A top-secret technique that Russia actually wants to use to protect its own satellites is said to have been used against Starlink.
Russia has reportedly been experimenting for months with special technology designed to disrupt the satellites for the Starlink internet service in space. The Washington Post reports this, citing documents that have appeared on Discord as part of the Pentagon leaks. The documents do not reveal how far the tests have progressed and whether Starlink could actually be disrupted. A mysterious technology called “Tobol” (or “14Ts227”) is used, which was previously assumed to be primarily intended to protect Russian satellites from attacks.
Bachmut is to be cut off from satellite internet
According to the US newspaper, Tobol is a secret system designed to protect or disrupt signals to satellites in space. For this, use is made of the fact that parts of the signals are reflected in the atmosphere and can be received on the ground. Tobol should then be able to counteract any interference signals in a targeted manner in order to ensure smooth communication with its own satellites. At Starlink, this technology should also be used offensively. In this case, interference signals are likely to be sent to satellites in a targeted manner.
A total of seven Tobol complexes have been found in Russia, according to the Washington Post, always at facilities where satellite orbits are tracked. According to the secret documents, attempts have now been made at three locations to use the technology against Starlink in Ukraine. These are facilities in the Kaliningrad exclave, near Moscow, and in Armavir near Crimea. Together, the locations literally enclose the war zone in Ukraine. Russia’s goal was to render the Starlink satellite internet unusable in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which had been under fighting for months.
Attempts successful or not?
The Washington Post quotes from the unpublished document that the attempted attack began in late September. They should therefore last 25 days, but probably ran for months. The document prepared for the US government was only written earlier this year and does not contain a word on the reasons why the experiment has been running much longer. It is possible that the attempts were successful, or that Russia encountered problems. Neither the US Department of Defense nor SpaceX had commented, and Ukraine had said that measures were being taken to neutralize the attempts.
SpaceX has been building Starlink since 2019 and the service has more than a million users in total. More than 3,800 active satellites currently enable fast internet connections in countries on all continents. In the future, 30,000 satellites will primarily connect regions where conventional technology is not economical. The past year has shown how valuable technology is for Ukraine’s defense, which at the same time is a thorn in the side of Russia and China in particular. So far, there have been reports, especially from the Middle Kingdom, about how to proceed against Starlink.