Video Above: Army 2-Star Describes Range Doubling, Course Correcting Artillery
When a flying mini-drone can penetrate enemy air space and instantly send target specifics to a larger drone in position to relay data to an attack helicopter, ground-based AI-enabled computer or even land weapons systems, it is time for a new Army Combined Arms Maneuver approach.
Project Convergence “Campaign of Learning”
Such is the thinking of Army weapons developers now surging into a third year of the breakthrough Project Convergence “Campaign of Learning” which, starting in 2020, began to inform and even reshape Army doctrine and concepts of operation, generating new applications of Combined Arms Maneuver.
Senior weapons developers explain Combined Arms almost in terms of a symphony, meaning each element operates in close coordination with the others. In effect, the operational concept is to have artillery, air support, mechanized armor and infantry all conduct missions with the specific intent of performing a specific operational role with the aim of creating an overall “devastating” effect upon an enemy.
For example, artillery and air support strike from stand-off distances in advance of mechanized units then “closing” with an enemy or, as the Army calls it, “moving to contact.” Each element, to include surveillance drones, attack helicopters, longer-range rockets and artillery, is by design employed to support advancing armored units and infantry. The timing is carefully coordinated in a deliberate way to maximize impact upon an enemy.
Recommended for You
What happens, however, if the time it takes to identify a target and choose the optimal weapon to destroy it decreases from 20-minutes to 20-seconds? That is the cutting edge question, as the Army’s Project Convergence succeeded in demonstrating this through a range of replicated combat scenarios at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., 2020.
“We think about Combined Arms all the time. If we don’t find a venue to get out and experiment in this Combined Arms environment in the dirt with soldiers and engineers, then we are missing an opportunity,” Maj. Gen. John Rafferty, Director, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told Warrior in an interview.
This initial breakthrough demonstrating paradigm-changing high-speed attack has further evolved in recent years to become both joint and multinational in 2021 and current plans for Project Convergence 2022.
Convergence is as it sounds, meaning otherwise disparate pools of information from sensors is aggregated, organized and analyzed by an AI-enabled computer called Firestorm, and then transmitted to human decision makers with recommendations for which “effector” or weapon might be best suited for a particular target.
The AI-capable process is able to bounce new incoming information off of a vast-database, analyze and compare key variables in relation to one another, identify key moments of relevance and offer solutions in a matter of seconds. All of this, Rafferty explained, can be brought to life through Project Convergence experimentation placing soldiers in the “dirt” replicating actual, real-time combat scenarios.
“The Convergence Campaign of Learning is the forcing function for making sure that we don't get lost in these, you know, silos of fires or network or Future Vertical Lift or Next Generation Combat vehicle. We're forced to put this in a Combined Arms environment with soldiers and then evaluate,” Rafferty said.