SpaceX’s Starlink is helping the US Air Force communicate with its airmen operating in the Indo-Pacific region.
The 730th Air Mobility Squadron displayed one of the Starlink terminals it recently acquired while receiving the visit of the Air Force Expeditionary Center’s commander, Maj. Gen. John Klein. The terminal installed aboard the C-130J Super Hercules airlifter helped Klein video-conference with an airman also connecting through Starlink. The Major was in Yokota while the airman was on Diego Garcia island, more than 5,000 miles away, as Stars and Stripes reports.
Klein noted Starlink could have helped with evacuating US troops and civilians in Afghanistan in 2021. He said, “I was extremely impressed with the capability. We are looking to give our units throughout the Pacific the ability to communicate with command-and-control entities. They are evolving to do that in support of agile combat employment.”
Agile combat employment allows the Air Force to move aircraft quickly to a network of smaller airfields. The US forces are building up their agile combat employment capabilities to avoid missiles in the case of war.
The Air Force operates its own satellite internet system called Hawkeye. However, it is astronomically more expensive and slower than Starlink; one Hawkeye dish costs $250,000 and provides only 4 MB per second.
The US military began testing Starlink in the Arctic last November.
Starlink has been used on the Ukraine side in the invasion by Russia. However, it is finding more uses outside war theatres, as recently rolled out in Hawaii.