The UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship Argus has been installed with a low Earth orbit satellite internet capability for use by its 400-strong crew, following a programme of work conducted by communication network OneWeb and distribution partner, Airbus.

An installed maritime terminal will provide low latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to the RFA support ship when deployed on operations. The Kymeta Peregrine u8 terminal, fitted as a pilot while RFA Argus was docked in Falmouth this summer, is the first time that satellite-connectivity technology has been installed one a serving military vessel using the OneWeb network.

RFA Argus serves as the UK’s Primary Casualty Receiving Ship with a 100-bed hospital in times of conflict and is also used as a training vessel for military helicopters operating at sea. In addition, the auxiliary deploys on counter-narcotics and humanitarian aid/disaster relief duties and can support amphibious operations.

Broadband connectively is virtually a prerequisite in the commercial and civilian world but military use when deployed is difficult due to operational security purposes.

According to a OneWeb release, quoting Lieutenant Commander Ben Slater from the Royal Navy’s specialist Digital unit, “enhanced connectivity, such as that delivered by low Earth orbit satellite networks” was an area that the Royal Navy was looking to exploit.

“Through close collaboration with industry partners, we have been able to fit a capability onboard RFA Argus that will enable her crew to keep in touch with family and friends over the OneWeb satellite network and are looking forward to seeing how it performs at sea for the first time on a naval vessel,” Slater added.

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The installation of such technology appears could be a test case for potential wider applications throughout the naval service, which unlike its land or air domain counterparts can see crews deployed for months away from family and friends.

RFA Argus was launched as a roll-on, roll-off ferry and container ship in 1981, and was taken up from trade at the onset of the Falkland’s War and used as an aircraft transport vessel before being bought outright.