Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bonus Post: Tactics of the Imperial Navy

I've been terribly busy with my newborn son, but I do want to keep moving forward with Psi-Wars. When I built the Empire, it occurred to me that I didn't know all that much about how they really operated.  How do they invade planets? What purpose do cruisers serve and how are they different from dreadnoughts?  If you attack a defensive Imperial installation, how do they look?

So, I wrote up a bunch of "signature tactics" for various Imperial institutions, but I wasn't sure how valuable others might find them, so I showed them to my Patreons.  They nearly unanimously felt they were extremely useful.  I'm not sure how I'll fit them all in, but I wanted to share one of the documents with you, the tactics of the Imperial Navy.  If I have time, I might expand them to include other organizations, but in the meantime, enjoy, and be sure to tell me what you think!

(The Tactics for Imperial Security is also available, but currently only to Patrons.  It's available to all $1+ patrons, if you're interested!)

Tactics of the Imperial Navy

Border Patrol

The Imperial Navy must maintain constant vigil against its enemies. While interstellar communications moves fast enough to alert the Imperial Navy to a sudden attack, they still prefer to physically present themselves at the borders of the Empire. Naturally, this allows the Navy to do things like purge local pirate nests or disrupt any mounting resistance from local warlords, but the real purpose is more diplomatic. The sight of a huge fleet looming over a planet reminds the locals of who rules here. Enemy vessels who suddenly find themselves confronted by the combined might of a dozen dreadnoughts think twice about invading Imperial space. For the Imperial Navy, a border patrol is a chance for a lesser officer to earn his stripes and learn what it really means to protect the Empire, and a chance for the higher-ranking officers to tour the Empire and carry the Imperial flag, to remind all in the Galaxy of who its master really is.

For genuine patrols meant to flush out pirates and check for genuine dangers, usually to the less interesting rim systems of the Empire, the Navy prefers to send at least one Victory-class battlecruiser or, for more dangerous systems, a single Empire-Class dreadnought flanked by two to five battlecruisers. The highest ranking characters in such patrols tend to be either Captains (Military Rank 5) or Commodores (Military Rank 6). On the high end, an Admiral (Military Rank 8) might take his entire fleet on patrol, consisting of at least the Admiral’s Mythic-class Dreadnought and between 10 and 25 Empire-Class Dreadnoughts. These latter tend to hit the more prestigious systems, such as major trade points, star systems known for their exquisite luxury, or extremely important defensive choke-points in the Empire’s ongoing wars.

When a patrolling fleet reaches a system, the first thing it does is survey the system (Electronics Operation (Sensors)) to see if anything immediately threatens them. If so, they move to engage. If not, or once their enemy has been dispatched, the fleet contacts the system’s primary colony and/or starport to announce their arrival. Thereafter, the fleet scans the system again, in much greater detail, and the crew notes any changes on the starcharts (Cartography) and if anything seems out of place, they’ll investigate, working from the outside of the system in. The Navy focuses its attention on unexplained debris fields (signs of battle) or unreported space stations or asteroid colonies, which tend to be smuggler dens, asteroid miner havens, pirate nests or rebel bases. If they find anything unexpected or unexplained, they may ask for the station to justify itself and submit to an inspection; if the fleet dislikes what they see, suspect an ambush, or have a fit of pique, they destroy the installation.

Once the fleet reaches the primary planet, they’ll request permission to land. If permission is denied, the Navy will note the world down as rebellious and signal this to Empire (assuming a datanet beacon is close enough to reach; if not, the commanding officer must decide if he wishes to risk confrontation alone, or flee; the Navy frowns on fleeing). The commanding officer is then free to discipline the unruly world if he wishes. If the planet accepts, then the commanding officer descends in a shuttle with a minimum of a full retinue of elite troopers and proceeds to inspect the installations. Sometimes, these displays become much grander, with an entire regiment of soldier parading through the streets in a display of power (Savoir-Faire (Military)). Once the officer has completed his inspection, he’ll note the state of the naval installation and signal this to the empire. This also represents an excellent time for the local garrison to appraise him of the current strategic situation, such suspicious enemy activity they have noticed, or things they might think might be wise to investigate.

He will then meet with local imperial officials or local rulers loyal to the Empire, ask if they face any problems; in principle, the Navy is only prepared to deal with military problems, but the Navy enjoys officials owing them favors, so if they can help in other ways, they often do. Traditionally, the commanding officer expects a gift, at least a memento, from the ruler of each world he visits. In practice, for minor officers, the ruler might have a lower official perform this diplomatic exchange, but unless the ruler of the world is particularly powerful or important and the naval official very minor (such as a “mere” Captain of a battlecruiser), most rulers won’t risk irritating the Imperial navy. This exchange can be fraught, especially is relations with the Empire are tense. The commanding officer can expect to make a few Savoir-Faire or Diplomacy rolls during the affair. If things fail, of course, he can always call upon his kill squad, his squadrons of attack fighter and his orbiting warship!

This represents the total required tasks of a patrolling fleet, but most commanding officers allow their crew to relax and enjoy themselves on each planet; the Navy tends to have an expected schedule for the tour, though this tends to be very relaxed for an admiral, while it can be rather strict for a mere captain. Within those constraints, the commanding officer is free to do as he wishes; most tend to spend less than a day on unpleasant worlds and find reasons to spend weeks on particularly luxurious worlds full of beautiful women and generous officials.

Sometimes, the Empire uses “routine border patrol” as cover for other missions, and will send along security officials or black-ops commandos along on a border patrols, to spring them on their enemies when they’re in a vulnerable position.

Space Battle

When a border patrol goes side-ways, or when the Imperial Navy needs to invade an enemy world, they’ll need to secure total space dominance. The primary strategic unit for the Imperial Navy is the Empire-Class dreadnought; the same basic tactics work for battle-cruisers or Mythic-class dreadnoughts, but on a smaller or larger scale, respectively.

A dreadnought commander generally thinks in terms of his three primary tactical tools: space-dominance fighters, like the Typhoon-Interceptor and the Typhoon-Storm; ship-killing fighters like the Typhoon-Breaker; and his own cannons, especially the dreadnought’s spinal cannon.

Generally, the commodore orders the scrambling of his Typhoon-Interceptors as his first wave of attack. Their job is to clear space of any enemy fighters, and if none remain, to begin stripping turrets off of capital ships. Once the first wave is out, the second wave (which takes another full minute) is generally Typhoon-Storms (if the ship has any) and Typhoon-Breakers. The Storms, still fresh and usually piloted by veteran pilots, fly to the assistance of any harried interceptor squadrons, or reinforce any faltering attack efforts. Remaining interceptors and storms escort the breakers into attack position against capital ships or corvettes; a breaker’s primary targets are either the enemy’s shields, which allows the dreadnought to open fire with all cannons on the now vulnerable vessel, or the engines, to prevent it from escaping. If the commodore is concerned that the battle might turn too quickly, he’ll mix the launch of his first fighters, usually one squadron of storms, one squadron of breakers, and 2-3 squadrons interceptors.

Typhoon pilots prefer coordinated and reckless attacks, relying on sheer numbers, and the skill of their aggressive wingmen, to protect them. The average typhoon pilot does not engage in sophisticated tactics (they’ll use Aggressive Maneuvering and fire all weapons they can at their enemy), but elite pilots often use complex tactics like those described in the Imperial fighter pilot write-up.

The dreadnought’s actions depend on his opposition. His first objective is generally to make sure his opponent cannot harm him. If he can, his first action is to focus fire on any weapon capable of penetrating the dreadnought’s shields. Once those have been eliminated, if the enemy vessel has force screens capable of stopping the secondary or tertiary batteries of the dreadnought, he will focus the spinal cannon on destroying those force screens. Once the force screens have been eliminated, the dreadnought can usually just carve up his enemy at his leisure with his full firepower, with a focus on engines first to prevent the enemies’ escape. If the vessel has been crippled completely, the Commodore may order its seizure. He’ll launch any boarding vessels he has to send soldiers aboard to pacify the ship. If he deems this too much of a risk, he’ll simply order the vessel to surrender or be destroyed or, alternatively, he’ll destroy it out of hand.

In space combat, dreadnoughts prefer Aggressive Maneuvering and Offensive Tactics. If this proves untenable, dreadnoughts might Hold the Course and make Defensive Tactics, but they rarely engage in Evasive Maneuvers as this presents the rear of the ship, where they have fewer weapons and exposes their reactors and engines, preventing their escape. Generally, presenting anything but the front of the dreadnought to the enemy risks the defeat of the ship.

The commodore will measure his success or failure generally by the state of his squadrons. If his interceptors have been destroyed or routed before he can launch his second wave, or his spinal cannon has been damaged, he’ll consider retreat. He may launch a second wave to keep his enemy distracted an occupied while he makes his escape, knowing full well that those pilots are lost to him. However, most imperial officers suffer from Overconfidence, Fanaticism or Sense of Duty to the Empire or their own comrades, and most Commodores will not attempt to retreat until it’s completely obvious that they’re doomed, at which point they will finally order a retreat, but usually wait to collect their pilots, which usually dooms the entire ship to destruction. The Navy has not seen a sufficient number of defeats to notice this pattern yet, and where Admirals have noticed it, they generally consider it a feature of Imperial culture rather than a bug.

Admirals tend to prove the exception to this rule. In large scale battles, they’ll almost always have an escort of dreadnoughts, which they’ll use to engage the enemy. If these begin to be destroyed in great numbers, the admiral will commit more to keep the enemy engaged while he makes his escape to fight another day. Defeating an admiral usually requires making a bee-line for his ship long before he would even consider retreat or pinning him down in a battle he cannot afford to lose.

Planetary Invasion

When the Empire chooses to invade a planet, it generally faces one of three scenarios: it wants to make a focused raid against a location not much larger than a city (say, to take out a rebel base, or to take royalty hostage); it needs to make a raid but faces a planetary shield; it intends to outright conquer a planet.

For a direct raid, a single Empire-class Dreadnought is generally enough. Empire-class dreadnoughts carry a single “mobile” regiment equipped with Banshee-class dropships and supported by Firebrand close air support and Typhoon fighters. The invasion takes place in three steps. First, to prevent the defenders from shooting their dropships out of the sky, the dreadnought begins orbital bombardment of any anti-air weaponry the defenders have; the preferred weapon for this is the spinal pulsar cannon. Once anti-air has been cleared away, the drednought launches its dropships, typhoons and firebrands. Typhoon Interceptors focus on control of the airspace and, once that has been achieved, Typhoon Breakers and Firebrands focus on ground defenses, blowing away fortifications and scattering major formations of troops. The banshees drop off their troops, and then linger as additional close air support, unless the airspace proves too “hot,” in which case they’ll retreat to a safe distance, waiting to extract the ground troops once they’ve finished their objective. Finally, once they’re in place, the imperial troopers move towards their objective, which is generally to secure a city (such as a starport).

If the target the Empire wishes to acquire has a planetary shield and considerable aerial defenses, a single dreadnought can no longer expect to capture it. Instead, the Empire needs to send a Legion-class assault carrier. This carries 50 assault regiments. These come equipped with Vanguard fighting vehicles, Vanquisher tanks and Eradicator mobile artillery, all of which can cover a great deal of ground quickly. The Legion lands beyond the scope of the aerial defenses and the planetary shield and disgorges its soldiers, who then head towards the objective under the planetary shield. Vanquishers spearhead the assault, followed by Vanguards in support, and Eradicators, which take up the rear and offer artillery support. The core objective of this first invasion wave is to eliminate the planetary shield; once this has been one, the orbiting dreadnought(s) can deploy their mobile regiments directly, as above.

If the Empire wishes to conquer an entire planet, rather than seize a single strategic resource, it must deploy an entire fleet. The preferred fleet composition for a world invasion is at least one Legion-class assault carrier and five Empire-class dreadnoughts, but it regularly sends more than this. If the planet has extensive planetary shield cover, the dreadnoughts focus all of their fire on one until it finally collapses and the Legion and the dreadnoughts’ Banshees can descend (Combining the tactics above). Working in tandem, the mobile regiments act as a forward force, scattering the enemy and taking vital positions while they wait for the assault regiments to reach them. Then both combine their power to destroy local defenders. Once a central beachhead has been established, the Empire can press its advantage, taking additional strongholds and bringing supplies down to the central beachhead.

If a planet proves too tough for even this sort of tactic, the Empire resorts to siege. It broadcasts its intent to local systems (threatening to act against any planet that supports the rogue world) and then it blockades the desired system, warning away any ship that tries to approach it. If any ship ignores those warnings, the Empire either captures or destroys it, at the commanders leisure.

Assault Tactics

Imperial troopers operate on a platoon level. A mobile platoon consists of 3-5 squads of 5-10 men, each with a Banshee-class dropship. An assault platoon consists of 3-5 squads of 10 men, each with their own Vanguard-class fighting vehicle. Mobile platoons tend to enjoy the support of at least one Firebrand close air support craft, while assault platoons might enjoy the support of a Firebrand, an Eradicator-class mobile artillery, or a platoon of up to three Vanquisher-class hovertanks. Both might be supported by up to 5 recon soldiers armed with BR-100 sniper rifles and mounted on Hunters armed with gatling blasters.

A squad has, at a minimum, a corporal armed with either a standard BR-4 carbine or a BPX-5 assault blaster, one heavy gunner (armed with BG-49 “Decimator” blaster) with an assistant armed with a standard BR-4 and a second D-cell back-pack, and at least two troopers armed with BR-4 carbines. Squads of up to 10 add another heavy weapon team, a sergeant and two more carbine-armed troopers. Any squad might replace one carbine trooper with a flamer-armed chem trooper. Imperial kill squads eschew heavy weapons teams entirely, usually come in teams of five, and always have a sergeant as their leader.

When advancing on the enemy, a full squad will break into two half-squads (fire team). One fire team will pin down the enemy, with the heavy weapons team laying down suppression fire (usually while prone and his weapon mounted on a bipod, if possible) while the carbine-armed troopers take pot shots at anyone who shows their head, or join in on the suppressive fire. While the enemy is tucked behind cover, the second half of the squad advances until they’ve reached their position, at which point they lay down covering fire and allow the first fire team to advance. Kill squads act in a similar fashion, but use any two of their number as “the heavy weapons team.” They tend to move in shorter hops and a more constant flow. If the squad has been reduced to 5 men, they’ll use their Vanguard or a second squad as the second “leg” of their leapfrog tactic. Squads supported by a Vanguard often use the Vanguard as cover for their advance, especially against small-arms fire, and use the top-mounted gatling cannon to assist with suppression fire. However, while doing so carbine-armed troopers need to remain vigilant for any anti-vehicular weaponry, and use focused fire to remove them.

Once the squad is in position to defeat an entrenched enemy, they’ll throw grenades into the enemy position and lay down suppressive fire. Those who remain in their trench need to deal with the grenades, while those who exit come under fire from the squad. If possible, the squad prefers to create a zone of cross-fire, slightly flanking the enemy position on either side.

Platoons coordinate their attacks. If one squad comes under heavy fire, a second squad moves in to relieve them. As a rule, when advancing, the platoon makes the same leap frogging motions, which one squad acting as support for the second squad, with the third squad acting as a reserve, moving in to assist wherever necessary.

If a position proves too difficult to take, or the platoon comes under heavy fire, the lieutenant will call for support. If that support is a Firebrand, the Firebrand will fly in and lay down a line of explosive fusion fire on the requested attack point or use its 100mm HEMP missiles to destroy very hard targets (such as tanks). If that support is artillery, the Eradicator will proceed to lay down a line of 1-6 100mm plasma shells on the desired point. If the platoon as tanks as support, those tanks generally integrate with the platoon in the same way vanguards integrate with squads, and generally don’t need to be notified for assistance, and can readily see whatever problems need to be dealt with.

Recon bikes and Firebrands continue to survey the field, on the look out for any sudden influxes of enemy forces, or good points to attack next to finish securing the objective. Recon soldiers will either buzz the enemy with hit-and-run tactics, using their gatling blasters to pin the enemy down for a few moments, or they’ll find a useful view point and mount it, in pairs, to act as snipers and spotters.

Planetary Defense

Once a planet has been conquered, in principle, the Navy establishes a garrison and turns over direct control to Imperial Security. In practice, this can take some time, due to distance, bureaucratic entanglement and political bickering between the Navy and Security. In the meantime, the Imperial Navy can establish their garrison and rule the world directly.

The engineers and technicians of an Imperial dreadnought can and do double as an engineering force, especially under the eyes of chem troopers. Using modified tanks, construction equipment, and prefabricated fortifications carried in the cargo bays of a dreadnought, the Imperial forces will rapidly construct defenses of their newly acquired territory.

The standard defense structure is the “Imperial tower.” The Imperial forces first clear out a considerable area around their construction sight (ideally giving them a 100 yard clearance around their fortification), and then build a fortification that either consists of a barracks, a garage and a tower. The tower is at least four stories tall, but can reach up to eight. This comes equipped with a spotlight, a large ultrascanner (UT 66), an IR sensor array (UT 61) and a large communication array (treat as gravity ripple comm, UT 45) at its top, as well an emplacement of “Storm” gatling blasters at least once every 4 stories. The base contains contains a barracks with enough accommodations for a single platoon and a garage that can contain any (ground) vehicles associated with the unit. Surrounding the installation is a cutting wire (UT 102) fence. The Empire generally tries to construct one of these per 100,000 people in an area being controlled, but in practice an Empire-class Dreadnought only carries enough material for 4, while a Legion-class super-carrier carries enough for 200.

Between the towers, the Empire sometimes runs impromptu walls and barricades (DR 150 and 50 HP per section), only allowing access from one part of a city to another via tightly controlled checkpoints. These checkpoints have portal scanners (+5 to search) and IR cameras. Imperial troopers man these check-points, but typically aren’t excellent at the roll (Skill 8 to 10). The primary purpose of the checkpoints are to keep an eye on the movements of the populace and to prevent easy access from one side of the city to another, thus preventing cooperation among the populace.

All Naval fortifications in an area answer to a central Imperial citadel. This resembles and Imperial tower, but is usually larger than the rest, and has a much more extensive facility, including a command central where the garrison officer can watch over his soldiers. If room exists for it, it will contain a full company, and will have a landing pad for Banshees and Alpha-Class shuttles bringing supplies. The Empire tries to have one of these for every 4 towers, but an especially large community might have a single citadel commanding ten or more towers, but such large coverage areas usually mean that the Empire will try to have a few more landing pads, just in case.

Should anyone attack a fortification, the cutting wire automatically activates upon touch. The sensors generally pick up the coming intrusion and gunners manning the storm gatlings will open fire. Those who wish to attack will need to cross 100 yards of no-mans land to reach the facility, by which time the platoon should have readied itself for the defense of the tower or citadel. Towers do not generally reinforce one another unless the situation is obviously dire; instead, the central citadel dispatches a platoon to relieve the besieged tower. The exception to this is if the central citadel is attacked, as it represents the more crucial piece to the puzzle: its landing pad acts as the primary conduit for supplies, and it contains the command codes and the centralized computer systems that govern the other towers. A citadel under attack usually calls on all other towers for reinforcements and calls upon any orbital craft immediately.

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