Four satellite communications antennas are among the weapons and assets the U.S. is delivering to Ukraine as part of a new $275 million security assistance package, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters on Friday.
This marks the first time SATCOM antennas coming directly from the Defense Department’s arsenal are being delivered to support Ukraine’s ongoing fight against Russia, she confirmed.
Those capabilities are also being issued amid friction between SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and the DOD regarding future funding for the Starlink satellite communication network the tech mogul originally provided free-of-charge to some Ukrainians, enabling connectivity necessary to combat Russia’s invasion.
“We’re seeing Ukrainian infrastructure and electrical grids being targeted by the Russians, and these antennas provide an additional capability on the ground at a critical time when Ukraine’s infrastructure is being hit. These SATCOM antennas are not intended to serve as a substitute for a service like Starlink — they help increase communication efforts on the battlefield,” Singh said during a press briefing at the Pentagon.
Built by Musk’s SpaceX, the donated Starlink satellite internet terminals and associated capabilities have supplied the Ukrainian military with vital communication channels and helped members to remain connected even if their usual mechanisms are damaged in warfare. Last month, Musk reportedly penned a letter to Pentagon leadership warning that his company could no longer fund the satellites and services — and requested that DOD financially back Ukraine’s access to Starlink.
Following deeper looks into how Starlink is funded, Musk more recently committed in a tweet to “just keep funding the Ukraine [government] for free” — at least for now.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters: “I don’t have any updates to provide in terms of what the DOD may be prepared to fund as it relates to satellite communication. As we’ve mentioned before, we are discussing that capability requirement with SpaceX and other companies. But, as of right now, I don’t have any announcements to make.”
On Friday, Singh noted that the four SATCOM antennas in the new security package “are going to provide additional communications capabilities to the Ukrainians at a critical time, but are separate from what Starlink provides.” Such antennas can work with different types of satellites.
Still, Singh said there’s no link to the uncertainty around the supply of Starlink resources and the announcement that the four SATCOM antennas are being delivered.
“While the Ukrainians do have access to the Starlink capabilities, having additional SATCOM capabilities on the ground is certainly helpful for them. It provides for better … command and control on the ground and so — but nothing to do with terms of access to Starlink,” she told reporters.
Singh later told DefenseScoop in an email that DOD has “nothing to share in terms of what components these SATCOMS come from, that’s an op sec [operational security] issue.”
This new authorization is the Biden administration’s 24th drawdown of equipment from DOD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021. The U.S. has committed approximately $17.9 billion worth of security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February, according to the Pentagon.
Beyond the SATCOM antennas, Singh confirmed that the latest security assistance package also includes:
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
- 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds
- 2,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems
- More than 1,300 anti-armor systems
- 125 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs)
- Small arms and more than 2.75 million rounds of small arms ammunition.