Japan Self-Defense Force launches trial for Starlink use in maritime vessels

Credit: SpaceX

The Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) has started testing SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service on two of its Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) training vessels. As per a local report, Starlink is being used on the MSDF ships as a way for crew members to access the world wide web during their off-duty hours. 

With Starlink on board, the two MSDF training ships, Kashima and Shimakaze, are expected to see download speeds of about 220 Mbps, as per KDDI Corp., the Japanese telecom company providing the satellite internet service in partnership with SpaceX. Such speeds are expected to be enough to allow multiple devices to stream videos simultaneously. Prior to Starlink, off-duty crew members on MSDF’s ships could only send emails twice per day and only to registered recipients, as noted in a Kyodo News report.

While only two MSDF ships are equipped with Starlink for now, the target is to install Starlink on about 90% of the MSDF’s surface vessels in the next three years. In a way, the inclusion of Starlink — provided that the service proves valuable in its current trial in the Kashima and Shimakaze — could serve as a recruitment tool for aspiring members of the MSDF. 

Starlink would likely be tested extensively in the Kashima and Shimakaze, as the two training ships are expected to 175-day voyage visiting 11 countries such as Italy, Turkey, Britain, and the United States, among others. The two ships also have over 570 personnel on board, including 190 MSDF officer candidates. Needless to say, Starlink will see extensive use during the two training ships’ 175-day mission.

The Starlink pilot program comes as the MSDF grapples with growing security challenges surrounding China’s activities in Southeast Asia near the Philippines and the ever-present threat of North Korea’s nuclear program. Speculations also suggest that Japan’s low birth is a potential headwind for the Japan Self-Defense Force’s efforts to recruit new members. 

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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