Littoral Commander was “a valuable experience in making time-constrained decisions…using finite resources with incomplete information to achieve an objective.”
– IWP student Julia Wilson
A dozen IWP students met on a recent Saturday and played out near-future combat between the Chinese navy and army and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, learning valuable lessons about modern warfare.
Thanks to Professor Sebastian Bae, an adjunct professor at Georgetown and a professional wargame designer with the Center for Naval Analysis, students played an advance copy of his upcoming commercial wargame, Littoral Commander, which looks at warfare in the Pacific up through the year 2040 at the tactical and operational levels.
He was invited to do a “teach-and-play” session by Professor Aaron Danis, who is a long-time wargamer and uses simulations in some of his courses. The session was held under the auspices of Dr. Amanda Won’s China-Asia Program, considering the theme and scenario for the game. Prof. Bae’s scenario postulated that the U.S. was defending the Luzon Straits against Chinese efforts to take the first island chain between Luzon Island and Taiwan. “This scenario anticipates expected real-world forces and actions should a conflict break out,” said Danis.
The students were divided into a China Team and a U.S. Team, and further divided into ground and naval task forces that had to work in unison. Players could leverage not only their immediate resources on the ground and in the sea, but could use satellite intelligence collection systems, cyber tools, and new weapons under development for near future conflict. Players discovered that coordinating friendly forces is not easy even under the best of circumstances.
The battle, which simulated only 8 hours of real combat, came down to the last turn when the U.S. sank the last Chinese warship as it closed in on the first island chain. Both sides lost most of their ships and several ground units, representing thousands of casualties. The U.S. and China also quickly expended all their long-range attack missiles and air-defense munitions, similar to what is being seen in the Russo-Ukraine War today.
Students enjoyed the interactive nature of the wargame and learned a number of lessons. Mason Taylor, who was on the U.S. team, stated “Littoral Commander changed the way I see military strategy. It provided participants with an experience to think on a tactical level, highlighting the immense costs of warfare and the importance of having quality political and military leaders who understand those realities.” U.S. teammate Ed Goebel added “Battles can hinge on small decisions, and teamwork is essential for making the most of scarce resources.” Finally, Robert Bankowski noted “the importance of utilizing logistics and tactics in modern war to overcome a numerically superior force” like those fielded by the Chinese.
Professor Danis and Dr. Won plan to hold more wargames in the future as an adjunct to classroom learning. “The China/Asia Program was delighted to sponsor this war game activity and will continuously offer wargame sessions throughout the upcoming summer and fall semesters,” stated Dr. Won.