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Imagine a large chunk of land about half the size of the size of the United States cracked away from the main landmass and floated up into the sky for as high as a mountain (say, 2,800 meters, not as high as mount Everest or some of the highest ones so the condition would still be inhabitable). The continent left a massive crater in the ground, meaning massive cliff sides face in all directions. The landmass is about a thousand metres thick.

This continent has been around forever, has its own ecosystem and resources, and humans have been born and built civilizations both on it and throughout the rest of the world.

I'll try to keep the pretext simple: let’s say that one day the people of the floating continent decided to unite themselves into one single country, and started to act all xenophobic, and eventually a war break out between them and one of the world superpowers below but nearby. The protagonist is a high ranking officer of this superpower’s military force who will have to figure out the logistics and plan of attack. Technology is equivalent to today's NATO countries/forces here on Earth, but nukes are not in play from either side.

The “Ascended” people

  • Since the country is landlocked, and seafaring vessels cannot reach them, the people of the floating continent are renowned for building some of the largest cargo planes and even helicopters with powerful engines, that can easily transport large amounts of supplies along with some of the most advanced airports in strategic locations all over the continent. This acts as their lifeline. They are still trading with the other countries. So, they don’t have a two front war to contend with and can't be starved into submission.

  • They can’t overpower the superpower economically or militarily, but they sure can put up a fight and can easily wage a protracted war with their control of the skies. Their soldiers are fanatical due to a belief in racial and geographical superiority. They are not afraid to enact scorched earth policies on some of their own infrastructures.

  • They have fortified the cliffside facing the superpower's border with a wall of guns in an extended cave system (think of the Maginot line, but they have both dimensions to work with).

  • They do depend on trade to remain viable economically and with resources.

The superpower

  • For simplicity, imagine a clone of America's army today with all of its equipment and ordnance. They have a coast line open to trade, are a juggernaut both militarily and economically, and possess some of the best air force and airborne units in the world, second only to the Ascended. They have no allies.

  • The superpower’s goal is not to completely occupy the continent, but to control a sizable portion of territory on it (cities or provinces) and shatter the image of superiority of the Ascended people, weakening their position and hopefully bring more allies to their side in the case of any future conflict.

I've planned to have the superpower neutralize the cliff side defenses after an epic battle, but what troubling me the most is the logistics following the battle once they’ve establish footholds on the landmass. Since the superpower can’t bring its massive navy and cargo ships to deliver supplies like the US did at Normandy, everything must be transported by air.

Question:  Is there a more efficient solution than aircraft to supply a beach head operation in the sky given the parameters outlined above? Efficiency is the key to the best answer. Efficiency in terms of speed, cost, and defensibility.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, J.T.Rock! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox (both of which require 5 rep to post on) useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jul 7 '18 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ You might be interested in the concept of a cable car which is used to get supplies (and people) onto mountains. Anyhow, I think there is a lot of fat in your question that you should cut out. Please try not to waste people's time and reduce your question to the bare minimum. It is currently very cumbersome to get to the point of it, it's also confusiong because if you include unrelated information (what has their ideology to do with anything?), people wonder what this has to do with the question - try not to confuse people. If you think it is related, state why, if not, leave it out $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 7 '18 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Flying is rapid, but certainly not efficient. Logistics is not particularly difficult: 30 TEU (20-foot-container-equivalents) per day per brigade is a common basic planning factor. Calculate the number of C17s required to haul that much cargo daily. Then calculate the basing and fuel requirements of those aircraft. Then double all your numbers because unexpected things happen during war. Then calculate how many 100-car trains you need to haul all that stuff to the air bases each day. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jul 7 '18 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ J.T., I need you to edit your question and replace the text, "###PUT NUMERICAL VALUE HERE###" with an actual (approximate) thickness of the floating continent. "Half its landmass" suggests the only mass below ground level is equivalent to the hills and mountains above. That's a lot less mass than you think. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 7 '18 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ Basically, everything from "This continent has been..." down to "...transported by air.", while interesting, isn't really required to consider the problem or supply an answer. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 7 '18 at 23:07
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Your scenario actually doesn't change much of how logistics are handled in modern wars, as a lot of the countries that the U.S. and its allies fight in, primarily in the middle east, are landlocked. As such, a large portion of the supplies are delivered via cargo plane. C-17's as mentioned in user's comment above. If your foothold is not large enough to support an air field, then you might look at CH-47's (Chinook helicopters). With a carrying capacity of about 10,000 lbs, they can get a lot of supplies and even vehicles onto the continent. If you don't mind taking some help from the East, you could also employ the Mi-26, a soviet transport helicopter capable of lifting APC's, the heaviest that I could find record of being 29,000 lbs. The Mi-26 is powerful enough, it has even been used to recover downed CH-47's. Plus, it comes with an awesome NATO nickname, "Halo".

From the standpoint of cost, this is going to be incredibly expensive, and a bit of a logistical nightmare. To keep your army fed and supplied, you're going to be flying missions 24/7 regardless of weather conditions, visibility, etc. A good place to look for inspiration is the Berlin Airlift. Heck, the logistics alone could make for a good book.

For some options outside of a fleet of helicopters and planes, you could look at Raditz_35's suggestion of cable cars. The questions with these type of fixed transport methods are: How well can you defend them? Does the continent move at all? Is there a land mass near enough to the continent that both ends of the cable can be secured? You would have to treat these transport lines like railroads in WW2. Incredibly vital, but also incredibly susceptible to aerial attack and sabotage.

Finally, you have stated that the continent is self-sufficient. Thus, it stands to reason that if the invading force were to capture the right portions of the land mass they could supplement whatever supplies they receive from home with captured supplies. Seize the means of production!

If you don't already have one, this is where a detailed map of the continent would come in handy. What are the major cities? Where are the primary deposits for various resources? Where are the military and air bases? You need these, so you can plan the assault and find the most reasonable staging area for it.

Keep in mind that even after the initial attack, with such a fanatical enemy force that fortified cliff face would represent a near impossible to clear obstacle with a vertical insurgency causing havoc for months if not years even after the initial defeat. So expect your transport vehicles to be under constant threat of attacks from the cliff side on their way up. You might look towards Vietnam, WW2 Japan, and the modern Afghanistan insurgency for some ideas on what a war through that honey-combed nest of a fort might end up looking like.

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  • $\begingroup$ It could be possible to use "Drop Zones", where your airforce simply drops crates into without landing. $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Jul 9 '18 at 11:35
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They attack from bellow, the continent is floating and noone guards the bottom, so just dig tunnels, the navy can support the units that are trying to dig.

Worst case scenario, insert explosive charges into the plate of the continent and break it apart. There is no other material or contact with other solid material that would dampen the shock from the explosions, so the continent would get the full hit.

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Apps.

It's the 21st century. Build a market out of taking supplies to forces. For example, soldiers can order ammo and guns online. Wallmart will deliver with drones. Transport can be done with an aerial version of Uber.

If you convince the superpower to pay money for every ascended citizen kill and coordinate tactics and strategy through an app, people will flock in to the floating continent and get killing, and the will bring their own supplies. Since the coordination would be done through your app, you can make a profit by taking 20% of their cut.

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    $\begingroup$ Okay, this is... dark... But hey, Profit! $\endgroup$ – DarthDonut Jul 8 '18 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ While I can't say this is viable, it makes me laugh a bit more than it should. But hey, when there's blood in the streets, buy domain names. $\endgroup$ – DJKnarnia Jul 8 '18 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ I hate "pay to win hardcore" apps. $\endgroup$ – Michael Kutz Jul 8 '18 at 19:06

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