Trekkie combat, Star Trek combat, and Real combat

Scenario 3: Recapture Colony

Mission requirements: The remote colony on Triax 5 has been captured by Imperial forces. Starfleet Command wants the colony back before the Empire has time to construct their usual planetary shields and defensive weapons. Unfortunately, the colony's remote location and limited strategic value mean that they cannot allocate a large strike force. Worse yet, detailed scans of the colony are unavailable due to sensor jamming. It is also surmised that the Imperials have most likely deployed the colony's transport interdictors.

Intel report: Enemy numbers are unknown, but long-range probes monitored only one Imperial Star Destroyer during the Empire's attack on the colony, and since its departure, no other ships have been sighted. It is therefore surmised that all of the enemy troops must have debarked from this lone vessel. Our operatives inform us that the standard Imperial garrison deployed from an ISD consists of a prefabricated base with 800 men, along with 10 transport walkers, 10 scout walkers, and 40 one-man spacecraft. The colony population was roughly 35,000 civilians, and about 250 Starfleet personnel. We should assume that all Starfleet personnel have been killed or captured, and that most or all of the civilians are still alive. Note that the colony is on a forested planet, but the jungle has been cleared away for roughly 500 metres around the perimeter of the colony.

Equipment and Manpower: Starfleet's resources are spread very thin in this sector, and there are no full capital warships available (luckily, there is no Imperial capship either). However, the transport vessel USS Mantred has been loaded with 2000 men, as well as 10 runabouts for defense and to support the ground troops.

Precedents: The use of lightly armed troops for a mission in which armour and artillery are required is quite typical of Star Trek. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that Federation ground forces have any serious combined-arms capabilities at all (see the Ground warfare pages). This limitation was seen most glaringly in "Siege of AR-588" (where they had just been resupplied, yet they still had nothing but small-arms for defense) and "Nor the Battle to the Strong" (where the Klingons used mortars so feeble that Bashir survived a hit less than three feet away without injury, and the Federation couldn't even respond to that). Even more amusingly, Admiral Leyton's idea of a full military mobilization in "Paradise Lost" was to deploy a foot soldier on every street corner (where were the armoured fighting vehicles rolling down the streets?). And the low numbers (a mere 2000 foot soldiers against a group of entrenched, heavily armed defenders) might seem outlandish if not for "Reunification", in which the Romulans attempted to capture an entire planet with just 2000 foot soldiers.

Trekkie fantasy #1

The USS Mantred arrives in orbit. Its sensors and transporters are unaffected by "inferior" Imperial jamming technology because the Empire doesn't have transporters. This equation (no transporters = no ability to affect transporters or sensors) holds true even though the Mordanites (a relatively primitive society with no transporters) blocked sensor scans in "Too Short A Season", Armus (a technologically ignorant entity with no capability of space travel, teleportation or even air flight) blocked sensor scans and transporters in "Skin of Evil", mundane electromagnetic radiation interfered with or completely blocked sensors and/or transporters in episodes such as "Symbiosis", "Ensigns of Command", "Booby Trap", "The Enemy", "The Hunted", and "Pegasus" (among others), and even natural minerals blocked sensors and/or transporters in episodes such as "Who Watches the Watchers", not to mention the film "Star Trek: Insurrection".

In any case, since all of this is routinely ignored by the Trekkie fanatic, the USS Mantred's sensors and transporters are omniscient and unstoppable by any entity that does not possess transporters itself, so it swiftly locates all of the Imperial troops and transports them into outer space, where they all die. Mission accomplished in 10 seconds, zero Starfleet casualties.

Trekkie fantasy #2

The USS Mantred arrives in orbit. It launches all of its shuttles, which perform aerial reconaissance. They destroy all of the TIE fighters in aerial combat, and then they destroy all of the walkers. It also beams down all 2000 men, armed with phaser rifles. These men approach the colony on foot. The entire Imperial contingent forms up and waits outside the colony for them, in a large clearing. They engage in a battle royale, during which the shuttles blast the stormtroopers from the air and the ground troops blast them on the ground (from very long range of course, despite the jungle). Mission accomplished in about 1 hour, zero Starfleet casualties.

Likely DS9 writers' solution

The battle simply doesn't happen at all. Large-scale ground battles, with armoured vehicles and aerial combat between starfighters and shuttlecraft would blow the budget so badly that the producers would scrap the idea before it ever left the drawing board. The story would be rewritten so that the true battle happens in orbit, between the USS Defiant and an orbital weapons platform. The Defiant would destroy it through the power of technobabble. The bridge crew would then mumble something about Klingon transports, and it would be assumed that the colony is taken easily because no army in the universe can withstand a bunch of moronic thugs running around screaming and waving bat'leths around in the air.

Realistic mission

The USS Mantred arrives in orbit. It cannot penetrate the sensor jamming or transport its men into the colony, but ordinary optical scans reveal the TIE fighters and walkers parked in a large clearing outside the colony. It launches its shuttles, which enter the atmosphere at maximum speed, swooping down to destroy all of the parked fighters and walkers. Now that Imperial armour and air support is gone, the USS Mantred beams down all 2000 men to the surface, outside the region affected by the transport interdictors.

As the Federation shuttles fly toward the colony, a barrage of shoulder-launched surface to air missiles and high-powered blaster bolts rises up out of the jungle to meet them. Five of the shuttles are downed immediately, and the rest try to gain altitude. At that moment, all 40 TIE fighters rise up out of the jungle on their repulsorlifts. It seems that the walkers and TIE fighters sitting nicely in the clearing were nothing more than painted wooden decoys! In the confusion, the pilots respond poorly to the sudden appearance of the TIE fighters, and due to the heavy jamming, it isn't until the enemy fighters are well within visual range that they can finally pick them up clearly on their sensors.

The TIE pilots, on the other hand, have training and experience in techniques for fighting in high-ECM conditions, and with an 8 to 1 numerical advantage, they quickly destroy the Starfleet shuttles. The TIE fighters climb rapidly, heading straight toward the now-defenseless transport vessel. It leaves orbit and escapes.

With their air support gone, Federation ground troops move slowly on foot through the jungle. The Imperial garrison commander considers sending troops out into the jungle to hunt them, but his experience with jungle warfare against lightly armed guerilla forces has led him to believe that he would simply lose a lot of men in the effort. He pulls his forces back towards the colony and awaits the attackers, knowing that their numbers are large but they must ultimately come to him. He informs the Admiralty of the attack, and requests reinforcements. He orders the TIE fighters to sweep the jungle, but he knows that aerial reconaissance is difficult at best over forested terrain.

With no air support, no heavy weapons, and the knowledge that the garrison commander has undoubtedly called for reinforcements, the Federation ground troops move quickly toward the colony and attempt to charge it. However, dense minefields have been deployed in order to funnel attackers into preferred avenues of approach, and those avenues are covered by heavy automatic weapons such as E-web repeating blasters and anti-personnel artillery cannons. The attackers take massive casualties, and while they are regrouping in the jungle for a second attack, the Imperial garrison begins using mortar-launched chemical weapons on them. Recognizing a hopeless tactical situation, the Federation commander surrenders to Imperial forces.