DOD Issues 5G Flight Bulletins, Launches Joint Test On Impact

Officials are investigating potential impact military flights through a joint interagency test.

U.S. Defense officials have alerted military flight crews to the potential of 5G interference and are investigating potential impact of 5G on military flights through a joint interagency test with the FAA, FCC, wireless carriers, and other stakeholders.

“The Department of Defense (DOD) takes safety of flight issues seriously and is working closely with other stakeholders to keep our people apprised of FAA advisories, directives, and policies with regard to 5G implementation within national airspace,” a U.S. Air Force spokesperson told FLYING in a statement. 

“Although we don’t yet know the impact of 5G on aviation safety, the DOD is participating in a Joint Interagency test with FAA, FCC, wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to determine the effect on aviation. The team wants to understand what is possible with the rollout of 5G and use that information to guide us on how to maintain safety of flight. We will conduct both bench and live fly tests over the next several months.”

The news comes as the FAA and the aviation industry warned that signal interference could affect radio altimeter performance on some aircraft while landing during low-visibility weather conditions. Some altimeters have been cleared for use under the new environment. 

Thursday, the FAA issued new approvals that allow about 78 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band.

“The DOD continues to work very closely with our FAA counterparts on this issue. All Services issued bulletins to the field/fleet, making aircrews aware of the potential for interference and establishing a mechanism to report instances of interference. FAA NOTAMs for civil airfields also apply to military aircraft,” the Air Force spokesperson said.

The DOD has launched the Joint Interagency FiveG Radar Altimeter Interference (JI-FRAI), which is a OSD Joint Test and Evaluation funded quick reaction test (QRT). The test is focused on answering what the 5G avionics gold-standard bench test should be as well as the impact C-Band 5G will have on DOD’s fleet equipment.

As part of the inquiry, the DOD conducted live flights this week as a dry-run for larger scheduled live flight events set for February 21 to March 4 and March 21 to April 1. All three events have industry participation supplying mobile 5G equipment to test the avionics, the DOD said. 

The QRT is funded through August 2022.

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