If there is anything that Sci-fi, fantasy and table top gaming has taught us, it is that the future is a huge battlefield and wars will wage not between nations or ethnicities, but between worlds, entire star systems and beyond. But there is one thing that is lost between the point allocations, calling up reserves and spending logistics points for more ammunition, where does it all come from? War is big business. Tanks and fighter craft are very high dollar items, and when the stakes rise to include warships both on the water and in space the cost only rises. That is a real big, real tasty pie and lots of people are going to want a piece of it.
In a highly futuristic setting of hundreds of colonized worlds, the most common sort of military is going to be privately funded and supplied on a world by world basis. What if there is an overarching Hegemony of Empire, you ask? The Empire is certainly going to have it’s own legions, funded by taxes and equipped from Imperial armament suppliers. This is true, but these are the elite units of the military, not to be used for the humdrum tedium of planetary garrison and as a deterrent to opportunistic pirates and rogue units looking to turn a nice planet into a smash-and-grab for ammo, loot, and supplies.
The Subsistance Military world functions much like smaller countries of the world today. While not massively industrialized, these worlds are able to manufacture their own infantry weaponry like rifles, assualt weapons, basic explosives and the like. Also Subsistance military worlds will have a basic capacity to produce some sort of armored vehicle as well as basic fixed wing of helicopter aircraft. In most cases, these locally produced tanks and fighters are far inferior to the models produced by the heavily industrialized world. In more rare cases, the vehicles have been tailored to the world they serve on and in these unique instances, the local equipment can outperform mass produced and top end gear.
In the case of the world of New Ozona, the amphibious craft deployed by the Imperial marines quickly broke down and were disabled by the mild acidic compounds present in the planet’s water. While the Imperial craft foundered with fouled electronics, wildly malfunctioning sensors and disabled drive system, the New Ozonian craft, complete with lacquered and chem-sealed electronics were able to destroy their technically superior foes.
The strength of the Subsistance World is that it can rely on itself for protection in the majority of circumstances. The weakness is that while moderately industrialized, the Subsistance world cannot match the high tech, mass produced weaponry of the industrialized worlds. To counteract this discrepancy, many Subsistance Military worlds bolster their forces with material purchased from allied heavy industry worlds. Combining self-sufficiency in terms of ammunition and basic gear with importing high end war machines the Subsistance World strikes an uneasy economic balance.
The second smallest segment of planets, the Industrial Worlds are the vital organs that drive the militaries of the Subsistance Worlds and arm the forces of the Imperials and other power players. These worlds are rich in natural resources, or have abundant resources in the local star system. Populations are dense with ample labor and more often than not the planet itself is marginally habitable either from industrial by-products of the planet being exploited for having a poor biosphere to begin with.
Noted for having a peculiar iodine vapor atmosphere, Knuteria was also marked for massive metal deposits, ample supplied of frozen volatile gasses and the like. Within three centuries, the planet was riddled with subterranean factories, hive like residential zones and the surface was studded with starports, refineries, mining shafts and thermal vents from deep in the planet’s crust. Conditions within are considered to be some of the worst for a first rank industrialized world. The local atmosphere is constantly recycled, water costs more than fuel, and non-synthesized food is considered a luxury.
The Industrial worlds produce everything, from ammunition for pistols all the way to multiton armored vehicles, mecha, fighters and bombs and missles of every conceviable notion. These worlds also produce massive amounts of other material goods, and while they are certainly building washers, dryers, personal vehicles (automobiles, personal hovercraft, etc) these items are not quite as interesting, and while compose a large part of each world’s gross product, are not the largest component.
Vital to the survival of these worlds are the contracts that they are able to make. A long term contract with the governing powers can make a world, and losing such a contract can just as easily break one such world. Obviously, garnering a contract to supply the Imperial army with thousands and thousands of tanks, fighters, and other gear is the most lucrative and attractive of deals. These deals often come with repair and refit clauses, deals to supply ammuntion, replacement parts and the like. Most major undertakings like this can be expected to run for a decade at the least and certainly longer for more durable gear. Less lucrative but just as valuable are the smaller world orders, and deals with independant military companies, security contractors and independant nations and worlds. While not as valuable as supplying 40,000 heavy tanks to the Imperial Army, getting an order for 8,000 heavy tanks for a periphery power, and anther 4,000 spread across a dozen subsistance worlds can keep a faltering world afloat.
nothing to do with agriculture, the Industrialized worlds can easily find allies when it comes time to expand an operation off world. A loyal subsistance world might find itself the repository of a subsidized ammunition factory, or some other facility producing sub-components for a larger vehicle.
The Kimberly Combine, a multi-world corporation has ensured its own survival as well as the economic properity of it allies. Rather than horde every single contract and facility it has, it has spread these holdings across a dozen worlds. While it supplies 50,000 fighter craft to the Imperial Air Wings, sub-components for the craft are being produced on these different worlds and shipped to Kimberly IV for final assembly and final shipping. While Kimberly demographically lags behind the other core industrialized worlds, the quality of living is a good deal higher for Kimberly’s allies, and for the Combine itself.
These worlds fall into two distinct classes, newly colonized worlds not yet able to sustain themselves and worlds that will not rise beyond their current economic status. Protecting contested colonies often falls into the capable hands of the Imperial Legions, or the military of the parent power that is financing the colonization effort. As such, everything used is being imported. When the planet’s primary resources of manpower and material are being used to build homes and water treatment, these is little left to spend making bullets and polishing canopies. Most colonies are founded to exploit local resources, in which case market speculation and government subsidies pay off the cost of importing materials. In terms of strategic worlds, the Empire or greater power will be forced to absorb the cost of colonization and armament itself.
Luyten 9, the name sent shivers down most spines. A hostile planet of ice and frozen methane, it was also home to a triple-max penitentary. Thousands lived in cells beneath the permafrost, supplied monthly from the nearby worlds. There were no plans to industrialize, no plans to colonize the out of the way planet. The only sign that they had not been abandoned was the local garrison, left behind to keep pirates from coming to rescue their own with gun and blade. Prisoners whispered that when Warhorse McClary retired, the garrison would pack up and leave the prisoners to freeze inside the dead planet.
The other sort of world are those that are not intended to be colonized. These worlds range from scientific outposts, research stations, prison worlds, and worlds considered too volatile for exploitation.
In the future there is nothing more expensive than the warship. Sometimes measured in kilometers, their mass reaching into the seven digit range of tonnage and having crews that number in the thousands, these ships represent the gross products of entire worlds for decades all rolled up into one package. Only the cream of the Industrialized worlds can afford to play in this high stakes field. Representing the smallest percentage of worlds, the Shipwright Worlds range from obscenely wealthy to close to starvation, and it all depends on the demand for their spaceship products.
Few things in the future of warfare are as vital, and as expensive as the fleet of warships. As mentioned above, each warship represents a massive amount of time, money, manpower, and raw material. Creating a fleet of these ships is not the venue of a nation, but of the most powerful planets, multistar corporations, and the armadas of the great starfaring powers.
Detente and the Waiting Game
Rather than battles being hot and heavy affairs with lots of plasma, missles and lead flying between these behemoths, the pace moves more like the games of cat and mouse between two enemy submarines. Days and even weeks of maneuvering, intelligence and counter-intelligence explode into combat that is as intense as a nuclear explosion and generally about as long lasting. This being said, once the dam is broken and ships have been lost, combat quickens until either one sides gains superiority and routs the enemy fleet, or a new stalemate is found after a period of combat attrition.
Treaties are a high risk gamble in the realm of starship limitation, but finding terms of limitation are much more likely to pass than disarmament talks. Reducing the number of ships being built is less of an impact on transsolar economies than widescale decommision of combat vessels. Most treaties focus not on numbers of ships being built, but on the total tonnage per ship and gross tonnage of the fleet. A group of rival factions can attempt to lower threat levels by accepting a treaty to limit new starship construction with a tonnage cap at 50,000 tons and a gross cap of 300,000 tons. Numbers would be adjusted to basically removed battleships, large cruisers, and battlecruisers from new construction and redistribute construction to patrol craft and smaller destroyer type ships and escorts.
Disarmament, while rare, can occur. Unlike automobiles and other long term consumables, starships can expect service lives that are measured not in years and decades but centuries or longer. Refits keep these vessels spaceworthy for decades at a time, and once a ship is replaced in frontline duty, they find new roles as secondary combatants, support ships, modified to auxilliaries and the like. A cutting edge destroyer can find itself refit into a guided missle destroyer when the new class is launched, then demoted for another half century as a convoy picket, or even relegated to the ranks of system patrol craft. It is these forth and fifth string classes that are decommisioned in disarmament talks.
Blockades and Zone of Dominance
Someone once said that blockading a planet would be nearly impossible considering the large volumn of space involved in girding a planet with ships. so long as weapons remain combustion powered projectiles, this is largely true. Once lasers, masers, and particle weapons arrive, this becomes much less true. A pair of suitably powerful ships could blockade a single planet, using their massive guns to destroy targets with blasts moving at the speed of light. In addition to the line of sight big guns, carriers can further extend this zone of dominance through scouting craft. A small flotilla of ships, a few with big guns for detroying and deterring and a group of destroyers and pickets can likely dominate an entire star system lacking signifigant starship opposition.