Taking advantage of advanced technology isn’t just about weaponry at the U.S. Department of Defense. The DoD is rapidly digitizing its communications and a broad range of other operations in a move to make its warfighters, its training, and its domestic bases more efficient.

For everything from connecting tanks, helicopters, aircraft, and naval vessels to inventory tracking for weapons and other valuable assets, to improving traffic flows and energy usage at U.S. bases, the branches of the military are energetically embracing and deploying digital technology.

Military bases – much like cities in their own way – are steadily ramping up the use of sensors and other smart cities technologies, such as IoT and 5G. Much of the focus is on enhancing the capabilities of the warfighters and the training they undergo to hone their skills. But it is also a priority to deploy technologies such as asset tracking to better monitor supplies of everything from food to equipment to ammunition and weaponry. Also important is infrastructure monitoring, for systems such as heating and air conditioning and lighting, to improve efficiency and reduce energy usage and costs.

Saving taxpayer money

An added bonus to better trained fighters and more efficient base operations is that the digital modernization effort also results in cost savings.

Military bases can better monitor and analyze their power usage, for example, and also spend less time and energy sending technicians out to perform repairs that might actually not be necessary. Through remote diagnostics of equipment, they can better analyze equipment issues to discern the problem and whether it is something that can be adjusted remotely. Such monitoring also enables proactive maintenance, with problems detected and fixed as they develop rather than after equipment breaks down.

Similarly, supplies and assets can be tracked with IoT sensors, making it less likely that equipment can be misplaced or go missing.

These technologies also enhance training. Just as pilots have long used flight simulators for some of their training, other fighters can leverage virtual reality or augmented reality technologies to improve their skills and become familiar with a range of battlefield scenarios. These uses of technology are not only more cost-effective, but they can help to reduce some of the physical risks that soldiers might be exposed to during live training.

The connected warrior

Connecting fighting men and women helps keep everyone safer, and allows commanders to know exactly where each individual is on a battlefield or in a simulated battle.

Soldiers can know their comrades’ locations in difficult situations, such as low light or other poor visibility, and so can their commanders, with the ability to track each soldier’s location and movements from a central point, with a device as simple as a tablet.

A designated soldier – not unlike the soldier who carried the radio for the unit in previous generations – might be the keeper of a backpack-sized miniature cell site. That cell site could create a bubble of coverage to keep everyone connected, then transmit that information to a central command post via 5G in domestic base training scenarios or satellite in the case of a foreign military action.

It isn’t just individuals that can be connected, but vehicles and equipment as well. It becomes easy to see how much ammunition each solider has on hand and any issues he or she may be having with their weapons or transport equipment. The more that commanders know, the better they can support those fighters in the field.

Importantly, location information could be conveyed to fighter pilots – or drone pilots – who are supporting soldiers on the ground. By knowing where our soldiers are relative to enemy positions, pilots can be sure to target the right locations and all but eliminate the risk of accidents caused by friendly fire.

Another aspect of sensor technology addresses the health of the soldiers themselves. Using sensors that can detect a soldier’s blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, commanders can see if a soldier becomes overheated in a desert environment or is overly stressed. This is valuable both when bullets start flying in actual combat – detecting if a soldier has been wounded – and in training as well.

The benefits of digital modernization are clear, which is why the Department of Defense is moving so quickly. The department wants to see more 5G available as quickly as possible just as do private sector companies and consumers. Not only will 5G offer valuable advantages such as speed and lower latency, it will also be more cost-effective than satellite communications, which is heavily used at military bases.

Spotlight on Navy Spiral 3

Sprint was recently awarded a spot on Navy Spiral 3, an IDIQ contract for the DoD, military members, and Federal Civilian agencies.

“All DoD components are directed to procure unclassified wireless devices and services within the 50 states using the IDIQ MAC1 Spiral 32 with FFP3 Task Orders. Spiral 3 offers a best-value solution to provide Wireless Mobile Cellular Services and Devices through strategically sourced MACs, which have a one-year base period and four one-year option periods, effective Nov. 8, 2017 through Nov. 2022.” – Memorandum, Chief Management Officer, Department of Defense, September 28, 2018, re: Wireless Device Management Reform

1Department of Navy Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity Multiple Award Contract

2N0024-18-D-0001, N0024-18-D-0002, N0024-18-D-0003

3Firm Fixed Price