Garmin is the official smartwatch of Space Force

Solar intensity readings on the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar
The Garmin Instinct 2 Solar (Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Two-thirds of U.S. Space Force Guardians are wearing Garmin watches to test their physical readiness.
  • Wearing Garmin Forerunner 55 or Instinct 2 Solar watches will make service members "exempt" from U.S. Air Force physical fitness assessments. 
  • Garmin is known for making Tactical watches that cater to the military or security forces, but Space Force isn't using these. 

The U.S. Space Force, formerly Air Force Space Command, is testing whether or not Garmin watches can serve as an alternative to official physical fitness assessments and an incentive to hit "higher overall operational performance."

Garmin's press release confirms that two-thirds of the 8,400 Space Force members have begun wearing Garmin watches to log their workouts and report back to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Specifically, service members are using the Garmin Instinct 2 Solar and Garmin Forerunner 55. Aside from battery life and "high-quality biometric data," these watches were chosen because they can "disable GPS functionality" and because they're "compliant with federal privacy and cybersecurity standards for software, sensors, and data encryption."

We're a bit surprised that Garmin didn't give them the revamped models like the Instinct 2X Solar or Forerunner 255, but perhaps the military is sticking with older, cheaper models to start until it judges whether the program is worth the effort.

The report doesn't say if the military is using the Instinct 2 Solar Tactical Edition, which has specialized features like a GPS kill switch, Night Vision Mode, and "Stealth Mode." 

Garmin Forerunner 55

The Garmin Forerunner 55 (Image credit: Courtney Lynch / Android Central)

Considering the Forerunner 55 doesn't have tactical features, it's likely that Space Force doesn't necessarily care about them as much as the straightforward health data and workout recommendations and that it's "designed end-to-end to protect sensitive user data."

"By tracking two basic metrics—cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity—we can quickly verify that a Guardian has met their physical requirements and is ready for duty," said AFRL's Dr. James Christensen. 

Depending on how Garmin watches perform in terms of accuracy, the AFRL will "advise on future efforts to make smartwatches a permanent option."

Although Space Force doesn't have the same reputation as other military agencies — thanks in part to Americans being unclear about what it does, and in part because of the canceled Netflix series starring Steve Carell — its Air Force physical standards are quite rigorous. For instance, you need to be able to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes and complete a high number of push-ups and sit-ups in one session.

We're fairly certain that Garmin watches, like most tech, won't actually work in space. But that unlikely scenario aside, we're curious to see whether or not Garmin passes the Air Force's scrutiny. If it does, that'll be another point in Garmin watches' favor as being one of the most accurate and reliable options for fitness guidance. 

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.