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  • From Russia with Jam
    Posted by Christina Mackenzie 6:49 AM on Nov 15, 2011

    Moscow-based Aviaconversiya Ltd. makes and sells jammers ... to anyone who wants to buy them, no questions asked. And it states clearly on the highly detailed documentation (drawings, wavelengths, algorithms, graphs etc.) it is handing out from its very insignificant stand at Dubai that “jammers could be delivered to purchaser directly by Aviaconversiya Ltd (without Rosoboronexport).”

    Oleg Antonov, who has been working with jammers since 1966 and founded the company in 1991, told me that the jammers are based on an apparently simple method of receiving signals, storing them without analysis and then retransmitting them mirror fashion, thereby causing confusion. A Swiss colleague who knows about these things and was also at the interview had a look at the documentation and says that although the explanation sounds simple enough, the algorithms are extremely sophisticated.

    The Pentagon worked closely with Aviaconversiya after seeing the initial GPS jammer at a show in Moscow in 1997 and quickly became the company's “best client.” Aviaconversiya would test U.S. high-precision weapons at the Pentagon's request, and if they failed the U.S. companies would get funding from the U.S. government to redesign the weak points.

    This virtuous circle continued until Operation Iraqi Freedom. You may remember that in the first 10 days the GPS-guided bombs dropped by the U.S. entirely missed their targets on a number of occasions with tragic consequences for Iraqi civilians. That was because Aviaconversiya's jammers “sold to intermediate companies” had ended up in Iraqi hands. As Antonov put it, “there was a great scandal between Bush and Putin” and since then the Pentagon has not been allowed to have any contact with Aviaconversiya.

    But the company is still not under the control of the Russian defense ministry. “It's not our problem to know what our ministry of defense thinks about us,” Antonov told me when I queried this. “This [company] is our business and if they [the Russian defense ministry] want to buy, they can buy.” What about export licenses? “Not needed,” he answered, explaining that his products are “not developed with the defense ministry so we can sell to anyone.” But he added, almost as an aside: “The only necessity is a customs license, so to avoid this we assemble our equipment in the client country,” of which there are currently four that he would not identify.

    Antonov's jammers can neutralize anything that functions with global or regional satellite navigation systems: GPS, Glonass (Russia), Compass (China), Galileo (Europe), RNSS (India), QZSS (Japan) etc. The list of equipment that could be jammed is endless. But he hasn't developed one to counter improvised explosive devices because “there are too many competitors on this segment.”

    His current selling point is that Iran's “Bavar-2” flying boat could be neutralized by his jammers, which would cut off both the boat and its command center's radio-communication and satnav receivers.

    The product is fascinating. What is disturbing is that Aviaconversiya is not picky about whom it sells to.

    Tags: ar99, Russia, dubai11, Aviaconversiya

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