Army Tests New All Domain Kill Chain From Space To AI
UPDATED with Lt. Gen. Karbler remarks WASHINGTON: A successful field test in Germany shows how satellite surveillance, artificial intelligence, and long-range artillery could combine to devastating effect in future war, a senior Army official said this morning. The data from that test will feed into both computer models and future field experiments later this year in the US – part of the ambitious Project Convergence exercise – and in the Pacific.
“We have valuable data now on actually how the real operational system works,” said Willie Nelson, de facto head of space efforts at Army Futures Command. “To be able to provide that data back to the warfighter near real time …I know the word ‘game-changer’ is overused, but frankly, that is a game-changer.”
“This is not just science experiments,” he told a Defense Newswebcast following on yesterday’s virtual Space & Missile Defense conference. “We actually used the fielded equipment” – M777 towed howitzers and M270 MLRS rocket/missile launchers – “with live fires on the range in Germany.” The upcoming tests will add Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) and Grey Eagle drones.
“Eventually we want this stuff on every ground platform and even down to the soldier,” he said, “but those are a couple of years away.” (While Nelson didn’t mention it, the new IVAS targeting goggles about to enter service will eventually link their wearers to AI target recognition system).
Connecting an ever-wider network of different sensors to “shooters” — with AI accelerating the data flow over land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — is central to the Pentagon’s evolving concept of Joint All-Domain Operations.
In this year’s tests, “we’re doing that entire fires kill chain” from initial detection to final destruction, Nelson said. “We’re able to receive that [satellite] data in theater, process that data, be able to develop targeting coordinates from that, put it directly into the [artillery] firing system, AFATDS, and be able to launch weapons on target,” he said. “And we’re doing that now very successfully in a very short time.”
Nelson isn’t given to overstatement. In fact, he’s among the most reserved of Futures Command’s eight Cross Functional Team directors, and, not coincidentally, the only civilian among them. Nominally, his CFT handles Assured Precision, Navigation, & Timing (APNT) – in layman’s terms, alternatives for GPS if it’s jammed – but its mandate has expanded to include the Army’s use of satellites. Nelson’s team has been working closely with the Army’s Network CFT, ISR Task Force, and AI Task Force on this technology.