As the Ukraine conflict worsens, Director of the National Reconnaissance Office Christopher Scolese of the United States warned that Russia’s military may target satellites to impair communications and GPS systems.

“I believe we’re seeing fairly clearly that Russia is dedicated to achieving what they want in Ukraine, and they want to win,” Scolese stated at the National Security Space Association’s Defense and Intelligence Space Conference on February 23.

“So I think it’s fair to expect that they will stretch the conflict into space to the capacity that they can, and also to the degree that they believe it won’t extend the war out of their control,” Scolese said.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) manages US government spy satellites, but commercial satellite operators such as BlackSky, Maxar, Planet, and others are increasingly collecting and distributing imagery and intelligence, so any attempt to disrupt the US’ ability to collect intelligence could have ramifications for both private and public assets.

Scolese didn’t say what steps the Russians might undertake, but he said it’s easy to guess based on their previous behavior. As an example, they are already blocking GPS signals.”

Both government and private satellite systems, according to Scolese, are possible targets. “I’d encourage everyone that the most essential thing is to go off and make absolutely sure that all of your systems are safe and that you’re keeping a tight eye on them because we know the Russians are skilled cyber actors.”

“And, once again, it’s difficult to predict how far their reach will extend in order to accomplish goals. However, it is preferable to be prepared than to be startled,” he continued.

For years, the US military has been concerned that during a confrontation, Russia and China might try to jam US GPS and communications satellites. Russia might target U.S. military GPS users with fake PNT data, a method known as spoofing, in addition to blocking GPS via electronic jamming attacks. A GPS failure might disrupt all military operations including planes, ships, bombs, land vehicles, and ground personnel. “Even momentary denials and spoofing of the PNT could make a difference in an ongoing military confrontation if well-timed with the other activities,” according to a RAND Corp. analysis.

According to US President Joe Biden, Russia has collected some 150,000 troops on or close the Ukraine border. He described the army moves as an invasion and threatened to impose fresh economic restrictions in retaliation.

As of Wednesday (February 23rd), Russia initiated military activities in Ukraine, this response is expected to escalate. According to CNN, explosions have been heard across the nation, including in Kyiv, the country’s capital.

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