China recently said in an official newspaper of the Chinese armed forces that the international community should be on high alert for Space’s Starlink internet system. Said that the US military might potentially use it for dominating outer space. This commentary came prior to SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket that took off on May 6th.
“SpaceX has decided to increase the number of Starlink satellites from 12,000 to 42,000 – the program’s unchecked expansion and the company’s ambition to use it for military purposes should put the international community on high alert,” said the article on China Military Online, the official news website affiliated with the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s highest national defense organization headed by President Xi Jinping himself.
The commentary notes the SpaceX Starlink’s role during the Russia-Ukraine war, where Elon Musk provided Starlink terminals to restore communications in those parts of the country where internet or phone connection had stopped following the shelling by Russian troops. ”Starlink was the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine in the wake of the invasion,” claimed SpaceX founder Elon Musk. However, there have also been reports of Starlink aiding the Ukrainian armed forces in precision strikes against Russian tanks and positions, which has not been unnoticed by Chinese military observers.
“In addition to supporting communication, Starlink, as experts estimated, could also interact with UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] and, using big data and facial recognition technology, might have already played a part in Ukraine’s military operations against Russia,” said the China Military Online article. The Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit Aerorozvidka has been found using Starlink to monitor and coordinate UAVs enabling soldiers to fire anti-tank weapons with targeted precision. Only the system’s high data rates can provide the stable communication required.
“We use Starlink equipment and connect the drone team with our artillery team,” an officer with the Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit, Aerorozvidka told. “If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect through Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” the officer said. Another remarkable event was SpaceX’s swift response to a Russian jamming effort targeting its Starlink Satellite service which was appreciated by the Pentagon’s Director for Electromagnetic Warfare. Elon Musk had claimed that Russia had jammed Starlink terminals in Ukraine for hours at a time, following which he also said that after a software update, Starlink was operating normally.
“And suddenly that [Russian jamming attack] was not effective anymore. From [the] EW technologist’s perspective, that is fantastic … and how they did that was eye-watering to me,” said Dave Tremper, the Director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, in response to Musk’s claims.