The Siege of AR-558
Last revised: 2000.07.27
Dominion Objective: Retake a communications relay which had been captured by Federation troops. Five months of repeated Jem'Hadar attacks had failed to dislodge them, and one final assault was attempted before Federation reinforcements could arrive.
A Federation ground unit, originally commanded by a full captain and totalling 150 foot soldiers.
Cloaked anti-personnel mines which were apparently laid at the array before it was captured.
A ground base, and many dozens of soldiers (perhaps as many as a hundred).
When Sisko and his shipmates arrived from the Defiant, they met Lieutenant Larkin, who indicated that their unit had been whittled down from 150 to 43 over the past five months.
We also found out about the "Houdinis", their nickname for special cloaked mines. These mines would "hide in subspace" and reappear at random times, so that you could sweep through an area, think it's safe, and then get killed while walking through it. At least one such mine exploded during the episode, killing a soldier with a serious chest wound. We learned that the mines had caused numerous casualties during the siege.
Nog identified a large group of Jem'Hadar soldiers while on a reconnaisance mission. Their numbers may have been as great as a hundred, although it was hard to tell. However, a group very much larger than 100 would be difficult to rationalize with the fact that numerous previous squads had been unable to dislodge the Federation contingent. His unit was identified and attacked, and he barely escaped with his life.
Ezri Dax was able to detect and take control of the cloaked mines, with the aid of the unit's surviving engineer. There was a valley running between the array and the Jem'Hadar base, so they mined the valley in the hopes that the Jem'Hadar would walk through it.
Amazingly, the Jem'Hadar soldiers did exactly what was expected of them, and walked right through the valley. It was difficult to count the number of casualties because we could hear them but not distinctly see them. However, it sounded like dozens of soldiers were being killed. The remainder began screaming some kind of war cry and charging toward the Federation position.
The defenders were arrayed behind barricades, facing an opening in a nearby rock formation through which the Jem'Hadar were expected to arrive. When they did arrive, the opening served as a chokepoint and the defenders attempted to catch the attacking soldiers in a cross-fire. However, they couldn't lay down sufficient volume of fire to keep the Jem'Hadar from moving through the chokepoint (and of course, it didn't occur to them that they could have put some of the mines in the chokepoint).
The attackers were able to breach the defensive barricades, whereupon a close-quarters melee ensued with small-arms fire, knives, and hand to hand combat. The defenders took heavy casualties but eventually prevailed. The Jem'Hadar assault was a total failure.
How could the Empire have succeeded where the Dominion failed? We might imagine the following tactics:
We would have to remove the phase-cloaked mines from the equation, since the Empire doesn't have them. However, this is not as great a loss as one might think, because the minefield was an utter failure, and a conventional minefield would have been more effective This may seem shocking to those who worry about "high tech feel" more than tactical effectiveness, but consider the following:
The federation unit lost a total of 107 soldiers over five months (roughly 150 days) while walking around in the minefield! If you do the math, you'll find that the attrition rate was roughly 0.7 soldiers per day, from both the minefield and repeated Jem'Hadar attacks! If the enemy can hold territory against enemy attacks and suffer less than 1 casualty per day, he should consider himself lucky. This attrition rate does not speak well of either Jem'Hadar soldiers or the minefield.
The purpose of a minefield is to make territory impassable, not mildly inconvenient. The minefield was a failure because it didn't stop or even slow down the Federation in its attempt to capture and hold the array. It only contributed the occasional random casualty.
A conventional minefield would have delayed the seizure of the array, possibly long enough for a Dominion counter-attack before Federation troops could take up defensive positions. They would have had to sweep out the area for mines before moving in, thus using up precious time.
If we disregard the possibility that a conventional minefield might have prevented the entire situation, we can assume that the Federation has control of the array and that they have eliminated any mines in the area.
Since the array lacks blast doors or shields, it can't be bombarded with heavy artillery for fear of destroying it (this may explain why the Jem'Hadar restricted themselves to small-arms fire). Remember that the mission objective is to recapture the array intact.
Therefore, the most straightforward solution is to storm the array with a column of stormtroopers, but not before blanketing the area with chemical weapons. A barrage of C-22 grenades loaded with Fex-M3 nerve agent can potentially eliminate all defenders within 10 seconds of detonation, and the stormtroopers will be immune thanks to their sealed armour. They would have little difficulty retaking the facility and liquidating any defenders who miraculously survive the gas attack.
Flip side: how would an Imperial ground unit have fared in place of the Federation troops?
They have a few options which are unavailable to Fed troops, such as chemical weapons and armoured vehicles for surviving small-arms fire. Both would have severely blunted Jem'Hadar attacks (nothing like a cloud of nerve gas to slow down a rush, eh?).
Since the Jem'Hadar apparently had to enter the compound through a chokepoint, a set of E-Webs could have been set up to lay down a withering cross-fire. The Federation's lack of specialized weapons for high volumes of fire meant that they had to defend the chokepoint by squeezing off individual shots at Jem'Hadar soldiers, and we saw how that didn't work.
Conclusion: The Empire's use of combined arms and their cavalier attitude toward chemical weapons would give them the edge on either side of this battle, and the Federation's moral objections to chemical warfare would prove to be their undoing in ground combat. As for the Jem'Hadar, their failure underscores serious weaknesses and suggests that their reputation may be somewhat exaggerated. I would give the Empire 2 for 2 in this battle.