ALPENA, Mich. –
The Northern Strike (NS) 21-2 exercise is leveraging Department of Defense (DoD), industry and technology to improve joint warfighting training capabilities. During his visit to the large joint reserve forces, multinational readiness exercise, Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, director of the Air National Guard, attended an innovation presentation at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Aug. 5, 2021.
“The importance of this brief is to look at multiple technologies,” said Lt. Col. Michael Whitefoot, member of the Michigan National Guard’s Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center. “We are trying to take emerging technologies and incorporate them, not only into the warfighters’ capabilities, but perhaps pair them with other technologies, so we can maximize the interoperable success at NS for exercising the rapid and agile lethality of U.S. and coalition forces.”
NS is designed to challenge the participants with multiple forms of convergence that advances interoperability across multicomponent, multinational and interagency partners. This year’s summer iteration brought 5,100 participants from various service branches, states and countries to northern Michigan.
“NS allows the National Guard to achieve readiness,” Whitefoot said. “We use this exercise to practice our skills as if we were in a deployed environment. As guard members, we need to be proficient at our jobs so we can jump in to assist a natural disaster, state-of-emergency, and even an overseas contingency.”
The Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center organized the presentation and took NS as an opportunity to partner the Michigan National Guard with commercial industries and Defense Department research agencies. The innovation brief also included the Michigan National Guard Adjutant General for Air, Brig. Gen. Bryan Teff, and many other senior-ranking military officials, so they could learn about the new technology being implemented into NS.
“We’re not in the business of developing technology, but we have this opportunity to collaborate, test and collect data at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center. Our training audiences come to NS for their own purposes, and so do these industry partners,” explained Teff. “Whether it’s early development, late maturation, getting warfighter feedback on their capability - or perhaps they’re already being used by the DoD and want to better understand the end user experience - we want all this technology integrating with the warfighter at NS to ultimately improve readiness for the future operating environment.”
Melanie Corcoran was one of the innovation brief speakers. She shared an artificial intelligence (AI) called Rapid Automatic Imagery Categorization (RAIC), which quickly and accurately identifies objects of interest. All it takes is a single example image for RAIC to build a fully interactive visualization. Then it will label, search for desired objects, or detect anomalies in seconds.
“This technology can be helpful during a time of war,” Corcoran said. “It can assist career fields in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance department. The AI could decrease labeling data by hand by weeks or months.”
Wearable antennas and MPU-5 radios were other technologies shared during the presentation.
The MPU-5 is a mobile radio which fuses existing systems and datalinks used by tactical air control party specialists (TACP) into one rapidly deployable all-domain network. Airmen participating in NS 21 had the opportunity to be fitted with the equipment, take it out in the field, and test it to determine if there is a viable benefit of the system for their current needs. Airmen using the MPU-5s can take a few pounds off their packs while out in the field. This means they can carry more ammunition, food, or just less weight while out in the field.
The Multi-Antenna Communications and Wearables Program (MACaW) introduced wearable arrays of antennas that embed into clothing, gear and small vehicle platforms. Traditional multi-antenna systems make military personnel and vehicles encumbered and easy to spot. NS participants got to experience the wearable antennas exceeding current capabilities. The new gear reduces weight to be carried, increases connectivity among operations and reduces costs by half.
“We are excited about all the new technology and innovative industry being part of NS,” Whitefoot said. “Northern Strike presents a premier opportunity for defense industry partners to test emerging technologies for the future warfight.”