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AUSA 2023: US Army testing out SpaceX satcom capability

Starshield system is utilised during Exercise ‘Vanguard' on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. (Lance Cpl. Joseph E. DeMarcus)

The US Army's 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) will be one of the first units to use SpaceX's new defence capability in theatre, the commanding general of the formation told Janes on 4 October.

The brigade received four Starshield systems – the military variant of SpaceX's low-Earth orbit satellite constellation for communications – on 1 October, US Army Colonel Brandon Teague, 5th SFAB commander, said in an interview ahead of the Association of United States Army (AUSA) 2023 annual conference.

The systems will be used at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center for a training rotation from late October to early November. The first set of Starshield systems were deployed into the Pacific theatre where the 5th SFAB is based with the force package that rotated on 1 October 2023, Col Teague said.

The systems will serve as redundant communications for the brigade as it participates in its validation exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Col Teague added.

The commercial satellite capabilities provide a backup if traditional military satellite communications (satcom) or internet service provider systems fail. “If we can't talk back to our headquarters or to our subordinates, we necessarily can't fight,” Col Teague said.

The system is “easy” for an unspecialised soldier to set up and provides internet access for two command posts, US Army Major Garren Bremer, communications staff officer for the 5th SFAB, told Janes in an email.

“We are able to use this internet connection with our existing equipment set to provide both secure and unsecure communications in support of our operations,” Maj Bremer said on 4 October.

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