The U.S. and NATO are actively working in Ukraine on algorithms for the use of commercial space assets for military purposes. This, according to former Alliance Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is the first-ever major military conflict in which both sides make extensive use of space capabilities. The important role of space assets in the military operation in Ukraine confirms the importance of near-Earth orbits.
The conflict in Ukraine serves as a launching pad for a large NATO satellite constellation and confirms the critical role of space capabilities in modern warfare. In this case, a fundamentally new aspect of this collision was the massive use by the West of the capabilities of private “commercial space” for military purposes.
In the space field, Ukraine relies entirely on the West, receiving critical support for its military efforts on several fronts at once. First of all, we are talking about intelligence gathered by Western satellites. According to the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the number of space images of the Earth’s surface, which the Americans transmit to Kiev, more than doubled in the second half of 2022. Official Washington claims that the U.S. is allegedly only financing Ukraine’s purchase of unclassified products from private commercial firms.
Space communications, primarily Starlink, provide the Ukrainian military with uninterrupted communications. HQs and units of the AFU are equipped with digital maps linked via Starlink, which promptly display data on the location of Russian Armed Forces units, information about the direction of flights of Russian Air Force aircraft, and reports of missile launches. Starlink is also used for direct control of Ukrainian UAVs.
For direct encrypted communication with the White House, the U.S. provided the President of Ukraine and the Minister of Foreign Affairs with Iridium 9575A satellite phones.
Analyzing the lessons of the Ukrainian conflict, it can be stated that, at the instigation of the U.S., the use of commercial telecommunications systems for military purposes will actively increase.
At the same time, consumers do not want to support the war in which Western telecommunications companies are involved, and are increasingly expressing dissatisfaction and reluctance to cooperate with them, which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on their profits.
In addition, these companies’ space constellations become legitimate military targets, which reduces the reliability of the communications they offer.