Faced with the need to modernize and stand up to new threats and forms of warfare, the US military intends to take advantage of 5G capabilities. The move has strategic implications on the battlefield. Modern technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will be enhanced by the data sharing and processing potential of 5G. These benefits will bring about cascading effects on reconnaissance systems for improved command and control and situational awareness.

With nearly every innovation built on powerful communication and computing systems, the foundational electronics infrastructure needs to perform with the highest integrity.

MDE Semiconductor, Inc. specializes in the manufacture and design of TVS diodes used to protect critical equipment from failure. Miniaturized components in the age of weight and space-saving, have increased the vulnerability of electric circuits to power surges and voltage transients.

Our vision for 5G in military applications is uninterrupted connectivity that ensures stable operations and mission success. Our specialized knowledge of TVS diodes and semiconductor components helps us provide customized surge protection devices in customer-specific designs. In the following article, we weigh in on the impact 5G would have on military intelligence and other infrastructure.

What is 5G?

5G employs unique and directional radio frequencies that are higher than those used by its predecessor, 4G. The directionality prevents wasted energy that weakens connectivity. The higher frequencies support high-speeds transmission with reduced risk of interference from other wireless signals. It also decreases latency, the time it takes wirelessly connected devices to communicate with each other. Here-in lies the attraction for the military, the faster data download and uploads speeds and reduced lag time. These capabilities are essential for the next generation of military equipment which benefits from real-time information sharing as we will uncover later in this article.

How 5G works

Three different spectrum bands make up 5G operation and their distinction is important because it affects their potential applications.

1. Low-band spectrum: 5G signals with frequencies below 1 GHz belong in this category. The same band that has been used by 3G and 4G, covering wide areas and penetrating buildings. Through new waveforms, multipath transmissions and wider frequency spans, 5G service providers could improve signal speed and reduce latency.

2. Mid-band spectrum: This category of signals between 2.5 GHz to 6 GHz is faster than low band signals and can transmit more data. However, building penetration is poorer. Transmission over multiple paths and wider spans of frequencies are also proposed to improve signal efficiency.

3. High-band spectrum: This spectrum band also known as mmWaves offers the highest performance in terms of data speeds at frequencies between 24 GHz and 300 GHz. However, they are characterized by poor building penetration and low coverage area which are significant limitations to overcome. To expand their reach, several small cell towers could be placed strategically close together.

It’s not surprising that a standard was needed to establish the minimum requirements for telecommunication signals to qualify as 5G. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project, 3GPP, a coordination of Telecoms standards organizations have laid down standards for peak data rate, real-world speeds, latency, mobility, connection density, efficiency, and spectral efficiency among others[1].

The 5G signal is only one aspect of a successful application. The reliability and performance of the 5G-enabled components and its foundational electrical components are paramount. TVS diodes are a key device that protect electrical circuits from destructive power anomalies. MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is pioneering innovation to meet the emerging demands of the US military as it works towards technological advancement.

5G and the Next Generation of Military Intelligence Infrastructure

Autonomous Vehicles and Artificial Intelligence

Vehicles and robots at different levels of autonomy are a strong focus for the military’s future. Although remotely piloted vehicles/ unmanned aerial vehicles are currently in use, they suffer from information transfer delays that negatively impact their operations. 5G is poised to solve the data transfer problem and can further improve operations. The transmission of real-time high

definition videos, improved object recognition, and faster information processing will aid intelligence and reconnaissance missions.

5G will also facilitate the role of artificial intelligence with faster machine-to-machine communication that is essential in painting a clearer picture of battle zone conditions, beyond what one vehicle can see and interpret.

Multi-domain Operations

A revolutionary transformation of DOD operations will be possible when data streaming from various military crews can be combined into one “data story.” Information from flying aircraft onboard systems can corroborate with data from ground forces. The result would be more strategic decisions for victory in dynamic and complex battle environments.

Low-latency Battle Network

As the military continues to rely on more connected tech, higher capacity, fast speeds, and reduced latency are more important than ever and are precisely the advantage of 5G. The ability to share in real-time, maps, photos, and videos of battlefield situations will help improve situational awareness. Combined with the ability to communicate simulations of power plays to decision-makers, connected networks will be necessary to take the full advantage of these systems.

Smart Military bases

Using 5G mmWaves, cameras, motion sensors, and other sensor-enabled technologies offer numerous advantages for securing a military base. Communication in real-time between command posts and vehicles is enhanced. Besides, since the signals have short wavelengths and don’t travel far, it reduces the risk that they will propagate and be detected by the enemy.

The Air Force, in particular, is an early adopter of 5G enlisting the help of Verizon to transform a selection of its bases. Apart from security initiatives, the objective is to enable high-speed wireless connectivity to support activities such as animated simulation and training among others/using AR/VR technology.

Smart Warehouses and Maintenance

The Department of defense operates several extensive warehouses with the associated logistical complexity. 5G can help improve day to day maintenance tasks previously performed manually through the use of a sensor-enabled environment and connected real-time inventory dashboards on secure devices. By connecting maintenance and test systems, it would be possible to keep track of spare-parts, and optimize the entire supply chain based on diagnostics to elevate the speed and efficiency of work.

Battlefield Wearables

Like sensors for equipment, are wearables for military personnel, which collect and share vital statistics about their immediate environment or health. Details like geographical position, live-video streaming, fatigue, blood pressure, heart-rate can be shared in real-time to inform life-saving decisions.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Training

All these innovative features would not be possible without a change in how missions are organized or how military personnel is trained. Even here, 5G has a role to play. For example, virtual reality training can provide the enactment of battlefield scenarios at far lower costs.

Security and Other Challenges

No conversation about 5G’s role in the military would be complete without a discussion on the security challenges that more connected devices bring. Poor software development practices whether at first implementation or future releases can put sensitive operations at the risk of data breaches.

Apart from the 5G network service provider, the required infrastructure to make 5G work includes several hardware components that would require maintenance. There’s no guarantee that commercial vendors in charge of any of these products and services could not introduce security vulnerabilities to DOD systems, whether maliciously or inadvertently. The necessary standards for data transfers would also need to follow DOD’s prescribed rules.

MDE Semiconductor, Inc. Manufactures TVS Diodes to Protect the Next Generation of Military Infrastructure

The 5G ecosystem relies heavily on uninterrupted service from 5G cell towers, radio frequency modules that transmit and receive signals, and connected computers that process data and make it usable. In other words, complex electronic systems working together. Due to the increasing miniaturization of integrated circuit chips, they are susceptible to transient events where short but intense energy spikes lasting 10 -100 microseconds long can destroy them.

The undesirable consequence in interconnected electrical and data networks is that power anomalies propagate causing further damage to neighboring equipment. High-precision military operations cannot afford such failure or unreliability. Therefore, incorporating adequate protection into these subsystems is critical.

TVS diodes are silicon avalanche devices that clamp overvoltages in a matter of nanoseconds, thereby protecting downstream electronics from destruction. Also, their low leakage current and low capacitance help ensure signal integrity. Selected properly, their performance does not degrade after each transient event they experience, thereby minimizing lifecycle costs.

MDE Semiconductor, Inc. specializes in the manufacture and design of TVS diodes for military electronics infrastructure, protecting against electrostatic discharge and transients. We are a full-line supplier and manufacture high volumes to satisfy large-scale production needs. Our products are manufactured to withstand harsh conditions such as high temperatures, shocks and vibrations typical of battlefield conditions.

We also provide customizable products to satisfy the next generation of connectivity demanded in evolving military applications. With the roll-out of autonomous vehicles and similar technologies reliant on device-to-device communication, protection that safeguards signal integrity and the reliability of network communications will contribute to ensuring the success of future military aspirations.

Sources [1] 3GGP specs https://www.3gpp.org/specifications/