The insiders said a “hostile state” made regular attempts to jam in-flight satellite communications systems on A400M transport aircraft as they left RAF Akrotiri with troops on board. None of the electronic warfare attacks worked but could have potentially have resulted in casualties had they been successful. Defence experts said the only two hostile states close enough to try to jam the signals were Russia and Syria.
And Russia is understood to be the only country capable of launching such an attack.
A security source told The Times: “Russia has been trying to jam planes taking off, which is all part of its sub-threshold activity.
“Sub-threshold activity is where armed conflict is avoided but there is confrontation.
“This is an example of another state being hostile and reckless for no apparent reason.
“These are transport aircraft bringing in spare parts, it’s not like they are fighter jets.”
The latest cyber warfare threat from Russia comes after UK defence chiefs vowed to take a “more robust” stance over the “deteriorating” global security environment.
Russia was singled out as the “most acute threat” to British national security in the Integrated Review which sets out plans to update the country’s “deterrence posture” in the face of growing threats from hostile states and non-state actors.
The review said the UK must improve its ability to “disrupt, defend against and deter” the threats it faces in both the physical world and in cyberspace.
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It will mean deploying more of the armed forces overseas more often and for longer periods, in an effort to deter state threats “below the threshold of war” through a strategy of “persistent engagement”.
The review states: “We will demonstrate that we are able and willing to respond when our citizens and interests are targeted, including with force if necessary.”
A defence command paper to be published next week will set out the detailed plans to modernise the armed forces, with a new generation of warships and fighter jets.
The Integrated Review says it will prioritise the development of new technologies, with a “digital backbone” to enable UK forces to operate alongside allies across a range of battlespaces.
As well as maintaining an offensive cyber capability, there will be a new “space command” and measures to improve CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) resilience.
Overall, the review says the primary focus of Britain’s security effort will remain the Euro-Atlantic region, where Russia poses the “most acute threat”.
It highlights the security threat from the “opportunism” of countries like Iran and North Korea as well as from Russia.
It says such state threats include espionage, political interference, sabotage, assassination and poisonings, electoral interference, disinformation, propaganda, cyber operations and intellectual property theft.
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The document says: “While their actions often fall short of open conflict, they can nevertheless threaten and interfere with our security, open economy, democracy and social cohesion – risking escalation into war.
“Non-state actors also participate in this competition. They often use the same methods, such as cyber-attacks and disinformation, to target our citizens and exploit our openness for their own gain.
“And states increasingly work with non-state actors to achieve their goals, including as proxies in conflict.
“This affords them deniability and blurs the line between state threats and other types of security threats, such as terrorism and serious organised crime.”