Air travel is not ready for electronic warfare

Jan. 4, 2024
With militaries spoofing GPS signals, civilian planes could get targeted in the crossfire, Jeff Wise writes for New York Magazine.

NEW YORK - Airway UM688 cuts an invisible path through the air from Samsun, Turkey, on the Black Sea coast down through Basra, Iraq, on the Persian Gulf and is used heavily by airliners traveling from Europe to the Gulf States. One stretch in particular, a 280-mile-long section in northeastern Iraq, has become a hot topic in pilot forums online. Planes passing through experience all kinds of strange system malfunctions, Jeff Wise writes for New York Magazine. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

4 January 2024 -“What’s happening is that the plane is flying along normally, everything is very chill, very relaxed, you probably have a foot up on the pedestal and you’re doing your crossword. And then, suddenly, either the plane will start to turn or you’ll get a whole bunch of warnings: terrain failure, navigation error, position error,” Mark Zee says, the founder of OpsGroup, an online forum that collects pilots’ reports. “For the crews, the initial reaction is What the hell is going on?”

Wise notes that there are at least 15 cases in which pilots became disorientated to the point they needed to have their course corrected by air traffic control. One business jet nearly passed into Iranian airspace. The confusion is caused by GPS signals being spoofed.

“Commercial aircraft are having their GPS units captured and taken fully under the control of the spoofer,” says Todd Humphreys, a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s eye-opening and unprecedented.”

Wise writes "Experts say airplanes’ potential security vulnerability isn’t limited to GPS but extends to a wide range of electronic systems. Researchers have known about some of these weaknesses for years, but the potential for their exploitation has remained abstract. Now, the outbreak of spoofing over the past four months is showing the aviation industry what happens when systems get screwed with for real."

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Jamie Whitney, Senior Editor
Military + Aerospace Electronics

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