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Army excercise

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Tuesday July 23, 12:37 PM
US army to engage in largest military simulation exercise yet

Some 13,500 people in 26 locations across the United States will take part in one of the largest US Army exercises in history beginning Wednesday and lasting three weeks.

The "Millennium Challenge 2002" will combine computer simulations and live military exercises with two headquarters, one in Suffolk, Virginia, and the other in San Diego, California.

The scenario, which is secret, will "cover the whole spectrum, everything from terrorism to potentially a major theater of war and the threats that loom in between there," said General William Kernan, commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command, which coordinates air, sea and land military forces.

One of the keys to future supremacy is "interoperability" between different government departments. Such cooperation has already been seen in Afghanistan, for example US Navy planes dropped bombs on targets "painted" by commando units on the ground.

The details of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan which fought the Taliban and al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks, were largely taken from a scenario examined by Central Command in May 2001, Kernan said.

The challenge, which will cost about 250 million dollars, will incorporate "lessons learned" from the Afghanistan campaign, and will concentrate on minimizing the risks of "friendly fire" against allied or civilian forces, Kernan said.

Mastering the tools of war and information, should, according to the Pentagon, "maintain knowledge superiority," over a multi-pronged adversary who is often very knowledgeable about US vulnerabilities in this Internet age.

"Approximately 80 percent of the experiment is being conducted through the largest computer simulation confederation ever built. MC'02 is the largest and most complex military experiment of its kind in history.

"We will provide our military planners and those who execute the plan with an improved view of our adversary, the battle space and possible solution to the crisis," including preventative strikes, Kernan said.

As part of the exercise, hackers from the "opposition force" will try to crack military computers, drones -- unmanned aircraft -- will watch marines on an amphibious assault or an extraction of soldiers using a new high-speed vessel, or even the destruction of a missile silo or other weapons of mass destruction site.

The Pentagon is also aware that it is essential to balance military might with diplomatic and economic action. It is essential, for example, to know an enemy's culture, their personality, and how they might react, said the general.

To help with this the US Departments of State, Treasury, Energy and others such as the CIA will also take part in the exercise.

While the challenge is strictly a US exercise, similar maneuvers have been planned for February on the Atlantic coast, and even more ambitious war games are envisioned for two years time both involving allies.

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