With convergence of Joint effects being one of the main goals of Project Convergence 21, joint interoperability was the main order of business during the second of four communications exercises planned in the lead-up to PC21.
The communications exercise, which took place from April 5-15 at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s, or DEVCOM, Joint System Integration Lab on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, brought together nearly 60 technologies from the Joint force.
Project Convergence is the Army’s campaign of learning, experimentation, and demonstration aimed at aggressively integrating the Army’s weapons systems and command and control systems with those of the rest of the Joint Force. PC21 will focus on informing, developing, and integrating an interoperable Joint Force that is capable of multi-domain operations at echelon. PC21 will be held at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona; and a number of locations participating virtually from October 12 to November 9.
“As we were experimenting with this new technology during Project Convergence 20, we knew that we had to ensure that it was compatible with the joint force,” Col. Tobin Magsig, commander of the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, said during a media roundtable last week. “To that end, Gen. Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, directed Joint Modernization Command to focus on joint integration for Project Convergence 21.
“When you integrate the joint force, you’re taking a leap in complexity,” Magsig said. “These linked experiments, to include four communications exercises like the one we are participating in now at Aberdeen Proving Ground, all help us to reduce risk by ensuring proper integration in the laboratory environment before we get out to the desert.”
The series of communications exercises prior to PC21 came out of lessons learned from PC20. Leaders realized they needed some time out of the sand, heat and wind to really dive into the art of the possible. The exercises help Joint leaders see what can be done for future interoperability.
“We realized that prior to us getting out to the field and out into the dirt, we needed some time in a controlled and instrumented laboratory environment to really address integration challenges, not only in network configuration but to also really understand the data environment. Getting data to where it needs to go is not a trivial task,” said Michael Monteleone, director of space and terrestrial communications for DEVCOM’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center.
The Joint System Integration Lab where the PC21 communications exercise took place is part of the Army’s commitment to Combined, Joint All-Domain Command and Control and allows for continual integration of joint technologies.
“Operating in an integrated laboratory environment does not mean everyone converges on Aberdeen Proving Ground,” Monteleone said. “The value of the JSIL is that we federate across the greater joint community to allow those assets, those systems and the subject matter experts to do what they do best back at home base, and we execute it remotely across a federated network. That’s what we’re executing here this week, and we have the Joint services up online here already in the JSIL infrastructure passing data into and out of Army systems as well as their systems.”
In addition to joint participation, another key push forward in Project Convergence 21 is the participation of operational units from across the Joint force. As part of that process, members of those units also participated in this month’s communications exercise, said Lt. Col. Stephen Kirchhoff of the U.S. Army Network Cross-Function Team.
“While we had Soldiers from the 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion – Enhanced supporting PC20, this is the first time we’ve brought the 82nd airborne onboard to participate,” Kirchhoff said. “So we have Soldiers running threads with us and getting familiar with the systems. Their participation will continue to grow throughout the sequence of communication exercises. They will become much more familiar on the systems, providing essential feedback to feed into the DevOps cycle.”
PC21’s third communications exercise will head back to the Yuma desert. But before that, the Joint services will conduct three weeks of use-case rehearsals at the JSIL to prepare, Magsig said.
“During communications exercise three, we’ll establish our tactical air-to-ground mesh network and our secret and top secret networks,” Magsig said. “During the fourth exercise, we’ll start to pass data through those networks as a warm start to Project Convergence 21.”
Though everyone is excited to return to the experimentation ground of Project Convergence, these communications exercises and other linked experiments leading up to it are an important part of the process because they help with risk reduction and ensuring interoperability, said Col. Curtis Nowak, JMC’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) Director.
“What we’re doing here during this communications exercise will all translate to Project Convergence 21,” Nowak said. “Once we get to Yuma, it gets much more complex. Everyday we’re here, we learn something new. We’re able to see what doesn’t work, and when something doesn’t work, it’s just as important as if it does because it gives us that opportunity to dissect it, go back and troubleshoot it, so we can apply a solution.”