GPS Jammer Firm nearly ejected from Russian air show.

Bill Stewart bill.stewart at
Mon Aug 22 21:27:02 PDT 2005

Monday, August 22, 2005. Issue 3235. Page 1.

Irksome Firm Nearly Ejected From Air Show
By Lyuba Pronina
Staff Writer

Ivan Sekretarev / AP

Spectators watching the Patrouille de France aerobatic team perform during 
the MAKS air show at the Zhukovsky airfield outside Moscow on Saturday.

ZHUKOVSKY, Moscow Region -- The jamming equipment made by Aviakonversia is 
so effective against U.S. planes and missiles that it apparently provoked 
an angry phone call to the Kremlin from U.S. President George W. Bush in 
the first days of the Iraq war.

Russian officials do not seem to have forgotten the scandal and on Friday 
tried to shut down the company's stand at the Seventh Moscow Aviation and 
Space Show, MAKS 2005, said Aviakonversia director Oleg Antonov.

Perhaps the company's presence was simply too embarrassing, considering 
that the U.S. Air Force occupied a prominent place on the tarmac, 
displaying a B-1B bomber, F-15 and F-16 fighters, and two bulbous tanker 
planes used in mid-air refueling.

Three representatives of the Federal Industry Agency and the Federal 
Service for Technical and Export Control, which oversees the export of 
defense technology, unsuccessfully attempted to close the stand on the 
grounds that Aviakonversia had not received clearance from the Defense 
Ministry to showcase its product, Antonov said.

The government representatives, concealing their ID badges, did not allow 
this reporter to be present during their conversation with Antonov.

"They demanded we pack up, but we have the right to be here -- we paid the 
rent for this stall," Antonov said after the meeting. "We have made the 
product using our own money and do not need the approval from the Defense 
Ministry, a grocery director or a banya director."

The Federal Industry Agency was unavailable for comment over the weekend.

Aviakonversia, which makes devices that jam the global positioning systems 
used in navigation, caused a storm of protest from Washington in the early 
days of the Iraq war in March 2003.

Antonov, who for 24 years worked in the State Research Institute of 
Aviation Systems developing defense systems for planes, founded 
Aviakonversia with a dozen staffers in 1992.

The company developed jammers that interfere with GPS signals and were 
apparently used by Iraqi forces during the U.S.-led invasion.

The Bush administration charged that Aviakonversia personnel were on the 
ground instructing Iraqi forces how to use and maintain the equipment, The 
Washington Post reported at the time.

"Our GPS jammer puts all U.S. high-precision weapons out of order," Antonov 
said. "They have turned billions of dollars that the U.S. government has 
spent into dust."

Antonov denied that his company delivered any equipment directly to Saddam 
Hussein but acknowledged it might have reached Iraq via arms dealers.

"Right before the war, there were a lot of people in Moscow with suitcases 
full of money shopping for anything that could deter U.S. troops," Antonov 

Aviakonversia now manufactures its gear outside Russia so as not to 
irritate the authorities, he said, though he declined to specify where. He 
also refused to identify his clients, saying only that they were foreign 
governments that acquired the jammers through middlemen.

The German peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan recently sent 
Aviakonversia a letter thanking it for the jammers, which it deployed to 
interfere with GPS receivers used by Taliban fighters, Antonov said.

After Aviakonversia first displayed its wares at MAKS 1997, the Pentagon 
acquired a few dozen jammers, Antonov said.

"Then they went quiet."

A hubbub ensued, however, in the first days of hostilities, when U.S. 
forces had difficulty in honing in on their targets. Bush reportedly picked 
up the phone to voice concern to President Vladimir Putin that Iraqi forces 
were using Russian-made night-vision goggles, GPS jammers and anti-tank 

Antonov lamented that his company did not reap more praise back home.

A representative of state-owned Phazotron-NIIR, the maker of radars for 
fighter jets, also said Friday that their stand had been rigorously 
inspected by the export control service.

Some weapons systems -- such as the S-400 air defense system -- were not 
even displayed at MAKS, despite previous advertisements.

The main innovation on display at MAKS was the MiG-29OVT with all-axis 
thrust vector-controlled engines that allow for greater maneuverability at 
low speeds.

Irkut Corp. demonstrated its innovative unmanned aerial vehicles for 
civilian use, with the Emergency Situations Ministry likely to be its first 

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