Joint Base Lewis-McChord will test 5G for augmented and virtual reality missions

Soldier with AR headset
The Department of Defense is funding an effort to use 5G to support mission planning, training and operations using augmented reality or virtual reality. (U.S. Army Photo)

Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state is participating in a $600 million Pentagon program to test the use of 5G connectivity for high-tech applications.

JBLM’s piece of the program will focus on 5G-enabled applications that make use of augmented reality and virtual reality for mission planning, training and operations, the Department of Defense said today.

The other sites involved in the experimentation and testing program are Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Georgia, Naval Base San Diego in California, and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

“Through these test sites, the department is leveraging its unique authorities to pursue bold innovation at a scale and scope unmatched anywhere else in the world,” Michael Kratsios, the acting under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said in a news release.

JBLM’s AR/VR project will also involve the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Center in central Washington state.

5G technology allows for huge increases in data transfer rates for mobile wireless communications, enabling applications that wouldn’t be practical at slower rates.

The AR/VR project calls for fielding a secure 5G network that would support realistic distributed training, and developing deployable equipment and systems to integrate 5G into combat training operations.

Theoretically, mixed-reality technologies could enable warfighters in different locations — for example, at JBLM and at the Yakima site — to train together in a shared simulation environment.

Several industry partners are participating in the AR/VR project:

  • GBL Systems’ Samsung-based 5G testbed will use midband spectrum to provide high-capacity, low-latency coverage at JBLM and the Yakima Training Center.

  • AT&T will develop a system to allow use of 5G connectivity with existing training devices.

  • Oceus Networks will develop a 5G handheld device for the field training environment.

  • Booz Allen Hamilton will deliver an Army-owned, multi-vendor prototype for combat-like training using AR/VR technology in 5G-enhanced training locations.

The other 5G projects focus on different applications:

  • Naval Base San Diego will focus on a 5G-enabled “Smart Warehouse” system for transshipments between shore facilities and naval units. Partners include AT&T, GE Research, Vectrus Mission Solutions Corp. and Deloitte Consulting.

  • Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany will test a 5G Smart Warehouse system focusing on vehicular storage and maintenance. Partners include Federated Wireless, GE Research, KPMG and Scientific Research Corp.

  • Nellis Air Force Base will partner with AT&T to develop a 5G testbed for command and control operations, in fixed as well as mobile environments.

  • Hill Air Force Base will address the challenge of enabling Air Force radar installations to share spectrum dynamically with 5G cellular services. Partners include Nokia, General Dynamics Mission Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Key Bridge Wireless, Shared Spectrum Co. and Ericsson.

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