World War 3 Wargame Shows High Losses and Logistic Gap

Students of the US Marine Corps War College held a WW3 wargame over a couple of days. They created the scenario of a simultaneous Russian attack on Eastern Europe, North Korea attacking South Korea and China attacking Taiwan.

They used GMT Games war games.

There were three red teams, representing Russia, China, and North Korea who were against three blue teams representing Taiwan, Indo-Pacific Command (Korea conflict) and European Command. All teams coordinated their activities both before the conflict and during.

Each team was given $200 billion dollars to invest in technology, equipment or diplomacy. Russia and China teams were forced to split their funding. Every team invested heavily in hypersonic technology, cyber (offensive and defensive), space, and lasers. The U.S. team also invested a large sum in directed diplomacy and upgrading logistics infrastructure.

What Was Learned

The US and allies would win but there would be high casualties. In the first week of the war, US and allies would have 150,000 losses (World War I levels of attrition) from fighting in Poland, Korea, and Taiwan.

Actual logistics was hugely simplified for the game. However, it was noted the current U.S. military infrastructure could not support even half the forces for intense conflict.

The commercial wargames were overly realistic and therefore very complex and difficult to master, and time-consuming to play. The designer has agreed to produce a simplified rule-set that will allow for more student iterations without sacrificing realism.

In Korea, the allies must hold for approximately 10 days before the North Korean logistics system collapses. The fighting remains brutal even after North Korea’s logistics system collapses. Moreover, the restrictive terrain and density of forces leads to particularly intense combat.

Cyber attacks combined with maneuver forces always proved to be a deadly combination. A cyberattack on its own was close to useless.

Airpower was a decisive advantage on the battlefield. However, planes rarely assisted the ground war until after a multi-week campaign to break enemy air defenses.

27 thoughts on “World War 3 Wargame Shows High Losses and Logistic Gap”

  1. If Russia wanted $200 billion worth of weapons, who exactly would they be paying in return for the goods?

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  2. utterly ridiculous circle jerk. krasukha-4/murmansk-ii would disable all us/allied targeting (gps enabled) ability away from its own fiber networks. the casualties necessary to dismantle russian/chinese integrated air defense exclusion zones would be unacceptable to the american public, and you can forget about any large ground operations. the carriers are good for gunboat diplomacy but not really survivable in a hypersonic environment.

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  3. Since you get an higher return on your investment if you invest it in education, healthcare and infrastructure than if you invest in military. The best approached is to spend the minimum needed to protect yourself and your interest plus a safety factor.

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  4. Based on your “Russia is So Weak That Missile Boats for Ukraine Would Stop Them” post, this is rather a poor showing given an ostensibly feeble Russia. It says a lot about the efficacy of US forces or these games.

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  5. It’s why we were able to build entire Air Force bases (essentially an entire town) in the middle of nowhere (with nothing but enough land to build a flight-line on and a source of water that can be purified) on the other side of the world and have them up and in operation within three days of the orders to do it. No other country in the world can do that. Like the carrier fleet, it’s part of what defines a real superpower.

    It’s done in such detail that if there is a chaplain element in a package then, when the reverend/priest/rabbi/imam khatib/etc. lands, they will have a pallet packed with specified numbers of holy books, candles, communion wafers, etc. as appropriate. Additionally, they will already be in a queue for periodic resupply.

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  6. Hi Doc, sort of. Your own internal politics will come into play the longer the conflict goes on if you live in a country that allows dissent. For short conflicts public opinion doesn’t have time to become a factor, but if the war drags on unsuccessfully then people will turn against it. Sun Tzu said it better than I ever could. Really though, people will support the war as long as it is being won. We’re funny that way, tribalistic by nature.

    Logistics win battles though, just ask the German’s in WW2 who ran out of gas for their Panzers. Another quaint expression is that soldiers fight rarely, but eat every day. There are tough, well trained killers on both sides, but the one who runs out of beans and bullets first generally loses.

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  7. But doesn’t it turn out that the experienced professionals realise that it is your own internal politics supporting or opposing the war that really decides who wins and who loses?

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  8. Yes, we’re glad the young generals dont start real wars these days, i guess only if it can be swiped an attack is possible.

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  9. I believe the quote goes “Amateurs study tactics, dilettantes study strategy, but professionals study logistics.” if I remember correctly. Great post though.

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  10. true. At least by scenario thinking you have thought about a lot of possible outcomes except the actual one 😉 As Patton once said “make plans to fit circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans”.

    Then you’ve got the same probs in business life, countless strategy documents that all end up in Binder Heaven.

    thumbs up for logistics. Literally a life saver and “never leave home without it” if you ever want to win.

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  11. I thought the current theory was that
    “No plan survives contact with the enemy, and neither does anyone who didn’t do a lot of planning.”

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  12. Logistics of what thing? Equipment parts commonality. A small truck-like vehicle uses the same wheel-motor-spindle assemblies as it’s trailers. If in the field, a truck wheel is disabled, one from it’s trailer can be substituted. The same assembly can be mounted on a arbitrary suspension mechanisms.
    Troop transports use eight, to twelve of wheels, tank recovery crane/modular bridge assembly systems have separate trucks with 20 wheels each. Two or more of the trucks link with trusses of arbitrary length.
    The superstructure of each truck is a small crane in it’s own right, and is designed to set up superstructures spanning more than one truck. Two to three are necessary to recover the heaviest tanks.

    All motion/position systems have the same servo controls, only different power electronics, and position encoders. Output stages are composed of common power transistors in parallel to the degree needed for the application. A selection of 10 pairs off TAAC bearings constitute 98 percent of bearings used. All fasteners are reusable, except for expendable rivets in complex sheet metal.

    Wiring harnesses have “connector capatability” so a three phase inverter can be an office, mess, or dormitory power supply, a vehicle drive, or a radar powersupply, once rectified. Many inverters can run in paralell, sleeping, and coming online to supply a base’s needs. Sources of power, such as PV, fuel cell, or heat engine will also be connector compaitble with the inputs.

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  13. I spent some time as a war-time logistics planner while in service, a graduate of the Contingency Wartime Planning Course (among many others). We maintained plans for just about everything thing and every area you can imagine.

    The thing is, we were told, right at the start, that in the event of an actual conflict, we would use none of them.

    Instead, it was known by all that they would merely serve as the basis for building what we would eventually wind up going with. The whole “no plan survives contact with the enemy (or reality)” thing was thoroughly understood. But winning a war, especially a foreign war, also involves knowing what you have and and having it ready to go and having some idea of where you can put it and how you will get it there and how fast you can get it there and what it will need when it gets there.

    Given even a little complacency, however, Congress tends to want to start shortchanging airlift capabilities, as well as war-time stockpiles and training.

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  14. Russia doesn’t have $200 billion to spend on weapons. And while Chinese might be able to scrap up $200 billion they might wan’t to spend it on infrastructure instead.

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  15. I’ve been through various war games in a past life (old enough to remember the Fulda Gap in our scenarios….). My takeaway is that it’s just that – games that can easily lead to death by scenario thinking. What I learned is never trust the war games, never ever rely on them, and always anticipate the opposite and unexpected will happen. So many unknown unknowns, from nuclear, to accidents, to level of popular support, or a Stanislav Petrov in the mix. Wars can be fought with psy-ops and economics more effectively than with boots on the ground. War games ought to include economic sanctions. The mighty dollar is a huge deterrence (e.g., freezing China’s trillions of T-bills), more so than a nuclear threat.

    The exception, I think, is limited and ring-fenced engagements, like the recent ISIS turkey shoot. But you don’t need much gaming for that, just logistics.

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  16. As a followup, I wonder whether the SIM-makers limitations skew the game. Oh, they didn’t include any powerups (LOL), but the intricacies of chaotic multi-theatre, multi-force battle are kind of hard to model. Accurately. 

    For instance, it seems that “aerial DoS” is the safest way to quickly neuter most enemies. Comms, power, commerce, travel, technology, counter-air support.  

    Thing is, for a VERY hardened North Korea, doing the DoS thing is likely to get a disproportionate-and-very-costly re- or pretaliation. Its about the only long-term anti-aggression-by-South-K that they’ve got. Crazy ants response. Significantly threaten “the nest” and hundreds-of-thousands will come swarming in mass. With lots of bullets, mortars, missiles, cannon, and who knows, perhaps nukes.  

    I find most imaginable take-out maneuvers fraught with nasty disproportionate countermeasures in real-time. Crazy ants.  

    I’m beginning to think the same about China. At least historically, China hasn’t been the war-romping-around mode in a LONG time. She likes Middle Path internal peace.  

    And just thinking about Russia pinioning Europe feels laughable at this time.  

    With her (Russia’s) dependency on European … everything … but mostly cash-for-oil, she knows well that any true pan-European Russian aggression would be rapidly rebuffed, and the economic hardship to follow would dwarf anything hoped to be gained in the conflict. 

    So, there you are.
    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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  17. Well… ⊕1 back at you … for “lawfare”, “piles of amputated [parts]”, “finish [favorably] as quickly as possible” and of course the ageless “Its a trap!”

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  18. Did I follow that correctly: The commercially available game was too complex and realistic for the USMC and needed to be simplified?

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  19. Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.

    War is the equivalent of 19th century field surgery; once you are in it it’s brutal on the surgeon as well as the patient. You have too many things to do; too few of the supplies you want and too little time to do it. And you end up with piles of amputated arms and legs.

    As much as the lawfare types would like it to be bloodless and not impact any civilians – it doesn’t work that. The objective is to finish the conflict in a favorable manner as quickly as possible with as few casualties on your own side as possible.

    You only expect a selection of bad choices; when you see a good choice – it’s probably a trap.

    Glad to see them using commercial software for this sort of decision making. It’s going to make the decisions and the games better, feedback goes both ways.

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  20. Well,“Color me Purple and Call Me an Eggplant…”

    The logistics supporting a modern infantry is wicked to maintain. Moreover, civilizations have evolved to be even more dependent on the continuous supply of fuels, electrical power and remotely sourced potable water in order to function. Communications is key to almost everything, and it turns out to be the one thing which is fairly easy to scramble through both physical and electronic means.  

    Cyber of course figures into that. But there is nothing like a thousand pound bomb hitting a fiber-optic underground switching nexus … to fry it all, fast. It also turns out that unlike copper conductor communications, fiber is ridiculously hard to put back into service following a large-scale nexus destruction. 

    As we (but for the younger readers, “prehistory”) did ‘way back in the first Iraq War, sending in planes full of graphite dust bombs is an almost trivial way to hobble the delivery of power to huge areas of a country. Aerial bombing of military and civilian airports saps the ability for the “enemy” to get anything aloft, and keep it aloft.  

    Then, strategically bombing refineries, fuel depots, petroleum shipping terminals, is next in sapping the energy budget of the to-be-vanquished. Lastly, taking out the major inlet/outlet freeway feeders isolates cities. The isolation tends toward famine however, so receives a LOT of negative press.  

    In any case, its not pretty.
    In any case.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

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