Monday, January 14, 2008

Iran Practices "Millennium Challenge" Tactics Against USN

An interesting article in the New York Times recalls an imaginary defeat of the mighty US Navy that could be all too real in today's warfare at sea:

In the days since the encounter with five Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz, American officers have acknowledged that they have been studying anew the lessons from a startling simulation conducted in August 2002. In that war game, the Blue Team navy, representing the United States, lost 16 major warships — an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious vessels — when they were sunk to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in an attack that included swarming tactics by enemy speedboats.

“The sheer numbers involved overloaded their ability, both mentally and electronically, to handle the attack,” said Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper, a retired Marine Corps officer who served in the war game as commander of a Red Team force representing an unnamed Persian Gulf military. “The whole thing was over in 5, maybe 10 minutes.”

Read more here on the 2002 Millennium Challenge Exercise.

Of course, the Grey Lady never misses an opportunity to bash the Bush Administration, except this goes far beyond the White House into the ingrained platform centric mentality of the Navy leadership. This is an obsession with building ever more expensive and technically complicated warships of the last generation, which are at risk against low cost Digital Age weaponry, like smart bombs and cruise missiles.

The modern Navy feels the platform is more important that the weapon it carries, whereas history proves the opposite is true. The broadside battery of the ship of the line of the 18th Century gave way to the turret battleship in the 19th, with the latter's exploding and armor piercing shells. The slow and strategically limited turret ship was soon superseded in the 20th Century by the naval bomber launched from the fast and more mobile aircraft carrier.

The range and accuracy of precision weapons are giving small strike craft like the Iranian speedboats, and stealthy conventional submarines a "David versus Goliath" mentality against our Big Ships, the loss of even one which may force a change in our long-proven Expeditionary Strategy. It is a good sign, then, that some in the Fleet are revisiting the 2002 exercise in much the same way the Army under Petraeus was forced under the pressure of combat to revise its own outdated thinking.