Magazine article National Defense

Marines' War Game Tests Future Fighting Strategies

Magazine article National Defense

Marines' War Game Tests Future Fighting Strategies

Article excerpt

It is the year 2018. A provincial governor attempts to secede from Indonesia, establish an independent Islamic state and take control of the Strait of Malacca, a vital sea lane for world shipping. A U.S. aircraft carrier group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit, already in the region, are dispatched to help put down the rebellion. Another MEU and a second carrier group are six days away.

Their assignment--in cooperation with Indonesian and international coalition forces--is to seize the provincial capital, Pekanbaru, and the key port, Dumai. The job is complicated by the fact that nearby Singapore and Malaysia, fearing retribution by the Indonesian rebels, are refusing to allow the United States and its allies to use their military bases.

That was the scenario for the 10th annual war game sponsored jointly by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the National Defense Industrial Association. About 75 players--both Marines and members of the association--participated in the exercise, which was conducted recently at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, in Quantico, Va.. A reporter from National Defense Magazine observed the proceedings.

The purpose of the game was to permit defense-industry representatives to test the Corps' latest expeditionary warfare concepts, note shortcomings and suggest possible improvements, explained Frank Jordan, director of the laboratory's war-gaming division.

Like all such games, it was played without real military forces or even computer simulations. Instead, four groups of players--known as "cells"--decided how to deploy imaginary forces to meet a specific, hypothetical crisis.

The forces in play were considered to have the weapons, equipment, support and capabilities that they currently have or are planned to have at the time set in the game, Jordan said.

MEUs are standard Marine outfits of about 2,200 men and women each. A MEU consists of a reinforced battalion of fully-equipped ground-combat troops, a mixed squadron of rotorcraft and vertical-takeoff fighters, and a support element.

By 2018, the MEUs should have several pieces of weaponry and equipment that are now in the planning or experimental stages, said game director Bill Simpson. These include the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle, Joint Strike Fighter, MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, lightweight 155 mm howitzer, Expeditionary Fire Support System and possibly the Marine Expeditionary Family of Fighting Vehicles.

The first assignment for the war game's players is to figure out which troops and equipment the MEUs would be able to take aboard the cramped ships. "We're getting bigger equipment," said Lt. Col. Thomas Anderson, "but we can't take it all with us."

Limited Deck Space

The MV-22s, in particular, are significantly larger than the helicopters that they are scheduled to replace, noted Max Gianelloni, from Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.

"This game severely limits us for deck space," he complained.

Another problem is where to store all of the different kinds of ammunition required for a MEU, said Wisniewski. Developing one munition that can be fired by a number of weapons systems makes a lot of sense, he said.

"If I can take one type of ammunition with me, and not five, my logistics problem is fixed," he proclaimed.

The question quickly became what could be left behind. Paul D. Wisniewski, from the Northrop Grumman Corporation wondered: "Does a MEU need a force reconnaissance element? In a joint operation, those functions are likely to be performed by special-operations forces, and a Marine force recon unit won't be utilized."

Marine Lt. Col. Phillip Ridderhof disagreed. "You can never get enough recon," he said. "You never want to depend on somebody else."

In the end, the cell decided to have the MEU's force recon unit perform a liaison function with special operations. …

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