Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) was a major war game 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 powerful weaponry and tactics. The simulated combatants were the United States, referred to as "Blue", and an unknown adversary in the Middle East, "Red".
Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lt. General Paul K. Van Riper, used 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.
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. In a preemptive strike,
Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the
Blue forces' electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships. 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.
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. After the wargame was restarted, the war game was forced to
follow a script drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory. Among the rules
imposed by this script, Red Force was ordered to turn on all his
anti-aircraft radar in order for them to be destroyed, and Red Force was
not allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force
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 that the location of Red Force units
to be revealed..
This lead 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., which meant that "$250 million was wasted".
Due to his criticism regarding the scripted nature of the new
exercise, Van Riper resigned his position in the midst of the war game.
Van Riper later expressed concern that the war game's purpose had
shifted to reinforce existing doctrine and notions of infallibility
within the U.S. military rather than serve 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 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 Adm. Marty 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 Adm. Marty Mayer
Navy Capt. 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 artificially
imposed restrictions placed on Van Riper's Red Force which 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 Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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