Defense Speak Interpreted: Who Won the Project Convergence War Game—Evil Chaos or JADC2?

I know you have been on the edge of your seats since my Defense Speaks September column, “What Does Convergence Mean to Defense?” or back to my February column, “So, What’s a JADC2?”

While I tackled some other government defense topics, I realize I have left you hanging concerning the big interservice war game maneuvers, Project Convergence (PC), which tested out the information connection described in the JADC2 effort. I know, I know, you thought after my “Son of JEDI” description of a cloud-based information flow, that all service branches would soon be coordinated and talking to each other smoothly. 

However, I occasionally describe the defense department as “the glacier” as it is very slow to get moving, but don’t stand in its way after movement starts. The same is true of interservice data communication; it doesn’t happen overnight.

Now, back to my Cliff’s Notes versions of Convergence and JADC2. JADC2 is Defense-speak for “Joint All Domain Command and Control” and what better way to test JACD2 than the Project Convergence Wargame. That is, having the Army Futures Command conduct an extensive field maneuver utilizing all the communication-based information between new weapon systems, even some from other service branches. The first Project Convergence was in the fall of 2020 and centered at Yuma Proving Ground, where testing was done for the key elements of artificial intelligence, autonomy, and robotics in the air and on the ground. That is, they were testing electronics in the real world. In my September column, I built up the suspense by announcing the PC ‘21 dates—October 12 to November 10. Well, it’s report card time. How did it go?

Defense (primarily the Army Futures Command as coordinator) got some A-minus or B-plus grades, but also some C-minus or D grades. One of the grade givers was Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who reported the data moved much faster this year than in 2020. That’s pretty good, considering that the Army counted 110 total technologies participating this year, up from about 40 in 2020. Besides the armor and infantry units already stationed in the U.S. Southwest, troops from the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg came in, as well as elements from Navy, Marines, and the newly-created Space Force. The location being simulated was not disclosed, but reports are that it was from Southeast Asia.  

One “science fiction” demonstration had four autonomous AI ground robots tethered to a couple of quadcopter drones and this six-element force conducted reconnaissance missions with essentially no human input. The AI competence of the robots planned the mission, divided up the responsibilities, launched the mission, communicated during the mission, and at the end compiled the scouting report.    The Army admitted that this was done in daytime in 2021, but promised to run the exercise at night in 2022.  

Another big advance was an autonomous Black Hawk helicopter that was able to launch other, smaller drones all on its own. While the Black Hawk is a 40-year-old platform, it still is in service and the autonomous operation doing scouting work could easily be adapted to more modern helicopter platforms. Today, the Black Hawk is a workhorse helicopter, used around the world in 29 countries, and possibly projecting future convergence activities in many other armed forces. Using a “drone” to launch more drones is a true force multiplier.  

I had mentioned the faster sharing of data, with the JADC2 as the driver between service branches. Well, at Project Convergence, each of the services sent reps to patch software on the spot as a way to improve daily communication. Apparently, working out issues during the Convergence exercise moved data formatting and sensor input along much faster than “write up the problem and we’ll take it back to the lab and work on it.”  

Also, there apparently was some effort to simulate enemy jamming of communication channels, demonstrated as an “Achilles’ heel” for Defense systems in a 2020 simulation concerning Taiwan. One headline argued that the effort was a colossal failure.1 The article stated that in a fake battle for Taiwan, U.S. forces lost network access almost immediately. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Hyten then issued four directives to help change that, including contested logistics, joint fires, JADC2, and an information advantage.

Finally, most of the participants in PC 21 were real soldiers, whereas in 2020, the participants were mostly the systems developers. Instant feedback was obtained about such items as how well headset electronics were operating, whether they were comfortable and functional, and whether they remained connected. Also, real simulations could be run right before Convergence participation to better anticipate what might go wrong in the field.  

But the Army did admit there are things that have to be improved, and fast.  

  1. The Army admitted the self-guided robots use LIDAR technology like that used in self-driving automobiles. So, using the very same detection circuit built into an automobile LIDAR transmitter/receiver, the enemy only has to see where the infrared light is coming from to kill the LIDAR-emitting vehicle. One description noted the robot vehicle lit up like a Christmas tree. A possible alternate for commercial LIDAR is GPS location from satellites, but satellite jamming is expected to be one of the first actions in any armed conflict. 
  2. Apparently, there is more work needed to completely overcome expected enemy countermeasures. There has not been enough time since the 2020 failure outlined above to solve the countermeasure problem. 
  3. Even if there was progress on JADC2, communications issues were certainly not solved completely. For instance, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall wants more specifics on what critical Air Force information is to be communicated by JADC2 and who is to do that.2 Kendall apparently feels JADC2 is too much “gee-whiz demonstration oriented” and not enough “practical battle management.”  
  4. Even more detail on the Army Futures evaluation of Project Convergence 21 was detailed in a briefing in early December. There were five main lessons for the service’s network cross functional team, from the importance of a data fabric to the need for a joint operational common picture, to inform future work.3

The Project Convergence people are not deterred. Plans are already announced for Project Convergence 2022 and I plan to write about this next year. A main feature will be to invite England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to participate. Just as one U.S. service branch is not expected to fight alone, the U.S. expects to have allies in any future fight. This between-country communication glitch was nowhere more evident than the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan; the U.S. was certainly not the only country taking troops and friends out of that country.   

In 2022 technology areas, the call for submissions is open through December 31. Technology Collaboration Areas4 include:

  • Sensor
  • Effect (kinetic/non-kinetic)
  • C2 (Maneuver, Fires, Intel)
  • Protection (EW, Physical)
  • Communications (SATCOM, Aerial, Terrestrial)
  • Assured PNT
  • Robotics
  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Medical
  • Sustainment
  • Autonomy
  • Cloud Computing
  • Planning

References

  1. “’It Failed Miserably’: After Wargaming Loss, Joint Chiefs Are Overhauling How the US Military Will Fight,” Defense One, July 26, 2021.
  2. “New US Air Force secretary to shake up Advanced Battle Management Program,” DefenseNews, Aug. 19, 2021.
  3. “Five things the Army learned about its network Project Convergence 21,” DefenseNews, Dec. 8, 2021.
  4. Project Convergence, Army Futures Command.

Dennis Fritz was a 20-year direct employee of MacDermid Inc. and is retired after 12 years as a senior engineer at (SAIC) supporting the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. He was elected to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2012.

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2021

Defense Speak Interpreted: Who Won the Project Convergence War Game—Evil Chaos or JADC2?

12-21-2021

I know you have been on the edge of your seats since my Defense Speaks September column, “What Does Convergence Mean to Defense?” or back to my February column, “So, What’s a JADC2?” While I tackled some other government defense topics, I realize I have left you hanging concerning the big interservice war game maneuvers, Project Convergence (PC), which tested out the information connection described in the JADC2 effort. I know, I know, you thought after my “Son of JEDI” description of a cloud-based information flow, that all service branches would soon be coordinated and talking to each other smoothly.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: What Happened to Our Defense JEDI?

11-09-2021

When I last wrote about the Defense’s JEDI program (not JEDI knight) back in June, we had high hopes for its success. JEDI stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure and is the backbone cloud computer system for Defense to tie the service branches together. To refresh your memory, Defense issued a $10 billion-plus contract to Microsoft for the massive cloud software effort, and Amazon appealed the award. When I wrote my June column, Defense had vowed to see the contract appeal though and grant the contract to Microsoft.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: The ‘Trouble’ With Obsolescence

10-12-2021

How could a simple word like obsolescence stir up so much trouble within the Defense Department? Obsolescence is defined as the process of becoming obsolete or the condition of being nearly obsolete. Dennis Fritz explains its connection to Defense.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: What Does Convergence Mean to Defense?

09-14-2021

How can a simple term like “convergence” be confusing, even at the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army? Webster’s dictionary defines convergence as “1. The act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity,” and “4. The merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole.”

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Decoding the Military’s COCOM

08-10-2021

Have you ever followed Defense activities around the world and been confused by terms like CENTCOM or SOUTHCOM? Who’s in charge of worldwide Defense activities—just “a big guy at the top” or regional commanders? How do Army, Navy, and Air Force stay coordinated around the world in various geographies?

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Defense Speak Interpreted: POM—Explaining the Process for Defense Budgeting

07-13-2021

Anyone hanging around Defense programs will have surely heard of the term “POM.” Most of the connotations I have heard say that if you have a POM or will get “POM’d,” your program is “skating on solid ice.” That led me to infer that if you were in the POM, your program was established. But why and how?

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Defense Speak Interpreted: The U.S. Has a Space Force—JEDI Knights Next?

06-08-2021

Does the U.S. Department of Defense's JEDI contract mean it's going into a Star Wars production? Sorry, no Stephen Spielberg this time. Sorting out the good guys and bad guys in this cloud computing scenario.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense on Legacy Weapons Systems

05-11-2021

As “Defense Speak Interpreted” readers have surmised, the weapons systems of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are under review, both with President Biden and with the Congress now in control by Democrats. But “weapons systems of yesterday”? In the fast-paced consumer electronics world, “legacy” never comes up.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Industrial Base Evaluation

04-06-2021

So, what is an “industrial base” to the Defense Department? And wouldn’t we expect a “battle plan” from Defense, not an “industrial strategy”? We want to review the Defense Industrial Strategy in the January, 2021 Report to Congress from the Acquisition and Sustainment section of the Department of Defense.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: So, What’s a JADC2?

02-09-2021

The term JADC2 was prevalent in the late 2020 debate about the National Defense Authorization Act. It is a new way defense is using electronics to shape battle strategy. JADC2 is Defense Speak for “Joint All Domain Command and Control.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it, but what does that mean?

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2020

Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s a VITA?

12-15-2020

Ever wonder how military electronics users could swap out circuit cards rapidly and keep their defense systems running? What about a “hot swap” of a circuit card that was questionable? How would defense depots keep enough unique circuit cards on hand to maintain the various systems in times of heavy use? The Department of Defense started to worry about those issues over 30 years ago and has helped private industry develop a highly sophisticated set of standards for circuit card input/output (I/O) to make quick change possible.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Intel Is Now Making a ‘SHIP’

11-10-2020

Perhaps you recently saw that Intel was awarded a contract for a SHIP by the U.S. Department of Defense. However, this one will not float on the water since SHIP stands for state-of-the-art heterogeneous integration prototype. Denny Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Rad-Hard Electronics

10-13-2020

Have you ever seen electronics described as “rad-hard,” or radiation-hardened, and wondered what that meant and how that was done? Did you like me just assume that “rad-hard” and “expensive” were synonymous? Did you think that this was a Defense Department term since they deal with nuclear weapons? Denny Fritz explores this and more.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: The Defense Innovation Unit

09-22-2020

Many of Denny Fritz's columns are about new defense technologies and innovations, but what about an organization with “innovation” in its name? Here, he describes the history and purpose of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), as well as some of its programs.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Unpacking the NDAA

08-25-2020

What is this NDAA stuff you keep hearing on the national news all the time, and why is it important to PCBs? Denny Fritz explains what is going on with the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes programs and lays out the priorities and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

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Defense Speak Interpreted: DMEA

07-14-2020

A June 17 article announced a supply chain award of $10.7 billion to eight defense companies for semiconductors. Dennis Fritz explains how the Defense Microelectronics Agency (DMEA) administers this contract and keeps the technology secure.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: C4ISR

06-16-2020

Only the U.S. Defense Department would lump together seven concepts—command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—into a single acronym: C4ISR. Denny Fritz explains how C4ISR has been called the “nervous system” of the military.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s an RCV, and What Do Electronics Have to Do With It?

05-12-2020

In "Defense Speak," RCV does not stand for ranked-choice voting, a remote control vehicle, a riot control vehicle, or a refuse collection vehicle, although the second one is close; it stands for a remote combat vehicle. Denny Fritz explores this concept and its defense applications.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Why Is Defense Hyper Over Hypersonics?

04-14-2020

Perhaps you have noticed that the term “hypersonics” is now a buzz phrase in a big part of the Department of Defense research effort. What does hypersonic mean, and why is so much work needed in this weapons field? Dennis Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Be Prepared for CMMC

03-24-2020

If you are a current or future Defense Department contractor or subcontractor, you need to be prepared for the next cybersecurity requirements coming online during 2020. This is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, in Defense speak. Dennis Fritz explains how there will be five levels of cybersecurity requirements for various amounts of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) you handle, with increasing requirements from one (least) to five (most).

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2019

Defense Speak Interpreted: The Continuing Resolution

12-10-2019

The topic of the continuing resolution (CR) has been sneaking past other hot Washington topics, such as impeachment, candidate debates, and why the Redskins are so bad. Dennis Fritz provides an update concerning a CR and the 2020 fiscal year.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Executive Agent

11-12-2019

After reading my previous column, you may have realized that electronics packaging technology development came from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. One of its core responsibilities is the assignment of “executive agent” for PCBs and electronic interconnects. But what is this “executive agent” thing, frequently shortened to EA? Dennis Fritz explains.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: PCB-related OTAs from NAVSEA Crane

10-29-2019

In my previous column, I described how Other Transaction Authority (OTA) projects were speeding up the development of new technology for the Defense Department. Much of this improvement has to do with the speed of contracting and the less restrictive selection and payment process involved. Specifically, I would like to call out projects under the National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL).

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Other Transaction Authority

09-19-2019

DIU grants contracts under a joint OTA and a parallel process called commercial solutions opening. Most of the five DIU focus areas depend on electronics: artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, cyber, human systems, and space. At the end of 2018, DIU had funded 104 contracts with a total value of $354 million and brought in 87 non-traditional DoD vendors, including 43 contracting with DoD for the first time.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: DARPA ERI

01-29-2019

DARPA ERI stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Electronics Resurgence Initiative. This tongue-twisting acronym is the latest Department of Defense (DoD) effort to catch up and surpass world semiconductor technology for the secure IC chips needed by advanced defense electronics systems.

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2018

Defense Speak Interpreted: PERM—Pb-free Electronics Risk Management

12-18-2018

In this column, we explore PERM—the Pb-free Electronics Risk Management Consortium. No, the group members do not all have curly hair! The name was chosen around 2008 by a group of engineers from aerospace, defense, and harsh environment (ADHE) organizations.

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Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense Electronic Supply Chain Issues

10-18-2018

On October 5, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) highlighted issues with the release of the 146-page report “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States” from President Donald J. Trump

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