First I love the whole desperate infantry squad against a sea of trouble premise of so many stories. Even when some of them is set in the future. There is the rub.
How on earth would I have a setting of such advanced everything and then can have human infantry running around doing stuff?
Now I know that for example Warhammer 40K has it's own rules about that, magic and no AI and bio-engineerd soldiers and all that, but honestly I think for the most part human infantry is just too fragile and useless in most settings and so won't be actually used.
So when I think of galactic empires fighting other states I automatically assume space combat and some planet based combat. As much as it hurts to remove the infantry from the equation I think it only makes sense to completely relay on machines to fight for us once we reach a point that allows it. Right?
I imagine that our tanks, ships, jets, and drone are almost perfect in principle that in the future we can just improve on them not make new things.
However you are the ones solving this problem so it is up to you even to redesign tanks.
Now I welcome challenging this idea of making infantry obsolete. Or why would these machines be all rolled into one or several main one.
However an important point is that the theory is that they need to be practical and very flexible. If you have a system that produces perfect water world tanks but you reinforce it with armies mainly adapted to desert world then you are at a great disadvantage. But all reasonable arguments are welcome .
- Manufacturing capabilities is not a problem. Humanity controls several star systems. The closest example I can think of is the the Forge Worlds and Industrial Worlds of warhammer 40K. Just an entire planet devoted to creating stuff. Raw materials are transported from where they are and the planet is wholly devoted to making whatever it makes. Toothpicks or void fighters.
- There is no true artificial intelligence. Instead it is AMI as in advanced machines intelligence and it is basically AI like but not human levels yet. It is capable of making human levels tactical decisions and has access to vast data bases and small in size, fist sized. It is very much like how we can program stuff nowadays. It does not prioritize it's own existence or anything like that. Thought it is obviously made to save energy and the machine it is in. It's cognitive performance across the board is like humans. It can aim better and feels no pain...etc but also it is capable of making the military and tactical decision that soldier and minor officers make. None are used for actually planning wars but they are used to assist the calculations and producing scenarios...etc
- Humans are not looking to counter one particular enemy. Think of this as the galactic equivalent of main battle tanks. You are making just one basic model to fit all rules and fight in all different scenarios.
- We have very powerful reactors, we can use them to power tanks or ships or whatever.
- Anti gravity technology exists. But should be used only when it does make sense and adds actual benefits to the machine rather than lets just add it there.
- Energy shields are a thing. I can't make a science fiction setting without one.
- The general military principles of today still carry over. Including the less the cost the better, the more robust the better, the simpler the better...etc.
- We can manipulate materials to the levels of Mass Effect and Warhammer 40K. However since there are finite resources the more you use the more it needs to be justified.
- An important point about manufacturing is that humanity has manufacturing machines and entire planets devoted to that. Humans don't come into it. But even machines can only produce so much as the transportation of materials and building time and shipping time...etc are limited as we all know. So an idea of a drone that costs 200 hours but only provided 10% better performance than a drone that takes 150 hours to make is not a good idea as far as we are concerned.
- Battlefields are a problem. Making an machine that runs in the desert is different from one that runs in ice fields. So all machines must be able to preform in any planetary environment. An incredible feat by our current standards but this is the future.
- These limitations are more like our own except they are turned to 11. For example we can add more and more stuff to fighters but that increases the cost and time and means that a loss of one is a problem. So a compromise, that is the name of the game, is needed here. So I'm looking for a realistic take on the idea not crazy fancy unrealistic stuff, I can come up with that on my own, but stuff that is grounded in reality and would be natural for a human galactic empire to adopt as the manifestation of our military will and the tools of furthering out political agendas.
I fully understand that a even several machines might be difficult but I hope it does not boil down to 314 types of different machines as that does not help. Again I think the idea of limiting the main fighting machines to several types makes more sense so that the human fleets are flexible enough to reinforce whatever human colony.
I personally thought of a couple of things.
- Anti gravity, plasma cannons, tanks with energy shields and anti air missiles. Secondary weapons are a must and obviously has way better targeting and detection technology. The main weapon of the future and can be adapted further to function in the most extreme environment
- Small drones, a meter by a meter, with good armor and a main weapon. used by the dozen to clear buildings and be like infantry.
- A spider like firing platform that can function in any environment and has the equivalent weapons of a light tank but also flexible enough to be used in urban or jungle combat. laser weapons and some plasma one.
- Armed transportation to transport that.
- All have AMI that is equivalent to current human performance and is connected to other machines in the area to coordinate the operation better. But they can also function on their own if needs be and would just follow whatever plan is made.
So the theory is that an appropriate number of those machine are deployed depending on the context of operation. Then a small group of human officers command the machines to achieve the desired outcome of the operation.
This is just an example of how I imagine thing can be. It can changed, challenged, or outright removed. Just a bit of context.
So. What sort of machines can you make that satisfy all the previous points?
Edit: I appreciate all the input regarding the space ships or combat aspect. However I only want ideas on ground, that is inside a planet or equivalent thing, machines.
Also what people seem to be missing is that equal powers exist and you can't completely abandon "ground" combat.
For example you have fleet of X powers arrive and say we will destroy the planet. But your enemy has a fleet of equal power that will oppose your own fleet.
Again this is just how actual world military thinking is. Countries with nukes, nuclear submarines, best air-force and overall most technology still use infantry fighting vehicles and still arm humans with automatic rifles and even pistols and knives.
Anyway I don't want this to be about space combat or ships as it is something completely different. Nor I think it a frame challenge because you will still have fighting machines on the ground.