WASHINGTON — The chief digital innovation officer for the U.S. Navy this week hailed 5G as a “great enabler” of future operations, as the service experiments with the technology and focuses on greater connectivity through Project Overmatch.

Fifth-generation wireless gear is being considered for a range of applications, Michael Galbraith suggested April 19, from pier-side and shipboard links to smart warehouses and other logistical feats.

“Think of a ship, think of a carrier group — we need to work in the run quiet, run deep kind of thing, can’t use SATCOM,” Galbraith said at the Cloudera Government Forum. “I still need to communicate from the first deck to the third deck, I still need to communicate from that carrier to the destroyer, and 5G and other millimeter wave technologies allow that to happen.”

Exactly how 5G, the so-called internet of things and data collection interact with the Navy’s major networks is an “issue that we are actively working on,” Galbraith said. “You hear about Project Overmatch, communication as a service. That is a part of that work that the team that” Rear Adm. Doug Small’s “group is doing. That is vitally important.”

Project Overmatch is the Navy’s clandestine contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, a broader Pentagon effort to better connect sensors and shooters and dissolve communication barriers between the services. Small is the leader of the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, a key JADC2 player.

Small in early April told C4ISRNET his team was “working across systems commands, warfare centers, services and with industry to provide the architecture, or framework, for how the various components are stitched together, including the networks, infrastructure, data architecture, tools and analytics to improve on our decision advantage.”

“Ultimately,” Small said at the time, “this will aid our ability to provide synchronized effects near and far in all domains, ensuring a more lethal and better-connected fleet now and far into the future.”

Fifth-generation wireless technology promises faster speeds, lower latency and other improvements compared with its predecessors. Alone, 5G is “more, better, faster,” Galbraith said. But when synced with other capabilities, he added, the potential really shines.

“We in the Navy, you know, we work at the edge, have been working at the edge since the 1700s,” he said. “In that information domain, there are other network capabilities, and 5G just is, again, a great enabler.”

The Department of Defense has selected a dozen military installations as test beds for 5G, including sites in California, Georgia and Virginia. This month, the department unveiled a multimillion-dollar challenge to accelerate the growth and adoption of a fifth-generation open ecosystem.

AT&T Inc. this year claimed initial success in setting up a 5G network experiment that could realize smart warehouses for the Navy, Defense News reported. The service believes smart warehouses could boost the efficiency and fidelity of its logistics.

“When we first started experimenting and piloting in 5G,” Galbraith said Tuesday, “we looked at what our priorities were.”

The Defense Department received nearly $338 million for 5G and microelectronics in fiscal year 2022. It requested $250 million for fiscal year 2023, budget documents show.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin 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.