Explained: How Starlink Of Elon Musk Prevented Russian Electromagnetic Attack In Ukraine

Top Pentagon official said US needs to improvise its own EW rapid response considering the increasing probability of deployment of electromagnetic warfare in modern wars. 

Elon Musk, Founder & CEO, SpaceX

The US Pentagon officials on Wednesday explained how promptly Starlink, the satelite-based internet division of Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, prevented a Russian electromagnetic attack in Ukraine last month. 

Dave Tremper, the Director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, delineated how SpaceX’s impeccable ability last month foiled the Russian endeavour to jam the Starlink satellite broadband service in a bid to destroy Ukraine's internet connectivity.

Responding to Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov's request, Elon Musk last month provided thousands of internet terminals of the size of an antenna to Ukraine, so the country may stay connected to the internet. These antenna-like terminals catch the internet being beamed to Earth by Musk's contellation of satellites in space, thus bypassing the ground-based conventional internet infrastructure.

The Russian attacks began the next day. Tremper said, “The next day, Starlink had slung a line of code and fixed it and suddenly that [Russian jamming attack] was not effective anymore. From [the] electronic warfare technologist’s perspective, that is fantastic and how they did that was eye-watering to me.”

Musk said on March 25 that Starlink had, at that point, "resisted all hacking and jamming attempts". 

While applauding Starlink for countering the electromagnetic warfare faster than the US military, Tremper also mentioned that US needed to improvise its own electronic warfare rapid response considering the increasing probability of deployment of electromagnetic weapons in modern wars. 

Brigadier General Tad Clark, director of the US Air Force's electromagnetic spectrum superiority, emphasised on the fact that new and modified systems to fight off electromagnetic warfare are the need of the hour for US in order to retaliate in a "quick, lethal, and resilient manner".

Brigadier General Tad Clark, director of the Air Force's electromagnetic spectrum superiority, said at the conference that the US needed to build new systems for electromagnetic warfare that had more resilience and speed, so it could respond to threats in a "quick, lethal, and resilient manner."

Tremper added that US had a "significant timeline to make those types of corrections and there's a really interesting case study to look at the agility that Starlink had in their ability to address that problem. We need to be able to have that agility".

According to the top Pentagon official, the modern day war arsenal should also include artificial intelligence and machine learning to ensure quicker response. Increased use of digital engineering and software coding can also appears to be highly instrumental in equipping the country's defense repertoire.  

Ukraine has used Elon Musk's Starlink internet service to stay online throughout the war. The country's forces have used it to destroy Russian tanks as well by connecting their drones to Starlink's internet.