As the U.S. Army prepares for the second iteration of Project Convergence this fall, each branch of the U.S. military will take part for the first time.
Each of the nation’s military services — including the U.S. Space Force — will test its sensor-to-sensor capabilities as a joint force during the second iteration of the Army’s Project Convergence this fall.
The first Project Convergence, which occurred last fall, focused primarily on the Army’s role in joint concept. The establishment of the joint board of directors in December paved the foundation for the involvement of the other services for Project Convergence 21, which is set to begin in November.
“The Army approaches [the future fight] with the belief that we will never fight alone,” said Gen. John M. Murray, who leads Army Futures Command. “We have never fought alone in history when you look at the other services, and I don’t see any possible future where any one service is going to be able to go alone. I think it’s always going to be the power that the joint force brings.”
Speaking during a Potomac Officers Club virtual forum Thursday, Murray said that near-peer adversaries Russia and China have tried to replicate the success of the U.S. joint force, and that will be the key to U.S. success on the future battlefield. Collaboration among the services will be a critical element in the future fight, he said.
The joint exercises will also help the Army prepare for the changing nature of warfare, said Christopher Lowman, senior official performing the duties of undersecretary of the Army.
“Any conflict, particularly within the Indo-Pacific or Europe, will be fought across all domains and the Army will need to be prepared to physically secure terrain, as it always has,” Lowman said. “We must also be prepared to fight for that terrain in increasingly complex scenarios as part of a joint force, and alongside allies and partners in an environment characterized by well-developed anti-access areas.”
The origins of the exercises began after conversations between Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, and Murray in early 2020. Coffman wanted to test linking ground sensors to ground vehicles using an automated target and detection system, in the backdrop of the harsh desert environment in Arizona. The exercise would provide shooters with options and automate a portion of the kill chain.
The network capabilities to make this happen have expanded to space as the Army intends to use targeting data collected from low-Earth orbit satellites.
The series of exercises will have “joint use” cases that will test joint, all-domain situational awareness, as the Army will link with other military services to provide the joint services commander situational awareness over the battlespace. Each of the participating services will link sensors and display a “common operating picture,” Murray said.
“[Project Convergence 21] is focused on integrating coalition; that premise that we will always fight together, therefore, we should always train together,” Murray said. “Why not experiment and learn together to see how to make these things work? Each of the services has hundreds of billions of dollars of legacy material and equipment.”
One of the most significant challenges so far with this project has been joint, all-domain air missile defense.
“Each of the services has capability at least from a sensing standpoint,” Murray said. “The Navy and Army really have the interceptors but never have all of those capabilities been linked together to enable the best sensor to the best shooter regardless of service in an air defense standpoint.”
The Army will also attempt to enable joint fires by empowering platforms and shooters through ground sensing, similar to what the Army attempted to achieve in Project Convergence 20, but this time from a joint perspective.
Finally there will be four joint use cases involving ground forces that will be heavily Army and Marine Corps focused.
The Army also planned four communications exercises leading up to PC 21, including one held in April at Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Joint System Integration Lab, or JSIL, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Murray added that the Army will begin integrating technologies of partner nations almost immediately after PC 21 concludes.
Murray said that the 82nd Airborne Division and its commander will have a featured role in PC 21 as a command post will be set up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A military intelligence outstation will also be established at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The service will then test command and control operations at long distances with troops stationed at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
Murray said that the tests may not prove to be successful, but the results can help inform how to improve the Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, process.
“Project Convergence is actually a journey as opposed to a destination. We call it our campaign of learning,” Murray said. “Some people would describe it as a demonstration, some would describe as an exercise. It’s all of that and more.”