Silver Flag: A Concept for Operational Warfare

Wargaming is like deterrence. It has to be credible, believable, and clearly communicated. Red Flag exercises have internalized this concept very well in a training context, but Air Force wargaming would improve if it incorporated the Red Flag approach. Just as Red Flag exercises the tactical level of war, so would Silver Flag wargaming steer to the operational level. In doing so, our wargaming could rally back to a valuable use of the human dimension of gaming and better organize its processes and infrastructure by capitalizing on available assets.
With the war on terrorism and homeland defense in full swing, along with many other national-defense challenges, the urgent but continuing need for effective education and training is enormous. Wargaming can and should play an important role in that process. Red Flag has become a monumental success in “training as we fight” at the tactical level, and we should capture the same visionary approach by using wargaming in education and training at the operational level of war (OPWAR). A Silver Flag, based on an effective use of wargaming, could complement our present Blue Flag exercises to round out an overall systemic approach to OPWAR. For nearly two centuries, wargames have proven vital in teaching military leadership how to think better–how to ask the right questions, how to anticipate, and how to adapt. Wargaming promotes understanding of the “operational art” of war. It provides experience in decision making. It makes book learning and classroom study come alive, reinforcing the lessons of history and illuminating the theories behind effective planning and execution. These tremendous benefits from wargaming, however, do not come without an investment that starts with recognition of the value of wargaming to professional military education (PME) and training as well as to military operations. Wargaming as an innovative tool for achieving successful war-fighting strategies. Wargaming is an integral part of the “organize, train, and equip” mission of the service. There should be a back-to-the-future focus on the human aspects of wargaming to enhance greater effectiveness in how the Air Force approaches wargaming today. Finally, improved organizational efficiencies in the service’s wargaming infrastructure to better meet current and future national-security needs is prudent. Historically and pragmatically, strong reasons exist for refocusing and refining use of this invaluable tool in order to better plan and execute war.

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