By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) The Iranian military may be jamming GPS signals in the Persian Gulf in an effort to lure unsuspecting vessels into its territorial waters where it can then seize them, according to a report from the Trump administration.
Ships passing through the narrow Strait of Hormuz have reported functionality problems with their GPS navigational systems, and the United States believes that Iran is responsible.
As such, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration issued a warning on Wednesday about threats to commercial vessels Iran poses, noting that vessels operating in the region could experience a variety of issues, including “spoofed bridge-to-bridge communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be U.S. or coalition warships.”
The warning said at least two incidents involved GPS navigational problems.
“Due to the heightened regional tensions, the potential for miscalculation or misidentification could lead to aggressive actions against vessels belonging to U.S., allied, and coalition partners operating in the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.
The warning added that vessels transiting the Strait reported experiencing “GPS interference, bridge-to-bridge communications spoofing, and/or other communications jamming with little to no warning.”
In some cases, one U.S. defense official told CNN, Iranian navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ships and patrol boats were involved in spoofing merchant ships’ automatic identification system to so they would look like commercial shipping vessels.
The defense said Iran was operating GPS jammers on Abu Musa Island, in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz, so as to cause ships and aircraft to mistakenly wander into Iranian waters or airspace so they could be seized.
Earlier this summer, following what the U.S. said were limpet mine attacks on commercial ships in the Persian Gulf, Iran has begun seizing oil tankers.
“After British forces seized an Iranian tanker believed to be in violation of European Union sanctions, the Iranians tried to capture the BP oil tanker British Heritage,” Business Insider reported.
The U.S. has significant military assets in the region, which have been reinforced in recent months as tensions with Iran ramped up.
Meanwhile, the British government has dispatched the frigate HMS Montrose and destroyer HMS Duncan to the Persian Gulf to protect British- and allied-flagged ships.
France and Germany, along with other European countries, have declined to send warships to escort and defend commercial vessels.
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