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How a realistic space empire war would look like?

edited January 2015 in General Chat

I started thinking about the realities of interstellar war. The workings of this kind of event still eludes me. What do you think, how would the war would happen in realistic space war? (I mean the grand scale rather than the individual scale)


 


No, I don't mean hardcore reality. Just realistic. All the space fantasy is fine, but it should be consistent and not so absurd that magical deus ex machnimas enter the play. Use any universe as an example, just make the quirks of the universe clearly implied.


 


As I understand, it would be very costly to have the large scale battle engagements one could see in movies. That since the battle fleets are nothing more than guns with engines and thus require a constant access to a supply infrastructure. The bigger the fleet, the bigger supply infrastructure. The bigger the supply infrastructure, the bigger economic infrastructure. Basically each large scale fleet would be tethered to the empire. The "tether" would be the supply fleet's bringing supplies and flying off to bring more. Thus, the further the fleet is from restocking locations, the more expensive it becomes to supply the fleets. This means that one of the objectives in war would be to establish new restocking locations within the enemy borders - possibly conquering settlements that can provide supplies to the fleet. Then again, one of the other options would be to try to attack enemy supply lines and restocking locations. A successful attack like that could potentially weaken fleets that are reliant on that conquered location for supplyes. This might result in either fleet having to do without supplies or the empire that controls it must spend more resources to establish a new supply line.


 


I don't think that the space war would be about destroying other ships. Making quality equipment is always going to be expensive and thus, why destroy something which could save a lot of resources if it was captured instead. Of course not all gunships are worth the effort of not destroying them. Automated drones or mass produced fighters would not really be worth anything next to the bigger ships. Then again it is times easier to board a large carrier than a fighter. Therefore I conclude that in a space war, large flagships could potentially switch hands multiple times and small ships would be used as cannon fodder. In fact, the large flagships could have extensive backlog of engagements. They could be decades or, in cringe cases, centuries old. But I hardly worry that they are outdated, since it would be logical to have the larger ships built in a modular fashion. This means that when an important piece of the ship gets damaged or a new and better version of that module is made, it is easily replaced without having to decommission a craft that is worth more than its weight in gold.


 


The actual engagements themselves would most probably be scattered minor fire exchanges between harass parties. And perhaps some harass parties would infiltrate and send stealth bombs to damage bigger ships. And then the fleet that got bombed, should make a decision, to stay with their weakened gunships that could potentially be destroyed or captured in engagements or to retreat and repair them to fight another day rather than risk losing precious equipment.


 


About capturing stars and stuff. I don't think that the usual 4X model makes sense. In 4X games one sieges a star and if the siege succeeds, the star is fully in control of the attacking empire. Realisticly captured stars would not automatically integrate into the empire, especially when stars are at the front line of the war. They might have a function of being the refuling location for the supply ships delivering supplies from the empire to fleets, but not much else. A proper siege would strongly damage the star's economy and thus, sieging stars during a war would not really be useful if you plan on using them later on. And as the saying goes "Don't fight with the tentacles, fight with the head and once the head falls, the tentacles follow." Smarter would be to do military actions that hamper the power of the ruling body rather than messing with the subjects. Stuff like severing the empire's connections with important industrial settlement(preferrably those that you don't want to capture anyways). Other approaches would be to decimate the military or to attack the ruler. You know, instead of killing millions of innocent peasants in attrition war, you could go and deliver a direct engagement to the emperor himself and incapacitate their empire.


 


Also, wars don't usually end with the attackers holding whatever they conquered(exept total wars). Usually a peace treaty is made, where the details on who gets what are worked out and agreed upon. Often times the area occupied during war is times larger than the actual annexed area after war. Paradox games have pulled that part of pretty neatly.


 


Your thoughts?


Comments

  • sscadminsscadmin DarkOne
    edited 6:21PM

    Nice post.


     


    Capturing the hardships of interstellar war would definitely add to the immersion and realism. I mean these big ships we take for granted in games take months and years to build and cost a huge amount of resources and crew. And games make mass producing of these quite easy.... so I think your on to something. So lets take Earth's situation... if we were aggressed (not heavily) how would Earth respond? Would we build fighter craft, big gun artillery placements to shoot into space, would we go underground, would we resistance fight. So many options to explore the 'what if' scenario. I think we would struggle to ever hold some sort of space war, so we would have to fight on the planet (unless we really do have some sweet hardware we have never seen).


     


    Games generally don't show the difficulties of war with resources. For instance you could be low on resources but you have 10 ships you were working on they go on hold, why not let the player decide to send them out to the fight limited. Or send recruits that are not fully trained. It happens in war. Making tough resource decisions would be a nice concept if it could be done right. 


  • edited 6:21PM

    I think once a race gets to the intersteller stage, they won't fight any war where the two sides are close in strength and capacity. Because space is vast and open, unlike on the planet surface, there is no obstacles and any need for maneuvering. Picture two huge battleships fighting each other. What can they do? They are big and slow and loaded with power, so they just basically set there and slap each other's face until one of them is dead and the other fatally injured. There's no winner in this battle. So I think in space age wars will still be mostly fought on the surface of the planet, and the only need for conflict in space will be ambushing transport ships (such as stopping enemy from transporting ground troops), But there's really no point to build huge battleships.


  • edited 6:21PM

    So lets take Earth's situation... if we were aggressed (not heavily) how would Earth respond?




    With big, white flag hopefully.


    I think once a race gets to the intersteller stage, they won't fight any war where the two sides are close in strength and capacity. Because space is vast and open, unlike on the planet surface, there is no obstacles and any need for maneuvering. Picture two huge battleships fighting each other. What can they do? They are big and slow and loaded with power, so they just basically set there and slap each other's face until one of them is dead and the other fatally injured.




    Depends on range. Fight at couple ligth seconds and you have to guess, where to shoot - maneuvering became very important.


    There's no winner in this battle. So I think in space age wars will still be mostly fought on the surface of the planet, and the only need for conflict in space will be ambushing transport ships (such as stopping enemy from transporting ground troops), But there's really no point to build huge battleships.




    No. War at planets will look like: surrender or I drop this 10 mile rock into your ocean...


    You will still need fleets to intercept enemy, before he'll be able to launch attack against your planets.
  • edited 6:21PM

    How an interstellar war would look depends almost entirely on the technology and performance of ships, interplanetary comunications and heavily on the kind of long range travel method in place. This makes for s***load of different scenarios. If we assume the future technology of an empire that has colonized several planets and can have traffic coming and going from those planets in a reliable way that only takes months or a few years, then we assume moving military fleets around is comparable as moving fleets  was in the 18-19th century. Ships would  absolutely be asked to maintain the higest amount of autonomy and meet their needs on their own, or as a combined effort of the full fleet. Doing some simple mining, foraging on nearby planets, pillaging small enemy outposts or enemy colonys etc. It would certainly be a war to be fought for years. With this "slow" travelling in mind there would be little resupply convoys because


    1) the supply ships take way to much time to arrive.


    2) The fleet may not be were it was supposed to be at all due to special needs, tactics etc. and broadcasting your current position will always be dangerous if the enemy is listening.


    3) Losing the supply ships at ambushes means your fleet ends crippled somewere in outer space, wich may  mean your doom in the war. 


    Interstellar war will use heavely autonomous fleets/ships or it will simply fall flat on its face before any decisive battle can take place. A far fetched example is the early part of the first world war, were the countries amassed large armies that needed extraordinary amounts of supplies to operate. Whenever a large army was sent in an attack campaign it normally fared well and gained ground, but as it moved farther and farther away from the last point in the railway were supplies were brought easily it became more and more difficult to keep the army supplied untill it simply could not keep going any more. The last point in the railway were supplies were brought in mass and from were it had to be carried painfully  along roads   determined the max range an army could effectively march, and it proved to be insufficient to achieve victory therefor becoming one of the reasons it degraded to a trench war. The same would apply to space fleets if they depend too much in supply convoys, and theres no "insta travel" technology like quantum jumps,warp, or whatever.


     


    Planetary battles will happen on counted ocasions. If the planet at hand is not very important then destroying all its orbital infrastructure, then doing some orbital bombardment on the ground starbases and main fuel depots and storage areas and you are mostly clear to keep marching forward, the planet will no longer make any useful contribution to the war effort. It will not service any fleets coming for shelter, it will not transfer any substantial amount of goods from ground to orbit transports. It will take lots of months or several years to rebuild its infrastructure to be able to heavily contribute with its resoruces / production.


    If theres something worth taking or capturing for using for your own gain in the planet, then  the  amount of resistance the defenders can put and the resources available will tell if theres going to be a planetary assault or just an orbital bombardment. In the case of petty colonys it should be safe to assault as long as you dont plan to keep what you seize for long, total planet conquest will mostly be out of the question considering how small and underequiped forces have resisted foreign ocupation in our past history, it would surely not be worth it. If the planet at hand is key for the enemy war effort or is capital planet then some serious bombardments and planet landings on the style of Sci-fi movies may actually happen, if  the space war is mostly won of course  because the full take over of a densely populated  or fully developed planet is something that will take lots and lots of time, enough for a fleet to try to break the siege and bombard the invading troops.


     


    And it comes the question of fleet vs fleet combat. Theres not much certain at this point, what we can assume its NOT going to happen are manned small craft combat, close fights in the likes of StarWars, massive amount of big powerful guns, and battles fought up to its final consequences.


    Stealth and wining the information war will surely be the half the win as it is now, ways to hide or reduce detection will certainly  be developed when the need arise. Depending on the method of traveling, if gravity stands a main factor or not, will determine if theres going to be much effort on tactical manouvering and positioning looking to start the battle in a position of advantage. If the technology resembles the one seen in StarTrek the next generation, then "when and were" is mostly not important. If the situation is more in line with our actual situation (long engine burst for planetary transfers, parabolic flight paths etc) then "when and were" can be decisive in the coming battles. Being engaged while at your apoapsis or while hovering above a planet for bombardment would certainly be not nice for example.


    Another point is when would you give up the fight? with the cost on money and resources to assemble a fleet, the long time it may have taken to reach the battlefields,  losing  a big part of that fleet in battle should be catastrophic. Fleets will most likely retreat as soon as its evident they are not getting the upper hand or just avoid battle entirely if success is not the likely outcome, as forming a new fleet and sending it to the front lines may take years or be impossible to afford both in costs and time. 


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