Land Warfare in Milky Way | World Anvil

Land Warfare

Land warfare (also called ground warfare or planetary warfare) is the action of engaging in combat within the atmosphere of a planetary body, artificial habitat, or other environment where spacecraft are not the primary warfighting unit. Compared to space warfare, large-scale land warfare is significantly more rare, owing to the logistical difficulties of seizing a hostile planet, and the political implications that come with such an act. Small-scale actions, such as boarding operations or special forces raids, are much more common. Unlike space combat, where the vacuum of the void provides no cover or terrain, combat within the confines of a gravity well has innumerable environmental factors that drastically alter warfare. Owing to historical, technological, political, and even physical pressures, different species and organisations have developed doctrines that differ from each other drastically more than space warfare.

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The backbone of modern infantry is the powered exoskeleton. The refinement of these in the early 2200s CE did not lead to the wide-scale adoption of heavy power armour as many commentators expected, but instead created a revolution in logistics. Powered exoskeletons allow a single person to lift as much as a typical industrial loader, but rely on short-term or short-range power sources. Despite this, they can be highly beneficial to infantry combat operations. In some societies, such as the Kel-Azaan Republic, exoskeletons did not see as wide use as in others - owing primarily to the already extreme strength of individual Kel-Azaan. Some armies, such as the United Nations Planetary Forces, utilise micro-servos within their infantry armour. Micro-servos are essentially lightweight, miniaturised exoskeletons that aid the wearer in carrying weight over long distances, augmenting traditional exoskeletons. They are charged by solar or kinetic power and can last for days or weeks without needing to be charged at a battery.

Infantry armament is as varied as the species in the galaxy. Combustible ballistics are the most popular, as they are the most simple to manufacture and maintain. They function by exploding a small compound within a bullet's shell, and the gases from the explosion propel the bullet from the barrel at lethal speeds. The second most popular style of weapon is the plasma rifle, which excites gases with an electric charge to create a plasma bolt, then contains the bolt in a magnetic field as it is propelled from the gun. In some cases, miniaturised mass drivers are used as infantry weapons, utilising magnetic rails or coils to propel slugs at tremendous speed. All-weather optics, including thermal sights and night vision are standard, as is heads-up-display (HUD) integration and zoom functionality.

Infantry support weapons are even more varied than service rifles. Anti-vehicle weapons can be either guided explosive or plasma launchers, or shoulder-fired rail guns. Automatic-targeting machine guns or automatic grenade launchers, linked to drone targeting, can wipe out an exposed squad in seconds. Remote-control or autonomous drones are a critical part of the infantry's battlefield, as they are lightweight, portable, and extremely useful. They are typically used in reconnaissance, targeting, or attack roles individually, or deployed in swarms to overwhelm enemy defences.

Many efforts have been made over the years to improve the survivability or effectiveness of infantry on the modern battlefield. Personal shield generators are heavy and bulky, but can protect individual soldiers from limited amounts of incoming fire. Chemical stimulants can increase the combat awareness and reflexes of soldiers temporarily, but have a number of side effects that can have negative outcomes. Power armour is expensive, heavy, and is limited by the availability of recharge units, but can provide an extraordinary increase in the combat effectiveness of infantry.


Backed by the industrial base of a spacefaring society, every army fields a large number of mechanised vehicles, or robotic vehicle equivalents. They provide support to infantry and allow for breakthroughs through enemy lines, but are expensive and require extensive logistical support. Different armies have their own doctrines on how best to employ their ground, aquatic, and air vehicles. Like with infantry, there are a wide variety of armaments mounted on vehicles, such as traditional ballistics, energy, mass drivers, or guided weapons.

The most iconic ground vehicle in an army is a heavily armoured, fast-moving, all-terrain, direct-fire vehicle: the tank. Tanks and similar armoured fighting vehicles form the basis of any mobile strike force on a terrestrial planet. Typically armed with one powerful gun and several smaller anti-infantry or anti-air weapons, their treads allow them to move across flat or somewhat rugged terrain at high speeds. There are two main alternatives to the traditional tank: the battle strider, and the hover tank. Battle striders are bipedal vehicles that trade armour for speed, maneuverability, and agility. With a crew size of one, they are most often used in significantly more rugged environments than traditional tanks, or by mercenary groups limited in manpower. However, battle striders are easily toppled by attacks directed at their legs. Hover tanks eschew traditional treads for repulsor lifts, which also trade armour and firepower for speed and maneuverability. They are usually more expensive and maintenance-heavy than battle striders, but do not have the same disadvantages.

Other popular armoured fighting vehicles include air defence artillery, armoured personnel carriers, self-propelled guns, and many others. One popular vehicle is the mobile shield generator, which can project a hardened protective force field over a large section of the battlefield. This starship-grade generator can protect against virtually any kind of high-energy attack, up to and including orbital strikes and low-yield nuclear weapons. On the downside, these shields cannot be fired out of, and can be bypassed by simply moving slowly. These vehicles are often priority targets for enemy ground forces and saboteurs, and as such are heavily defended.

Different planetary environments can mandate different requirements for vehicles. Wheeled vehicles need to have their wheels replaced with treads when deploying to an arctic environment, for example. The largest change in how wars are fought planetside is on ocean worlds. While traditional ground vehicles have their uses on small island chains, wars become primarily fought in the air over floating cities. The most difficult assault possible is attacking underwater settlements, as water can protect from orbital bombardment, while most species in the galaxy cannot breathe water. Instead of tanks, specially-designed submarines and oceangoing ships are utilised, and infantry must become divers.

Fire Support

Fire support refers to weapons that support friendly forces by suppressing or destroying the enemy. This usually refers to indirect fire, like artillery, but can also refer to air support, orbital bombardment, or autonomous weapon platforms. What unites all of these is that they do not typically operate on the main front line of combat with infantry and armoured vehicles.

Indirect fire artillery remains the most popular form of fire support, primarily due to its low cost and logistics footprint. Long-range artillery shells are fired from behind friendly lines in order to suppress or destroy enemy positions facing friendly frontline units. Artillery can take the form of traditional tube- or mass driver-fired shells, or rocket or missile artillery fired from launchers. Artillery fire is corrected by dedicated observers embedded with frontline units, as well as drones that monitor the impacts. Artillery can be easily deployed from orbit and assembled planetside, making it a popular choice for attacking armies.

Aerospace craft, such as traditional aircraft and spacegoing strike craft, are some of the most potent weapons on the tactical battlefield. They are capable of rapidly striking positions behind enemy lines, as well as intercepting incoming enemy attacks. However, they are significantly more expensive to construct, maintain, and deploy than regular artillery, and are thus usually used in lesser numbers. Even with their small numbers, aerospace craft can have remarkable impacts on the battlefield. Strike craft are usually deployed from orbiting carriers, while defending armies use a mix of strike craft and aircraft deployed from hardened hangars.

The single most powerful form of fire support on the modern battlefield is orbiting starships. They are only assailable by advanced weapons, and are capable of firing accurately over extremely long distances. Tactical fire support can come in the form of bombardment by smaller weapons, while strategic bombardment takes the form of nuclear or antimatter missiles. Compared to their usage in space, where they completely lack kinetic energy and have only limited heat energy, within the confines of an atmosphere they are incredibly destructive. Entire battlegroups or fortifications can be wiped out by barrages of these missiles from orbit.


The difference in logistics difficulty between defending and attacking a planet is immense. A defender can preposition personnel and materiel, construct fortifications, utilise existing infrastructure, and most importantly, recruit from a planet's available population. In contrast, everything an attacker wants to use must be brought to the assault via spacecraft, then landed on the planet itself. The prohibitive difficulty of logistics is why blockades and bombardments are preferred to invasions.

The mainstay of any invasion force is the transport ship. These unarmed, lumbering cargo ships can carry an entire division of troops, their equipment, and supplies to sustain them for an initial attack. Due to their size, they are typically too large and bulky to land at anything but spaceport facilities. In order to transport forces directly to the surface, assault landers, dropships, and drop pods are used. Assault landers are large dropships designed to deploy heavily armoured forces under fire. Dropships are standard infantry transports, often armed and capable of supporting infantry after their deployment. Drop pods are single-use atmospheric entry vhiecles that are employed to extremely quickly get light infantry (either individually or in squads) onto a planet's surface.

Communications are critical to the success of any military operation. For defenders, peacetime communication systems like satellites will be quickly destroyed or otherwise disabled by an attacking force. To counter this, critical communication lines are built underground. Attackers will deploy their own communication and reconnaissance networks around a planet, usually in the form of satellites of their own, or in some cases, hijacking existing satellites. Most militaries use interlinked sensor fusion technology, allowing commanders to have a real-time view of the battlefield.



Reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering is a critical first step to successfully invading a planet. Before a conflict breaks out, spies will scout out any planets that may need to be invaded in the future, collecting intelligence on their defences. Cloaked science ships, using their powerful sensor suites, are also effective intelligence-gathering tools. Once a war has broken out, orbital cartography and identification of enemy hardpoints becomes the next step in preparation.

Once a planet has been sufficiently examined, the process of preparing an invasion force commences. Depending on the defences of the planet being invaded, it may take anywhere from a single division of ten thousand troops, to multiple army groups consisting of tens of millions of troops. In every case, troops, their equipment, and their supplies must be loaded onto the transports and brought into orbit. Once there, they must be continually supplied with life support (such as water, air, and food), given the massive numbers of personnel on relatively small ships.

Defenders, on the other hand, have a task that is in some ways easier, and some ways harder than attackers. A defender can draw upon a planet's population to fill their ranks, which can reach as high as over ten billion on a homeworld. Logistics are simplified, as troops can be transported via existing ground-based infrastructure over a small surface area (relative to the distances involved in interplanetary transport). However, if a world comes under orbital blockade, it suddenly faces two major issues. Firstly, it cannot be sustained, and must rely on whatever supplies it can produce for its own forces and civilian population. Secondly, the enemy has full control over the 'high ground' - they can bombard whatever they wish with impunity. As such, most forces are placed inside fortifications to wait out bombardment, or among civilian populations to deter bombardment entirely (the latter of which being considered a war crime by many).


Ideally, attacking troops will land well away from enemy forces and establish a planetside forward operating base (or several, depending on the scale of the operation) from which to conduct the invasion with. These locations are well away from population centres, and have significant flat, solid ground to support the weight of heavily armoured vehicles. Ideally, infrastructure capable of carrying vehicles and troops should be within short distance. However, the ideal is rarely the same as the reality. In most invasions, troops are required to land while under fire, then seize landing zones to allow friendly reinforcements to be deployed. Anti-ship batteries, planetary shield generators, and planetary defence grids are the primary targets of initial attacks, before targeting political and population centres.

Once the enemy secures aerospace superiority, the ability of defenders to move their troops distances is severely restricted. Surface transit becomes vulnerable to airstrikes or orbital bombardment, and underground tunnels can only transport troops so far. As such, troops are positioned around a planet in its most critical sectors, and supported by heavy fortifications. The main targets of the attackers - anti-ship batteries, planetary shield generators and defence grids, population centres and political institutions - are the primary hardpoints that defenders hold. The loss of a planetary shield generator can spell instant defeat for defenders if they are not prepared.


A planet's climate can drastically impact an invasion or defensive strategy. A world hotter or colder than a species is adapted to can require additional support in the form of cooling or heating supplies. Desert planets offer a unique challenge in the form of unstable sand that might not support certain heavy vehicles, such as battle striders. Unique planetary phenomena, such as particularly high gravity, can also heavily impact deployment options for an attacker. Defenders are usually less impacted by these conditions, as they have time to prepare and adapt to their own environment.

Generally speaking, the hardest type of planet to invade is an ocean world. Depending on the species, cities can be constructed on island chains, but they are usually floating on the water or submerged beneath it. For attackers, this mandates heavy use of air and sea vehicles, rather than tanks and infantry, to assault structures. These battles can become particularly destructive, as attackers are funneled through air attack, while the defenders have nowhere to retreat to. Battles conducted underwater require extremely specialised hardware. Due to the 3D environment underwater, naval marines are often the preferred branch to conduct these attacks, rather than typical army units.

Planetary Fortifications

Standard planetary fortifications are made from hardened neo-concrete, which is capable of withstanding nuclear and antimatter blasts. They are supplemented by local starship-grade shields, self-replicating minefields, and underground transit tunnels. Anti-ship batteries are weapons capable of engaging starships in orbit from the ground, drawing their immense power requirements directly from planetary energy grids or localised power plants.

Projecting a planetary shield across an entire planet is difficult, but not insurmountable. Dedicated shield generators draw from power grids to create an energy field dozens or hundreds of kilometres into the atmosphere, protecting an entire planet from orbital bombardment. Although planetary shields can be overwhelmed with sufficient firepower, it drastically lengthens any bombardment operation. While slow-moving objects can penetrate shields, a starship dropping in altitude sufficiently to commence bombardment is easy prey for even weak anti-ship batteries or ground-launched missiles. As such, the first priority of any attacker is to eliminate shield generators with a lightning assault. In preparation for this, defenders will particularly heavily fortify any shield installations with their most powerful units.



Planetfall refers to the period of an assault where the attackers are entering the atmosphere, landing, and establishing their initial beachhead. This is the most dangerous point for the attacking force, as they cannot effectively fight back against defending anti-aircraft fire. As such, it is critical to move from orbit to ground as fast as possible. Assault landers and dropships proceed at maximum speed before braking at the last possible second, while drop pods do not brake at all. Although strike craft and orbital strikes can attempt to suppress defending AA fire, high casualties are to be expected if assaulting a defended area. This is why attackers prefer to land in more out-of-the-way locations, away from heavy defences.

Once landed, the attacking force deploys its troops, then the landers return to orbit to pick up the next wave. If under fire, dropships stay with the troops they have dropped off to provide fire support, and otherwise also return to carry the next wave. Drop pods are disposable, and remain where they landed. Defenders will attempt to overrun the attackers' landing zones as fast as possible, denying them the ability to establish a safe forward position.

Field Battles

Once an attacker has established a forward operating base and begun deploying heavy units, field battles become inevitable. The attackers' goal is to breach the defenders' lines and capture key political and military positions, while the defenders hold fortified positions. If possible, defenders will occasionally attack with the goal of destroying the attackers' FOB. In all cases, a field battle is when the two armies clash en masse outside of urban areas.

Field battles are where the full might of an army can be put to use. Engagements in the field are typically between large, mechanised, heavily armoured forces. To avoid incoming orbital bombardment, the defenders either utilise fortifications, mobile shield generators, or rapidly close to where any bombardment would hit attacking forces. Engagements in the field utilise all kinds of tactics, the specifics of which depend on doctrine, environment, technology, and countless other factors. A field battle typically concludes when either the attacker breaks through the defender's lines, or the attacker is pushed back to the point they cannot continue the immediate assault.

Urban Warfare

Almost all planets have major urban areas where important political institutions and population centres are located. Due to the presence of civilians or critical infrastructure, usage of heavy weapons and orbital bombardment is usually limited during these operations. The goal of the attacker in an urban battle is to secure the region, while defenders try to hold them back. Urban warfare is particularly bloody, as the attackers must fight house-to-house, sweeping each room to ensure no defenders remain. Civilian casualties are usually high during these engagements, as many are inevitably caught in crossfire or collateral damage.

Symbolically, the battle over a planet is 'won' when the capital city is seized. While defending forces often continue holding on after that event, very few invading armies have lost after securing a planet's capital. Most of the political institutions are located in capital cities, and a new collaborationist government can be established for the duration of the war. Resistance movements often continue after a planet is lost, but they usually only have a minor impact.


Often, a full-scale planetary invasion is deemed unfeasible or impossible, but a small-scale objective needs to be accomplished. In these cases, small raids into enemy territory are conducted. Special forces units are deployed via cloaked shuttles away from enemy defences, where they venture on foot. Targets of these small-scale raids include planetary shield generators, power plants, anti-ship guns, and key political or military personnel. They operate with stealth, attempting to slip in and out before anyone notices their presence. If a small-scale raid is detected, it can be quickly overwhelmed by even local forces.

On rare occasions, a small special forces strike team is too small to accomplish a raid. Instead, a small force of conventional military units can be deployed like in a traditional planetary invasion, but with the goal of quickly accomplishing an objective and extracting. These are incredibly risky, and can only be undertaken when planetary defences are down or otherwise unusable for the duration of the operation - typically thanks to spies or hacking. Once a goal is accomplished, the raiders need to extract before forces from elsewhere on the planet can arrive to overwhelm them.


United Nations of Earth

Commonwealth of Man

Tzynn Empire

Kel-Azaan Republic

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