The U.S. Army plans to improve its Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) headset over the next few years to make a significant difference for soldiers on the ground, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told reporters on Oct. 20 in a discussion on the Project Convergence 22 (PC 22) demonstration with the United Kingdom and Australia and the Army’s sister services at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“I had a chance to talk to the 82nd Airborne Division troops who were using IVAS [in PC 22],” McConville said. “It was a 1.0 system. There is certainly value, and they recognized the transformational effects that IVAS will have in the future, and we continue to develop that system. From where I sit as the chief of staff of the Army, I think over the next couple of years, that is going to be transformational and really make a difference for our soldiers. There’s additional improvements that we want to make.”
Army Lt. Gen. D. Scott McKean, the director of Project Convergence, said that PC 22 has demonstrated the ability of partner nations to share data with front line U.S. soldiers through IVAS.
The Army’s updated plan for IVAS includes rolling out a small number of initial headsets next while developing a ‘1.2′ version of the capability that incorporates additional design improvements (Defense Daily, Oct. 10).
Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said that this summer’s initial operational test and evaluation for IVAS highlighted further work required on the capability related to software stability, low-light performance and form factor of the headset.
“Our path to doing that is going fielding a relatively small number of, we’re calling them, 1.0 and 1.1 systems, both improvements, particularly 1.1. And then also doing the research and development work on 1.2 which is, at this point, our objective system,” Bush said during a Defense News panel at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.
In March last year, the Army awarded Microsoft [MSFT] an up to $21.9 billion contract over the next 10 years to move IVAS from rapid prototyping into production (Defense Daily, March 31 2021).
During PC 22, U.S. Air Force and Army soldiers have been testing so-called Tactical Operations Centers (TOC)-Light, which are designed as lighter and more deployable than previous TOCs.
Large, stationary command and control centers, such as the U.S. operated in Iraq, “will not survive” in conflicts with potential advanced technology adversaries, McConville said.
Moving away from the potential of any single command and control point of failure appears to be a priority.
“At its core, this [PC 22] experiment really looked at trying to link sensors to shooters, but really how to make sure that we can get the right information to the right location,” McKean said. “And by having our partners—the U.K. and Australia—here to be part of that [experiment], it forced us to look at these capabilities, and I think we were able to demonstrate the ability to link our sensors and our shooters across [nationalities], which gives us that redundancy and ability to form ‘kill webs,’ as opposed to ‘kill chains.’ That’s a pretty significant difference because being interoperable—only being able to share data—is insufficient, as we start looking at the potential threats in the future. What we are striving for is a subjective integration—moving data at machine speed to be able to address the threats or take on the threats with the missions that we have.”
U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Kyle Ellison, the commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said that “a significant difference” between PC 22 and last year’s Project Convergence was the move from “lineal ‘kill chains’ to more complex ‘kill webs.'”