28 August 2011

FWS Movie Review: Space Battleship Yamato (2010)

Space Battleship Yamato is a 2010 Japanese military science fiction film based on the 1970's Anime series, Space Cruiser Yamato and known in the west as Starblazers. The film was directed by Takashi Yamazaki and starred Takuya Kimura as Susmu Kodai and model/singer/actor  Meisa Kuroki as Yuki Mori, and veteran actor Tstomu Yamazaki as Captain Okita. The flim was a mix of the first two seasons of Yamato, along with two of the OVA films, especially Farewell to the Space Battleship Yamato (1978), however most reviewers have connected the style of the film to the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The film as been released on DVD/Blu-Ray in Japanese, but not for American markets, subtitled verisons for the film have made it on youtube.  



To be honest, this was the best that we fans of Yamato/Starblazers could have hoped for. The crew and cast put a great deal of heart and soul into making this film right, while tastefully updating it for the 21st century. When you see Yamato lift-off from the barren sea floor, and take flight, with the music pumping, your heart fills with emotion...hell, I got fucking tears in my eyes...that's means this movie passed the emotion test for me, a lifelong Yamato fan.
Adding to the emotions is what this film does better than the original, the crisis back on Earth feels more real than in the original production, the last calls home is heartbreaking, and the pain of Kodai at the loss of his brother during the Battle of Mars (Pluto in the Anime) ripples through the subtext of the character.
The sense of realism is extended to the interior of the old battleship with cramped quarters, grey metal walls, and people dying left and right. Of the several characters that were fulled developed, like three, Yuki (Nova) and Kodai (Wildstar) have the best lines, storyline, and are the most changed from their Anime originals. Yuki Mori goes from RN/Brigdehand to hot-shot space fighter pilot, and Kodai goes from Mars based soldier, to a burned out, emotional wrecked ex-fighter ace that hunts for metal on the radioactive surface of Earth. My favorite character of the movie was the space marine (called paratroopers in the subtitles) commander Saito, who original was in the series about the war with the Comet Empire, but steals ever scene he's in.
Along with the more fleshed out characters is the excellent level of SFX, music, and production value of Yamato...but I found it was the little things liked the most, the correct sounds, the look of the Yamato and the fighters, the Earth battered by radiation...Bottom line, the first thirty minutes of Space Battleship Yamato is the best portion of the film...then it starts to vear off into left field...   


As with all things, were there is good, there is bad, and even in a film with as much love and effort, Yamato still managed to get somethings wrong. The bad of this film is that after thirty minutes, the ability for the film to puke my heartstrings worn off, and I was left to evaluate this movie based on it being an MSF picture. The film should have borrowed more from Battlestar Galactica, the limited battle scenes fall flat, due to the intensity evaporating the moment it gets started...often it seems no one, especially the pilot, known how to defend the ship or aid-in during when the Yamato is getting pounded. This extends to the tactically limited imagination of the bridge crew, with thinking that the Wave Motion Cannon is the only answer to a problem, which, oddly, is the same in the Anime series.
Some elements, especially concerning Kodai's brother are ham-fisted and the theme of sacrifice is beaten-over-the-head of viewer. Another element that is bad, is the fighters and their lasers, the sound of these lasers is just bad, and the entire scene reminds me too much of Star Wars...sigh. Then there is Kodai's Cosmo-Zero, in one scene he uses these little arms, and ability to semi-transformer to rescue a downed-pilot...and it is lame. 
I found the entire film, mostly to be hallow...especially the end, where the film runs out of steam and the rewrite of the original gets too much for the viewer.   

The biggest changes from the original beloved Anime series is the main enemy, the Gamilus (Gamilons) are now some sort of insect-like species that are linked via some sort of group-think, their ships and fighters are nothing like the originals, in fact their fighter looks like a fat tick.
The plain fact is that the original Gamilus were unworkable in a live-action film, they were just too human, but these Gamilus are much akin to the robots from Sucker Punch. It seems that rewrite of Yamato got carried away, especially when it came to the concept of the Gamilus and Iscandar being linked...in the movie they are the same frakking planet! Gone is finding Kodai's brother and the beautiful Queen Starsha. The end of the film is also an ugly element, it is like watching the Quest to Iscandar then switching over to the Comet Empire as the ending for your experience.  

The changes from Anime to live-action
  • Dr. Sado changes from a overweight man to a thin women, but the cat is there.
  • Yuki is completely changed, from a nurse/radar operator to a hot-stick Blacktiger fighter pilot
  • Saito and his space marines were original from second season and from a Earth colony, but here are called Paratroopers and use modified G36C instead of lasers.
  • Cosmo Zero, the C&C fighter of Kodi as some transformer-like abilities.
  • Analyzer (IQ9) is a hip-pocket computer now, and then, oddly, becomes a R2D2-like robot with machine-guns at the battle of Gamilon. Odd.
  • The Cosmo DNA machine, recovered on Iscandar, is now some sort of spirit that enters into Yuki during the battle on Gamilon. Odd...again.
  • The origin message from Iscandar did not include a cure for the recovery of Earth, but Captain Okita added it in to motivate the crew.
  • The Gamilus are now some sort of insect, with a groupthink ability.
  • The new Gamilus seem to use organic-based technology.
  • The underground cities of Earth are much darker than the Anime verison.
  • More women onboard the Yamato, than just Yuki.
  • The uniforms are similar on top, but regular military pants...sorry no bell-bottoms this time.
  • The movie combines elements of original Space Cruiser Yamato movie and Arrivederci Yamato.
  • Susumu Kodai is not in the EDF, instead is collecting metal on the barren surfaces of the Earth when the film starts, but he was a hot shit pilot when the war started.
  • Most of the stories along the way to Iscandar are thrown out, and most of the events onIscandar are thrown out as well
  • It seems to take only a few warps to reach Iscandar
  • The Yamato seems to be gone far less time than the year it took in the original Anime series
  • Sanada and Shima are far less than main characters than in the Anime, but Kato's role was expanded to being a lead.
  • The battle of Plato (where the Gamilons have their main base) is now the battle of Mars, and Yuki is present.
  • The probe-ship from Iscandar crash-lands on Earth not Mars, and it is pilot less.
  • There seemingly is no battle for the Sol system or the origin of the meteorites, like the second battle of Pluto in the Anime.
  • The EDF is planning on evacing Earth if the Yamato mission fails.
  • Desslok or Desler may or may not be the name of the Gamilus leader or the real name of the race.. 

Should you buy/rent/watch Space Battleship Yamato?

Despite being one of the biggest Yamato/Starblazers fans I know, adding Space Battleship Yamato is not on my list. The film is uneven, and while it as some of the right element, I found the film runs out of steam after the launch of Yamato. This, to me, is a rental, or even watch it youtube... 


I am not normal this guy, but since the Japanese won't ship Space Battleship Yamato over here, this is the link someone that uploaded the movie (with subtitles) on youtube:

21 August 2011

FWS Topics: Combined Arms

Throughout the history of human conflict, individuals have used different weapons to kill one another. When civilizations were able field massive armies, they were not just made up of the most basic fighting element, the foot soldier,but they also used cavalry, crossbows, slings, and chariots. Those concepts continued to develop over centuries of warfare, leading to the war machines of World War One, the blitzkriegs of World War Two, and the rolling thunder of the Gulf War.
This concept is known as Combined Arms, that Wikipedia defines as: "an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects (for example, using infantry and armor in an urban environment, where one supports the other, or both support each other). "

Combined Arms of WWII
Blitzkrieg, the lightning war of Nazi Germany, was the beginning of the modern day vision of Combined Arms, were tanks, artillery, air power, and mounted infantry pushed with overwhelming firepower and speed at their enemy. This is similar to the concept of traditional English fox hunting, keeping your enemy on the run, with your own forces being organized to be on the chase with all elements being mobile. The result, is a broken, disorganized enemy, that is more focused on retreating, than attacking. However, this concept runs out of steam when your army is no longer on the offensive, like Russia in the winter, or being be chased itself. For the most part, the limits of battlefield communications, close air support, and supply lines forced most much of WWII to be an "soldier's war".

Combined Arms of Vietnam

The war that the US was preparing to fight was not the hellish terrain of Vietnam, with its dense jungles, poor roads, lack of urban development and fluid battle lines. This forced the US military to abandon their concepts of conventional ground warfare with the Warsaw Pact across Europe with armored elements. These heavily armored mechanized units could not operate in the dense jungles and mud. Instead, Vietnam was a war waged between soldiers, special forces, frontline artillery positions, and airpower. While during the Nazi campaigns, air power was one element normally used to soften up the enemy for the armor, in Vietnam, close air support was the critical element to counter the VC/NVA guerrilla warfare tactics. To lessen the advantages of the VC/NVA,  and disadvantages of the dense jungles, the United States developed air mobility using helicopters to evac/insert troops and provide close air support, however this made the US forces very dependant on those chopper pilots and their green machines.

Combined Arms of Afghanistan and Iraq (part one and two)

If we look at the 1991 Gulf War, the coalition armed forces bombarded the Iraqi army for a month with all manner of seaborne and airborne munitions. The ground operation rolled heavy armored units across the desert sands, with rocket-based artillery, close air cover, and infantry units tucked in HUMVEEs and APCs. Within 100 hours, the ground campaign was over, and the enemy was routed. This was the very definitions of Combined Arms warfare, and it crushed one of the largest armies in the world.
Then in 2003, we returned to the desert to finish the job, and changed the theory of combined arms. The Iraqi Army was no where near the strength it was during the 1991 Gulf War, instead the coalition forces faced the Fedayeen and their unconventional warfare tactics in urban enviorments. Armor and artillery were lessened, the need for air mobility, gunship helicopters, and mixed units of special forces increased greatly, and forced military planners to redesign their combined arms strategy for a fluid battlespace.   

In comparison, when the US armed response came to A-stan after the attacks of September 11th, it was launched with a very small CIA SAD team armed with AKs and Browning Hi-Powers, and loaded down with millions in cash. There were no tanks or massive rolling armies, instead there were warriors and fighters on horseback, Special Forces team directing F-15s with lasers-guided bombs, and M4's getting dirty. The combined arms of the war in Afghanistan is a blend of the low-tech and high-tech. While Special Forces were going back to their roots of guerrilla warfare, they used spy satillites, UAVs, laser designators, gunships, and close air support, to pound the Taliban/AQ forces.

Elements of Combined Arms

-Close Air Support
The role of close air support (CAS) is primarily fulfilled by fighters, fighter-bombers, attack helicopters, and/or gunships. In the realm of modern warfare, CAS is one of the most critical elements for a battle either being a victory or defeat.
In order for CAS to be effective, there several factors, one being the troops in the shit are able to communicate the location of where the munitions are needed, and where friendly forces are location in relationship to the enemy. This were GPS, laser designators, and combat controllers come in. Next, is distance, CAS aerocraft need to be close enough to the warzone to arrive within ten to fifteen minutes of the call, or else the point may be moot. One factor, that is often overlooked, is trained and skilled pilots to preform these bombing runs without killing the good guys. The last factor is that skies above the battlespace are firmly controlled, or else the CAS mission could be air combat mission or even SAR... 

-Attack Aircraft

Attack helicopters, and soon, attack Tilt-rotors, do fulfill CAS roles on the battlefield, however, the attack helicopter is also used in other roles important to the combined arms unit. Aircraft, like the AH-64 Apache were envisioned by NATO to be used in anti-tank roles, softening up the numeral advantage held by the old Warsaw Pact. During the Gulf War and The War in Iraq, attack helicopters were used in CAS operations in urban environments and anit-armor. Then during the operations in Afghanistan, attack choppers used their abilities to attack Taliban and AQ fighters in the dense mountain regions, were friend or foe are often burred.

The task of taking and holding ground as gone to the footsoldier since the beginning of warfare, and in the combined arms theory of warfare, it is still their primary role. Unlike heavy armored vehicles, Infantry units are able to operate conditions that trap or disable armored vehicles, like urban and jungle. During combined arms operation, infantry often are used to sweep-and-clear areas for any anti-tank mines or infantry wielding TOW missiles, then securing the frontline. When mankind does wage wars off-world, you can beat the infantry will be there.


The tank is a combination of the old horse Calvary and artillery that is able to be the main offensive push of the advancing forces, the spearhead. However, like all elements in the combined arms unit, everything as to work together in order to function as a successful military unit...while tanks are dealers in destruction, they have poor visibility, lessened air-defense, and need mechanized infantry to defense them against enemy infantry wielded anti-tanks weapons. In the last twenty years, military planners and governments have been favoring the fielding of main battle tanks only, eliminating the various mixed bag of light and medium tanks.  


In a mechanized platoon, the Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and/or the Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), serve as armored battle taxis, allowing infantry units to speed along with the spearheading armor, and the armor and armaments of the IFV/APC protect the soldiers on the way to the objective. During the Gulf War and War in Iraq, the traditional role of hauling infantry around in their hulls seemed to be subjugated by the HUMVEE, and the M2 Bradley seemed to entered into a role as an urban infantry vehicle and light tank.    

-Field Artillery

Field artillery comes in two forms on the modern battlefield, self-propelled (like the M109) and more traditional cannons that need a vehicle to move them into position, and these two forms of field artillery can use either rockets or shells. The role of field artillery is to pound enemy positions for retreat, advance, or fire support of in-field units. With the changes in warfare over the last fifteen years, field artillery's role on the battlefield is being filled by CAS.

-Orbital Artillery

Gears of War, Bubblegum Crisis, Akira, and Killzone have demonstrated the power of space-based artillery, and unlike ground-based artillery cannons, they much more difficult to destroy, and operation from a superior point-of-view, allowing for command of the battlefield situation. Space-based artillery could be much easier to deploy and unitized than conventional field-artillery or CAS. One can imagine specially trained soldiers with targeting devices similar to the Hammer-of-the-Dawn that access the satellite(s) in GSO, lock in a target, and then destroy them with either DEW or KEW systems.  However, without protection from endoatmospheric fighters and/or GSO warships, the enemy could launcher missiles from fighters in the upper atmosphere, or strike from orbiting warships.    


Unmanned aerial vehicles, like the Predator have changed the face of intelligence gathers, warfare, and wetwork operations. Within the world of combined arms units, UAV can be overhead sending real-time data to the HQ on the battlefield. This allows commanders the ability to adapt to the changing conditions, and eliminates the need for risky flyover or scout missions, added to these eyes-on intel missions, UAVs can hang over the target area for 24 hours, watching, and then when the moment arrives, it strikes with its Hellfire mission, being being watcher and executioner .
With UAVs transforming in size, it soon will be possible for frontline units to deploy "backpack"or even bug-sized UAVs to scout a few miles ahead in all types of conditions, and send back the raw data to the unit on the ground in real-time. 
Unlike the successful and battlefield tested UAVs,. their ground-based cousin, the  Unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is waiting to prove its combat role. UGVs could be used to setup patrols while soldiers sleep, scout out terrain, enemy positions, watch the soldiers' backs, and be a cargo hauler. Some of the UGVs that are under developed, mount light machine guns, making them part of the combat team and one step closer to the ED-209 from Robocop.  

Special Operations Forces:

Special Forces Operators are unitized, at times, in combined arms, when the Operators use their skills for special assaults (like Somalia in 1993 or killing Bin Laden), or in the mountains of Tora-Bora, when DELTA and SBS were tagging targets for CAS. SOF units can be the eyes, ears, and claws of a larger combine arms force, like during Operation Anaconda, D-DAY, or even in the deserts of North African with SAS and their modified Jeeps.  


In the realm of military sci-fi, one of the most celebrated pieces of futuristic warmachine is Mecha, the walking tank that is about 10-15 meters tall, and weights between 20-100 tons, and according to most sources, powered by a fusion core and mounts impressive weaponry, more than several tanks.
Within combined arms, mechs would served in terrain that does not allow traditional armored vehicles to operate, like jungles, urban (due to Mechas maneuverability), mountains, and mud conditions. Smaller urban combat mecha, similar to the Vietnam-era Ontos tank, could support infantry during street-to-street urban battles. I don't believe that mecha would exist within a spearheading mechanized platoon of armored vehicles.   

-Armored Power Suit

In sci-fi, armored power suits (APS), hold the promise of making every soldier an Ubermensch that commands the battlefield, however, when you look at the reality of the APS and within the concept of combined arms, the APS is another part of the  complete tactical picture. The role of APS in future warfare will not be the standard tool of the infantry, too expensive and the support staff needed would be massive, but I can envision them for special assault, ship boarding, attached to spaceborne troops for securing drop zones, and urban operations. 

-Air Mobility

During the Vietnam War, the concept of helicopter warfare was pioneered and forever placed into combined arms. Much like the horse Calvary of old, soldiers rode into battle, and rode out, sweeping down on the enemy. This ability of transporting soldiers quickly and directly into the battlespace as changed warfare, and killed off the old-style airborne drops, due to the soldiers are protected by the transports weapon systems and they drop in with ready for combat. It is not just troops and Operators that benefit from air mobility, some tanks, artillery pieces, and Jeeps can be air-lifted. The vehicles of deploying air mobility have gone from the UH-1 of Vietnam, to the UH-60 Blackhawk, now to the MV-22 Osprey, and in the future, it will be vehicles like ducted-fan Hunter-Killer aerial patrol vehicles from Terminator.  

-Light Military 4x4 Vehicles

The original Jeep was developed in 1941 by American Bantam company, it was to be a replacement for the horse/mule, and was delivered from drawing board to prototype in 49 days. The military Jeeps were jack-of-all-trades, due to their off-road abilities, flexiblity, and simply design. In modern warfare, Jeep-like vehicles are a critical element in Combined Arms, preforming all manner of taks, from being a battle-taxi, infantry support vehicle, scout, and workhorse, but these class of vehicles are pretty much ignored by sci-fi writers. The tradition of the military Jeep lives on in J8, and all similar patterned vehicles, like the Russian GAZ, the British Land Ranger, and the Mahindra. As a side note, the most insane military 4x4? The 1980's Rambo-Lambo, the Lamborghini LM002.     

Combined Arms in off-world combat

Here are some topics to consider when talking about the reality fielding something like our modern combined arms units in off-world combat situations.

Starlift Capability

Why would an futuristic government that could settle exoplanets not be able to delivery the heavy goods to the front? In a word: Starlift capability. Starlift capability is one most critical elements in any futuristic army, and is how they can get the army from point A (most likely a space station, cargo ship or other planet) to point B. the FTL transport, then onto the battlezone, point C. Once the transport arrives in orbit around the planet, there is the ship-to-shore operation of hauling the vehicles, troops, and supplies down to the surface. This barely discussed in any work of sci-fi, only the ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manuel and Battletech layout the scale of the operation to project combined arms over lightyears.
Here is a quote from ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manuel: The deployment of Colonial Marine Armor assets is limited by the availability of heavy starlift capability to transport both the tanks and their considerable logistic and service support.

Armored Vehicles: function=form

Please see my older post on the future of armored vehicles:

Loss of the orbital high ground

In the ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manuel, author Lee Brimmicombe-Wood states that planets are the only location worth the price of commenting the very expensive FTL ships to combat. Orbital space is the best piece of restate in off-world combat, the side that controls orbital space controls the ability to resupply their troops, reinforce, monitor the enemy's movements, and deploy satellites for C3 purposes...and best of all, orbital artillery. Imagine, if your side of a conflict gets wiped off of the high ground, you're at the mercy of the other's side abilities to rain down artillery from a position you cannot reach, you are watched, and worse off all, the other side as the upper hand at every engagement, no matter if it's dirtside or starside.  

Terrain and/or Hostile Environments

Terrain is one of the key elements in warfare, and for the entire history of humanity, we've been fighting on one world, but at some point (hopefully) the human race will get off-world, and commanders of armies will have to deal with fighting on worlds that I've never seen outside of a map. Added to this, these contested worlds could be not atmospheric standard (like Earth), this means that soldiers would be forced to fight in space suits. This factor would raise the casualty rates, complexity of bases, vehicles, and supplies, and morale would dip.

Far-Future Technologies
Star Trek shows us how easy it can be...transporters teleport you instantly from ship-to-shore within a few seconds. Machines seemly construct food, tools, and toys from thin air...why not do that with tanks, gunships, killer robots? That is one element sci-fi creator need to take into account, far-future technology. Teleporting your vehicles from cargo holds onboard ship would be much easier than the other methods discussed here. Hell, why even store those vehicles and weapons? Why not construct them via replicators? One can imagine having a industrial replicator planetside that could build new tanks, guns, and supplies without the need for cargo modules or even ships in orbit....it just seems too easy. These Star Trek high-tech devices are commonplace with their universe, but are never fully unitized by the writers for creating a far-future military, which is a real shame. Most sci-fi works that feature combined arms are constructed on the basis of near-future technology, even my own, it would have been nice to see something like Star Trek demonstrate how their far future technology would be used on the planetside battlefield. 


Nigel and I were discussing the topic associated with futuristic combined arms, and he mentioned that communications between the different battlefield elements is key to victory and avoiding blue-on-blue fire. Just like in surgery or in a kitchen (just watch Hell's Kitchen), communications is key to coordinating combine arms elements in the local battlespace for maximum lethality against the enemy. That means active and decatied command and control systems, either in orbital, at the FOB, or even riding into battle. This local battlenet would be one of the first targets of an enemy, and besides shelling the hub of their enemy's battlenet, they also could using "soft-kill" systems, in the form of computer viruses and attack programs (see Ghost in the Shell on this subject). Given the scope of planetary future combat, if that battlenet was brought down, all of those fantastic lethal elements of combined arms is scattered, deaf, and mute, causing the enemy a giant opportunity to swing the conflict in their favor.

Faster-than-Light Travel

Contrary to most works of sci-fi, faster-than-light travel is not as like getting onto an highway on-ramp, and, at the moment, modern science as been unable to locate any hyperspace corridors. This means that FTL in a hard science universe is an commitment in terms of a lifetime. The reality of FTL travel involves massive amount of energy, time dilation, acceleration to light speed, then de-acceleration. All of this means that the supply chain for the combined arms units on-planet would be separated by vast gulfs of space and time, leading to the possibility these journeys to the warzone could be a one-time deal. All of the troops, supplies, warships, and vehicles in an FTL expedition would be the only force sent to the warzone, because reinforcements would a lifetime behind the soldiers on the front. This topic is heavily explored in the 1975 MSF founding classic, The Forever War...

Secure Drop-Zones

When the armed FTL transports achieve GSO over the planetary battlesite, the process of getting their cargo down the gravity well begins. And the real question becomes where on the vast battlefield on a planetary scale do you drop in the combined arms vehicles and troopers? If you are invading a planet, then the need for secure drop-zones becomes paramount. This would fall to specialized troops and vehicles, like the ODST from the HALO universe, and the spaceborne and SOF APS units from my book Endangered Species. This concept is seen in a few video games, especially in military real-time strategy simulation games.

Endo/Exo Atmospheric Vehicles

Vehicles that can go up-and-down from a planet's surface with the easy of a helicopter, like HALO's Pelican, the  UD-4 Cheyenne From ALIENS or the Raptor from Battlestar Galactica are simply not in keeping with the hard reality of science. The space shuttles fielded by the US and the USSR require booster rockets to be pushed beyond the grip of gravity, which entails massive launch platforms, support staff, and vast amounts of fuel. The idea of vehicles slipping from ship-to-shore and back again with the easy of what as been seen in science-fiction, is exactly that, science fiction. The unsexy truth of delivery vehicles, troops, and supplies from a ship in GSO down planetside would be accomplished via cargo modules. It is possible for there to be a few dual atmospheric fighter, like the SR-71, to move from the air to orbit and back, but not something similar to the attack helicopters. For there to be the futuristic equal to the Hind-D gunship for planetside combat, it would broken down, loading onto drop cargo modules, shipped down, then fully assembled down on the planet....all that means a secure drop zone, technical staff to assembly it and a base to support its operation.

Combined Arms in Sci-Fi

It seems that sci-fi creators have no trouble conjuring up vast fleets of FTL warships that cross the Cosmo, but when it comes to futuristic planetside warfare, these same creators dream up soldiers wearing advanced powered armor, but nothing else. Added to this, warfare of the future is similar to the allied airborne drops of 1944, where only lightly armed soldiers are the only means of offensive warfare. So, we are to believe that a government that can field vast arrays of warships that travel beyond the speed of light, cannot afford or plan for their starborne infantry to have any support of any kind?!  

The real question is why sci-fi creators don't include combined arms in their tales of future warfare? My guess is that some authors focus so much on their narrative of future soldier's experiences during wartime, that they forget to round out the rest of military. Another idea, is since the experience of infantry combat is the most accessible to the general public (FPS video games, war movies, and paintball), they just direct all their creative energy on the footsloggers.
Of course, there is a bad tradition in MSF works to equate futuristic battlefields with the allied paratroopers of D-Day, in having lightly armed, highly trained soldiers that drop into the warzone to fight other infantry units. This is reflected in the founding classics of military science fiction, like Starship Troopers. For anyone that read this blog, and write stories that involve future war, please, for the love of the Lords of Kobol, either show combined arms warfare or tell us why there are not used in your fictional universe!

Combined Arms in our own MSF works

Nigel and I both feature combined arms units into our MSF works. He as worked around the issues of starlift capability, supplychains that cross lightyears, by having planetary production of combined arms vehicles. I tend to show the laborious effort to bring the warmachines to the battlefield. and how that effects the nature of the overall into our MSF works. He as worked around the issues of starlift capability, supply chains that cross lightyears, by having planetary production of combined arms vehicles. I tend to show the laborious effort to bring the warmachines to the battlefield. and how that effects the nature of the overall strategy of the war effort.

Examples of (or lack of) Combined Arms in Sci-Fi

-Space: Above and Beyond

SAAB is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi shows, and one of the few "pure" military sci-fi works, however, when it came to the concept of Combined Arms, the show failed. SAAB had the US military of 2063 fielding nuclear-powered space carriers, attack dual-atmospheric fighters, and armored VTOL shuttles that transported marines to the distant shores, but often the show displayed marines combat units using only their rifles, no LMGs, little air cover, and only one tank (a modified M113 APC).

-Warhammer 40K

In most of the art for this landmark RPG, heavily armored and armed warriors are facing masses of alien hordes, all weapons are blazing, and people dying left and right. Normally, tucked away in these scenes of choas and blood are massive warmachines of all types. This combined arms approach to 41st millennium combat is due to Warhammer 40K being a tabletop war simulation RPG, allowing players to many options with facing their friends on the battlefield. These warmachines vary from armored power suits, heavy tanks, gunships, mobile artillery pieces, and regular non-suited infantry. Even the infantry units, from the Space Marines to the lesser Imperial Guard, all have support weaponry of heavy machine guns, rockets, flame units, and motars.  

-Star Wars: TESB

It is odd to me, that a work of space fantasy, Star Wars, manages to be one of the only sci-fi flims to ever show two combined arm units engage in warfare. This takes place on the icy ball of Hoth, and as the rebels using ground-based space artillery to disable incoming Star-Destroyers, while they evac out. Somehow, despite the rebel alliance's ion cannons, the imperials land a massive force of heavy walkers, ligh scout walkers, snow-troopers, in unseen landing craft. The rebels strike back with entrenched troops, laser-based cannons, and snowspeeders. Oddly, the imperial landing force does not seem to bring any air support...allowing the snowspeeders to bring down a few AT-AT walkers.     

-Star Wars: AOTC

If one looks up "dogshit" in the encyclopedia then surely the Star Wars prequel come up, especially the dumbass who named them. Despite the fact that Star Wars Epsiode II: Attack of the Clones, is the worst named movies in history, it's end battle on Genosis, was a grand epic battle between armies using combined arms, and it rarely seen in sci-fi films. The newly minted clone army fields close air support with their LAAT/i, support-propelled artillery cannons, and heavy walkers all backing up legions of clone troopers.


This film shows a realistic combined arms unit made up of only a few elements, but mount an impressive destructive power. The RDA's security personnel use air mobility to counter the Nav'is use of the dense and hostile jungle. What is interesting about the use of combined arms in Avatar is the use of the Dragon assault ship, as an C&C vessel, heavy fire support to the Samson and Scorpion VTOL craft, and able to deploy Amp combat suits via bomb-bay like doors, making the Dragon one of the more creative designs I've seen in many years. On the ground, the RDA security operations soldiers use various configurations of their CARB caseless rifles, and are backed up with heavy fire support via the 30mm hand-cannon. The Nav'i also mounted an combined arms army of their own to deal with the RDA threat.

-Star Trek

I'll confess something, when I was a kid, I wanted to serve in Starfleet of the movies era, I wanted to wear the uniform and serve on an Excelsior class vessel. But, now, I realize that the Federation that spans 8,000 LYs and as 150 members is void of any ground forces. Really?! The armed response to an hostile alien invasion of one of their colonies is to security personnel and a non-movible cannon?! Even sadder is the fact that the big bad enemies of the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the  Dominion, all lack any sort of combined arms of any kind.
 However, in the RPG universe created by FASA in the 1980's, there were Starfleet Marines, and I believe some ground vehicles, but of course, these were all non-canon.

In one of the founding classics of MSF, John Steakley,was attempting, in Armor, to remake Starship Troopers with more action and less politics. In the book, Terra is defeatng its colonies from an aggressive species of spaceborne ants. The main weapon of this war, is the APS-encased warriors armed with "Blazers" DEW rifles. However, there is no mention of aircraft, tanks, or even artillery is made in the book, some of these elements of combined arms may have been filled by several other types of APS that the scout verison seen in the book.  
-Starship Troopers (movies)

The sad thing is that the 1997 Starship Troopers film is the most pure military sci-fi film to date, and it sucks. The first time I saw Starship Troopers I noticed that the Terran Federation, which could field a vast fleet of FTL warships, sends legions of soldiers down to the homeworld of their enemy, with nothing in the way of heavy support? Hell, the Mobility Infantry doesn't even give them a machine gun! The only support seems to come from these soft-ass landers with a puny cannon and a micro-nuclear launcher(!). The mighty fleet does not aid the MI with any sort of space-based artillery bombardment of the planet, and only once do we use of the TAC fighters...all-in-all, pretty shitty combined arms. This all speaks to either the view of the MI by the Terran Federation, as cannon-fodder, or the simple lack of imagination from Paul Verhoeven and his writing crew.

-Starship Troopers (book)

In the 1958 founding classic of military sci-fi, the Terran Federation flexes it power via their use of powered armor, and Rico mentions that three different classes of suits exist...but it seems that the suits mount little in the way of small-arms (unless you call atomic grenades small-arms), and from the raid on Skinny cities at the opening of the book (and the best part), it seems that the APS are used for mobility...similar to WWII paratroopers. This book and the future militay would be the template for most sci-fi authors to this very day...

-The Forever War

In another founding classic of MSF, we see yet another APS using future military fielding soldiers with little or support of any kind. This seems odd to me, since the author served in Vietnam and saw the effect of in-field artillery and CAS. However, in the graphic novels, it clearly shows tanks, APCs, and CAS support, making the earth response more well-rounded. My hope, is that the upcoming Forever War film uses the graphic novel as the template.


The first (as far as I know) on-screen realistic futuristic combine arms unit was in 1986's ALIENS.  The small United States Colonial Marines response unit was outfitted with a massive amount of firepower and mobility. If we take from what was shown on screen, this unit of marines had a fully outfitted M577 APC with a number of support weaponry from anti-armor and anti-air, couple this with Hudson exclaims to Ripley: "I'm ready, man. Check it out! I am the ultimate bad-ass! State of the bad-ass art! You do not want to fuck with me. Check it out! Hey, Ripley, don't worry. Me and my squad of ultimate bad-asses will protect you! Check it out. Independently targeting particle-beam phalanx. WHAP! Fry half a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart missiles, phase plasma pulse rifles, RPGs. We got sonic, electronic ball breakers! We got nukes, we got knives, we got sharp sticks".
Then there is the ubercool UD-4 Cheyenne Dropship. The small marine unit is transport from ship-to-shore via a heavily armed dropship that can be used from hot-drops, hot evacs, and for CAS. Within the colonial marine squad, their are flame units, two machines, and riflemen outfitted with grenade launchers. If the marine squad needed to secure a parameter, than they carry four sentry cannons. Very cool. More thought and effort were made in just these few concepts than most author's entire series of books. ALIENS...the best damn MSF film ever!

-Hammer's Slammers
Once again, I must confess that I've not read Hammer's Slammers, it sits on my night table, waiting in-line to be read. However, from what I able to pull off of the internet and the Hammer's Slammers tabletop RPG website, this work seems to feature mechanized infantry, tanks of various classes, and gunships.  
While most every product in the Battletech universe is devoted to mech-combat, there was a vast number of non-mecha combat vehicles featured in the Technical Readouts, and games, especially CityTech. Adding to range of traditional combat vehicles were infantry, gunships, submarines, and blue water naval vessels. The Mechwarrior Xbox games featured all of these attacking our mech...I normally crushed the infantry under my metal feet... 

-Babylon 5

B5 was a show that mainly focused on space battles, not planetside combat. However, during the episode GROPOS, we see 25,000 Earth Force Marines being supported by several VTOL Valkyrie gunships during an assault on an  alien walled fortress.This led to an tabletop RPG combat miniature game called GROPOS that featured ground combat units for all of the major races,  expect for the Vorlon. This game had each race with mechanized infantry, VTOL gunships, and several classes of tanks, included with he infantry were heavy weapons.

Both sides of the war between the Covenant and the UNSC use combined arms in the form of gunships/transports, Jeep-like vehicles, field artillery, tanks, and infantry with various heavy arms. I am impressed with the level of thought that when into the concept of the UNSC planetside forces, especially since Bungie ripped-off ALIENS. If you look at the UNSC's tools of war, they seem somewhat limited, however, these few vehicles can be modified for various uses, like the Pelican dropship and the Warthog recon-vehicle, and be deployed rapidly from ship-to-shore via the Pelican that itself can be transformed from transport to gunship with a few attachments.


Robotech is a massive saga of three generations fighting for Earth against three invasions of aliens over the science of Robotech, and this leds to the Robotech Defenders to develop three generations of military technology. The first series, Macross, was mainly devoted to the Veritech tri-transform aircraft and the SDF-1 during their year old journey through the solar system, there were times of various other non-transformable mecha and ground soldiers in the fight.
By the time the Robotech Masters showed up, the Armies of the South Cross were a vastly different military than the days of the SDF-1, with gunships, legions of armored infantry, artillery, transformable tanks, faced off against an limited Robotech Master military of large powered armor.
The broken Armies of the Southern Cross were no match for the hungry Invid, and only the distant Robotech Expeditionary Force offered any hope of liberation. I must confess, the third generation of Robotech Defenders is my favorite, and as some of the coolest mecha. The REF combined arms was built around a futuristic blitzkrieg, where Alpha/Beta fighters, motorcycle mounted infantry, and heavy ground vehicles coupled with next-gen  Zentraedi mecha rush into battle...this may be due to the REF being far from their supply lines, and limited in their number of soldiers. However, for much of the New Generation series, Scott Bernard rebel group was limited to a few fighters and Cyclones.
Really, really, wished they had made Robotech II: The Sentinels...


Skynet used its vast array of warmachines to form a lethal combined arms force, I mean who could forget the images of Skynet's machines patrolling through the ruins of LA and the air? 

-The Starfist book series

From what I can figure from the cover-art and a few pages, the Confederation Marine Corps uses limited combined arms during their off-world engagements. However, I cannot speak if the combined arms exist in the books, because, this is another one of those long-run MSF book series that I've not read yet. However, during trips to bookstores, I have done some light reading one a ew of the books in the series. They are on my list of books to buy and  at some point, thee will be a review for FWS.

-Killzone Series

Both the ISA and Helghast forces make use of light combined arts vehicles, from Jeeps, light tanks, boats, APCs, and VTOL transports. However, rarely do these elements seem together, into a fully integrated combined arms unit, this is still a game about shooting.
-Old Man's War Universe

Must of you know that I think that Old Man's War is one of the finest MSF books...however, when it comes to demostrating the concept of futuristic combined arms, these books fail. These books show a war between many species for colonial worlds, and Earth via the Colonial Defense Forces is trying to stake out their claims on exoplanet territory...and trying to keep it. The CDF's armed response to the alien threats is their highly advanced soldiers and weapons, and Skip-Drive equiped warships. However, these soldiers are on their own against the aliens...neither Old Man's War or The Ghost Brigades show the CDF using any sort of combined arms to defend worlds like Coral. Pity....all the effort and thought that was put into these books by Mr. Scalzi simply ends when one thinks about the reality of a military being made of starships and infantry...even if they are ubermensch.

-Battlestar Galactica (2003)

The central plot of BSG is about the ragtag fleet and the last colonial Battlestar, not ground combat, so little hardware was shown in the series, mainly its toasters vs, humans in ground combat. There were a few uses of AAA missile batteries, mortars, and CAS, but given the story and the role of the battlestar, it is a logical. I do wonder, during the Occupation of New Caprica, the Cylons make use of military heavy trucks...where did they come from? Galactica?
-Battlestar Galactica (1978)

In the classic BSG, the colonial warriors used a tracked armed vehicle called a Landram that was delivered on planet via the colonial shuttles. Despite having the Vipers, and some ground operations during the run of BSG, there is not any examples of CAS...odd. The Landram does make an appearance in the new BSG, during the episode "Scar", on the mining asteroid...blink and you miss it.

-Starcraft series

The Starcraft games being a military stragtey game causing it to be used around futuristic combined arms, APS marines, siege tanks, gunships, and so on.   

-Renegade Legion Centurion

In the 69th century, the galaxy spanning Terran Overlord Government is attempting to crush the last resistance to their rule, the Renegade Legion. are the resistance. The war in the 69th century is fought using fighters, anti-gravity tanks, fighters, infantry.

-Battle Engine Aquila

Battle Engine Aquila is a PS2/Xbox/PC video game that takes place on world swallowed up by raising seawaters, during a war between the last two governments over the last of dry land and resources. The Muspell, the industrial and military power is staging invasions of the more peacefull and green energy Foseti, in response, the Foseti developed the Battle Engine, a transforming mecha that switches from a short-range fighter to gerwalker, which unitized different weapons. During the war, the Aquila is used to overcome the Muspell superior and the weakness of the Foseti, during massive battles between combined arms units. This is a rather odd, but good game that is original, still have it for my Xbox.