Northrop partners with AT&T to build a 5G digital combat network
WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman and AT&T said they will jointly develop a “digital combat network” that will use fifth-generation, or 5G, communications technology to support the sharing of critical information between military services and domains.
Playing on each other’s expertise – one primarily in defense and aerospace, the other in communications – the companies plan to deliver a “cost-effective, scalable, open-architecture” product to help the Joint All -Domain Command and Control, the Pentagon’s concept for connecting Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Space Force sensors into a single network.
“Our collaboration with AT&T brings together some of the best capabilities in defense and commercial communications to meet the evolving requirements of JADC2,” said Ben Davies, vice president and general manager of the Network Information Solutions Division at Northrop. , in a press release.
The future digital combat network will emerge from a new collaborative research and development framework and will be enabled by Northrop and AT&T 5G mission systems and other network assets.
Technology prototyping for the effort should be underway within a year.
Northrop CEO Kathy Warden, speaking at the Axios What’s Next summit this month, compared the network to the “internet of things,” but for federal assets and military applications.
“Today, our government uses technology in all kinds of ways to share information and enable assets to work together. We have to think about it being done safely,” she said. “So it’s not using commercial infrastructure directly, but it’s using technologies that exist in the commercial world, like 5G.”
Both the public and private sectors have focused on 5G – and its eventual successors – as a way to connect and communicate faster; the fifth generation promises faster speeds, lower latencies and other improvements. The quality leap of 4G should improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, as well as reinforce new methods of command and control.
“When we think about the environment today,” Warden said at the summit, “it’s less about the traditional arms race of the past and more about the technology race of today and tomorrow.” .
Other companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Intel, and Verizon, are also playing in the 5G military sandbox.
Lockheed in February announced a $19.3 million deal with the Department of Defense to create a 5G communications infrastructure testbed in California for the Marine Corps and others.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers networking and computing. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely nuclear weapons development and Cold War cleanup — for a South Carolina daily.