Japan Self-Defense Forces Trials SpaceX’s Starlink

The Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have launched a trial by incorporating SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service into their maritime operations. This trial aims to test the viability of Starlink to provide the crews of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) with reliable and high-speed internet access, enhancing their quality of life during deployments and potentially revolutionizing communication capabilities within the force.

Two MSDF training ships, the Kashima and the Shimakaze, have been equipped with Starlink antennas, reports Kyodo News. This setup allows crew members to connect their smartphones and other web-enabled devices to the internet, even in the most remote maritime locations.

The trial on the Kashima and Shimakaze come as the two ships are on a 175-day voyage, visiting 11 countries, including South Africa, Italy, Turkey, Britain, and the United States, with around 570 people on board, including 190 officer candidates.

The MSDF plans to equip approximately 90 percent of its surface vessels with Starlink antennas within the next three years. The trial phase, which began last month, includes evaluating the system’s communications capacity at sea, the durability of the equipment, and the feasibility of using the service for official operations. This evaluation period is critical as the MSDF considers the benefits and risks of relying on a private company’s service for official military communications.

Integrating Starlink has the potential to be a life changing improvement for MDSF crew members, most of which can only send emails twice daily to pre-registered recipients while at sea. There would be no such limitations with Starlink, enabling crew members to stream video simultaneously, significantly enhancing communication and entertainment options for during off-duty hours.

This Starlink trial is part of a broader strategy by the MSDF to attract young recruits by offering modern amenities that make long deployments more bearable.

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