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Star Trek Ground Combat

Anderson uses a unique technique to begin this page. He simultaneously downplays the importance of ground forces while attempting to point out the power of UFP ground forces:

"While it is true that we have only seen a scant few examples of Federation ground combat techniques, this shouldn't necessarily be a surprise. Even in the modern era, you can do a lot strategically and tactically with precision aerial bombardment. Witness Yugoslavia."

I find this a bizarre assertion, especially given the general consensus that the aerial operations in Yugoslavia by NATO were ineffective in accomplishing their objectives, but also because the mission involved a substantial ground element designated as peacekeepers. In any case, we repeatedly see the UFP and its allies and enemies engaging in ground campaigns. Space superiority did little to assist the Cardassians in their conquest of Bajor, which successfully revolted and forced the Cardassians to withdraw from the planet. Dumar seemed to think ground troops were important when he angrily and repeatedly confronted Weyoun regarding the plight of a Cardassian order, and the Klingons and Federation both carry numerous ground troops around to the front lines, and to fortify Earth.

"[T]he Federation is not in the business of pacifying hostile populations."

This is true, but the Federation does have significant numbers of ground troops, and is involved in numerous wars and battles with groups that are involved in fighting on the ground. Moreover, ground forces were clearly a very important part of the Cardassian-Federation war that took place before TNG and is spoken of several times during that series and DS9. It appears from the formation of the Maquis that the UFP was faring relatively poorly in the war, because they were forced to sign a treaty favorable to Cardassia. Star Fleet's poor showing during the conflict may be due to their lack of ground forces, or to some other factors, but it is clear from "The Wounded" that the problem was not related to a poor unit-for-unit effectiveness against Cardassian warships.

Anderson contends that "The angle at which Kirk planted the grenade launcher, coupled with a look at it's apparent designed angles of fire, would seem to indicate much greater ranges for the photon grenades. Kirk planted it on a 45-degree slope, and it seemed to have only a 45-degree or so possible swivel, around 30 of which he used. In other words, Kirk could have fired a shallow shot using only the natural 45-degree slope, but instead he pointed it high, a good 70 degree angle."

However, we see from his image (shamelessly pilfered from Trek5.com) that there was no slope on which Kirk was positioning the weapon. From Kirk's shadow, it is clear that the slope is actually in front of the mortar, and that Kirk is actually placing the weapon on a level bit of ground. In other words, Kirk is firing the weapon at about 45 degrees (pi/4 radians) from the ground, instead of the 70 degrees that Anderson estimated. Anderson's contention that the Gorn must have been frightened off by the blast (or killed) is unjustified. If he saw the last two minutes of "Marauders" [ENT], he would be forced to similarly conclude that the Klingons may have taken serious casualties during the raid, however he is correct in stating that it is unclear how much damage the photon grenade did. Also note that Anderson's classification of a weapon described as a "grenade" and used as a mortar is incorrect. He states that it is a piece of UPF "artillery."

The power pack of a phaser pistol is more or less unimportant for the debate, though it is an interestingly large number of shots that Anderson presents. The part about the phaser pistols shown in "The Omega Glory" [TOS] that betrays Anderson's deceitful ways is his rebuttal to Mike Wong's "counterclaims." Wong states in his rebuttal of some people's "The Omega Glory" [TOS] claims that:

"Human ergonomics: Handguns have an extremely limited effective range because of the limitations of a human being trying to aim a one-handed weapon. These limitations will be just as important in the 23rd century as they are today; as Khan Noonian Singh pointed out in "Space Seed", there may have been technical advancement in the 23rd century, but man himself has not changed at all. If thousands of primitives charged at men armed only with handguns, they would overrun the defenders in short order because the defenders' weaponry would be ineffective until the attackers are already within range for primitive weapons like spears and arrows."

Incredibly, instead of attacking Mr. Wong's conclusion that the defenders would be overrun in short order, Anderson retorts with a red herring regarding other factors that affect the accuracy of pistols!

"Having fired a small variety of pistols in my day, I can vouch for the fact that the primary problem limiting the effective range of a handgun isn't so much human error as short barrels. [Editor's note: and it doesn't occur to him that a longer barrel would be pointless in a single-grip gun because there are limits to how accurately you can aim it?] Bullets from a 9mm Beretta handgun will almost never travel the same exact direction twice, even if you hold the thing with two hands and have it seated on a surface. Gravity must also be taken into account, since gravity plus air resistance cause the bullet to drop as it flies.

Another issue to consider is feedback. When you fire a gun, the bullet exits the barrel, and recoil (plus the action of the gun, if semi-automatic) throw off your aim. To fire again at the same target, you must aim anew, trying to adjust not only for where the bullet went before, but also adjusting for where you think you were aiming earlier. A phaser would not have such difficulties, since there is no recoil of any sort [Editor's note: perhaps he would like to explain that to O'Brien, who described phaser recoil in DS9], and you get instant feedback due to the visible beam. Just hold down the trigger and, if you're missing, adjust. Or, sweep the horizon with it and watch the fur fly.

And, of course, the one-handed weapon argument is lessened by the fact that most pistol marksmen fire with both hands. A phaser could be held the same way, if needed."

Of course, there are physical restrictions as to how well a human can aim a weapon with one hand. In fact, there are restrictions as to how well a human can aim a gun with two hands. Mr. Wong, in his quote, was essentially saying that regardless of how accurate a phaser's firing mechanism was, and what other factors affected accuracy, there were still limits to how far away a human can reliably hit another man-sized target. People's muscles are not completely stable. This can be proven by trying to line one's hand up with the horizon by holding it out in front of one's face. It is extraordinarily difficult to hold the hand steady for an extended amount of time. Mr. Wong's statement was completely correct in that regardless of how accurate phasers themselves are, the human will be a limit on how accurately the weapon can be fired. In modern hand guns, human factors are usually not the [only] limiting factor to accuracy, which is affected by all of the things that Anderson mentioned (though several of them are constants and therefore would affect each round fired the same way), but there will be a limit to how accurately a human can fire a weapon- any weapon.

"[A]nd, of course, the one-handed weapon argument is lessened by the fact that most pistol marksmen fire with both hands. A phaser could be held the same way, if needed."

Anderson neglects to mention that, aside from the "phaser rifles" that are sometimes issued to UFP personnel, a phaser has never been fired with two hands. Perhaps because of the phaser's poor ergonomic design, UFP personnel exclusively fire them with one hand. This may also be a method of training, but it is difficult to rationalize away, given the stability benefits of firing from a two-handed position, which also helps to alleviate some physiological responses to battle.

"[I]f those little phaser handles were charging something that big, I'd be impressed."

Why would such a feature impress Anderson? Battery technology is improving considerably, but more importantly we do not know how many shots were provided by "those little phaser handles." This is particularly strange due to the fact that Anderson's next sentence involves "little phaser handles" being used to power a shuttle!

"[T]here is no reason to assume that Scotty's phaser discharge move was done because phaser power packs were integral. It could just as easily have been the only way he had handy at the time to discharge them, since I doubt shuttles usually would have a "plug your phaser in here" port."

It is a surprising feature to have, but that is exactly what we see in the episode. Moreover, if a shuttle had the ability to draw energy from a phaser, it would make much more sense for it to do so by drawing energy directly from the pack than from the weapon itself, if the weapon's magazine was not integral.

The final two sections of the article, on Federation ground combat transportation, and the conclusions section, are by far the weakest of the page. Anderson completely and totally ignores Star Wars canon in an effort to make his points:

"The RoTJ novelisation claims speeds of "two hundred miles per hour" (321kph, or 89.4 m/s), though this is not seen in the film."

Anderson, of course, has now taken to disregarding canonical evidence in order to make his points. All of the novelizations of Star Wars films are considered to be canonical, regardless of who is doing the classifying. [Editor's note: indeed, he is quite adamant that the ROTJ novelization is canon when it comes to the "artificial sun" quote and his asinine interpretation thereof (assuming that "sun" means "nuclear fusion" rather than "luminescent celestial body", as it says in the dictionary). This is yet another example of his penchant for changing the rules as it suits him]

"[U]nshielded techno-Huey LAATs the Republic used in Attack of the Clones would be pretty easy to pick off with a phaser, though they could do some damage beforehand. (Strangely, the AoTC novelisation claims that the gunships are shielded . . . however, this is never seen in the movie. Odd.)"

Anderson now sees fit to disregard canon, yet again, in assessing the LAAT's as being unshielded. It is sad how far some Trekkie cultists will go to avoid the facts. In fact, this mistake was pointed out to Anderson some time ago in a bulletin board. He promptly dropped the argument on the subject, but did not acknowledge the error by correcting it on his page.1

[Editor's note: He also disregards movie shots of blaster fire hitting LAAT's without leaving so much as a scorch-mark, until they land and presumably lower part of their shields to let troops get in and out]

"I'd imagine it would take a direct hit by a photon grenade to really take that thing out. However, a near-miss might serve to knock it down, given the blast radius of a photon grenade. This knock-down might occur through concussion, or (more likely) the same sort of systems damage caused by Luke's grenade in TESB."

Anderson here continues his long tradition of using subjective reasoning in the place of objective fact. There is quite obviously a difference between knocking down an AT-AT walker and destroying it internally. Anderson here has a scenario in which a grenade lands some distance away from an AT-AT walker, but is apparently able to knock it down through the same kind of systems failure that Luke had to actually access the walker in order to create? And the walker can be destroyed in this manner despite the fact that all of its critical systems are protected by its armor, and therefore protected from the concussion of the weapon, which even Anderson admits would not penetrate the armor except with a direct hit (based, again, on subjective evidence). All of these are unsubstantiated claims. In fact, Anderson does not even attempt to back them up.

"Using calculations based on the way these weapons damaged tiny trees, some have claimed 2 megajoules for the cannons on these smaller walkers. This is equivalent to under half a kilogram (or .88 pounds) of TNT, or the explosive equivalent of over three grenades."

Note that Anderson does not attempt to name or accredit these "mysterious others." For the sake of argument, it will be assumed that the figures Anderson presents are accurate, despite being unaccredited and hidden to readers of his site.

An analysis of the UFP's dune buggy (the Argo) from Nemesis, when compared with the AT-ST shown in Return of the Jedi, yields some interesting results:

  UFP Dune Buggy Imperial AT-ST

Crew protection

Minimal. The hood of the vehicle appears designed so that weapons fire striking the front of the vehicle will strike the driver or passenger, even if it does not penetrate the hood to damage the engine block. The gunner fires from a very exposed position.

Minimal. Provides relatively complete protection against small arms fire, but its armor proves useless against heavier Star Wars weapons.

Speed

Unknown, but probably faster than an AT-ST.

Unknown through canon. EU reports its speed as 90km/h, over relatively flat terrain.

Stability

Unknown, but the small mass evident in the design indicates a lack of stability. Moreover, the frame that runs along the outside of the vehicle suggests that the model has experienced problems with roll-overs, and is likely a quick-fix solution designed to provide the crew with a modicum of safety. On the plus side, its center of mass is fairly near the ground, but its low mass necessarily lowers its stability.

Relatively good. The AT-ST that eventually was tipped over and destroyed in Return of the Jedi did a surprisingly nimble job of staying upright for a considerable amount of time, though it was incapable of remaining upright, in the end.

Firepower

Difficult to gauge, at least until the DVD comes out for closer inspection. Likely below 15 kg TNT per shot. Appears to provide a reasonable level of anti-vehicle suppression fire. Good rate of fire.

Reasonable for anti-personnel use. Anderson's phantom calculations report a firepower resembling that of a few hand grenades for the main cannons. It is likely that the grenade launcher mounted as a secondary weapon is significantly more powerful, but also more limited tactically.

Weapons Placement

Horrible. The rear-mounted phaser suffers from an extremely restricted firing arc, being incapable of firing forward, or even to the sides, by the frame of the vehicle. The recessed area in which the weapon is placed was no doubt designed to provide minimal protection for the gunner, but also severely restricts his movement. Note that the vehicle is incapable of combating vehicles that are in front of it, and that both the limited armor plating and the weapons placement suggest that the vehicle is only designed to fight enemies while attempting to flee from them. It has very few offensive capabilities.

Also note that the vehicle's poor shock-absorbers make firing from either the passenger seat or the gunner's position very difficult.

Reasonable. The weapons are designed to cover the frontal arc of the turret. The turreted head can swivel to engage targets reasonably effectively and accurately. The grenade launcher is placed in an unorthodox and mildly vulnerable location, as is the sensor pod located on the opposite side of the vehicle, but they are also designed to be used to target vehicles and infantry groups in the frontal firing arc of the vehicle. Perhaps a better design would place the grenade launcher beneath the turret, but it is also possible that such a position was unfeasible for unknown reasons. The feet of the walker can also be used as impromptu weapons, but the crew seems to have considerable difficulty in telling exactly what is going on beneath the crew compartment.


Footnotes

1 StarDestroyer.Net BBS, Ripping apart DarkStar's cowardly attempt to avoid criticism. Online. Internet. 11 July 2002. Available


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