North Korean GPS Jamming Update

Hundreds of aircraft and ships have been affected.

North Korean jamming of GPS signals on the Korean peninsula has affected the navigation of 667 aircraft in South Korean airspace since April 28, the Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported today.

Aircraft zapped by the high-powered jammer include 618 Korean passenger planes, 48 foreign passenger planes, including 17 U.S., 10 Japanese and six Chinese, and one U.S. military aircraft, the paper reported.

Over 122 ships also experienced malfunctions with their GPS-based navigation systems, the South Korean Yonhap News Agency reported, including eight patrol boats belonging to the coast guard and a passenger liner carrying 387 people.

Incidents like this are to be expected, according to this warning from the Cambridge, Mass.-based Volpe Transportation Systems Center, a research arm of the Transportation Department:

“In recent years, the potential for intentional, malicious disruption of GPS has been recognized. These disruptions can range from limited denial of GPS service caused by a low power, localized jammer to more catastrophic incidents could result in the denial of GPS service over large geographic areas and for extended periods of time.”

Volpe, in its report on the vulnerabilities of transportation systems that rely on GPS, recommended development of back-up systems.

A really good idea -- except for one salient fact: that report was released on Sept. 10, 2001. Almost eleven years later there is still no GPS backup.