NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland, USA. —
Elon Musk’s refusal to allow Ukraine to use its Starlink internet service to launch a surprise attack on Russian forces in Crimea last September raised questions about whether the US military should have been told which is more clear in the future contracts that can be made with the services or Products they get. will be used in wars, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Monday.
Excerpts from a new biography of the businessman who owns SpaceX published by The Washington Post last week revealed that, in September 2022, the Ukrainians requested the support of Starlink to attack Russian ships anchored in the port of Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula. . Musk declined due to concerns that Russia would launch a nuclear strike in retaliation. Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and claims it as its territory.
Musk was not signing a military contract when he rejected that request to attack Crimea; He provided free terminals to Ukraine in response to the invasion launched by Russia in February 2022. However, in the months since then, the US military has funded and contracted Starlink services for continued support. The Pentagon did not disclose the terms or cost of the alleged contract, arguing that it was done for operational security reasons.
But the Pentagon is leaning on SpaceX more than the Ukrainian response, and the uncertainty that Musk or any other commercial supplier might refuse to provide services in a future conflict is causing military space system planners to reconsider. also what should be clearly specified. future agreements, Kendall said during a roundtable with reporters Monday at the Air Force Association convention in National Harbor, Maryland.
“If we’re going to rely on commercial architectures or commercial systems for operational use, then we need to have some guarantees that they will work,” Kendall said. “We need that. Otherwise it is an advantage and perhaps a saving in times of peace, but it is not something we can rely on in times of war.
SpaceX also has a contract to help the Air Force Air Mobility Command build a rocket ship that can easily transport military cargo to a conflict or disaster zone, easing the military’s reliance on aircraft or ships. Although he did not specifically target SpaceX, General Mike Minihan, head of the Air Mobility Command, said that “American industry must have a clear vision of the full spectrum of uses that can be used.”
As the U.S. military’s investments in space have increased in recent years, concerns revolve around how to hold commercial suppliers harmless if a launch goes wrong, and whether the U.S. military The United States has an obligation to protect the companies’ assets, such as their satellites or ground stations, when they provide military support in a conflict.
Until Musk rejected Ukraine’s request, there was no focus on whether to establish language specifying that a company that provides military support in a war must agree that such support can be used in combat.
“We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the services, the platforms that are needed to serve the mission of the Air Force, or in this case, the Department of the Air Force,” said Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for procurement, technology and logistics. “So that’s an expectation, that it will be used for Air Force purposes, which will include, if necessary, use in support of combat operations.”