YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. — U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) was the epicenter of the Army’s future force in Project Convergence 20 and 21 and continues to support Army Futures Command’s campaign of learning this year.
The Army Futures Command Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team (FVL CFT) held the annual Experimental Demonstration Gateway Event (EDGE) 23 here over the course of four weeks in April and May.
Exercising these capabilities with The Netherlands and other international teammates during EDGE 23 is critical to what we are trying to accomplish to deliver the Army of 2030 and design the Army of 2040 to ensure interoperability with allies and partners. Last year we signed a bi-lateral agreement with The Netherlands codifying a 5-year info sharing and concept development study for Future Vertical Lift initiatives. This agreement provides the vehicle to identify and capture those future operating concepts and requirements.
The FVL CFT is aggressively testing most every facet of the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and FVL, as well as advancing knowledge on electronic warfare. Unmanned aircraft, launched effects and all manner of ancillary technologies to expand communications capabilities and Soldier survivability were all being tested simultaneously here.
This year’s iteration featured participation from 10 international partners, including the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).
“We are focusing on joint multi-domain operations and how to implement that physically,” said Maj. Diego, of the RNLAF’s Aerospace Warfare Center. “We are working on how we connect all the higher tier of the air domain and lower tier of the air domain and make sure that everyone has the same shared situational awareness.”
YPG’s vast size—more than 2,000 square miles of restricted air space—allows testers to execute missions at tactically relevant distance, range and scale.
“We simulated an air assault where you can have a lot of players in the air and a lot of data going over the networks and see if it still works,” said Diego. “That’s the good thing about EDGE: We are able to see if our thoughts on future operations are feasible, workable, and interchangeable with the United States.”
During the air assault scenario, pilots in a cutting-edge, fifth-generation fighter aircraft were able to feed digital information to a handheld device being used by a Soldier in the back of a helicopter. The imagery and data were also displayed on the helicopter cockpit’s monitors, despite the differences in communications and network architecture of each airframe. This allowed each element of the exercise to talk to each other, a capability not previously possible due to system differences.
“It’s been demonstrated before, but it is a real first at the level we’ve done it here, with the number of players we have here,” said Diego. “This is exactly what FVL wants: multiple nations bringing their assets and integrating that into a big ecosystem.”
The proving ground’s clear, stable air and extremely dry climate, combined with an ability to control a large swath of the radio frequency spectrum, makes it a desired location for the type of testing EDGE was interested in: counter-unmanned aircraft solutions, extending network access and flying autonomous and semi-autonomous aircraft. YPG’s vast institutional unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and counter-UAS testing knowledge and the presence of a wealth of other infrastructure meant for other sectors of YPG’s broad test mission were utilized to support the aviation evaluations: YPG is home to things like technical and tactical targets, as well as generator and combined maintenance shops.
“It is really beneficial to be here to test stuff like this,” said Diego. “We want to make sure that multi-domain operations is not just a buzzword, but an actual thing in five or ten years.”
The experience that YPG personnel possess was a major influence on this year’s iteration of EDGE.
“We got a lot accomplished last year and were really happy with what we got out of it,” said Diego. “This year in the first week we already surpassed what we did last year in three weeks just because the basics were there already, we were used to working together with all of the teams. After two days of testing, we achieved a lot of our learning objectives just because everything we needed for support was in place.”