Exclusive: Western Intelligence Fears New Russian Sat-Nav’s Espionage Capabilities
GLONASS, Moscow’s answer to GPS, is set to launch an upgraded satellite network later this year, which it hopes to sell to the U.S. and Europe. Buyer beware.
Russia is preparing to introduce a new generation of its GLONASS satellite navigation system, with expanded global infrastructure. Several Western intelligence agencies say the program is also being used to conduct high-level espionage.
GLONASS is the Russian equivalent of the United States’ GPS. It consists of 24 satellites and a number of ground stations that offer accurate positioning services for both the Russian military and commercial vendors. This year, it is set to launch its new K2 satellite system in combination with a planned expansion of ground stations that would give GLONASS greater accuracy.
Parallel to upgrading the GLONASS satellites, Russia has intensified its efforts to build ground measuring systems around the world, a prerequisite for them to operate well. The goal is to set up 48 such stations in 35 different countries and the Antarctic, according to one Western intelligence source.
Among the list of target countries are several EU and NATO member states such as Denmark, Ireland, Bulgaria and the three Baltic nations, the U.S., China, India, Fiji, and Nauru. Brazil is one of the few countries that is already hosting GLONASS ground stations. Argentina has agreed but is now having strong doubts about the decision owing to reasons of national security.
Florian Vidal, a research fellow at the French Institute of International Relations who has intensively studied Russia’s space policy, said :
I can’t imagine such infrastructure in any EU or NATO country.
He cited electronic intelligence-gathering as such a red flag as to eclipse any other technological consideration.
The U.S. is talking about the moon and Mars, but Russia’s priority in space will always be mainly military.
Vidal told Newlines.
It only wants to have control of the low orbit system because that allows to form a strategic connection between the navy, air and ground forces and space.
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