Project Convergence: A glimpse of the Army’s future force at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground
By Mark SchauerSeptember 24, 2020
YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.-- The calendar said 2020, but the Army’s most senior leaders saw the year 2035 at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) a the first of two capstone capabilities demonstration of Project Convergence (PC) on September 21.Due to the overwhelming demand to witness the capabilities of equipment used in PC, the post hosted two demonstrations during the week attended by many of the most senior officials in the Army.PC, designed to aggressively advance and integrate the Army’s contributions to the Joint Force, is ensuring the Army can rapidly and continuously converge effects across all domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace—to overmatch near-peer adversaries in competition and conflict.“At its core, Project Convergence is a campaign of learning,” said Lt. Gen. James M. Richardson, U.S. Army Futures Command Deputy Commanding General. “Project Convergence is going to inform multi-domain operations and how we fight as a team in the future. It will also inform how the Army organizes in the future.”The demonstrations at YPG utilized cutting-edge equipment from five of the Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams (CFTs), which were created to each focus on an Army modernization priority. YPG testing has actively supported six of the eight CFTs since AFC was stood up in 2018. The capstone PC capabilities demonstrations took many months of pre-planning and six weeks of active set-up, testing, and data collection, during which time in excess of 900 personnel from all across the Army came at some point to YPG.“The initial takeaway after being here six weeks: the technology is already here,” said Richardson. “We just need to ruggedize it.”YPG’s developmental test expertise and large, highly instrumented range attracted the attention of PC’s organizers, as did the extreme desert environment that was in full summer effect during the project’s time here. Between Aug. 9 and the culminating week of operations, the local area saw nine days of record-setting heat.“It is really hot, dangerous, rough terrain,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team Director. “We thought that if we could do it here, we could probably do it anywhere.”Hosting the Army’s largest capabilities demonstration of the year was no small task for YPG, particularly during in an environment menaced by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the supporting the challenging technical work associated with the ambitious project, the proving ground developed groundbreaking new COVID mitigation protocols to ensure the demonstrations safely proceeded as scheduled.“The entire proving ground executed this demonstration,” said Todd Hudson, Director of YPG’s Technology and Investments Directorate. “There were multiple Yuma Test Center test officers across all divisions supporting this, along with a lot of different instrumentation sections. There aren’t many organizations on the mission or garrison side that weren’t involved in some way.”Conducting what was essentially a combined developmental and operational test on equipment from the five CFTs in tandem required an immense amount of range space, which few other Department of Defense installations possess in the abundance of YPG. Likewise, the amount of high-level visibility on Project Convergence meant YPG was in the spotlight in a manner that is largely unprecedented.“You could probably add up the last 10 years of operational test events we’ve supported and make this one,” said Hudson. “The same is probably true for the number of distinguished visitors we hosted.”Among those in attendance were Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson and Gen. Joseph M. Martin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, along with dozens of generals and senior civilians from across the Department of Defense and partner nations. All watched in real time on large screens in YPG’s elaborate Forward Operating Base as out on the range cutting edge artillery like the XM-1113 155 mm artillery projectile worked in tandem with air launched effects. The various realistic scenarios imagined going toe-to-toe with near-peer adversaries, with the decisive advantage going to those who could process data quicker and make decisions faster.“This is truly going to change the way we fight and organize as a joint coalition team,” said Richardson.