23 December 2015

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and Happy New Year!

Well, it is that time again. I hope everyone out there that stops by FWS has a wonderful holiday season and a great new year. I want to extend a big thank you to everyone that makes FWS a part of your life and for those that help this little military science fiction blog. I could not do it without you. So, enjoy your family, drink some eggnog, go see The Force Awakens again, and play some video games...because that is what I going to do! Here is hoping that 2016 is a great year and a big one for Future War Stories!

21 December 2015

FWS Movie Review: STAR WARS VII: The Force Awakens (SPOILER FREE!)

Some mock science fiction and call it the bottom of entertainment, literature, and cinema. However, Star Wars proves that science fiction is not just a generational thing, or even a western world thing, but it is a global thing that crosses the gap between rich and poor, young and old, and male and female. Since 1977, Star Wars has altered common global culture, the world of cinema, and science fiction forever. The original holy trilogy ran from 1977 through 1983, and then there was the gap of decades until the prequel were announced in 1994 some eleven years after Jedi. From 1999 to 2005, the unholy, shitty Prequel films tarnished the world of Star Wars, and it was believed that this would be the way the Star Wars films ended...with a flaming bag of dogshit. As Lucas altered and raped our childhood with new elements to the holy trilogy, the deal with Disney was looming. In October of 2012, it was announced that Disney had bought LucasFilm and the mouse would be making more Star Wars films, starting with the sequel trilogy. In November of 2014, we finally got to see the first trailer for The Force Awakens and reaction was strong that these new films would be a return to good Star Wars films...so, is it? Here is my Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens SPOILER FREE review. I saw this film in Dallas on IMAX 3D at an 1000am showing on 12/21.

The Basic Plot (Maybe Minor Spoilers!)
It has been 30 years after the Battle of Endor, and in the First Order has arisen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. Siding against the First Order is the Republic. While the Republic and the First Order are not engaged directly, the Resistance is the insurgency to the First Order and is being supplied by the Republic. Now, there are forces at work to destabilize the situation in the galaxy...and that is where the film opens.

For the most part, Star Wars VII: the Force Awakens is a solid, very enjoyable Star Wars that ranks up there with The Empire Strikes Back, and is the second best sci-fi film behind The Martian this year. It has the soul, character, world of Star Wars all there with healthy doses of Star Wars IV: A New Hope to create a bridge between the classic films and this new generation of action figures...I mean...heroes. This is the film that we fans deserved in 1999 and it has redeemed the promise of Star Wars after the abortion that the prequels were.
While there are tons of SFX, they are a fusion of practical and CGI that makes The Force Awakens more real than the plastic prequels. The connection to the old characters is there, and it is more than just fan service. The new characters are real characters in their own right and I was excited to see the development on Kylo Ren as more of a real character than a set piece. The film manages to get the little element rights, along with the big ones. I laughed, I cried, and I marveled at the world of Star Wars again. For me, this movie was more "the fans awaken" than the Force awakens.

As I said above, The Force Awakens is strongly connected to the original 1977 film in more than just imagery. For those of us that have seen the ANH repeatedly, The Force Awakens can feel like a retread in both theme and plot points. You knew what was going to happen, and while the film is very good, it can feel very borrowed, and that some of the film's plot points are there just because of that. This is true of one of the only major thing I really disliked about the film.
The great looming menace that our heroes have to deal with is just a borrowing of ANH element, that it makes little sense on its own. Since this is spoiler-free, I cannot say more than that. Also, the movie moves very quickly from place to place, like most Star Wars films, and the scenes on planet Jakku are the longest. This jumpiness is even more apparent in order to make the combining of the new generation and the original, the film  needed to throw together characters, like the original film or The Phantom Menace, and that can also feel forced. and things being done because the script says so. Another thing I disliked was the lack of explanation over the current political situation in the galaxy and who these factions were. I personally think this was done on purpose due to the attention paid to the political situation in the prequels to death.
Also, I was surprised by the tacked on nature of the big central question in the background of the whole film, and then it is solved in the final few minutes and the ending feels rushed. I honestly thought the end scene in The Force Awaken should have been saved for episode VIII. Then that brings to my last "Bad" portion of The Force Awakens...the science. Star Wars has never been about being an ambassador for hard science fiction, and general it is soft science fiction. But, The Force Awakens takes to a new level of softness...like liquid. Several times, I was stunned at the lack of real-world elements and one element was so bad, it derailed the film for a few minutes for me.

Bottomline, The Force Awakens is a very good Star Wars movie that reminds us of how good this universe can be...and brings us to the ugly aspect...it reminds us how bad, crushingly bad, the Prequel films are. For decades, we fans have wanted to see the apex of the Jedi Order, the rise of the Sith, and the Clone Wars...and we got this flaming bag of dogshit. The Force Awakens does not acknowledge the prequels save for one comment, and it show how irrelevant those prequel films and how plastic they appear. This film generated feelings of remorse for ever investing anytime into the prequels and makes you also wish we could get them remade with the gusto of The Force Awakens. I can honestly saw that when it comes time to buy the Star Wars films on Blu-Ray, I am buying four of them now and not just the original three.

Should You see The Force Awakens....waitaminute...you already have.
Everyone is going to see this that is remotely interested in the film...maybe I should ask another question.

How Does The Force Awakens Fit into the World of Star Wars?
Because Star Wars is a saga that tells the story of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force along with the family history of the Skywalkers, how does this new film fit into the rest of the saga? I can say, very well. The Force Awakens feels like an organic piece of the puzzle and it is a brave start to a new trilogy storyline. It retains that favor of the original films and allows for a bridge from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens. My hope is that more of our questions about some of the events in the background are answered in the next two films.

My Big Worry...
To date, JJ Abrams has helmed two of the biggest franchises in the realm of science fiction: Trek and Wars. The excellent job paid to the new Star Wars proves to me that he has talent and can make a excellent film without ripping the original material to shreds...like he did with his "vision" of Star Trek. Honestly, I hate his Trek films and think they are simply pieces of shit that trade on the good and hallowed name of Trek. His Trek is related to the original Star Trek has much has was the World War Z film had in common with the World War Z book. My big worry is that JJ Abrams will not be able to replicate The Force Awakens and we will get films that tarnish the new hope we fans have for the sequel trilogy.

13 December 2015

News Feed: Independence Day: Resurgence Trailer!

We finally got to see the first trailer for the sequel of original 1996 sci-fi film, and what is the bottom line after waiting on the sequel to the original ID4 film?  I can say that the film looks like what we thought it would be...honestly. For better or worse, IDR looks like ID4 in tone, just with better CGI, new light-up assault rifles, and Liam Hemsworth as a pilot to the next-gen alien tech infused attack jet! Sorry, no Will Smith. He wanted $50 million...so...yeah. The film wisely sets this new Independence Day flick some 20 years after the War of 1996, and shows the use of reverse-engineered alien technology to prepare the Earth for the day that they would come back. And on June 24th, 2016, we will a much more combat-oriented sci-fi film with the new military forces of Earth vs. the big bad grey aliens. From the trailer, some of the film does take place on the Moon with Hemsworth and Jeff Goldblum in spacesuits, there is massive dogfights, and tons of directed energy weapons. While I was never a big fan of the original, this new film could be a trope mess or a good popcorn flick. I guess we'll have to wait until June to find out.
Anyone interested in this film?  

05 December 2015

FWS Top Ten: The Most Interesting Wars of Military Science Fiction

Being an history teacher in public school, I often only get to teach the larger conflicts, and even then, I have to follow the state guidelines. However, global history is populated with smaller conflicts or relatively unknown wars that always been interesting to me, like the Opium War,  the American-Filipino War, the Boer Wars, the Matabele Wars, and the French and Indian War. This is also true of the world of science fiction. In this Top Ten list, FWS will be exploring the most interesting fictional conflicts of the genre that are either little seen or explored for a narrow point-of-view.

1. The Cylon Wars from BSG
The Cylon Wars have been a founding event in both BSG series, and neither have been seen in any length until the 2012 web-only miniseries Blood & Chrome. In the 2004-2009 Reimagined Series, the rebellion of the intelligence machines, known as Cylons, was about fifty two years before the Cylon Holocaust (BCH), and lasted for 12 years. This war united the 12 Colonies of Kobol under the Articles of Colonization, and saw the construction of the Battlestars that we know and love. This conflict transformed the 12 Colonies and paved the way for its destruction decades later and the rise of our society here on Earth. But, we saw very little of the actually, despite the Caprica series.
In the original 1978 series, the Cylons were actually an reptilian alien race that used robotic soldiers to wages their wars after their own population was nearly exhausted to maintain their empire.
The Cylons of the original series waged an 1,000 year war with the 12 Colonies of Man, until finally achieving victory, and destroying the 12 Colonies of Man. Of course, both Cylons had help in destroying the 12 Colonies in the form of the Baltar characters. After the end of the SyFy Channel reimagined series in 2009, it was believed that a new series would be created around the Cylon War and William Adama's experiences in the war, along with the series Caprica. Again, the Galactica would be front-and-center. This would have allowed us to see the war that had been floating around science fiction since the 1970's. That promised series was not delivered in the form that we fans expected. BSG: Blood & Chrome was downgraded to an online miniseries of a 10 episodes. The show we thought we were going to get was just okay, and the Cylon Wars remains an unseen war. What is interesting about the Cylon War mentioned in both series, is that creators took two very different ideas on the war and the Cylons.

2. The Four Year War from Star Trek
There has been hints of an Klingon-Federation war for years in the early days of Trek with mentions in the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology and it wasn't until the FASA Star Trek role playing game that we got the story behind this mythical conflict. According the non-cannon sourcebook, the Four Years War started in the 2250's after the Klingons raided and killed 112 citizens on the Archanis IV colony. Most of the non-canon sources on the Four Years War use the canon Battle of Axanar and Garth of Lzar in the history of the conflict. It was surprising to me that the Four Years War was not an official event in Trek, after all, DC Comics, several novels, and the FASA RPG all discussed the Federation-Klingon War like it was fact. To me, it seems organic that there would have been Klingon-Federation at some point prior to the original Trek series. Recently, a crowd-funded Trek film is being filmed that is all about the Four Years War, and teased for it that gives background of the conflict in a documentary is nothing short of brilliant and inspiriting. It is the Trek film, Star Trek: Axanar, that most of us Trekkies have been waiting decades for.

3. The Bugboys/Bebops/Wantabes of the ALIENS Universe
There was hints in the legendary 1986 film that there was a large universe to Colonial Marines and the world of 2179. Certainly, the banter between the Marines over cornbread informed us that native species culling on colonial worlds was nothing new, and they falsely believed that the operation on LV426 would be another simple endangering species op. Boy, were they wrong. Anyways, it wasn't until the 1996 ALIENS: The Colonial Marine Technical Manual by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood that we took a glimpse into the world of 22nd century Marine Corps and their conflicts. Mentioned several times was a conflict with some enemy called either "the bug boys" or "the bebops". Sure, the Colonial Marines operate against Asian forces, some that they call Wantabes, but most of the battles mentioned were against these mysterious enemies. There is no hard information on who these Bugboys or BeBops are, but fans have speculated for nearly 20 years. Some believe that they are another alien species that some of the colonial rivals of the United States armed to oppose American colonization. Some believe that they are 22nd slang name for the the Chinese-Sino united government (CSUG), or another Terran rival power. Other think they are some sort of colonial insurgency or rebellion. Either way, I would like to see more of this world, and you know, fuck the xenomorphs! They had their films! We need an Colonial Marine movie!

4. The Clone Wars (Before the Prequels) from Star Wars

For the newer fans of the Star Wars universe, it is hard to imagine the fandom a long time ago, an galaxy before the internet. Back before we got the bullshit prequels, we fans lived on a few facts, many theories, and high hopes to see the mythical war that Obi-Kenobi spoke of in the first film. Back in those days, even mainstream magazines, like Starlog, were involved in exploring the Star Wars we had yet to see. For years, we fans collectively wondered and theorized about the word "clones" in the Clone Wars. We knew that Boba Fett's armor was somehow connected to the original stormtroopers, and somehow those troopers were involved in the Clone Wars. Many of us speculated that the "clones" in the Clone Wars were cloned Jedi created to overcome either an Mandalorian invasion or an Sith invasion (before the rule of two). These new cloned Jedi were somehow turned to the Dark Side by the Emperor or Vader and used against the Light Side Jedi. I actually think that one of the few bright spots in the Prequel films was reality of the clones and how Lucas weaved the origin story of Boba Fett into the Clonetroopers as well.   

5. The Jedi/Sith Wars from Star Wars 
The underlying theme of the Star Wars films is the struggle between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. At times, the Dark Lords of the Sith achieve the control over the destiny of the galaxy, while other times, the Jedi achieve control. For some time, Star Wars fans have known that their was an larger Jedi/Sith conflict in the distant past, and it was not until the 1990's, when Dark Horse Comics published The Tales of the Jedi and Bioware released The Knights of the Old Republic games. This all-out war of Sith vs. Jedi armies has lit the imagination of fans for decades, and maybe we could make movies out of the Great Sith War...maybe call it, Episode -1? There was a rumor running around the internet of an tie-in film that told the story of the origin of the Sith and their struggle against the Jedi. Of course, it was just a rumor. 

6. The War Against the Machines from the Terminator Universe
Anyone that reads FWS knows how big of a fan I am of the War against the Machines seen in the Terminator universe...especially in the first two (real) Terminator flicks. Those dark vision of ragtag humans waging urban warfare on new killing machine in the rubble of Los Angeles while plasma bolts danced around was nothing short of beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I wanted nothing more than to see this dark vision of 2029 played out on film in a 3rd Terminator film that chronicled the story of Reese and John Conner. However...that never really happened in the way it should have. Originally, back in the early 1990's, it was rumored that an prequel Terminator film was planned that would have been all set in 2029, showing the Resistance struggle in the ruins of our world.
It is odd to me that something so organic to the Terminator film universe should not have been made. Sure, the recent and stupid Terminator: Genysis did show the Resistance gaining access to the Time Displacement Equipment, but it lacked the power that those scenes should have had. Ugh. Anyways, to me, the promise of the War Against the Machines seen in T1 and T2 has not been fulfilled, and nor will it. Terminator: Genysis was successful enough to warrant more films, but they will lack what should have been the Terminator film franchise should have been. I have also wondered why does every fucking Terminator film have to deal with a time-traveling toaster? From the tv show, to the films, to the comics, the vast majority are all about those humanform cybernetic organisms coming back and attempting to alter the past. Oh, by the way, I am purposely ignoring Terminator: Salvation....that film had no balls and no story.

7. The Off-World Conflicts from BLADE RUNNER
BLADE RUNNER is one of those films that deeply layered with worlds within worlds, and for each of fans of the 1982 classic, we have different things that interest us about the Dystopian world of 2019. For me, the off-world conflicts that fueled the development of the Replicants was what I wanted to see more of, not the gumshoe hard-boiled detective of the film. I even went as far as writing an book and several short stories about those off-world conflicts to satisfy my urge. The only hints we've seen of those wars was the information during Decker's briefing scene, some of the good parts of Soldier, and the Marvel comic book. It is unlikely that the long-awaited sequel to BLADE RUNNER will not be showing us anything more of the off-world conflicts, but it totally should. Much like Terminator, the world of BLADE RUNNER seems to be stuck in hunt for skinjobs on the streets of failing megapolis cities via gumshoe assassins with badass revolvers. Given my exception that any future film or book will not show us the off-world conflicts, I have written three short stories and one novel detailing what I think those pocket conflicts would look like.

8. The Eternal War from The Forever War
This may seem like an odd choice...but hear me out. In one of the founding classics of military sci-fi literature, 1974's The Forever War, we see our main character William Mandella and his experiences in the Eternal War. However, it is mainly his experiences that we read about and experience. The Eternal War was nearly a thousand years long with thousands of Terrans involved, and we only have TWO accounts of the war: William Mandella's from The Forever War and Marygay Potter's from the 1999 short story "A Separate War". This war and the consequences of FTL travel due to time dilution has always been absorbing to me and I always feel there is more than we could explore than just these two soldier's experiences, and that could create the basis of other books set in The Forever War universe.

9. The Human/Forerunner War from HALO
For a time, HALO games could do no wrong, and each one seemed to build and build into a series that will be regarded as the best of its generation. However, has physics tells us, what goes up, must go down. Many felt that HALO 4 was the worst game of the series and the low point (I do not). However, whatever you feel about the fourth Master Chief game, it did add a whole new layer of explanation to the vast backstory to the HALO universe. It seems that the war between the Flood and the Forerunners was more complex than we originally thought.
Unknown to archaeology (but known to the Ancient Aliens crowd), prehistoric humans achieved spaceflight and formed an interstellar empire that was equal to the Forerunners around 150,000 years ago. Humans founded new planets and had an alliance with the San 'Shyuum race. 110,000 years ago, these humans discovered the Flood, and war erupted. However, they were losing, and it effort to get ahead of the infection, humans and their allies attacked unknown Forerunner worlds. This sparked the Forerunner/Human War. That means humans were engaged in two wars at the same time. Humans lost, and we forced back to their homeworld, and reduced in technology status to primitive species.
Maybe we could have a series of games based around this time period in the HALO universe? You could play as an prehistoric Greek Spartan-like super-soldier, but with a twist. Maybe the Greek Spartan warriors were inspirited by the ancient super-soldiers of the prehistoric advanced human culture, those were primarch of the concept. So, those ancient warriors inspirited the Greeks, and the Greek Spartans inspirited the SPARTAN II/III/IV warriors. I would love to play these games and explore of this interesting timeline.

10. The Butlerian Jihad from the DUNE Universe
For many of us fans of DUNE, the religious crusade against the thinking machines 10,000 before the events of the first book was one of the most intriguing events that was not heavily explored. It was not until the 1984 film adaptation that we fans were able to glimpse the known universe before the legendary novels. Those paintings that served has the introduction to the DUNE universe and colored my vision of what I thought the Butlerian Jihad were going to look like. When it was announced that Frank Herbert's son would be crafting an trilogy about the war against the thinking machines, I was extremely excited, and bought it only a few days after its release...and boy, I was disappointed. The magic of the world of DUNE was not present, and the new universe seemed completely separate from the world seen in DUNE. Even today, when I re-watch DUNE, I wonder about what the Butlerian Jihad what it would have been like in different hands, and those paintings are still something that interests me...can we get an Butlerian Jihad reboot?

Next Time on FWS...
Distance can be an friend of the soldier in combat, and the closer proximity of soldiers to their enemy, the increase in the danger. One of the most deadly, chaotic tactical environments is Close Quarters Warfare. Combat in tight spaces of office buildings, homes, cruise ships, space stations, or even starships is its own special breed of combat, and it is high time that FWS explored and explained Close Quarters Warfare.

29 November 2015

Future Military Profiles: STARFLEET

In one of the longest running science fiction shows of all time, Star Trek, the viewers over the last 50 years have watched an unique future military organization, Starfleet, alter with the times and events with the universe. This military organization is one of the most unique within sci-fi and has gone on to be one of the most influential fictional military organizations of all time. In this installment of the continuing series Future Military Profiles we will be exploring Star Trek's Starfleet.

Starfleet is the primary defensive, exploration, and peacekeeping agency of the United Federation of Planets, and was founded in 2140s by the United Earth Government. This means that Starfleet predates the founding of the Federation (2161), and this Terran military organization was incorporated into the Federation as the common defensive and exploration organization, much like the UN Peacekeepers sometime after the Romulan War. Individual members of the Federation can and do maintain their own military organizations as they see fit, such as the Andorians and the Klingons. However, the bulk of the member races adopt and constructed the standard Federation Starship design. By the 24th century, Starfleet had a fleet of hundreds of starships, millions of personnel, and over 500 off-world installations that was tasked with patrolling and protecting over 8,000 cubic lightyears.  While primarily an organization devoted to peace, Starfleet has been called on to defend the Federation over a dozen times in major engagements and wars. Most scholars agree that the largest conflict in Starfleet history was the bloody Dominion War of 2373-2375.
The Headquarters of Starfleet is located on Terra in the Sol System (Sector 001) just outside of the North American city of San Francisco. Starfleet senior leadership is Starfleet command, which has an overall chief-of-command, and an governing body of the chiefs-of-staff. However, they answers to the civilian government of the Federation, and the President of the UFP is the command-and-chief of the Starfleet. Local command of Starfleet is handled via Sector Commanders, who are Admiral-level and based on an Starbase.

Why is STARFLEET the Military Organization of the Federation?
One of the biggest unanswered questions of Starfleet history is how an Terran space agency got to be the defensive organization for the whole of the Federation? Starfleet was founded in the 2130's by the United Earth Government to be the manned space program that also defended the Sol system and the few colonies she had. During the Romulan War (2156-2160), Starfleet was part of an greater coalition against the Romulan aggression, included the Andorians, the Vulcans, the Tellarites.
When the Federation was founded in October of 2161, Starfleet was not yet the accepted military of the new government, it was more akin to the UN Peacekeepers. While no canonized information exists why Starfleet is part of the UFP, there are several theories. One being that since the alien governments did not fully trust one another, putting the weakest member in charge of the military would prevent any greater shift of the power balance of the region. Another fan theory is that Starfleet just wanted the job, and Jonathan Archer pushed for it, and with the amount of respect that he and other members of Starfleet had gathered, the other members agreed to putting Starfleet in charge. There is also the possibility that since Terra was basically neural, new to the region, and it was easier to mold Starfleet to be pan-interstellar military than other more established military organizations of the other races. It also helped that Starfleet was not strictly an space navy, but also devoted to exploration and diplomacy.  

The Composition of STARFLEET

Without a doubt, the symbol and pride of the Federation and Starfleet is their fleet. The unique design of Federation starships allows them to be instantly recognizable to friends and foes alike. The majority of Federation starships are listed as "cruisers" and armed with directed energy weapons (phasers) and torpedo launchers in various strengths and number of emitters and launchers. For defensive systems, Federation starships rely heavily on energy shielding, while a few select starships, like the Defiant class escort, have ablative armor.
The largest starships in terms of weapon output and size is the long-range explorers,like the Sovereign class, Constitution class, and the Galaxy class. Only very few Federation starships. since the founding of Starfleet. have ever being purposefully constructed with combat in mind. Without the ships of Starfleet, the worlds and citizens of the Federation and their allies would be more or less defenseless. This makes starships of Starfleet the most important hardware of the entire organization.
Due to the length of time that Star Trek has been around and the various works on the subject of Starfleet, there are no firm numbers of the amount of ships in service at any one time. Some people have put the numbers in the hundreds or even the thousands. It is also not certain how many member races of the Federation maintain their own space navies and how big those navies are.
One of the unique features, if you can call it that, is the dual purpose that the Federation starships serve (or schizophrenia as Christopher Phoenix once said): one of peace and one of war. Given the mission of Starfleet, their starships are designed to serve as science/explorer vessels first, and military warships second...a distant second in most cases. However, it is believed that this longstanding tradition is coming to an end due to the Federation-Klingon War and the Dominion War.

The Federation covers over 8,000 cubic lightyears, with hundreds of members, thousands of worlds, and trillions of citizens. That is what Starfleet is tasked with patrolling and protecting. To help with this monumental task, Starfleet has a network of Starbases that litter Federation and allied space. Over 500 Starbases of various sizes, locations, and operational objectives were constructed to help protect power across the quadrant.  Dozens of Starbases are under various phases of construction at any given time. The first Starbase orbits Terra and is one of the largest and has a sizable spacedock facility. Not all Starbases are an orbital facility and not all are constructed by the Starfleet. Along with Starbases, Starfleet maintains Spacedock stations around Federation territory and even deep space outpost in the frontier, like Deep Space Nine, located in Bajoran space.

Ground Forces
Due to the primary mission of Starfleet being exploration, peacekeeping, and defensive military action, there is little or no Federation ground forces to speak of in canon sources. The main focus of combat within the Star Trek universe is ship-to-ship, and the limited engagements between infantry forces on planetary environments seems to be conducted without the benefit of the combined arms doctrine or even the basics of standardized infantry warfare. Given the amount of space that Starfleet must protect and monitor, any situations would be handled by one or two starships with the only resources being available for the situations being onboard these ships. that means that Starfleet has to make the most out of the security officers and others onboard the starships. This was heavily hinted at with Miles O'Brien own experiences during the Setlik III Massacre and the security team used in TNG episodes: "The Higher Ground" and "Too Short a Season".
In may be possible that security personnel and others are folded into emergency infantry units when the need arises. This could explain the Federation "soldiers" seen in several episodes of Deep Space 9. However, if these are indeed Federation infantry, they are not supported by any armoured vehicles, CAS, or even artillery, save for maybe a mortar seen in ST: TOS. This weakness was exposed by the Dominion and their Jem'Hadar warriors during that bloody war. The lack of ground forces seen in Star Trek was going to be addressed by FASA in a special RPG manual called Starfleet Ground Forces Manual. However, this sourcebook was seemingly never printed by FASA due to the unhappiness of Paramount, who later pulled the licences for Star Trek from FASA.

Special Operations Forces
While Starfleet may not have any sort of standing army, there is a possibility of some specialized units operating with the security or intelligence sections of Starfleet. During Enterprise, we saw Starfleet reach out the Earth Military for a detachment of Military Assault Command operators (MACO). This was the first and only verified use of SOF units in the realm of Star Trek. There have been hints at others, including intelligence operatives from Section 31 and the hostage rescue team from Star Trek V: the Final Insult. These specialized security agents that attempted to free the hostages could be akin to the FBI's HRT, and are called in when the need arises. This maybe the remnants of MACO in the 23rd century. In the Star Trek Voyager video game Elite Forces, we seen that lost ship create a specialized security team called "the hazard team" for specialized missions and situation, however, it is not canon. Of course, there is always Section 31...who knows what assets they have.

Service Personnel
Starfleet is tasked with the protection of hundreds of worlds, trillions of citizens, and thousands of lightyears. With the number of member worlds of the Federation, Starfleet can draw personnel from hundreds of species. This makes Starfleet a mosaic of races, colors, shapes, and languages. Much like most modern military organizations, there are two paths to service: enlisted and officer training. Enlisted personnel in Starfleet are much most current military organizations, there is a ceiling to the level of advancement within Starfleet. Someone that enlists in Starfleet is shut out of the captain's chair and officers, but not always from supervisory roles or even command roles in certain cases.
To achieve the dream of most Starfleet hopefuls, to command a starship, they must pass the rigorous entrance exams for Starfleet Academy. Based on Earth in the city of San Francisco, California, Starfleet Academy is considered one of the finest educational institutions in the whole of the Federation. Here, the vocational destiny of the cadet is determined based on their abilities and interests. After graduation, most emerge as lieutenants and are assigned according to the needs of Starfleet and their abilities.
Some will go on to even higher levels of education, like Medical School. Some personnel of Starfleet enter into the organization later into life with education and skills, like medical doctors and scientists. Some personnel are not officially Starfleet per say, and contacted for their skills and abilities on a project. This is the case with some scientists and engineers assigned to research areas of Starfleet. Due to the length of time that Starfleet has been around, both fictional and in the real world, there are no firm numbers on how many people serve in Starfleet. Some place the number in the hundreds of thousands, but it is more likely that it is in the millions.

Intelligence Service
No military organization can survive long without an intelligence gathering agency, and Starfleet Intelligence is the public face of the various intelligence services used by the Federation. It is worth noting that most Federation member governments still run their own intelligence services, who feed their reports and data to the larger Starfleet Intelligence. Probes, computer taps, starships, informants, and agents are all arms of gathering intelligence. Starfleet Intelligence is not above using unknowing starships and starbases as platforms for operations, and recruiting onboard personnel for operations. Within the known circles of Starfleet Intelligence are the unknown agencies, like Section 31. This black operations, off-the-books, covert agency was named after a section in the Starfleet charter, and has been in existence since the start of Starfleet.        


Considering its size and complexity, Starfleet has a relatively straightforward ranking system for non-commissioned and commissioned personnel. For commissioned officers at attend the academy, they achieve the rank of Jr. Ensign, then Ensign, and by the time they graduate, they are Jr. Lieutenants.For the bulk of their early years in service, a majority of officers will remain within the Lieutenants grades. Once achieving the rank of Commander, it is a short trip to the big chair (well...not if you are Riker).
A vast majority of people join Starfleet attempting to work towards getting their own command, and requires an ranking of Captain. That ranks is often the end of the career line for a majority of officers, either due to death or lack of ability to move upwards. After Captain, there seems to be the elusive Commodore rank then onto the Admiralty. Given the size of Starfleet, there is room for more Admirals than the US Navy, but the position is still hard to achieve, and they are fewer slots for Admirals. Once the rank of Admiral has been achieved, there five ranks within the Admiralty. The highest being an Fleet Admiral. There is the issue of NCOs...which are never laid out with any definition as specific as the officer ranks. The idea of NCOs in Starfleet is not often very clear until the Miles O'Brien character, and their ranking system and insignia is half-baked. NCOs enlist into Starfleet and are trained in areas where they are skilled. They start off as crewmen and move all the way up to Master Chief Petty Officer or Chief of Operations.

STARFLEET of the 2150's-2160's
One hundred years prior to the launching of the Warp-5 NX-01 Enterprise, Earth was devastated by an nuclear war that ended civilization as we knew it. In 2063, Zefram Cochrane launches Terra's first warp-capable ship, the Phoenix, and this catches the attention of the Vulcans. It was only a few years later, when the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA) was founded and was involved in launching deep space warp probes. As Earth rebuilt, they were under the protection of the Vulcans, who prevented the construction of a full-on offensive space navy. For years, UESPA operated the UE's "space coast guard" ships, who were not capable of more than warp 2. At some point in the 2130's, the UE founded Starfleet has the manned space program that worked in conjunction with UESPA. In the background of these events, Cochrane had founded the Warp Five project that would allow humanity to go deeper into space.
When the Warp Five project was near completion, Starfleet was already busy on the ship that would be mated to the engines: the NX class starship. When the NX-01 Enterprise was launched in 2151 in marked an important day in Starfleet history. From 2151-2153, the NX-01 was mainly engaged in exploration and scientific missions, until the Xindi Probe attack on Terra in 2153. With seven million dead, and a scar left on the planet surface going from Florida to Venezuela, The whole of Earth was united in finding the Xindi and stopping their planet-killer. The NX-01 was outfitted with new weapons, enhanced hull plating, and a detachment of MACOs from the UEG.
During this, Starfleet attempted to put the second NX class vessel, the Columba, into service, but delays forced the Columbia to launch in 2154. After the destruction of the Xindi weapon, Starfleet began laying down the hulls for several more NX class vessels. As the NX-01 and NX-02 explored and established diplomatic relations with other races, the Romulans were making their move. By 2154, Captain Archer managed to get an coalition together to hunt down the drone ships, and this coalition would be called into action again when the Romulans began to make further aggressive moves on distributing the good-will between the major races.
In 2156, after several Earth cargo vessels disappeared, the Romulans were found to be responsible, and the first major war for Starfleet began. From 2156-2160, the Romulan War was waged with Starfleet being a member of an armed coalition that included the Vulcans, Andorians, and the Tellarites. While Starfleet was more technologically limited than the other members of the alliance, it made up for it with bravery and cunning. The NX class and the improved Intrepid class were the frontline starships, and by the end of the war, nearly ten NX class ships had been constructed...sadly, over half were lost in the war. In 2160, the war ended at the battle of Cheron, and the next year, the UFP was founded. Within those first few years of the Federation, all members committed forces to the common defense/patrol effort with crew exchange programs.  

STARFLEET of the 2260's
By the time of the mid 23rd century, Starfleet had entered its "Golden Age" and certain elements of style, design, and iconography were established. This was also around the time that Starfleet itself had become the established defensive/exploration arm of the Federation, and with the iconic Constitution class starship, Starfleet had also established its signature style to starship design. During this time period, Starfleet was establishing new starbases, launching deep space exploration missions, and fielding the new Heavy Cruiser Constitution class.
When it comes to make conflicts, Starfleet and the Federation were coming off from the Four Years War with the Klingons (2252-2256) and the brief Federation-Sheliak Conflict of 2255, but there was no major conflict or war during the 2260's, save for the very brief Federation-Klingon War of 2267, which halted by the Organians. This allowed, in conjunction with the Organians, for Starfleet to field more scientific and exploration missions, with only one class combat starship being fielded: the Federation class Dreadnought. The primary vessel of the Starfleet at this time was the Constitution class, but only a dozen were in service. This trend of peace and exploration would continue, leading to a drop in Federation preparedness for a major conflict.

STARFLEET of the 2270's-2290's
Time is cyclic, and while the 2260's were mostly peaceful for the Federation, the 2270's through the 2290's, would see the 2271 V'Ger Incident. rising tension with the Klingons, resulting in skirmishes and raids, along with an nearly all-out war with the Klingon Empire after the explosion of Praxis in 2293. During the 2270's, Starfleet would began overhauling their entire Starfleet, from their ships, Starbases, to their uniforms. The 2270's would the adaption of two completely different uniforms. The latter 2278 uniform became the longest used in Starfleet history.
It was during the 2280's, rising tensions with the Klingons and Romulans over borders and colonies would cause the construction of the Excelsior class battlecruiser. Tension rose even higher part when the existence of the Genesis Device was learned in 2285, resulting in the Genesis Device scandal of 2285. This would mark a low point in the Federation's history. These border raids and skirmishes would be the bulk of combat for much of the latter half of the 23rd century. However, it could have been much worse.
In 2293, the Klingon energy production site on their moon of Praxis exploded, putting an expiration date on the Klingon Homeworld. It was there, that history arrived at a crossroads. Factions within the Klingon and the Federation governments plotted to keep things the way they were. Events arrived at a head when Chancellor Gorkon is killed by Starfleet personnel. As a result, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy are arrested, trialed, and sentenced to the penal asteroid. This was nearly resulted in a full-scale war between the two power. By the time of Khitomer Conference, it was discovered that certain fractions within the key governments of the Alpha Quadrant had conspired to keep the peace talks from being successful. The Khitomer Conference would lead to the historic Khitomer Accords that lead to the grand alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. This peace altered Starfleet.

STARFLEET of the 2340's-2267
The Starfleet that begun the 24th century was not the same Starfleet that ended the century. While hopes were high at the beginning of the 24th century from an era of peace and exploration, by the 2370's, the entire quadrant was ripped apart by the bloodiest war the Federation had ever seen. With the alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, Starfleet believed that they could devote new resources to exploration. In 2311, the Romulans and the Federation had a conflict that would result in thousands of lost lives and the Treaty of Algeron. This conflict, the Tomed Incident would cause the disappearance of the Romulans from the interstellar stage for fifty years. The only contact that Stafleet had with the Romulans after the Tomed Incident was the Battle of Narendra III, where the Ambassador class Enterprise-C would defeat the Klingon outpost from four Warbirds. The Enterprise-C would be lost with all hands in attempting to save the outpost. This heroic action of the Enterprise-C would forge an even closer relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
During that time, Starfleet would engage in t wars, one with the Cardassian Union that lasted from the 2350's through the 2360's, resulting in millions of causalities, and the infamous Setilk III Massacre. The others were the Galen border conflicts of the 2350's and the Federation-Tzenkethi War of the 2360's. During this time period, Starfleet has began to adapt new uniforms that harkened back to the "Golden Age" and the largest starship class was created: The Galaxy class long-range explorer. This new class would govern over the "style" of the fleet for much of the rest of century. This new class became a symbol of what Starfleet and the Federation wanted for the 24th century, a return to peaceful exploration. However, in the 2350's, the Borg were beginning scouting expeditions in the Alpha Quadrant, and the formal introduction for the Borg Collective to the Federation was made by Q when he pushed the Enterprise-D into the star system J-25, some 7,000 LYs aways from Federation space in 2365.
It was there, that the Enterprise-D crew met and engaged the Borg. This meeting would alter Federation history and cause Starfleet to began several major research projects on the Borg. However, the Collective would mount an invasion of Federation space in 2367 with a single cube, and the resulting events would again alter the Quadrant. Admiral Hanson would amass 40 starships of various classes at Wolf 359 to haul the Borg Cube's path to Terra. That single battle was the biggest in Starfleet history (at that time), and the greatest loss as well. 39 of the 40 starships were destroyed with 11,000 killed or assimilated. The Cube was destroyed by the heroic actions of the Enterprise-D, saving Earth and the whole of the Federation. But, everyone knew that was not the last they would see of the Borg.

STARFLEET After the Battle of Wolf 359 and the Dominion War
Prior to the battle, Starfleet had been working on more offensive solutions to the Borg threat, and new starships were being planned that were more combat minded than previous along when new weapon systems, like Quantum torpedoes and pulse phasers. The Akira and Defiant class were planned out to be ships that could counter the Borg. Only the Akira class would see service into the fleet prior to the Dominion War. This threat altered thinking of starship design as well, as seen in the Steamrunner class.
With such a loss of manpower and ships, it was estimated that it would take years for those assets to be replaced. This would cause a building boom for starships and increased recruitment. All of the planning came together when the Borg tried again in 2373 with a direct assault on Sector 001. The new ships, new technology, and new training paid off when the Cube was destroyed with tactical knowledge from Captain Picard and some well placed Quantum torpedoes from the new Enterprise-E. Still, about 20 starships were lost, and this was just one of the major events in the Alpha Quadrant during the Dominion threat and the Klingons.
From 2372-2373, the Klingon and Federation tensions exploded into all out war. This was on the heels of the Klingons invading Cardassian space after a coup in the Cardassian central government. The Klingons believed that the Cardassian government had been taken over by the Dominion. However, all of this was a plot by the Dominion to destabilize the whole of the Alpha Quadrant. It very nearly worked. In 2373 through 2375, Starfleet, weakened by the Klingon War, engaged in the largest war in its existence. This was a war for the very survival of the Quadrant, and all of the Federation rose up. In order to counter the 30,000 ships of the Dominion and their Cardassian and Breen allies, Starfleet broke out the mothball fleet and pushed ship construction to the minimum, in order to put starships on the line.
For two years, the Federation and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant was torn apart, with even Terra suffering attacks. One of the most major engagements was Operation: Return, were Starfleet attempted to take control of DS9 with a task force of 600 ships to counter a force of 1200. While DS9 was returned to Federation control, the results were bloody. The Federation formed an military alliance with many other Alpha Quadrant powers, including the Romulans to help push back the Dominion from invading the founding worlds of the Federation. By 2375, the Dominion was being countered, and when the Dominion pulled back to Cardassian space, the Federation Alliance invaded to end the war with an all out assault on Cardassia Prime.
While another costly victory, the Battle of Cardassia Prime was the end of the war. The planet itself was nearly completely destroy and millions were dead. Cardassia, one of the great powers in the Quadrant was gone. The end of the two year war was formalized by the Bajorian Peace Treaty of 2375. What reminded of the Dominion and the Founders withdrew to the Gamma Quadrant, and the task of rebuilding was undertaken. Many estimated it would take more than a decade to rebuild the Quadrant, and even longer to rebuild Starfleet's ships and personnel.  Whole classes of Starfleet Academy were wiped out, and nearly every Federation member was effected by the war, including invasion and occupation. With this power vacuum, there was an revolt on Romulus in 2379  by Remus, which resulted in the Battle in the Bassen Rift with the Enterprise-E preventing the warlord Shinzon from taking control. As the 24th century drew to close, Starfleet had suffered through its darkest years, and reminded standing.

The Future of STARFLEET: 24th Century and Beyond
After the end of the TNG films and Deep Space 9, there has been no canonized information on the activities of Starfleet and since the ST franchise is now existing in the J.J. Abrams alternate timeline, we may never know. However, there some hints of the future of Starfleet. It is believed that with the destabilization of the Gamma and Alpha Quadrant and the near destruction of the bulk of Starfleet's fleet caused Starfleet to alter its core mission of defense and exploration to maintain peace, security, and rebuilding it ships, bases, planets, and personnel. After all, Starfleet suffered the worst casualties of its existence with the the back-to-back wars. It is also believed that Starfleet designed more offensive/defensive starships due to their experiences in the wars.
We know that in the 26th century, Starfleet had the Enterprise J in service, and it was on the frontline of the war against the Sphere builders at the Battle of Procyon V. At this time, the Federation is the primary power in the galaxy, with the Klingons, Xindi as actually members of the UFP, and not just allies. (Does this mean Klingon warships look like Federation starships?). By the time of the 26th century, the Federation and Starfleet are involved in time travel. By the 29th century, Starfleet has timeships, like the USS Relativity. Time, as much as space, becomes a battleground. After the 31st century, there are no more information on the status of Starfleet. Some believe due to the Temporal Cold War, that the Starfleet we knew is no longer the defensive organization of the UFP.

The Enemies of STARFLEET

For much of Starfleet's history, their primary enemies have been the Romulans, the Klingons, and Cardassians. These are rivals that mirror in the Federation in technology and military philosophy. The balance of the Alpha Quadrant is not in favor of one or the other...until the emerge of the Borg and the Dominion. It was under these trials of fire that the true strengths and weaknesses of the Starfleet were exposed. Both of these mortal enemies forced Starfleet to reevaluate their military policies and training. Both enemies caused considerable death and destruction to Starfleet and the Federation, however, they pushed the Federation to grow and Starfleet as well.

The Final Assessment on STARFLEET
Often military organization are ranked, and I've often wondered what kind of grade Starfleet would get if ranked. So, here it is, the final assessment of Starfleet. Credit has to be given for the amount of time that Starfleet has been in existence and amazing low number of major conflicts that the Federation has endured. However that peace has come at a price, along with the multiple missions of Stafleet. When confronted with a hostile situation, Starfleet attempts diplomacy, and this has cost starships and lives.
Due to the mission of Starfleet being primarily peacekeeping and exploration, their bulk of their fleet was not designed for combat, and this also reflected in their approach at the Academy and lack of ground forces. However, the strongest military does not always win. The true strength of Starfleet is not in its starships or phaser banks but its ability to form alliances and its people. Starfleet personnel are the best trained and most flexible in the Quadrant, allowing for Starfleet to rise to new challenges, even if the hardware is weak. In the final judgement of Starfleet I would grade the organization an "C". While their personnel are the core strength of the organization, it is the bipolar nature of their organization and the multi-mission starships that open Starfleet to weakness against more aggressive species.

The Impact of STARFLEET and Its Importance
There is nothing like Starfleet in the whole of science fiction, before or since. Since the 1960's, we have seen the evolution of Starfleet in both real-world time and the fictional timeline. We have Starfleet evolve from its beginnings in the 22nd century through the 24th. This has never been done before in an fictional military organization, especially one featured across most media platforms. Along the way, we have seen the continued development of their uniforms, their technology, and their ships. This also applies to new aliens being added to their ranks and even the evolution of the government that Starfleet serves. What also makes Starfleet unique to science fiction is its mission and the fandom. Unlike the vast majority of fictional military organizations, Starfleet is not whole devoted to defense or militarism. Instead, Starfleet embraces several core missions: defense, exploration, diplomacy, and peacekeeping. This construction of Starfleet has made other creators take note of how an space navy can be much more than just an navy.
What about its impact? That can be best seen in its fandom. Starfleet uniforms have been worn to weddings, parties, courtrooms, in space, and even in senior pictures; as we have seen "hot nerd girl" Tracy's 1990's senior pictures (my gods, that woman is perfect!). Most fans would gladly enlist and serve in Starfleet with recruitment rates that would make the US Navy extremely happy. That really says something about the impact of Starfleet, when something like 80% of ST fans would gladly serve in Starfleet...hell, even I would serve in Starfleet! In fact, "Hot Nerd Girl" Tracy attended San Francisco State University based on it being the closest to Starfleet Academy in terms of location and style. That speaks volumes about the impact and importance of Starfleet on the sci-fi community and fandom.

The Confusion over Starfleet's Purpose and Mission
The concept of Starfleet was not established until the episode "Court Martial" of the TOS, and prior to it, the term "UESPA" had been used as well. For many years, Trek creator Gene Roddenberry stated over and over again, that Starfleet was not an military organization, and it was more akin to the US Coast Guard than the US Navy. The militarism of Starfleet has been down played many, many times by dialog in the shows and film. This leads to much confusion among fans and even the production staff. While Roddenberry was alive, he prevented anything that might reflect Starfleet being an space navy, and played up the exploration missions rather than the combat.
However, over time, this has been eroded, and rightly so. At one time, I think Roddenberry wanted the USS Enterprise to be explorer vessel that was under the command of an space agency like NASA, and that is why UESPA was born, but it just does not work in the complex galaxy that Trek is set in. Again, this only adds confusion. For those of us that grew up under the movies and TNG, Starfleet became a hybrid of peacetime and wartime missions. However, some were not happy, including Nichelle Nichols, and she reminded ST II:TWOK producers that Starfleet was more NASA than the USAF. To me, I think what Ron D. Moore said in 1997 is true, that Starfleet is the defensive and exploration arm of the Federation, and this organization which is so unique to the world of science fiction should be celebrated for being both: the Yin and the Yang of an in-space force. After all, the US Navy renders aid during international crisis as much as it launches bombing missions. It is possible to do both.

Next Time on FWS...
Some wars are more intriguing than others, and at times, those wars are not the ones explored by the creator. It is sometimes those background conflicts that trigger an urge to research than the bigger, more well-known conflicts. In the next blogpost, FWS will be exploring the most interesting (to me) conflicts of science fiction.