The testing of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) disruption by military forces and/or engagement in active electromagnetic interference (EMI) operations often result in unreliable or unavailable signals and is an emerging hazard to aviation, which Osprey Flight Solutions is tracking closely. Such activity has increased in frequency during mid-2021, and Osprey has noted via data collection and analysis that GNSS disruption and EMI is not a region-specific issue but a truly global phenomenon that requires attention by aviation operators planning international flights. Osprey analysis indicates that civil aviation flight operations face a nascent credible risk of being exposed to GNSS disruption and EMI while operating in airspace near and/or over conflict zones as well as when flying in areas of heightened military activity.
Since the start of 2018, GNSS disruption and EMI have been reported in airspace areas neighbouring Syria, including portions of Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon and Turkey. The US, UK and Canadian civil aviation authorities have issued notices for airspace areas neighbouring Syria, outlining the risk posed to civil aviation within 200 nautical miles (370km) of the country, due to increased military activity, GNSS disruption and errant missile launches (KICZ A0009/18, EGTT V0007/21, TC AIC 16/21).
Separately, the areas along the Iran-Iraq border area, as well as the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, have had reports of GNSS disruption and EMI, likely related to military activities. Such disruption has also been encountered along the Yemen-Saudi border as well as the Red Sea. Military operations in Libya also led to a series of GPS disruptions and EMI being reported throughout 2019-2020. Each of these countries has a history of not issuing adequate notice of activities in its airspace that could affect flight safety.
In Europe, GNSS disruption and EMI stemming from military activity have been reported over the Barents, Baltic & Black seas. In addition, the Russia-Ukraine border has been a hotspot for reports of disruption and interference. Military training activity in the UK routinely leads to notices being issued to highlight GNSS disruption, and similar situations have arisen in the US in recent years.
In the Asia-Pacific region, GNSS disruption and EMI stemming from military activities have been reported over the South China and East China Sea as well as the Taiwan Strait. In addition, there have been frequent reports near the North Korea border with South Korea.
GNSS disruption and EMI due to military activity represents a notable civil aviation safety-of-flight concern. While the likelihood of a catastrophic event is low, rerouting of civil aviation over the above areas remains a latent but credible scenario going forward. Operators are advised to review internal and external mechanisms for suspicious activity, safety and security reporting. Any revisions to processes should account for such disruption as part of a wider aviation risk management strategy. Operators are advised to monitor government advisories as well as trends in GNSS disruption and EMI tactics, such as the employment and proliferation of electronic warfare systems.
As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for schedules with routings in these airspace areas. Aviation operators should monitor airport/airspace-specific NOTAMs, bulletins, circulars, advisories, prohibitions and restrictions prior to departure to avoid flight schedule disruption. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to to/over these areas in the near term are fully aware of the latest airspace safety situation.