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Base operations


5G on the frontline


The US Military’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept aims to decentralise and speed up decision-making processes. Elly Earls speaks to Colonel Mike Driscoll, director of future operations at the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, and Bryan Clark, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, about how 5G technology plays into this and what it will look like in the fi eld.


I


t takes a good 20 minutes to get Colonel Mike Driscoll on the phone to discuss the 5G experiment he is coordinating for the US Air Force. The landline at his air base keeps going straight to voicemail. Then we miss several of each other’s emails suggesting alternative numbers. Eventually, I manage to reach him on his iPhone, a metaphor he returns to later to describe the US military’s new, decentralised approach to command and control, and where 5G comes in.


Before getting to the details, he introduces himself as an F-16 pilot, “a caveman really”. Given his current job title, he’s clearly being modest. His children may have helped him set up the iPhone he’s talking on but he’s also the director of future operations at the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. It’s one of five bases involved in a three-year, $600m Department of Defense (DoD) experiment


26


to investigate how 5G technology could potentially revolutionise the way the US Air Force commands and controls its operations. As Driscoll has learned first-hand in the field, the current system has its vulnerabilities. He spent two years at the 607th Air Operations Center in South Korea, which houses hundreds of USAF staff from four-star generals to liaison officers and bombers, as well their opposite numbers in the Navy, the Marines and the Korean military. “It’s a fixed structure that’s easily targetable via either cyber or kinetic means like bombs or missiles,” he explains.


The idea of introducing 5G technology, with its increased bandwidth, faster speed and lower latency, is to separate and disperse the core functions of air operations centres like this one into various mobile networks, which the enemy can’t locate. “You still have that collaboration like you would on an air operations


Defence & Security Systems International / www.defence-and-security.com


Andrey Suslov; PRESSLAB/Shutterstock.com


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