With Starlink’s satellites, Ukraine’s military and civilian population are able to maintain a fast and stable Internet connection – despite Russian missiles. A new Russian tracking vehicle is to track down the terminals.
A stable internet connection is vital for Ukraine. Not only so that the civilian population can be reached, but also so that the technology at the front works at all and the soldiers can communicate with each other. The country was all the more grateful at the end of February when Elon Musk sent his Starlink satellites and released numerous terminals (find out more here).
Russia wants to find antennas and turn them off
This has been a major problem for Russia ever since, because as long as Ukraine can communicate uncensored, President Putin doesn’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. As early as May, the Russian President had terrestrial lines tapped and data traffic routed through Russia in order to be able to monitor and censor it (read more here). So far he hasn’t been able to get close to Starlink, even if the satellites and their terminals are classified as targets and people have been looking for ways to cut the connections for months.
A new vehicle from the Sestroretsk Arms Factory, dubbed “Borschchevik”, is now intended to speed up the hunt for Starlink terminals. The company presents the car in more detail on its website: The “Borschtschewik” is said to recognize Starlink antennas at a distance of up to ten kilometers with an accuracy of five to 60 meters.
Also read: Starlink as a strategic tool: How Elon Musk’s satellites help attack Russian tanks
Sestroretsk specifies the bearing time as 15 minutes, the antenna should be able to locate up to 64 devices at the same time, provided they are within range. As an example, the weapons factory shows a position between artillery and a target or a patrol along the front.
In pro-Russian military forums, people are happy about the beginning of being able to finally get rid of “the plates”. At the same time, there are doubts as to whether the technology is really effective in use. The short range, someone speculates, prevents safe use in the hinterland. That, coupled with the relatively long localization time of 15 minutes, gives the enemy sufficient chances to take countermeasures.
China is also considering measures against Starlink
Starlink – or brand-independent free Internet – is just not a thorn in Russia’s side. Studies by Chinese researchers came to light as early as the end of May, which dealt in detail with how Starlink could be switched off in an emergency (read more here). However, China’s countermeasures focus on the satellites, not the ground stations. Rockets, microwaves and attack satellites came up as possible solutions. In fact, with “Shijian-17” there would be such a satellite that would be able to hurl Starlink missiles out of orbit with gripper arms.
The fear of Starlink is not only based on circumventing censorship measures. The US Army has long been concerned with the possibilities offered by a constant high-performance connection in combat operations. In March, the US Air Force reported that it was testing whether fighter jets, such as an F-35A jet, could be remotely controlled with Starlink modules. In this technological advantage, other nations see a threat – and Ukraine is demonstrating daily that it already is one.
Although there were always problems with the financing of the technology, in the end it was always possible to reach an agreement and a large part of the country always remained online. “Bloomberg” recently reported that several EU member states want to share the costs of maintaining the infrastructure. Ukraine already uses more than 20,000 such access points, with 10,000 more to come soon.