US Air Force Taps Starlink for Indo-Pacific Communication, Saving Hundreds of Thousands

The US Air Force has begun using commercial Starlink satellites to communicate with airmen dispersed across the extensive Indo-Pacific region, according to officials at the US Forces Japan base, reports Stars and Stripes.

The 730th Air Mobility Squadron recently showcased one of three newly acquired Starlink terminals during a visit by the Air Force Expeditionary Center’s Commander, Maj. Gen. John Klein.

SpaceX recently launched its first Starlink V2 Mini satellites, a modified version of satellites destined to be deployed in the future by its Starship rocket. Starlink satellites are in low-Earth orbit, allowing for much faster internet speeds compared to traditional satellites much further away.

A demonstration at Yokota Air Base involved a Starlink terminal set up in a C-130J Super Hercules airlifter, enabling Klein to video conference with an airman using another Starlink terminal over 5,000 miles away on Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean. Klein expressed his admiration for the technology, saying, “I was extremely impressed with the capability.”

The Starlink systems, costing $350 each and providing data at 120 megabytes per second under a $109-per-month subscription, are compatible with the Air Force’s secure internet routers for secret communication.

Compared to the Air Force’s Hawkeye satellite internet system, Starlink offers faster speeds at a fraction of the cost. Normally, a Hawkeye dish costs $250,000 and has speeds of 4 megabytes per second. However, the drawback is that Starlink is a commercial service not controlled by the U.S. government.

Well, at least we can feel good about the savings U.S. taxpayers are gaining from using Starlink versus a Hawkeye dish. Bypassing three Hawkeye dishes means not spending $750,000 on hardware, whereas Starlink kits are $350 each.

Last year, we read about the U.S. Air Force using Starlink to communicate with fighter jets, while also expanding Starlink to test in Africa and Europe.