HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Department of Defense has revealed additional details on their developing experiment with 5G technology — and Hill Air Force Base will be the military’s first testbed for the project.
The DoD issued a special notice on Nov. 29, calling for draft proposals from the tech industry that would consists of prototypes for “5G Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.” According to the notice, the DoD is looking for a contractor to build and operate a localized, full-scale 5G mobile cellular network near the base so the department can evaluate the impact of such a network on airborne radar systems, and inversely, the radar systems’ impact on the 5G network.
Hill seems like a logical spot for the experiment, with one of the Air Force’s busiest and most complex aircraft centers. Since late 2015, the base has operated the Air Force’s first combat F-35 wing and Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex performs maintenance on all Air Force F-35s and numerous other military aircraft — from newer, technologically advanced jets like the F-22, to older, battle-proven planes like the A-10.
The base also operates the Utah Test and Training Range in west Utah and eastern Nevada. The facility includes over 1.8 million acres of DoD range land and the largest contiguous piece of special use airspace in the United States. The testing range has an annual operating budget of more than $30 million and has equipment and assets valued at about $1 billion.
According to a Hill press release, Frank Konieczny, Air Force chief technology officer, visited the base Nov. 20 to meet with Hill leadership and teams that will be involved with the project. Konieczny said initiative is a “very important project, one of the most important things we could be doing.” Konieczny said U.S. adversaries are heavily investing in 5G to gain military, intelligence, and economic advantages.
The DoD hopes to have final contracts in place by early 2020, with work starting at Hill as early as April, though timing will depend on passage of a 2020 defense appropriations bill.
According to the tech publisher Digital Trends, 5G technology is the next generation of mobile broadband that will ultimately replace or significantly augment the current 4G LTE broadband connection. The technology allows “exponentially faster download and upload speeds ... (and) the time it takes devices to communicate with each other,” according to Digital Trends.
In the immediate term, the DoD plans to, among other things, use the technology to integrate “Augmented and Virtual Reality” into mission planning and training. In a press release, the DoD said the technology will be used in both virtual and live environments on training ranges.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Naval Base San Diego, California; and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia were also selected for other areas of the testing program.