5G millimeter wave bandwith: US and China war-fighting domains (Space Command & Control) 

Source: US ELECTROMAGNETIC DEFENSE TASK FORCE (EDTF) 2018 REPORT https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/AUPress/Papers/LP_0002_DeMaio_Electromagnetic_Defense_Task_Force.pdf

Approved for Public Release

This conference report is a product of the United States Air Force Air University and the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education. (Published by Air University Press in November 2018).

Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense, the United States Air Force, the Air Education and Training Command, the Air University, or any other US government agency.

Cleared for public release: distribution unlimited.
This LeMay Paper and others in the series are available electronically at the AU Press website: https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/AUPress.


DE  = directed energy

EMS = electromagnetic spectrum

EMP = electromagnetic pulse

GMD = GMD Ground-based Midcourse Defense

HEMP =  high-altitude electromagnetic pulse

HPM  = high-power microwaves

EDTF Electromagnetic Defense Task Force

Access to the 5G-millimeter wave bandwidth will be critical to operations in all war-fighting domains, in particular, space command & control.  

Digital Silk Road

The rapid creation of a global 5G network is  a cornerstone in China’s industrial plan to compete with Western interests by creating a “Digital Silk Road.” This integrated network of digital infrastructure or “spatial information corridor” will  promote the adoption of the Bei Dou navigation system (a Chinese alternative to GPS). China will put more than $10 trillion dollars to the One Belt One Road strategy, of which the Digital Silk Road is one of the three components.

Directed Energy and High-powered Microwave Systems

Today, most systems operators, owners, and manufacturers (outside the nuclear triad) do not understand the potential impact of EMS phenomena.

Example: spectrum engineers noted the recent loss of a helicopter after it flew through an antenna farm
comprised of several high-powered antenna arrays. After flying through the arrays, EMS interference caused the digitally operated carburetor on the engine to fail, which caused fuel starvation to the engine.
Other significant vulnerabilities include fly-by-wire systems such as those used aboard Airbus aircraft. According to regulators, the FAA has no regulatory authority to require aircraft certification for nuclear-EMP or HPM, so protection levels are not rigorously verified during civil testing.

In a recent case of GPS jamming, an Embraer 300 aircraft lost attitude control and 15,000 feet while in cruise flight. The loss of attitude and altitude was caused by the GPS-dependent stability augmentation system not being able to acquire a GPS signal. Today, with many fly-by-wire aircraft transiting airspace
systems in the United States and allied nations, a loss of multiple aircraft in a single area impacted by an EMP could cause a significant loss of life and property. At the time of this report, EMS testing (especially EMP and HEMP testing) has not been accomplished on new procurements such as the US Air Force’s KC-46 Pegasus tanker or most Airbus systems which rely on fly-by-wire. Alarmingly, aircraft designed to carry large numbers of people and sizable cargo are allowed to operate without certainty about their level of resilience.

Aircraft that rely solely on fly-by-wire systems have a unique vulnerability. If a crew is not physically attached to controls which are in turn connected to a flight control surface, a loss of onboard computers from an EMS interruption such as EMP could cause catastrophic loss of the aircraft due to an inability to revert to a manual flight control system (often known as “manual reversion”). In addition to the prospect of loss of systems or aircraft from external threats, experts noted that “onboard” EMS threats (inside an
aircraft) increasingly pose a hazard.

 Physical and Biological Impacts

As events in Cuba and China demonstrated, personnel can become ill from EMS effects. Although the nature of EMS activities that caused health issues for more than 20 diplomats is not entirely understood, what is well understood are the effects. In short, personnel at those locations are believed to have suffered traumatic brain injury (while in bed sleeping).

Due to the difficulties associated with determining where a given waveform originated, EMS may one day be preferable to kinetic weapons for those actors employing from the gray zone. In the future, it may also be feasible to incapacitate or kill the crew of a ship or vessel while leaving the vessel intact. Such tactics could be equally applied to airborne assets.

DE weapons, lasers, and other EMS phenomena are often undetectable until the effects are encountered. However, once the effects are encountered, it may be too late to mitigate harmful effects. Consequently, in the future, unmanned aircraft, ships, and other vehicles may be preferable to manned defense mechanisms.

As certain military hardware becomes tougher to detect and interrupt due to hardening, humans will ultimately remain the technological Achilles’ heel as adversaries increasingly attempt to target the vulnerable human physiology of operators and crew.

The potential for an adversary to inflict damage on states through EMS attack has grown significantly. Today, all aspects of society, governance, and security have dependencies on EMS. However, power
grids, telecommunications, and many command-and-control systems have not been designed to survive a hostile EMS environment. Once damaged by natural phenomena such as GMD or human induced phenomena such as electromagnetic pulse EMP and HEMP, it may take months to years to recover networks and other vital functions to their original state.

Multiple adversaries are capable of executing a strategic attack that may black out major portions of a state’s grid. An EMP attack affects all devices with solid-state electronics and could render inoperative the main grid and backup power systems, such as on-site generators.

Extended electrical power loss to nuclear power plants can lead to widespread radioactive contamination from the overheating of on-site spent fuel pools and breach of reactor containment at more than 60 sites and affect US military installations.

EMP may incapacitate most electronic devices and satellites in deposition regions, while GMD may cause outages in northern latitudes (circumstances over CONUS similar to Katrina—EMP Commission).

The  United States and NATO require stronger mutual defense agreements and distributed attribution-and-response capabilities to maintain a credible response due to the large geographic effects of a HEMP
attack. Despite technological advances, the United States and its allies have only infrequently instituted upgrades to EMS-hardening protocols since the height of the Cold War. The lack of widespread and mandatory standards has often led to trading away capability and resilience for competing priorities and even convenience and efficiency. Policy and incentives are needed to assist in motivating state regulators and power companies to secure the grid from all hazards, including EMP.

Only a shift in public sentiment and government policy—at multiple levels—will result in a protection effort commensurate with emerging EMS challenges and their potential consequences.

5G should not be mistaken for the acme of EMS technology.  In spite of the promise 5G holds from an
economic and defense perspective, the United States and its allies should continue investing in the technologies that lie beyond. It is likely our competitors are already doing so. It is probable that China will develop 5G as a dual use civil-military network and use the spin-off technologies to further expand its global sphere of influence.

China is attempting to use divided quantum particles to create a secure and impenetrable space-based
communications network that will transmit secure data instantaneously without risk of adversary’s penetration. Such concepts could not only include secure or impenetrable communications networks but also be used to activate off-network (no Wi-Fi or other signal) micro-embedded kill-switches.

The EDTF suggests evaluating the prospective value to the defense community of formally defining EMS as a war-fighting domain within which EMS-enabled cyber activities take place.

Personnel need to be well apprised of emerging risks posed by DE weapons, including those that may harm or injure personnel. In those cases where assets or working locations do not shield personnel, protections should be developed. Where protections cannot be realized, the use of remote or distributed operations technologies should be considered.

Assets that may be targeted by DE or HPM weapons should be equipped with instrumentation  to allow crews to know when they are being targeted. The United States should provide robust research and development alongside space-based platforms to match peer momentum.

Appendix 5
Bullet Background Paper on the Economic and Security Implications of 5G Networks

Rapid creation of a global 5G network is a cornerstone in China’s industrial plan to compete with Western interests; the plan is underwritten by half a billion dollars in investment with a first-to-market goal to deploy 5G commercially by 2020.

By 2035, 5G is expected to enable $12.3T in global economic output; states and non states that control the 5G network may dictate or control all digital transactions including the ability to share and receive information.

China’s control over the majority of hardware manufacturing needed to create 5G components and antennas (41 percent of the market and rising) is part of Beijing’s plan to deploy a network favorable to Chinese economic and security interests.

Control of 5G is roughly equivalent to control of the internet; open 5G is critical to freedom and free market economics.

Access to 5G will be critical to operations in every war-fighting domain,in particular, space command and control.

5G is a strategic-level communications capability that will likely be governed according to either Western or competitor interests. Immediate action is needed to secure US and allied advantages.

If the US supports the development of redundant terrestrial and space based 5G networks by forming partnerships with industry, reduces FCC and FAA impediments to rapid rollout and development of key enabling technologies, and incentivizes domestic manufacturing to help underpin component security, there is a significant opportunity to partner with our allies in the creation of global networks (like GPS) that are controlled and maintained by Western interests.










About the author