Can Russia Nuke GPS?

Uproar this week over Russia’s space-based nuclear satellite attack capability…

While Russia is developing a space-based nuclear capability to attack satellites, including GPS, industry experts say the country can do a lot of damage right now to the constellation’s signals without resorting to such a catastrophic move.

This week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner of Ohio released a statement calling on President Joe Biden to declassify information regarding Russia’s ability to use nukes in space as a national security threat.  However, the White House said there is no “no immediate threat” from Russian nuclear weapons in space.

Can the Russians take out the GPS constellation? (Photo: Lockheed Martin).

Florida Republican Rep. Mike Waltz, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told Spectrum News that GPS could specifically be targeted.  “Essentially, what it would do is take out our entire space infrastructure, all of our satellites,” Waltz said. “And if folks don’t realize how much of our economy depends on GPS, everything from global shipping to trucking to agriculture, and obviously how we get around, but our ability to communicate financial transactions, I mean, it would literally send us back into the dark ages.”

Overall, GPS and other satnav signals are fairly fragile—making it less realistic to nuke the entire system, said Dana Goward, Resilient Navigation & Timing Foundation president.  “Any kind of interference, accidental or intentional could result in tragedy,” he said.

This isn’t the first time that Russia has threatened destruction of the GPS satellite constellation.  In November 2021, Russia, on state TV, warned it could blow up the GPS constellation to render missiles useless.  At the time, state TV claimed Moscow’s anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles could destroy all of the GPS satellites to “blind all their missiles, planes and ships, not to mention the ground forces.”

The Russians tested ASAT technology in 2021 on a defunct Soviet satellite to send a warning shot to the West, its state TV claimed at the time.


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