The Army’s recent Future Vertical Lift-led Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise (EDGE) accomplished more than 100 first time technology events and made breakthroughs in the Army’s ability to work with international partners on data sharing and making “digital calls for fires” on the battlefield, officials detailed for reporters.

Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, noted the international partners at this year’s EDGE experiment at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona brought systems ranging from drones to an uncrewed, autonomous helicopter and assisted in efforts to advance capabilities for deep sensing and operating in the air domain.

Seven international partners participated in the Army’s EDGE22 experiment at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Photo: Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team.

“The scale [of EDGE] has grown and the complexity has grown,” Rugen told reporters during a briefing on Thursday. “We had a number of programs of record out here performing in the dirt and on the test range. The notion that we have a number of critical partners out here investing and putting skin in the game is so important to Army modernization and, again, building this force for the future. Very proud of the whole effort and very proud to see it. It’s probably my best one ever.”

Rugen previously detailed that this year’s EDGE 23 would focus on use cases for deep sensing, mission command, operating networks in degraded and denied environments and establishing data fabrics for decision making, while also tying in with the joint Northern Edge Exercise and include participation from the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Forces at Fort Wainwright in Alaska and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington (Defense Daily, May 7).

This year’s EDGE experiment grew the number of international participants from seven to 11, with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom bringing technology and participating directly in the experimentation and three other nations observing the event.

“In our Mission Partner Environment, we saw the coalition operate in a classified environment on the secret and sensitive but unclassified enclaves,” Rugen said on Thursday. “There was a common operating picture that was very useful across the entire 11 countries plus the U.S.”

Rugen noted that while the last large-scale Project Convergence experiment had just a “handful” of digital calls for fire, there were “hundreds” done at EDGE 23 with the international partners involved.

Maj. Donald Irwin, of the Army’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, was running the Joint Operations Center at EDGE 23 and noted there was an “exponential growth” in the ability to pass data and enable the digital calls for fires with the other countries as the event progressed.

“I would say we definitely started off slowly with the digital call-for-fires but our growth was exponential as we went throughout the exercise. Not every call-for-fire was able to be processed fully digitally but by the end of the 664 fire missions that we set to be prosecuted approximately half of those were fully digital,” Irwin said. “We were able to solve that messaging format issue, which was really what it came down to, the format for how we were receiving that data. And once we did [solve that], it was very rapid growth.”

On the technology side, LTC (P) Tanner Spry, the exercise director for EDGE, said there were 25 different types of drones at the experiment between the Army and the international partners, to include Germany and Italy bringing high-altitude, long-endurance UAS platforms. 

Spry also said the uncrewed aircraft Canada brought to EDGE was a Bell [TXT] 412 helicopter, noting it was used in a scenario to conduct an autonomous resupply mission and that operators conducted the first autonomous landing of the aircraft in a dusty environment during the event. 

Dan Bailey, deputy director of the FV CFT, cited the international partners’ unmanned systems as a key contribution to the successes at EDGE.

“Our international partners brought several different unmanned systems. We employed pretty much the suite of capability from an unmanned perspective from the Army, from what we call launched effects or small drones up to our Gray Eagle. But I think the key is how you integrate those collectively and how you bring to bear what their effects are into the common operating picture. That was the key part of it,” Bailey told reporters.