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Major B January 16th, 2008 07:03 PM

Imperial Marine and Imperial Army capabilities
This is my second attempt to start this thread. The first text was lost when I clicked 'submit' so I'm doing my best to recapture my thoughts.

I've seen a number of threads that touched on Marine and Army formations but usually as a tangent to another subject, so I thought I'd start this one to generate discussion about the roles, organization, and capabilities of the Marine and Army units.

To start with, I see the difference between the Army and Marines as primarily one of endurance rather than a particular capability or unique equipment. This is a necessary by product of the fact that the Marines are tied to the fleet, giving them some unique advantages and disadvantages and also pointing them toward some specific missions that the Army will be less likely to perform.

One of the advantages for the Marines is that they can rely on the fleet for support. Having on-call fire support in the form of Ortillery and fighters means that the Marines can devote more of their limited manpower to combat formations. Also, having your barracks and mess hall in orbit above you means that you need less combat service support. Why recreate it when the fleet already provides it?

However, the umbilical to the fleet is also something like a leash in that when the fleet has to leave, the Marines have to go with them. That or someone else, like the Army, will have to provide the means for long-term combat support (like artillery and engineer) and combat service support (supply, medical, admin, etc.) to sustain the Marine combat formations.

Another by-product of the Marines' ties to the fleet will be a consequence of limitations on shipboard space. What vehicles the Marines have will of necessity be lighter and smaller than those commonly used by the Army. The Marine infantry will be heavily armored and equipped to maximize firepower, but their formations will have a brittleness to them that Army formations will not have. What I mean is that, the Marines will be able to take on enemies who can't match their firepower, but their ability to dish out punishment will not match their ability to absorb it without taking significant losses. For that reason, I think that the casualties suffered by Marines will tend to be toward either extreme rather than a normal distribution - they will either suffer little or no casualties because they overmatched their opponent, or they will suffer heavy casualties because their opponent was armed and armored enough to withstand the Marine firepower, at least for a time.

Finally, Marine missions will be dictated to a great extent by their inclusion in the fleet. Other than their function to guard embassies and the like, Marine missions will normally be sharp and of short duration, like boarding actions and raids. In fact boarding actions will be a Marine specialty, as will planetary assault, but in the event of an all-out war the Army will still be expected to conduct missions like planetary assault that in peacetime would normally be done by Marines. An historical parallel would be the experiences of the US Marine Corps and Army in WWII where the USMC developed the doctrine for amphibious operations but the Army conducted more of and the largest of those operations.

I guess that leads me to discussing the differences between the Army and Marines, but first I should acknowledge that there is some difference of opinion on whether there is an Imperial Army. Canon (to my limited knowledge) provides support to both viewpoints with earlier CT sources hinting at an Imperial Army but later texts disagreeing. IMTU there is an Imperial Army for two reasons. First, as I am attempting to outline, there is a need for a force like the Army because the Army provides capabilities the Marines will not have. Second, I think that the Emperor will surely want to have Army formations with loyalty to no one but him, rather than having to ask the domain, sector, or subsector nobles if he might be able to borrow a regiment or two.

The chief difference between the Marines and Army is that the Army comes with ground-based combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) rather than having to rely on the fleet for anything more than transportation. This means that Army formations will take more to haul, but once there can be left in place for the long-term.

A consequence will be that the Army's equipment will place more emphasis on protection rather than limiting size and weight. Indirect fire systems will be of larger caliber and armored vehicles will be bigger and have heavier armor. Therefore, Army formations will not only be able to fight longer, but they will also be able to withstand enemy firepower better, providing another critical consideration for Imperial military planners.

The Army will also come with units that perform all of the critical CS/CSS tasks - not only logistics and medical stuff but things like construction engineers (rather than combat engineers), civil affairs, and military intelligence that are critical to sustained missions like a counterinsurgency.

But, while the Imperial Army will be a big organization, it will not be as big as you might think. It will consist of both active duty and reserve units and will also have access to domain, sector, subsector, and system formations. I think it would work in a similar manner to the relationship between the US Army National Guard and the active Army in that the active army dictates standards of training and stipulates organization and doctrine for units and then provides the equipment and much of the funding for them. This allows the core of the Imperial Army forces to be augmented with other forces equipped to Imperial standards, though often at a lower tech level, ensuring compatibility both in operations and logistics.

More on the organization later, as this post is growing too long. Now you can see why I lost the first post - it took too long to type. At any rate, this will suffice for what I wanted to accomplish - I hope to generate discussion on the subject. My ideas are just that and I'm interested to see what assumptions, organization, and missions are the norm IYTU.

Renaissance Man January 17th, 2008 12:22 AM

I'll have to include the obligatory disclaimer - I'm still cutting my teeth and feeling my way through this Traveller thing. I like what you've got here Major, and I'll add my two cents, with a more social/political look at the notion of an Imperial Army, expanding on what you've already said on the topic.

I always imagined the Marines as having pretty much two roles:
1) Boarding actions and space-based infantry operations.

2) First in for a ground invasion.

They're numerically tiny compared to the Army. They don't even need be put down in drop ships - squads of Imperial marines can fall from near-orbit in battledress. (I obviously believe in cold reentry for cg)

They drop in, usually after a major ortillery bombardment, fight for possession of a strategic asset, and secure it for the Army. As you say Major, they are really tied to their ship in orbit and don't have the training nor the CS and CSS support for a protracted engagement. They are entry men - the ones that kick down the door. Overwhelming firepower on a battledress delivery model. Expensive, technologically intensive, and trained for aggressive, agile, primary assaults (beach-heads.) Elite, and very much a product of the Imperium rather than local governments, like the IN to which it is linked.

And as you said, the Army is charged with actually holding positions, fighting over long periods, setting up a military-industrial infrastructure in order to sustain themselves with or without ortillery. Much less glamorous than the Marines. But usually, the Army does most of the work.


In MTU there is an Imperial Army for two reasons. First, as I am attempting to outline, there is a need for a force like the Army because the Army provides capabilities the Marines will not have. Second, I think that the Emperor will surely want to have Army formations with loyalty to no one but him, rather than having to ask the domain, sector, or subsector nobles if he might be able to borrow a regiment or two.
I agree that there is an Imperial army insofar as there is an Imperium-wide standard for training and equipment, and an Imperium-wide command structure. But I think in MTU this is something of a veneer placed over a more confederated system of raising troops. Imperial army bases will act as bureaus and academies servicing the surrounding system's armies, but these armies are raised from worlds under local rules and customs. Some highly militarized worlds will have obligatory military service, only a portion of which will be called for IA service, for example. Others will have a volunteer army. Some will have no army.

Every world must have a certain agreed-upon number of local soldiers in proper fighting order who perform Imperial army "service." Depending on how quiet the your sector is, that service may be indistinguishable from local army service - essentially remaining battle ready for the IA.

If the world in question is culturally unsuitable for IA duty for whatever reason, they may be able to substitute a larger tax to the Imperium instead of battle-ready soldiers - subject to negotiation with the Moot. By the time we get to the CT timeline, there is a whole whack of legal precedent to help determine what other options a world might have.

On low TL worlds, or poor worlds, volunteering for the IA is a godsend. See the galaxy, kill some sophonts, get an education, pay, and benefits. These populations make up the largest portion of the IA, and counterbalance richer, more "peace-loving" or isolationist worlds that don't have the political will to volunteer lots of troops. Another pro-IA incentive is that worlds that take an active part in the IA get military aid and funding, and are able to take advantage of imperial technology in their own armies. This also leads to spin-off technologies and will raise the tech-level of the planet.

Military aid is not an altruistic exercise. The Imperium is strengthening a world's military, and binding it closer to its own political destiny. With worlds where the population is divided, or have strong anti-Imperial elements in its government this gives the Imperium an important lever of control. Ultimately, when the chips are down, the guys with guns will be on your side.

Major B January 17th, 2008 12:54 AM

RM, great points. I hadn't thought out the demographic background of the soldiers making up the IA but I think you are dead-on there. What better way for a low TL world to boost their standing and their economy than to take advantage of Imperial training and transportation to develop some high-tech experienced ex-soldiers.

That also opens up possible story lines for character development. I can think of two off the top of my head:

1) Player takes advantage of planet's program to provide tax-free cash bonus for enlisting AND returning afterward for X years, or

2) Player from a world that pays taxes in lieu of recruiting that decides to join anyway - what is his motive?

My point in going through this thought process is to buid a campaign where players can play through their prior career rather than just rolling it, so your ideas are very helpful.

I still feel that there will still be an Imperial Army of combat formations although the training, command, and planning infrastructure you implied are the bulk of Imperial Army forces. The combat formations will not be enormous but there will always be forces there for the Emperor to call on when needed. It also allows for another story line - what do you do when your regiment is sent to quell the rebellion on your homeworld?

deniable January 17th, 2008 02:08 AM

A flip side to the ground based support for the Army is that it's easier to pull the Marines off a planet if things go bad. Once the Army is committed, you are a lot more committed to keeping the world.

I always viewed the IA as a composite force made of of both Imperial units and local units doing Imperial service. The Imperial units, however, can answer to different people, either the Emperor himself or one of the Sector/Subsector Dukes.

Icosahedron January 17th, 2008 06:11 AM

My military experience is strictly of the armchair variety, but I see the 'army' having three tiers;
1) The World Army, under the control of the local government.
2) Something like the IA Service as RM described above (possibly used as a subsector army)
3) An Imperial Army made from emigres who are unlikely to return to their 'homeworld' after service. Even so, regiments would be recruited from different regions of the Empire and never used to fight on their 'home ground'. Eg, the 'Border Regiment' would be used in the Core.

PS. The 'system' does seem to have a much shorter 'window' for posting than it used to - leading to a potential loss of posts. Is this something Hunter has been tweaking?

Renaissance Man January 17th, 2008 09:33 AM


Originally Posted by Icosahedron (Post 246929)
3) An Imperial Army made from emigres who are unlikely to return to their 'homeworld' after service. Even so, regiments would be recruited from different regions of the Empire and never used to fight on their 'home ground'. Eg, the 'Border Regiment' would be used in the Core.

This is actually something that came to my mind while I was writing the other stuff. You could have something like an "Imperial Foreign Legion" devoted directly to the Emperor. You can join up as long as you're fit with no questions asked, from any corner of the Imperium. You do not have to give them your real name. You go through a rigorous training process (that includes political training), and after your service, are issued Sylean citizenship under your new name.

It's a way for the Imperium to recycle some of its scum into the population. Criminals and outcasts can make good soldiers, if you knead the dough enough.

jec10 January 17th, 2008 11:01 AM

Lots of good thoughts in this thread.

Just before anyone spends hours typing in their TO&Es, I'm sure many are already aware that there are various canon sources for Imperial Marine unit orgs. The most prominent being JTAS #12 and TNE/Striker II. CT/Striker, JTAS #12, TNE/Striker II and TNE/Regency Combat Vehicle Guide cover Imperial Marine vehicles and weapons. Not strictly canon are the descriptions in GT/Ground Forces, but they are broadly congruent with the earlier material.

There is rather less canon material on the Army. For strict Imperial Army units there is only the Terry McInnes article in Traveller's Digest #9 which details the regiments of the Imperial Guard based on Capital/Core (replicated in TNE/Striker II). Nevertheless, one can extrapolate from these the likely organisation of other Imperial Army battalions and regiments (but not larger formations).

GT/Ground Forces does detail Imperial Army formations. Some people like Ground Forces descriptions a lot - personally I detest the way the GT Imperial Army is a clone of the late 20th Century US Army.

Not strictly an Imperial unit, but one of the most regularly cited in canon is the Duke of Regina's Own Huscarles, the 4518th Lift Infantry Regiment. This subsector military unit is detailed over-and-over again in publications such as JTAS #9, Spinward Marches Campaign, and TNE/Striker II.

As to whether there is an Imperial Army, we have discussed this elsewhere on COTI and I could go on finding quotes forever, here is today's one...

"The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service is a major service within the
Imperium, equal in stature to the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy,
although assigned a variety of unique, primarily non-military missions."

Book 6, Scouts, p. 4. (1983)

atpollard January 17th, 2008 11:19 AM

I like the thought of a ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ Marine force to attack the Planetary defenses so the Navy CAN land and support the regular Marines. One Deep Meson Battery can ruin your whole day – someone needs to prevent that from happening.

dean January 17th, 2008 01:31 PM


Originally Posted by Icosahedron (Post 246929)
3) An Imperial Army made from emigres who are unlikely to return to their 'homeworld' after service. Even so, regiments would be recruited from different regions of the Empire and never used to fight on their 'home ground'. Eg, the 'Border Regiment' would be used in the Core.

Leading to a whole new Class of ship!

The Army Training Vessel

Staffed by merchant marine-types to operate the vessel, it is essentially a giant space-faring Fort Benning. These are J-2 capable ships, which allow for the training of recruits while they are dispersed away from the home systems for duty, preventing local loyalties from conflicting them with their duty to the Imperium and Emperor.

Once at their destination, they then disgorge their now-trained recruits for advanced and ground based training, and load up with another group of recuits from the local area to be ferried back towards the ship's original departure point. Any recruits deemed unable to complete the course are discharged (conduct, dishonorable; medical, medical; deaths are discharged honorably and the body returned to the home planet when the ship returns) and isolated from the continuing recruits in a special area.

The ships themselves are not streamlined and may use refueling shuttles to provide raw fuel to the refining plant.

Politically, the routes of these ships is of especial interst to various power factions within the Imperium. Powerful groups often are able to influence the training command to route recruit ships originating from culturally similar systems to their system. Poorer or less powerful world often get the recruit battalions from worlds where there are significant cultural differences or where the recruits are or "less desirable" origins.

Uncle Bob January 17th, 2008 03:22 PM

This ties nicely with a thread over on the Imperial Research Station Forum. And the current wars in South Asia give us parallels.

IMTU the Marines specialize in door kicking: boarding actions and vertical assaults. They have no vehicles, just armored landing boats and supporting gunboats. They have no artillery, only Ortillery.
OK, there is an exception, Defense battalions who are trained to secure Navy bases, including the planetary defense weapons.

The Army is different. The Army gets a lot of experience in asymmetrical warfare, as modern weapons can destroy anything resembling a conventional force once the planetary defenses are beaten down. I don't really see much role for an Imperial Army, as anything that can't be vaporized from orbit can be dealt with by sector troops.

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