After six weeks of experimentation in the desert of Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., Project Convergence 20 culminated in two distinguished visitor days on Sept. 21 and 23, allowing the scientists, engineers and Soldiers of the modernization enterprise to show off what they had learned.
It wasn’t always easy, with the Yuma desert heat that often topped 115 degrees Fahrenheit taking a toll on both equipment and people, but that’s what the Project Convergence campaign of learning was all about.
“Like any scientific venture, you learn so much through experimentation,” Gen. John M. Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, said when he announced Project Convergence 20 in early September. “AFC has always said that if we’re going to fail, we need to fail fast, learn, and get it right the next time. So Project Convergence isn’t about always getting it right, it’s about understanding where our opportunities and vulnerabilities are now – before we ask Soldiers to employ these capabilities in combat.”
Among the more than 100 Army senior leaders who came out to take a look at Project Convergence were Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville and other 2-, 3- and 4-star Army generals. Those leaders were able to see the first fruits of a campaign of learning that will ensure the Army, as part of the Joint force, can rapidly converge effects across all domains – air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace.
“This is the first step in a long journey to achieve convergence on the battlefield,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of Project Convergence 20 and director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team. “Project Convergence 20 will garner many lessons learned, will prove technology. Some technologies will not work, and we’ll apply those lessons to Project Convergence 21, and then 22 and 23. Convergence is a key tenet of Multi-Domain Operations, and we’re going to make sure that our technologies are in the hands of Soldiers, so that we can see the enemy first, we can make decisions faster and commanders can be victorious on future battlefields.”
During the distinguished visitor days, Army senior leaders were able to view a live demonstration of the nascent ability to link any sensor to any shooter through the appropriate command and control node.
“Here at Yuma, 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 meshed network,” Coffman said. “This network allows near-simultaneous situational awareness by all parties, and this can be done not only in the Army, but in the Joint force. We’ve shown that we can talk to F-35s, we can talk to artillery pieces, mortars, direct-fire systems, with everyone having common understanding of the situation on the battlefield.”
Project Convergence brought together AFC’s Cross-Functional Teams, as well as its Combat Capabilities Development Center labs, to make sure all the teams are communicating and working together toward the Army goal of being Multi-Domain Operations-capable by 2035. The weeks in the desert allowed the teams to experiment in converging effects across the five domains to decisively overmatch adversaries. The AFC’s Cross-Functional Teams are: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicle, Air and Missile Defense, Future Vertical Lift, Army Network, Air and Missile Defense, and Soldier Lethality. Additional CFTs lead the Army’s efforts in Synthetic Training Environment and Assured Position, Navigation, and Timing.
Coffman said bringing the teams and labs together for Project Convergence was the first step in proving the Army Modernization Enterprise is on the right path.
“That’s probably the biggest success story coming out of Yuma Proving Ground is that the CFTs and CCDC labs are unified on a common goal,” Coffman said. “It was impressive to see these hundreds and hundreds of people coming from disparate locations arriving here in the harshest conditions known to man, with 120-degree heat, aircraft tires melting, water boiling over, fuel at near record temperatures. We’re here in the dirt, doing what we’re saying – this isn’t a PowerPoint chart – this is scientists, engineers and Soldiers putting their hands on equipment and solving tough problems.”
Both Murray and Coffman noted the Army’s modernization effort is necessitated by the fact that, while the United States has being fighting two wars, both Russia and China have modernized their military and moved ahead technologically. Project Convergence is meant to return the U.S. military to a position of overmatch on future battlefields.
As the Army continuously tests and demonstrates capabilities in the areas of people, weapons systems, information, command and control, and terrain, Project Convergence centers on delivering data and cloud technologies and focuses on the need to reduce the time needed to link sensor to shooter and make combat decisions.
Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, said the efforts of the people at Project Convergence is making a difference in speeding up those combat decisions.
“We’re showing a level of interoperability across all of our modernization efforts that hasn’t been done for a very long time,” Rugen said. “Ultimately what that does is, it’s going to bring transformational lethality, and a transformational way to refine our kill chains down to seconds – not minutes, not hours – seconds.”
As Project Convergence moves forward in 2021, the Joint force will become more involved, and in 2022, coalition partners will participate in the effort. That will lead to a joint, combined force that can work together to combine effects across all five domains.
“The interoperability creates synergy,” Rugen said. “And it’s a synergy that’s not linear; we are going to see exponential capability growth because we are synergistic and interoperable across all the modernization efforts. That is really what the Soldiers on future battlefields are going to need. We owe that to the Army of the future.”