Starlink Might Face Off Against New Russian Radar Claiming 5 Meter Location Accuracy

Ramish Zafar
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket cuts through the clouds during its Starlink launch on September 24th, 2022. Image: SpaceX

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A Russian military blogger will start testing kits to detect Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) Starlink satellite internet terminals. These detection kits are manufactured by an arms factory that is located in a district of Russia's St. Petersburg, according to a website dedicated solely to marketing them. This website, combined with a military blogger announcing on Telegram that these kits will be used on the battlefield, comes as Russia's invasion of Ukraine is about to enter its first new year. Starlink has played a crucial role in enabling the Ukrainians to maintain connectivity after devastating attacks on civilian infrastructure have killed countless and disrupted the way of living in the war torn country.

 Starlink User Detection Kit Claims To Detect Terminals With As Low As 5 Meter Accuracy

The 'kit' appears to be an antenna mounted on a vehicle with the sole aim of hunting down Starlink terminals. Dubbed "Borschevik," by its manufacturer, the equipment claims to have an accuracy that goes as low as five meters when searching for the user dishes. An arms manufacturer builds it in the Sestroretsk district of St. Petersburg, located in the Western half of the world's largest country in terms of area.

Sestroretsk arms factory's website is rather amateurishly built and only lists the Borschevik as a weapon - implying that it was constructed solely for this purpose and particularly to send a message that Russia is getting close to disrupting SpaceX's remarkable service. This is not the first time that the Russians have implied military action against Starlink, as multiple threats in the United Nations have seen them reserve the right to take military action against civilian infrastructures - such as the Starlink satellites and those belonging to Maxas Technologies - that is being used against them on the battleground.

While Starlink has helped the Ukrainians to communicate with each other, Maxar's satellites have provided high-resolution pictures of Russian army positions.

An illustration of Borschevik deployed on the battlefield to detect Starlink user terminals provided by a website belonging to the Sestroretsk Toolmaking Factory.

Specifications provided on the website outline that the kit can detect the dishes with an accuracy that ranges between five meters to sixty meters. It can deploy in just five minutes, has an operating range of 10 kilometers, and takes 15 minutes to find the user dish (called pelengation). At this point, it is crucial to note that the actual skill of using the Borschevik will be of the Russian army since getting 10 kilometers to an enemy's location would imply that they will also have to deal with other problems in addition to hunting down Starlink user dishes. However, in intense situations, it can provide the Russian side with an advantage depending on accuracy.

This low range is likely influenced by the frequency bands used by the equipment, which, according to the website, relies on the 2.4 GHz and the 5.8 GHz bands to function. Lower bands have lower ranges, too, with other parameters, such as transmitter power, also playing a crucial role. Starlink, on the other hand, does not use these bands for either uploading or downloading the data from its 3,000+ low Earth orbit satellites.

The website outlines that the Borschevik can also be painted with camouflage, and it only relies on the vehicle's power source to run. The Sestroretsk Toolmaking Factory is one of the oldest munitions factories in Russia; in fact, the Russian monarch Peter the Great had initially set up the factory first in 1721, resulting in a sprawling town built to house the workers.

Finally, a Telegram post shared by Notebookcheck claims that a Russian military blogger plans to test the Borschevik soon in Ukraine. The blogger outlines that the kit was revealed to him in discussions surrounding an escorting radar.

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