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Related Video Above: Navy Connects Drones

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

The Army will now be assessing the results of seven “use cases” it put to the test in the Arizona desert during its recently completed 2021 Project Convergence exercise. 

Project Convergence is a “campaign of learning” put into effect by the service to establish much faster, paradigm-changing, AI-enabled “sensor to shooter” time able to locate and destroy targets in seconds.

The overall concept for Project Convergence, which began last year, is to generate high-speed, multi-domain connectivity between otherwise dispersed or disconnected nodes or points of contact on the battlefield. Not only does the overall effort seek to network air, ground, manned, unmanned and space platforms to one another with secure information sharing, but it involves an attempt to exponentially shorten “sensor-to-shooter” targeting time and wage war at the “speed of relevance.”

Project Convergence 2020

There are many technical elements to how this becomes manifest, yet Project Convergence 2020 arguably showed breakthrough progress linking mini-forward drones to larger drones, helicopters and ground combat vehicles in seconds. 

The sensor-to-shooter process, often referred to as a need to get inside of or ahead of an enemies decision cycle, has historically required as long as 20 minutes in some scenarios. Using a networked, AI-capable computer system called FireStorm, Project Convergence was able to gather information, process and organize time sensitive data, transmit it across the force and establish an optimal “sensor to shooter” pairing in a matter of seconds.

Satellite connectivity was also essential in Project Convergence 20, as targeting data was sent from Washington State to Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, at nearly unprecedented speeds to expedite an armed attack on a mock enemy target. A forward operating, air launched mini-drone, for example, was able to discern an enemy ground target, relay the key information to a larger drone which, in concert with a helicopter, sent the crucial data to a ground-based computer system which instantly processed and organized the information. 

Project Convergence 2020 Yuma

A drone returns from functional testing during Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., on Sept. 15, 2020. (Spc. Jovian Siders/U.S. Army)

Firestorm was able to process otherwise overwhelming amounts of data, organize it and determine which weapon or “effect” would be best suited to destroy the enemy target. Data was then sent to a ground combat vehicle. Project Convergence, while still considered a “learning experiment” by Army leaders, demonstrated paradigm-changing breakthroughs.

Many things matter when it comes to the speed of decision-making, such as an ability to gather, organize, process and perform analytics on data in near real time and identify key moments of relevance otherwise buried beneath seemingly limitless volumes of data.

Project Convergence 2021

Project Convergence 21, the results of which are now likely being analyzed very carefully by Army weapons developers, was intended to expand the bounds of connectivity more fully across multiple domains.

During Project Convergence 21, or PC21, the Army planned to test over 100 technologies across 20 sites with over 5,000 participants.

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“Project Convergence is our in-the-dirt experimentation to inform how the Army will fight and organize in the future,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in an Army report. “By linking all sensors to the best shooter through the right C2 node.”

The thrust of the Project Convergence effort is to bring combat decision-making, joint-service targeting and information sharing to new, paradigm changing levels.

Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz.,is an ambitious effort to bring a new generation of speed and information processing to fast-moving combat decision-making. Following a successful Project Convergence 2020, the Army has now completed Project Convergence 2021, a second iteration of the experiment intended to build upon the first and introduce more joint-service operations.

In this year's Project Convergence, the Army planned to greatly expand its networking capabilities to include Air Force and even Navy nodes across a joint combat network. 

Joint Air and Missile Defense was one of its key use cases.” While specifics regarding the result of Project Convergence 21 are likely being analyzed now, Army systems such as Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) are specifically geared toward connecting, pooling and analyzing threat data from land and air in real time to establish a “target track” on an approaching threat and cue the best interceptor. 

Previous to Project Convergence 21, the Army led IBCS program successfully linked sensor data from an Air Force F-35 with ground-based radar systems networked into a meshed systems of interconnected sensors. It would seem quite likely that expanded Project Convergence 21 air-ground connectivity might have hit even newer levels during the experiment.

F-35 Yuma

aj Jack Cronan flies a VMX-1 F-35B at sunset during a mission from MCAS Yuma.

“If there’s an incoming missile attack, first we want our systems to be able to identify it,” McConville said. 

There was an early indication of F-35 to ground-soldier connectivity attached to last year’s Project Convergence wherein the overhead 5th-generation aircraft were able to exchange time-sensitive combat data with maneuvering soldiers on the ground.

This kind of joint connectivity and high-speed sensor to shooter pairing, such as that explored and demonstrated at Project Convergence, represents the Army contribution to the Pentagon’s often discussed Joint All Domain Command and Control program (JADC2). The JADC2 effort essentially mirrors or aligns with what the Army is doing with Project Convergence, yet in a joint capacity, meaning it is centered upon the goal of forming an interconnected “meshed” network of air, sea, land, cyber and space nodes able to share data across the force in real time.

Looking ahead at Project Convergence 22, McConville said participants will expand even further to include allies and partners.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President