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I have a large modern fantasy Empire in my setting, and it focuses on the exploits of several students in a military academy. At some point in the story, however, a war breaks out and the academy becomes a focal point of a siege.

For potential references in case this may help, the tech level of this Empire is near futuristic. Mechs and airships existing and used extensively for warfare. Weaponry is mostly guns, though power armor that can defend against those guns exist, and they’re more effectively fought in melee.

My question is, would there be a practical reason for an Empire, or specifically an Empire with this tech level, to house such an academy in a military structure that, during a war, would actually make for a proper defensible structure?

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    $\begingroup$ There are quite a few actual historical examples. First, the academy itself can serve as a practical example of a fortification, which would be very helpful in having the students learn and practise. Second, quite often former fortresses, now slightly obsolete, were converted to military academies with the advantage that the army already owned them and little new investment money was needed. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 25 '19 at 14:12
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The military has a lot of facilities that exist mainly for strategic location or other potential usefulness in time of war.

In peace time, it needs facilities for activities that will be suspended in war time, such as extended training of potential officers. It is subject to budget limits, so it makes sense to have some dual-use facilities - practical fortress in war time, academy in peace time.

For a practical example, consider the US military academy at West Point. It was a key defensive point, important for keeping the Royal Navy out of the Hudson river, during the revolutionary war. The British army actually tried to get control of it by plotting with Benedict Arnold. It began to be used as a training facility soon after the revolutionary war.

Of course, you still need to explain why, with current technology, any fixed fortifications have any use at all, and would be besieged, rather than just obliterated with a couple of ICBMs. You need to postulate better anti-missile and air defense technology than the corresponding offensive technology.

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    $\begingroup$ There's more examples: the Canadian Military College at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu sits on the site of Fort St-Jean, where a critical siege held up the colonial forces trying to take Quebec during the American Revolutionary War. The Royal Military College in Kingston was established at the former Royal Navy Dockyard. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Sep 3 '19 at 15:40
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Swap cause and effect

If you're designing a military campus from scratch, there may be many reasons why you'd want to have it be capable of being turned into a full scale military fortress, but there are also a good number of reasons why you wouldn't want to. It's a waste of resources that can be used for actual fortresses, it's not a good idea to have a military academy within striking distance of the enemy and thus it'd be built too far away from any possible front for combat, and some of the things that make for a good military academy will get in the way of a military fortress (i.e. space for things like survival courses.)

So just flip it around and have the military academy take up residence in an old fort. Before the current war started, the military didn't need to use all their forts, but wanted to keep them maintained and decided to open up a military academy within one.

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Let's look at real life here, specifically at the US. While the US has many military bases, it typically does not do basic training in war zones. You want to prep for the war before you get into it. This isn't a US specific policy - this is basically everywhere.

That being said, most training facilities are fortified - they look like army encampments because even if you fail basic training you were doing so at an army establishment. Not as fortified as a fort that you describe, obviously. So the unexpected variable that it comes down to here is space, as in room to do these things. The US is a massive country, with a lot of empty room to build training camps for standard ops. But a country that doesn't have this liberty but still has an organized command structure would still have training camps and more. Why? Because you still need to train new people once you lose the old ones.

Now looping back to your question. Even if trainees don't have to get into an active engagement (like in minor skirmishes and stuff), one could argue that the only place to properly learn about war is in war itself. If a country has that philosophy, doing this is a good idea. Plus, many standard vehicles and machinery have been specifically designed to be point and shoot - in desperate circumstances no one asks you to build a gun from scratch and then fight, they typically just give it to you and tell you to fight for your country. So this leads me to a few (possibly interconnected) conclusions:

  1. The only way to learn to fight is in a warzone: Recruits don't engage in active combat, but as they're around pro soldiers all the time, they learn more about the job by just being around it. Plus, as a form of hazing, recruits clean bathrooms and stuff - no need to pay for maintenance.
  2. Red shirt policy: Not a Trekkie here (sorry never got the time) but everyone knows that red shirts always die. If you recruit from predominantly disadvantaged classes (like orphans, etc.) no one's going to miss these recruits. As they are training to fight, harden them up by using them as bait or something in your off-base operations. They might die, but regardless they're all heroes (sarcasm, cynicism, and more intended).
  3. Extra defense: Your military's numbersheets have marked that there are 10k soldiers at your base. Easy. What it doesn't count is recruits - 10k of them too, at various stages of training. Your enemy hacks your databases, cracking the mainframe and all of that (yes I know what that sounds like). They severely underestimate your forces, going in over-confident. But most weapons are point and shoot, so obviously the recruits can fight back too.
  4. Internship: Kind of like real world internships where you code/engineer/etc in the real world. All of these soldiers have done basic training but are now learning specializations in using the various advanced weapons tech you have in the front lines and forts. They learn about that during their time in this base.

Keep in mind, all these ideas can happen at the same time. Just a matter of how you stitch it together. Hope this helps!

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It makes sense to have a mobile fortress. I do not believe only the academy would be there, but even if it was, it could be a way to train soldiers in active combat situations, as well as have anyone training for higher ranks get experience in the field of battle.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that's quite what OP meant by "mobilized for war"... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Sep 2 '19 at 11:36

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