Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
Ukraine’s Military Reliant on Elon Musk’s Starlink for Communications

Ukraine heavily relies on Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its Starlink satellite data transmission service for its military communications. According to Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Mikhail Fedorov, there are approximately 42,000 Starlink data transmission terminals in the country, with most of them being used by the military. These terminals, which can easily be transported in a backpack, are essential for disseminating orders, providing enemy locations, and maintaining connection with attack drones.

The deployment of Starlink terminals in Ukraine has been praised for its effectiveness and cost-efficiency. It has shown that commercial systems, such as Starlink, are advantageous over military and government satellites in terms of affordability and speed of installation. The equipment costs €560 ($600), with an additional €70 ($75) per month for the service.

However, there have been concerns regarding the potential risks associated with relying on Musk’s Starlink for military communications. It has been cautioned that the satellite connection could be cut off during offensive operations, endangering the lives of military personnel. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell confirmed that mechanisms are in place to cut Starlink’s signal if necessary.

While Starlink was originally meant for civilian use, it has been acknowledged that it can also be utilized for military communications. Nevertheless, Musk has refused requests to activate the connection of satellites over Crimea for offensive actions to avoid explicit involvement in warfare. The Ukrainian government sought to use Starlink to carry out a drone strike against the Russian Black Sea fleet but was denied by Musk.

The Ukrainian government is currently seeking alternatives for its military communications but acknowledges the difficulty of completely disengaging from Musk’s Starlink. They hope that the U.S. government will guarantee SpaceX’s continued support. The reliance on Musk’s company highlights the importance of finding robust and reliable solutions for Ukraine’s military communications in the face of potential disruptions.