Gaming to Victory: Synthetic Training for Future Combat – War on the Rocks

“Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after they occur.”
–Gen. Giulio Douhet, Command of the Air, 1942

It looked like a video game. From the comfort of a living room couch, with TV dinners in hand, families watched as precision-guided munitions rained down with seemingly perfect accuracy on Iraqi military and civilian targets. It was Jan. 17, 1991 — the start of Operation Desert Storm — and the combination of camera equipped high-tech weaponry and night vision equipment provided viewers an action-packed front-row view into the coalition’s air war. What had seemed like science fiction was now a reality.

The Persian Gulf War is considered by some to be the first information war — the war that demonstrated the lethality of U.S. Department of Defense’s information communication technology investments during the Cold War. The fusion of advanced microprocessors, new sensor based technology, and satellite communications, promised to improve battlespace awareness — potentially eliminating the fog of war. Likewise, precision-guided munitions would presage a more cost-effective future where a single munition could be deployed against a single target, or as one manufacturer noted “one target, one bomb.”

However, despite this climate of intense optimism, the fog of war did not dissipate. As Gen. Walt Boomer, who led the marine assault on Kuwait, noted, “the intelligence stunk.” He did not have the intelligence picture that he desired. Moreover, only about 80 percent of precision-guided munitions accurately hit their targets. Indeed, to more skeptically minded strategists, the Gulf War was only partially successful at translating technological concepts into battlefield victory. Friction remained.

Notwithstanding these limitations, Desert Storm did act as a formidable demonstrator for future war. Adversaries and aspiring peer competitors watched as the American-led coalition quickly dismantled the

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