Connectivity, data management drive future warfighting advantages

By Maureena Thompson, Army Futures CommandDecember 2, 2022

Gen. Randy A. George and Lt. Gen D. Scott McKean discuss Project Convergence 22 at Fort Irwin.
Gen. Randy A. George, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and Lt. Gen D. Scott McKean, Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Futures Command, discuss Project Convergence 22 at Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 3, 2022. Project Convergence is an All-Service and Multinational effort to test and integrate emerging technologies.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Lumagui)

AUSTIN, Texas — Last month, the U.S. military and international partners concluded Project Convergence 22, the Army’s flagship event for transformational experimentation.

The multinational effort took place in coastal and desert settings and provided a collaborative forum for assessing the field viability of cutting-edge weapons systems, from autonomous resupply systems to drone swarms.

The event also ground truthed two essential and interrelated components of future warfighting success: connectivity and data management.

“We’re always going to be interoperable with our Coalition partners, but the goal for Project Convergence is really to integrate the Coalition members into a network architecture that allows us to share information at machine speed, so that we can make rapid decisions across the force,” said Col. Curtis Nowak, Network Integration Division Chief at U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command.

Nowak, whose team built out, managed and troubleshot the joint coalition network that supported PC22, explained how the network facilitates sensor-to-shooter linkages and provides commanders with the data they need to fight and win — specifically on the future battlefield.

“It’s tomorrow’s technology on today’s network,” Nowak said. “As we look to integrate all these systems, all these new capabilities, it’s telling us, what does the network of the future need to look like, and how do we drive ourselves to that in 2030?”

Demonstrating network interoperability also highlighted how having multiple options for communicating operational information could offer the U.S. military and its allies pivotal warfighting advantages.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Calvary Regiment, conduct combat maneuvers at Fort Irwin.
Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Calvary Regiment, conduct combat maneuvers with an Advanced Targeting and Lethality Aided System (ATLAS) at Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 5, 2022. During Project Convergence 22, many systems were evaluated to determine how future command and control capabilities can be integrated with All-Service and Multinational partners. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabriella Bruce-Larkin) VIEW ORIGINAL

“I think it’s really important for both nations,” said Bombardier Nicola Hardy of the U.K. Army’s 20th Armoured Brigade Combat Team, referencing experimentation that integrated U.S. and U.K. Soldier networks.

“We can send missions both ways, understanding each other quite good,” Hardy said. “It just makes us stronger and more lethal.”

Army senior leaders who attended the PC22 demonstration delivery day at Fort Irwin, California, in early November spoke to the benefits of enhancing connectivity among services and partner nations.

“It’s really important what we’re doing here, because, really, what we want to do is win without fighting. And the way you win without fighting is showing you can win by fighting. And that’s what this is all about, is getting the advantage that we need, bringing allies and partners together, bringing the Joint Force together, to get that advantage, so no one wants to fight us,” said Gen. James C. McConville, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

“The secret sauce for us is convergence,” McConville said.

The convergence that took place at PC22 represented not only a focus on expanding relationships with international partners, but also a desire to strengthen existing ties between U.S. military branches, including through advancing joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2, objectives.

“One of the things I think that is most important and most notable about Project Convergence is the fact that while this is an Army-hosted set of experiments, it is a joint experiment,” said Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth.

“A lot of times, back in D.C., there’s a fair amount of skepticism and, frankly, sometimes pessimism, about where we are with JADC2, but I think, you know, through things like Project Convergence, we will see that we’re actually farther along in terms of figuring out how do we share data across platforms, across services, across nations,” Wormuth said.

U.S. Soldiers and British Rangers board a Chinook at Project Convergence 22.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 7th Special Forces group and British Rangers assigned to 4th Rangers board a 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment CH-47 Chinook as a part of Project Convergence 22 at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 31, 2022. Project Convergence 22 experimentation incorporated multiple technologies and concepts, including in the areas of autonomy, augmented reality, tactical communications, advanced manufacturing, unmanned aerial systems and long-range fires. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Collin S. MacKown) VIEW ORIGINAL

Data was a major piece of the event, enabling quicker and more accurate decision-making and maneuvers on mock battlefields. While many activities underscored the importance of capturing and utilizing data, they also stressed the need for systems capable of processing larger amounts of tactical data quickly and efficiently.

“Part of this is having a discussion about what’s the relevance of data at echelon,” said Lt. Gen. D. Scott McKean, Deputy Commanding General of Army Futures Command and director of PC22. “What does a corps commander need to know vice a battalion commander? It’s not the same.”

To ensure both data centricity of the experiment and smart use of data moving forward, more than 350 analysts and observers from across the U.S. military supported data collection and analysis activities at PC22.

“One of the best things about this is it’s pulling all these people together, all the different elements that are going to be fighting together somewhere, and using that — using this venue — to help solve problems,” said Dr. Gary Lambert, PC22 lead analyst.

“You can’t just do it in a lab all the time,” Lambert said of future materiel modeling, simulation and experimentation activities. “You have to have Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and so forth on the equipment, trying to work their way through these mission threads.”

The Army is also intent on leveraging insights from the experiment to further ongoing transformation activities.

“One of the things we all have to keep in mind is that this can’t just be a set of cool experiments. We have to think about how are we going to take the lessons and take the results from the PC series and scale them up across the Army, across the Joint Force, working then with our multinational partners, because eventually we’ve got to make this real, because it’s all about real results on the battlefield,” Wormuth said.