The OPSGROUP has increased concerns over the situation:
- Security risk: Navigation failures are occuring in close proximity to the Iranian border. One aircraft reported almost straying into Iranian airspace (Tehran FIR, OIIX) without a clearance. This area of the border is considered sensitive by Iran: there are two large missile bases just across the boundary: one at Kermansah (a huge facility with dedicated anti-aircraft weapons), and another at Khorramabad. For context, Iran shot down a passenger aircraft in 2020 in Tehran (accidentally), and has been heard in September 2023 issuing warnings on 121.5 with threats to shoot down aircraft entering the FIR without a clearance.
- The Navigation failures are severe. The second report above highlights how the crew had no option but to request radar vectors – all the way to their final destination. In many other reports, most aircraft have no reliable on board navigation, for periods of 20-30 minutes and in some cases an hour or more.
- Compounding failures. Individually these incidents can mostly be resolved with the help of ATC. Consider however, an ATC comms failure, ATC radar failure, or an emergency situation: engine failure, decompression, or even a medical divert. The workload would quickly become extreme, and diverting at night (when most flights are transiting the area) without basic navigation capability is not a scenario we want to deal with.
- Inadequate guidance for crews: Current FCOM/AOM procedures available to aircrew are insufficient to capably deal with this new GPS spoofing issue. Having been shown to be possible, there is potential for it to occur elsewhere in the world.
An intelligence brief from Dyami Intelligence Services issued in repsonse to Monday’s reports, adds information about this new form of GPS spoofing affecting aircraft: “The surge in GPS jamming and spoofing incidents within the Iraqi FIR, along with their widespread occurrences, strongly indicates the involvement of an airborne platform (UAV). In the past, Iran has successfully intercepted a drone by GPS spoofing. Spoofing provides an attack vector that enables control over the target UAV (aircraft) without compromising the flight control software or the command-and-control radio link. Furthermore, a GPS spoofing attack can be carried out by an attacker who is equipped with an RF transmitter that can be ground or airborne-based.”