YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. -- Amid 100-degree temperatures in Yuma’s barren desert, the Army tested the pinnacle of its modernization efforts during Project Convergence demonstrations Monday and Wednesday.
During the latest drills that challenged joint multi-domain operations capabilities, Soldiers displayed improved interoperability, power and speed, Army senior leaders said during a media event Wednesday.
“We wanted to put them through their paces in an environment that would be brutal so that we knew that if we could accomplish our mission here, we could do it almost anywhere on Earth,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.
Project Convergence is a new Army initiative designed to rapidly merge the service’s capabilities with joint force assets in the air, land, sea, space and cyber domains.
More than 800 Soldiers and civilians took part in the project’s five-week exercise that ended Sept. 18, which included demonstrations from several of the Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams, the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Task Force and Combat Capabilities Development Command.
"This may not only be the most important thing Army Futures Command works on, this may be the most important thing the Army is doing,” said Gen. John M. Murray, the AFC commander.
Leaders decided to test the project again this week using Army AI assets and how they augment human senses, including the AI project “Firestorm,” a computer system that delivers reconnaissance data, recommends the best shooters for a given scenario and tasks the shooters needed to defeat enemies on a battlefield.
“This is a major step forward in transforming the United States Army for the next 40 years,” said Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s chief of staff.
During the exercise, the Marine Corps supplied F-35 Lightning II aircraft that successfully sent targeting data to ground units to combine efforts and deliver more effective fires, Coffman said. Representatives from the British Army and the U.S. Air Force also observed the training.
Next week, McConville will meet with his counterpart, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, to discuss how to combine the Army’s MDO strengths with the Air Force’s all-domain command and control capabilities.
McConville said the Army is developing long-range precision fires in order to penetrate an enemy’s anti-access, area denial capabilities, or A2AD, along with air and missile defense systems that could help defend Air Force bases and assets.
“What we want to do is come together as a team and to take some of the things we're working on and some of the things that they are working on,” McConville said. “We have a system that will determine what the best shooter is for multiple sensors and it can do it with speed. It is going to make the joint force much, much more capable.”
The exercise had some bumps as the demonstrations did not successfully hit all their targets. To prepare for the exercise, the Army built a network specifically designed for the event, one that will admittedly need to be adjusted for future iterations.
“We pushed it to its limits,” Coffman said. “What we learned is that it is not going to be sufficient to scale. So we're going to have to go back and determine how we will talk underground and air-to-ground to make sure that we can scale the network.”
But the results of the exercise have given the Army something to build upon going into next year’s Project Convergence exercise, said Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, adding he believes it will have a lasting impact for the service’s ongoing modernization efforts.
“We're looking for transformational change in the Army, not incremental improvements,” McCarthy said.
Throughout the exercise, the Army used its air, land and space sensors to track targets and process data to shooters on the ground, as part of a three-phase process. First, in the penetrate phase, low-orbit satellites identified enemy targets that could potentially form an A2AD defense. In the disintegrate phase, demonstrators used operational aircraft to remove the enemy’s long-range, precision fires capabilities. Finally, ground shooters used their data processed from the sensors to fire on enemy targets.
“So taking information from space-based sensors and passing it to ground- and air-based effectors seemed really simple and happened super-fast,” Coffman said. “But it was very complex and took us weeks of hard coding and work to get it done.”
Demonstrators fired on targets in the range of 60 kilometers, but McConville said that range will eventually be stretched even further. He added that the systems the Army uses are “cross-domain” capable, meaning they can be operated on land or in the air.
“When we look at the how we will fight operationally, because of the depth and the range of the battlefield, it will be a joint forces fight; it will be a coalition fight,” he said. “Operating as a team that will change the dynamics. We believe will be contested in every single domain.”