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Wargame explores Air Force options for 2030

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jason Lake
  • Air University Public Affairs
While exercising the strategic proverb of a legendary 16th century samurai warrior, 130 military strategists and planners gathered here Oct. 14-19 to explore future Air Force constructs based on technologies and concepts of the year 2030.

Miyamoto Musashi stressed the importance of taking a distanced view of close things and seeing distant things as if they were close -- a strategy wargamers proved is just as important today during the Future Capability Wargame at the Air Force Wargaming Institute.

Scientists, operators, policymakers and lawmakers drawn from the U.S. military services as well as the air forces of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom participated.  The series of wargame moves were designed to test and examine how the Air Force can deliver global vigilance, reach and power within and from the domains of air, space and cyberspace in 2030.

Wargame moves also aimed to identify strategic challenges and opportunities the Air Force might encounter in the future along with ways it can best exploit them.

"We basically get a lot of really smart people to think hard about how technology may influence strategy and tactics in the not too distant future," explained Dr. Kenneth Watman, Air Force Strategic Plans deputy director at the Pentagon.

While some might ask how anyone can plan a strategy 30 years ahead for an organization of more than half a million members, Dr. Watman said the wargame focused on basic concepts, not on details like "planning what's for dinner."

Despite the lack of minute details, Group Capt. Bill Gibson, a Royal Air Force exchange officer, said the 14-strong team of strategists leveraged the expertise of a wide range of technologists, operators and wargamers, including Air University and Air Command and Staff College students.

"The game tested the joint and coalition forces in a scenario involving counter-insurgency and major combat operations against highly-capable adversaries", explained Group Captain Gibson, in the Directorate of Air Force Strategic Plans as the chief of Future Concepts and Transformation Division. "We play different concepts against each other and then assess the results."

After starting their day with intelligence briefings, the blue (friendly forces) and red (enemy forces) teams developed warplans based on objectives outlined by their National Command Authorities. By mid-afternoon, the teams faced one another across the assessment room and presented their plans to assessors.

A panel of judges documented all discussions and gathered key insights on the employed strategies and use of technological and organizational concepts, said Maj. Gen. Paul Selva, game director and Air Force Strategic Plans director.

At the end of the game, participants briefed preliminary insights to the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Duncan McNabb.

"The end of the wargame signals the start of a period of in-depth analysis" said Lt. Col. John Feather, game project officer. "Over the next few months, we will analyze data to identify promising concepts and their applications and gain insights into the impact that their use may have on the development of air strategy and force structure."

Last, planners will use the analysis results to develop other major Air Force and joint wargames, said Group Captain Gibson.