25 April 2000
Typing the words 'satellite' 'communications' and 'jamming' into a search engine delivered nearly 3,000 hits.
This week's New Scientist reports that instructions on how to build satellite jammers, using cheap equipment from home improvement stores and electronics fairs, are to be found on the internet.
The US Air Force team, dubbed the Space Aggressor Squadron, was set up to look for weak spots in satellite communications and navigation systems by playing the part of a potential enemy.
"We ran a search on the Net and found there's quite a lot of information out there on how to build and operate satellites but also, unfortunately, on how to jam them," says Tim Marceau, head of the squadron. "Just type in 'satellite communications jamming' and you'll be surprised how many hits you get."
Two rookie engineers from the US Air Force Research Laboratory were ordered to build a jamming system using only a Net connection and whatever they could buy for cash.
For $7500, the engineers lashed together a mobile ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) high-power noise source that they could use to jam satellite antennas or military UHF receivers. "It's just like turning your radio up louder than someone else's," Marceau says.
The engineers built their home-made jammer using a petrol-driven electricity generator, wood, plastic piping and copper tubing. The amplification and noise-generation electronics were obtained at an electronics enthusiasts "swap meet".
"For very little money and very little sophistication, we found you could muck up communications," says Marceau. Different components could be used to jam other frequencies, such as that of the Global Positioning System.
"Give a man a gun, and he could rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he could rob the world."
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