The U.S. Army is teaming with members of the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) – a Quantico, Virginia-based facility that assesses future security environments and generates ideas for modern warfighting – to test and analyze newly developed approaches to warfare.
The collaborative effort is part of Project Convergence 2021 (PC21), a large-scale modernization experiment and cornerstone effort of U.S. Army Futures Command.
Lt. Col. Nathan Knowles of MCWL, who is serving as the lead Marine Corps planner for PC21, assisted the Army with designing PC21 experiments focused on counter-air defense and Joint Force target identification and attack systems.
Knowles described how the new systems, which are undergoing field testing at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, are using multi-domain sensors and Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force munitions to “achieve kinetic effects in a very narrow window against an adversary.”
“We see this as being very crucial to facilitating Joint interoperability,” Knowles said, adding that the ability of the various services to simultaneously see and cohesively react to threats is a formidable asset.
Marine Corps involvement in PC21 is closely linked to U.S. Navy participation in the Army-led experiment, which is Joint by design and includes participants from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force. Through their contributions to the experiment, the services are supporting Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) objectives and the development of interoperable programmatic capabilities.
“For the Marine Corps and the Navy team, what we’re doing out here is a series of pretty significant firsts,” Knowles said.
Knowles specified that multiple PC21 activities are “leveraging specific sensors in current capabilities and prototype capabilities in novel ways” to enable the Navy and Marine Corps – as well as the other branches – to prepare for, simulate and learn from realistic combat scenarios.
“The Navy and Marine Corps contribution is really focusing on integrating our sensors, our shooters and our command and control,” echoed Navy Commander Rollie Wicks, the Navy’s lead planner for JADC2 experiments, including PC21.
Through this integration, “we’re able to be more lethal as a Joint Force,” Wicks said.
Wicks emphasized that PC21’s status as an experiment, rather than a training exercise, means it is able to offer greater insights and inputs into ongoing and upcoming U.S. military modernization initiatives.
“We’re trying to enable a learning environment to integrate capabilities in ways that haven’t been done before,” Wicks said.
Cpl. William Thyson, a light armored reconnaissance Marine who is assisting with testing autonomous vehicle prototypes at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, described his experience at PC21 as both interesting and rewarding.
“Being out here at Project Convergence has been a good time and a good learning experience, seeing new technology I’ve never seen before, and it’s motivating,” Thyson said.
“It’s been a great training experience,” agreed Marine Lance Cpl. Jay Langer, who is also a light armored reconnaissance Marine participating in PC21 activities at Yuma Proving Ground.
“I’ve never worked with unmanned vehicles before,” Langer shared. “It’s something brand new to me, and I enjoyed it.”
“I think the Marine Corps is probably going to make good use of it,” he added.