FORT SILL, Okla. (Nov. 1, 2018) -- Like product testers watching a focus group, observers and analysts record every like and dislike from the Soldiers around them. Too large, too slow, good picture, bad interface - all invaluable bits of knowledge, small facets that will determine the development of the next generation of equipment.

Unlike a sterile room, the Soldiers are on Thompson Hill, a desolate hill on the west range of Fort Sill. The 35 Soldiers are participating in the Maneuver and Fires Integrated Experiment (MFIX), a two-week long event to learn about advancement in capabilities and to validate those capabilities.

"MFIX provides us an environment where we are able to use live and virtual simulations to gain insights on ways emerging technologies can fit the needs of Soldiers in 2025," said Maj. Anthony Findlay, acting experimentation and war gaming chief. "Additionally, MFIX provides the Army with feedback on changes in the areas of doctrine and training."

The products Soldiers use are designed with specific objectives in mind. Those objectives include integrating between different weapon interfaces, enhancing the ability to fight in multiple domains (land, air, space, etc.), "Linkages between varying weapons systems is crucial because in today's theater of war, our armed forces are all intertwined, working together to accomplish the mission," said Findlay. "We have to be able to speak to one another and our weapons have to be able to speak to each other. Army Soldiers need to effectively tell an Airman where to fire. It's important that our systems are integrated to accomplish the same goal."

Additionally, an ongoing task at MFIX is bettering the ability of systems to detect, identify, and defeat a wide range of aerial threats, a large portion of those threats being drones as well as ground targets. During MFIX, at any given time, the sky above Thompson Hill may have as many as 10 unmanned aerial devices moving to avoid detection and ultimately destruction.

"For years our troops have been requesting methods to better defeat UAVs," said Findlay. "The battlefield no longer sees Soldiers going face-to-face with other soldiers. These days the enemy uses whatever means available and with the evolution of low-cost, longer range UAVs, we need to develop countermeasures. At MFIX, Soldiers who may have experienced drones downrange can give us their immediate feedback on how to improve the system so that we always maintain overmatch."

The experiment lasts two weeks and sees more than 35 government and industry partners demonstrate their emerging technology. Following MFIX, the companies take their knowledge back to their developers to make changes before they return for another MFIX with increased capability, or participate in a joint warfighting assessment.

"What we hope our MFIX participants take away from this is more questions and ideas. How do we make this better? How do we make it more compact? How do we help our warfighters? These are all questions we hope our participants leave with, and then come back next year with a better product," said Findlay. "Moving forward into the future of multi-domain combat, every service will have to work together and what we do here at MFIX is a stepping stone to make that future happen."