Video Above: Army 2-Star Describes Range Doubling, Course Correcting Artillery
The Army’s breakthrough Project Convergence follows an extremely impactful trajectory or series of increments through which the service continues to advance new warfare attack speeds, information transmission and weapons optimization.
Beginning with paradigm-changing breakthroughs in 2020, the Army’s Project Convergence Campaign of Learning evolved in 2021 to increasingly demonstrate “multi-domain” connectivity, meaning land, air and even some maritime nodes were incorporated.
“We really started to bring to light the idea of convergence across domains to include cyberspace, air, land and to a lesser extent maritime,” Maj. Gen. John Rafferty, Director, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told Warrior in an interview.
The concept, as demonstrated in 2021, was to not only network Army mini-drones to helicopters, ground vehicles and AI-enabled command and control, but also extend the connectivity to Air Force and Navy nodes to enable a joint warfare synergy. This tactical and strategic emphasis represents the Army’s contribution to the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) intended to enable Air, Land, Sea, Cyber and Space synergy through data analysis and transmission in real time.
The concept is to optimize joint, multi-domain attack across otherwise disparate areas of warfare, in essence creating a “meshed” combat network of interoperable nodes through which to truncate sensor to shooter time, analyze variables in relation to one another, and inform commanders of combat developments in real time.
Project Convergence ‘22, Rafferty said, will expand even further beyond US JADC2 to incorporate coalition partners such as NATO allies. The Pentagon effort, which recently entered a key “implementation phase” outlined by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, seeks to conduct warfare at the “speed of relevance.”
For instance, perhaps an Air Force fighter jet, drone or bomber might see an otherwise obscured target, and have the ability to instantly network the tactically critical data to attacking ground units without having the latency of needing to send detail to a separately operated command and control center where information is then processed. Much of the critical decision making, of course including humans in the case of using lethal force, can now take place at the edge of combat because command and control is expedited, decentralized and streamlined across services and domains.
“Project Convergence 21 began to bring in the joint partners. Then you know, that idea of convergence even comes to light even more and also begins to illustrate the JADC2 concept. A leapfrog into PC 22’s joint warfighting concept has matured and the functional concepts have matured, so we're able to expand our experimentation into joint warfighting concepts,” Rafferty explained.
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Interestingly, demonstrations of multi-domain connectivity were also demonstrated in 2020 during the initial project convergence exercise. Marine Corps F-35Bs were able to share combat-relevant data such as navigational and targeting information with ground-operating Army infantry. This is something the Army and its joint partners are continuing to build upon in subsequent exercises and will likely figure prominently when it comes to connecting allies to one another.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are all lined up to participate in the Army’s upcoming Project Convergence Campaign of Learning in the Arizona desert, a yearly experiment intended to use AI-enabled computing, manned-unmanned teaming, hardened transport layer networks and collections of disaggregated sensors to massively shorten the amount of time it takes to identify, attack and destroy an enemy target.
Often described as being ahead of or “in front” of an enemies’ decision cycle by passing otherwise disparate pools of data through a high-speed, AI-capable database to compare information and make instant determinations according to a host of seemingly disconnected variables
“Project Convergence is really that way in which as the Army and then as a member of the joint force, we can bring this short warfighting concept to light and begin to experiment with how we fight as a joint team. We've got coalition partners that are participating in PC 22, how do we fight as a coalition?” Maj. Gen. John Rafferty, Director, Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told Warrior in an interview.
The US military is now breaking through with joint interoperability due to common IP protocol standards, the often discussed open architecture approach and ongoing efforts to engineer technical “interfaces” to enable otherwise disparate networks and pools of data to share information. International connectivity, however, is progress as well, yet of course linking networks and communications systems between countries can prove more difficult.
Addressing this challenge is exactly why the Army seeks to expand Project Convergence to include key international partners. Should British fighter jets, for instance, be able to send targeting information about enemy ships to US Navy warships or ground-fire units, then a battlefield envelope of operations gets further extended and threats are more easily recognized and destroyed. Instead of connecting US Army infantry with Marine Corps F-35Bs, perhaps US Army forces can share data with a UK or Australian F-35 as well?
In coordination with efforts to solidify international connectivity, the Army is taking steps to ensure that Project Convergence ‘22 aligns with the rigors of combat and successfully replicates a modern threat environment. Enemy targets will likely become more elaborate, high-tech and dispersed in Project Convergence ‘22, as the exercise seeks to build upon its success from the last two previous years.
“We also have a part of Project convergence 22 that's really focused at what I'll call the front sight post, its brigade combat team Combined Arms real hard Army fighting. How are we taking these technologies and adapting them to how we're going to fight in the future with feedback from our soldiers in the field right now?” Rafferty asked.
NATO countries in coordination with other US allies have for many years been working on common protocols and formats such as video data links, RF frequencies and other methods of interoperability to generate seamless combat connectivity. Certainly it would serve NATO and other US allies extremely well should there be an opportunity for high-speed, multinational shortening of sensor-to-shooter time and the instant sharing of critical analyzed information.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and 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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.