For What It's Worth

You’ll find this next post of little interest, unless you’re a fan of computer wargaming — so feel free to skip it.

The Operational Art of War, in all it’s incarnations, is undoubtedly the best operational-level military simulator you can buy without a Pentagon clearance. Recently, I downloaded an Iraq War scenario, Operation Final Justice, and took it out for a few spins.

The scenario assumes that we won’t have Saudi bases, and that Jordan will be good only for Special Forces deployments — no heavy armor. Furthermore, while Turkey will allow the use of its territory, no Turkish troops take part unless Iraq invades — an unlikely event. Iran starts the game neutral, with a small chance of becoming involved. Sometimes it happens, mostly it doesn’t. There are no Allied forces of note, other than the UK. The Iraqi player can gain “points” by using SCUDs to kill Israeli civilians, which (I think) also increases the likelihood of Iranian intervention.

The game lasts two weeks, divided into 28 12-hour turns. Frankly, I think our optempo could support 6-hour turns, if only for the first few days.

The Allied Order of Battle is as follows:

82nd Airborne (Operating out of Turkey)
101st Air Assault (ditto)
75th Ranger Battalion (Jordan)
5th Special Operations Group (ditto)
3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (Kuwait)
3rd Mechanized Division (ditto)
1st Armored Division (ditto)
1st UK Armoured Division (ditto)
About a division’s worth of Marines (Qutar)
Damn near every artillery piece we’ve got
All the Air Force, Navy, RAF, support and engineering units you’d expect.

The Iraqi order of battle is based on the best public estimates available.

The scenario further assumes that the regular Iraqi Army will, if not actually fight, at least put up a small “speedbump”-type resistence. The Iraqis start off using chemical weapons, and may or may not have a nuke or two, to be used in a static defense role. Civililian refugees, especially in the south, clog roads. To make matters worse, the Iraqis will try to blow up every bridge between anywhere and Baghdad — and there are a lot of rivers to cross.

All of these factors serve to slow down the Allied advance.

The results? I played as the Allies, with the handicap feature turned up all the way — against me and for Iraq. I played as Iraq, with the handicap cranked in Saddam’s favor. Several times, I let the computer play against itself.

In every case, the same result: Baghdad can’t hold out for more than ten days, and Allied casualties are light. Twice, playing as the Allies and risking too many Special Forces casualties (using them to hold bridges behind enemy lines), Saddam fell in just eight turns — four days. And the risk turned out to be not too risky; those Special Forces guys could hold their own.

Oh, and the game doesn’t yet model JDAM or JSOW bombs, so it assumes less effective air support than is likely to be the case.

In every case, casualties were higher than in the Gulf War, but still under 1,000.

Again, OpArt isn’t a Pentagon-level simulator, but it is pretty damn good at recreating historical battles. As for its reliability at predicting future battles, only time will tell.