The U.S. military have begun a mysterious set of drills on the West coast of America that they say will jam GPS signals for six hours a day.
The FAA issued an advisory warning pilots that the global positioning systems (GPS) could be unresponsive this month, but have refused to say why.
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On June 7, 9, 21, 23, 28, and 30th the GPS interference testing will be taking place between 9:30am and 3:30pm Pacific time. But if you’re on the ground, you probably won’t notice interference.
The testing will be centered on China Lake, California—home to the Navy’s 1.1 million acre Naval Air Weapons Center in the Mojave Desert. The potentially lost signals will stretch hundreds of miles in each direction and will affect various types of GPS, reaching the furthest at higher altitudes. But the jamming will only affect aircraft above 50 feet.
I gave the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division a call yesterday, but they couldn’t tell me much.
“We’re aware of the flight advisory,” Deidre Patin, Public Affairs specialist for Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division told me over the phone. But she couldn’t give me any details about whether there was indeed GPS “jamming,” nor whether it had happened before. Patin added, “I can’t go into the details of the testing, it’s general testing for our ranges.”
As AVWeb points out, Embraer Phenom 300 business jets are being told to avoid the area completely during the tests. The FAA claims that the jamming test could interfere with the business jet’s “aircraft flight stability controls.”
GPS technology has become so ubiquitous that cheap jamming technology has become a real concern for both military and civilian aircraft. And if we had to speculate we’d say that these tests are probably pulling double duty for both offensive and defensive military capabilities. But honestly, that’s just a guess.
These tests are naturally going to fuel plenty of conspiracy theories about mind control, weather modification, and aliens—especially with China Lake’s proximity to both large population centers like LA and Las Vegas, and the fact that Area 51 is practically just down the road. But it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to tell us we’re fucked if terrorists or shitty teenagers make it a habit of jamming GPS signals for everybody.
If you experience any significant GPS interference this month or know the “real” reason behind these test (aliens, right?) please let us know in the comments.