In 1983, the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was flying from New York to Seoul carrying 269 civil passengers including Lawrence McDonald, a sitting member of the United States Congress. Soviet interceptor Su-15 shot down this plane over the Sea of Japan. The incident was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War, and resulted in an escalation of anti-Soviet sentiment, particularly in the United States. KAL 007 had flown over prohibited Soviet airspace due to problems with its navigational system, which led to it being shot.

Ronald Reagan announced on September 16, 1983, that the Global Positioning System (GPS) would be made available for civilian use, free of charge, once completed, in order to avert similar navigational errors in future. GPS was originally created and realized by the U.S. Department of Defence for the use of the government alone.