AU hosts long-duration wargame

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

The wargaming directorate at the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education hosted Air Force Materiel Command for a weeklong wargame at Air University, ensuring the readiness for a long-duration logistics wargame, or LDLW, Nov. 2-9.

This first-ever long-duration simulation was planned for more than two years and partnered 13 key players, all in preparation for sustained theatre operations in excess of 100 days, with a scenario set roughly in the next decade.

Typical wargames operate with the assumption that “everything is there that I need,” such as aircraft, munitions and supplies, according the game director for the LDLW.

“LDLW is an extension based on a scenario that has already been done at Global Engagements, running roughly nine days,” said Dr. Thomas Spencer, technical director for Strategic Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and game director for the LDLW. “At the end of their nine-day engagement, we are extending out six months with the major question of, ‘Can we sustain this?’ This is an AFMC-led effort, and we are very interested in our ability to provide sustainment so the Air Force can meet operational mission objectives.”

 A large number of subject-matter experts gathered here to bolster the reality of the environment and the probability of tangible takeaways. Participating organizations from outside Air University included Air Force Headquarters for Plans and Requirements; Air Force Life Cycle Management Center; Strategic Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments at Air Force Materiel Command; U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center; 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing, Headquarters Air Mobility Command; U.S. Strategic Command; Army; Alabama Air National Guard; and theater experts.

“In addition to having highly experienced SMEs, we also had folks new to wargaming,” said Col. Wayne Williams, Installation, Strategy and Plans, Headquarters Air Force Logistics and Force Protection, and the “Blue Air Forces” commander for the LDLW. “They benefitted from the experience of looking at logistics and how it might support an operation like this. It’s great to see not only the learning going on, but the fresh perspectives and ideas that come from mixing operational and strategic backgrounds and experiences.”

Having a healthy balance of experience and youth provided those involved an opportunity to set the Air Force up with new leaders who are prepared for contingencies like this as they transition to more prominent roles, he said.

A major goal of any wargame is to save resources. It is key to annotate findings in scenarios that can adjust processes moving forward from the experience gained through the simulation, according to Maj. Nicholas Kirsch, senior wargame integration officer, Headquarters AFMC and deputy game director for the LDLW.

“It’s important from the funding perspective that we need to identify the things we need to buy more of during this wargame. We need that analytical data to send up the chain now, before it becomes necessary in-theater,” he said. “It takes time for these findings to become a reality, but it would never be possible without these studies playing out and bringing real data to the needs of the warfighter.”

The wargame has already begun to have its effect on long-duration contingency planning. Before day three of the exercise, more efficient methods of providing logistics had been identified, tested and found to be successful.

“The more-seasoned professionals are victims of our experience,” Spencer said. “We know how to solve the problem, but it may not be the right answer today. It allows our tactical-level troops to think strategically and that bridges into more critical thinking and overall better outcomes.”

Ranging from noncommissioned officers to senior officers and retired officers, a total of 80 logisticians participated in the wargame.

“The long-term benefit here is to garner insight into where we should put our investment into resources,” Spencer said. “What we were looking for is the difference between truth and fact. Knowing what we truly need to sustain for long durations will have an impact on our preparation for potential future conflicts.”

The initial LDLW was thought to be successful, providing plausible lessons learned and a baseline for future needs. Over 200 observations were identified and will be further investigated.

“This wargame helps the warfighter by forcing them to use their secondary-and-beyond weapons capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Germann, 187th Fighter Wing Operations Support Squadron commander, and “Blue Combined Air Operations Center commander.” “That becomes a reality in a 180-day conflict. We must continue to consider long-term strategy in the usage of our weapons and identifying what we will need over time. LDLW will go to great lengths ensuring the success of our Air Force.”