The Battle of Endor
Last revised: 2000.11.11
Objective: Crush the Rebel fleet.
Dozens of large capital warships, ranging in size from less than one mile in length to more than five miles in length.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of fighters (a precise count is impossible).
The native Ewok population of the Endor sanctuary moon.
One Death Star.
One impermeable planetary shield projected from Endor (as opposed to the semi-permeable shield projected by DS1).
One legion of stormtroopers, including AT-ST walkers, speeder bikes, and AT-AT walkers.
Almost two dozen Star Destroyers, including the 11 mile long Executor.
The Emperor and Darth Vader.
If you actually need a summary of this battle, you can't possibly be a Star Wars fan. However, I'll sum it up anyway.
A Rebel ground team attempted to avoid the bulk of the ground forces on the sanctuary moon by entering a "back door" entrance to the shield generator complex. This was a prudent move on their part, especially considering their limited firepower and the lumbering AT-AT walker that was seen guarding the main entrance and landing pad. They entered the bunker but were quickly captured.
The Rebel fleet attempted to attack the Death Star but was stymied by the shield.
The Death Star opened fire, and began picking off Rebel ships one by one.
The Rebels exploited the sanctuary moon's indigenous Ewok population by using them as cannon fodder, creating enough of a distraction to allow one of the rebels to capture an AT-ST walker. That rebel was able to eliminate one of the other AT-ST walkers while two other AT-ST's were neutralized by primitive Ewok traps. It is unknown how much of the Imperial ground force was sent to deal with this attack, although we know for a fact that the AT-AT never showed up.
Vader betrayed the Emperor and killed him.
The Rebels tricked an incompetent officer into opening the bunker doors, whereupon they were able to enter the bunker and destroy the shield generator.
With the shield down, the Rebels were able to enter the open superstructure of the partially completed Death Star, and destroy its main reactor.
The mission was a disaster for the Empire thanks largely to extreme overconfidence.
The Emperor deliberately exposed himself and the Death Star to potential harm simply for the purpose of baiting the Rebels.
He became preoccupied with the Skywalker family drama instead of overseeing the battle.
He dispersed his fleet all over the galaxy instead of bringing more ships to the fray. He ordered Admiral Piett to send his fighters in close without capship support (thus losing most of them), just to add more drama to his Death Star firepower demonstration for Skywalker.
The commander of the stormtrooper legion on the sanctuary moon kept most of his forces (including at least one mammoth AT-AT walker that we saw in the film) at the main entrance to the compound, probably because he thought the attack at the rear entrance was just a diversion. This meant that they fought the battle using less than a hundred stormtroopers and a handful of AT-ST's.
An officer in the bunker foolishly opened the blast doors and sent most of his men out to chase a bunch of primitive animals. This mistake is particularly irksome; after all the missteps in the battle, they could have hung onto victory simply by keeping those blast doors shut, because the Rebels had no weapons capable of blasting their way through.
Darth Vader allowed the stolen shuttle to land even though he knew something was up, because he was preoccupied with his son.
However, as unlikely as the above sequence of events seems, it did happen in the original battle.
Could the Federation have succeeded where the Empire failed?
This is an impossible question to answer since the Federation would have neither a Death Star or a planetary shield generator (with the ability to reach out and completely enclose an orbiting moon, no less!), both of which are crucial to the very definition and purpose of the battle. Nothing remotely resembling the Battle of Endor could possibly be constructed with the Federation in place of the Empire.
Flip side: how would the Federation fare in the Rebellion's place?
This battle must be broken up into two pieces: the ground battle and the space battle.
For the ground battle, we must define their forces: the tiny Rebel squad would be replaced by a tiny Federation squad. Luke Skywalker would be replaced by a Federation commando. If we assume that Vader would have allowed the shuttle to land in spite of his Force-aided intuition (a questionable assumption since the Feds wouldn't have Skywalker), they would have had to take and destroy the compound with hand weapons and demolition charges, just as the Rebels did. Recall that both sides are aware of each others' capabilities, so the Empire would nullify the possibility of cheap wins such as "transport a bomb into the compound" by using transporter scramblers, jammers, etc. This battle would be extremely difficult to call, since the original Imperial defeat was caused by such a combination of Imperial incompetence and Rebel luck that it seems difficult to imagine that it would happen again. Furthermore, the Federation would have some additional handicaps compared to the Rebels:
Recall that Leia and Luke dispatched a group of scout troopers who were attempting to get out of range and alert their base, and that Federation soldiers have neither experience flying manually guided vehicles or Force-aided combat skills. If just one of those scout troopers managed to alert their base, the entire landing team might have been captured or killed before the attack even began.
The Feds would not have an interpreter droid whose language database contains "over six million forms of communication", and whose golden metallic body makes the Ewoks worship him as a god. The Universal Translator only knows "the basic conversational libraries of 253 galactic civilizations", and a learning ability for new languages whose severe limitations were shown in "Darmok" (yes, yes, I know, the language in "Darmok" relied heavily on historical events in their culture, but wake up: that's true of all languages).
Federation troops are trained to rely heavily on tricorders, even though active-sensor devices would merely give away their location. This helps to explain their poor rate of success in covert operations, where they're usually caught thanks to their ineptness without tricorders and orbital support.
In light of these extra handicaps, it is highly probable that they would fail in their mission. They might very well have been caught immediately when the scout troopers spotted them. Moreover, it is doubtful that they would be able to ally themselves with the Ewoks, given their lack of protocol droids (and it is doubtful that they would even try, given their preoccupation with high-tech appearances). In fact, it is doubtful that they would even meet the Ewoks, since the original meeting was caused by Chewbacca's stupidity (if you recall, he grabbed a rigged piece of raw meat and swept them all up into a primitive trap) and Leia's fall from her speeder during the chase. Without that alliance, they wouldn't know about the lightly guarded secondary entrance (unless they were stupid enough to scan the compound with their tricorders, thus giving away their location), and the defending stormtroopers wouldn't have been distracted by huge numbers of Ewoks. As unlikely as the original Rebel victory was, it was a cakewalk compared to what Federation troops would have to accomplish.
It has been suggested that they could have found the rear entrance by sending out a few men on reconaissance duty, but this is highly questionable. The window of opportunity is small because the Emperor's stay on DS2 will be brief. The tiny strike team must search many square kilometres of forest in order to stumble upon the rear entrance, and they have neither the manpower or the time. Worse yet, they must perform this search under strict comm silence without tricorders in order to avoid detection, and Federation soldiers don't perform well without their techno-toys. Each man on recon represents a risk to accidentally tip off the scout troopers who are scattered throughout the forest. And finally, if they have the same intel data as the Rebels did, they wouldn't even know that this rear entrance exists, so why would they be sending their men out into the forest looking for it?
For the space battle, we must define their forces: they would presumably have hundreds of ships (particularly considering the way they count "ships", which is to include fighters). But if the ground team fails to destroy the shield generator, these ships will be caught in DS2's interdiction field with the shield on one side, Piett's fleet on the other, and the superlaser picking them off one by one, without a prayer of victory. Even if the ground team somehow miraculously succeeds, very few of their ships are small enough to fly through the superstructure of DS2. Furthermore, if one of those ships somehow survives the prior dogfight and flies inside, it's a sure bet that it will crash into something, because their control scheme doesn't allow for the kind of quick lightning-reflex juking that was required in there (particularly since their sensors were so badly jammed that the only thing they could lock onto was the enormous energy source inside the reactor core).
Numerous Trekkies have suggested that the Federation could have cloaked the USS Defiant and snuck it in behind the Tydirium at the moment the shield opened, and that this vessel could have quietly crept into the open side of the Death Star's superstructure, dropping off a shuttle once it's safely inside. This is an interesting idea, but it is contingent upon three things:
The opening in the shield must be excessively large and it must last longer than necessary, in order for the Tydirium and the Defiant to both fly through. The Defiant is many times larger than the Tydirium, so if the opening is just big enough for the shuttle to pass through, then the Defiant would be destroyed upon contact with the shield (remember that SW shields vapourize objects upon contact). Even if the opening is big enough to allow the Defiant to slip in behind the shuttle, it must stay open for much too long, or it will clamp down immediately behind the shuttle and the Defiant will be destroyed on impact.
The Empire must not have any special equipment designed to detect cloaked ships, despite the otherwise tight security. They must not even be able to detect objects passing up and down the thin shield "stalk" between the surface shield generator and the orbiting DS2 construction site.
They must still have the first USS Defiant (the one that was destroyed by the Breen in "The Changing Face of Evil"), since that was the only ship in the entire Federation with a borrowed Romulan cloaking device. The second USS Defiant had no such device, and would therefore be useless for this mission. On the SW side, it doesn't matter whether you use the first Death Star, the second Death Star, or any of the other variants such as the prototypes, the Eclipse, the Sovereigns, etc. But in this case, the scenario completely depends upon the presence of one particular example of the Defiant-class ships, and that's a bit too specific in my opinion. Perhaps when I constructed these scenarios around the "no special characters for the visiting team" rule, I should have pointed out that the spirit of that rule was to make the visiting team use standard technologies. I never explicitly stated that my "no special character" rule also extended to unique ships, and no one apparently noticed that I didn't try to use the Suncrusher in these scenarios. I guess I underestimated the Trekkies' ability to find loopholes in the way I worded the rules.
Considering all of the above constraints, I don't see why the scenario should be considered likely. Cloaking devices have existed in the SW galaxy for at least forty years (first referenced in TPM), if not much, much longer. Given that fact, it seems likely that obvious, prudent measures to combat the entry of cloaked ships would be employed at such an important construction site. It's hard to imagine that they would have no specialized cloak-detection equipment such as CGT's. It's also hard to imagine that they would carelessly open the shield wider than necessary, or longer than necessary. And finally, the juxtaposition of all these conditions is doubly inconceivable. If they lack cloak-detection equipment, then they would undoubtedly be paranoid about the possibility of cloaked ships entering the restricted area, so why would they be casual about the size or duration of shield openings, particularly when Vader is stalking about on the command deck? A man who values his life would be wise not to be careless about his job when the Dark Lord is present! The novelization described Vader watching the readout of the shield parting just as the shuttle reached it, and it's noteworthy that they were instructed to remain on their present course, since the shield opening was presumably being located and timed for a precise entry.
Conclusions: It's exceedingly hard to imagine the Federation duplicating the Rebellion's success in this battle, and as previously noted, it's impossible to put them in the Empire's place, so I would give them 0 for 1.
E1701, for his suggestions that the Feds would have found the rear entrance without help from the Ewoks, or that they could have snuck the Defiant behind the Tydirium through the opening in the Endor shield perimeter.