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AWC uses wargame to prepare for GPC

  • Published
  • By Billy Blankenship
  • Air University Public Affairs

As the education arm chartered with equipping the force and preparing for success in great power competition, Air University students attending Air War College have been entrenched in an ongoing wargame focused on a Pacific conflict.

The practice is designed to assess how diplomatic, economic, and information instruments of power can support military operations.

Students evaluate the challenges of combat operations against the pacing threat without air or sea superiority. They employ joint-warfighting capabilities in pursuit of national objectives against a peer adversary. Participants get to practice decision making against a thinking opponent, experiencing the interactive nature of war.

“The National Military Strategy has identified China as the pacing threat,” said Col. David Woodley, a facilitator for the wargame at AWC. “Professional military education naturally uses Pacific-based scenarios for the students to wargame. We do allow the students to play both the United States and China. We think it is important in PME for the student to have the opportunity to play both sides in the wargame.”

In a focused preparatory scenario, both U.S. and China employ their respective industrial base to ensure the most advantageous force presentation for a possible South China Sea kinetic engagement almost immediately.

Phase I consists of three turns, each representing a six-month period. This prepares and assesses student thought of how competition of this type, in the modern theater, is involved.

Phase II includes further escalation and enters a period of deliberate combined Freedom of Navigation Operations, navigating through escalated action taken in the regional waterways. This is the time where diplomatic, economic and information instruments of power in support of military operations is practiced. Facilitators evaluate how students respond to the challenges of combat operations against the pacing threat without air or sea superiority.

All these phases are actioned with a deck of cards, spawning new and viable assets with each play. These items can range from instituting an element of air superiority to launching an information campaign in Russia.

Wargaming is additive and enhances the current PME curriculum. Senior-level PME is an academic-based, graduate-level education that requires students to read, write, present, and design strategies. Wargaming allows the students to execute their strategy,” Woodley said. “The success of wargame in a PME environment is for the student to have conversations and discussions and be able to witness their strategy in action. It is not about letter grades or correct strategies. It is about the students using what they learn in a classroom environment in a wargame. Since most of our students will leave senior-level PME and be on staff, they will be armed with what they learned in PME to come up with military recommendations for senior leadership.”

Wargames are woven throughout the many levels of PME across the university. Students engage in gameplay intermittently throughout their courses as curriculum guides.