ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND (APG), Md. (February 4, 2021) - It’s a new year, with a new lab, for the next iteration of the Army’s Project Convergence initiative.
Now in its second year, Project Convergence (PC) is comprised of a series of incremental developmental efforts and exercises designed to achieve a seamless, networked, multi-domain force by 2035.
Armed with lessons learned from PC20, the inaugural exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, PC participants recently collaborated in the DEVCOM C5ISR Center’s new Joint Systems Integration Lab (JSIL) at APG to conduct the first communications exercise (COMMEX) of PC21.
“One of the things we learned out of PC20 was that it’s critical to integrate early and often,” said Col. Curtis Nowak, U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC) Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) director. “APG has unique lab facilities that allow us to do lab-based risk reduction on technologies we had in the desert without having to fight through challenges in the field.”
JMC and the DEVCOM C5ISR Center executed the PC21 COMMEX 1, which was the first of four planned COMMEX activities designed to assess system connectivity and provide risk reduction for the PC21 exercise. As a joint capability enabled lab, it will continue to provide critical Science and Technology experimental efforts to inform future PC exercises.
Leaders and system engineers from Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), Network Cross-Functional Team (N-CFT), PEO Soldier, Army Test and Evaluation Command and operational units formed the team of teams to support the event.
“The DEVCOM C5ISR Center stood up the JSIL as a result of lessons learned during Project Convergence 20,” said Kim Moeltner, Systems Engineering and Integration branch chief. “It allows us to replicate a realistic tactical network environment so we can understand how varying conditions will affect systems’ resilience and reliability.”
The lab enables engineers to evaluate, integrate, and validate emerging radio, network, and application technologies in a controlled, repeatable environment with a scalable infrastructure before they are placed into the field, which saves the Army a significant amount of money, Moeltner said.
Key to PC21 and beyond is the network, which is the backbone that all systems must reside upon. Ensuring it performs beyond its current Army tactical capabilities, it must operate under the context of Project Convergence in a constrained bandwidth environment.
“By connecting our network infrastructure with that of other Army and Joint Service labs across the country, we’re capable of linking sensors and shooters across the services in a contested environment with restricted bandwidth, which is critical to all Project Convergence efforts,” Moeltner said.
To enable network connectivity, engineers from the DEVCOM C5ISR Center and PEO C3T collaborated to bring the Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) into the architecture, which supported commercial radios to act as transport for targeting data during the sensor-to-shooter assessments. The radios provided a mobile ad-hoc networking technology mesh network, which enabled information exchanges between sensors, decision-making agents and weapons platforms.
The network enabled engineers to validate 45 radio systems in the virtual lab, where they monitored performance under simulated operational conditions.
“Here in the lab, we can change the distance between radios and add in environmental concerns to determine how the systems are going to react, so that when we roll into PC21, we will be ahead of the game,” Nowak said.
Radio waveforms are also being used to provide network capabilities to connect artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous technologies during Project Convergence exercises, which is critical to ensure all services can conduct their missions faster, more efficient, and more effective while keeping Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen out of harm’s way, Nowak said.
While the PC21 COMMEX 1 featured 28 integrated Army technologies running multiple mission threads, leaders plan to integrate 100 Army, Navy, and Air Force joint technologies at the PC21 field exercise, which is scheduled back at YPG in September. The event, and future COMMEXs, will include Soldiers from First Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division to ensure critical Soldier feedback is integrated into the solutions.
“We have been focused on readiness and the ability to ‘fight tonight,’ but Project Convergence is all about fighting tomorrow or the day after,” Nowak said. “Now, as we move forward with the lab and multiple COMMEX events, we can create processes, procedures and systems to really start integrating early.”
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.