ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Sept. 1, 2021) – The Army took another key step on the road to Project Convergence (PC) 21 as it assessed network interoperability for emerging technologies from across the Joint Force.
The service completed its third network risk reduction effort for PC 21. Executed by the Joint Modernization Command (JMC), the Network Cross-Functional Team and the Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), these communications exercises (COMMEXs) are enabling the Army to address potential network integration challenges during the PC21 planning process and understand the data environment in a controlled, instrumented laboratory environment.
“As a former signal officer, the last thing you want to find out is your system doesn’t work because of improper grounding or configuration that you could have dealt with in the lab or in some sort of hybrid environment. What we’ve really done is help capitalize that crawl-walk-run. For each step in the COMMEX series, we’ve added a little bit of complexity and a little bit of stress on the systems.” said Maj. Kristen Pietrasz, JSIL Acquisition Officer for the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center.
The Army executed the initial COMMEXs in the DEVCOM Joint Systems Integration Laboratory (JSIL) at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland. The JSIL digitally connects Army and Joint Service labs in a seamless, single, virtual, operationally realistic tactical network environment that reflects the conditions of joint, all-domain operations and Joint All Domain Command and Control.
The environment creates a network of sensors, shooters and command nodes that shares data and enables decision-making across the military services. This enables the Joint community to assess joint system interoperability and the network conditions needed to support sensor-to-shooter vision. This, in turn, creates efficiency by enabling the services to address network challenges that would otherwise take up precious testing time during PC21.
“In ten days, we achieved the same results that we would have if we had spent six weeks in the desert,” said Kim Moeltner, chief for the C5ISR Center’s Systems Engineering and Integration Branch.
While COMMEXs 1 and 2 were strictly lab-based, 2.x was a hybrid lab and field-based event that introduced additional stress on the network to serve as the final risk reduction event before taking technologies “to the dirt” at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) in Arizona.
During 2.x, JSIL engineers connected 63 systems, five of which were Joint, via 13 remote locations across Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps labs who were validating the information flow for various operational scenarios that will unfold at PC21.
This included, for the first time, connecting dismounted systems in the labs to command and control, fires and tactical communications systems integrated on aerial and ground-based tactical platforms in field environments such as test ranges at APG and other bases across the continental United States. The efforts helped test and refine the PC21 Common Operating Picture and exercise platform functions at realistic ranges.
“PC 21 is a critical example of how the Network Cross Functional Team (N-CFT) and the Army are using DevOps and Solider-centered experimentation to rapidly integrate and improve tactical network capabilities. N-CFT is using PC21 experimentation to better understand the technical network characteristics required to support all phases of MDO to include sensors, shooters maneuver, and C2,” said CW4 Quinten Scherer, Technical Advisor and Line of Effort Lead for Network Modernization of the N-CFT.
Project Convergence is the Army’s campaign of learning, experimentation, and technical demonstration aimed at integrating the Army’s weapons systems and command and control systems with those of the Joint Force. PC21, which will include multiple elements from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, will focus on informing, developing, and integrating an interoperable Joint Force that is capable of multi-domain operations at echelon.
The Army will now head to YPG for COMMEX 3, where it will establish the tactical air-to-ground mesh network and other appropriate operational networks. During COMMEX 4, the Army will pass data through those networks as a “warm start” to Project Convergence 21, noted Col. Tobin Magsig, commander of the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command.
The Army will execute PC21 in November at YPG, with additional activity at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
“This has been instrumental because it allowed us to overlay laboratory experiments at the same time we were doing field experiments. We've done the laboratory piece, we’ve done the field piece, and this was new for us to be able to layer all three at the same time at speed, at scale and at range,” said Col. Tobin Magsig, commander of the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command.
The C5ISR Center is the Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of U.S. Army DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is an AFC major subordinate command.