The hype surrounding 5G is focused largely on how consumers will benefit. Verizon’s website proudly proclaims that people will enjoy lower lag times and quicker downloads, and businesses will become more efficient thanks to 5G’s connectivity benefits. Immersive education, connected cars, the Internet of Things and smart communities are just a few areas that stand to gain from this technology, according to the telecommunications firm. However, 5G’s most significant applications will actually fall into the military domain.
The 5G networks that are being built by telecommunications companies right now will allow the Department of Defense to take advantage of the benefits of 5G to further its own pursuits at a far lower cost than if the network had been set up exclusively as a military effort.
There are myriad ways that 5G can be used for military purposes. It is expected to play a central role in the development and use of hypersonic weapons, or missiles that travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound. These missiles are also capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
In order to guide these hypersonic weapons on variable trajectories and change their direction in a mere fraction of a second so they can avoid interceptor missiles, vast quantities of data will need to be gathered, analyzed and transited in incomprehensibly short amounts of time – and 5G can make it happen. It will also prove valuable in activating defenses should we come under attack from a weapon of this type.
5G will also be useful in the battle network, allowing military personnel to communicate and transmit maps, photos and other pertinent information about operations in progress in near real-time.
When it comes to intelligence and special forces, 5G may be transformative. Espionage and control systems could become far more efficient than the ones used today, and this will be especially apparent when it comes to killer drones and other types of war robots. 5G will allow them to identify, target and follow individuals based on facial recognition.
In October, the Department of Defense announced awards of $600 million for experimenting with and testing 5G at five American military test sites in what is the biggest full-scale 5G tests for dual-use applications on the planet. These installations will see academic experts, industry leaders and military services working together to advance the DoD’s 5G capabilities.
Some of the projects include piloting 5G augmented and virtual reality for mission training, evaluating 5G for enhancing distributed command and control, and testing 5G smart warehouses.
Of course, relying so heavily on 5G also makes us very vulnerable. The network will be a highly attractive target for those who wish to attack the U.S., especially if military operations are depending on it. The network is already being protected and treated as critical infrastructure even though it has not even been fully built yet.
Most of the criticism we are hearing about 5G surrounds its health risks, and these concerns deserve serious weight. We could well be placing ourselves at a high risk of health problems like cancer, genetic and reproductive damage, neurological disorders and learning and memory problems – and that is something that should not be ignored.
However, it is important to also keep in mind that 5G technology is about a lot more than speeding up people’s smartphones – it is going to have major implications in military capabilities, not just for the U.S., but also for its enemies.
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