Russia jams signal on RAF plane carrying British defence secretary Grant Shapps

Russia has been accused of jamming the satellite signal on an RAF plane carrying Defence Secretary Grant Shapps in its latest act of hostility.

The country’s latest act of hostility took place while the Defense Secretary was returning from a visit to Poland. He went with his team and a group of journalists to watch hundreds of British troops take part in NATO’s biggest exercise since the Cold War.

For roughly 30 minutes, the RAF aircraft’s GPS signal jammed and mobile phones could no longer connect to the internet as it flew near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Pilots safely navigated the plane using other means to determine its location, assuring Mr Shapps the electronic attack posed no threat to the aircraft’s safety.

‘There is no excuse for this and it’s widely irresponsible on Russia’s part’, a defence source told the BBC.

‘While the RAF are well prepared to deal with this, it still puts an unnecessary risk on civilian aircraft and could potentially endanger people’s lives.’

Russia has significant electronic warfare capabilities, meaning it ‘wouldn’t be surprising, alas, if an aircraft fell foul of that in some way’, the source said.

Such abilities have proven vital during Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has become the most radio-jammed country in the world.

Ukraine has scrambled to match Russia in an electronic arms race. The eastern European country rolled out a jam-resistant walkie talkie in October in an effort to keep communication open and hamper Russia’s jamming capabilities.

In February, the startup responsible for this Himera military radio, used by platoons, received more than £400,000 of investment to continue production, Ukraine website Rubryka reported.

Russia’s jamming abilities also prove a threat to Ukraine’s drones. Ukraine’s burgeoning domestic drone industry, both public and private, hopes to challenge Russia’s Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Last month, Russia claimed to have intercepted and captured a British-made training drone it described as being on a ‘kamikaze’ mission, although it is not clear how this hijack was achieved.

A defence source said the jamming of Shapps’ flight was understood to be ‘directly related to Putin’s attack on Ukraine and the sensitivities around Kaliningrad’, the Express reported.

Just 100km of the Poland-Lithuania border – known as the Suwałki Gap – separates the heavily militarised exclave from Russia’s ally Belarus.

Kaliningrad is home to nuclear weapons and Russia’s Baltic Sea fleet. The Suwałki Gap would likely be one of the first points of confrontation if war broke out between Russia and NATO, Politico reported.

Shapps’ visit to northern Poland coincided with part of the second phase of NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2024 military exercise, involving 20,000 personnel from 10 countries.

Exercises have also taken place around the Nordic countries, including new NATO members Finland and Sweden. HMS Prince of Wales, ‘one of the most powerful surface warships ever constructed in the UK’, according to the Royal Navy, took part.

Putin’s top crony Dmitry Medvedev said Russia views the military exercises in neighbouring countries as ‘unequivocally a threat’.

The jamming incident came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he was prepared for nuclear war. Speaking on state television, Vladimir Putin boasted that his nuclear forces were on ‘constant alert’.

He said ‘weapons exist in order to use them’, adding: ‘From the military-technical point of view we are, of course, prepared.’

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