Operators in the network operations cell manage the mesh network and troubleshoot challenges as they arise during the live Project Convergence 20 demonstration on Sept. 20, 2020, at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. (Photo by Justine Ruggio / Network CFT) (Photo Credit: Justine Ruggio) VIEW ORIGINAL

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. – As technology advances at an ever faster pace, the U.S. Army’s network capabilities must evolve faster to enable the future of modernized warfare. The Army is driving the procurement and operation of networked lethality technologies to achieve overmatch. At Project Convergence 20, in Yuma Proving Ground, Az., from Aug. 11 – Sept. 18, 2020, the Army Network Cross Functional Team (N-CFT) deployed a mesh network to further evaluate the ability to augment human sensing and decision making, optimizing the pace of battle.

The network underpins everything at Project Convergence 20 (PC20), a campaign of learning designed to advance and integrate the Army’s contribution to Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control. It does this by establishing the Army’s ability to use artificial intelligence and networked lethality technologies that augment human sensing and decision making in order to improve the warfighter’s lethality and pace of battle. In the context of this event, the network successfully demonstrated how it can leverage all sensors to deliver data, enabling the best shooter to use the right command and control to achieve the objective.

Maj. Steve Kirchhoff, the Network CFT Project Convergence lead, spoke on the Army modernization priorities, and how they require a network to integrate weapons and command control systems to provide the Army the ability to act faster and more effectively than the adversary.

“The network we operate touches every modernization effort across the Army, achieving networked lethality and capitalizing on AI and machine learning capabilities to speed decision making and effects on a target,” Kirchhoff said. “To decision makers, both human and AI, the movement of data from sensors provides precise orders to the right shooter for the right and timely affect.”

Having a network that can keep pace with information demands will also require flexibility and resiliency to rapidly integrate new technologies, as our adversaries continue to adjust to our capabilities. To prevent enemy forces from matching our capabilities, network-enabled Multi-Domain Operations will rely on full end-to-end connectivity in support of mission requirements across all land, air, sea, space and cyberspace domains.

As the director of PC20 at Yuma Proving Ground, Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, who is also the director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, spoke on how these networks provide troops with a common understanding of the situation on battlefield.

“Here at YPG, we’re proving that ground can talk to ground, that air can talk to air, and now we’ve proven that air can talk to ground in a mesh network,” Coffman said. “This network allows near-simultaneous situational awareness by all parties, not only in the Army, but in a Joint Force.” To modernize the network  and keep pace with industry advancements, the Army is fielding Capability Sets (CS) in two-year increments, starting in FY2021. Each CS builds off the previous and is informed by Soldier-led experimentation.

Utilizing currently fielded radio and networking capabilities to stitch together emerging science and technology capabilities, the Army benchmarked the current capabilities of network infrastructure. The network used at Yuma for PC20 won't necessarily look like the network supporting these capabilities in 2035. But by using what is available now to experiment with concepts in the emerging fields of AI and machine learning, the Army can gain a better understanding of the information exchanges between sensors and shooters the future fight will require.

For the Army Futures Command N-CFT, having the platform to build on lessons learned from Multi-Domain Operations testing like at PC20 continues to strengthen future network approaches as the barriers of technology continue to transform.

“The network can collect from lessons learned to guide design decisions and investments earlier in product development cycles,” Kirchhoff said. “In doing so, we can deliver the right network at the right time, to enhance effective and precise Multi-Domain Operations we require in the future for modernized warfare.”