About a month ago, FWS asked for topic ideas, and one that came across was an article exploring the size, organization, and logistics of a deep space military. At first, I was overwhelmed with having to research these topics, however, my mind would not let it go,finding the topic engrossing, and over a period of a few weeks, I had most of this written. It is all too common in military science fiction to over simplify these factors of a real military, either by not addressing it or using the high technology of sci-fi to solve these issues, much like the replicators of Star Trek. However, for most those authors interesting fleshing out a complete future spacefaring military picture, is blogpost is for you...so, pour a Blue Moon, and enjoy the read.
The Organization of a Future Deep Space Military
There are two lines of thought on how a deep space military would be organized, the hard and the soft prospective on the science in sci-fi. In a hard science universe, where superluminal travel and communication are not possible, interstellar warfare is a slow, isolated and long proposition. Soldiers deployed to exosolar colonies will spent years under cryo, and the generals and politicians that sent them to that point of light in the sky would long dead (see the Forever War). Given the distance, this would make any commander of the taskforce the sole authority and interrupter of the original orders, much like a US nuclear submarine. It is also likely that the armed troop transport would be automated, much like the Sulaco, furthering the infantry officer's authority.
This presents problems for a government, whatever decision the marine commander make on-the-ground, like nuking the site from orbit, which would make the government and the brass back on Terra instilling a great deal of trust in those officers out there. It is also possible that future deep space expeditions would be under the command of not a flesh-and-blood officer, but a military AI, similar to HALO's Cortana. How does this effect the organization of the future military? It simplifies it a great deal, streamlining it to be more lean and mobile, because the current massive organizational system that modern militaries operate under would be impractical. It this regard, works like ALIENS, HALO, and BSG may be correct, where there fewer officers and ranks. Due to the length of time it would take for replacements to arrive to the exosolar battlefield, promotions would happen with the ranks of the expeditionary force, much like what happened to Corporal Hicks in ALIENS.
When it comes to a soft science fiction universe, where FTL travel and communication are similar to Star Wars and Star Trek, the military organization could be even complex than today's, simply due to the amount of space that the government has to project power to. The reason behind this is simply, FTL travel takes days or weeks to arrive at a hot spot, rather than years, and Captain Picard can communicate with San Francisco in real-time, receiving orders from the Admiralty that fit the situation unfolded lightyears away. In addition, Starfleet can send more ships and personnel to a crisis point, fueling interdependence, while the more hard science military has to self-reliant. Also, the soft universe military battlesites would be hotter than the hard, due to the availability of reinforcements, heavier vehicles, and combat starships.
Logistics of a Future Deep Space Military
The Size of a Future Deep Space Army
The Galactic Padishah Empire's Sardaukar Legions
In the universe of DUNE around the year of 10,191, Emperor Shaddam Corrino the IV is ruling over the known universe, controlling thousands of settled worlds across intergalactic regions. The books never tell us the size and scope of the Galactic Padishah Imperium, but given the instant space travel afforded by the Spacing Guild's use of the Spice, Shaddam the IV, can project power unlike most ruler in science fiction, but only if the Spacing Guild agree with the move. This domination of space travel by one group makes the military project power of the imperial forces difficult to gauge, but the Sardaukar Legions are a truly fearsome future army.
The United States Colonial Marine Corps (2179)
According to the 1996 ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, the United States Colonial Marine Corps is made up of four active divisions, with a fifth in reserve. In addition to the divisions spread out over the American colonial arm and the Sol system, there are four active and one reserve aerospace wing serving the CMC's transport,starlift, and support needs. At the core of the CMC is the Marine Assault Unit, composed of a battalion of marines, medical, command, and maintenance companies, along with a RECON platoon, a squad of scout/snipers, and a platoon of combat engineers. Adding to the mix of flexible space-projection is armored teams, aerospace elements from the USASF, and one drop wing and one assault wing. In terms of numbers, the Colonial Marines were at a peak of 240,000 during the 2165 Tientsin Campaign, but at the time of ALIENS film in 2179, the numbers were at around 165,000.
The ROBOTECH Expeditionary Force (2022-2044)
There is some debate among ROBOTECH fans and canon about the number of people that survived the Zentradi holocaust, and then left with the REF about ten years after billions died in space and on Earth. The official ROBOTECH: The Sentients RPG manual printed by Palladium Book, there is an essay on the confusion over the numbers. According to this text, about 350 million Terran survivors of the Zentradi holocaust of 2011, rebuilt Earth, and somewhere around 10,000 left with the REF onboard the SDF-3 in 2022.
However, duirng the 3rd ROBOTECH War, a vast REF fleet comes to liberate made up of hundreds of Sentient constructed warships, thousands of fighters, and ground forces. This has lead Palladium Books RPG manual to debate the number of original REF members, and states that the combat forces of the REF were human or microized Zentradi, while the crews of the REF warships were composed of joint crews. Some other fansites, say that the REF mounted recovery operations to evac Southern Cross personnel that escape the Invid Invasion on off-world inter-solar system bases, colonies, or ships.
The ROBOTECH Master's Zentradi Forces (2011)
When it comes to size of a future, as far as have researched, the largest military force ever seen in science fiction is the Zentradi forces of the ROBOTECH Masters. Over four million warships under Supreme Commander Dolza came to our third rock from the sun to kick our collective ass. Adding to this number was the Zentradi loyal to Lord Breetai, the SDF-1, and whatever UN Spacey ships were left. Some estimates online place this armada at 100 billion with about 48 billion killed in total, that's Zentradi and the majority of the Earth population. Now that is one hell of a bloody battle!
The Alien Legion of the TOPHAN Galactic Union
Okay, there is little to go on, in terms of hard numbers, for the Legion. It does not help that most of the stories in the first series concerned on Force Nomad's core characters. Only in the graphic novel did we see a mass legion force composed of thousands of soldiers. Force Nomad was expanded during the second series, allowing us to a much large force, however, I doubt it was any bigger than 5,000 legionaries. When I was reading Alien Legion comics, and even today, I wonder about the size of such a force that had to protect three galaxies worth of space(!). One of the only other works that had a government composed of several galaxies is, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, whose Systems Commonwealth, at its apex, had over 1 million members. So, based on that, it is likely that the Legion is composed of millions of legionaries and thousands of ships. Helping clear some things up, the official Alien Legion website had a breakdown of the organization of the Legion:
- LEGION- 50,000+
- CORPS- 20,000-45,000
- DIVISION- 10,000-15,000
- BRIGADE- 3,000-5,000
- SQUADRON- 300-1,000
- COMPANY- 62-190
- PLATOON- 16-44
- SQUAD- 9 or 10 Legionaries
The Jedi Order of the Galactic Republic
The Grand Army of the Republic
When it comes to a future deep space military that is charged with protecting the off-world colonies spread over many solar systems, the question comes up with how many super space dreadnoughts and space marines legions do you send? That depends on the importance of the colony and the situation. The hard fact is that not all colonial properties would be treated the same. Just look at recent global history, when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, and threatened Saudi Arabia, the United States deployed the Airborne to prevent Iraqi tanks from invading one of the US's most important allies in the region. But when the civil war in the former Yugoslavia broke out, and charges of ethic cleansing were confirmed, it took years for NATO or the UN to become involved militarily.
Why? The simple answer is that Saudi Arabia is critical ally to the United States, mostly because of oil, and if a madman like Saddam had control over the Saudi oilfields, the world would be fucked. In DUNE, when the Fremen were close to booting the Harkonnen off of Arrakis, the Emperor sent fifty legions of Sardaukar terror-troops to secure the exportation of the spice...because it must flow. However, if the trouble have been on the piss-ant desert world of Tatooine I doubt the bulk of the Galactic Empire would have come to kick some Jawa ass. Much can be said about the two Jedi sent to the crisis on Naboo, and even when things did heat up, there were the same two Jedi protecting the Princess. Shows how much Naboo rated on the Senate's radar.
The same could be said if we examine the United State's response to the downed colonial transmitter on LV-426. The Colonial Marines sent a single rapid-response platoon with an air support unit, one officer, one adviser, and one Weyland-Yutani representative and a heavily armed automated transport vessel. This may seem like a underwhelming response, but not when you consider that the only settlement on LV-426 was Hadley's Hope comprised of about 158 souls, not exactly Reach is it? When it comes to warships, this greatly depends on what types of warships you have in your sci-fi work, and the situation. I think it is unrealistic to see the sky darkening with 4.8 million green warships to end the threat of one small planet...just remember moderation when it comes to all things in science fiction.