AFC's campaign of persistent experimentation moves from Philippines to Alaska

By Jonathan KoesterJune 9, 2023

5th ANGLICO | Long Range Communication Testing
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ismael Hinajosa, a native of Austin, Texas and fire support marine with 5th Air Naval Gunfire liaison Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, relays a 9-line during a long-range communication check at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, May 12, 2023, in support of Northern Edge 23-1. NE 23-1 is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises designed to sharpen the joint services’ skills; to practice tactics, techniques, and procedures; to improve command, control and communication relationships; and to develop cooperative plans and programs. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Manuel Serrano, U.S. Marine Corps) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — After kicking off Army Future Command’s persistent experimentation campaign with the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force in the Philippines during Balikatan/Joint Warfighting Assessment 23, observers from the Army modernization enterprise, led by the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, moved to Alaska to continue experimentation with the 3rd MDTF during the Project Convergence-Pacific/Northern Edge exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The efforts at JWA23 and PC-P are part of an integrated campaign of learning in the Pacific, which will lead into a European campaign of learning this summer, with all lessons funneling into Project Convergence Capstone 4 next spring, said JMC Commander Col. Joseph Escandon.

“These observations, at exercises that include the joint services and multinational partners, are allowing us to see the latest in joint warfighting,” Escandon said. “What we see during these persistent experimentation events will allow us to push the envelope as we plan our own experimentation, including Project Convergence capstone experiments.”

Northern Edge was a Pacific Air Forces-led exercise, with the 3rd MDTF’s participation helping the services experiment with joint sensor-to-shooter capabilities and joint fires. Though the 3rd MDTF in Alaska was the hub of observations, there were a variety of units experimenting during Northern Edge, said Maj. Zachary Quintana, deputy assessment lead for JMC’s operations group A.

“The 3rd MDTF is the unit of action we’re looking at most in Alaska, but we’re also looking out beyond them,” Quintana said. “We have some teammates out in Hawaii who are looking at the integration of the Theater Fires Element, as well as the Air Operations Center. We’re really peeling back the diagram of the sensor-to-shooter linkage through the experiment and the exercise.”

These observations in Alaska, Hawaii and the Philippines were informed by experimentation at Project Convergence 22 and will lead right back into future experimentation, Quintana said.

“We’re looking at the linkages to some of the technologies and concepts that were leveraged in PC 22 and seeing where those are playing across this summer period,” he said. “What's the evolution of those? Are they being placed against the same unit or different units? What does that look like? And then really trying to, through all that, develop an understanding of where there were missed opportunities or gaps. We’ll then provide recommendations for future experimentation with concepts, capabilities, and formations, to better our understanding of those and inform the greater body of knowledge.”

The multi-domain task forces’ ability to work jointly and participate in Air Force-led exercises like Northern Edge and Marines-led exercises like Balikatan, make them especially important to Army transformation efforts, Quintana said.

“As new capabilities are emerging, the MDTFs are really the Army’s entry into the joint fight,” he said. “They are the action arm to support the joint fight in any capacity, whether that’s by providing exquisite sensors, or effects capability, both lethal and non-lethal.

Lt. Col. Josh Slattery, JADC2 concepts chief for the Mission Command Capability Development Integration Directorate, was one of the observers at Northern Edge and was especially interested in what tools the 3rd MDTF preferred to use to conduct joint fires. The MDTFs are the signature unit as leaders look to deliver the multi-domain operations-capable Army of 2030.

“The multi-domain task forces have the ability to provide effects across multiple domains, and they’re focused on multiple theaters globally,” Slattery said. “The MDTF may be the model for the future of other formations for the Army. The MDTF is a win for the Army. The future of combat operations is evolving, and our requirements are changing. So, as we contribute to the joint force, the Army is rolling out multi-domain capabilities.”

The 3rd MDTF is the newest multi-domain task force in the Army, having reached initial operating capacity in mid-April, and Northern Edge was its first exercise and its first foray into persistent experimentation for the Army. JMC is leading efforts to experiment with all three MDTFs this fiscal year, with experimentation with the 2nd MDTF in Europe planned for this summer.

The Soldiers of the 3rd MDTF were excited to jump into Army experimentation during their first exercise, said Maj. Nick Bowers, fires support officer for the 3rd MDTF.

“This is important to us because this is our first exercise, so the first time we’re able to get out and practice as a task force,” Bower said. “This has been a great opportunity. It’s the right mission set for our organization.”

As the 3rd MDTF moves forward, so too does persistent experimentation. The observations at Northern Edge will lead into JMC observations in Europe this summer, and finally into Project Convergence Capstone 4 in the spring. This persistent experimentation is leading to a transformed Army, ready for the multi-domain battles of the future.