Russia denies claim it meddled with Finnish GPS during NATO war games
The Trident Juncture Excercise was the largest NATO exercise in decades and involved 31 countries – including non-member allies.
Russia has denied suggestions that it was responsible for Finland having its GPS signal disrupted during NATO war games.
Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila revealed on Sunday that air navigation services across the country had to issue traffic warnings due to the interruption last week, which is believed to have been deliberate.
Norway posted a similar warning about the loss of GPS signals for pilots in its own airspace at the end of
Russia’s massive annual military exercises, which are named after cardinal directions (e.g. Vostok for east, Zapad for west), garner a tremendous amount of international attention and intense scrutiny. While in some rare circumstances Russian military exercises parlayed into larger international conflicts, such as the July 2008 Kavkaz military exercises that were followed the following month by the Russo-Georgian War, they are usually just opportunities for Russia to showcase its military hardware, ensure its combat readiness, and practice various scenarios — the same as most other states’ and alliances’ military exercises. Meanwhile, from October 25 to November 23 of this year, NATO is carrying out its own military exercises, dubbed the “Trident Juncture Exercises,” in Norway and the North and Baltic Seas.
About 50,000 participants are involved, from all NATO members along with Norway’s
Satellite Monitoring of Exercises
Much like the Russian Zapad exercises in Belarus in Russia, the NATO Trident Juncture Exercises are quite spread out, but with a few locations that have an especially high density of activity. A map provided by the Norwegian Armed Forces shows a rough estimate of the largest locations used to host the exercises throughout Norway:
The largest location detailed by this map is the Rena Camp in Hedmark County, followed by the Haltdalen-Røros-Brekken location in Trøndelag County — these two spots make a good starting location to begin monitoring the exercises. The Haltdalen-Røros-Brekke location is relatively spread out, as it is a winter training camp that specializes in teaching winter warfare to soldiers, making it a poor candidate to monitor with low-resolution satellite imagery.
The Rena Camp is the largest military camp in
The “Nordland County” location in Bodø would be a good candidate for satellite monitoring, with sixty aircraft reportedly present for the training, but there is no imagery available on Planet Labs that is not without heavy cloud cover.
NOTE: If any of our readers have locations that they would like to have checked with Planet Labs imagery, please leave coordinates and possible dates in the comments of this article.
Social Media Monitoring of Exercises
Soldiers who take part in large-scale exercises, regardless of nationality, love to share photographs of their trip on social networks. While social network use is relatively restricted among Russian soldiers, thanks to a series of embarrassments in Ukraine in 2014-5 and recent legislation, it is hard to stop a 19-year-old conscript or new contract soldier from sharing photographs on Instagram of themselves in interesting locations surrounded by impressive military hardware. The same can be said for NATO exercises, which, when compared with the Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces during the recent Zapad exercises, has a much more open, public relations-focused mindset about their demonstrations of armed strength.
The first place to start to find participants sharing photographs and videos of the exercises is with popular hashtags, including #TridentJuncture and #NATO. The top results for these hashtags will be glossy, professional photographs shared by various press services, public figures, and official accounts, including from Lasse Løkken
These official and press service accounts, while sometimes providing interesting tidbits of information, are not the subject of this article, as anyone with basic Google skills can easily find all of the materials from these accounts across all social and sharing platforms. Instead, we will highlight some interesting findings from accounts without blue check marks that could be useful, and detail search strategies to find useful information.
Downloading Full-Resolution Instagram Photographs
A photograph uploaded by Teleplan Globe, a small company assisting with Trident Juncture, shared a photograph of the “combat room” for the exercises. On its own, there is not a lot that can be gleaned from the photograph; however, by pulling the full-resolution copy of the photograph from Instagram, we can decipher the displays on the screens of the “combat room”.
First, on Chrome, open up “Developer Tools” from the options.
Second, click the “Select an element in the page to inspect it” icon on the top-left of developer tools.
Third, highlight and then click the
After clicking on the image, a line from the Elements part of developer tools will be highlighted, showing us where the web page is pulling the image from. You may need to expand (click the arrow facing right) near the <div class> field. Here, it is under the <div class=KL4bh”…> field, right above the “_9AhH0” line that was highlighted after we clicked the image.
Four URLs are visible here, indicating different resolutions. The URL that we are interested in is the final one, between “src=” and “style”. This JPG file is the photograph in the highest resolution available. Double-click this URL to highlight it, then copy-paste it into the URL field of your web browser.
The image will now appear in your browser and can be saved by right-clicking, rather than taking a screenshot at a lower resolution of the photograph on its Instagram page.
While the resolution of the photograph is not quite high enough to discern the text on the screens, we can still cross-reference the satellite imagery and CCTV footage visible in the “combat room.” For example, the port visible in the
The satellite image on the right-most large screen is the same
Finding Instagram Location Labels
With thousands of soldiers from dozens of countries in Norway, we cannot expect a uniform
For an accurate example of geotagging, a German soldier used the general “Haltdalen” geotag when conducting winter training near the Haltdalen Training Center.
After clicking on the hyperlink over Haltdalen, we can find all of the recent Instagram photographs using this geotag. However, this is the only one related to the exercises with this location.
Another photograph that we can discover through relevant hashtags (#TridentJuncture2018) is a Norwegian soldier drinking a bottle of Coke near “Hedmark” — a location with numerous photographs and videos showing military equipment and soldiers involved in the exercises.
This geotag, nevertheless, is extremely broad, ranging across hundreds of square
Firs, grab the coordinates for an area that you are interested in. For us, the Rena Camp in Hedmark county is the most likely place that the geotagged “Hedmark” photos are coming from, meaning we should find the coordinates for this place. Be sure to use the decimal coordinates, without any degree symbols, as those are the only ones that work with Twitter searches. The fastest way to gather coordinates for a location is to navigate to it on Google Maps, then pull the decimal coordinates from the URL (or, alternatively,
With these coordinates, we need to conduct a Twitter search with the following query. If you have a Twitter account, you can do this by typing it into the “Search Twitter” field on the top-right of the user interface. Anyone, with or without a Twitter account, can enter the same search here.
geocode:XX.XXXXX,YY.YYYYY,RADIUS instagram.com geocode:61.1499048,11.3966162,25km instagram.com
This search function looks for all tweets with location data at the entered coordinates, plus a radius, plus the word “Instagram.com”. Note that there are no spaces in the search query before Instagram.com, so delete any possible space between the X and Y coordinates.
We add Instagram to the search in order to find cross-posted photographs from Instagram that could have geotags on them, which will broaden our search capabilities in noting potential geotags that are used by soldiers and locals involved with or observing the NATO exercises near these coordinates. One of the search results seems promising — there is clear location data on Twitter, plus a link to an Instagram upload that the user presumably made.
The uploaded photograph has a geotag for “Rena, Norway”, which would not have come up if we were to
Following the hyperlink on Rena, Norway, we find a motherload of geotagged photographs relating to the ongoing exercises.
While it would probably be easy enough to guess that photographs near the Rena military camp would be tagged Rena, Norway, we have to consider that users will use different languages and auto-suggested options that may not be the most obvious choices. For example, another photograph is in the results for our Twitter geocode search is seen below, and obviously is related to the Trident Juncture Exercises.
Clicking through to the Instagram upload, we see a geotag that uses Norwegian: “
Like with the “Rena, Norway” hashtag, we can find many relevant photographs with this geotag, as seen below.
Some American soldiers participating in the area may use this geotag if it is an
Naval and Aircraft Monitoring of Exercises
With heavy naval and aerial components, it is easy to find and monitor the aircraft and naval vessels involved in ongoing NATO exercises in the North and Baltic Seas.
At each of the airstrips and ports used in the exercises (seen on the map on the third page of this document), we can look at current and