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Faster (patrol boats), Please

Via Geostrategy Direct (subscription):

The Iran navy has procured hundreds of fast patrol boats as part of what is believed to be a swarm strategy to overcome the firepower of U.S. cruisers and destroyers.

Gulf analysts said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has deployed and trained hundreds of FPBs in the northern Gulf to surround and attack U.S. and Western warships. The analysts said the Iranian concept is to overcome U.S. firepower superiority with the stealth and speed of small patrol boats.

“We are talking about a new sort of warfare that could work or not,” a Gulf Arab analyst said. “It’s never been really tried.”

Well, not in real life . . . read on . . .

In 2002, the Navy held an exercise called Millennium Challenge in which a swarm of fast boats sought to destroy a U.S. fleet.

In March, U.S. Central Command Gen. John Abizaid told the House Armed Services Committee that Iran could deploy nearly 400 high-speed vessels outfitted with rocket launchers, torpedoes and mines. Abizaid said Iran has constructed naval bases for these vessels.

Inside the Pentagon (another subscription) sheds some light . . . wait for it . . .

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who led a “red team” of notional enemy forces at the outset of JFCOM’s Millennium Challenge 2002 war game, is calling on the command to spell out publicly how the experiment has influenced the Defense Department view of “effects-based operations.” […]

Van Riper — who retired in 1997 as head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which oversees service training, warfighting doctrine and education — cites Millennium Challenge ‘02 as a prime example of what can go wrong for those focused on creating effects. […]

Early in the game, Van Riper — playing the role of adversary commander – decided to pre-emptively strike a fleet of 16 U.S. Navy warships and Marine amphibious vessels notionally steaming into the Persian Gulf. Using fast patrol boats and converted civilian craft as strike platforms to bombard the U.S. warships with cruise missiles, Van Riper’s red team overwhelmed the Navy’s Aegis radar and sank an entire simulated blue armada in one day.

I’m not aware of any real-life scenario where the losers get to hit the “reset” button and come back to life. Arguably that is why you have exercises, but declaring a losing strategy victorious in practice ensures only one outcome in real-life: failure.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.