July 10, 2006

US Military Rigs Own Wargame to Claim Victory

The largest simulated wargame in history was staged by the US (BLUE) against a generic Middle Eastern country with a Megalomaniacal Dictator (RED) after 2000. A retired Marine, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, played the Dictator. And He handed the combined US Forces their collective asses.

Thanks to the Guardian UK, since we don't get this kind of News in America anymore.
In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt.

Millennium Challenge was the biggest war game of all time. It had been planned for two years and involved integrated operations by the army, navy, air force and marines. The exercises were part real, with 13,000 troops spread across the United States, supported by actual planes and warships; and part virtual, generated by sophisticated computer models. It was the same technique used in Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator. The soldiers in the foreground were real, the legions behind entirely digital.

Even when playing an evil dictator, the marine veteran clearly takes winning very seriously. He reckoned Blue would try to launch a surprise strike, in line with the administration's new pre-emptive doctrine, "so I decided I would attack first."

Van Riper had at his disposal a computer-generated flotilla of small boats and planes, many of them civilian, which he kept buzzing around the virtual Persian Gulf in circles as the game was about to get under way. As the US fleet entered the Gulf, Van Riper gave a signal - not in a radio transmission that might have been intercepted, but in a coded message broadcast from the minarets of mosques at the call to prayer. The seemingly harmless pleasure craft and propeller planes suddenly turned deadly, ramming into Blue boats and airfields along the Gulf in scores of al-Qaida-style suicide attacks. Meanwhile, Chinese Silkworm-type cruise missiles fired from some of the small boats sank the US fleet's only aircraft carrier and two marine helicopter carriers. The tactics were reminiscent of the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole in Yemen two years ago, but the Blue fleet did not seem prepared. Sixteen ships were sunk altogether, along with thousands of marines. If it had really happened, it would have been the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.

It was at this point that the generals and admirals monitoring the war game called time out.

"A phrase I heard over and over was: 'That would never have happened,'" Van Riper recalls. "And I said: nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Centre... but nobody seemed interested."

In the end, it was ruled that the Blue forces had had the $250m equivalent of their fingers crossed and were not really dead, while the ships were similarly raised from watery graves.

Van Riper was pretty fed up by this point, but things were about to get worse. The "control group", the officers refereeing the exercise, informed him that US electronic warfare planes had zapped his expensive microwave communications systems.

"You're going to have to use cellphones and satellite phones now, they told me. I said no, no, no - we're going to use motorcycle messengers and make announcements from the mosques," he says. "But they refused to accept that we'd do anything they wouldn't do in the west."

Then Van Riper was told to turn his air defences off at certain times and places where Blue forces were about to stage an attack, and to move his forces away from beaches where the marines were scheduled to land. "The whole thing was being scripted," he says.

Within his ever narrowing constraints, Van Riper continued to make a nuisance of himself, harrying Blue forces with an arsenal of unorthodox tactics, until one day, on July 29, he thinks, he found his orders to his subordinate officers were not being listened to any more. They were being countermanded by the control group. So Van Riper quit. "I stayed on to give advice, but I stopped giving orders. There was no real point any more," he says.

What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened.

If the Pentagon thought it could keep its mishap quiet, it underestimated Van Riper. A classic marine - straight-talking and fearless, with a purple heart from Vietnam to prove it - his retirement means he no longer has to put up with the bureaucratic niceties of the defence department. So he blew the whistle.

His driving concern, he tells the Guardian, is that when the real fighting starts, American troops will be sent into battle with a set of half-baked tactics that have not been put to the test.

"Nothing was learned from this," he says. "A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future." The exercise, he says, was rigged almost from the outset.
Read the Complete Story. I have a feeling that this guy and Greg Lee would be fast friends over a bottle of Drambuie.

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