Russians selling navigational jamming device

The Senate late last week established a special committee to address the Year 2000 problem.

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—- A recently developed Russian jamming device that can knock out satellite navigation system signals has been sold to numerous countries, opening the possibility that terrorists could seriously disrupt the system that ships and aircraft use to navigate, according to government officials.

Gary Kosciusko, a member of the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, said commission members first spotted a protoype of the jamming device at a Moscow air show last year.

President Clinton formed the commission in 1996 to study if and how terrorists could attack the key computer systems that operate the nation's water, electrical, telecommunications and transportation systems, including the Global Positioning System. The departments of Defense and Transportation share the management of the GPS system, which Vice President Al Gore last month pledged to make available worldwide for free.

Kosciusko, speaking here at the quarterly meeting of the Civil GPS Service Interface Committee (CGSIC), which is the DOT group responsible for communicating and dealing with civilian GPS users, declined to identify the manufacturer of the Russian jammer. He said the jammer had the power output of 4 watts and could knock out GPS signals within a 50-mile radius of its location.

Keith McPherson, the GPS augmentation manager for Air Services Australia, which is that country's version of the Federal Aviation Administration, said, "That jammer is now available on the market." McPherson added that he knew about countries that had already purchased the jammer but declined to identify them.

In 1996 DOT decided to use GPS as the sole means of navigation and planned to shut down operations of all other navigational systems currently in use, such as the instrument-landing system and the long-range radio-navigation system, also known as Loran.

But Heywood Shirer, who works on development of DOT's Federal Radio Navigation plan, which is the basic navigation policy document, said, "There has been eroding confidence in GPS as a sole means for navigation because of vulnerability to interference and jamming."Joe Canny, chairman of the CGSIC, said as a result of these concerns, DOT is currently re-examining its sole source GPS policy.

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