Austrian spy drone vulnerable to GPS jamming: lawmaker

South Korean navy from Second Fleet Command soldiers participate in a drill targeting North Korean infiltration in seas off Taean in, 2010, South Korea. South Korea's navy Thursday staged a major anti-submarine exercise, its first show of strength since tensions with North Korea flared over the sinking of one of Seoul's warships.


DAEJEON, South Korea (Yonhap) - An Austrian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) procured by the South Korean Navy is susceptible to GPS jamming, raising concerns that the spy drone will be vulnerable once it is deployed to gather intelligence on North Korea, a ruling party lawmaker said Wednesday.

The Navy spent 25 billion won (US$23.6 million) to purchase four S-100 UAVs made by Austrian company Schiebel, the Navy said in its report submitted to the parliament. It wants to deploy them on intelligence ships that patrol seas near the western sea border, the so-called Northern Limit Line. The drones are currently undergoing testing.

Although the Austrian company says the UAVs are equipped with multiple backup inertial navigation systems, Rep. Song Young-keun of the Saenuri Party claimed the UVAs don't have the capability to withstand long-lasting GPS jamming.

"Although there is an alternative system, it lowers the efficiency of the weapons system and stops functions in the worst case, affecting accuracy," Song said during an audit on the Navy at its headquarters in Daejeon, 164 kilometers south of Seoul.

Concerns have grown over the GPS jamming after one of the drones crashed in May 2012 during a test flight near the western port city of Incheon. The accident killed a Slovakian test pilot from Schiebel and injured two South Koreans.

Experts suspect jamming of its GPS receiver may have contributed to the crash, as North Korea is believed to have masterminded massive GPS jamming that affected hundreds of commercial flights and ships in the previous month.

The Navy's intelligence gathering project on the North Korean military has been crippled for several years after two UAVs crashed during operations.

Among the three fixed-wing SHADOW-400 UAVs by American company AAI, one crashed during operations near a western island in 2007, and another went down in waters near the southeastern port city of Pohang in 2010. The third one is currently not operating.