WASHINGTON — Viasat, a California-based communications company, will experiment with 5G to support U.S. Marine Corps operations and broader command and control applications after winning a Department of Defense research grant.
Over four years, Viasat will explore how 5G networking and associated technologies can combine to support what is known as Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, or EABO, including long-range sniping needs. , resupply, rearmament, surveillance and reconnaissance, according to a June 15 announcement.
Viasat, which provides satellite and networking capabilities to the US military, among others, won the deal through the Information Warfare Research Project, a consortium that links industry and the academia to develop technologies for Navy and Marine Corps missions. It is the third such award won by the company under the Pentagon’s $600 million 5G research initiative.
Viasat’s “Phase 1 prizes” for 5G research are worth about $10 million with “later phases for each project to be added,” a Viasat spokesperson said on June 16. No search location has been disclosed.
The Marine Corps plans to conduct expeditionary forward base operations in the near future, for both offensive and defensive reasons.
Offensively, small units widely dispersed over a large area like the South China Sea could scatter a range of sensors everywhere, allowing the larger joint force to look within. They could also bring an opponent’s weapons closer and act on data targeting faster or in more innovative ways – immobilizing an enemy ship instead of sinking it, for example.
Defensively, small, scattered units blend more easily into local sea traffic and topography, making it harder for an enemy to find, target, and strike them.
The command and control side of EABO remains its biggest impediment to implementation; operations would strain an already congested bandwidth for Navy and Marine Corps forces operating forward.
Marines will accumulate tons of videos, images, data tracks and more, and they will need to pass this information on to the right decision makers. Similarly, one of the units may be the best-placed shooter, but the targeting information may come from elsewhere, meaning they must receive real-time data to be effective.
President of Viasat Government Systems Craig Miller in a statement, he said he and his team “see the significant potential of 5G to improve the warfighter’s ability to produce, consume and make sense of critical data” when and where it is most needed.
“The ability to move information and data rapidly across the battlespace is essential for the multi-domain and joint operations needs of the future,” Miller said. “The addition of 5G bandwidth and network management capabilities will support C2 for specific missions and greater visibility into highly dispersed forces in EABO and littoral operations in contested environments.”
Michael Galbraith, the Navy’s director of digital innovation, in April called 5G a “great enabler” for future operations, whether aboard a ship on the high seas, sitting dockside or inside a ship. a warehouse juggling with logistics.
Fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless technology promises faster speeds, lower latency and other improvements over its predecessors. The Department of Defense, in a 2020 implementation plan, hailed 5G as a critical technology, which will deliver long-term economic and military benefits to nations that master it.
The Pentagon received nearly $338 million for 5G and microelectronics in fiscal year 2022. requested department $250 million for fiscal year 2023.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its NNSA — namely the Cold War cleanup and the development of nuclear weapons — for a South Carolina daily. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.
Megan Eckstein is a naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on US Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported on four geographic fleets and is happiest when recording stories from a ship. Megan is an alumnus of the University of Maryland.