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US launches 5G Military strategy and declares 5G competition as a “New arms race.”

This next-generation 5G mobile cellular network holds enormous promise, including fast Internet for everyone, smart cities, driverless cars, critical health care, “internet of things” revolution, and reliable and secure communications for critical infrastructures and services. International Telecommunication Union’s 5G vision is “seamlessly connected society in the 2020-time frame and beyond that brings together people, along with things, data, applications, transport systems and cities, in a smart, networked communications environment.”


A 5G network will be able to handle 10,000 times more call and data traffic than the current 3G or 4G network. This will also make the IoT Vision come true, enable a variety of machine-to-machine services including wireless metering, mobile payments, smart grid and critical infrastructure monitoring, connected home, smart transportation, and telemedicine. To fundamentally support the cloud storage/computing infrastructure of the future, 5G networks will deliver an end-to-end latency of less than 5 milliseconds and over-the-air latency of less than one millisecond which is one-tenth compared to the latency of a 4G network. This will be critical, for example, if doctors are to command equipment to carry out surgery on patients located in different buildings. “In order to realize such a demanding and unprecedented service vision, 5G systems will be required to deliver an order of magnitude cell capacities and per-user data rate compared to its predecessors,” says Samsung 5G vision.


The 5G is also a key technology that shall enable IoT and Military internet of things (MIOT). Analogous to IoT, Military internet of things (MIOT) comprising multitude of platforms, ranging from ships to aircraft to ground vehicles to weapon systems, is expected to be developed. MIoT offers high potential for the military to achieve significant efficiencies, improve safety and delivery of services, and produce major cost savings.


5G geopolitics

The New York Times reported  that the US government has defined 5G competition as a “new arms race.” According to the report, “whichever country dominates 5G will gain an economic, intelligence and military edge for much of this century.” The transition to 5G is a revolution and “this will be almost more important than electricity,” an analyst was quoted by the report as saying. As noted in the Department of Defense 5G Strategy, “5G is a critical strategic technology: those nations that master advanced communications technologies and ubiquitous connectivity will have a long-term economic and military advantage.”


China wants to control the world’s 5G network, Shaffer said. A 5G network would allow a rapid transmission of huge amounts of communications data. The problem with using Chinese 5G equipment is that the Chinese could use it to collect data and feed it to their intelligence apparatus, the deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment said. Most Americans probably are unaware of that threat, Shaffer said, and yet it is a national security risk for the U.S and its allies and partners.


Chinese companies are among the most active in developing 5G and emerging 6G technologies. Chinese firms, notably Huawei and ZTE Corp., have more than 30 percent of the worldwide market for 5G technology, similar to the combined market shares of Ericsson and Nokia. Chinese market share could very well increase: According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the Chinese government backs companies that build 5G infrastructures in countries China invests in as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, in Europe, NATO unveiled its first 5G military test site in Latvia in 2020. Norway, notably, is exploring dedicating software-defined networks in commercial 5G infrastructure to support military missions.


In a recent interview with military technologies publication C4ISRNET, Brent Upson, a director at American aerospace and security company Lockheed Martin, predicted machine-to-machine communication, using information from several sources to form a unified picture of battlespaces, and AI-assisted decision-making would be among the trends in 2019.


“Internet of things involves close-range telecommunications technology to connect and exchange information between two devices, and 5G is the fastest data transmission method to realise it,” said Zhou Zhaoxiong, a senior engineer at China Mobile IoT Company, a subsidiary of China Mobile. Military equipment embedded with communication devices can also form the internet of things, he added. The communication can take place from device to device, without satellites or early-warning planes, saving those limited resources for other uses and significantly lowering the cost of a military operation, according to a 2017 report in China Defence News, a mouthpiece of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).


Washington has maintained that Huawei represents a national security threat and has previously called it an arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state. The government claims that Huawei could collect the data of citizens in other countries and give that to Beijing. Huawei has repeatedly denied those claims. But the U.S. has sought to persuade countries across the world, particularly close allies, to block Huawei from next-generation 5G networks. The technology promises super-fast data speeds and high bandwidth that can underpin critical infrastructure. A report to the White House by the US’ National Security Council called for action and strategy to “protect US technology leadership” and prevent China challenging US dominance in tech.


Countries such as Australia and Japan have essentially blocked Huawei from their 5G infrastructure. Earlier this year, the U.K. said Huawei would be banned from its 5G networks and ordered mobile carriers to strip out any existing gear from the Chinese telco by 2027. In Oct 2020, Sweden became the latest country to exclude Huawei from 5G.



Military requirements enabled by 5G

5G is important to DoD because it offers higher performance and additional capabilities, particularly for data driven applications and for machine-to-machine communication. These capabilities will become the foundation for a new networked way of war that brings together sensors and machines that will revolutionize the battlespace and the logistics and support functions behind the front lines. DoD must have access to a 5G defense industrial base that provides trustworthy 5G technologies.


The military  requires High-mobility connectivity. Communications devices must operate while vehicles or soldiers are mobile, even at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Samsung researchers confirmed the world’s first data rate of 1.2 Gbps, or 150 MB per second on a vehicle cruising at over 100 km/h. 5G soldiers could receive real-time streaming video from aircraft, such as the Predator Drone flying over a battlefield.


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.


The military requirements for higher data rates for network-centric capabilities and the increasing demand for data transmission to support situational awareness is driving the move to higher RF frequencies (60 GHz, 94 GHz). The push to higher radio frequencies makes available greater bandwidths and reductions in size – both attractive propositions for the military in much the same way as it is attractive to civilian users. DARPA, is working on a project called Mobile Hotspots, which would provide millimetre wave communications to troops in remote areas via drones, giving them access to wireless speeds of around 1 Gb per second.


Many 5G systems are based on the wide spectrum available at mmWave frequencies, essentially 30 GHz and above. The giant investments into mmWave will produce a thriving commercial industry generating passive components, radios, power amps, antennas, and the like. This will result in drop in prices of these components, much to the benefit of existing military applications including satellite communication. Similarly  the considerable investment into 5G low-cost phased array antennas, beamforming algorithms, and phase and amplitude adjustable components will lead to cost and productivity advancements for its higher end military  phased-array radars. 5G mobile applications will add real-time tracking as well.


Military is interested in deploying 5G  wireless mesh networks for its communication needs, which are more robust and self-healing, the communications packets find the best route to the destination based on traffic levels and available system bandwidth. 5G, shall enable mesh networking to enable devices to communicate with each other directly rather than via base stations, which should increase the bandwidth, lower power consumption, reduce infrastructure costs, and improve spectral efficiency.


Military engagements are often spontaneous, and a communications solution needs to be, as well. The communication system should be deployable with little or no fixed architecture. 5G shall enable future Military Adhoc sensor networks that are expected to be widely deployed for battlefield surveillance, detecting and characterizing Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) attacks and materials.


Each node may be equipped with a variety of sensors, such as acoustic, seismic, infrared, still/motion video camera, etc. These WSNs may connect to the rest of the world through the 5G cellular network. The Mobile phones may themselves be integrated with more and more actual sensor capabilities and form a wireless sensor network.


DOD 5G Strategy Implementation plan

5G is important to DoD because it offers higher performance and additional capabilities, particularly for data driven applications and for machine-to-machine communication. These capabilities will become the foundation for a new networked way of war that brings together sensors and machines that will revolutionize the battlespace and the logistics and support functions behind the front lines.


DoD will adapt 5G and next  generation technologies to “operate through” contested and constrained spectrum and compromised networks to ensure maximum readiness, lethality, and partnering among allies. Transformational innovations expected to be implemented across the Joint Force include wireless, ubiquitous connectivity across humans, machines, and the Internet of Things. DoD will be an early adopter of disruptive 5G capabilities such as:
o Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – higher quality and rich content services provided to multiple users with full mobility;
o Ultra-reliability and Low Latency (dramatically reduced latency) – supporting delivery of critical communications assured by ultra-reliable and low latency networks; and
o Massive Machine-to-Machine Communications – massive scale automation delivered through widespread sensor networks and multiple connected devices; sensor data from the Internet of Things (IoT) is widely considered as a primary driver for 5G.


The Department of Defense 5G Strategy identified the following as the necessary lines of effort to achieve
the key DoD goals with respect to 5G:
1. Promote technology development,
2. Assess, mitigate, and operate through 5G vulnerabilities,
3. Influence 5G standards and policies, and
4. Engage partners.


DoD will facilitate the advancement and adoption of 5G technology and identify new uses for 5G systems, subsystems, and components by promoting science, technology, research, development, testing and evaluation efforts via unique access to testing sites, spectrum licenses, technical expertise, and resources. DoD will also work with industry and academia to support the development of critical technologies, integrate those technologies within a protected architecture, and demonstrate “transformative 5G and beyond” applications.


The use cases for 5G apply across multiple industry segments, several which are relevant in the Defense context. 5G has the potential to become the communication fabric that supports new efforts in cloud-based AI enhanced distributed sensing. For example, a Smart Port or Smart Flight Line might include sensors (Internet of Things), edge computing, mobile/tablet handsets, augmented reality devices for maintenance, and automated vehicles (machine-to-machine communications).


After the 5G network, platform, or system is deployed, additional security testing should be conducted to ensure that local configurations have not introduced any new vulnerabilities. This process should continue through each patch, update and/or upgrade of the environment or infrastructure throughout its lifespan.


Cybersecurity and ZERO-TRUST

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.


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

Todd Wieser, chief technology officer of the US Air Force’s Special Operations Command, has said 5G tech will enhance his forces’ mobile communications and geospatial functionality. The development of 5G-powered connected military bases has the potential to both enhance operations and drive new levels of combat readiness — all while streamlining costs.


5G networks will also underpin advanced mobile applications in and around the cockpit. 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. Air Force could advance projects around Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) and Electronic Knee Boards (EKB) to minimize or eliminate paper use in cockpits and bring down fuel costs. The safety and cost benefits of these types of mobile solutions add up: “For every pound of weight removed from the aircraft, you save a certain amount of fuel on a given sortie. For instance, if you remove 120 pounds of paper from every single sortie, we calculated the command would save about $780,000 per year in fuel cost within the mobility air forces,” outlined Richard Quidgeon, AMC electronic flight bag requirements manager, in a 2017 release.


AT&T* will bring 5G and a broad array of Networking-as-a-Service capabilities to support the work of more than 24,000 military personnel on U.S. Air Force bases Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.


The U.S. Air Force is testing our commercial Networking-as-a-Service capabilities at these three bases as an element of its strategy to transform and modernize its networking infrastructure to support air, land and cyber operations,  said Anne Chow, Chief Executive Officer, AT&T Business. Our solutions and services are provided to these bases under Other Transaction Authority (OTA) Agreements issued by the Air Force to fund its Enterprise IT-as-a-Service (EITaaS) program. The program aims to use commercial networking services to deliver enhanced speed, security and capabilities and an efficient and improved user experience, including near-ubiquitous wireless connectivity across the bases.


“We think it is vital to test commercially provided services like 5G and software-based networking-as-a-service capabilities as we explore ways to help us innovate and improve our global air, space and cyber readiness,” said Col. Justin K. Collins, Deputy, Enterprise IT & Cyber Infrastructure Division, U.S. Air Force. “We expect 5G service will help us improve the user experience and support a broad array of use cases that can enhance mission effectiveness.” In addition to 5G services, we are providing capabilities such as a Base Area Network, Wide Area Network, telephony, internet access and highly secure interoperability with legacy systems at the three bases. Our 5G and networking-as-a-service capabilities can support other advanced technology capabilities such as IoT, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, drones, and network edge storage and compute.


Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL

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.


Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL solutions integrate military communications with tactical gateway capabilities (“.MIL”) and enhanced 5G technology (5G) to enable seamless, resilient and secure connectivity and data flow across all battlefield assets. The result: the ability to deliver 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 integrating 5G with existing military communications and datalinks, warfighters can achieve more effective operations in communications-contested and denied environments and have access to data to perform their missions anywhere in the world.


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.


Inside the hybrid base station would be a series of systems called tactical gateways, which enable the base station to work with different military communication protocols. Such gateways already exist: They consist of hardware and software based on military-prescribed open-architecture standards that enable a platform, such as a fighter jet made by one contractor, to communicate with, say, a missile battery made by another supplier.


The second element of the 5G.MIL vision involves connecting these local mesh networks to the global Internet. Such a connection between a local network and the wider Internet is known as a backhaul. In our case, the connection might be on the ground or in space, between civilian and military satellites. The resulting globe-spanning backhaul networks, composed of civilian infrastructure, military assets, or a mixture of both, would in effect create a software-defined virtual global defense network.


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.


The military advantage would be that software running on the network could use data sourced from anywhere in the world to pinpoint location, identify friends or foes, and to target hostile forces. Any authorized user in the field with a smartphone could see on a Web browser, with data from this network, the entire battlefield, no matter where it was on the planet.


We partnered recently with the U.S. Armed Services to demonstrate key aspects of this 5G.MIL vision. In March 2021, Lockheed Martin’s Project Hydra demonstrated bidirectional communication between the Lockheed F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and a Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance plane in flight, and then down to ground artillery systems.


This latest experiment, part of a series that began in 2013, is an example of connecting systems with communications protocols that are unique to their mission requirements. All three planes are made by Lockheed Martin, but their different chronologies and battlefield roles resulted in different custom communications links that aren’t readily compatible. Project Hydra enabled the platforms to communicate directly via an open-system gateway that translates data between native communications links and other weapons systems.


It was a promising outcome, but reconnaissance and fighter aircraft represent only a tiny fraction of the nodes in a future battle space. Lockheed Martin has continued to build off Project Hydra, introducing additional platforms in the network architecture. Extending the distributed-gateway approach to all platforms can make the resulting network resilient to the loss of individual nodes by ensuring that critical data gets through without having to spend money to replace existing platform radios with a new, common radio.


Another series of projects with a software platform called HiveStar showed that a fully functional 5G network could be assembled using base stations about the size of a cereal box. What’s more, those base stations could be installed on modestly sized multicopters and flown around a theater of operations—this network was literally “on the fly.”


Lockheed-Martin developed software called HiveStar, which manages network coverage and distributes tasks among network nodes—in this case, the multicopters cooperating to find and photograph the target. This management is dynamic: if one node is lost to interference or damage, the remaining nodes adjust to cover the loss.


The HiveStar team carried out a series of trials in 2021 culminating in a joint demonstration with the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center. The objective was to support a real-world Army need: using autonomous vehicles to deliver supplies in war zones.


At the Army’s behest, the team came up with a plan to use the flying network to demonstrate leader-follower autonomous-vehicle mobility. It’s a convoy: A human drives a lead vehicle, and up to eight autonomous vehicles follow behind, using routing information transmitted to them from the lead vehicle. The team established a heterogeneous 5G and S-band network with the upgraded 5G payload and a series of supporting copters that formed a connected S-band mesh network. This mesh connected the convoy to a second, identical convoy several kilometers away, which was also served by a copter-based 5G and S-band base station.


Though encouraging, the Hydra and HiveStar trials were but first steps, and many high hurdles will have to be cleared before the scenario that opens this article can become reality. Chief among these is expanding the coverage and range of the 5G-enabled networks to continental or intercontinental range, increasing their security, and managing their myriad connections. We are looking to the commercial sector to bring big ideas to these challenges.



Lockheed Martin and Verizon have signed an agreement to collaborate on 5G.MIL technologies that will provide ultra-secure, reliable connections for U.S. Department of Defense systems spanning air, land, sea, space and cyber domains and establishes joint research and development to prototype, demonstrate and test 5G.MIL technologies.


Lockheed Martin and Radisys, a global leader in open telecom solutions, have established an enterprise agreement for use of Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) software in Lockheed Martin 5G.MIL™ products. The agreement includes development of critical capabilities like 5G-enabled wireless relay and Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB).


Lockheed Martin and Keysight Technologies, Inc. announce a collaboration to advance 5G in support of mission-critical communications for aerospace and defense applications. The companies are actively collaborating on a 5G.MIL™ testbed that Lockheed Martin teams will use to advance 5G capabilities for multiple applications.



References and Resources also include:


Cite This Article

International Defense Security & Technology (December 6, 2022) US launches 5G Military strategy and declares 5G competition as a “New arms race.”. Retrieved from
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International Defense Security & Technology June 10, 2022 US launches 5G Military strategy and declares 5G competition as a “New arms race.”., viewed December 6, 2022,<>
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"US launches 5G Military strategy and declares 5G competition as a “New arms race.”." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed December 6, 2022.
"US launches 5G Military strategy and declares 5G competition as a “New arms race.”." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: [Accessed: December 6, 2022]

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