The US military is changing the way it fights after it 'failed miserably' in a war game against an aggressive adversary who knew its playbook

·3 min read
US Navy guided-missile destroyers and guided-missile cruisers
US Navy guided-missile destroyers and guided-missile cruisers. U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Caleb Swigart
  • The US military is changing its new warfighting concept after a war game last fall.

  • During the simulated conflict, the US military strategy "failed miserably," a US general said.

  • The exercise reportedly involved a confrontation with China over Taiwan.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The US military put its new warfighting concept for future warfare to the test in a wargaming exercise last fall and it did not go well, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said Monday, multiple defense outlets reported.

"Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably," Hyten said at the National Defense Industrial Association's Emerging Technologies Institute, according to Defense One.

"An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us," the general said, according to Defense News. "They knew exactly what we were going to do before we did it, and they took advantage of it."

"Imagine what our actual competitors have been doing for the last 20 years, with probably even more focus, with larger numbers," he continued. "So we had to take a step back and look broadly and say: 'OK, what did we miss?'"

During the simulated armed conflict held in October, which Defense News described as "a fictional confrontation with China" and a defense official told Defense One involved a battle over Taiwan, the imaginary enemy upended the blue team's "information dominance" strategy.

Hyten said the US forces attempted to establish information dominance, "just like it was in the first Gulf War, just like it has been for the last 20 years, just like everybody in the world, including China and Russia, have watched us do for the last 30 years."

But right from the start, that information was not available. The US military relies heavily on data from sensors and systems to see what's happening on the battlefield and fire upon targets, as well as radio and digital communications to instantly relay command decisions. These networks are susceptible to jamming on the battlefield or wider disruption if US satellites are targeted.

Hyten reportedly characterized the situation as a "big problem."

The US military also learned from the simulated engagement that aggregating US forces might not be the best option against a great power adversary.

"In today's world, with hypersonic missiles, with significant long-range fires coming at us from all domains, if you're aggregated and everybody knows where you are, you're vulnerable," Hyten said.

The exercise demonstrated flaws in the warfighting concept and that the US military likely cannot take for granted some of the advantages it has had in the past as it thinks about how best to address higher-end threats from rival powers like China and Russia.

In the wake of that exercise, the Joint Chiefs have been looking at how to address the vulnerabilities in its warfighting strategy. The military is changing its new Joint Warfighting Concept to an "expanded maneuver" strategy.

The new warfighting approach, which the Pentagon says is necessary to deter future Chinese or Russian aggression, looks at things like contested logistics, joint fires, joint all-domain command and control, and establishing an information advantage.

The purpose of the new warfighting concept, Hyten said, is to reshape logistics, develop the capability to fire on an adversary from everywhere in such a way that an adversary cannot defend itself, and connect command and control links to give commanders a much clearer picture of the battlefield.

Hyten, according to Stars and Stripes, stressed the importance of making these changes, saying that the stakes were high and that the US military's warfighting edge over rival powers like China was "shrinking fast."

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