Israel Hit by Mysteriously Recurring GPS Disruptions in Its Airspace

International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations announced that 'many' pilots had lost satellite signals during navigation and landings at Ben Gurion

Arrivals and departures in Israeli airspace, June 26, 2019
flightradar24.com

Israel is experiencing unexplained GPS disruptions in its airspace in the past month, but "measures are in place to allow safe landings and takeoffs" at its main international airport, the government said on Wednesday.

The announcement by the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) followed a report on Tuesday by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) that "many" pilots had lost satellite signal from the Global Positioning System around Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

Confirming there had been GPS disruptions for approximately the past three weeks, an IAA statement said these affected only airborne crews and not terrestrial navigation systems. An aviation source told Haaretz the interruptions occur only during daytime, but "do not put pilots and passengers at risk." 

Pilots use GPS for navigation within the Israeli airspace, and for takeoff and landing. The source said pilots have alternative instrument landing and navigation systems that are not reliant on the GPS to work. Another source said the announcement was meant to notify incoming flights to turn off GPS systems, and use the alternative instruments, as long as the interruptions continue.

Israeli authorities had worked from the outset to locate the source of the problem and fix it, the IAA added. Asked if an explanation for the disruption had been found, an IAA spokesman said: "No. I don't know." Sources in the Israeli Airline Pilots Association told Haaretz there have been recurring interruptions in the GPS systems in the eastern Mediterranean.

Ben Gurion airport in Israel
Meged Gozani

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Israel's Defense Ministry said only that the disruption was an IAA matter. "At no stage has there been a safety incident stemming from the GPS disruption in the context of the precision of navigation and flight corridors," the IAA said. In its post on Tuesday, the IFALPA said the loss of the GPS signal may create numerous alerts for systems.

Members of the Israeli Airline Pilots Association said this is an unusual development that is not common worldwide. "It's unexpected and you don't know to what extent the jamming will be and where it will catch you," said one member. "This is not a local incident, but a big and significant event, and we are confident that the IAA and the civil aviation authorities will solve it," he said.

The Israeli army’s spokesman said “At this point in time, this has no effect on the Israel Defense Forces’ activity.” It stressed it is contained within the “civilian level,” but the army assists with “technological measures, in order to ensure freedom of action in Israel’s airspace.”