WASHINGTON — The Army plans to replicate the long distances it could see in future battles during its 2021 iteration of Project Convergence, the leader of Army Futures Command said Wednesday.
The series of exercises, scheduled to begin in November, will strive to augment joint, multi-domain capabilities to help commanders hit targets at greater speed and achieve decision dominance, said Gen. John M. Murray.
The Army is slated to position a command post at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a military intelligence outstation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and have Soldiers at Arizona’s Yuma Proving Ground and at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
The service will perform command and control operations at great lengths, including more than 2,300 miles from Fort Bragg to Yuma, creating realistic combat settings that joint forces could face in the Indo-Pacific region, Murray said during an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.
Project Convergence is the Army’s contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, the Defense Department’s joint warfighting concept. In its upcoming Project Convergence, which held its first iteration in August and September, the Army hopes to rapidly develop its tactical network, weapon systems and software to outpace its adversaries and reduce the amount of time for a shooter to identify and strike targets from minutes to seconds.
A joint board of directors leads the ongoing project, including a representative from the newly-formed Space Force. Next year, the U.S. military plans to invite partner nations such as Australia and the United Kingdom to participate as well as incorporate elements of naval capabilities.
“[Project Convergence] is joint from inception,” Murray said. “It's very collaborative. It is joined by design and will focus on joint use cases or joint mission essential tasks, bringing technologies from all of the services together.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville met with Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, last weekend to discuss how the joint force can merge capabilities in the region, including bolstering air and missile defense and long-range precision fires -- the Army’s top modernization priority. McConville said that the Navy has also been building the capability of its maritime units in the Indo-Pacific.
“They want us to provide options for them and how they can compete in this environment,” McConville said during the event. “And now if you think about how we compete … I think we all have a similar goal.
“We certainly want a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added. “We want peace through strength, and that peace comes from the whole-of-government effort. It comes from a strong military; it comes from a strong Army. And it comes from strong allies and partners all sharing the same goals.”
Last month, the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center’s Air Launched Effects and Advanced Teaming science and technology program teams took part in a demonstration at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The event was designed to build collaboration among Soldiers, engineers and scientists to deliver emerging capabilities to warfighters and reduce risk for the participants of Project Convergence 21.
Robots in the Army
The Army has also been exploring using robotics in the development of remote-controlled vehicles and tanks.
Both McConville and Murray said that the use of robotics in the Army will be for the safety and benefit of commanders and Soldiers, not necessarily to replace humans.
Murray said that machines can keep Soldiers out of harm’s way such as entering a building that could be occupied by enemies. Robots can venture in first and provide intelligence and reconnaissance to inform troops. Other areas, he said, Soldiers should only attempt to enter.
“There are places we send Soldiers on the battlefield today that we shouldn't be sending a machine first … things like a river crossing, or a breach of a complex obstacle,” Murray said. “So taking Soldiers out of the most dangerous places on the battlefield and replacing them with machines is some of the things we're focused on.”
Murray said that the Army has focused on three factors that he believes will fundamentally change warfare by 2035 and beyond: artificial intelligence, autonomy and robotics, which are grounded by a robust and resilient network with secure data architecture.
“I think on a future battlefield a commander that is going to make a good decision … faster than an opponent is going to have a significant advantage,” Murray said. “So allowing machines that aid human decision makers is going to be very important from a machine learning, artificial intelligence standpoint.”
Murray said about half of the 24 Soldiers the Army recruited to serve as coding specialists at AFC’s Army Software Factory were on their way out of the military before the Army identified their unique skills. One of the Soldiers, a specialist who spent three years in the Army as a medic, taught himself coding.
“His real talent is he's a super coder,” McConville said. “And the way we would normally manage him in an industrial age system, we would have had no idea that this young specialist codes at the level of [professional coders]. This is what we're learning in the Army: we have people with tremendous talents. We have to have a way to figure out what talents they have and then get them in the right job and in the right place.”
Murray said to keep pace in great power competition with near-peer adversaries, the Army must develop information technology support within. The Army placed an advertisement looking to recruit coding specialists and chose 24 from 2,000 interested Soldiers. The Soldiers agreed to extend their active duty for three years to work at the AFC headquarters in Austin, Texas.