TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The US Defense Department has officially announced its procurement of the Starlink satellite broadband service for use in Ukraine.
In a statement provided to various media outlets, the department emphasized the importance of ensuring Ukraine’s access to satellite communications, describing it as a vital component of the country’s overall communication network.
The Pentagon declined to disclose further details about the contracts, capabilities, or partners involved due to operational security reasons and the critical nature of these systems.
However, according to a Bloomberg report, the deal encompasses Starlink satellite terminals and services to be utilized by the Ukrainian military.
The agreement appears to resolve a funding dispute that emerged last year. In September, SpaceX, the company behind Starlink, requested the Pentagon’s assistance in financing Ukraine’s usage of the satellite service, citing financial constraints. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reversed course on October 15, pledging to continue funding the Ukrainian government despite Starlink’s ongoing financial losses.
While the exact timing of the current deal remains unclear, discussions between SpaceX and the Pentagon regarding funding Starlink in Ukraine have been ongoing since then. Musk mentioned in an October 2022 tweet that although 25,300 terminals were sent to Ukraine, only 10,630 were actively paying for the service at that time.
According to Bloomberg’s recent article, the Defense Department indicated in December its intention to provide Ukraine with satellite communication terminals and services. However, it did not confirm a contract with SpaceX at that particular juncture. The article further speculates that the terminals are likely to be purchased under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which caters to the nation’s long-term security needs.
SpaceX previously expressed concerns about the potential weaponization of Starlink by the Ukrainian military. Consequently, the company took steps to prevent the use of Starlink satellite Internet with drones in offensive operations. Geofencing technology was reportedly implemented to restrict terminal usage not only over Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory but also over water and when the receiver was moving at speeds exceeding 100 kilometers per hour.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, reportedly acknowledged the military’s use of Starlink for communications purposes in February, but emphasized that the company’s intent was never to enable offensive activities. Musk echoed this sentiment in a tweet, stating that while Starlink served as Ukraine’s communication backbone, precautions were taken to prevent an escalation of conflict that could lead to a global confrontation.