Elon Musk’s internet system is allowing Ukrainian drones to pound Putin’s helpless tanks

Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system is giving Ukrainian forces the edge in winning the drone war as the nation fights back with technology to track down invading Russians.

Aerorozvidka (Aerial Reconnaissance) is being used to attack Russian drones and target Vladmir Putin’s army of tanks and track down their positions in the conflict, which has been ongoing since February 24, according to The Telegraph. 

Drones used in the field are able to use the newly available Starlink to keep connected and provide intelligence as internet and power outages plague Ukraine. 

With the technology, the drones can be directed to drop anti-tank munitions to help ward off the Russian attack. 

The so-far-successful implementation of the satellites into the defense of the war-torn nation makes good on a promise outspoken mogul Musk – who challenged Putin to a fist fight for the future of Ukraine earlier this week – made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier in the month, that SpaceX will send more Starlink satellite stations to provide internet to some of the country’s stricken cities.

The president of the embattled country took to Twitter to thank the Tesla CEO, 50, for the support, and invited the tech mogul to visit Ukraine once the war is over.

Drones used in the field are able to use the newly available Starlink to keep connected and provide intelligence as internet and power outages plague Ukraine

Drones used in the field are able to use the newly available Starlink to keep connected and provide intelligence as internet and power outages plague Ukraine 

With the technology, the drones can be directed to drop anti-tank munitions to help ward off the Russian attack

With the technology, the drones can be directed to drop anti-tank munitions to help ward off the Russian attack

‘Talked to @elonmusk. I’m grateful to him for supporting Ukraine with words and deeds. Next week we will receive another batch of Starlink systems for destroyed cities,’ Zelensky wrote at the time.

Musk (pictured) delivered the terminals for satellite-based internet following a request by Ukraine's minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov

Musk (pictured) delivered the terminals for satellite-based internet following a request by Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov

Meanwhile, more Musk satellites are still coming.

Early Saturday morning, a further 53 Starlink internet satellites were launched into space via rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, further bolstering the burgeoning surveillance network.

SpaceX said Saturday that the 230-foot rocket, dubbed the Falcon 9, launched the satellites into low orbit without a hitch.

The Ukrainians are also enlisting the help of PD-1 unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with infrared sensors. With a wingspan of 10 feet, the vehicles are being used to collect vital information on the movements of Russian troops.  

The Ukrainian drone unit uses a ‘Delta’ system, which has been perfected in recent years with the help of Western advisers. 

It can be accessed by basic laptops, and has a ‘situational awareness’ software installed, which creates an interactive map using images from drones, satellites, human intelligence and sensors to build a physical picture to help in tracking the enemy. 

The system, which is said to be on par with similar NATO technology, is believed to have been tested in the Sea Breeze military exercise held in the Black Sea in 2021, which involved the USA, Ukraine and 30 other countries.  

The Ukrainians have perfected the system with the help of Western countries, who have provided radio communications superior to Soviet-era technology. The US is said to have spent millions of dollars on the system to protect against Russian hacking.  

Early Saturday morning, a further 53 Starlink satellites were launched into space by rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, further bolstering the relatively new surveillance network

Early Saturday morning, a further 53 Starlink satellites were launched into space by rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, further bolstering the relatively new surveillance network

SpaceX said Saturday the 230-foot rocket, called the Falcon 9, successfully launched the satellites into orbit without a hitch

SpaceX said Saturday the 230-foot rocket, called the Falcon 9, successfully launched the satellites into orbit without a hitch

Within days of Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine's vice-prime minister's tweet, trucks arrived at Ukraine hauling Starlink terminals (pictured a terminal in Odesa, southern Ukraine)

Within days of Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice-prime minister’s tweet, trucks arrived at Ukraine hauling Starlink terminals (pictured a terminal in Odesa, southern Ukraine)

The most downloaded app in Ukraine  

More than 100,000 people have now downloaded the Starlink app, with global downloads more than tripling in the last two weeks.

Sensor Tower, a firm that provides App Store and Google Play data, said the app was downloaded 21,000 times globally across the two stores on Sunday.

That is the most global installs in a single day, the company added, with the majority of the downloads coming from Ukraine. 

Over the past week, the US has contributed roughly $1 billion in new assistance to Ukraine. 

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday detailed how much military aid the US is already providing – and will provide – to the country, after President Zelensky recorded an impassioned plea for aid from the superpower, asking Biden to back a no-fly zone his administration has repeatedly rejected.

In the remotely held address to the US senate, Zelensky urged Americans to remember Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks when looking at the recent events in Ukraine, and firmly asked the president, by name, in English, to step in.

‘It’s not enough to be the leader of the nation. Today it takes to be the leader of the world,’ Zelensky said. ‘Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country doesn’t depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you and those who are strong.’ 

Following Zelensky’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also criticized the Biden administration for what he’s seen as a lackadaisical response to the conflict in Ukraine. 

Biden Wednesday called Zelensky’s speech ‘convincing and significant,’ as he announced an additional $800 million in military assistance on top of an already $13.6 billion aid package for the country, in a spending bill signed into law Tuesday, which includes weapons sought-after by Ukrainian forces to quell the Russian onslaught, such as anti-armor and anti-air systems.

Speaking from the White House, Biden said the new package will consist of 9,000 anti-armor systems, 7,000 small arms, 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 20 million rounds of ammunition, and 100 drones, ‘so [Ukrainians] can continue to defend their space.’ 

During the speech, Biden asserted that the US is ‘fully committed’ to getting those weapons to Ukraine in the coming days.  

With that said, there are still fears that the system could be impacted by internet disruption as Russia continues its assault, leading to power outages and internet connectivity issues.

Starlink, however – now the most popular app in Ukraine, with more than 100,000 downloads in the few weeks since it went live – uses terminals that resemble TV dishes equipped with antennas that have so far addressed those concerns, with the satellites mounted on roofs to allow Ukraine citizens to access the Internet via satellite in rural or disconnected areas.

Ukraine has so far received thousands of antennas from Musk’s companies and European allies, which the country’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, saying the tech has already proved ‘very effective,’ in an interview with The Washington Post Friday.

‘The quality of the link is excellent,’ Fedorov, 31, told the paper from an undisclosed location in the country, in remote interview made possible by a Starlink connection. 

‘We are using thousands, in the area of thousands, of terminals with new shipments arriving every other day,’ the official revealed, speaking on how the satellites have proved instrumental in helping citizens and leaders communicate as the Kremlin continues its large-scale attacks in cities across Ukraine.  

Shortly after the invasion, Fedorov, who also serves as the country’s vice-prime minister, had sent a tweet to Musk, asking to be given access to Starlink stations.  

Musk, currently valued at $232 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaire‘s Index, responded just hours later: ‘Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.’ 

Within days, trucks arrived at Ukraine hauling Starlink terminals, as well as adapters providing power via cigarette lighters in cars, or battery packs, and a roaming feature to ensure people are connected while they travel to safety.  

Starlink uses thousands of small satellites around 340 miles above the earth’s surface. 

Base stations on earth send radio waves up to the satellites, which beam those down to a satellite dish terminal back on the planet. 

The aim of the system is to bring internet access to rural and poorly connected parts of the world. It has allowed internet connections to travel quickly, with more speed provided due to travelling through space. 

The lower orbit of Starlink also allows signals to travel even faster. 

Over 2,000 satellites have been sent up to space so far, and there are plans to launch around 12,000 in total. 

The usefulness of the system has now reached into military operations, with the Ukrainian drone armies of ‘Aerorozvidka’ being able to use it to continue communicating with their bases by sending signals from Starlink terminals and using ground stations in neighboring countries, including Poland. 

The Aerorozvidka unit was formed by a group of civilian model airplane enthusiasts and those with a background in engineering in 2014 following the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine.

The group helped to build drones and sensors for the military to monitor the border, and helped to adapt commercially available drones to gather intelligence and even drop homemade explosives. 

Over 2,000 satellites have been sent up to space so far, and there are plans to launch around 12,000 in total

Over 2,000 satellites have been sent up to space so far, and there are plans to launch around 12,000 in total 

Eventually, the system was integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces. 

It is proving so effective that the US feels supplying the Ukrainians with aircraft is unnecessary, and have opted to send Switchblades – known as kamikaze drones – which were initially designed for US special forces, and have the ability to take down a tank. 

General James Dickinson, commander of US Space Command, told the Senate armed services committee: ‘What we’re seeing with Elon Musk and the Starlink capabilities is really showing us what a megaconstellation, or a proliferated architecture, can provide in terms of redundancy and capability.’

The US however, has remained adamant about not deploying actual troops into Ukraine, out of fears for its own national security – or as Biden has put it, to avoid a possible ‘World War III.’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Tuesday that the administration does not and will not support Zelensky’s no-fly zone request for those reasons. 

‘We have the responsibility to do here is to assess what the impact is on the United States and our own national security,’ the White House spokesperson said.    

But Russians have so far reacted angrily to the US’ – and particularly Starlink’s – support for Ukraine. 

Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said: ‘This is the West that we should never trust. 

‘When Russia implements its highest national interests on the territory of Ukraine, Elon Musk appears with his Starlink which was previously declared as purely civilian.

‘I warned about it, but our ‘muskophiles’ said he is the light of world cosmonautics. Here, look, he has chosen the side.’ 

The US have opted to send Switchblades - known as kamikaze drones - to Ukraine, which were initially designed for US special forces, and have the ability to take down a tank

The US have opted to send Switchblades – known as kamikaze drones – to Ukraine, which were initially designed for US special forces, and have the ability to take down a tank

Photos of destroyed or captured Russian BM-21 Uragan MLRS 9P140 launcher, Tigr-M, and a T-72B3 tank near Pryluky in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine

Photos of destroyed or captured Russian BM-21 Uragan MLRS 9P140 launcher, Tigr-M, and a T-72B3 tank near Pryluky in Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine

Drones have been instrumental in targeting Russian equipment as it travels into Ukraine

Drones have been instrumental in targeting Russian equipment as it travels into Ukraine

A captured and destroyed Russian tank

Ukrainian forces have been sharing images online of the destroyed and captured Russian equipment

The Ukrainian drone unit uses a ‘Delta’ system, which has been perfected in recent years with the help of Western advisers.

The use of Starlink as a method for citizens and the government to stay connected during the invasion serves a major test of the relatively new technology, experts say, and could have lasting implications for the future of conflict. 

Aside from powering weapons and aiding the military, Musk’s satellites have so far allowed citizens to stay informed against an enemy known for their misinformation efforts. 

Britain’s Ministry of Defence warned last week that Moscow is ‘probably’ targeting Ukraine’s communications infrastructure. 

With that said, despite repeated attempts by Putin’s forces to disconnect Ukrainians from the web, Russia has threatened its own independent journalists with jail time if they report ‘fake’ news about the war. 

The Russian forces have been using their fair share of hypersonic weapons, unleashing its ‘unstoppable’ Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine this week. 

Russia has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat, and state news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict in pro-Western Ukraine.

Moscow claims the ‘Kinzhal’- or Dagger – is ‘unstoppable’ by current Western weapons. The missile, which has a range of 1,250 miles, is nuclear capable. This was a conventional strike.

Aerial footage released by the Russian military claimed to show the missile strike. Large, long buildings are shown in the footage in a snowy region, before one is obliterated by a huge explosion – sending flames, earth and debris high into the air. People can be seen on the ground fleeing as smoke pours from the site. 

Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuri Ignat confirmed that a storage site had been targeted, but added that Kyiv had no information regarding the type of missile that was used.

Russia reportedly first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016 to support the Assad regime, although it was unclear if this was the same model. Some of the most intense bombing came in 2016 during the battle for Aleppo, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths.

Pictured: A video screen grab showing a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missile, launched during a strategic deterrence exercise by the Russian armed forces, in February 2022 (file photo)

Pictured: A video screen grab showing a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missile, launched during a strategic deterrence exercise by the Russian armed forces, in February 2022 (file photo)

A Russian tank is destroyed by Ukrainian forces

A Russian tank is destroyed by Ukrainian forces 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the missile ‘an ideal weapon’ that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defence systems.

Hypersonic missiles can be used to deliver conventional warheads, more rapidly and precisely than other missiles. But their capacity to deliver nuclear weapons could add to a country’s threat, increasing the danger of a nuclear conflict. 

Russia’s announcement of the missile strike came as Kyiv’s army high command claimed to have killed a fifth Moscow general since the war in Ukraine began.

Lieutenant General Andrey Mordvichev was one of Vladimir Putin’s most senior commanders, in charge of the 8th All-Military Army of the Kremlin’s vast Southern Military District.

Moscow did not initially confirm his death in keeping with most previous claims of the ‘liquidation’ of Generals.

Ukraine now claims to have killed five holding the rank of General. The Ukrainians also claimed that wounded Russian soldiers have filled all hospital facilities in Gomel city in Belarus.

Overnight, Zelensky said Russian forces are blockading his country’s largest cities to wear the population down into submission, but he warned Saturday that the strategy will fail and Moscow will lose in the long run if it doesn’t end its war.

A heavily bombed building is seen in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after being destroyed by Russian shelling of the city

A heavily bombed building is seen in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after being destroyed by Russian shelling of the city

An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian's army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine

An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian’s army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine

Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of deliberately creating ‘a humanitarian catastrophe ‘ and appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him, using a huge Moscow stadium rally where Putin lavished praise on Russian forces Friday to illustrate what was at stake.

‘Just picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed. Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion,’ Zelenskyy said in a nightly video address to the nation recorded outside the presidential office in Kyiv.

The rally took place as Russia has faced heavier-than-expected losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home. The event was surrounded by suspicions it was a Kremlin-manufactured display of patriotism. Russian police have detained thousands of people from protests of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Fighting continued on multiple fronts in Ukraine. In the besieged port city of Mariupol, the site of some of the war’s greatest suffering.

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