Elon Musk’s Starlink Helping Target Russia’s Tanks – Tech entrepreneur and business magnate Elon Musk had challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin to a duel earlier this month in an effort to end the fighting in Ukraine.
“I hereby challenge to single combat. Stakes are,” Musk tweeted – spelling out Putin’s name and Ukraine in Russian.
In a follow-up tweet, Musk – who is no stranger to trolling on social media – then asked (in Russian) “Do you agree to this fight,” and tagged @KremlinRussia_E, the official account of the Russian president.
So far, there has been no official response from Putin or anyone in the Russian government, but Moscow might have a hard time ignoring the fact that Musk may be dueling with Putin’s forces in another way.
Starlink satellites that were sent into space by Musk’s SpaceX are now being deployed to aid Ukrainian military drones in targeting Russian tanks and trucks. The drones, which are equipped with anti-tank rockets, have been specially fitted with thermal cameras that can detect Russian vehicles at night – often when the crews are asleep.
“If we use a drone with thermal vision at night, the drone must connect through Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” a Ukrainian specialist told the Times of London.
Ukraine has faced Internet and power outages, but the Starlink system is able to help the besieged nation maintain some of its communications. Drone teams have been able to operate in rural areas where there generally wasn’t much Internet coverage, but it is also being used by Ukrainian civilians throughout the country.
Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov told The Washington Post, “The quality of the link is excellent,” and added that the government has been relying on the system to help maintain communications.
“We are using thousands, in the area of thousands, of terminals with new shipments arriving every other day,” Fedorov continued.
“A new batch of Starlink stations! While Russia is blocking access to the Internet, Ukraine is becoming more open to the entire world. Ukraine is the truth. The truth always wins. Thank you, @elonmusk, the Government of Poland, and Orlen,” Fedorov tweeted on Friday.
There are reportedly well over 5,000 Starlink terminals in the country, and the Ukrainian government is working to get those terminals to regions where the Internet has been cut off. The systems can allow people to connect where cellular networks are being overloaded or disabled.
According to reports, the Starlink app that is used to help set up the service had surpassed a total of 98,000 installs across Ukraine’s App Store and Google Play combined last week.
A Target for Russia?
While Starlink is aiding Ukrainian efforts to target Russian tanks and to keep civilians connected to the outside world, Musk has warned that there is a “high probability” that Russia will target the satellite dishes.
“Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so the probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution,” Musk also tweeted.
Yet, as Russia has bombed civilian areas, hit hospitals, and even a mosque, it seems that not employing Starlink would do little to stop such attacks. And while Russia has instead attempted to simply jam the connections, Musk added that “our latest software update bypasses the jamming.”
Perhaps if pushed hard enough, Putin will take up Musk on that offer to take part in a duel.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.