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
What is 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, 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
STARFLEET Rank System
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
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
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
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
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.
One thing that needs to be address is the issue of numbers.ReplyDelete
I don't know where the number of 8000 cubic light-years come from, is it a canon or not, but it completely way small to be the great United Federation of Planets.
An 8K cubic LY sphere was a 12.4 LY radios, placing this sphere with Sol system at its center and according to
Our mighty Federation contains less than 10 star systems…
Even if the number will be 8 Million cubic LY that still small sphere of influence compare to the size of Alfa quadrant. According to Wiki the Milky Way Galaxy is 100K LY in diameter & 1K LY thick giving the quadrant volume of 2 Trillion cubic LY!
The size of the Federation has been debated for years, and even the more or less canonized information is not universal. At best, the size of the Federation is about 8,000 to 10,000 lightyears. That figure of 8,000 to 10,000 comes from the ST: Encyclopedia. In ST: First Contact, Pichard says that "The Federation consists of 150 planets and spread over 8,000 lightyears." One site concludes that the travel time across an 8,000 LYs Federation would take 4 years at Warp 9. I agree with you that when compare to the actual size of the Milky Way, the Federation is too small.ReplyDelete
And yet it would take voyager seventy plus years to get home. I do remember a kirk era map however that showed 'federation space' as a circle from the galactic edge to 1/3 galactic diameter reaching toward the galactic centre though that boundary may have encompassed the 'exploration zone' of the various series. Federation space may infact be smaller. Deep space 9 would be one of those forward operations footholds way out past the edge of the federation's slowly expanding border.Delete
Another popular Trek fan non-canon reasoning for the apparent lack of ground forces within Starfleet is that when you have starships, you don't need many ground troops, or tanks and artillery. As you said, if the Federation needed classic ground armies it would borrow them from member worlds. Besides, traditional armies aren't really effective when dealing with temporal anomalies, Q and other 'omnipotent' alien beings who can vanquish entire worlds with the snap of a finger.ReplyDelete
Besides with the ability to conduct an orbital bombardment *and* insert small (raid) teams via the magical transporter you don't need to fight for control of land (to occupy, secure or travel) since you can get there instantly, bypass it, or blow it up equally instantly.
Intentional or not, this is a totally different approach to Star Wars.
(Btw there was a total crap Star Trek ground tank game "New Worlds" released a while ago about which the less said the better).
The popular free2play Star Trek Online MMORPG handles combat in true Trek-style; beaming down small teams for 'surgical' strikes (read: hectic gun fights) combined with massive space battles. And some diplo-dialogue thrown in for good measure as well.
My thoughts exactly. The Enterprise-D can scan entire planets for specific life signs and in one episode it even blasts through the crust of a planet at a particular point, so I can only imagine how well an infantry platoon would fare against an orbiting Federation starship!Delete
I always assumed the marines/combat forces seen in Star Trek V were more akin to Royal Navy Marine Commandos who were deployed for small scale infiltration and rescue missions where simply blasting or beaming aren't an option.
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The subject of “Ground Forces” in Star Trek has always been a sticking point for me. Here star fleet has some of the most advanced starships in the galaxy, but when it comes to planet side forces, they are slightly less capable that you average police department. The kicker are those brightly colored uniforms.Delete
Even though the major battles would take place in space, the major sticking points of any peace treaty would be the removal of enemy forces from Federation planets. These units would not even need to be belligerent toward the planet’s population, just control the access to the surface. The worst case scenario would be that the population comes to see the occupiers as beneficial. Also, forget trying to lay siege to the planet, because it’s a (deleted expletive) planet! It will take Decades, (if you’re lucky,) to starve out the occupiers, because the planet is its own food source.
This might lead many planets to have their own standing armies. Using Earth as an example; there might be legacy units such as the American 3rd Infantry Regiment, or the French Foreign Legion. Such units could be justified as having “Utilitarian” roles, but most planetary governments would have a more pragmatic excuse.
“The landing ships will always get through,” to paraphrase an ancient lament, and then the most they could count on from Star Fleet is that their ships, (or more likely, “Ship,”) will play “Whac-A-Mole” with the enemy ground forces from orbit.
If Star Fleet had a permanent ground force, it would probably depend heavily on grava-tanks. I got this idea from the game “Battletech.” It is easier to transport a war machine over interstellar distances, than it is to transport the equivalent amount of infantry, and still have the unit ready for combat.
I can understand the issues of a Federation infantry force. I mean sure you can justify that with starships Infantry seems obsolete. But Planets and populations can be quite destructive to ships.ReplyDelete
In the Dominion war episodes planets and highly important facilities could orbit planetary defences and remote weapons turrets. a Planet can also assemble small ships and larger weapons on it's surface that could do damage to enemy shipping. now The recourse could be to orbitally bombard the planet, but A smart population can burrow down and if your laying waist to the plant that means you loose access to the advantages of having that planet.
In DS9 you had the Dominion's hidden Coms system. but think of the resources of a planet the Raw materials the facilities, The population that's potentially fleets of Starships and Economics. And on that I think is the growth for the argument
We Know That Starfleet has some degree of Ground forces, and Being the Federation with it's "Schizophrenic" nature, I assume that the Federation Ground forces also serve a secondary role. Just like how today's Militaries occasionally fight forest fires.
In this perhaps the Federation Marines are specialist in building Planetary colonies
Now lots of people of course who would want to involve a Federation Marine corps start off with a Halo style structure. Tanks, APC's and the like but Armored assault is not the only form of Operations. Remember your standard DEW of the 24th century is packing enough power to destroy a conventional tank in one shot.
So the use of a Tank could be in doubt.
The British Royal Marine Commando and Airborne often lack tanks and heavy armor preferring fast light actions.
It is true that infantry is the queen of battle; you can’t win a war without them. It is also true that a small team of trained combat troops can succeed where an army would fail. On the other hand, a force of almost pure infantry would suffer horrifically heavy casualties.Delete
On the subject of starship infantry, most people think that “infantry” are easier than other equipment to transport. This is erroneous. Beyond the weight of the soldier and his kit, one most also include the weight of the food and water, the lift support, the additional personnel to support a large group, and room for them to train. In the case of vehicles, or more appropriately, Star Fleet grava-tanks, there is only the weight of the vehicle, some spare parts, and a small crew. Being that the tank has a reactor, it requires no fuel. On top of that, it can be carried in a powered down state.
I have heard of the tank being declared obsolete more times than I can count. Each time some technological or tactical break through breaths more life into the dinosaurs. Since before the time of the Romans, there have only been three rolls for units on the battlefield. These rolls are infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Any piece of equipment is judged by how well it fits into one of those rolls.
An example of this happened in the Vietnam War. Because of the terrain, airmobile infantry were used as cavalry, and tanks like the M-48 and the M-60 were used as artillery.
On the subject of fortified planets, they are not as dangerous as they seem. They can easily be bypassed. A historical example of this is the Pacific island hoping campaign of the Second World War. As far as landing forces under these conditions, it would be similar to the D-Day invasions. Using the Gava-tanks, which would be small spacecraft in their own right, would come into their own when used under these conditions
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To have ground forces like all military organizations do today, it would make the world of Star Trek too military in the eyes of its creator. That when FASA attempted to bring an Star Trek planetside combat game in the mid-1980's, and that attempt was one of the reasons why Paramount pulled the license from FASA. There are references to Starfleet troops in several episodes and even security personnel with specialized training, but confirmed soldiers are not yet canon, especially the mythical Starfleet Marines.ReplyDelete
I honestly think that Starfleet security forces and non-coms are folded in infantry roles during times of emergency and given special gear and weapons. Or that could be just in the case of the Dominion War and the Federation-Klingon War.
Somehow, ground forces would see odd in Star Trek...I guess we Trekkies have been conditioned not to expect Marines in Starfleet.
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I have trained as a soldier, and I am currently a security guard. The two skill sets are only peripherally related. If I were to take my security team up against an equally skilled unit of infantry soldiers, my team would get butchered. Learning infantry skills takes more than a couple of classes.ReplyDelete
I completely agree with you. Working security or law enforcement has some cross-over skill-sets, but not to the degree that you take those officers and put them into the field. That would be like me taking my old paintball team onto an speedball course with experienced CQB soldiers. Slaughter would be the result.ReplyDelete
That explanation of cross-trained security and infantry forces in Starfleet is my only guess. Maybe that is why the Dominion and the Klingons crushed the Federation?
How do you know that the United Earth Starfleet is the same organization as the Federation Starfleet? They could be two separate organizations that have the same name.ReplyDelete
We really do not. It could be that when the Federation was founded in 2161 that they just took the same name of the UE organization...however, it seems unlikely that writers of ST:ENT would just name the UE space exploration branch ""Starfleet" if the two were intended to be separate. After all, they could have used UESPA instead, and created Starfleet after the Romulan War. We do see UESPA in the 4th season of ST:ENT, but Starfleet and UESPA work together on the NX project.ReplyDelete
One possibility as to why Starfleet became the humans "do everything from exploration to military ops" is it was founded to be like England's East India Company. A separate organization contracted to do all the work while remaining semi/autonomous.ReplyDelete
The key point that everyone is missing:ReplyDelete
Clausewitz's formulation: "War is politics by other means."
Wars are fought to achieve political goals. That implies that the means of fighting wars are determined by political factors. Weapons will have to be constrained below theoretical maxima of lethality if military force is expected to be a usable element of political affairs.
So, ground forces become necessary to take and hold worlds, if that is a goal. Before the troops can land, the enemy fleet and planetary defenses will need to be neutralized so that assault craft and/or transporters can be used. (Assault craft are more likely because transporters require lowering shields, and critical nodes on the planetary surface are likely to have local deflector shields to prevent a coup d'main.
The question is whether taking and holding worlds is necessary. Apparently, the Federation does not view this as a critical capability. Which, in conjunction with such things as General Order 24, gives a thoroughly terrifying cast to Starfleet and Federation strategic policy. Quite simply, the Federation, for all of its goody-two-shoes posturing and smarmy self-righteousness, is perfectly willing to countenance genocide as a matter of routine statecraft.