Any U.S. military response to the recent chemical weapons attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be hampered by Russian interference.
NBC News cited four U.S. officials who said the Russians began jamming the GPS systems of some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 10, 2018
Todd Humphreys, chief of the Radionavigation Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, said blocking or scrambling signals from GPS satellites to drones can be done fairly easily.
He also warned that jammed drones may malfunction and even crash.
“At the very least it could cause some serious confusion” for the drone operator if the unmanned aircraft reports an incorrect position or is lost, he told NBC News.
American analysts first noticed the Russian military jamming drones in eastern Ukraine after the invasion of Crimea four years ago.
The jammers “had a pretty significant impact” on U.N. surveillance drones, Humphreys said. Those drones were grounded for days after gathering intelligence from the air.
One U.S. official confirmed to NBC News that Russia’s tactic is having an operational impact on U.S. military operations in Syria.
The officials said the drones impacted so far are smaller surveillance aircraft, as opposed to the larger Predators and Reapers that often operate in combat environments and can be armed.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska reacted to the news of Russian scrambling Tuesday by saying “Russia wants to undermine our interests at every turn.”
“It is insane to think that Russia is anything but an adversary,” said Sasse.
During a meeting with military leaders Monday, President Donald Trump told reporters that the U.S. would respond to the latest chemical attack with force.
“We’re making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus, and it will be met and it will be met forcefully,” the president said. “When, I will not say because I don’t like talking about timing.”
President Trump: We can’t let atrocities like the attack we witnessed in Syria happen, especially when we are able to stop it pic.twitter.com/vw9pz664BR
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) April 10, 2018
The suspected chlorine gas attack killed dozens of Syrian civilians in the rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Tuesday there was no threat of the standoff in Syria resulting in a military clash between Russia and the United States, TASS news agency reported.
Russia denies a chemical attack took place.
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