Thursday, January 25, 2007

OPERATION RADIATING RUBBLE: Reach out and crush, part II

"The United States is unable to inflict serious damage on Iran," said that Ahmadinejad fellow the other day, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times in "US Ships headed to mideast called a warning to Iran." A second carrier battle group was on its way to the Middle East.

However, the United States can deliver a hurting, one that's probably inevitable given the way things go when you get our political leadership's attention these days.

Using GlobalSecurity.Org's assessment of Iran's current military capabilities, DD wrote up and gamed Operation Radiating Rubble using the Naval Warfare Fleet Command Project. It's here and some may recognize it as a rewrite of the old computer game, Jane's Fleet Command.

Jane's Fleet Command wasn't realistic but it was a fun game, requiring you to micromanage naval and air assaults around the world. The very good folks at Naval Warfare took it upon themselves to rewrite the specs on the sim and apply them to the existing engine in an attempt to make it much more realistic.

Up to a point, they were successful. It's still not real life but now it's a moderately useful abstraction.

For Operation Radiating Rubble, DD recreated most of Iran's southern military air and naval district. Then it assembled a combined USAF and Navy strategic strike force with two carrier battle groups, all tasked with bombing a subset of about half of Iran's nuclear research and suspected enrichment sites. Some were assumed to be extremely hard targets, or as hard as the game design would allow. The US was afforded no secret penetrating weapons or unrealistic force multipliers.

The screenshot is an opening capture of a strategic bomber force and fighter escort about to violate Iranian airspace at midnight. Blue, of course, is the US.

Uh-oh, it's looking bad for the mullahs already.

In the game, it's impossible to achieve tactical surprise. The computer brings up the Iranian air force to fight immediately. This isn't realistic and gives Iran an opportunity it won't get in real action.

However, it makes no difference. If the Iranian air force chooses to fight, and the computer artificial intelligence makes sure that it does, it is always destroyed. Having no integrated air defense and no world class experience in fighting a combat-hardened air force at night that comes hard, fast and with superior power -- the American way of battle -- the outcome is pretty much written in stone. One presumes that if Ahmadenijad and the mullahs don't know this, their generals must.

The Iranian navy has a very short and exciting life in Operation Radiating Rubble.

As simulated, this game is in no way fun to play. It can be fought any number of ways using a relatively large force set. However, it always boils down to a logistical exercise in launching Tomahawks, tearing the roof off a nation, and positioning strategic bombers equipped with JDAMs -- lots of JDAMs -- over presumed targets. Bombs and missiles miss or don't explode. Strikes must be redone. Attack timetables change because of a varying threat environments. None of it matters in the end.

Curtis LeMay would be a fan.

While the military outcome is never in doubt, it's difficult to achieve the complete destruction of all the hardened nuclear sites within the boundaries DD set for the game. Iran has the capability to launch theatre-range ballistic missiles. The player finds these aren't particularly effective but about as practical as US theatre ballistic missile defense.

If one is to take the sayings of Ahmadinejad seriously, he is probably right in the sense that a US assault can't get everything. However, such an assault would still be a complete disaster coming in the dead of night for the people of Iran. Therefore, it becomes obvious that it is in the interest of both nations to find some way to avoid it.

DD leaves the column with an excerpt from Peter George's book, the script version of Dr. Strangelove, paraphrased for today's reality.

Buck Turgidson looked quickly at the [Iranian ambassador], breathed heavily, then said, 'Mr. President, if I may speak freely now . . . The [Iranian] talks big but frankly we think he's short of know-how. I mean you just can't take a bunch of ignorant peasants and expect them to understand a machine like our boys . . . and I don't mean that as an insult Mr. Ambassador . . . '

Turgidson was becoming excited now . . . This was something on which he was an expert. 'Well, sir, if the pilot's a really good man, I mean really sharp, he can barrel that plane along so low, I mean, well you've just go to see it sometime. A real big plane like a fifty two, its jet exhaust frying chickens in the barnyard...

'Has he a chance?' the President cut in.

' . . . Has he a chance? Hell, yes. He has one hell of a chance!'


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