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Meaconing is the interception and rebroadcast of navigation signals. These signals are rebroadcast on the received frequency, typically, with power higher than the original signal, to confuse enemy navigation. Consequently, aircraft or ground stations are given inaccurate bearings.
Meaconing is more of a concern to personnel in navigation ratings than to radio operators. However, communications transmitters are often used to transmit navigation signals. Since communications personnel operate the transmitters, they must know how to deal with any communications problems resulting from meaconing.
Successful meaconing can cause: Aircraft to be lured into "hot" (ambush-ready) landing zones or enemy airspace, ships to be diverted from their intended routes, bombers to expend ordnance on false targets, or ground stations to receive inaccurate bearings or position locations.
The term 'meacon' is a Portmanteau of masking beacon.
A team lead by Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin Radionavigation Laboratory has demonstrated the possibility of driving ships and UAVs off course by GPS spoofing. Although the researchers are working on ways to detect this interference, the spoofing attack may pass undetected by GPS receivers that are only designed to detect radio jamming.
Alleged cases of meaconing
Iranian state media alleges Iran used this technique (among others) to capture a USAF RQ-170 Sentinel drone; allegedly causing the drone to crash land. Meaconing in this case could provide a drone with false altitude measurements, causing a crash landing.
- MIJI (Meaconing, Intrusion, Jamming, and Interference)
In popular culture
In the film Die Hard 2 the villain changes the Dulles Airport's ATC beacon altitude to below ground level causing planes' altimeters to provide false readings and thus causing landing planes to crash.