Transforming DOD: PC-C4 prepares for the future battlefield

By Matthew Murch, Futures and Concepts CenterMarch 22, 2024

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, based out of Fort Moore, Ga., take part in a human machine integration demonstration using the Ghost Robotic Dog, and the U.S. Army Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) of new U.S. Army capabilities at Project Convergence - Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 15, 2024.  The robotic dog is a mid-sized, high-endurance, agile unmanned ground vehicle that provides enhanced reconnaissance and situational awareness supporting Soldiers on the ground. The SMET is an eight-wheeled, enabling robotic technology serving as a “robotic mule” with a wide range of flexibility to operate in combat, combat support and combat service support operations.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, based out of Fort Moore, Ga., take part in a human machine integration demonstration using the Ghost Robotic Dog, and the U.S. Army Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) of new U.S. Army capabilities at Project Convergence - Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 15, 2024. The robotic dog is a mid-sized, high-endurance, agile unmanned ground vehicle that provides enhanced reconnaissance and situational awareness supporting Soldiers on the ground. The SMET is an eight-wheeled, enabling robotic technology serving as a “robotic mule” with a wide range of flexibility to operate in combat, combat support and combat service support operations.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Samarion Hicks)
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Pfc. Aiden Liendo, an infantryman with the MCoE Experimental Company, 1st Battalion, 29 Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, demonstrates robotic experimentation at Fort Irwin, Clif., March 18th, 2024. Quadrupeds are midsized, high endurance, agile unmanned ground vehicles that provide enhanced situational awareness and support frontline Soldiers, acting as their eyes and ears.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pfc. Aiden Liendo, an infantryman with the MCoE Experimental Company, 1st Battalion, 29 Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, demonstrates robotic experimentation at Fort Irwin, Clif., March 18th, 2024. Quadrupeds are midsized, high endurance, agile unmanned ground vehicles that provide enhanced situational awareness and support frontline Soldiers, acting as their eyes and ears. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Maxwell Bass) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — On the beaches, oceans, air and deserts of the U.S. West Coast, more than 4,000 members of the joint force, civilians, contractors, and militaries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France and Japan experimented with more than 200 technologies in the Army’s largest experiment in the dirt, Project Convergence Capstone 4.

Two phases, primarily conducted in California at Camp Pendleton and the National Training Center, allowed experimenters to work in arduous conditions and experiment with cutting-edge technology in as close to a real-world environment as possible. Distant locations also supported the experiment up and down the West Coast and the Pacific region to experiment through time, distance and complexity.

Technology getting to PC-C4 itself takes time and goes through a review process designed to save PC-C4 time and money by ensuring only the most promising technologies make their way to the capstone experiment. All technology at PC-C4 could fill a potential gap or provide a capability designated as necessary by senior leaders. Nascent technologies go through the Science Technology and Review Board before spending time at a myriad of other experiments and lab-based risk reduction activities, all before they ever make their way to NTC or Camp Pendleton.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Cody Maynard, left, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and Spc. Aaron Clark, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, training in urban warfare during the human machine integration experiment for Project Convergence – Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

U.S. Soldiers conducted use case operations with the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, a ground robot, and the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System during PC-C4. The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events; it provides a critical venue to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the Army and ensure future war-winning readiness.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army 1st Lt. Cody Maynard, left, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and Spc. Aaron Clark, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, training in urban warfare during the human machine integration experiment for Project Convergence – Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

U.S. Soldiers conducted use case operations with the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, a ground robot, and the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System during PC-C4. The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events; it provides a critical venue to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the Army and ensure future war-winning readiness. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. LaShic Patterson)
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U.S. Army Pfc. Darren Campbell, infantryman assigned to the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, operates a ground robot during the human machine integration experiment for Project Convergence – Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

U.S. Soldiers conducted use case operations with the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, a ground robot, and the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System during PC-C4. The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events; it provides a critical venue to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the Army and ensure future war-winning readiness.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Pfc. Darren Campbell, infantryman assigned to the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, operates a ground robot during the human machine integration experiment for Project Convergence – Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

U.S. Soldiers conducted use case operations with the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, a ground robot, and the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System during PC-C4. The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events; it provides a critical venue to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the Army and ensure future war-winning readiness. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. LaShic Patterson)
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"There are plenty of technologies we find out aren't mature enough or don’t fill a gap or capability the way we thought, so they get withdrawn way before Capstone 4 takes place," said Mindy Gabbert, experiment division chief at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Not only does this scrutiny save money and time once the experiment begins at PC-C4, but it also ensures that all players involved in putting on PC-C4 already have working relationships.

"It's not just a yes or no process. It's going through those prior risk reduction activities that allows the broader community to see those technologies and just to be familiar with them before they get here so that they can properly fit them into the exercise, so that they can make sure that we are aligning them with the right use cases and the other right opportunities out here," Gabbert said. "So, in addition to the technical aspects of those technologies, it's just building that knowledge base within the community of what's out there and bridges that community by building the whole body of knowledge we're all working on."

Since 2020, Project Convergence (PC) has grown exponentially in scale and scope. PC-C4 was the largest PC experiment yet, with participation from the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and multinational partners.

U.S. Army Paratroopers, assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, move under concealment thru a Military Operations on Urban Terrain village leveraging a U.S. Army Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport during a human machine integration experiment as part of Project Convergence - Capstone 4, Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024. The SMET is an eight-wheeled, enabling robotic technology serving as a “robotic mule” with a wide range of flexibility to operate in combat, combat support, and combat service support operations.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Paratroopers, assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, move under concealment thru a Military Operations on Urban Terrain village leveraging a U.S. Army Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport during a human machine integration experiment as part of Project Convergence - Capstone 4, Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024. The SMET is an eight-wheeled, enabling robotic technology serving as a “robotic mule” with a wide range of flexibility to operate in combat, combat support, and combat service support operations. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Marquis McCants) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division move to an objective under concealment leveraging a U.S. Army Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) during a human machine integration experiment at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 12, 2024.  The SMET is an eight-wheeled, enabling robotic technology serving as a “robotic mule” with a wide range of flexibility to operate in combat, combat support and combat service support operations. 

PC-C4 is an U.S. Army-hosted Joint and Multinational experiment integrating modernization capabilities and formations through persistent experimentation at multiple echelons for the future operating environment.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division move to an objective under concealment leveraging a U.S. Army Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport (SMET) during a human machine integration experiment at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 12, 2024. The SMET is an eight-wheeled, enabling robotic technology serving as a “robotic mule” with a wide range of flexibility to operate in combat, combat support and combat service support operations.

PC-C4 is an U.S. Army-hosted Joint and Multinational experiment integrating modernization capabilities and formations through persistent experimentation at multiple echelons for the future operating environment. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Howard Lee)
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"The first PC was conducted in 2020. It was Army only and focused on a specific time between the identification of a target and an effector shooting on that target," said Lt. Gen. Ross Coffman, United States Army Futures Command deputy commanding general. "And from there, we decided the Army will never fight alone, so let's get the entire joint force focused on this problem set."

"This year, we have increased the threat envelope to 10 times what we did last year. With the entire joint force and our U.K. and Australian teammates and allies, we were able to effectively move data for the first time in an Indo-Pacific scenario at a magnitude we've never seen before," Coffman said.

PC-C4 informed combined, joint all-domain situational awareness, command and control, integrated offensive and defensive fires, defeat large target array, human machine integration and how to sustain the force over large-scale combat operations, dubbed contested logistics.

One of the significant successes of PC-C4 was the integration of sensors and fires to ensure that the force is best able to stop incoming missiles without depleting munitions unnecessarily. Coffman explained that they used offensive and defensive fires to tackle the problem and ensure that sensors have interoperability between the branches to ensure the right sensors pick up the threat and the right shooter takes it out, so the military does not waste munitions.

U.S. Army Soldiers sling load cargo on a UH-60A Blackhawk during persistent experimentation of Mission Adaptive Autonomy (MAA) during Project Convergence - Capstone 4 at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 10, 2024. MAA provides the U.S. Army with a capability to operate in a contested logistics environment. This autonomous technology once fielded will allow operational commanders an uncrewed ability to conduct resupply operations.

PC-C4 is an U.S. Army-hosted Joint and Multinational experiment integrating modernization capabilities and formations through persistent experimentation at multiple echelons for the future operating environment. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the U.S. Army and designing the Army of 2040.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Soldiers sling load cargo on a UH-60A Blackhawk during persistent experimentation of Mission Adaptive Autonomy (MAA) during Project Convergence - Capstone 4 at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 10, 2024. MAA provides the U.S. Army with a capability to operate in a contested logistics environment. This autonomous technology once fielded will allow operational commanders an uncrewed ability to conduct resupply operations.

PC-C4 is an U.S. Army-hosted Joint and Multinational experiment integrating modernization capabilities and formations through persistent experimentation at multiple echelons for the future operating environment. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the U.S. Army and designing the Army of 2040. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Zion Thomas)
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U.S. Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment take part in a series of human machine integration experiments using crewed and uncrewed drones testing new U.S. Army capabilities to execute military operations for a future operating environment at Project Convergence Capstone 4 at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events; it provides a critical venue to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the Army and ensure future war-winning readiness. 
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gianna Chiavarone)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment take part in a series of human machine integration experiments using crewed and uncrewed drones testing new U.S. Army capabilities to execute military operations for a future operating environment at Project Convergence Capstone 4 at Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. PC-C4 is a culmination of numerous preceding exercises, experimentations, and events; it provides a critical venue to identify and refine recommendations necessary to transform the Army and ensure future war-winning readiness.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gianna Chiavarone) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gianna Chiavarone)
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"It's not our job to go fill up the magazines to the level we'd like them to be, but it is our job to ensure that we can connect my sensors to his fires and his sensors to my fires because I might have the most available weapon where he's got the most survivable sensor and vice versa,” said Vice Adm. Michael Boyle, Third Fleet commander. "And that's really what this is about; it's enabling us to pick from whatever magazine we need."

Another major win for PC-C4 was the increased ability to push data through a fully networked command, control and communications system. This allowed for more significant amounts of data to be pushed to the Joint and Allied forces.

"When you put stress on untested equipment, you're going to learn things,” Coffman said. "One of the interesting things is that as we increase the pipe on this cross, it worked magnificently. It could pass a large amount of data that we had not seen before we tested it last year, and we could see it was nascent. We were able to pass data successfully."

Great strides in contested logistics experiments also took place across both phases. Experiments involving beach landings, drones and printing technology were showcased, and for the first time, a repair part for an Army system was printed out at sea on a Navy vessel.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stetson Manuel, an infantryman and Robotics and Autonomous Systems platoon sergeant from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, carries the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System after its flight during experimentation at Project Convergence - Capstone 4, March 11, 2024 at Fort Irwin, Calif. This iteration of the U.S. Army-led experimentation included Soldiers from Fort Moore, Ga. and Fort Liberty, N.C.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stetson Manuel, an infantryman and Robotics and Autonomous Systems platoon sergeant from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, carries the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System after its flight during experimentation at Project Convergence - Capstone 4, March 11, 2024 at Fort Irwin, Calif. This iteration of the U.S. Army-led experimentation included Soldiers from Fort Moore, Ga. and Fort Liberty, N.C. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Charlie Duke) VIEW ORIGINAL
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stetson Manuel, a Robotics and Autonomous Systems platoon sergeant and infantryman, assigned to the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, assembles the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System during the human machine integration experiment for Project Convergence – Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

U.S. Soldiers conducted use case operations with the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, a ground robot, and the Ghost-X UAS during PC-C4. The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stetson Manuel, a Robotics and Autonomous Systems platoon sergeant and infantryman, assigned to the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, assembles the Ghost-X Unmanned Aircraft System during the human machine integration experiment for Project Convergence – Capstone 4 in Fort Irwin, Calif., March 11, 2024.

U.S. Soldiers conducted use case operations with the Small Multi-purpose Equipment Transport, a ground robot, and the Ghost-X UAS during PC-C4. The U.S. Army is hosting PC-C4, a joint and multinational, two-phase, “in-the-dirt” experiment from Feb. 23 – March 20, 2024. PC-C4 participants include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force along with militaries from partner and allied countries from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, and Japan. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. LaShic Patterson)
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"Envision the printer was on the vessel," said Col. Shane Upton, director of the Contested Logistics Cross-Functional Team. "They printed the part, we put it on an unmarried unmanned aerial system, a drone, and flew it onto the beach to the point of need. In a contested environment where you don't have a permissive flow of sustainment, you've got to use some of these exquisite technologies. That's why we're experimenting with them."

Now that PC-C4 has wrapped up after several weeks of experimentation, the data collected will be analyzed to inform future acquisition and force structure decisions and aggressively advance and integrate Army contributions to the Joint and Combined fight.

"It's worth every penny," Coffman said of the experiment. "The readiness of the joint force and the partnership with our allies is invaluable. When called upon, the women and men of this nation and the women and men of other nations will fight side by side to preserve liberty, and that cost is worth every penny."

Check out Project Convergence Capstone 4 stories, pictures and videos on DVIDS and the Defense.gov.