Inside the Army's futuristic test of its battlefield artificial intelligence in the desert


After weeks of work in the oppressive Arizona desert heat, the U.S. Army carried out a series of live fire engagements Sept. 23 at Yuma Proving Ground to show how artificial intelligence systems can work together to automatically detect threats, deliver targeting data and recommend weapons responses at blazing speeds. Set in the year 2035, the engagements were the culmination of Project Convergence 2020, the first in a series of annual demonstrations utilizing next generation AI, network and software capabilities to show how the Army wants to fight in the future. The Army was able to use a chain of artificial intelligence, software platforms and autonomous systems to take sensor data from all domains, transform it into targeting information, and select the best weapon system to respond to any given threat in just seconds. Army officials claimed that these AI and autonomous capabilities have shorted the sensor to shooter timeline -- the time it takes from when sensor data is collected to when a weapon system is ordered to engaged -- from 20 minutes to 20 seconds, depending on the quality of the network and the number of hops between where it's collected and its destination. "We use artificial intelligence and machine learning in several ways out here," Brigadier General Ross Coffman, director of the Army Futures Command's Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, told visiting media.