The "General" of the Red Teams
Gen. Paul K. Van Ripper, the Marine General who killed 20,000 Americans in the Middle East
In 2002 the Pentagon created the “Millennium Challenge 2002”, a massive wargame combining both live exercises and complex computer simulations. Costing $250million, the wargame was designed as a test of America’s military forces and how it would fair in a hypothetical invasion of a rogue Middle Eastern power, such as Iran or Iraq for instance. The simulation was divided into two teams, “Blue” represented the United States, “Red” represented the unknown Middle Eastern rogue state. The Pentagon chose a retired Marine Corps commander, Lt. General Paul K. Van Ripper as the head of the Red team. A hardened combat veteran of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War, Gen. Van Ripper was known as a tough but intelligent opponent. The Blue team expected fierce opposition from Van Ripper, they did not expect he was out to win and that he wasn’t going to fight by the book.
The strategies of Van Ripper were brilliant to say in the least. Rather than attempt a muzzle to muzzle conventional war with the Blue team he used very unorthodox tactics. First and foremost he silenced all electronic communication among his forces. When the US strikes among their first targets are communication systems, as well the US has such complete technological supremacy that they can intercept and decrypt any electronic message whether radio or internet. Instead Van Ripper went back to traditional methods of communication, using men on motorcycles to relay messages as well as World War II era light signals to launch aircraft. Since this type of communication is very slow, Van Ripper abandoned the top down chain of command approach, instead giving regional commanders the power and initiative to conduct their own campaigns as they saw fit. Typically the start of an American attack usually begins with attacks on anti-aircraft defenses by stealth bombers, which are invisible to radar. Van Ripper turned off all his anti-aircraft missile units. An anti-aircraft system with active radar just makes a juicy target for stealth bombers to pick off, so he shut them down making them invisible to American forces.
As many can probably remember from the Gulf War and Second Iraq War, the United States likes to start an invasion by sending a massive naval task force to bomb the crap out of their opponents. The second Invasion of Iraq was preceded by a week long “shock and awe” campaign of cruise missiles and bombs. The first Gulf War was preceded by months of strategic bombing. Van Ripper understood this and planned to hit the Blue team before they could organize and conduct such a campaign. When Blue’s task force made its ultimatum to surrender, Van Ripper responded with an all out assault by waves of aircraft, submarines, torpedo boats, suicide boats, suicide ships, suicide planes, and missiles. The assault was so massive and fierce that it overwhelmed the fleet’s defenses. While the attack was very costly, it crippled Blue’s task force, sinking an aircraft carrier, ten cruisers, and five of six amphibious ships. Overall Blue suffered 20,000 dead and it was only day 1 of 13, an American military disaster if it were real.
Let’s just say that the Pentagon probably wasn’t happy with the stunning defeat at the hands of Van Ripper. They paused the simulation, reset the clock, and “refloated” the sunken ships. The rules of engagement were changed where Van Ripper was forced to use electronic communications and forced to activate his anti-aircraft units. Furthermore he was discouraged from attacking the Americans, and instead was made to follow a scripted battle plan which involved him conveniently moving his forces so the US Marines could land unchallenged. At that point Gen. Van Ripper told the Pentagon to “go fudge themselves” and resigned from the simulation. He was replaced and in a stunning victory Blue swept the field of battle.
Fortunately for the real Blue team, the Iraq Invasion of 2003 was successful and the real Red team did not use Van Rippers strategies, though the nation building of Iraq afterwards was a bit more tenuous. After Millennium Challenge 2002 Gen. Van Ripper joined several retired generals calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. Currently he enjoys his retirement in Bethel, PA and mostly spends his time peacefully tending his championship prized rose garden. Actually I don’t know what he does with his free time.
The General’s actions are a great example of the red team mentality. He knew the the bad guys, he knew the good guys and found a way to beat them in their own game.
Here's an interview with the General: The Immutable Nature of War