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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 16, 2023

The Coast Guard is investing in underway connectivity ... and it’s paying off!

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG staff writer

The Coast Guard is aggressively adding Starlink commercial satellite communications on most cutters. This next-generation upgrade provides a twenty-fold increase in the speed of shipboard networks.  

The C5I team already installed Starlink on 17 cutters and targets all major cutters (WMSL, WMEC, Polars) for completion by the end of this calendar year. WLBs (225s) and FRCs (154s) are targeted during 2024, along with the 17 WPBs (87s) that have installed legacy commercial satellite communications.  

Starlink technology provides the bandwidth and latency for shipboard users that is on par with those working at a desk in an office ashore.

Bandwidth and latency are two different aspects of network performance. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred over a network for a definite period of time. Latency is the amount of time it takes for a bits of data to travel from one point on a network to another.

Underway users already equipped with Starlink are experiencing drastic increases in connection capability, such as connectivity to CG applications including Direct Access, FSMS, SharePoint, OneDrive and the full suite of DOD365 apps, and the ability to seamlessly upload and download large media files.  

Starlink's performance more easily allows underway users to access personal email, banking and social media. And soon all users will have Dial-In Phone System (DIPS), a new capability that assigns a unique telephone number to every member of the workforce to last for the duration of their career. With it, you will be able to make and receive phone calls, and have voicemail, within DoD365 Teams....even underway! (Watch out for another MyCG article next week for more information about DIPS!) 

Starlink also provides global coverage, notably in the high latitudes. The cutter Eagle experienced minimal to no loss in coverage while crossing the North Atlantic to the Azores. Capt. Jessica Rozzi-Ochs says, “Starlink has seamless transition from satellite to satellite, unlike the legacy system, which drops service while it looks for and tracks a new satellite. This was particularly impressive when we experienced heavy weather (20+ foot seas, hard rain, 40-50 knots of wind) and Starlink didn’t go down once.” 

Gone will be the days of having to come back to port only to spend hours or days at the computer because you lacked connectivity while underway.  

The Eagle’s crew reported great success with their Starlink. By having consistent access to the Financial System Management Solution (FSMS), Eagle’s supply office reduced the number of offline requisitions, which minimized human error in tracking commitments and expenditures underway. They were able to better communicate with vendors and partners, streamlining the acquisition processes and coordinating port services for their port calls. With this enhance communication, they procured parts essential for maintaining the cutter fully mission capable even when short turnaround times were necessary.  

The Eagle’s crew was able to frequently upload pictures and video to social media accounts in near-real time while underway. These timely posts reached a wide audience, with several posts reaching over 45,000 views.  

Starlink will help alleviate one of the greatest burdens on our cutter community: intermittent connectivity. This capability will transform shipboard life, and serve as an invaluable tool for recruitment, retention, and the sea duty attractiveness.