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5G Dominance: Unveiling the US Military’s Strategic Leap and the Rise of a 5G Arms Race

In a bold move that marks a significant shift in the landscape of modern warfare, the United States has officially launched its 5G military strategy, declaring the race for 5G dominance as a new arms race. This development is set to reshape the future of military operations, with profound implications for global security and technological advancements.


The Promise of 5G for Civilian and Military

The advent of 5G technology holds immense promise for various sectors, ushering in a new era of connectivity and innovation. Beyond providing fast internet access for everyone, 5G has the potential to revolutionize multiple domains, including smart cities, driverless cars, critical healthcare, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) revolution, and secure communication for critical infrastructures and services. The International Telecommunication Union envisions a seamlessly connected society that brings together people, data, applications, transport systems, and cities in a smart, networked communications environment.


Compared to the current 3G or 4G networks, 5G networks will have the capacity to handle a staggering 10,000 times more call and data traffic. This capacity will enable a wide array of machine-to-machine services, such as wireless metering, mobile payments, smart grids, critical infrastructure monitoring, connected homes, smart transportation, and telemedicine. To support the future’s cloud storage and computing infrastructure, 5G networks will deliver end-to-end latency of less than 5 milliseconds and over-the-air latency of less than one millisecond, which is one-tenth the latency of a 4G network. This ultra-low latency is essential for applications like remote surgery, where doctors need to command equipment in real-time for procedures on patients located in different buildings.


In addition to its civilian applications, 5G also holds tremendous value for military operations. What sets 5G apart is its ability to leverage higher frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum, alongside the mid- and low-range frequencies accessible to its predecessor, 4G. By incorporating high-range frequencies, the military can transmit vast amounts of information, including critical communications required for edge operations and sensor data, at faster speeds and lower latency. The versatility of 5G allows for efficient maneuvering around the spectrum, enabling actions to be performed on the most suitable frequency for a given situation.


Overall, the power of 5G lies in its capacity to deliver superior connectivity, speed, and reliability. As this revolutionary technology continues to advance, both civilian and military sectors stand to benefit immensely, unlocking unprecedented opportunities for innovation, efficiency, and enhanced capabilities. The era of 5G is upon us, and its potential to reshape our world is vast and far-reaching.


For a deeper understanding of 5G and its applications please visit:  Understanding 5G Technology and Its Implications


5G geopolitics

The geopolitics of 5G is a complex and ever-changing landscape. The United States and China are the two leading players in the 5G race, and their respective strategies have profound implications for the global economy and security. The COVID-19 pandemic has also shaped the 5G geopolitics, as it has accelerated the demand for 5G-enabled services.

The United States has taken a number of steps to try to prevent Huawei, the leading Chinese 5G supplier, from gaining a foothold in the global market. The US has banned its companies from using Huawei equipment, and it has continued to pressure other countries to do the same. The concern stems from the potential for Chinese equipment to be exploited for data collection by their intelligence apparatus, posing significant national security risks for the United States and its allies.

In 2022, the United States and the European Union announced a joint effort to counter China’s dominance in the 5G market. The United States has also been working to develop its own 5G technology, and it has announced plans to invest $100 billion in 5G research and development. As stated in the Department of Defense 5G Strategy, mastering advanced communication technologies and ubiquitous connectivity will provide long-term economic and military superiority.

China has responded to these moves by accusing the United States of trying to stifle its economic growth. It has also warned that the US sanctions could have a negative impact on global 5G development. China has continued to invest heavily in 5G, and it is now the world’s leading 5G market. Chinese companies are heavily involved in the development of both 5G and emerging 6G technologies. Their market share could further increase, particularly due to China’s support for companies involved in building 5G infrastructure in countries where they invest as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The 5G geopolitics is also being shaped by the rise of other countries, such as South Korea and Japan. These countries are investing heavily in 5G, and they are looking to become major players in the global market. Norway, notably, is exploring dedicating software-defined networks in commercial 5G infrastructure to support military missions.

The 5G geopolitics is still in its early stages, but it is clear that it will have a major impact on the global economy and security. The concerns over data security, national security, and technological leadership are driving countries to carefully evaluate their options and establish strategies to protect their interests in an increasingly interconnected world. The outcome of the 5G race will have a significant impact on the balance of power between the United States and China, and it will also determine which countries are able to reap the economic benefits of 5G.


Military requirements enabled by 5G

5G technology presents a range of military requirements and capabilities that can significantly enhance military operations on future battlefields.

The Pentagon recognizes 5G as a crucial technology, particularly for electromagnetic spectrum operations, according to Tom Rondeau, principal director for FutureG and 5G at the Pentagon’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

A significant number of military weapon systems and applications rely on the electromagnetic spectrum, which encompasses a range of frequencies or wavelengths of electromagnetic energy. Wireless communications, satellites, signal intelligence, and radar technologies heavily depend on the spectrum to support military operations, situational awareness, and electronic warfare.

The advantages of 5G in military applications are significant. One key advantage of 5G is its flexibility through network slicing. This feature allows operators to create separate, isolated, and secure networks tailored to specific applications’ needs. This capability meets the Defense Department’s demand for unique network requirements across its various platforms, eliminating the need to build purpose-built networks from scratch or adhere to shared network requirements.

Moreover, 5G plays a pivotal role in enabling the Military Internet of Things (MIoT). Similar to the civilian Internet of Things (IoT), MIoT involves a multitude of platforms, ranging from ships and aircraft to ground vehicles and weapon systems. MIoT has the potential to bring significant efficiencies, improve safety and service delivery, and achieve cost savings for the military.

Machine-to-machine communication, leveraging data from various sources to form a comprehensive battlefield picture, and AI-assisted decision-making are among the trends predicted by industry experts. The Internet of Things (IoT) can enable close-range telecommunications and device-to-device communication without relying on satellites or early-warning planes. Such capabilities save resources and reduce the cost of military operations, as highlighted in a 2017 report from China Defence News.

The higher performance and additional capabilities offered by 5G, especially in data-driven applications and machine-to-machine communication, are critical for the military. These capabilities lay the foundation for a new networked way of warfare that integrates sensors and machines, revolutionizing the battlespace, logistics, and support functions. The Defense Department emphasizes the importance of having access to a trustworthy 5G defense industrial base to provide reliable and secure 5G technologies.

The military’s requirements for high-mobility connectivity are also met by 5G. Samsung researchers achieved a data rate of 1.2 Gbps, or 150 MB per second, on a vehicle cruising at over 100 km/h, demonstrating the potential for real-time streaming video from sources like drones to soldiers on the ground.

Military’s growing requirements to gather, analyze, and share information rapidly; to control an increasing number of automated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets; to command geographically dispersed and mobile forces to gain access into denied areas; and to “train as we fight” requires that DoD maintain sufficient spectrum access,” says DOD’s Electromagnetic Spectrum Strategy unveiled in February 2014. This requirement drives the move to higher radio frequencies, such as 60 GHz and 94 GHz, to achieve higher data rates and support situational awareness.

The significant investments and advancements in 5G technologies, including mmWave communications and low-cost phased array antennas, benefit existing military applications, such as satellite communication and higher-end phased-array radars. The commercial industry’s growth and production of components and systems for 5G lead to cost reductions and productivity advancements for military applications.

5G also enables the deployment of wireless mesh networks, which are robust, self-healing, and can find the best route for communications packets based on traffic levels and available bandwidth. These mesh networks improve bandwidth, reduce power consumption, lower infrastructure costs, and enhance spectral efficiency.

In military engagements, where communication needs to be spontaneous, 5G provides deployable solutions with little or no fixed architecture. Adhoc sensor networks, deployed for battlefield surveillance and detecting CBRNE attacks and materials, can benefit from 5G’s capabilities. Additionally, mobile phones integrated with sensor capabilities can form wireless sensor networks, enhancing situational awareness and data collection capabilities.

In conclusion, 5G technology offers a range of military requirements and capabilities, including enhanced connectivity, flexible network solutions, support for IoT and MIoT, high-mobility connectivity, improved information sharing, and the deployment of wireless mesh networks. These advancements have the potential to transform military operations, enabling greater efficiency, safety, and effectiveness on the battlefield.



DOD 5G Strategy Implementation plan

The Department of Defense (DoD) has been working to implement its 5G Strategy, which was released in December 2020. The strategy outlines how the DoD plans to use 5G to improve its military capabilities and operations.

One of the key goals of the DoD 5G Strategy is to promote the development of 5G technology. The DoD is working with industry and academia to develop new 5G applications and solutions. The DoD is also investing in research and development to improve the performance and security of 5G networks.

Another key goal of the DoD 5G Strategy is to assess, mitigate, and operate through 5G vulnerabilities. The DoD is aware that 5G networks are vulnerable to cyberattacks. The DoD is working to develop new security measures to protect 5G networks from attack.

The DoD is also working to influence 5G standards and policies. The DoD is a member of the 3GPP, which is the international organization that sets standards for 5G networks. The DoD is working to ensure that 5G standards meet the needs of the military.

The DoD has awarded contracts for 5G testing and experimentation at 16 locations across the country. These locations include Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Naval Base San Diego, California; and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia. The DoD is using these contracts to test and experiment with new 5G applications and solutions.

Congress authorized $120 million more than the Biden administration’s request for 5G technology development, experimentation, and transition support in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. This funding will be used to accelerate the DoD’s 5G efforts, including the development of a 5G-enabled network that will be used for joint operations with allies and partners.

Engaging partners is a key aspect of the DoD’s strategy. The DoD is working to develop a 5G-enabled network that will be used for joint operations with allies and partners. This network will provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity that will be essential for future military operations.  The DoD plans to leverage private, hybrid, or public networks to operate globally and achieve the necessary capabilities for mission success. Techniques such as network slicing and dynamic spectrum utilization will be employed to adapt to different operational environments. The DoD is working with allies and partners to develop this network, and it is expected to be operational in the near future.

The DoD 5G Strategy Implementation Plan is a comprehensive roadmap for the DoD’s use of 5G. The plan outlines the DoD’s goals for 5G and the steps that the DoD is taking to achieve those goals. The plan is essential for ensuring that the DoD is able to take advantage of the benefits of 5G and protect itself from the risks of 5G.


Cybersecurity and ZERO-TRUST

While operating 5G for electromagnetic spectrum operations has security risks, the network itself is designed with security measures built in at every layer, said Sheryl Genco, senior advisor at global telecommunications company Ericsson.


The scale, complexity, and decentralized design of 5G architectures make it infeasible to depend upon perimeter security, which assumes that only trusted devices have been allowed inside the network. DoD will instead develop and validate a zero-trust model for 5G. The zero-trust approach will allow DoD to manage risk, while operating within untrusted network environments by utilizing encryption and fine-grained management of authorities and information access.


The zero-trust paradigm is ideally suited for the emerging 5G network infrastructure. A fundamental assumption of the DoD approach is that underlying equipment and software is not trusted and that some elements are intentionally disruptive to DoD communications. The 5G equipment and network operational practices will be under the control of telecommunications providers throughout the world, with a range of trustworthiness. Network equipment may be exfiltrating data without the expressed knowledge of the network operator. Network equipment or network operational practices may result in failures along communication paths used by DoD traffic, elements of the network and elements within transmission range may attempt to jam parts of the spectrum, and intentionally invalid control messages may be generated at any level of the 5G network.


Spectrum Sharing

The need for advanced communications technologies in the consumer world has caused a growing demand for multiple frequency bands previously reserved for federal agencies, the 2021 Congressional Research Service report noted. With more commercial companies crowding into 5G, there is the possibility that they could disrupt military operations, it read.

The Pentagon and commercial partners are looking into spectrum sharing policies and technologies that will allow both the defense and commercial sectors to share bands on the electromagnetic spectrum without interference.


The Marine Corps is developing capabilities that use 5G radio access networks to produce radio frequency spectrum maps to give the service an idea of what’s happening on different frequencies at different locations, he said.

The capability could also help the Corps identify possible targets or even mitigate interference on the spectrum “that now forms the basis for an electronic support mission, which can inform the electronic attack,” he said.


Hosting  5G Demonstrations

Defense Department officials announced in Oct 2020 the awarding of $600 million in contracts to 15 prime contractors to perform testing and evaluation of 5G technologies at five military installations across the United States, said the acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. The effort — Tranche 1 of the department’s larger 5G initiative — will accelerate adoption of 5G technology, enhance the effectiveness and lethality of U.S. combat forces, and further the development and use of common 5G standards to ensure interoperability with military partners and allies.


DoD has begun hosting 5G at-scale prototyping and experimentation in collaboration with industry at twelve DoD facilities. At each site, a 5G network testbed is being installed, to prototype advanced 5G network technology, and to experiment with DoD use of 5G. Each site is host to at least one prototype 5G-enabled application that utilizes features of 5G to improve DoD capabilities. Each site is also host to prototyping and experimentation with advanced 5G technologies that can enhance the testbed and the application. In addition to the initial experiments being performed at each site, it is anticipated that additional experiments that use the testbeds will be performed.


These demonstrations will develop and test military and dual-use 5G technologies, concepts, and applications. Selected testbeds will benefit industry partners by providing large, complex environments that are suitable for testing the integration of 5G features (e.g., smart ports, supply chain management, and depot operations). Successfully demonstrated and proven products will be rapidly deployed, with follow-on acquisitions, operations, and sustainment through the appropriate organizations across DoD.


“5G is going to change the way we communicate,” the Pentagon’s Lord said earlier. “It will also change our industrial base and how we organize ourselves.” “We’re actually going to go through a whole series of experiments to understand what distances can we communicate over?” Lord continued. “What is the latency? What is the interference? What do we need to do in order to have the right equipment to bring us capability?” And Lord acknowledged that the US military may not be able to source all of its 5G equipment from US companies. “Right now, we as the US have critical capability in terms of chips, [Field Programmable Gate Arrays], many of the components that go into 5G, but we don’t have the infrastructure,” she said. “We are now depending on like-minded nations, our allies and partners, to do that. That’s a new business model for us.”


These efforts are a collaborative effort across DoD, including the Services and the user communities at each facility. By actively engaging with the user community, the prototypes developed in these at-scale experiments can be transitioned to programs of record in the appropriate areas. DoD is prototyping and evaluating 5G technologies in the following initial tranches of experiments:

o At Hill Air Force Base (AFB), the Air Force is evaluating the impact of 5G systems on airborne radars, and vice versa, in the midband spectrum, and developing techniques to dynamically utilize spectrum, enabling radars and 5G systems to coexist.

o At Naval Base San Diego, the Navy is prototyping 5G smart warehouse systems for transshipment of supplies and material through logistics depots to ships at sea.

At Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, the Marine Corps is experimenting with 5G smart warehouse technologies for vehicular storage and maintenance.
o At Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Yakima tactical training site, the Army is experimenting with 5G technologies that enhance readiness and tactical training with the use of Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) capabilities.
o At Nellis AFB, the Air Force is experimenting with resilient command and control (C2) based around nomadic and mobile distributed C2 vehicles interconnected by 5G networks.
o At Naval Station Norfolk, the Navy is evaluating the use of 5G technologies for both ship-wide and pier-side connectivity.
o At Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, the Navy, in collaboration with the Air Force, is seeking to improve aircraft readiness by using 5G for accessing aircraft maintenance data on the flight line.
o At the National Training Center in Fort Irwin the Army is focusing on mobile high-performance wireless connectivity 5G capabilities that can enable Forward Operating Command Posts to become more agile, dispersed, and difficult to detect for survivability on the modern battlefield; at Fort Hood, the Army is focusing on capabilities to enable semi-autonomous operations, remote sensing, and standoff.
o At Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps is experimenting with the use of 5G technologies that support rapid deployment of Combat Operations Centers to improve operations tempo and resilience.
o At Joint Base San Antonio, the Army and Air Force are collaborating to provide secure, resilient and reliable 5G telemedicine applications which enables trusted care, enhances medical training opportunities, and sustains real-time functional capabilities while supporting all DoD medical mission objectives.
o At Tinker AFB, the Air Force is experimenting with 5G-enhanced immersive training and education.
o At Joint Base San Antonio, in collaboration with the other DoD 5G sites, 5G Core networking technologies are being evaluated, with a focus on interoperability, security, and the applicability of 5G features to DoD needs.


5G Could Take the U.S. Air Force to New Heights

The US Air Force recognizes the potential of 5G technology to enhance its operations and combat readiness. By leveraging 5G-powered mobile communications and geospatial functionality, the Air Force’s Special Operations Command aims to streamline costs and improve operational effectiveness.

Furthermore, the implementation of 5G networks in and around the cockpit will enable advanced mobile applications, such as Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) and Electronic Knee Boards (EKBs), which can minimize paper use, reduce fuel costs, and enhance safety. Flight line operations and maintenance teams can leverage secure tablets within a secure 5G environment to view real-time inventory and schematics, better utilize spare parts, manage aircraft diagnostics solutions and more.

AT&T is collaborating with the US Air Force to provide 5G and Networking-as-a-Service capabilities at multiple Air Force bases, including Buckley Air Force Base, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and Offutt Air Force Base. This collaboration aims to transform and modernize the Air Force’s networking infrastructure, delivering enhanced speed, security, capabilities, and improved user experiences, including near-ubiquitous wireless connectivity across the bases. The implementation of 5G services and networking-as-a-service capabilities will support a broad range of use cases, improve mission effectiveness, and enable advanced technologies like IoT, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, drones, and network edge storage and compute.


Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL

Lockheed Martin is at the forefront of developing 5G.MIL solutions that integrate military communications with tactical gateway capabilities and enhanced 5G technology. Their vision is to create a seamless, resilient, and secure network that enables prompt and decisive action on the battlefield.

Fifth Generation (5G) communication systems bring more reliable, higher throughput and ultra low-latency connectivity required for edge devices and platforms, like autonomous systems, to fully harness the power of artificial intelligence.

By leveraging the power of 5G, Lockheed Martin aims to enhance connectivity, data flow, and coordination across all military assets. Aircraft, ships, satellites, tanks, or even individual soldiers could connect their sensors to the secure 5G network via specially modified 5G base stations. Like commercial 5G base stations, these hybrid base stations could handle commercial 5G and 4G LTE cellular traffic. They could also share data via military tactical links and communications systems. In either case, these battlefield connections would take the form of secure mesh networks. In this type of network, nodes have intelligence that enables them to connect to one another directly to self-organize and self-configure into a network, and then jointly manage the flow of data.

Lockheed Martin has made significant progress in implementing the 5G.MIL vision through initiatives like Project Hydra and HiveStar. These initiatives have demonstrated bidirectional communication between different platforms and the assembly of fully functional 5G networks using small base stations deployed on multicopters.

The software-defined aspect is important because it would allow the networks to be reconfigured—automatically—on the fly. That’s a huge challenge right now, but it’s critical because it would provide the flexibility needed to deal with the exigencies of war. At one moment, you might need an enormous video bandwidth in a certain area; in the next, you might need to convey a huge amount of targeting data. Alternatively, different streams of data might need different levels of encryption. Automatically reconfigurable software-defined networks would make all of this possible.

Collaborations with industry partners, including Verizon, Radisys, and Keysight Technologies, further drive the development and testing of 5G.MIL technologies. Through these efforts, Lockheed Martin aims to revolutionize military operations by leveraging the capabilities of 5G to enhance situational awareness, communication, and interoperability on the modern battlefield.

Lockheed Martin is enhancing commercially available 5G technology with military-grade network and transmission security features while leveraging the global reach of 5G to expand access to a worldwide network.


However, this new arms race is not without its challenges. The widespread adoption of 5G brings about new security concerns, as the increased attack surface and interconnectedness of devices can create vulnerabilities that adversaries may exploit. Securing the 5G infrastructure will be of utmost importance to protect critical military operations and prevent potential disruptions.

Additionally, the ethical and legal implications of 5G-enabled military capabilities need careful consideration. As technology evolves, questions around autonomous weapons systems, privacy concerns, and the role of human judgment in the decision-making process will come to the forefront. It is essential to strike a balance between technological advancements and the ethical boundaries that govern their use in warfare.

The rise of a 5G arms race signifies a pivotal moment in history, where the convergence of technology and military strategy has the potential to redefine the nature of warfare. As the US military unveils its 5G dominance strategy, it becomes increasingly clear that the battlefields of the future will be shaped by the speed, efficiency, and information superiority offered by 5G networks. The stakes are high, and the implications far-reaching, making it imperative for nations to adapt and innovate in this rapidly evolving landscape.

In conclusion, the launch of the US military’s 5G strategy and the declaration of a 5G arms race mark a significant turning point in global security. With its unrivaled potential for enhancing military capabilities, 5G technology will revolutionize the way wars are fought and won. As nations vie for supremacy in this race, the implications for both military and civilian domains are immense, underscoring the need for responsible development, robust security measures, and international cooperation to navigate this new era of warfare.


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