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The Setting

In this universe, the technology needed to travel between stars needs a lot of energy and bulky machines (besides being ridiculously expensive). Therefore only a small number of capital ships is capable of moving to other systems. Naturally that did not stop humanity from beating the hell out of each other and alliance A declared war on faction B.

One of the conflicts fought takes place in the planetary system Sol-7B which mainly provides raw materials to faction B. Alliance A wants to take control of the main planets of this system and sends a single capital ship (the Agonizer) to take control of the system. Sol-7B is defended by a single capital ship of faction B (the B 227).

Both ships are at equal footing when it comes to maneuverability and speed, but the Agonizer eclipses the B 227 when it comes to raw fire power. The fleet command of faction B therefore orders the B 227 to not engage the Agonizer on system entry and it takes defensive position around planet Berusslow-4c which is the first target of the Agonizer. As the Agonizer approaches, the B 227 moves 'behind' the planet to deny the Agonizer a line of fire. The B 227 then starts to mimic the Agonizer's maneuvers to keep the planet between both ships, avoiding a direct fight.

Unable to engage the B 227, the Agonizer enters the lower planetary orbit to deploy the superior invasion force using two-way dropships and the battle on the surface begins. The Agonizer is kept as a mobile base which allows for rapid deployment and re-deployment on the surface. Ground troops are brought back to the Agonizer to increase the number of reserves that can be deployed. The B 227 mimics this behaviour and is able to reclaim lost mining facilities and cities by rapidly deploying the former defending forces as soon as the Agonizer moved to support another ground assault.

  • The task of the Agonizer is to hold a certain number of key locations on Berusslow-4c as well as some key locations on two other planets in the same system. Most of the locations that should be held by the alliance A are clustered on a specific site of the planet. Still some of the objectives are found on the other site of the planet. The total number of troops the Agonizer can deploy is much larger than the defending force.

  • The B 227 is focused on deploying a vast number of troops to reclaim those key locations once the orbit is clear. The numerical superiority in these attacks minimizes their losses. These locations are then left with a minimal guard, to deny the Agonizer from inflicting great damage by retaking them again. Therefore, this tactic focuses on using the actual manpower as best as possible while forcing a scattering of enemy troops along different key locations.

Therefore the question is:

  • Can the Agonizer break the stalemate imposed by the presence of the B 227?

Additional information

  1. There is only limited air power available on the planet, as anti-air weaponry against smaller craft is advanced. Dropships carry strong anti-missile systems, which renders them immune to medium amounts of anti-air power.
  2. There are no targeted space weapons like missiles available as anti-missile systems are advanced. Hence, space battle rely on line of sight (or almost line of sight, as you could shoot at a specific part of space, where the enemy ship will be once the projectile has travelled the distance).
  3. Smaller space ships are not used due to their inability for fast travel and their inferior effective weapon power.
  4. Energy read-outs and exact position of the enemy ship are known to both sides at any point during this campaign. So both sides are always aware of the intended course and speed of the enemy ship.
  5. The question is mostly focused around resolving the space stalemate although ways to use the ground forces for exactly this purpose are also welcome.

update the real objectives and tactics of both sides and removed the question "Is this scenario realistic?" as it is based on the structure of the universe itself. Feel free to generalize some points, if you find them ill-suited.

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closed as off-topic by Mołot, L.Dutch, Hohmannfan, Azuaron, Aify Apr 7 '17 at 15:45

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  • $\begingroup$ If it looks like this, I am sorry. In fact, I picked up the basic concept of this stalemate from a computer game and could not stop thinking about it. When I tried to find similar scenarios in Science-Fiction I was astonished to find little to none cases where a space battle between two ships is avoided for such a long time using the planet as a shield. Therefore I asked myself if I am missing something, that makes this scenario bluntly unrealistic. $\endgroup$ – fritzfantom Apr 7 '17 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ "The B 227 then starts to mimic the Agonizer's maneuvers to keep the planet between both ships, avoiding a direct fight." Don't those "capital ships" have missiles? This is like saying that the entire cold war was silly because the USSR and America could not engage each other because the curvature of the Earth prevented direct fire. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 7 '17 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ "the technology needed to travel between stars needs a lot of energy and bulky machines" - ok, but inside the system, we can still use usual rockets as in our universe? Fraction B seems to be too weak, because they have an advantage of home infrastructure, why they do not use that. Not having missiles and that restriction of "There are no targeted space weapons. Hence, space battle relies on the line of sight" does not look like realistic one and other moments - so no, the thing is not realistic. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Apr 7 '17 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ What targets on the planet need to be captured and what can be sacrificed? We need to know the rules on engagement. I fear this question will be closed as it feels to story based. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 7 '17 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Despite the edit, our rules of engagement are still vague. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 7 '17 at 12:23
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Guerrilla warfare

B227 is basically doing guerrilla warfare.

As long as they know where the Agonizer moves, they can stay out of the way indefinitely. But, how do they know when the A is out of line of sight? I'm not saying they can't, just that it has to be explained.

There can be spy satellites, there can be scouts on the ground. Either way, these will become targets for the A. Afterwards, they have a much better chance of surprising the B.

Maybe the ships give off neutrino radiation that can be detected straight through the planet. If so, the run-away strategy will work indefinitely.

Generally, you don't win wars by running away, but the way you have set things up they just might.

A's strategy of conquering places and then pulling all the soldiers out again is not how you do war. Even if B didn't come and reconquer things, the locals would take over the moment A lifted off.

So, A must leave soldiers to hold the territory. And B will lose soldiers killing them.

In the end, it is a question of who runs out of soldiers first.

Points of interest aren't generally spread out evenly across the entire planet. On Earth, a ship hovering far above the North Pole could cover most of the landmass and definitely most of the industry. The opponent would have Australia, which is nice, but not much compared to the US, Europe, Russia and China.

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  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. Fortify captured installations and lay ambushes for the B troops. Perhaps to end the stalemate quickly they could attempt to capture a B dropship and infiltrate the B capship. $\endgroup$ – Lu22 Apr 7 '17 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ As a history professor of mine once said "When fighting against an invading force, you don't have to win, you just have to not lose." $\endgroup$ – Blackhawk Apr 7 '17 at 14:59
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Siege

They don't want to fight ? We won't.

For now just don't care about the B227, it can't harm you after all, the main problem is if the Agonizer leaves the planet, the B227 will have plenty of time to reinvade Berusslow-4c. So don't leave the planet.

Make the Agonizer refuel in the biggest "gas station" of the planet, make reserves, and burn it down if there are still energy in it. Then go into low orbit to ensure that one orbit completion is too short for the B227 to refuel at another refuel station (if there is more than one).

Thus, the B227 will also stay in low orbit to avoid being shot. Make some energy consuming maneuvers (atmosphere entry, pro-grade burning, retrograde burning, ...).

By doing so, the B227 will hopefully run out of energy sooner than the Agonizer. Which will let it few choices:

  • Stay in orbit to avoid consuming too much energy : just make a small maneuver (accelerate by reducing your orbit or wait for it by making your orbit bigger) and shoot it.
  • Try a maneuver to refuel on the planet: when you go over it shoot it.
  • Try to go on another planet to refuel: when B accelerates, if you stay on your orbit you will catch it up, so shoot it.
  • Surrender: shoot it... maybe don't that is not nice.

Basically you just make an inverted siege, you avoid it to go to the planet until it runs out of energy.

You could also just stay in orbit and hope that the crew on the B227, by seeing their planet (and family ?) threatened by you, make a mutiny, or surrender, or try a desperate maneuver.

Ultimatum in the stalemate

Another way of doing this (less ethically correct but less evil than Mormacil's answer :P) is to force the psychological failure in the B227. As you are taking some places on Berusslow-4c, make sure you are seen by a lot of people. The population on the planet needs to know that they are in war. Thus, a part of the civilization will try to escape this war, and take spaceships to go to another planet or even to go to another stellar system. Offer them an ultimatum, they surrender or you shoot those rescue ships. You will be considered as evil, but if they are reasonable (sentimental ?) they will surrender or psychologically collapse.

Once B227 is out of the game, the rest should be a piece of cake.

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  • $\begingroup$ This approach will cost a lot of time, but I like it as it keeps losses at the absolute minimum. It made me also realize, that the Agonizer will most likely be able to ignore the first planet and start invading the other two planets first, as moving to another planet will expose the B 227. $\endgroup$ – fritzfantom Apr 7 '17 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @fritzfantom I think if Agonizer moves to another planet, the B227 can manage to stay hidden, by landing on Berusslow-4c for example. But the Agonizer can definitely moves to another planet unless planet transfer make them weaker (less resources, high potential energy, high speed at the beginning and at the end but slow speed between planets...). $\endgroup$ – EngelOfChipolata Apr 7 '17 at 13:55
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Yes, with some sacrifices. B concentrates their forces to minimize losses. So set up an ambush. Take a site of limited importance. Leave behind the regular guard detail, or better a minimal force that looks like a regular guard detail. You then rig the site.

When B recaptures it you detonate it, causing heavy casualties. It will cost you some men, a site of limited importance but it will break the stalemate. Against a smaller more agile force your options are limited.

You either fortify so heavily you can't be attacked, or you take the fight to them. If you can't target them directly because they evade you there is only one successful age old tactic. You burn it all to the ground. In this case blow up the base.

Another option is force B out of hiding by bombing civilian targets. Any kinetic object with sufficient mass would devastate civilian infrastructure. Even better most anti missile defense is useless against it. As they rely on quick precise strikes. They would either be ineffective or fracture the object. Instead of one big crater you get several smaller ones over a large area.

The counters to guerilla warfare are equal parts terror and a way out. Not giving a way out makes one desperate and a dangerous enemy. Terror will break their spirit eventually if they don't submit. It may sound barbaric but we've never seen a guerilla conflict resolved otherwise.

Now B has two options, they let their population die or they come and engage. The first would likely be terrible for morale. No matter the hate it creates, seeing people die takes a toll. Now if they engage, you got some superior numbers and firepower.

A third option would be hostages. Similar to my first solution. Forces from A capture certain civilian targets. Then the ship of A leaves with the majority of the forces. The remaining force will execute civilians of B approaches. Both sides will have soldiers refusing orders but A has a larger pool to find volunteers. In a way it's a human shield, retake and your civilians die.

So in summary:
- Ambush and crush B's forces
- Kill civilians till B engages
- Threaten to kill civilians of B retakes any sites

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Set up a mine field

If B227 is avoiding Agonizer while trying it's best to defend the planet, and Agonizer is actively supporting operations on the planet, it's likely both ships are in orbit. That limits maneuverability options for B227 to small adjustments between orbits.

Agonizer can allow B227 to get to the far side of the planet, deploy a mine field while B227 can't see it, and then adjust its own orbit to avoid the field. Agonizer will know where the mines are. B227 won't.

The space shuttle orbits earth every 90 minutes. Assuming a similar orbit periods, it's only a matter of time.

The downside is if B227 can detect the mines. It's likely they can, but it's your world. Give the Agonizer some ability to mask them.

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The task of the Agonizer is to hold a certain number of key locations on Berusslow-4c

Hold them, then. Move Agonizer to geostationary orbit over the key locations for air support and heavy bombardment.

One of the conflicts fought takes place in the planetary system Sol-7B which mainly provides raw materials to faction B

Destroy the raw material production facilities from orbit, unless you absolutely have to capture those.

Alliance A wants to take control of the main planets of this system and sends a single capital ship (the Agonizer) to take control of the system.

Explain to high command, as advanced as your technology is, it does not allow you to be at two different places at the same time. They will need to prioritize targets or they will have to send reinforcements if they want all objectives captured and held.

around planet Berusslow-4c which is the first target of the Agonizer

Well then, move on the the second target. B 227 cannot be at two places at the same time, either. It will have to travel through open space to get to your second objective. Strike while it is in transit and destroy it before it can hide behind another planet.

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Expanding slightly on Joel Coehoorn's answer; the first thing I thought of was de-orbiting of debris.

B can see any energy output by A right? Any weapons fired etc. I assume they are in a relatively low, fast moving orbit. What I figure, is that since B is matching A's manuveres, once B is sufficiently out of sight, use some form of low energy propulsion to drop a field of small, dull, hard objects (like rocks, brought from the surface perhaps) in B's path. With enough debris, only a few hundred m/s should be enough to damage B. it wont be there for long, you just need to keep pumping it out.

Failing actually damaging B, keeping up the debris, even at random, is going to atleast hamper their shuttles launching from/landing on the surface.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you drop the debris at few hundred meters per second from your speed, they won't be on B trajectory unless the speed of B drop down for a few hundred meters per second too. $\endgroup$ – EngelOfChipolata Apr 7 '17 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ Exact velocity is in the air right now, but I am assuming you could create a balance between there being debris in B's path, and the debris having sufficient relative velocity with B, with a short enough orbital period. $\endgroup$ – Nick Apr 7 '17 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ I think you are right actually, since B is a very large ship. $\endgroup$ – EngelOfChipolata Apr 7 '17 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly, you dont need to completely engulf and destroy B, just damage it severely. $\endgroup$ – Nick Apr 7 '17 at 17:29

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