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MC ’02 was intended to be the largest, most expensive, and most elaborate concept-development exercise in U.S. military history. The exercise was mandated by Congress to “explore critical war fighting challenges at the operational level of war that will confront United States joint military forces after 2010.” Developed over two years at a cost of $250 million, it would grow to include 13,500 service members participating from 17 simulation locations and nine live-force training sites.
Once U.S. forces were within range, Van Riper’s forces unleashed a barrage of missiles from ground-based launchers, commercial ships, and planes flying low and without radio communications to reduce their radar signature. Simultaneously, swarms of speedboats loaded with explosives launched kamikaze attacks. The carrier battle group’s Aegis radar system — which tracks and attempts to intercept incoming missiles — was quickly overwhelmed, and 19 U.S. ships were sunk, including the carrier, several cruisers, and five amphibious ships. “The whole thing was over in five, maybe ten minutes,” Van Riper said.
The critical reader may rightly ask how the Coral Sea losses of May 7-8 have any bearing on the wargames of May 1-4. First, the Coral Sea losses suggest that the risk and damage models in use during the May 1-4 wargame—and the IJN’s general attitude of invincibility—were likely becoming outdated.106 This is not a specific indictment of those responsible for the models in use on May 1-4, but primarily underscores to the importance of the model’s accuracy in any wargame. That Yamamoto or the Naval General Staff did not immediately delay or modify the
Midway plan after Coral Sea is a matter of leadership, not wargaming. Secondly, naval planners participated in a supplemental wargame aboard Yamato on May 25. Admiral Takeo Takagi, commander of the IJN force at Coral Sea, provided a detailed report at this second wargame, yet there is no indication that the Midway plan received renewed scrutiny in light of his losses or the adversary’s increasing proficiency.