Modernization leaders use Scarlet Dragon exercise to continue Project Convergence campaign of continuous learning

By Jonathan Jay Koester, and U.S. Army Joint Modernization CommandFebruary 13, 2023

Modernization leaders use Scarlet Dragon exercise to continue Project Convergence campaign of continuous learning
A HIMARS shoots a rocket during live-fire exercise Scarlet Dragon in Utah Feb.2, 2023. This reoccurring exercise is a continuation of each U.S. military branch’s plan to modernize and test systems to ensure we continue to be interoperable and maintain our lethality. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Erin Conway) VIEW ORIGINAL

Using the observations and insights from Project Convergence 22, Army Futures Command is focusing on persistent experimentation in their efforts to transform the Army.

A team of Joint Modernization Command experimentation subject matter experts kickstarted that effort recently during Scarlet Dragon Oasis, an artificial intelligence and data-centric Joint exercise led by the XVIII Airborne Corps out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The team of JMC officers observed the set-up and execution of the exercise, gaining insights into how Army experimentation is playing out in the operational force.

AFC’s persistent experimentation efforts are meant to develop products and services by conducting systematic experiments, collecting user feedback and feeding that into future experimentation. Using PC22 as a baseline, experimental outcomes will be constantly applied toward future experiments, allowing Army leaders to focus on operational problems in an iterative fashion. PC22, which took place in the fall of 2022 at numerous locations in the Western U.S., is the Joint services largest modernization experiment, assessing novel air, land, sea, space and cyber capabilities, incorporating both real and simulated weaponry.

One of the more immediate insights gleaned by Maj. Adam Schinder, JMC’s cyberspace and electronic warfare integrator, from observing Scarlet Dragon was seeing how persistent experimentation can work. This exercise, from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2, 2023, was the sixth iteration of Scarlet Dragon, with the seventh iteration coming within the upcoming months.

“This gave us an excellent vision into what persistent experimentation could look like,” Schinder said. “I think that was really valuable. … What we saw from the persistent experimentation angle is that having multiple events gives them the opportunity to, with less stress, take on the small problems and solve them in an iterative fashion. They can also just try something out. There’s less emphasis on providing a demonstration and more emphasis on finding out what’s functional and what can work.”

Cpt. Liam Carroll, JMC planner and battle captain for the JMC’s Scarlet Dragon assessment team, said many of the issues he saw being worked on during Scarlet Dragon tied in directly to Project Convergence 22 experimentation.

“These exercises are using data to enhance human ability to make decisions,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to reduce the cognitive workload of our Soldiers and our commanders so that they’re able to quickly, and effectively make decisions and facilitate situational awareness. … The threads from Project Convergence and the concepts of employment, they’re getting out to the operating force pretty rapidly.”

The Scarlet Dragon exercise was held across multiple states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Utah, and Florida. They employed multiple platforms across all domains to hit specific targets in a more precise and effective manner.

The exercise also enabled service members from across the Joint Force to improve interoperability by incorporating NATO Allies. The exercise focused on sharing data and processing artificial intelligence to increase capacity for each warfighting function.

Maj. Aaron Zakarison, a planner at JMC who led the Scarlet Dragon assessment team, said the exercise passed data from sensor to shooter in different ways, allowing Army leaders to collaborate and envision new ways to achieve transformation goals.

“We’re finding that a lot of units, even if they’re not technically doing experiments, they are testing things that JMC can gain a whole lot of value from,” Zakarison said. “They are working on the same concepts and goals. However, they are using different methods, and we’re trying to see what those methods are and what we can learn from them for our own experimentation.”

Observing and assessing exercises like Scarlet Dragon helps push forward Army transformation by adding to knowledge gains from experiments like Project Convergence. It enables AFC to achieve an integrated approach to expeditionary, persistent experimentation, fusing experimental objectives within exercise environments. After Scarlet Dragon, JMC will continue with Joint persistent experimentation during numerous 2023 exercises.