One event that shocked Van Riper occurred in 2002 when he was asked, as he had been before, to play the commander of an enemy Red Force in a huge $250 million three-week war game titled Millennium Challenge 2002. It was widely advertised as the best kind of such exercises -- a free-play unscripted test of some of the Pentagon's and Rumsfeld's fondest ideas and theories.
Though fictional names were applied, it involved a crisis moving toward war in the Persian Gulf and in actuality was a barely veiled test of an invasion of Iran.
In the computer-controlled game, a flotilla of Navy warships and Marine amphibious warfare ships steamed into the Persian Gulf for what Van Riper assumed would be a pre-emptive strike against the country he was defending.
Van Riper resolved to strike first and unconventionally using fast patrol boats and converted pleasure boats fitted with ship-to-ship missiles as well as first generation shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles. He packed small boats and small propeller aircraft with explosives for one mass wave of suicide attacks against the Blue fleet. Last, the general shut down all radio traffic and sent commands by motorcycle messengers, beyond the reach of the code-breakers.
At the appointed hour he sent hundreds of missiles screaming into the fleet, and dozens of kamikaze boats and planes plunging into the Navy ships in a simultaneous sneak attack that overwhelmed the Navy's much-vaunted defenses based on its Aegis cruisers and their radar controlled Gatling guns.
When the figurative smoke cleared it was found that the Red Forces had sunk 16 Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier. Thousands of Marines and sailors were dead.
The referees stopped the game, which is normal when a victory is won so early. Van Riper assumed that the Blue Force would draw new, better plans and the free play war games would resume.
Instead he learned that the war game was now following a script drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory: He was ordered to turn on all his anti-aircraft radar so it could be destroyed and he was told his forces would not be allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force troops ashore.
The Pentagon has never explained. It classified Van Riper's 21-page report criticizing the results and conduct of the rest of the exercise, along with the report of another DOD observer. Pentagon officials have not released Joint Forces Command's own report on the exercise.
Van Riper walked out and didn't come back. He was furious 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 meant to end in an overwhelming American victory.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The same friend who told me about Office Space told me the story of Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper's experience with Pentagon War Games, described in this column by Joe Galloway of Knight Ridder:
Posted by LaurenceJarvik at 12:56 PM