Top Pentagon boss ‘impressed’ as Elon Musk’s SpaceX foils Russian attempts to hack into its Starlink satellites

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Elon Musk’s company’s quick response to a Russian jamming effort targeting its Starlink satellite broadband service won praise from the Pentagon’s director for electromagnetic warfare.

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov took to Twitter and asked Musk to activate SpaceX’s Starlink satellites for use in Ukraine. Musk quickly agreed and tweeted in response, “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals along the way.

Shortly after, in March, Musk claimed that Russia had blocked Starlink terminals in the country for hours, after which he also said that after a software update, Starlink was working normally.

“Starlink, at least so far, has resisted all hacking and jamming attempts,” Musk tweeted on March 25.

“The next day [after reports about the Russian jamming effort hit the media]Starlink had run a line of code and fixed it,” Dave Tremper, director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said at the 2022 C4ISRNET conference on March 20.

“And suddenly that [Russian jamming attack] was no longer effective. Since [the] The tech EW perspective is fantastic…and the way they did it made me cry,” Tremper continued.

Tremper pointed to the need for the same type of agility in US military systems and said that “the way Starlink was able to upgrade when a threat presented itself, we need to be able to have that capability. We need to be able to change our electromagnetic posture, to be able to very dynamically change what we’re trying to do without losing capacity along the way.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Musk challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to ‘single combat’

Starlink used for drone strikes on Russian tanks

It has been reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces use Starlink for drone strikes on Russian tanks and positions, especially in areas with weak infrastructure and no internet connection.

According to The Telegraph, the aerial reconnaissance unit Aerorozvidka uses Starlink to monitor and coordinate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), allowing soldiers to fire anti-tank weapons with targeted precision. Only high system data rates can provide the required stable communication.

Artist’s rendering of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites in orbit. (SpaceX)

“We are using Starlink equipment and connecting the drone team to our artillery team,” an Aerorozvidka unit officer described to The Times. “If we’re using a thermal vision drone at night, the drone has to connect via Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” the officer said.

The Times reported that the Aerorozvidka team performs about 300 intel-gathering missions every day. Attacks are then carried out at night, according to the newspaper, because the drones, some of which are equipped with thermal cameras, are almost impossible to see in the dark.

Russia targets US satellite signals

In addition, an expert from EurAsian Times recently noted that after the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva in the Black Sea, Russia may now target Musk’s Starlink satellites, as Moscow believes Moskva was sunk along with it. using SpaceX’s Starlink satellites.

Shortly after the sinking of Moskva, Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, tweeted: “Russia is starting a space war! Medvedev announced that a task is given to destroy @elonmusk Starlink satellites in a “United Russia” document. He says the shooting at the Moskva was done with the help of Starlinks.

stellar link
A group of Starlink satellites seen from the International Space Station. (File photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian forces are also targeting Navstar, a US satellite network that provides global positioning services, a US Space Force general said.

In an interview with NBC Nightly News in early April, General David Thompson said Russian forces were targeting GPS satellite signals provided by the United States in Ukraine from ground stations.

“Ukraine may not be able to use GPS because there are jammers preventing it from receiving any usable signal,” Thompson said.

Navstar broadcasts in a typical set of radio frequencies that GPS receivers such as car navigation devices or cell phones can pick up.

Brig. General Tad Clark, director of the US Air Force’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Directorate, who also attended the C4ISR conference, said modern warfare will increasingly involve electromagnetic warfare, particularly to shape the battlefield when conflicts begin.

Clark emphasized the need for innovative thinking when it comes to building new electronic warfare equipment rather than simply acquiring upgraded versions of legacy systems. He suggested integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into next-generation systems so they can respond faster.

EC-37B Compass An effective electronic warfare aircraft

Clark also pointed to the potential of digital engineering to help the military model new equipment with a computer before going through the typical time-consuming acquisition and testing process.

Putin
File Image: Vladimir Putin and
Sergei Shoigu

Clark said the Air Force’s in-development Compass Call, the EC-37B, is a prime example of how digital engineering is transforming how the service approaches new electromagnetic warfare capabilities.

The EC-37B Compass Call aircraft is expected to provide improved remote jamming capability for the US Air Force over the existing EC-130H Compass Call, which has been operational with the USAF since 1982.

Coders and software engineers are working with Compass Call operators in the field to find creative ways to jam enemy signals, Clark said.

The USAF plans to acquire ten EC-37B Compass Call aircraft to replace the 14 EC-130H fleets. The first two EC-37B aircraft are expected to be operational by 2023.

The EC-37B Compass Call aircraft will be assigned to the 55th Electronic Battle Group (ECG) located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, which will be the sole operator of Compass Call aircraft for contingency operations in the world.

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