Published by the White House in March 2020 the “National Strategy to Secure 5G of the United States,” states that “Fifth generation wireless technology, or 5G, will be a primary driver of our Nation’s prosperity and security in the 21st century.”
Formed in October 2019, to support the Navy’s participation in the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering’s broad-based 5G initiative, NAVWAR’s 5G IPT partnered with commands and organizations across the San Diego Metro area to bring 5G experimentation and testing efforts to the fleet concentration area. The IPT is leading a smart warehouse and asset management project where they will outfit a Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) warehouse with 5G smart devices for automated, real-time visibility into operations and movement across the supply chain.
“As threats mount and technology evolves, so do the demands of our fleet,” said Pat Sullivan, NAVWAR executive director. “To ensure our warfighters have the upper hand in every conflict, we must work with our partners across industry to leverage new and existing technology, providing the warfighter with modernized, mobile and integrated capabilities like 5G. Testing of this new technology will allow NAVWAR to assist the Navy in establishing ways to outpace our adversaries in today’s increasingly competitive environment.”
According to the project summary, the San Diego smart warehouse and asset management project will use 5G to support a warehouse management system to manage the order and inventory for overall warfighter logistics support. This includes optimizing warehouse operations and improving the efficiency, accuracy, security, and safety of supply management, storage, and distribution.
“5G has the potential to increase transparency, improve scalability, and transaction speed for improved warehouse operations,” said Dan Green, NAVWAR 5G IPT lead. “It will enable fast turnaround times and augment current manual tasks, allowing Navy logistics personnel to address the most critical needs first, rather than using a first in/first out system.”
Throughout the project, NAVWAR is working closely with experts across the country, taking a whole-of-Navy approach, with NAVWAR Headquarters providing project oversight, Navy Region Southwest providing operational expertise and Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific providing technical expertise. The Fleet Logistics Center in San Diego supplied the initial test-site for the project and are now serving as the operational customer.
“The race to 5G is on,” said Green. “In November of 2019, China rolled out its first 5G network, making 5G services available for consumers in more than 50 Chinese cities. In December of 2019, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile announced their first commercial 5G network offerings. To outpace our adversaries in this global competition for 5G, the Navy is stepping up and pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible so that we can compete and win for decades to come.”
Currently vendors are competing for the opportunity to contribute to Navy’s smart warehouse three-year project through the National Spectrum Consortium. The Marine Corps has a parallel effort at the Albany Logistics Base in Georgia. Both projects are on track for awards in summer 2020 with initial experimentation starting immediately afterward.
Moving forward, NAVWAR is developing the workforce, rapid acquisition procedures, operational use cases and security protocols to ensure 5G enhances and maintains the highest level of readiness for the fleet.