WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin delivered a 5G test bed to the U.S. Marine Corps in California, with plans to soon begin experimenting with mobile networks in austere environments.

The delivery to Camp Pendleton, the Corps’ largest western expeditionary training ground, marks a step forward for the Open Systems Interoperable and Reconfigurable Infrastructure Solution, or OSIRIS. Lockheed in February 2022 announced it won a $19.3 million contract for the initiative, designed to study and proliferate cutting-edge wireless technology for the military.

“The Lockheed Martin-led team, in close partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps, has proven that quickly evolving 5G commercial technology can be leveraged in near real-time to solve current and emergent mission challenges,” Deon Viergutz, vice president for spectrum convergence, said in a statement.

The company is working on OSIRIS alongside subcontractors Intel Corporation, Radisys Corporation and Rampart Communications.

Fifth-generation wireless tech boasts reduced latency and exponentially faster speed, attributes the Department of Defense considers critical to future planning and communication. The jump in quality from 4G is expected to improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as empower new methods of command and control.

But there are also concerns, including privacy, supply chain security and cost. U.S. adoption has been slow, despite global competition and a desire to box out Chinese influence and vendors like Huawei and ZTE.

Lockheed said advances in wireless tech are “crucial” to the Corps’ expeditionary advanced based operations concept. EABO envisions small units spread across a vast area — like the South China Sea — that are capable of blending in and scattering sensors throughout, allowing a larger force to peer inside. They could also ferry weapons closer to their respective targets and dish out damage.

Such remote or hostile environments pose a serious challenge to connectivity and the ability to relay battlefield insights. Leaning on 5G could help.

“The OSIRIS program is leveraging Lockheed Martin’s experience maturing vendor-interoperable solutions based on open standards, which will enable a wide variety of composable 5G solutions tailored to any mission and platform,” Viergutz said.

The Defense Department in 2020 launched 5G pilots, to the tune of $600 million, at five military installations. The efforts have at least doubled since and have even reached a Department of Energy laboratory in Idaho.

Lockheed is the world’s largest contractor when ranked by defense revenue, according to Defense News “Top 100″ analysis.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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