The U.S. Navy is buying eight more Sub HDR (OE-562) antenna kits, for about $3.5 million each. Each kit, which is attached to a mast which breaks the surface, while the sub remains submerged, allows satellite communications. A dome protects a 40 cm (16 inch) satellite dish. The antenna provides two way, 256 kbs data transfer, which is about five times the speed of a dial-up Internet connection. The first of these systems was installed in 2000, and was a hundred times faster than the one it replaced. The higher speed made a big difference.
Most of the data traffic is military related, allowing the transfer of images, Internet traffic, as well as video conferencing. The signal is encrypted. The ability to send and receive email is a big morale boost for the crew, which previously spent long periods without contact with the folks back home.