Feb 17

Space-Ops Strategy: Laying plans

The planning deck

Many thousands of years ago on Earth, Sun Tzu said:

The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, and road to safety or ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

In the Star Citizen Universe the information contained in The Art of War is certainly of vital importance to the UEE strategy, but the ‘Verse is a really big place, and the UEE obviously can’t protect it all. Organizations expecting to accomplish their goals out there in the black may be required to take up arms and defend themselves. If your goals take you outside UEE controlled space your fate is without a doubt, in your own hands.

Sun Tzu goes on to cover the importance as well as the process of planning in the first chapter in The Art of War. In it, he asserts that by thinking, assessing and comparing seven fundamental elements of warfare prior to engaging, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. These are:

  1. Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? (Whose people are more in accordance with their ruler?)
  2. Which of the two generals has the most ability?
  3. With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (Season, weather, and terrain)
  4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
  5. Which army is stronger?
  6. On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
  7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

Sun Tzu said that ignoring or deviating from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. He went on to say commanders who do not consider these questions before battle should be fired, for they will surely fail.

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail” …Winston Churchill

I couldn’t agree with Sun Tzu or Winston Churchill more. If we are hoping to be successful in the ‘Verse, particularly in lawless space, we must have a plan. But how should a commander conducting space operations in the year 2945 handle this critical task? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.

Planning, at a high level

Space-Ops Strategy planning is the process of thinking through and organizing the activities and resources required to achieve a stated goal while operating in the ‘Verse. Because most organizations in the ‘Verse are civilian contractors, and not state-sponsored military, our planning process borrows concepts from business and military strategy.

At a high level this overall effort is organized into the following, interrelated phases:

Research, Collaborate, Create, Communicate

During the research phase the commander is gathering intelligence relevant to the mission. Planning should proceed when the commander knows as much as possible about environmental factors, available friendly forces, status of friendly assets, probable size, skill, and type of enemy forces within the area of operation, and the parameters of the mission objective.

Once armed with as much information as can be collected with the time available, the next phase is to collaborate with fellow members of the organizational leadership corp. Sometimes also called brainstorming, or ideation, this critical step will ensure a multitude of ideas are considered before settling on the final plan. It’s also the easiest way to build consensus among the lieutenants, who will eventually be tasked with executing the plan.

The third step is to create the final plan. It’s at this time the unit commander must consider all the intelligence, the input of his fellow organizational leaders, and personal experience, before devising the final strategic plan for the mission.

A good mission plan will include the following information:

  1. Mission description: The goal, background, timing, and scope of the mission
  2. Available friendly resources, support and assets
  3. Phases of the plan
  4. Definition of the area of operation
  5. Environmental factors
  6. Probable opposition forces
  7. Order of march
  8. Communications details

The mission plan should not include a step by step description of every single unit movement. Instead, a good commander will allow his or her lieutenants to decide how to allocate and direct their resources within the strategic parameters.

Once the plan is created the final step is to communicate it out to the unit. This should happen before the starting phases of the plan’s execution as a verbal presentation and discussion. The documented version should also be made available for any member of the organization to access at anytime in the mission. Ideally, the mission plan will include any supporting imagery necessary to communicate the plan.

Bringing the strategy together

So let’s take a look at a simple example. For the sake of brevity, we’re going to keep this as basic as possible but bear in mind, the most successful missions are supported by appropriately detailed plans. Our mission is to explore the Krell System, outside UEE Controlled space.

Note: The purpose of this example mission is to demonstrate the fundamental aspects of documenting a simple plan. It should not be mistaken for any kind of accurate representation of factual information about Star Citizen PU details. Of course we all know, nothing is done until it’s done, and the names of systems, organizations, and/or speculative guesses about their makeup are NOT meant to be accurate for the purposes of this example. 

Mission description

The scope of this mission is to explore the Krell system on behalf of the Orion Limited Mining Organization (OLMO). The primary objective of the mission is to determine whether or not there are valuable resources in the system. If valuable resources are discovered, a secondary bonus objective will be to make contact with the local population and collect relevant intelligence on the strength of military forces, political climate, and probable reaction to UEE mining operations entering the area.

Care should be taken not to engage in combat operations unless required to defend the unit’s people and assets. Avoid collateral damage at all costs.

Available friendly resources, support and assets

The friendly assets for this mission will include two Carrack exploration groups, each including an Anvil Carrack, a Constellation Andromeda, and six Mustang Delta escorts. The unit will be supported by a Starfarer refueling group and two Herald info runners.

Phases of the plan

This mission will be divided into the following distinct phases:

  • Transit to the Krell system – After departing Terra we’ll form up at L1 before making a rapid departure for the Krell system, passing through the Baker, #2, Virtus, and Tal systems. We’ll likely stop in Virtus for fuel.
  • Exploration in the Krell system – Take as long as is necessary to determine the potential for mining operations in the Krell system. Exploration group 2 will provide security while group 1 conducts the science operations.
  • Transmission of intelligence – Once satisfied we have the necessary information, we will deploy info runners to rapidly return the data to OLMO representatives waiting in Terra.
  • Contact phase – Should we find evidence of mining value, the command group will go planetside to attempt to make contact with local leadership on populated planets, to gather more information.
  • Transit back to Terra – The mission will be considered complete when all resources are back on Terra.

Contingencies:

If we make contact with an overwhelming opposition force and are forced to make a rapid retreat, our fallback point will be at the third planet in System #2.

Definition of the area of operation

This mission spans the transit from Terra system to the Krell system and back again. We will pass through Baker, #2, Virtus, and Tal. Primary operations will take place in the Krell system, on the opposite side of Xi’An territory.

Environmental factors

Consult maps for the most up to date information on systems within UEE controlled space. Virtus is a class 3 giant with a high probability of supporting fuel scooping operations but the local population is mixed on the presence of UEE Commercial operations moving through their space. It would be wise to move efficiently though this space.

Little is known about the Krell system. It is home to the Kr’thak species but the UEE has had no formal interaction with them and very little is known about their attitudes and disposition towards the presence of humans in their system.

Most probable opposition forces

There is a < 15% probability of local Xi’an friction when passing through their systems. Recent dustups with pirates and smugglers have created ill will towards humans at the local level.

Scouting intelligence reports heavy pirate presence in the Krell system but it is highly disorganized and factional. There is a high probability of engagement but most likely interactions will be small units without support. There are reports of a larger nomadic pirate organization which passes through the Krell system from time to time. This unit may be  big enough to give our size a serious fight. If we make contact with this unit the commander should decide whether it makes sense to fight or break contact, depending on their current status.

Order of march

Command will be on the lead Carrack group. Support groups will be in the middle and the second Carrack unit will take up the rear.

Communications details

Unit call signs/Comms:

  • Command group: Alpha group – Channel 1
  • Fuel support group:  Bravo group – Channel 2
  • Info runner support group: Charlie group – Channel 3
  • Second exploration group: Delta group – Channel 4
  • Wing command and coordination: Channel 5
  • Call for support: Channel 6

Conclusion

So that’s it! Obviously the example could be far more detailed but we wanted to provide a super basic idea of how the information all comes together. As we mentioned earlier, a command plan doesn’t include a step by step detail of every possible movement of every unit. This is important: Individual unit commanders need the flexibility and latitude to lead their own forces.

So we’d like to know what you think about planning to be successful while conducting operations in the ‘Verse. Please leave your comments here, or join the ongoing conversations on /R/StarCitizen, Twitter, or Facebook. If you like to connect on twitter use hashtag #SpaceOpsStrategy.

 

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