YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. – United States Army Futures Command is converging next generation capabilities as a campaign of learning during Project Convergence 20 at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. Aug. 11 – Sept. 18, 2020. PC20 is a demonstration of the five phases of convergence, Compete, Penetrate, Dis-integrate, Exploit and Recompete.
The Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team is at the forefront of the Exploit phase of convergence, providing systems that can map out hostile terrain and artificial intelligence that can autonomously engage a target. NGCV systems receive input from numerous sensors, improving battlefield situational awareness and shortening the decision-making timeline.
“The goal of what we are doing here,” Combat Capabilities Development Command, Ground Vehicle Systems Center’s Chris Spangler says, “is to relieve the Soldiers and decision-makers of processes that can be done by a computer in order for them to make quicker and more accurate decisions on the battlefield."
These processes will allow our Soldiers to see further, deeper, and make real-time decisions that can weigh-in on the overarching result of the battle.
"As we move forward, the ground fight is going to be changing significantly." Spangler says.
These changes come in the form of autonomous systems with the ability to map, in real-time, the terrain a Soldier will be facing as well as target recognition of the hazards ahead.
"Trying to understand how we bring autonomy into the fight is going to be very key information in how we move forward in the fight.” Spangler says.
Future fights, as described in the National Defense Strategy, will be characterized by greater speed, growing autonomy, and increasingly dispersed footprints in difficult-to-maneuver environments. Whoever can see, understand and act first, will win.
“We are pushing the envelope in terms of artificial intelligence,” Lt. Col. Christopher Lowrance, Artificial Intelligence Task Force autonomous systems lead says.
The goal of AITF in PC20 is to demonstrate a collaborative team of air and land systems with the ability to communicate amongst each other, then convey the information back to the Soldier in an effort to mitigate the risk.
"These systems are able to operate in the forward line to exploit and pinpoint the enemy ahead of the troops," Lowrance says. "Our goal is to enable the Soldier to effectively conduct multi-domain operations."
One of the overarching goals of NGCV technology is to limit Soldier risk. As in any battle, communication is key. In this case, proper interconnectivity enables troops on the future battlefield to make quick decisions.
An almost immediate sensor to shooter timeline relies on system interconnectivity. The technology that makes it happen is Firestorm.
“Firestorm is a system that ingests data from the systems and relays the information to the best shooter.” Ketula Patel, Intelligence Systems Branch Chief from U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armament Center says.
Prior technologies that relayed information back to the Soldier took almost twenty minutes to give the data back. The new Firestorm system has the ability to bring that time down to thirty-two seconds. Greatly advancing our capabilities on the battlefield and putting us that much further ahead of our adversaries.
“Firestorm is essentially the brains of the operation,” Marc Sanzari, computer scientist at the Combat Capabilities Development Command, Armaments Center says. “This software utilizes different sensors and algorithms to determine the best course of action for the commander, cutting the decision-making time.”
PC20 is a demonstration that has brought together multiple facets of various organizations to reach the goal of modernization in combat. It contains teams from the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, The Research and Analysis Center, the Artificial Intelligence Task Force and various other teams all with the capabilities to win a Joint Multi-Domain battle.
The ability of these teams is to collectively come together, in less than optimal conditions and work toward a goal has been a step toward the final goal of aggressively advancing the capabilities of our Armed Forces.
"The hallmark of what we are trying to achieve is the convergence of the enterprise coming together to achieve something that we have never done before.” Matthew Horning, director of operations for PC20 says.