Project Convergence exercise has a new gateway to test emerging technologies
WASHINGTON — This year, Project Convergence will grow and expand to further examine how joint force and international partners can conduct fully connected combined operations.
Another new element of the annual US Army Proving Event is a “gateway” where industry can test emerging technology in an operational environment.
The service had a wide variety of industry partners “knocking on our door to enter” the Convergence project in 2021, Brig. Gen. Guy Jones, who directs the Center for Army Futures and Concepts, told Defense News in an interview ahead of the Association of the US Army’s annual conference.
The main part of the Convergence project starts in October and continues in November.
In its third year, the Convergence Project will focus on both Indo-Pacific and European theaters while finding ways to fight with larger scale capabilities. The experimental event has grown from an Army exercise in the desert at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in 2020 to a joint evaluation in 2021; this year it will include international partners in the UK and Australia.
In many cases over the past year, industry has come forward with new technology too close to the start of the experimentation process, so the military has partnered with industry and created the event. of “Gateway” experimentation, Jones said. Attendance for the Gateway’s first year is high, with approximately 50 different technologies being evaluated in theater-independent scenarios.
The military will provide participating industry with a separate network to connect to, and the event will take place at Yuma Proving Ground during Project Convergence, Jones noted.
“The intent is for industry partners, who understood and were made aware of some of our challenges that we might have, [to] bring in some of the developments and things that they’ve been working on,” which would then fully join the next Convergence project or later releases if successful, Jones said.
“This is how we will continue to generate new and innovative ideas in the global learning campaign.”
What else is new this year?
In joint combat, one service is often chosen to lead a mission while other services are called in support, Jones noted.
“When we really start to look [multidomain operations], what everyone realized is that to defeat a near-peer or a threat by a peer, we can’t do that anymore,” he said. “We need to be able to integrate Air Force aircraft, Army deep sensing, and Navy Aegis ships, all collectively against a single objective.”
Project Convergence 22 will attempt to conduct “combined arms as a combined service”, integrating multiple capabilities into a single objective, he added.
The key to achieving this is a joint network focused on integrating sensors, processors, control nodes and effectors into a chain. “We don’t have that today,” Jones said.
It currently takes the United States and its partners 10 to 15 days to integrate the networks before an exercise, Jones said. The US military wants to be able to integrate networks in four to six hours. “I still think it’s several years away.”
The Convergence Project has six learning objectives this year, Jones said. The first is to establish an integrated air and missile defense network. The second is to use combined arms fire to penetrate and defeat enemy assets in enemy-controlled territory.
The third is to conduct combined joint operations to gain a position of “relative advantage,” Jones said, which can involve several approaches, such as gaining a physical position, achieving a psychological effect or deceiving an enemy.
The fourth goal is to inform a realistic “Mission Partner Environment” network, which brings together disparate networks of allies and partners who normally cannot communicate, “because we know we have to fight with partners at every turn. “Jones said.
The fifth goal is for the joint force to sustain itself, “so we’re trying to integrate how to do that in both a distributed way and a contested way,” he said.
The end goal is to identify the authorities and policies that prevent U.S. armed forces from operating together — an important goal, Jones said, because “we made policy decisions in an environment that did not contemplate this application. combined arms of our capabilities.”
For example, he added, “to establish the network that we are about to do, we have nine interservice agreements just to even connect the overall architecture. I’m not saying passing data, I’m saying architecture. It’s crazy.”
Project Convergence 22 will take place at new locations to better reflect the distances the joint force would encounter in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. The regional scenario will connect Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and San Clemente Island in California, as well as a location in Hawaii.
A European theater scenario will take place at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin and the Navy Electronic Warfare Range at China Lake, both in California.
Technology heads for testing
Jones said there are more than 200 different technologies being evaluated for this year’s event. And it examines at least 24 different technologies to determine whether existing programs need to be adjusted, whether requirements need to be strengthened, or whether the technology should be divested because it won’t work.
Among the sensors the military is integrating into the experiment is the High Altitude Detection and Exploitation System, or HADES. The sensor is currently on board a manned aircraft, “but that’s probably not where it will stay,” Jones said. It will perform target acquisition and electronic warfare effects.
The service also uses an unnamed system that performs what is known as deep detection; space sensors will also play a role. However, Jones declined to name the participating systems. Next-generation Synthetic Aperture Radar – a commercial product – will help differentiate threats on the ground.
To process sensor data, the military will use a replica of the TITAN ground station — or Tactical Intel Targeting Assessment Node — which is still under development. TITAN ingests data and turns it into actionable insights.
The Firestorm target-matching system will also return for this year’s event, as will SHOT – the high-tempo synchronized targeting system – which helps generate targeting messages to be sent through a command and control node.
Project Convergence 22 C2 nodes include the Integrated Combat Command System, which connects sensors and gunners on the battlefield and plays a central role in integrated air and missile defense. A solar glider is also present to create an aerial network relay for digital messaging.
The military is bringing back the still-in-development tactical data fabric called Rainmaker. This year it will combine with LEAP, or Lower Echelon Analytic Platform, which will help move processed data from one node to another to route it to an effector, Jones said.
The effectors in play at the event will include the Army Special Operations Command Hero-120 precision munition as well as a replica of the service’s long-range hypersonic weapon system, still in development.
Robotic combat vehicles will also return along with several electronic warfare platforms, including the Terrestrial Layer System.
The Army uses a Light Support Ship – an Army craft intended to simulate the future Maneuver Support Ship (Light), which is not yet built – to assess sustainment capabilities in a peaceful scenario .
And an electric light joint tactical vehicle will participate in the experiment to help assess the Army’s climate strategy goals.
This year’s Convergence project will also evaluate a new technology for field doctors called BATDOK – or Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit. It is an application that allows doctors to treat trauma cases before they reach a doctor or surgeon.
A doctor can plug in vital signs and injury statistics, and the system will generate step-by-step procedures for you to follow. The app will also track care already delivered so that surgeons and doctors are ready to pick up where care left off in the field.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering ground warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.