes.
|Military GPS Jammer system|
The plane that made the emergency landing was reportedly an Army RC-7B ARL (Airborne Reconnaissance Low), a modified DeHavilland DHC-7 filled with reconnaissance gear. The plane’s approximately eight hour duration and ability to fly low and slow make it a handy espionage platform. In this configuration, RC-7B is equipped with a range of intelligence kit, from a forward-looking infrared radar to a daylight imaging system. It’s also got a synthetic aperture radar and wide area moving target indicator that track vehicles and people in motion. The plane carries communications intelligence equipment, too.
RC-7Bs were first used in Korea in 1996 and they have, along with their spy aircraft cousins, stuck in Pyongang’s craw for years now. The annoyance has led to occasional nastygrams from North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) complaining that the planes run “shuttle flights in the sky over areas along the Military Demarcation Line to spy on the forefront and coastal areas of [North Korea].” KCNA also occasionally calls out supposed tallies of flights made by the RC-7B and other spy planes. At the end of 2008, North Korea claimed U.S. RC-7Bs had conducted 280 incidents of “aerial espionage” against it that year.
GPS jammers work by sending a signal that interferes with the communication between a satellite and GPS receiver. North Korea’s current jammers are reportedly a mixture of old vehicle-mounted Russian hardware and a modified version that the North tweaked on its own.
The news of the spy plane’s GPS troubles comes on the heels of rumors that North Korea is working on a new (or souping up an old) jammer. South Korean officials have claimed that Kim’s jammers had a range of between 50-100 kilometers. But a South Korean Defense Ministry report on Tuesday indicated that the North is at work on a jammer with a range of more than 100 km.
- September 12, 2011