Russia’s persistent efforts to conduct electromagnetic warfare in Ukraine show how important it is “to quickly respond and immediately shut down, such attacks,” Pentagon experts said. Like SpaceX did.
SpaceX sets an example
According to Brigadier General Tad Clark, the Pentagon “needs to get much better at its own EW rapid response.” The director of our Air Force electromagnetic spectrum superiority directorate was ashamed to admit that Elon Musk and his company SpaceX is handling the challenge better than they are.
At the C4ISRNET Conference on April 20, the general confessed that military officials “can learn a lot from how the private sector has handled these situations.”
Modern wars, the general points out, “will increasingly involve electromagnetic warfare, particularly to shape the battlefield when conflicts begin.”
When Elon Musk’s Starlink “quickly squashed a Russian effort to jam its capabilities in Ukraine,” they did it so well that Pentagon experts “want to emulate their rapid response.” SpaceX moved so fast the Russians didn’t know what hit them.
As director of electronic warfare for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Dave Tremper, explains, the ability for SpaceX to “swiftly stymie a Russian effort to jam its Starlink satellite broadband service” was the only thing connecting the embattled nation connected to the Internet.
All it took was a tweet asking for help and Musk instantly “steered thousands of Starlink terminals to Ukraine.”
A line of code
The very next day after media reports of Russia’s jamming efforts, “Starlink had slung a line of code and fixed it,” Tremper compliments. “And suddenly that [Russian jamming attack] was not effective anymore.” Tremper is stunned. “From [the] EW technologist’s perspective, that is fantastic and how they did that was eye-watering to me.”
Compared to SpaceX, the Air Force and Space Force are amateurs. The military has a “significant timeline to make those types of corrections.” It takes them forever to muddle through analysis and figure out a fix, then they have to untangle the red tape to put it in action.
“We need to be able to have that agility,” Tremper emphasizes. “We need to be able to change our electromagnetic posture to be able to change, very dynamically, what we’re trying to do without losing capability along the way.”
He’s just happy to have private ventures like SpaceX around for backup. Starlink was certainly in the right place at the right time to help civilians and military alike.
Redundancy, Tremper notes, “is also critical so the U.S. could keep operating on another system if an EW attack succeeded at knocking one out.” General Clark believes it’s time to start thinking outside the cube. “The U.S. needs to think a lot more innovatively when it comes to building new EW equipment.” More like SpaceX. New versions of the same old systems aren’t cutting it. “It won’t be enough to just buy upgraded versions of legacy systems.”
Uncle Sam, he declares, “has to come up with new systems that allow for much greater resilience and speed.” That means artificial intelligence and machine learning. “Increased use of digital engineering can also help the military model new equipment with a computer and work out the kinks before going through the time-consuming typical acquisition and testing process.“