CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The firepower of three nations is better than one. But first, they have to connect.
As American, British and Australian forces combine resources to experiment with future sensor to shooter targeting technologies and techniques, they are also weaving together the communications and data network that allows each military to more rapidly share information with allies.
“A lot of what we are doing here is reliant on combined joint fires, massing all combat power at one time, and being able to gain situational awareness of all of it,” said Capt. Joseph McClain, a network engineer with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, one of the units participating in Project Convergence 22. “The only way to do that is to integrate our networks, instead of playing the classic telephone game. The Australian and the U.K. network environment is different from ours, but we are combining efforts to give the commander decisive information they can act on in combat.”
Project Convergence 22 marks the first time that coalition partners are participating alongside U.S. forces in the Army-led, joint PC experiment that focuses on integrating effects and emerging technologies to achieve superiority over adversaries. Divided into two operational scenarios, one modeled after the Pacific theater and one reflecting Europe, PC22 incorporates personnel and systems from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to enable data sharing and operational synchronization.
“We’ve got to make sure we can have a network that works collectively together to pass that same type of target-quality data to leverage their capabilities, along with the joint force,” said Brig. Gen. Guy Jones, Director of the Futures and Concepts Center, part of Army Futures Command, which leads PC execution.
From a network perspective, Project Convergence is not only integrating technologies, but also building trust among nations — so they are confident to shoot or apply non-lethal effects based on data provided by a sensor from another country, leaders said.
“We’re looking to share technologies and develop trust,” said Brig. Gen. Warren Gould, Director General of Systems and Integration, Land Capability Division for the Australian Army, adding that PC22 is a “fantastic opportunity to iterate and evolve.”
The Army intends to continue network experimentation and improvement with the U.K. and Australia after PC22 concludes, both through ongoing unit operational exercises in their respective theaters and persistent laboratory connections, said Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, Director of AFC’s Network Cross-Functional Team. The information-sharing architecture developed in PC22 will also inform the Army’s transformation to become more data-centric, including through mission partner environment efforts with coalition partners, Rey said.
At lower echelons, one of the key technologies enabling allied communications at PC22 is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Secure Handhelds on Assured Resilient networks at the tactical Edge capability, which provides coalition voice and data communications and common operational picture on handheld devices.
Beyond joint and coalition interoperability, the U.S. Army’s network technology focus at PC22 includes building on PC21 progress in tactical data fabric, the aerial tier network, and resilient satellite communications, which aggregates commercial and military links to support operational data, maximizing network availability and performance.
“Data is the new ammunition, but you can only reliably access the data if you have a good connection, and it’s great to be able to see these emerging technologies that allow that,” said McClain. “What makes Project Convergence so unique is the wealth of knowledge that comes together at the same time, to see how best to enable the commander in a timely manner. It’s been great to work through and interact and see the bigger picture of why it’s so important.”