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.