The Emperor’s Sword: Organization

So, in the past, we discussed the arms and equipment of the Imperial Legions, but we never went into their organization in any particular depth, something this post intends to correct.

Now, if you remember the Table of Ranks post, you’ll note that I have used fairly typical Western-type ranks (albeit in somewhat altered structure) to translate the ranks of the Imperial Military Service, Legions included. This is a convenience for the reader who is familiar with these, although in many ways this paints an inaccurate picture of their actual organization.

One should remember, after all, that the Empire’s history never had the Dark Ages, or the medieval era that followed. The implication being that the Imperial Legions draw their tradition, in unbroken descent generation following generation, from the phalanges of Ancyr and the lockstep legions of ancient Selenaria, themselves born of a time when the hot new military technology was very early steel – and this imprint still lies heavy upon them.

And one of the places that this is visible is in their organization and associated positions.

(These being the titles associated with command or various other positions within a unit, separate from the rank held by whoever occupies it. As I note below, there is a loose association between the one and the other, but the Imperial Military Service has gone all-in on matrix management and does not believe in up-or-out; in a world in which lives are so very, very long, they don’t want to lose talent to such policies over time; or, indeed, by promoting people from positions in which they are exceptionally good into positions in which they are less talented. So while it is by no means usual to find legionaries whose rank is disproportionate to their position, it’s by no means unknown.)

And so, in the absence – ah, time to spend on conlanging, where art thou? – of a full and appropriate set of Eldraeic terminology, pray pardon my shameless appropriation and distortion of a variety of Greek and Roman terms in the below descriptions. (Also the use of the term armiger, “one who bears arms” in its non-heraldic sense, to describe those legionaries one of whose primary functions is fighting personally.)

So, to begin at the beginning, with the smallest of units:

Fist

The smallest, most fundamental division of the legions, the fist is a fireteam of four legionaries (E-3, outside training legions or first-tour replacements), one of whom (the monitor, usually an E-4/Corporal) is in tactical command, and a second of whom carries an additional heavy weapon.

(Well, except in armor legions. There, the fist is generally representative of a single tank crew, etc.)

Lochos (File)

The next division up, the lochos (or file, since the original lochos was based on one file of soldiers in the Ancyran phalanx or the Selenarian legions) consists of three fists, plus a lochagos (file leader; usually an E-6/Master Sergeant) and ouragos (file closer; usually an E-5/Sergeant) as commander and second-in-command, respectively, for a total of fourteen armigers.

In light infantry legions, each lochos is assigned a pair of V40 Ralihú IFVs (accommodate 8 each) as transports, the lochagos commanding one and the ouragos the other.

The lochos can be considered the approximate equivalent of the modern squad. In more classical comparisons, one might analogize the lochos with the Roman contubernium, the tent-group; the lochos is a logistical unit inasmuch as its members are quartered together, eat together1, share various common appurtenances, etc.

Triarchy (informal)

Next up the hierarchy we come to the triarchy – which is not a formally constituted unit but rather one occasionally broken out for convenience – and consists of three lochoi assigned together; 42 armigers. The commander of a triarchy, although sometimes referred to as the triarch, is simply the lochagos with seniority. (On the rare occasions that a triarchy is seen operating independently – see note under century – higher command strata may find an O-2/Ensign from somewhere to give it policy direction.)

It can be considered the approximate equivalent of the modern platoon – in size, at least.

Century

Next in formal units, the century; six lochoi together, commanded by a centurion (O-4/O-3/O-2 Lieutenant/Sublieutenant/Ensign, usually depending on the seniority of the century within its legion) and an optio (E-7/Gunnery Sergeant); 86 armigers total. The century is usually the smallest unit to operate independently (for short periods; any long-term independent operations will be assigned a full cohort). A legion contains 162 centuries (from three alae / nine merarchies / twenty-seven cohorts).

The century is the first of the “bannered units”; these being the century, the cohort, and the legion entire. When colors are carried2, the symbolism for each century and its attached battle-honors are of course unique, but the background pattern and combination of colors is standardized, such that every legion’s, for example, 43rd century will use the same base banner as every other legion’s.

The century also has staff positions (auxiliaries) outside the directly armigerous personnel. In auxiliaries, a typical century will include a signifer (the bearer of the colors and communications specialist), a quartermaster, two forward observer/recon specialists, two armorers, two field medics, and the field kitchen.

In addition, there is a fire-support asset attached to each century; for an infantry legion, this is usually a Saber coilgun-walker or something similar; and it is at the century level that the G5-TT Corveé tactical transports and their crews (one per two lochoi), or equivalent, are attached.

The century can be considered the approximate equivalent of a modern company.

Dicentury (informal)

Back to non-formal units, the dicentury, which is exactly what it says on the tin; a pair of centuries operating together (i.e. 172 armigers), commanded by the senior centurion of the pair.

Cohort

On we go with the cohort; six centuries, for a fighting strength of 516, commanded by a machegos, or “Battlemaster” in the vernacular (O-4/Lieutenant or O-5/Major3). The cohort is the unit most commonly used for independent operations.

As the second of the bannered units, the cohort includes an aquilifer to carry its colors4 (and the golden eagle atop them) as well as serve as a communications specialist among its auxiliaries, which include at this point a full embedded logistics and medical staff, an adjutant for the machegos, the master of the camp, an intelligence staff, and the padre, among others.

(The cohort’s padre is not counted among the armigerous on the technicality that his command structure answers first to his deity, and only afterwards to the machegos5. Regardless, when the cohort meets the enemy, the padre is usually to be found in the van.)

In addition, there’s a heavy fire-support asset attached to each cohort. The type varies by legion, but a light infantry legion might use the HV-12 Stormfall missile tank or the HVC-14h Thunderbolt drone tank, in the role.

The cohort can be considered the approximate equivalent of the modern battalion.

Merarchy

Up to the next level, the merarchy; three cohorts together, for a total fighting strength of 1,548, commanded by a merarch (O-6/Colonel or O-7/Brigadier). It’s primarily a tactical and administrative division rather than one that has a large staff attached to it. What it does have attached to it, though, is the lighter half of the legion’s organic air support, in the form of one wing of G12-BU Falcon tilt-rotors6 attached to each merarchy.

Can be considered the approximate equivalent of the regiment – in size. Where the “regimental system” is concerned, however, that’s the legion.

Ala

Next, the ala, or wing; three merarchies together, for a total fighting strength of 4,664, commanded by an alearch (an O-7/Brigadier or O-8/General of the Wing). Much like the cohort, it has a full attached staff, appropriate to its place in the hierarchy (although it is not a bannered unit).

Also attached to the ala is the legion’s heavy air support; a wing of G7-BU Sunhawk heavy ground-attack aircraft each. Combat support units of various kinds which the legion has permanently acquired over its history and temporarily attached subunits tend to also be glued on here, at the ala level.

It can be considered the approximate equivalent of the modern brigade.

Legion

And finally, the legion itself; three wings together, for a total fighting strength of 13,9327, commanded by a strategos, a post occupied by an O-9/General of the Legion. Also includes the strategos‘s command staff (including the draconifer, who carries the legionary standard, a crystal-and-gold replica of the dragons framing the Dragon Throne, and is in charge of legionary communications) and its support units.

The legion is, of course, the highest of the permanently established units of the Imperial Military service. It can be considered the approximate equivalent of the modern division.

And On…

The legion is, of course, not the largest possible military command; it’s merely the largest formally and permanently organized unit. When needed for a war, legions can be grouped together into field forces, which can be grouped into armies, which in turn are attached to fleets up in the airy heights of the Admiralty where grades O-10 through O-14 (various kinds of Marshal) roam, ultimately under the overall theater command of a Warmain (polemarch) answering to the First Lord of the Admiralty.

But that’s another story…


  1. Ride together, die together… bad boys for life.
  2. On the modern battlefield, per-century banners are generally not carried; however, the colors and symbols are still used in identifying v-tags.
  3. Note that there is no rank of Captain in the Imperial ground forces.
  4. The eagles, on the other hand, are borne into battle, usually with the headquarters section. It may not be practical, but there are such things as standards, y’know? Standards about standards, even.
  5. General opinion within the Legions, on the other hand, is that the strategos is somewhat senior to god.
  6. You can think of these as, simplistically, filling the “attack helicopter” role.
  7. Despite variations in the numbers of auxiliary staff attached, logisticians usually budget 18,000 personnel for transporting a full legion, in the comfortable assurance that they won’t need all of ’em for people.

Steenkin’ Badges

One of the better known traditions in the Legions is the collection of fort badges. When you successfully pass training at one of the Legions’ many specialized facilities, you are awarded a small ceramic badge to display with that fort’s crest. Officially, this is so that legionaries with particular skill-sets under their belts are readily identifiable; unofficially, it lets veterans of particular courses make those who haven’t attended them pay for the next round of drinks.

The one everyone’s familiar with, of course, is the falcon-over-anvil badge of Fort Petrae, where every new legionary-apprentice goes for basic training.

Stay in and get assigned to interesting jobs, and there are plenty more to collect. Fort Snowbound, for ice moon, high-radiation and dark-ocean training. Fort Cascade, for survival and deep-field operations. Fort Inferno, for high-pressure, toxic-environment, and volcanic-world training. Fort Labyrinth, a blacked-out maze in a barren rock where you learn stealth, sniping, breaking stealth, and not being sniped. Fort Efreet, for those chosen few who might need to fight inside a sun.

And perhaps most memorable, there’s Fort Surreal, where the challenge is a simple combined obstacle, live-fire, and social-combat course, just like you were run through back at Fort Petrae.

It’s just that at Fort Petrae, they don’t shoot you up with the most gods-cursed witch’s brew of narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens they can devise first.

– The Emperor’s Little Finger: A Double Dodectave of Special Ops

Heavy Cavalry Redux

“Drive me closer! I want to hit them with my sword!”

no-one with a tank, ever

This is a recreation/reformulation/retcon of the original description of the Empire’s heavy cavalry legions, in light of both criticism received – and assistance to resolve it – and rethinking of my own. It should be considered as a replacement for the original post here, et. seq.

Let us proceed.


Making up the remaining one of every sixteen legions (i.e., one per three light cavalry or heavy infantry, and one per nine light infantry), we have the heavy cavalry. Direct-fire death on very large treads, which is to say, main battle tanks. The biggest of all the big sticks. Putting the “brute” into “brute force”.

For additional flexibility, the majority of Imperial MBTs are built off a common base platform, with a selection of swappable modules to provide specific functionality for specific cases. (Unlike many modular vehicle systems in this ‘verse, however, these aren’t hot-swappable; the need to remove and replace and integrate large and complex chunks of armor plate, etc., when doing it means that this requires some pretty major machine-shop type facilities. It’s not something you can do in the field, and indeed something only seen at the most well-developed remote operating bases.) Due to these functionality differences, MBTs are usually classified by the module.

So first we’ll talk about the capabilities of the base platform, and then we’ll talk about some of the more commonly seen modules:


Base Platform

The base platform of the Imperial MBT is a low-slung vehicle with all-around glacis design, designed to minimize its target profile and give it a low center of gravity. In dimensions, it is approximately 12 m (39 ft) long, 4 m (13 ft) wide, and 3 m (10 ft) high; its total mass (varying, of course, by module), however, is of the order of 60 short tons, due to the extensive use of lightweight composites.

8 m of the length and 3.5 m of the width at the front is the module socket; height of modules varies, but none take it much above the basic 3 m height. At the rear of the platform, an externally-opening compartment can be used to hold resupply, infantry needing transport, or a “hot soup” fuel pod to increase vehicle endurance.

Armament

The armament of the base platform (effectively the secondary weapons systems common to all tank classes) is fitted in four altazimuth ball mounts, located on either side of the vehicle, towards the front and rear.

These mounts’ field of fire extends 180 degrees vertically, and approximately 160 degrees horizontally at zero vertical, i.e., limited only by the occlusion of that side’s other mount. In effect, they maintain full coverage to the side, front, and rear of the tank, with only a small gap in coverage to the front for the rear mounts, and to the rear for the front mounts.

The front mounts include coaxial ortillery target designators and heavy (72 mm) mass drivers/micromissile launchers; the rear mounts only include medium (36 mm) mass drivers.

(While the latter do spend much of their time firing forward and to the flank, their special purpose in being mounted where they are is to give you something to pop the drone lining up to shoot you in the ass with so you don’t have to stop engaging your main target while you do it. In their battlefield environment, micro-AKVs are cheap and plentiful, so this happens a lot. If you had to slew the main gun around every time, you’d be taking your eye off the ball way too much – even if you could get it to reliably track something that small and fast-moving.)

See also Point Defense, below.

Armor

The armor of Imperial MBTs is relatively standard for Imperial armored units; there’s just a lot of it. The core structural frame is honeycomb-patterned diamondoid composite, covered with multiple slabs of interlinked refractory cerametal (i.e., a ceramic-metal composite formulated for both great physical strength and resistance to heat), electrical and thermal superconductor meshes, more cerametal, reactive-armor sections, and an outer anti-energetic ablative coating to sprayed on top of it all. Additional side plating shields the rollagons. A nanopaste-based self-healing system runs through channels in the armor, keeping damage patched up in the field.

The survivability specifications on all this armor is that the vehicle should be able to survive a near-miss with a tactical-range nuclear weapon or equivalent orbital kinetic strike.

Command and Control

An Imperial MBT nominally crews three: semi-specialized commander, driver, and gunner positions; in practice, this is rendered a mite fuzzy inasmuch as they’re both ably assisted by the vehicle’s internal synnoetic (i.e., designed to function integrated with another sophont mind) AI, and linked to each other by internal conflux hardware (i.e., functioning as a loose, mesh-topology temporary group mind for maximal efficiency, enabling coordination and multitasking by splitting off semi-autonomous agents).

Primary control is routed through the AI and direct neural links – the vehicle seats are virtuality chairs, connecting to the crew’s implanted laser-ports – but auxiliary/backup manual controls are also available.

Core sensors and communications include all the standard options: radio and whisker laser communications, access to the OTP-encrypted tactical mesh, threat identification systems, teamware and C3I systems integration, thermal imaging, remote sensor access, and all-around local sensors including pulsed-usage radar and lidar, T-ray high frequency snoopers, ground-penetrating radar, target-painter detection – and, of course, plain old electronic visual and sound transmission, since the interior of the MBT is fully sealed and includes no direct visual paths.

The MBT also includes a battle computer capable of functioning as a major node in the tactical mesh, and a full ECM suite.

Drones

As with all other units of the Imperial Legions, the heavy cavalry too has its drone accompaniments, with each MBT having a pair of WMH-12 Skyorca drones attached to it for close air support, along with a pair of heavy ground drones matching its own tactical function.

Internal Environment

To the delight of those legionaries who like a little comfort in their soldiering, the internal spaces of an Imperial MBT are a comfortable – albeit confined – shirt-sleeve environment. (Climate control, leather seats, the works…)

This is partially because given the expense of building one of these anyway, throwing in a few civilized comforts is barely a blip on the budget, and partially because – well, anything that successfully penetrates the armor tends to leave the crew as a hundred-yard-long red/blue/silver-white/etc. smear on the ground behind the exit hole anyway, so there’s no point in having them sit around in full combat armor. A padded jacket and helmet are sufficient to prevent accidents from concussion and rough terrain.

The interior is also a fully sealed and controlled life support environment for NBCN protection and exotic atmosphere/vacuum use. This also renders all tanks amphibious tanks by default: once you’ve covered all the various atmospheric compositions and pressures you might need to operate in and discarded thereby air-breathing engines and other systems, you’ve built a vehicle that can shrug off submergence, too.You could drive a modern Imperial MBT from continent to continent across the ocean floor, given a case of rat bars and a good reason to try it.

Point Defense

The MBT is equipped, as all else is, with a military-grade kinetic barrier system.

For active point defense, the base platform is equipped with a mix of mini-autocannons (in altazimuth ball mounts) and laser emitters, laid out to ensure all-around coverage, and capable of independently and automatically targeting all incoming fire and close-in soft units, subject to target identification and prioritization routines set by the crew.

Power

It seems a little inappropriate to say that the MBT is also powered by a micro-fission “hot soup” reactor, inasmuch as, well, it ain’t that micro. It is “mini”, perhaps, compared to standard-sized fission reactors, but it’s as large as the thorium molten-salt kind gets. The bigger ones all tend to be the safer “pebble-bed” design.

Naturally, this is buffered through a large set of superconducting-loop accumulators to handle immediate power draws and provide backup power in the event that you lose the power reactor – enough to make a fighting withdraw, anyway, although not enough to continue an engagement with.

Propulsion

The Imperial MBT moves on neither wheels nor treads; rather, it sits atop eight semi-squishy rollagons, near-spheres of a “smart fluid” rotated electromagnetically from within the sealed main hull, enabling it to move with equal facility in any direction, at speeds of up to 150 mph on a good, flat roadbed. Note that this is not a drivetrain developed specifically for military purposes: modern civilian ground-cars use similar technology.

The propulsion system also has considerable electromagnetic control over the shape of the rollagons; while they don’t have them normally, if you need spiked wheels or some other shape-variation to cross some tricky terrain, it can provide them on demand; if need be, they can even form “paddle-propellers” for amphibious operation.

A limited vector-control/impeller system permits the tank to apply vertical thrust to itself; this is used primarily downwards on light-gravity worlds to keep ground pressure high enough for the rollagons to be effective, occasionally upwards to reduce ground pressure where the ground is soft, and even more occasionally to lessen the severity of falls, ground collapses, or deliberate drops from low-flying transport aircraft.

(It would theoretically be possible, on light-gravity worlds, to use it to make “skips” over obstacles or other short vertical jumps, but this is generally considered an excellent way to become skeet.)

Stealth and Masquerade

The Imperial MBT, much like the heavy infantry, supports only the most basic chameleonic coating and signature reduction features; the nature of the battlefield environment of the time is such that any heavy unit has a signature (in terms of heat, reactor neutrinos, and the EM pulse accompanying weapons firing) that can’t be baffled worth a damn. As such, designers concentrated on designing a vehicle that could “tank” (sic) incoming fire in the process of executing shock and awesome.

It should however be noted that this does not preclude the use of external decoys, or the use of signature modification systems to confuse terminal guidance of incoming weapons, or indeed to masquerade as something else — but these systems have to work with the platform’s high signature, not try to conceal it.


Module: Tactical Assault Tank (HV-10 Basher-class)

As close as it comes to a “standard” MBT design, the HV-10 Basher-class module loadout is similar to the V40 Ralihú IFV, scaled up; the Basher-class comes with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver, but substitutes a bilateral quadbarrels with limited independent training for the Ralihú’s single coaxial quadbarrel.

(The heavy mass driver is also designed to function as a heavy micromissile launcher, if required, and as such is entirely capable of delivering large-diameter canister shot for anti-infantry work.)


Module: Long-Range Assault Tank (HV-12 Stormfall-class; also HV-12i Longeye-class)

The HV-12 Stormfall-class LRAT module is equipped with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver intended to be capable of long-range indirect as well as direct fire, but substitutes the quadbarrels for bilateral “pop-out” missile pods, each capable of doing a simultaneous launch of up to 16 minimissiles, reloadable with a short cycle time from internal magazines. Just perfect for those days when you want to fight in the shade.

By changing the minimissile loadout of the Stormfall, it can also serve as an active air-defense platform.

Rarely seen is the HV-12i Longeye variant, which trades in both super-heavy mass driver and missile pods for a graser installation, suitable for direct fire only but capable of punching out even more heavily protected targets. Also, notably, the Longeye graser is often capable of penetrating the atmosphere and reaching targets in low planetary orbit.


Module: Drone Tank (HVC-14h Thunderbolt-class; also HVC-14l Stinger-class)

A drone tank, in legionary parlance, is the land-based miniature equivalent of an aircraft carrier. The HVC-14h Thunderbolt module contains nanoslurry and miniature drone components, which it uses to construct and deploy ad-hoc micro-AKVs to suit the requirements of the current battlespace, launching them into action as a centrally coordinated wing, for defense, reconnaissance, attack, or other functions.

(Or, to put it another way, it’s a self-propelled field factory that spews out custom drones and minimissiles on demand, simplifying your logistics and multiplying your options.)

The HVC-14l Stinger functions similarly, but substitutes swarm hives for the micro-AKV factory, and is thus able to saturate the local battlespace with microbot/nanobot swarms, be they the standard eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, or balefire, or more specialized models.


Module: Tactical Arsonier (HV-10a Flammifer-class)

Used for cleaning up or eliminating nanoswarms (highly vulnerable to thermal overloading), area denial, reducing bunkers and dug-outs, and spreading pure terror, the Flammifer-class replaces the heavy mass driver of the Basher-class with a scaled-up nuclear-thermal flamer, while retaining the quadbarrels as-is.


Module: Command Tank (HV-10c Strategos-class)

The Strategos-class is a specialized vehicle for coordinating tank-squadron activities and close air support. The Strategos module doesn’t add any weapons systems; rather, it adds two more crew positions for squadron command, a specialized tactical/logistics C3I AI, and a nodal communications suite and its antennae.

A pair or triplet of Strategoi are usually assigned to a tank squadron made up of other classes for command/control functions.


Module: Pummel (HV-11 Pugnacious-class)

The pummel tank is a highly specialized variant, designed to rip apart buildings and fortifications. It carries sappers in its rear compartment, and is equipped with specialized demolitions equipment up front.


Module: Wrecker (HV-10w Trison-class)

Another highly specialized variant, the HW-10W Trison and other wreckers are logistics units, used to recover wrecked tanks and other heavy equipment off the battlefield for repair or for scrap.


Transportation

The Flapjack-class cavalry dropship was made specifically for this; apart from that, they mostly drive to wherever they’re needed, because only the biggest transport aircraft can carry them in useful numbers.

The Counterrevolution Will Be Televised

combat instrumentation and logging module (CILM): Part of the standard military-basic biomod package, the combat instrumentation and logging module is an enhanced lifelogger, recording tagged sensory recordings as well as physiological information, armor, weapon, and equipment telemetry, and tactical mesh status. The data recorded by the CILM is used to provide contextual data in after-action reports, for targeted improvement of individual performance and fireteam coordination, and in the development of future training scenarios.

Given the Legions’ institutional sense of humor, the CILM is commonly if unfortunately referred to as the “fight data recorder”.

Blackjacket’s Dictionary

Trope-a-Day: Drop Pod

Drop Pod: The Piton-class drop pod and Fist-class triple drop pods, specifically, the former of which drops a single heavy legionary from orbit to ground, and the latter of which drops three light legionaries likewise. A modified Fist is also used to drop equipment packages.

(Unlike many variants on this theme, these drop pods aren’t intentionally used to damage the enemy, although if one does land on someone’s head, that’s a bonus: it’s hard enough to get a legionary safely to the ground, through flak, with a suicide-burn flight profile as it is without having it try and double as a KEW. Besides, you can always throw a few actual KEWs out in front of it…)

Trope-a-Day: Tank Goodness

Tank Goodness: Oh, definitely, including all of Spider Tank, Hover Tank, and Drill Tank.  (Not Land Battleships, though – too easy for ortillery to target.)  But also, of course, the good old-fashioned ground tanks, like the HV-10 Basher or the HV-12 Stormfall and their variants (p.s. click that link for tank porn), are still more than present on the modern battlefield, as it has been since the days when war cars were steam-spouting behemoths.

Of course, it’s much more fun now that they come with enough armor and engine to drive through buildings, enough nuclear-shell enabled guns to fire town-leveling broadsides, and full closed-cycle environmental support sufficient to drive across – under – reasonably sized oceans – as long as you packed a lunch – now isn’t it?

Trope-a-Day: Standard Sci-Fi Army

Okay, let’s try this again, with much more saving of drafts…

Standard Sci-Fi Army, eh? Well, not sure how much I have to say about that that’s new, because of all the things I’ve already written about the Imperial Legions elsewhere, but let’s see what I do have.

(Actually, first I’m going to register an objection to the trope write-up up front and say that, in actuality a disturbing amount of science fiction, especially the visual kind, does not follow this army standard, because this army standard implies a balanced combined arms approach.

Compare that to, say, Star Trek, whose approach to ground combat involves landing a bunch of starship crewmen with sidearms to play the part of cannon fodder extremely light infantry, or Starship Troopers – the movie, not the book – in which they have actual light infantry but the only military maneuvers they appear to have mastered are the “broken-formation rabble charge”, the “rout” and the “circular firing squad”.

When Star Wars is the best I can think of at depicting realistic army-type military operations on screen, it should be clear that visual SF has a long way to go.)

The Imperial Legions, contrariwise, do follow a balanced combined-arms approach. Leaving aside those things specifically mentioned below, the only huge omissions from their portfolio are artillery units and an air force, both of which are supplied by the Imperial Navy: the former in the form of orbital bombardments by KEWs, and the latter in the form of atmosphere-capable AKVs sortieing from aerospace cruisers in low planetary orbit.

(They are comfortable with this, by and large, because landing a military force planetside when you don’t have orbital superiority is merely an expensive way to get lots of people killed.)

The main body of the Legions contains both infantry and cavalry: light infantry (really regular line mechanized infantry who come with IFVs which they leave behind when it’s time to play light/scout infantry) and heavy infantry (the big guys in the powered armor that lets them punch out buildings); and light cavalry (skimmer-riding “dragoons” and “hussars” who can fight both mounted and dismounted, fast-moving scouts, skirmishers, and raiders) and heavy cavalry (main battle tanks and modular swapout units of similar weight, which cover a lot of specialized territory – see article).  All of these, naturally, come accompanied by plentiful drone support and at least one attached wing of organic close air support.

(The organic close-air support is provided by the G7-BU Sunhawk (imagine the IN SPACE version of the A-10 “Warthog” Thunderbolt II reconceptualized as a tilt-turbine/hybrid rocket) and its smaller cousin the G12-BU Falcon, which can fly like a plane, float like a helicopter, and sting like the giant mass driver that the whole damn airframe is wrapped around.)

A substantial proportion of each of these types are trained as stormtroopers, which is to say, to make orbital drop assaults – and so named because they arrive with the speed of lightning and the sound of thunder, and wreck the crap out of anything that isn’t under deep cover. Yes, even the heavy cavalry. (Hello, Flapjack!)

(Further side note: and where that Super Soldier trope is concerned – hey, this is the Empire. Everyone who passes the first half of the Anvil receives the finest milspec augmentations that the budget will pay for. Quantity may have a quality all its own, but the IL prefer the quality of quality, any day.)

Everyone, including specialized legions, is one of these types first. That’s the legionary way. First you’re a legionary, then you’re something else.

Now, where these specializations are concerned, headquarters and logistics functions are usually provided by other bits of the IMS, (Theater/Battlespace Command and the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, respectively), but various specialized legions built off the same basic platform provide combat engineers, intelligence, guards, field medical services, communications specialists, MPs, siege specialists, sappers, peacekeepers, snipers, saboteurs, recon specialists, special forces, Very Special forces, battle theater preparation specialists, underwater specialists, underoil specialists, subterranean specialists, hunter legions, terror legions, scouts, applied eschatologists, and pretty much any other class of military specialists millennia of experience has come up with.

Not seen: mecha. Because survivability no, and when your AKVs and drones can fly and your skimmers can hover and even your MBTs can at least hop, putting legs on things is really kinda pointless.

Finally, there’s also the wet navy. Technically, the wet navy isn’t part of the Legions, it’s part of the Stratarchy of Military Unification, but it’s the IL that call upon it when they need to deal with water worlds (or oil worlds, etc.), so it’s covered under this trope.

(Note: the rest of this is subject to change as I haven’t done a sophisticated work-up on wet-naval strategy yet.)

It’s rather more limited than it used to be, certainly in terms of that part of it that goes abroad and thus has to be delivered by dropship. That, and the age of the aircraft carrier is long since over, because when the battlespace is full of missiles and orbital weapons, it suffers from the same large, fat target problems as other giant types…

…so a modern wet navy task group tends to consist of three types, in varying proportions:

“Cruisers”, as the “capital ships”, which concentrate on mini-AKV and missile armament and a command-ship role. (Major air offenses being better launched from near orbit.)

“Destroyers”, fast and nimble attack vessels, and indeed that means they’re usually hydrofoils or ekranoplans with mass drivers. The aircraft of the sea.

And submarines, continuing their traditional role of being holes in the water that no-one notices until the no-one in question explodes suddenly for no readily apparent reason.

 

Building the Imperial Navy: Fleet Missions

Building-a-NavyThis is the third part of our six-part series on Building the Imperial Navy (first here; second here), in which we extend the strategic goals we made in the second part by defining the Navy’s role relative to the other parts of the Imperial Military Service, and define in general terms what the fleet does in support of its missions. In this step, there are three sub-steps:

Service Roles & Missions

What services (the Navy included) exist, and which parts of the larger strategic puzzle are allocated to each service? Which types of mission does each service consider a core capability? How does the Navy support its own missions, and what services does it offer to the other services – and vice versa?

In the Imperial Military Service, the Imperial Navy is definitely the senior military service, as tends to be the case for any interstellar polity. While (in a relatively unusual case for a star nation) it does not directly control the other services – that being the responsibility of Core Command and the Theater Commands – IN admirals dominate these by the numbers, and strategy is heavily driven by fleet actions.

The IN is, after all, tasked to provide all combat and patrol functions anywhere in the Worlds (and, quite possibly, anywhere else in the galaxy), along with all necessary support functions for the Legions when operating outside the Empire or off-planet within it, and any support functions required by the other stratarchies likewise. With a remit like that…

Well. The First Lord of the Admiralty may be officially styled Protector of the Starways, Warden of the Charted Void, Warlord of the Empire, but it’s the Second Lord, the Admiral of the Fleet, who rejoices in the nickname “King Of All Known Space”.

To achieve all of this, the majority of the Imperial Navy is organized into a number of fleets: the Home Fleet, the Capital Fleet, and the “directional fleets” – the Field Fleets Coreward, Rimward, Spinward, Trailing, Acme, and Nadir. The first of these, the Home Fleet, is based at Prime Base, Palaxias, and is the garrison fleet for the Imperial Core and Fringe, keeping up patrols and strategic defenses along access routes; meanwhile, the Field Fleets operate outside the Empire, each in its assigned sextant, providing continuous patrols and security services from their associated fleet stations.

Capital Fleet, meanwhile, has a double name: on one hand, it is the defensive fleet for the Capital District, the throneworld, Conclave Drift, Corícal, Esilmúr, and Prime Base itself. On the other hand, it also possesses the highest proportion of capital ships in the Imperial Navy, because it forms its major strategic reserve in the event of war breaking out, and is also the fleet from which flotillas and task forces to handle situations that the lighter units of the Field Fleets cannot is formed from. As such, curiously enough, it’s probably also the fleet that sees the most full-contact military action.

There are also certain very specialized functions (command of certain fixed defenses, including tripwires and englobement grids; anti-RKV defenses; the RKV deterrent fleet; relativistic war operations; and so forth) using equally specialized starships that don’t fit neatly into the fleet structure, which are grouped together under specialized areas such as Nightfall Operations Command, Perimeter Security Command, Fortress Command, Tripwire Command, and so forth.

The Imperial Legions are the Empire’s “ground” combat organization, with the understanding that in this case “ground” includes in habitats, on asteroids, in microgravity temps, underwater, and basically anywhere else you can’t fit a starship, including starship-to-starship boarding actions.

They serve both as onboard “ship’s troops” – providing shipboard security, boarding and landing forces, and additional damage control personnel – and as an offensive combat arm with their own assault cruisers, drop pods, shuttles, and ships, and organic light and heavy armored cavalry, which is attached to Naval task forces as required.

The Navy, in turn, is responsible for the Legions’ transportation, escort, and orbital fire support.

As the possessor of the “misc”, various specialized forcelets that don’t fit anywhere else, the Stratarchy of Military Unification is called upon by the Navy and the Legions when they need one of those specialties somewhere, relies upon them for transport, etc., and otherwise has a similar but much less called-upon relationship to the Navy-Legions one.

It is perhaps notable that the Empire has no “Army”-equivalent service: i.e., no branch concentrating on mass warfare, long-term occupation, etc., the Legions being highly specialized in the raiding/commando/special operations/strike-hard-and-fast role. This is entirely deliberate, as the Empire has chosen a policy of deliberately eschewing those types of warfare in the current era[1] to the extent that they are not substitutable. This policy is intended to have a twofold effect:

First, reassurance of the Empire’s neighbors with regard to its own peaceful intentions; the Empire may have a large and potent military force, but any strategic planner with eyes should be able to tell instantly that it is extremely badly adapted for attempts at conquest, and would need considerable reengineering to become a suitable tool for setting out on imperial adventures.

But second, of course, those hostile polities or sub-polity factions whose strategic calculus might let them conclude that they can get away with fighting a long guerilla war against an occupation should think twice when it’s equally obvious to the trained eye that that isn’t one of the options on the Empire’s table, and that the most likely substitution from the force mix they do have is to blast them back into the Neolithic with orbital artillery.

(Occasional miscalculations on this point in the Conclave of Galactic Polities have led to accusations of “k-rod peacekeeping” and on one occasion the Cobalt Peace Wall Incident, but it’s unlikely to change any time soon.)

The IN coordinates its operations and provides transportation (when necessary) for the Stratarchies of Data Warfare, Indirection and Subtlety, and Warrior Philosophy, as well as certain other special services (like, say, preemptively burying hidden tangle channel endpoints where they might be useful). By and large, coordination is the main relationship: Indirection and Subtlety, for example, might consider it a failure if they’ve let things get to the point of there being a war at all, but as long as they’re doing assassinations and sabotage in wartime, it is best if it happens at the appropriate time, belike.

Their biggest relationship apart from the Legions is with the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, which owns the oilers, the logistics bases, the transportation and supply contracts, the freighter fleet, medical and personnel services, etc., etc., and basically all the other logistical back-end needed to run the Military Service that the Navy would be doing for itself if the people who designed these systems didn’t much prefer that they concentrate on specifically naval things. They work closely together to get logistics done, and in wartime, ensure that the logistics functions are adequately escorted and otherwise protected.

The IN has very little at all to do with the Home Guard, it being a domestic security militia force only.

Fleet Concept of Operations

In general what does the fleet do? When and where will the fleet execute the missions defined in the last step? Will the fleet fight near home, along the border, or will it fight in enemy territory? Is it offensive in orientation, or defensive? What’s the standard operating procedure?

In orientation, by and large, the Home Fleet is defensive; the Field Fleets are mostly offensive (although less so to spinward and nadir, where they rub up against the borders with the Republic and the Consciousness, respectively); and the Capital Fleet, which can be called upon to reinforce either, splits the difference with a bias to the offensive side.

On the defensive, the rule of thumb is, as it has always been, “fight as far from whatever you’re trying to defend as possible”. Space battles are messy, and if at all possible, you don’t want to be fighting them with anything you care about preserving as the backstop. Home defense, therefore, involves a “hard crust” – although one backed up by a “firm center” – around the core Empire’s connection to the greater stargate plexus, but expands this by placing pickets, and of course the “field fleet” patrols, well in advance of these. The intent is that the defensive fleets should advance to meet any attacker and take them out, or at least greatly reduce them, before they ever reach Imperial territory.

And, of course, the best defense is a preemptive offense – when Admiralty Intelligence and Indirection and Subtlety can arrange that.

On the offense, the IN adheres to the military doctrine the Empire has always practiced, given various factors previously discussed, namely that only an idiot chooses a fair fight, and only a double-damned idiot fights anything resembling a frontal war of attrition. Misdirection, whittling flank attacks, deep strikes on crucial nexi, and eventual defeat in detail are the hallmarks of the IN’s strategy on the attack.

In terms of scale of operations, the IN plans for disaster: conventional readiness standards call for the IN and the rest of the Military Service to be able to fight three major brushfire wars simultaneously and/or one sub-eschatonic war (i.e. one step below ex-threat, like invasion from a massively larger polity such as the Republic or an unknown higher-tech polity), even while sustaining normal operations. The former, at least, is known to be possible. The latter… has not yet been tested in a completely stringent manner. But that’s what the Admiralty is planning for.

Fleet Posture

Is the fleet forward deployed (so that it can rapidly deploy to known threats) or based outside of the home system(s)? It is garrison-based, i.e., homeported in the home system(s)? Does it conduct frequent deployments or patrols or does it largely stay near home space and only go out for training? (Fleet posture is not where the starships are based, but instead how they are based and how forward-leaning it is.)

The nature of superluminal travel in many ways defines the nature of the strategic environment. Since travel between star systems is normally done using the stargates, a surface defined in terms of a list of stargate links can be treated, effectively, as a border or as an effective defensive line. While it is possible to bypass such a surface by subluminal (relativistic) travel, this is a sufficiently difficult and expensive process (and one requiring specialty hardware) as to make it a minor strategic consideration, for the most part.

That, at least, frees the IN from having to picket every system all the time.

That said, its posture is as forward-leaning as they can make it. Both the Home Fleet (within the Empire) and the Field Fleets are kept in constant motion, on patrol; the field fleets, in particular, travel on randomly-generated patrol routes from the Imperial Fringe out into the Periphery via various fleet stations and then return, throughout the entire volume of the Associated Worlds. (This requires a great many agreements with various other polities for passage of naval vessels, usually gained with the assistance of Ring Dynamics, ICC, who find this desirable with reference to the defense of their stargates.) Constant motion is the watchword: the IN doesn’t want its task forces to be pinned down or for it to be known where they are at any given moment, and this additionally helps make it very likely that anywhere there’s a sudden need for a task force, there will be starships available for relatively ready retasking. (I say relatively ready: the nature of stargates means that while you can cross from star to neighboring star instantly, you have to cross the star systems in between from stargate to stargate the slow way – and while brachistochrones at single-digit gravities are skiffily impressive by Earth-now standards, they still aren’t exactly express travel between, say, two points 120 degrees apart on the orbit of Neptune.)

The Field Fleets are, in short, about as forward-leaning as it’s possible to be.

The Capital Fleet spends more time in garrison, by its nature, but in addition to training operations, units and squadrons are routinely transferred back and forth to the Field Fleets or dispatched on special operations so that every IN unit maintains at least a minimum degree of seasoning. It’s the view of the Second Lord and BuTrain in particular that a Navy that doesn’t fight is likely to be bloody useless if it ever has to fight, so it’s best all around to keep everyone out there as much as practicable.

[1] In previous eras, such tasks were the responsibilities of the Legions: should they be needed again, the remit of the Legions is likely to be once again expanded.

Military Matters

(Sorry, folks – I had really meant to give you the next section of Darkness Within today. Unfortunately, I’m feeling pretty plague-ridden right now and can’t really give it the degree of attention it deserves, so instead, I’m giving you some non-fic notes on the evolution of the Imperial Military Service.)

One of the minor things that came up with reference to Trope-a-Day: Semper Fi, in a comment on the G+ share of that post, was the traditional interservice brawl; and something mentioned in my answer to that was the Empire’s lack of any Army-equivalent to fight its Marines-equivalent legionaries. And this, I figured, might give rise to some curiosity as to Just How Things Got That Way, both with the lack of one, and which one turned up lacking.

So let’s look back in history a ways.

Specifically, let’s look back to the Union of Empires, which predated the founding of the actual Empire by 42 years or so. Among the many pieces of geopolitical reasoning that went into motivating this particular unification was a military one: one component, the island-bound Empire of Cestia, had – through its sub-polity, the Alatian Kingdom, the finest fleet on the planet. The other, the continental, mountain-bound Moon-Worshipping Empire of Selenaria had the finest army on the planet. If you were to compare the two, respectively, to the British Royal Navy and the Roman legions at their respective heights, you’d be in the right ballparks.

Naturally, the thought of putting the legions of the one onto the ships of the other, overcoming Selenaria’s geographical boundaries and Cestia’s difficulties operating away from water, and thereby conquering the whole damn world put many, many smiles on the faces of both the admirals in Ethring and the generals in Iselené.

These two organizations became the forerunners of the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Legions, respectively.

(Which is not to say those were the only contributions at the time of the Empire’s founding. Of the other founders, the Deeping had its appropriately terrifyin’ warrior-priests, Veranthyr had some of the best light forest scouts in the business, and the Silver Crescent, in particular Leirin and Telírvess, provided more than its share of what I believe are called quote deeply scary-ass axe-wieldin’ motherfuckers unquote, but the two big professional military elements were the above.)

And then, of course, things evolved over time.

The Legions became more of a Marine-like force very quickly, of course, given that amphibious backstory, and that most of the early Empire’s wars did involve close cooperation with the Navy. That in turn, induced something of a fragmentation: one of the first reorganizations split apart the legions that spent most of their time makin’ war offensively from those with a primarily defensive role, the latter of which became the Home Guard, which in turn evolved into a citizen militia with those units serving as its core and cadre.

And time passed, and the Empire expanded, and the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Legions basically borged all the new forces and their units they acquired in the process into their own organizations: sometimes via methods that required great restructuring and retraining, and sometimes by methods as simple as handing out a new Imperial Star to add to their battle standards and informing the Ancyran Devil Dogs that they were now “the Empress’s Hundred-and-Second, the Devil Dogs”.

And more time passed, and military technology were advanced, and portfolios were shuffled, and people invented the notion of an Air Force, which became the Fourth Lord of Admiralty’s purview for the next considerable time, and so it went on…

Up, at least, until the really big post-space-era reorganization. In which several large changes were made over a relatively short period – of which the most major was combining the Imperial Navy and its air forces – both of which had interests in space and relevant specializations – into a single unified force, filling each others’ competence holes, and whose primary business was space. (And, indeed, which lost most of its air-only and wet navy responsibilities, too.) The legacy of that reorg is still visible in their mixed set of traditions, and the quirk in rank structures that explains why an IN O-5 in the Engineering Branch is a Lieutenant Commander, but an O-5 in the Flight Ops branch is a Squadron Leader.

This also made the Imperial Legions even more Marine-y, as it were, because you can’t invade anywhere in space without the IN taking you there – and because it is sheerly impractical to invade planets across interstellar distances by main force, so the sorts of operations they are specialized for are much more in what we might consider the “marine” mode than the “army” mode. The Empire doesn’t have an army suitable for long-term warfare and occupation, because it is firmly of the opinion that it doesn’t need one.

(This also reassures more than a few of their neighbors, which is a nice side-effect.)

And that brings us up to the modern era. So how does it look now?

Well, the man on the street would probably say, all casual-like, that there are two main branches of the Imperial Military Service, the Navy (in SPAAACE!) and the Legions. And on a very casual level, he’d be right. But there are actually eight, under the nine Lords of Admiralty…

The First Lord of the Admiralty, Protector of the Starways, Warden of the Charted Void, Warlord of the Empire (all of which looks so much nicer on a business card than “Secretary of Defense”) is the one that doesn’t have a branch of his own. He commands the central Admiralty itself, (that having won the nomenclatural coin-toss with the General Staff, back in the day), filling both the equivalent posts of the SecDef and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Core Command, which oversees the Warmains, the appointed supreme-commanders-on-the-spot for each permanent or ad-hoc Theater Command. He’s the most senior military officer, who may be appointed from any of the eight branches, and has full operational command authority.

The Second Lord of the Admiralty is the most senior non-operational officer for the Imperial Navy, as the Third Lord of the Admiralty is for the Imperial Legions, usually both O-14s – Admiral of the Fleet and Captain-General of the Legions, respectively.

The Fourth Lord of the Admiralty is, in the modern era, the O-14 (Lord High Stratarch) in charge of the Stratarchy of Military Unification. That, in turn, amounts to the “department of misc” – in the final reorganization that created the IN and IL in their modern forms, this Stratarchy acquired all the military functions that didn’t fit in either of them: the Empire’s remaining specialized air forces and wet navy forces, for example, along with a variety of other functions too specialized to fit well in the IN and IL, along with some other oddity functions like “privateer liaison”, and so forth.

And then there are the stratarchies created by further modern-era additions.

The Fifth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Data Warfare, which is responsible for making the Empire’s enemies deeply regret that they ever plugged anything into the extranet, and quite possibly that they ever invented electronics.

The Sixth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety, which is in charge of assassinations, sabotage, economic warfare, ecological warfare, financial warfare, and pretty much everything else from the big book of dirty tricks that doesn’t fall under the purview of…

The Seventh Lord of the Admiralty, whose Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy houses war-lawyers and military memeticists whose function is to use misinformation, meme-attacks, psychological warfare, cultural propaganda, and outright toxic memes to find the strands holding an enemy’s morale, military, economy, society, religion, culture, etc., etc., together and basically unravel them. When your plans for a nice little war are rudely interrupted by a multi-way civil war breaking out at home, it’s the Seventh Lord who strokes his mustache and indulges in evil laughter.

The Eighth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, which is exactly what it says on the tin, and ensures that everyone else has exactly what they need when they need it, even – or perhaps especially – if it hadn’t occurred to them to ask for it yet.

And the Ninth Lord of the Admiralty, the Commandant of the Guard, commands the Home Guard (remember them?) in maintaining defensive garrisons, fortifications, and facilities and training services for the citizen militia.

Trope-a-Day: Semper Fi

Semper Fi: The Imperial Legions – while obviously there is no direct causal connection – do have many things in common with the Marines.  (Apart from the obvious troperiffic ones – yes, we all know they’re a Proud Soldier Race all their own, commanded by Colonel Badasses, the truest devotees of The Spartan Way, and almost a Church Militant… although they’re more Warrior Poets than Blood Knights (except the kaeth… no, even the kaeth), lack Drill Instructor Nasties for the reasons suggested under Mildly Military, and most of their commanders, at least, aren’t General Ripper.  Except for the Sargases, as usual.)  Certainly aspects of the attitude and the mythos.

But also, despite their origins in the army of a land power, in later days (due to that land power allying with a major sea power) they did do most of their fighting as an amphibious rapid-reaction force, and, of course, when the Empire went into space – see, obviously, Space Marine – as the orbital equivalent of such a force.  And since imperial annexations of anything resembling a major world work very badly across interstellar distances, most of the Legions are optimized for a similar rapid-reaction, tip-of-the-spear, in-and-out role.

So differences in culture and tech aside, they’d probably recognize each other, I do believe.

Imaginary Hazard to Navigation

“So, we were about three weeks out from Tanja – that’s in the Glimmerstars, don’ch’know – with the Blood and Gold, us in the Fifty-Eighth, just heading back from some little out-system where we’d been doing the hearts-and-minds thing. Glimmerstars was one of the Expansion Regions back then, for all it’s staid and civilized now.

“I was a green corporal in supply – green right down to the scales – and on the outs with the lads after a little slip-up with the coding that got us a couple of hundred gallons of the standard cleanser we use for the Havocs – our combat exoskeletons – but the perfumed civvie version, and those tight-wires in admin made us use it. The whole damn armory smelled like a startown house o’commercial affection for weeks, but that’s by the by.

“Anyway, on this run one of the vacuum-suckers working maintenance down near our section – this was on the Kinetic Didaxis, and an old nsang ex-merc, as it was the 58th – had decided he didn’t want to be in the Navy after all, but was only five years in, so he figured his best chance was to get out on an incapacity, if y’know what I mean, and the first gimmick he’d thought up was the imaginary skimmer, right? Whenever he was going anywhere more’n a couple of feet he pretended he was riding this thing – start it up, drive it where he wanted to go, shut it back down, signal when he had to turn corners, the works, right down to the last detail. Sounds, too. And he always remembered where the thing was when he wasn’t on it, and soon enough everyone in the section knew where he’d left it. Half of them reckoned they could even see the damn thing.

“So about half a year went by while we shuffled around the outworlds; he’d added a bunch of other stuff to his repertoire by then, and eventually they threw him out, but not on an incapacity, and when he was being marched off he drove his skimmer up to the airlock, shut it off, threw the keys in the recycler – claiming that he wouldn’t need it any more – and that should’ve been the last of that.

“Half the lads in the section could still see the thing sitting there, though – the chiefs weren’t at all happy when they kept walking around it – so in the end a bunch of them went down there in the night-cycle and mimed spacing the damn thing just to put an end to it.”

– MSgt. Vivek mor-Rakenn anecdotes

Heavy Cavalry: Size

Just occurs to me, I wrote all that and never once mentioned a size.

Well, the base platform is about 16.5 m (54 ft) long, 4.8 m (about 16 ft) wide, and 3.6 m (about 12 ft) high. For reference, that’s about twice as long as an M1 Abrams and a third again as wide, comparable in length to a short semi-truck. (Not exactly intended for fighting in cramped urban conditions, but then, that’s why the drive train is built with pleasing indifference to the direction you might ask it to drive in.) 8 m of the length and 3.5 m of the width at the front is the module socket; height of modules varies, but none take it much above the basic 3.6 m height.

Fortunately, it doesn’t actually weigh all that much more than the Abrams, thanks to extensive use of newfangled lightweight composites.

So now you know.

The Emperor’s Sword: Heavy Cavalry

“Bash, bash, bash, bash, bash our way to glory…”

Making up the remaining one of every sixteen legions (i.e., one per three light cavalry or heavy infantry, and one per nine light infantry), we have the heavy cavalry. Direct-fire death on very large treads, which is to say, main battle tanks. The biggest of all the big sticks. Putting the “brute” into “brute force”.

For additional flexibility, the majority of Imperial MBTs are built off a common base platform, with a selection of swappable modules to provide specific functionality for specific cases. (Unlike many modular vehicle systems in this ‘verse, however, these aren’t hot-swappable; the need to remove and replace and integrate large and complex chunks of armor plate, etc., when doing it means that this requires some pretty major machine-shop type facilities. It’s not something you can do in the field.) Due to these functionality differences, MBTs are usually classified by the module.

So first we’ll talk about the capabilities of the base platform, and then we’ll talk about some of the more commonly seen modules:

Base Platform: Armor

The armor of Imperial MBTs is relatively standard: there’s just a lot of it. A honeycomb-patterned diamondoid-composite structural frame, covered with multiple slabs of interlinked refractory cerametal, electrical and thermal superconductor meshes, more cerametal, reactive-armor sections, and an outer anti-energetic ablative coating sprayed on top of it all, with additional side plating to shield the rollagons (see below), and an inbuilt nanopaste-based self-repair system. The survivability specifications on all this armor is that the vehicle should be able to survive a near-miss with a tactical-range nuclear weapon or equivalent orbital k-kill strike.

The entire vehicle is itself low-slung, to minimize its target profile, and keep the center of gravity low. Much like the heavy infantry, though, they don’t bother with significant chameleonic or stealth features, since there is absolutely no way to render one remotely stealthy.

Base Platform: Command and Control

An Imperial MBT nominally crews three: semi-specialized commander, driver, and gunner positions; of course, this is a mite fuzzy inasmuch as they’re both ably assisted by the vehicle’s internal synnoetic AI, and indeed linked to each other and the AI by internal conflux hardware, functioning as a loose, mesh-topology group mind for maximal efficiency. Primary control is routed through the AI and direct neural links – the vehicle seats are virtuality chairs, connecting to the crew’s implanted laser-ports – but auxiliary/backup manual controls are also available.

Core sensors and communications include all the standard options: radio and whisker laser communications, access to the OTP-encrypted military mesh, threat identification systems, teamware and C3I systems integration, thermal imaging, remote sensor access, 360 degree sensing, pulsed-usage radar and lidar, T-ray high frequency snoopers, ground-penetrating radar, target-painter detection – and, of course, plain old electronic visual and sound transmission, since the interior of the MBT is fully sealed and includes no portholes.

The MBT also includes a major-node-grade battle computer, and a full ECM suite.

Base Platform: Internal Environment

To the delight of those legionaries who like a little comfort in their soldiering, the internal spaces of an Imperial MBT are a comfortable – albeit confined – shirt-sleeve operating environment. (With climate control! And leather seats!)

This is partly because given the expense of building one of these things anyway, throwing in a few civilized comforts is barely a blip on the budget, and partly because – well, anything that successfully penetrates the armor tends to leave the crew as a hundred-yard long red/blue/silver-white/etc. (delete as applicable) smear on the ground behind the exit hole anyway, so there’s not much point in having them sit around in full combat gear.

This is also fully sealed and environment-controlled for NBCN protection and exotic atmosphere/vacuum use. It also renders all tanks amphibious tanks by default: once you’ve covered all the various atmospheres and pressures you might need to operate in, and obviously discarded air-breathing engines, you’ve built a vehicle that can shrug off submergence, too. You could drive a modern Imperial MBT from continent to continent across the ocean floor, given a case of rat bars and a good reason to try it.

Base Platform: Loadout

The base platform loadout includes a pair of bilateral cheek-mounted ortillery target designators, heavy mass-drivers, and slugguns/micromissile launchers at the front, on either side of the module mount and the armored prow (used for ramming/demolition), and a pair of rear-facing cheek-mounted medium mass-drivers at the rear for local defense. Completing the mix, a center-top-mounted “backscratcher” (a projector for downward-firing flechette shells) permits the vehicle to rid itself of pesky close-in infantry.

(Along with, of course, full-coverage point-defense lasers and autocannon, independently and automatically targeting all incoming fire.)

At the far rear of the tank, an externally-opening compartment can be used to hold resupply, infantry needing transport, or a thermal-thruster fuel pod to increase vehicle endurance.

Base Platform: Power

It seems a little inappropriate to say that the MBT is also powered by a micro-fission “hot soup” reactor, inasmuch as, well, it ain’t that micro. It is “mini”, perhaps, compared to standard-sized fission reactors, but it’s as large as the thorium molten-salt kind gets. The bigger ones all tend to be the safer “pebble-bed” design.

Naturally, this is buffered through a large set of superconducting-loop accumulators to handle immediate power draws and provide backup power in the event that you lose the power reactor – enough to withdraw, anyway, although probably not enough to fight with.

Base Platform: Propulsion

The Imperial MBT moves on neither wheels nor treads; rather, it sits atop eight semi-squishy rollagons, near-spheres rotated electromagnetically from within the sealed main hull, enabling it to move with equal facility in any direction, at speeds of up to 150 mph. The propulsion system also has considerable electromagnetic control over the shape of the rollagons; while they don’t have them normally, if you need spiked wheels or some other shape-variation to cross some tricky terrain, it can provide them on demand.

The base tank platform also includes a limited – by power availability and overheating, given the high mass of the vehicle – vector-control/nuclear-thermal thruster flight capability. This is typically used for skipping over tank traps, scaling vertical obstacles, and short ground skims, as well as being used in reverse to keep the vehicle on the ground with sufficient ground-pressure for the rollagons in low-gravity environments; since the vehicle has the approximate maneuverability of a lead brick in the air, it is strongly advised not to try to use it for anything more, lest you suffer from a fatal encounter with a real aircraft.

It does, however, greatly ease deployment from transport aircraft or shuttles, when used, since it lets you kick the tank out the back of the aircraft and ride their vectors safely to the ground.

And now, the modules:

Modules: Tactical Assault Tank (HV-10 Basher-class)

As close as it comes to a “standard” MBT design, the HV-10 Basher-class module loadout is similar to the V40 Ralihú IFV, scaled up; the Basher-class comes with a turreted heavy mass driver, but substitutes dual independently turreted quadbarrels for the Ralihú’s coaxial quadbarrel. (The heavy mass driver is also designed to function as a heavy sluggun, if required, and as such is entirely capable of delivering large-diameter canister shot for anti-infantry work.)

Modules: Long-Range Assault Tank (HV-12 Stormfall-class; also HV-12i Longeye-class)

The HV-12 Stormfall-class LRAT module is equipped with a super-heavy mass driver intended to be capable of long-range indirect as well as direct fire, and bilateral missile pods on either side of it, each capable of doing a simultaneous launch of up to 16 minimissiles with a short cycle time from internal magazines. Just perfect for those days when you want to fight in the shade.

By changing the missile loadout of the Stormfall, it can also serve as an active air-defense platform.

Rarely seen is the HV-12i Longeye variant, which trades in both super-heavy mass driver and missile pods for a graser installation, suitable for direct fire only but capable of punching out even more heavily protected targets. Also, notably, the Longeye graser is often capable of penetrating the atmosphere and reaching targets in low planetary orbit.

Modules: Drone Tank (HVC-14h Thunderbolt-class; also HVC-14l Stinger-class)

A drone tank, in legionary parlance, is the land-based miniature equivalent of an aircraft carrier. The HVC-14h Thunderbolt module contains nanoslurry and miniature drone components, which it uses to construct and deploy ad-hoc micro-AKVs to suit the requirements of the current battlespace, launching them into action as a centrally coordinated wing, for defense, reconnaissance, attack, or other functions.

The HVC-14l Stinger functions similarly, but substitutes swarm hives for the micro-AKV factory, and is thus able to saturate the local battlespace with microbot/nanobot swarms, be they the standard eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, or balefire, or more specialized models.

Modules: Tactical Arsonier (HV-10a Flammifer-class)

Used for area denial, reducing bunkers and dug-outs, and to clean up nanoswarms, the Flammifer-class replaces the heavy mass driver of the Basher-class with a scaled-up nuclear-thermal flamer, while retaining the quadbarrels as-is.

Modules: Command Tank (HV-10c Strategos-class)

The Strategos-class is a specialized vehicle for coordinating tank-squadron activities and close air support. The Strategos module doesn’t add any weapons systems; rather, it adds two more crew positions for squadron command, a specialized tactical/logistics C3I AI, and a nodal communications suite and its antennae.

A pair or triplet of Strategoi are usually assigned to a tank squadron made up of other classes for command/control functions.

Modules: Pummel (HV-11 Pugnacious-class)

The pummel tank is a highly specialized variant, designed to rip apart buildings and fortifications. It carries sappers in its rear compartment, and is equipped with specialized demolitions equipment up front.

Modules: Wrecker (HV-10w Trison-class)

Another highly specialized variant, the HV-10w Trison and other wreckers are logistics units, used to recover wrecked tanks and other heavy equipment off the battlefield for repair or for scrap.

Drones

As with all other units of the Imperial Legions, the heavy cavalry too has its drone accompaniments, with each MBT usually having a pair of WMH-12 Skyorca drones attached to it for close air support, along with a pair of heavy ground drones matching its own tactical function.

Transportation

The Flapjacks were made for this. Apart from that, they mostly drive to wherever they’re going, because only the biggest transport aircraft can manage to carry them.

The Emperor’s Sword: Light Cavalry

Today, we return to this series once again…

Making up a further three of every sixteen legions (equal in number to the heavy infantry, and one for every three light infantry legions), and again not counting the specialists built off their platform, are the light infantry legions – swift-moving scouts, raiders, flankers, and skirmishers.

The personal equipment of a light cavalryman greatly resembles that of the light infantry legionary; their armor is merely another variant of the N45 Garrex, the N45v Hasédár cavalry armor. In addition to the standard features, the N45v Hasédár includes electromechanical “saddle clamps” (to hold you to the vehicle), superior inertial compensation, and plug-in vehicle interface hardware (for C3I, HUD functionality, and life-support longevity). They even are outfitted with the same weapons as the light infantry legionary, including not only the sidearms but also the IL-15i Battlesystem – since it is often useful to be able to fight “dismounted”.

The vehicles of the light infantry are stubby-winged ground-effect “chariots”, or “skimmers”, which can sustain a hover of a few to a few dozen meters off the ground – in terrain-following mode –, turn and flip on a dime thanks to high-speed gyros and auxiliary propulsion taps, all while being propelled at up to several hundred miles per hour by a bimodal (to enable their use in vacuum) thermal rocket/ramjet. A “hot soup” micro-fission reactor powers this and other vehicle systems. The single pilot rides the vehicle in a semi-prone position, protected by a non-fully-sealed enclosed forward/flanking armored canopy; to save mass and increase flexibility, the pilot is required to wear their own environmental armor, as described above.

(A jettisonable anti-radiation fairing can be mounted on top of the canopy to permit the ready deployment of such chariots by Flapjack­-class dropship.)

Vehicle sensors and communication equipment include all the usual standbys, including the active systems, T-ray snoopers, and full ECM suite used by the heavy infantry, again powered by the platform’s greater reactor capacity.

Loadout

A typical chariot loadout includes three target-linked heavy mass drivers (for’ard, and on each wingtip), an underslung heavy sluggun/micromissile launcher, and full-coverage point-defense/automated-return-fire lasers and autocannon. A small undermounted cargo bay aft can be used to contain additional supplies/ammunition, or be replaced with a fuel pod, for greater endurance, a medevac pod, or a minelaying pod; above it, a swarm hive contains close-air support supplies of eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, and balefire – which, as for the heavy legionary, constitute expendable recon assets, counter-swarm swarms, anti-machinery swarms, and anti-personnel/area-denial carbon-devourer swarms.

Drones

The light cavalry legionary is usually accompanied, as his counterparts, by AI combat drones, usually a mixed set of the WML-7 Skycat and its bigger brother, the WMH-17 Skyorca, depending on mission parameters.

When fighting dismounted, the chariot itself software-reconfigures to act as an autonomous AI combat drone for the legionary.

Transportation

The light cavalry  can be transported by the G5-TT Corveé tactical transport, with the appropriate module, but on the battlefield – and often also to the battlefield, it’s simplest just to let them transport themselves…

Trope-a-Day: We Have Reserves

We Have Reserves: Heavily averted thanks to the quality-over-quantity philosophy of the Imperial Legions.  Even the most kill-crazy of the Empire’s historical generals (which is to say, the House of Sargas, for the most part) have been very determined indeed that the death should all, so far as is possible, happen on the other side, and very protective of the lives of their own men.  Of course, if it’s possible to deceive someone else on the enemy side, or even on a different enemy side, into being your reserves… well, that’s just shiny.  (See: Enemy Civil War).

(The people who have noted the disparity in quantity and tried this against the Empire have discovered that they thought of that: that’s what massive orbital bombardments and the Nuclear Option are for. It’s the only way to be sure.)

Trope-a-Day: Le Parkour / Combat Parkour

Le Parkour / Combat Parkour: Something of a standard part of the skillset, even for getting around normally, in the modern era. This tends to come from three places: one, common exposure to how one gets around in microgravity; two, lots of habitats and inhabited planets/moons having less than “standard” gravity anyway, making it easier; and three, lots and lots of biotech work pushing the baseline on agility, reflexes and stamina well above where they used to be. Couple that with the circular feedback effect of architectural adaptation, and there you go.

In its combat form, a specialty of light legionaries. (Not so much one of heavy legionaries, since the problem with trying this while running around in three tonnes of combat exoskeleton isn’t that you can’t do it, it’s that the walls can’t take it.) It did not take much exposure to space-based infantry combat for people to figure out that – especially when fighting people used to operating in two dimensions, but hardly limited to that scenario – a chap who can run on walls, change orientation and vector in mid-air, and make use of all the bits of the environment, not just the floor-based ones, and so forth, has a distinct advantage. Enter, then, the trainers and armor designers figuring out how to do all that stuff down t’well, too.

Trope-a-Day: “Join the Army”, They Said

“Join The Army,” They Said: While it’s never as yet been shown on screen, I am pretty certain both that the advertising is pretty realistic about the nature of war, but also that the recruitment slogan for the Imperial Military Service is along the lines of:

CIVILIZATION HAS ENEMIES.

KILL THE BASTARDS.

They’re very forthright people in the Empire, really (see also: Deadly Euphemism)…

(I mean, sure, it’s nice to have a bunch of big guys in power armor around post-natural-disasters, etc., and the IMS has a lot more tail than teeth, just like all modern militaries, so it’s not like most of them ever will kill anyone, even in wartime. But the reason it exists is nonetheless finding things that are looking to trouble the citizen-shareholders and then shooting the ever-loving crap out of them.)

Trope-a-Day: Improbable Aiming Skills

Improbable Aiming Skills: Training for the various sentinel occupations, including the Imperial Legions and, yes, also the Watch Constabulary tries its best to achieve these, or at least to avert Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy really hard.  In these modern days in which you can have a top-flight ballistics software package running in your head and arbitrary amounts of computer power, locally networked sensors, etc., etc., in your gun – well, let’s just say that the standards for improbable have been raised a tad.