Major operation under way to identify source of Russian attack that 'jammed signals' on Grant Shapps' RAF plane

15 March 2024, 01:07 | Updated: 15 March 2024, 07:31

Major operation underway to identify source of Russian attack that 'jammed signals' on Grant Shapps' official RAF plane
Major operation underway to identify source of Russian attack that 'jammed signals' on Grant Shapps' official RAF plane. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

A major military operation is underway to identify the source of the Russian military cyber attack suspected of jamming the satellite signal on an RAF aircraft carrying Defence Secretary Grant Schapps back from Poland on Thursday.

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Britain and Nato allies are now carrying out surveillance missions to locate the cyberhackers that blocked the RAF plane for almost 30 minutes.

Shapps had been travelling on the RAF’s Envoy, a Dassault 900LX, to visit troops in Mazury, a military base near the Belarus border, when the aircraft’s pilots lost access to the GPS.

A British Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft has now taken off from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, and is headed for the Baltic. It will be joined by a US military Rivet Joint which left from a base in Mildenhall, Suffolk, the Daily Mail reported.

The two military aircraft will circle the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland, and will detect the electronic emissions from GPS jamming systems.

Grant Shapps and the Polish defence minister, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, met British and Polish troops at a military training compound near Orzysz
Grant Shapps and the Polish defence minister, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, met British and Polish troops at a military training compound near Orzysz. Picture: getty

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During the 30-minute tirade on the Defence Secretary's plane, mobile phones could no longer connect to the internet and the aircraft was forced to use alternative methods to determine its location.

The aircraft was passing by Kaliningrad, a Russian territory between Poland and Lithuania, on Wednesday morning when the attack happened.

On the return flight Russia blocked the system again, this time for 30 minutes, as Mr Shapps, who was accompanied by journalists, flew back to London on Wednesday evening.

It is unclear if Shapps himself would have been deliberately targeted, although the flight path was visible to aircraft tracking websites.

Shapps, who has been defence secretary since August, had just accused President Putin of “sabre-rattling” and acting irresponsibly by saying Moscow was ready for a nuclear war.

Read More: Grant Shapps calls for £9bn boost to military spending in upcoming Budget 'to re-establish leadership in Europe'

Read More: Israel must open ports to allow urgent aid to travel to Gaza, Lord Cameron urges, as UN says 250,000 are starving

This is not the first time Russia has targeted RAF aircrafts.In 2021 RAF planes flying from Cyprus were subject to routine GPS jamming by Russia.

Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets, A400M transport aircraft and Voyager troop planes were all attacked as they flew in and out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, a major base for the British military.

Defence sources have said that Russia’s pattern of behaviour was typical of being able to antagonise other nations without using direct violence.

This year Finland, Norway and Poland have all warned Russia's jamming of GPS was not only affecting military units but airlines and air ambulance services.The practice has been regarded as an almost daily occurrence when transiting near the Russian border.

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