Millennium Challenge 2002
Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) was a major war game experiment and exercise conducted by the United States armed forces in mid-2002, likely the largest such exercise in history. The exercise, which ran from July 24 to August 15 and cost $250 million, involved both live exercises and computer simulations. MC02 was meant to be a test of future military "transformation"—a transition toward new technologies that enable network-centric warfare and provide more effective command and control of current and future weaponry and tactics. The simulated combatants were the United States, referred to as "Blue", and an unknown adversary in the Middle East with many evidences pointing at Iran being the "Red"-side.
MC02 was the first demonstration of a large scale, High Level Architecture (HLA) simulation consisting of service models/simulations from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and joint models/simulations from the Joint Forces Command J9 Directorate. The engineering effort to build this first federation of simulations was extremely large and complex as it had never been done prior to MC-02. Because the focus of the MC-02 experiment/exercise being Command and Control, emphasis in the engineering effort was focused at basis federation functionality and interfaces to existing and experimental command and control systems. Functions such as weapons interactions with platform objects (ships, aircraft, tanks, etc.) took back seat to the primary function required of the simulation federation to stimulate the command and control environment. As a result of this, the Director, Modeling and Simulation, Navy Warfare Development Command (the Navy experimental sponsor and simulation provider) authored and sent an official command letter to Joint Forces Command, J9 Directorate. The subject of the letter was the MC-02 Simulation Federation Verification, Validation, and Accreditation. The letter specifically addressed the lack of time to invest in the effort of validating weapons interactions and further, specifically validated the Navy representations in the simulation as valid only for purposes of command and control and invalid for weapons systems interactions. This letter was address at more than one meeting of the representatives of each service simulation and the Director, Simulation Joint Forces, J9 and accepted as proper. Further, the fact that the weapons interactions would not be considered valid for the purpose of MC-02 was briefed to the experiment and exercise participants including retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Van Riper.
Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue's sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World War II light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications. The Naval Simulation, Joint Semi-Automated Forces (JSAF) had neither a sophisticated electronic network nor the modeling of WWII lights at the time of MC-02 according to the developer of the JSAF simulation; Mr. Guy Purser, Director, Modeling and Simulation, NWDC.
Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue's approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue's fleet by the second day of the exercise. At approximately the same time that Red had located Blue forces, operators of the Blue naval simulation were directed incorrectly to turn off all self-defense capabilities by a senior Naval Officer who was not in command of the simulated forces nor current in the scenario. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that destroyed sixteen warships while the JSAF simulator operators sat and watched without responding defensively or offensively. This included one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five of six amphibious ships. An equivalent success in a real conflict would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 service personnel. Soon after the cruise missile offensive, another significant portion of Blue's navy was "sunk" by an armada of small Red boats, which carried out both conventional and suicide attacks that capitalized on Blue's inability to detect them as well as expected.; again it should be noted, the JSAF simulation did not at that time have the suicide behaviors modeled nor the damage models of interactions of a small boat impacting a ship.
At this point, the exercise was suspended, Blue's ships were "re-floated", and the rules of engagement were changed; this was later justified by General Peter Pace as follows: "You kill me in the first day and I sit there for the next 13 days doing nothing, or you put me back to life and you get 13 more days' worth of experiment out of me. Which is a better way to do it?" After the reset, both sides were ordered to follow predetermined plans of action. This was done to achieve the real goals of the exercise and experiment which was to stimulate command and control systems which determine the outcome of the scenario.
After the wargame was restarted, its participants were forced to follow a script drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory. Among other rules imposed by this script, Red Force was ordered to turn on their anti-aircraft radar in order for them to be destroyed, and was not allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force troops ashore. Van Riper also claimed that exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue Force, and that they also ordered Red Force not to use certain weapons systems against Blue Force and even ordered the location of Red Force units to be revealed.
This led to accusations that the war game had turned from an honest, open free play test of America's war-fighting capabilities into a rigidly controlled and scripted exercise intended to end in an overwhelming American victory, alleging that "$250 million was wasted".
Van Riper was extremely critical of the scripted nature of the new exercise and resigned from the exercise in the middle of the war game. Van Riper later said that the Vice Admiral Marty Mayer altered the exercise's purpose to reinforce existing doctrine and notions of infallibility within the U.S. military rather than serving as a learning experience.
Van Riper also stated that the war game was rigged so that it appeared to validate the modern, joint-service war-fighting concepts it was supposed to be testing. He was quoted in the ZDF–New York Times documentary The Perfect War (2004) as saying that what he saw in MC02 echoed the same view promoted by the Department of Defense under Robert McNamara before and during the Vietnam War, namely that the U.S. military could not and would not be defeated.
Responding to Van Riper's criticism, Vice Admiral Mayer, who ran the war game and who was charged with developing the military’s joint concepts and requirements, stated the following:
Gen. Van Riper apparently feels he was too constrained. I can only say there were certain parts where he was not constrained, and then there were parts where he was in order to facilitate the conduct of the experiment and certain exercise pieces that were being done.
—Vice Admiral Marty Mayer
Navy Captain John Carman, Joint Forces Command spokesman, said the war game had properly validated all the major concepts which were tested by Blue Force, ignoring the restrictions placed on Van Riper's Red Force that led them to succeed. Based on these findings, John Carman stated that recommendations based on the war game's result on areas such as doctrine, training and procurement would be forwarded to General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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- Director of Modeling and Simulation, Navy Warfare Development Command; Mr. Guy Purser
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- Introduced by, Roger Strother (2006-11-04). "Post-Saddam Iraq: The War Game". National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 207. Retrieved 2012-01-30. "When it looked like we were going in [to the 2003 invasion of Iraq], I called back down to CENTCOM and said, 'You need to dust off Desert Crossing.' They said, 'What's that? Never heard of it.'"