Military mobility: EU proposes actions to enable armed forces to move faster and better across borders

Ukraine’s fears that its troops will lose access to Elon Musk’s crucial Starlink internet service have deepened after 1,300 army satellite units were taken offline, according to two sources familiar with the outage.

Small, easy-to-use satellite dishes made by Musk’s private rocket company, SpaceX, have been universally hailed as a revolutionary source of communication for the Ukrainian military, allowing it to fight and stay online even when the networks of cell phones and the Internet were destroyed. in his war against Russia.

But concerns have recently arisen over SpaceX’s reliability after funding talks emerged and outages were reported near the front lines.

CNN reported that SpaceX sent a letter in September to the Pentagon claiming it had spent nearly $100 million funding Starlink in Ukraine and could no longer continue to do so. The letter called on the Ministry of Defense to take on more of the funding for the Ukrainian military, which it calculates would amount to tens of millions of dollars per month.

Neither Musk nor SpaceX responded to a request for comment. The Ukrainian government, including the Defense Ministry, did not respond.

The recent outage began on October 24 and was described by a person briefed on the situation as a “huge problem” for the Ukrainian military. The terminals had been disconnected, according to this person, for lack of funding.

The outage affected a block of 1,300 terminals which Ukraine bought from a British company in March and which were used for combat-related operations.

SpaceX was charging the Ukrainian military $2,500 a month to keep each of the 1,300 units connected, bringing the total cost to nearly $20 million as of September, the person briefed on the matter said. Eventually, they couldn’t afford to pay anymore, the person said.

Before the terminals went completely dark, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense asked its British counterparts in early October to collect the monthly bill of $3.25 million.

A British official said after discussions between the departments “it was agreed that there were priority military capabilities”.

“We support a number of terminals that have direct tactical utility for the Ukrainian military in repelling the Russian invasion,” the British official told CNN.

SpaceX’s September letter to the Pentagon said there were nearly 20,000 Starlink terminals in Ukraine. At that time, by SpaceX’s own admission, the majority of them were fully or partially purchased with outside funding, including from the US, Polish and UK governments. The letter claimed that these sources also paid around 30% of the monthly connectivity bill.

Earlier this month, Musk said that of the more than 25,000 terminals currently in Ukraine, less than 11,000 are paying for the service, which can cost up to $4,500 a month.

“We continue to discuss Ukraine’s satellite communications needs with Ukraine and companies like SpaceX and others,” Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters.

Whether greater cooperation with SpaceX would give the US government stronger control over the Starlink signal in Ukraine remains unresolved.

International Affairs