Vladimir Putin’s Outdated Satellite Network Hinders Russia’s Military
Russia is facing challenges in its military operations due to the outdated and less accurate Glonass satellite network, in contrast to the US-run Global Positioning System (GPS). While Ukraine has been able to utilize precision rockets guided by US satellites and Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite constellation, Russia is lagging behind. Glonass was created by the USSR in the 1980s as a rival to GPS, and while Russia has made updates to its constellation over the years, it is still not as accurate. This has affected Russia’s ability to use smart weapons and has forced them to resort to workarounds, including creating larger bombs to compensate for the lack of accuracy.
Russia also relies on less-secure commercial-grade GPS signals for frequent attacks on civilian targets. The country’s efforts to fix and upgrade the Glonass network have been delayed, with only one new satellite launched so far. More than half of the current Glonass satellites are outdated and nearing their use-by date, requiring Russia to launch 20 new satellites by the end of the decade. The lack of electronic capabilities and foreign component reliance pose additional challenges to upgrading the system.
In contrast, Ukraine has been able to take advantage of US-provided codes that allow access to more secure military-grade GPS signals, aiding their military operations against Russian forces. The US has also provided Ukraine with GPS-guided weapons for attacking Russian positions. Russia’s inability to keep up with satellite technology, combined with the effects of sanctions and revenue losses, has hindered their progress in upgrading their satellite network.
Similar challenges exist in the US, where delays and budget overruns have affected GPS upgrades. The GPS system is no longer the most accurate, with the EU’s Galileo and China’s BeiDou networks surpassing it. Both Russia and the US face difficulties in updating their satellite networks and keeping up with global advances in satellite technology.
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