15
$\begingroup$

Suppose you have a planet-wide empire that has the benefit of Ancestral Guidance. The empire has conquered the entire world long before it developed interstellar travel. There are no other inhabited planets around. However, the weapons keep evolving, about 500 years. Then they encounter aliens, and they're hostile.

Because of the many generations between the last war and the first skirmishes with aliens, there are no soldiers alive with firsthand combat experience. All soldiers that remain have only had their limited training. They have no combat experience, no memories of combat, not even parents or grandparents that fought in the last war, 500 years ago.

How can the army ensure that their soldiers are actually reliable in a fight, i.e. that they stay in the fight, that they know how to handle their equipment, and that they're killing enough aliens?

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If they are fighting aliens (in space or on other worlds) then it's unlikely that any combat experience that they might have had against their own kind on their own planet would be directly relevant anyway. So training in weapons handling and teamwork (which is what most military training concentrates on) is going to be the best they can manage. $\endgroup$ – Steve Bird Aug 15 '15 at 15:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Small nitpick: Weapons don't evolve if there's nobody fighting. If the Romans had somehow managed to win the world, we wouldn't have anything beyond swords and relatively light siege weapons. $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 15 '15 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ @green I assume that even with a lack of wars to fight, there will still be advancements in weapons, for example to deal with riot control, hunting, insurgencies, rebellions, family feuds gone wrong,... There's still fighting and conflict, but it's not on the scale like we know today. $\endgroup$ – Nzall Aug 15 '15 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Can I check for some breathing room: By "ensure" you mean "be relatively confident," right? Also, how conscious was the civilization of the need to walk the fine line between war and peace? It'll be different if they were preparing this whole time, just without testing their mettle, than it will be if they're a bunch of softies. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Aug 15 '15 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon yes, relatively confident. They just want to avoid that their soldiers fail catastrophically, either mentally or mechanically, the first time they encounter real combat. As for the other question: The empire was never FULLY at peace. as I mentioned to Green, there were some incidents in those 500 years, but those were handled by a fraction of the armed forces each time. The vast majority of the army has never seen full-scale combat, but the army itself always had the need to keep their army up to date to deal with stuff like insurgents, rebellions,... $\endgroup$ – Nzall Aug 15 '15 at 20:35

12 Answers 12

14
$\begingroup$

Ignoring ancestral guidance, I would focus on war games.

Many modern militaries have regular war games where units compete against each other or their allies. These can take many forms, from submarine hide and seek, to field exercises with paintball guns.

There's even some evidence that nuclear command units participate in war games and drills. It looks like their willingness to launch is put the test every so often. Given the moral and ethical implications of using nuclear weapons, governments want to be sure that their people will really "push the button" when the time comes.


On the other hand "Ancestral knowledge" may change things a bit. If the majority of soldiers can be imprinted with the memories of long dead ancestors they may more or less inherit veteran status. This would probably help with developing a willingness to fight, bravery in the face of danger, and obedience.

That said training and war games would still be necessary simply because the weapons and tactics will have changed significantly since the last war.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This. War games do actually work and properly done can give dramatic boosts in capability. The big question is whether the military would retain the ability to do war games properly. I'd assume they would rapidly become ritualized and detached from reality. That has happened to real militaries in far shorter times. Then again you only need proper rigour just before the invasion. Coincidence could be enough to cover that. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Dec 17 '15 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ war games between different branches of the military, using performance in war games as 'exams' for internal advancement & determine organisational access to a performance based bonus pool or budgetary slush fund, allowing militia. It's much easier to learn the lessons of war in a wargame also wherein you don't need to guess at the starting conditions, or occurrences but can debrief individuals and systems on every side and at every level of the conflict. can help to limit some of those issues. $\endgroup$ – Giu Piete Dec 3 '18 at 9:13
9
$\begingroup$

How can the army ensure that their soldiers are actually reliable in a fight, i.e. that they stay in the fight, that they know how to handle their equipment, and that they're killing enough aliens?

In short...you can't.

If five hundred years have passed since the last war there are several problems you are going to face and I think the premise of the question is flawed in a couple ways. (that's not to say the question is bad, if I didn't like it I wouldn't bother answering)

  • Military funding during peace time. Resources are focused where they are most needed. This would be especially true in a planet spanning empire. Running that large a government would be very resource intensive. If there is nothing to be gained by supporting a standing military force it won't be funded. At best a shell of command and specialists would be available when hostilities break out with aliens.

The US military is arguably the best in the world...and generally (Vietnam excluded) has enjoyed popular support. (if you want to argue ping me in chat)

With that in mind here is a chart of defense spending for the US military in the 20th Century:

enter image description here

Clearly during peacetime spending drops rather drastically, it did so especially during the era of total wars, which is the type of war it sounds like you are planning for. While well trained and experienced today, even the US military is not trained/manned/equipped for a total war.

Your planetary government would not support a standing military, let alone a large well trained military during peace-time. So experience is a problem yes, but having a large standing force trained in the basics is also implausible.

The second issue is military technology. Again, with no driver for development for over half a millenia odds are things have not progressed significantly. Perhaps technology has but its application for war and proven effectiveness just wouldn't be there.


So...how are we going to fare against these aliens. Poorly, especially at first. The first few years (if the aliens take that long to fight us) are going to be very...very bad. It takes a lot of time to develop a military infrastructure. Factories have to be built, bases have to be built, people have to be recruited and trained, weapons have to be mass produced...and keep in mind this isn't the middle ages, you can't just hand a guy a spear and say "Pointy end goes that way"

Training pilots takes 3-5 years, advanced weapons systems can take months, tanks take a while as well.

The inclusion of ancestral guidance would be helpful in training and operations. If nothing else it provides a baseline and can help in the creation of training programs, but if tech advanced over five hundred years you are starting from scratch on weapons training.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1, but one small quibble: How well this planet would do against alien invaders would depend not just on all the problems the planet-bound folk face, but also on what problems the aliens face. Maybe the aliens have never fought an interplanetary war before and they're not well prepared either. The aliens may have interstellar travel but their tactics are limited to "let's all run at the enemy screaming". Etc. If the planet-bound folks are lucky. :-) $\endgroup$ – Jay Aug 17 '15 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ Whilst it's a trope, military development goes on all the time, what doesn't necessarily occur is take-up and mass production of those technologies. With a 'one world government' the issues of hiding technologies from the enemy wouldn't necessarily exist and grad students everywhere could potentially get security clearance, likewise banning monolithic enterprises like boeing from eliminating every innovative defense contractor wouldn't be much of an issue as they have literally no market other than you to turn to. And every wb:se contributor could be contracted to develop military tech. =) $\endgroup$ – Giu Piete Dec 3 '18 at 15:06
7
$\begingroup$

There is a very ancient and well respected technique for dealing with such situations: make it up as you go.

If you lack experience fighting, it's going to be hard to be confident that you know what you are doing. This goes doubly-so for fighting aliens: most combat styles are developed to be effective against known enemies. You can do War Games and VR like others have suggested, but there's no substitute for putting boots on the ground and finding out what the real thing is like.

Of course, this attitude looks suicidal at first, so we're going to need to provide some focus. The empire should start off by trying to fight battle in locations where there isn't all that much to lose, physically, but fight battles which are rich in information about how the combat is going. Your goal is to buy time in the less valuable parts of the empire so that you have a crack squad of troops ready as the aliens push into the core of the empire.

I will note you have one advantage: you will have kung fu. Your description of how Ancestral Guidance would have a Chinese kung fu grandmaster salivating. They could not ask for a better medium to transfer their art, so you would absolutely have kung fu.

There may also be stockpiles waiting to help this fight. In Dune, the Great Houses all had their Family Atomics. By treaty, these were never used on each other. They were held in reserve to help combat any "alien intelligence" which invaded the empire.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

I believe VR might be their best bet in this situation, if their tech is up to it. A helmet that gave you complete range of vision inside the simulation, as well as provided very realistic audio, and a suit that somehow provided tactile sensations based on what happened in the simulation (crawling through tall grass, something grabbing you, maybe even getting shot in the leg). Guns would be easy to simulate, but hand-to-hand weapons would be harder. They'd probably have to be both dull and somewhat soft, and could only be used against other people (as opposed to the AI inside the program).

This would let them test the soldiers against many different possible fighting styles and plans of attack that the aliens could use, since you could load any possible configuration you wanted. The fact that pain would be transmitted through the suit would probably be sufficient to get the soldiers used to it, and see if any would desert.

As for how the suit would work, it'd probably have to be some combination of electrodes and a device/material lets call mechanized rubber, that stretches or contracts based on what voltage you put across it (kinda like a muscle). The electrodes would provide the pain, and the mechanized rubber would simulate tactile feelings. It could contract and release very quickly to simulate an impact, or maybe contract very tightly and hold to simulate an injury. It might even be able to squeeze just slightly in specific places to simulate walking through tall grass or something.

The whole program would need to be housed inside some sort of huge gym, maybe with soft-ish wood structures everywhere, corresponding to where structures are in the game. As many video games have shown, there are a huge amount of possible types of fights you can have on even a small number of maps, so not very many of these gyms would need to be constructed.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Simulation

This is entirely dependent on your level of technology, but a common trope is VR or neural combat simulations. The idea of this is to cover the areas of combat that cannot be taught in traditional training. As other answers pointed out, just a strict training regimen can do a lot to ensure proficiency with weapons, battlefield tactics, standard communications etc. What is harder to train is the psychological hardship.

However, with a little more technological advancement, people could "live" battles. This could be through immersive Virtual Reality, through neural manipulation, or in your case the Ancestral Guidance. Imagine syncing with a warrior ancestors memories to re-experience ancient battles first-hand. While the tech may be different, presumably the horrors and pressures of war are not.

For a great example, read some chapters from Hyperion about the stim-sim training they do. Basically, military personnel have to re-fight famous battles through neural stimulation, and thus are conditioned to the hardships of battle.

Military Tradition

Think Sparta. Even when there is no all-out war, if war is part of the culture it will stay prevalent. If societal worth or class standing are measured by proficiency with weapons, toughness, one-on-one combat, etc., then these things will remain skills. Clearly, this doesn't replicate a large-scale war, but the psychological toughness, killer instinct, respect for equipment, etc. will all stay key parts of society, at least among the elite.

For examples of this, consider ancient Sparta, or the culture of the Golds in Red Rising

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Others have said this but let me reiterate: You really don't keep a military well trained after that long. Some points though:

  1. Some military units will still exist, but these will be purely ceremonial. Royal Guards and such. They have archaic/ceremonial weapons and are trained only in drill. Not using them in combat.
  2. The REAL job of guarding the Sovereign (Emperor/Empress) will fall on a protection unit created for the job. This can be military, but most likely civilian/police. These WILL have weapons but will probably be limited to small arms and support weapons (anti-vehicle stuff). No heavy weapons at all (no artillery, very little armor, some aviation assets, some sea going assets, forget aircraft carriers/warships)
  3. By far the largest armed formation on the planet is the Security Service. This depends on what kind of government you're envisioning of course. A totalitarian empire will have a large Security Service that include heavily armed riot police, secret police, counter insurgency forces, etc. A democratic government will have less. If you're building a utopian world, the security services would probably consist of volunteer constables with temporary powers activated only in times of need.
  4. There will probably be a large, well trained, well equipped Emergency Service though. Firefighters, EMTs/Paramedics, and others. So keep these in mind as the conflict looms. They would have to play a major part, I think.

Having said that, if there is ancestral guidance, you can probably alleviate these a little. These Ancestors probably fought in real wars and have a good understanding of TTPs. How their experiences translate into fighting Aliens (who will likely have alien doctrine/TTPs) is up to you of course. For reference, maybe read up on some Warhammer 40k novels. They're not literary masterpieces, I know, but they show how human soldiers with human TTPs fight widely different races with their own doctrines.

Good luck!

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Training

Even with the capability boost of Ancestral Guidance, combat with aliens is going to far outside the capabilities or training plans. Drilling on the basics of weapon usage and coordination will be about the only thing you can do. A strong intelligence service and science division may help even the odds.

If the story contains any indication of the existence of aliens, then it's plausible to train your troops to match that threat. If not, then most likely the troops will have training plans intended to deal with known threats, the rebellions and family feuds cited by the OP in the comments.

While it's true that weapons may evolve over time and improve without evolutionary pressures, it makes me uneasy that weapons without strong pressure to improve would really improve all that much. For example, the competition between the USSR and the US had enormous impacts on the advance of technology, not just weapons.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 fixed. $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 15 '15 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Great, thanks. It showed up in the Low Quality queue, which surprised me. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Aug 15 '15 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 and unedited, it should have shown up there. And... It's nice to know I have a reputation for higher quality posts. :) $\endgroup$ – Green Aug 15 '15 at 20:47
1
$\begingroup$

Several good answers, I won't repeat them. Let me just add:

While the situation you describe is more extreme than any I can think of in recorded history -- absolutely no enemies for 500 years -- there have been plenty of times when a nation had periods of relative peace and so was not prepared when attacked. The U.S. was certainly not prepared to go to war at the time that either world war began, and that was after only a few decades of peace. The Byzantine Empire was not prepared to fight the Muslims. Etc.

As James points out, if this planet has had one world government with no enemies for 500 years, and they're not expecting an alien invasion, why do they have an army at all?

I guess you're assuming that they haven't had to deal with revolutions, that everybody on the planet is at least generally satisfied with the government. If there are periodic rebellions that the army has to put down, than the question goes away.

Since the idea of a standing army was invented, the routine solution to this problem is training and military exercises. Yes, this is highly flawed technique. Normally in training exercises the soldiers are not REALLY trying to kill each other, so the experience is far from the same as actual combat. And a classic problem of training exercises is, as the old saying goes, they prepare the troops to fight the last war instead of the next one. Years ago I read -- sorry, I can cite the source -- that France studied the lessons of World War 1 and built the Maginot Line. Germany studied those same lessons and developed the Blitzkrieg.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Erm, the Byzantines had been fighting the Muslims for, like, ever. What they weren't prepared for was gunpowder warfare, which was brought to Constantinople by the Turks. $\endgroup$ – rm -rf slash Jul 29 '16 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ @rm-rfslash I meant that the Byzantines were unprepared when the Muslims attacked in AD 629. The simple proof of that thesis being that over the course of the next 15 years they lost a huge chunk of territory and many lives, and they were on the defensive until help arrived from the west in 1095. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jul 29 '16 at 19:28
0
$\begingroup$

Robots.
But make them with real guns and none of that "protect humans" drivel. They will have a kill switch if they start to gain real grounds on your army but other than that, they will have carte-blanche to exploit resources, design weapons, try to assassinate, conquer, enslave and terrorize humans.

You need an opponent with true malicios intent, unexpected strategies and respectable power. Anything else is a waste of time.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I would add one point - Remember that armies almost always are perfectly prepared... for the previous war they fought.

Take World Wars One and Two for example. The mechanisation of war fundamentally changed the way war was fought with the First World War, and the fast paced nature of change was one of the primary causes of the strategic and tactical stagnation faced by both sides.

With World War Two, the reason the Third Reich was able to take such vast amounts of land in such little time at the beginning of the war was that the allies simply were not prepared for the rapid pace of Blitkreig warfare.

Its the same throughout modern history.

Add in the difficulties covered by the other answers, and even extensively trained "VR" soldiers are going to be little match for unusual or strange tactics. How your soldiers perform from there is very reliant on how flexible they and the command structures that support them are.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Sports and simulation

Ritualize and adapt the combat into sports.
We've done this with a lot of sports. Many of the Olympic games got their start in war.

Whatever the preferred form of combat, find away to take elements and turn them into competition.

War games are another, where teams simulate real combat against each other.

And simulation, like VR, video games, etc.
You could even design games to be used as recruitment tools and training, with leagues and the like to provide structure and teach people to follow orders.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Arrange for little rebellions

Your peace doesn't have to be complete. This or that odd corner of the world might rebel now and then. These little wars provide nice laboratories in which to test weapons and tactics. They also are useful as crucibles in which to harden some troops from each generation.

In fact, little wars might be so handy that, if they don't arise spontaneously, it might be worthwhile to provoke them. Your secret police can identify malcontents, bring them together, and whip them up. Just keep them far away from the people with power.

Yes, it's a really cynical thing to do, not to mention expensive in lives and money. But ancestral guidance might make in plausible, and having an enemy to unite people against can be quite useful politcally.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.