Image: U.S. Air Force

Blog Editor’s Note: An excellent article on Geospatial World Prime by RNTF Member Diana Furchtgott-Roth. 

Diana is an economist who also led civil PNT issues for the US government, so she is uniquely qualified to examine this aspect of these issues.


Clear and Present Economic Danger

Americans depend on GPS. While military dangers are obvious, outages would also cause incalculable damages to the economy.

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology | Department of Transportation; and
Adjunct Professor | George Washington University

Vadimir Putin’s Russia brags that his country’s new Pole-21 radio-electronic systems, soon to be installed in Siberia and the Ural Mountains, can spoof America’s Global Positioning System (GPS), which provides positioning, navigation, and timing services through a system of satellites, and is vital to Americans. Hacking it has never been easier.

Originally invented for the military, GPS was extended to civilian use by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 after the Russians downed a Korean Air Boeing 747 that had accidentally strayed into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including Representative Larry McDonald, a Georgia Democrat.

GPS is increasingly open to hacking, as sophisticated technology has become cheaper and more widely available. In 2019, Iran spoofed the navigation system of British tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship’s crew thought they were in international waters when they were actually in Iranian territory. The ship and its crew were held for 10 weeks by Iran.