The world’s largest defense contractor is working with the United States’ largest wireless provider to develop technology for a military 5G mobile network.
Announced on Tuesday, the agreement between Lockheed Martin and Verizon comes after the two companies linked a commercial 5G mobile network with a military communications network used by fighter jets to send and receive targeting coordinates.
“We’re just trying to show that we can essentially begin to use 5G in more of a tactical environment where it may be connected at times and disconnected at times from the broader public networks,” said Dan Rice, the company’s vice president of 5G.MIL, the term Lockheed uses for its efforts to adapt consumer mobile broadband for the military.
The partnership “will help enable the creation of new and innovative products and technologies, helping DoD leaders achieve the goals laid out in their 5G strategy,” Verizon Chief Technology Officer Kyle Malady said in a statement.
The test’s secret sauce is a special Lockheed-made communications gateway that enables the two networks to connect to one another, Rice said. In many cases, military weapons use disparate datalinks—specialized modems that cannot connect to one another. The gateway acts as a translator between these different networks.
“We’ll be investigating both expansion of the tactical datalinks that we connect through 5G, showing that our full complement of tactical networks that we’ve integrated with the open mission systems tactical gateway are interoperable,” Rice said. “We’ll also be doing experimentation looking at hybrid public and private networks.”
The agreement between the two multi-billion-dollar firms is the latest in a push by Lockheed and its CEO Jim Taiclet to position his company to be the lead player in the Pentagon’s complex plan to create a mesh network that connects all of its weapons on the battlefield. Taiclet, who spent two decades in telecommunications before becoming CEO of Lockheed in June 2020, has made tie-ups with commercial firms one of his top priorities.
The Lockheed-Verizon agreement is largely focused on research-and-development, but it could expand in future, Rice said.
“There is the opportunity, as this continues to mature, to be working together both on government contracts, contract research and development potentially, as well as future services that could be delivered,” he said. “But our focus right now really is on R&D and capability development.”
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