No, Russia Can’t Shut Down GPS

 - June 4, 2014, 5:15 AM

The media jumped on a May 13 report that Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin had threatened that unless the U.S. allows Russia to install a ground station in the U.S. to monitor signals from its GPS-like Glonass satnav system, Russia would retaliate and “suspend the operation of U.S. GPS ground stations in Russia.”

While the chest-thumping sounded dramatic, it was an empty threat. First, there are no U.S. Government-owned or -operated GPS ground stations in Russia. Second, those Russian government or privately owned units that are there–mainly for geophysical surveys and similar high-accuracy tasks–merely receive the GPS satellites’ precise worldwide positioning and time transmissions. But turning off those receivers on the ground in Russia won’t shut down the GPS transmitters in the satellites, any more than turning off the TV receiver in your living room will cause the local TV station to shut down.

In fact, turning off the Russian receiving stations would harm only ongoing Russian research work aimed at developing a national Waas-like air navigation network that would create an advanced system able to provide enhanced accuracy by automatically incorporating the positioning benefits of Waas or Russia’s SCDM equivalent.

Nonetheless, SpyGhana reported an unidentified source explaining the possible outcome this way: “If the GPS is shut down totally, then airplanes will not be able to fly,” the source said. “If things get as far as the total shutdown, Airbus and Boeing will refuse to install the Glonass system and simply ban the operators from using their planes,” he said.