U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground was the epicenter of the Army’s future force for six weeks as more than 100 technologies and weapons systems were put to the test at Project Convergence 21.
Arguably one of the most well-known of these was the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), an augmented reality goggle based on Microsoft’s HoloLens and designed to provide overmatch to the Close Combat Force (CCF).
The CCF, as designated by senior Army leaders nearly a year ago, includes more than 100,000 Soldiers in five specialties: infantry, cavalry scouts, combat engineers, forward observers, and platoon medics.
IVAS is a signature modernization effort spearheaded by the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team at Fort Benning, Ga. Travis Thompson, the deputy director for the SL CFT, spoke briefly on the concept during the PC21 Capabilities Showcase earlier this month.
“In the infantry, every Soldier is a sensor,” Thompson said. “The question is, how do you get information from the sensor up to where it matters? IVAS gives us the ability to both passively and actively pass that information up in real time, so leaders can make more informed decisions.”
IVAS hosts a variety of impressive capabilities in one package. It is a thermal capable system with low-light cameras and nearly double the field of view over current night vision goggles, Thompson said.
Already tested at the Cold Regions Test Center and the Tropic Regions Test Center earlier this year, IVAS was put through its paces across two use cases that each lasted five days during PC21, including an IVAS-enabled air assault and an AI-enabled mounted attack.
Soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division used IVAS in realistic combat scenarios across YPG’s rugged ranges in darkness and when the helicopter rotor blades created a hazardous vortex of sand and dirt upon landing. The IVAS dramatically improved the Soldiers’ situational awareness as the simulated battlespace changed in real time. They could communicate changes on the objective and use 3-D maps to identify and share enemy locations.
The complex scenarios included Soldiers teaming with unmanned aerial systems and ground-based autonomous systems. UAS operators far away from the battlefield were able to hand over control of UAS to infantry Soldiers on the ground for surveillance. And for the first time, Soldiers using IVAS could see outside of an aircraft or vehicle with live video and use tactical WiFi to improve communication on-board and between aircraft.
“Instead of one person in the back of an aircraft maybe being able to talk to someone else over the same network that the pilots are using, you can communicate back and forth and continue planning while en route,” Thompson said.
Testers also experimented in situations where network connectivity was degraded or completely denied.
“IVAS is network-enabled, but not network dependent,” Thompson said. “Without a stable and robust network, it is a night vision device that will provide you with increased capability and overmatch that we haven’t had before. If you don’t have the network, you will go with what you know, which is probably more than we have today.”
IVAS is also useful for realistic training for Soldiers.
“It’s a single system you can use to fight, rehearse, and train,” Thompson said. “A single system will provide increased repetitions, increased confidence, and increased ability to execute on the battlefield, because Soldiers will fully understand the system they are operating and can use it much more frequently.”