The Army will increase its integration of synthetic training environments in Project Convergence 2021 as the capacity to train in realistic, 3D simulations has become a crucial element in maintaining readiness, an Army Futures Command leader said Oct. 15, 2020.
Readiness will remain paramount even as the service announced at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition last week it would scale back its operations tempo to alleviate the burden on Soldiers.
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said that the past 19 years of continuous deployments and a busy mission schedule had taken its toll on the force. Instead of sending Soldiers to the field, synthetic training environments, which include 3D terrain representations through the One World Terrain capability, will allow Soldiers the ability to do multiple exercise repetitions in a simulated battlefield setting from their home stations using reconfigurable virtual collective trainers.
Additionally OWT, with its access to multiple traditional and non-traditional terrain data sources, can enhance targeting precision and accuracy, and support cooperation in a joint environment.
“Our assessment is that the 3D terrain will be an integral part of Project Convergence, multi-domain operations, and the joint all-domain command and control concept,” said Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team director. “It is an underlying, foundational element. One World Terrain supports [MDO] by serving as the base upon which missions are executed.”
As part of Project Convergence, which is the Army’s effort to accelerate joint all-domain operations, OWT will play a role beyond training, working within intelligence and mission command information systems such as the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, the service’s lead intelligence platform for sensor tasking, Gervais said.
Through the use of high-resolution mapping and sensor data registration, OWT helps improve the accuracy of long-range precision fires — the Army’s top modernization priority.
The STE CFT had a limited part in Project Convergence 2020, but still showcased an ability to use 3D terrain mapping in mission planning and in assisting intelligence analysts. During the exercise, the team demonstrated the ability to automatically ingest centimeter-quality data into a program of record, DCGS-A, and from there conduct line-of-sight analysis to determine threat areas for a moving unit.
This analysis hinges on the ability to align multiple 3D data sources into a single foundation, a process referred to as geo-registration. Ryan McAlinden, senior technology advisor for the STE CFT, said that when geo-registration is done algorithmically it alleviates the need for human involvement in what has traditionally been a manual process.
“If you’re using the same foundation, you’re already going to have a baseline to start with,” McAlinden said. “And then as new data is coming in, you’re having an automated mechanism by which you can do that alignment.”
During Project Convergence 2020, the team learned that it must develop methods to integrate the 3D training environment with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance while working with the ISR Task Force, Gervais said.
The Army has begun conversations with the Army’s intelligence community on how to best use data collected from sensors in space and in the air. The CFT must determine how to combine the data to form the most suitable 3D terrain for exercises or operations at each echelon, Gervais said.
Gary Blohm, director of the Army Geospatial Center, said that the challenge of combining the synthetic training environment with the Army’s vast number of weapons platforms could be daunting, but working closely with other CFTs and mission partners can help alleviate some of those obstacles.
“This geospatial 3D data has a place and it really supports multiple [CFTs]” Blohm said. “And how do we use this to support a SHORAD [short-range air defense] navigation and timing? Maybe it doesn’t help with the timing too much, but certainly it helps in a GPS-denied environment. We’re going to use this 3D data to help us position ourselves and do navigation for those kind of environments.”
The Army Futures Command’s CFTs have been working to enable artificial intelligence to help manage the massive amounts of data, Gervais said. She said her team members must also tailor the access to data sets according to user needs. This will help alleviate some of the burden of Soldiers and analysts assigned to use the data.
“We are looking to leverage different AI techniques to be able to handle some of the reasoning below the hood,” said Karen Saunders, program executive officer for simulation, training and instrumentation. “But then also give Soldiers the opportunity to be able to shape the picture that they want to see not only from a geospatial view, but also from an operational view with respect to units and other environmental aspects that the Soldier is going to see.”