Japan SDF trialling Starlink for ship crews' personal Internet use

Illustrative photo - Getty

TOKYO: The Japan Self-Defence Forces (SDF) recently began trialing the use of the Starlink satellite internet service offered by American aerospace company SpaceX to give deployed crew of its maritime branch's vessels access to the web for personal use, Kyodo news agency reported.

Two Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) training ships have been equipped with Starlink antennas, which link up with over 6,000 low-orbit satellites, allowing smartphones and other web-enabled devices to connect and access high-speed internet in remote areas.

The MSDF said it aims to install the Starlink system on about 90 percent of its surface vessels in the next three years as it endeavors to attract young recruits with benefits like access to the internet during off-duty hours, a perk that would be especially valuable for personnel on long missions.

The service's data-downloading speed tops out at 220 megabits per second, according to KDDI Corp., a major Japanese telecom company that provides the Starlink service in partnership with the U.S. space firm founded by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk.

The system is capable of allowing several connected devices to stream video at the same time, it said.

Currently, most crew serving on vessels can only send emails twice per day from sea to recipients who are registered in advance, according to the MSDF.

During the two ships' training mission that started last month, the MSDF will examine the service's communications capacity at sea and the durability of related equipment, as well as the possibility of adopting the service for official operations.

A decision to use a service provided by a private company in official operations does not come without risk, however, with Musk already having come under fire for Starlink's role in the Ukraine war.

Since SpaceX launched Starlink internet service for maritime customers in July last year, the MSDF had been considering introducing it to some of its ships.

Japan's SDF face growing security challenges represented by China's rapid military buildup and North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, but the country's low birthrate, among other factors, has been threatening its efforts to attract new recruits.

The training ships, the Kashima and the Shimakaze, plan to tour 11 nations across the world, such as South Africa, Italy, Turkey, Britain and the United States, during their 175-day voyage, with about 570 people including around 190 MSDF officer candidates aboard. - Bernama-Kyodo

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