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Old 10-10-2012, 05:43 PM   #1
Nancy Fulda
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Anybody want to help me invent a new branch of the military?

I've been invited to submit to a hard sci-fi anthology, and story is shaping up to have a military bent.

This is bad, because I have no military experience.

In order to not totally screw up the details or otherwise disrespect the existing armed forces, I'd like to invent a new branch of the military: one created specifically for orbital operations. I want it to have an elite force, something akin to the navy seals, that handles reconnaissance and counter-terrorism. And I want it to feel believable.

So... if within the next 200 years the orbital regions near earth became a center of political and military conflict, which branch of the military would initially move into that vacuum? And how and when might that branch of the military be split in order to create an independent organization?
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:56 PM   #2
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Initially, it would be the air force. In fact, the transition from "air and space force" to "space and air force" is already happening in the USAF.

As for when the space force would split from the air force... "when it becomes clear that an independent space force is more useful than one bound to the air force."

This is why we have a separate air force now. World War II proved that air power is much more than just supplementing ground forces.

If you want a time frame for this separation, I cannot provide one. The march of science and technology is unpredictable. Any time estimate that anyone comes up with will likely wind up being horribly inaccurate. For example, we don't have flying cars yet, as was predicted by Back to the Future as happening by 2015... yet we have computers in the palms of our hands. Computers that are approaching our desktops and laptops in power. Back in the 80s, nobody could ever have conceptualized that, let alone thought it would happen in 20 years.

I hope this helps.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:08 PM   #3
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Tricky. It may seem obvious now to have an Air Force as a separate branch of the military, but it wasn't always so obvious. The Army Air Service was formed in 1918 and became the Army Air Corps in 1926. The Army Air Corps became the Army Air Forces in 1941, and was split off into its own branch of the military in 1947.

Basically, the role of the air units in the army became more and more separate form the role of the ground units, and eventually, it was decided that it would be better to have them as seperate branches, but it didn't have to be that way. It's your choice what to split off, I think it makes the most sense when the roles become so disparate that they have little in common.

For example, if you have time travel stories, the organization dealing with time travel might work best as a separate branch. Planetary defense might become very distinct from a deep space patrol service.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:14 PM   #4
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If you have no military experience, I doubt you will be successful in writing military SF.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LuceBianchi View Post
Initially, it would be the air force. In fact, the transition from "air and space force" to "space and air force" is already happening in the USAF.

As for when the space force would split from the air force... "when it becomes clear that an independent space force is more useful than one bound to the air force."

This is why we have a separate air force now. World War II proved that air power is much more than just supplementing ground forces.

If you want a time frame for this separation, I cannot provide one. The march of science and technology is unpredictable. Any time estimate that anyone comes up with will likely wind up being horribly inaccurate. For example, we don't have flying cars yet, as was predicted by Back to the Future as happening by 2015... yet we have computers in the palms of our hands. Computers that are approaching our desktops and laptops in power. Back in the 80s, nobody could ever have conceptualized that, let alone thought it would happen in 20 years.

I hope this helps.
Yes, the air force does have a strategic lock when it comes to global air power and so far also into space. But I can not envision the navy setting on there hands if in the future real or imagined. The navy is very good with ships on the sea, and it is not a reach to see ships in space in the future, I can see a space based navy as depicted in all of the wonderful syfy story's we have.

If anything I can see the air force disappear completely and become integrated with the navy for space based operations, but only off planet, or on another world.

For now Navy = Water, local air combat. Air Force=Air, strategic air combat /Space.

In time I can see all branches of the service being integrated into one organization. In fact that is happening right now, but at a slow pace.

AFSC-42153 (1970-1976) USAF

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Old 10-10-2012, 06:25 PM   #6
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We were talking about this Monday night at my book club. One person wanted to know why space ships used Navy terms when she felt they should be Air Force. I'll not go into our discussion but if it is going to be inter-orbital & inter-planetary a Space Force similar to the Air Force & a break off of the Air Force, makes sense to me. Like someone mentioned they would be a break off of the Air Force. Once we get into long term space flight it once more becomes more ship like with the personal living on it as if the were on a ship, thus the Navy terms..

Now if you are going to have something like the Marines going onto space stations you then need a transport. Depending on the size of the personal force & time it takes would indicate whether it would be a large transport flying machine or a ship like a Navy ship.

I don't know if that helps.

I'm partial to the Navy idea since I'm a Navy Vet.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by susan_cassidy View Post
If you have no military experience, I doubt you will be successful in writing military SF.
If people only wrote about what they had direct experience with, a lot of good books wouldn't exist. Like anything else, you can learn about the military. People write stories set in the civil war without having comparable experience; being in today's military doesn't give anyone special insight into the military of the 1860s. I'm a veteran myself, but my personal experience gives me a worms-eye persective, and I don't think it would give me much of an advantage in writing about a future military.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:34 PM   #8
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I do think it gives you an advantage. It's a whole different mind-set, not just the terminology.

ETA: They always say "write what you know".
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:41 PM   #9
Nancy Fulda
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This is really helpful, everyone. Thank you so much, and feel free to keep the ideas coming. I'll be checking back frequently over the next few days.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:42 PM   #10
QuantumIguana
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Personal experience is a tool that people can use, but it can also give you an odd perspective. People in the military have a lot of different mindsets. You have to be able to look beyond your experience to look at the "big picture". There's also no particular reason that a military in the future has to be just like the military of today.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:43 PM   #11
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Navy tends to be more self contained over time. 30 days at sea.. No problem.
Put a Jet in the air for 30 days , even with 'Air Tankers'

Spaceships are closer to Submarines. High pressure (inside<->outside )differentials limited air, difficult to go outside to fix something

Go Navy (I'm a bit biased )
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by susan_cassidy View Post
I do think it gives you an advantage. It's a whole different mind-set, not just the terminology.

ETA: They always say "write what you know".
You are right, it is a different mind-set and a way of thinking. You do not "own" yourself, your country owns you and anything else you may need is "issued" to you.

And your job is not so much for you but it is completely for your country in its defense, right or wrong.

The o/p may do good if she could find some vets both enlisted and officers that are still active or retired from any of the services. It would help to give insight into the mind set of the military way of thinking.

Also to keep blunders down , try to enlist one to help develop the story line and sorta keep it real as it could be, even if it is fiction.

Knowing vet's, I am very sure you could find one that would be overjoyed to help.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:52 PM   #13
Nancy Fulda
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Quote:
Originally Posted by susan_cassidy View Post
I do think it gives you an advantage. It's a whole different mind-set, not just the terminology.

ETA: They always say "write what you know".
I agree that military experience would be an advantage. It's easier for authors to create verisimilitude if they can draw on a wealth of personal experience.

For what it's worth, don't think this is going to end up being military science fiction in the classic sense. My protagonist has ended up in the armed forces somewhat against her will, and I feel compelled to allow this story event to occur and see where the plot trail leads.

I guess you could say that, in this case, "write what you know" got trumped by "write what you love."
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:59 PM   #14
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John Ringo came up with a very compelling explanation why his VORPAL BLADE spaceship would be run by the Navy (Above and beyond the fact it was a converted nuclear missile sub). The point he made was that the Air Force is a sortie combat force whereas the Navy is designed around extended independent operations.
So the first question for a space-based military force is what theater it will operate in: near-earth, Moon, or deep space.
The second question is where they are based; earth, a space station, a moon base, or a mobile base.
If you're staying within the near future time-frame, mobile basing would be less likely.
One book that might spur some ideas is George Friedman's THE NEXT 100 YEARS.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Next-100-Y.../dp/038551705X
The author is a geopolitical analyst at Stratfor, a policy consultancy.
One of the scenarios he presents for mid-century involves a series of military command and control space stations in geo-stationary orbit that require extended stays in orbit for the crew, which breaks with the Air Force's sortie operations mode, and thus justifies spinning off the Space Force as a separate branch.
If I were writing a story around such a base (he calls them BattleStars which "probably" would need changing... ) I would expect the crew to be involved in hypersonic drone piloting, communications monitoring, and orbital-systems cyber-warfare (hacking GPS constellations and/or spy satellites). The bases might be pretty good bases for orbital lasers to blind or destroy orbital assets. A bit further out, there might be a use for boarding parties to manned LEO space station or even sneak commando raids.
Such a branch would very quickly develop their own culture and jargon (if nothing else, to distinguish themselves from the earth-bound services) so there would be no need to get every last bit of existing military detail exactly right. (Less research needed.) Plus the required skillset might not have much to do with, say, Parris Island. Nerds in space!

Good luck!

BTW, one thing the Friedman book emphasizes is that tomorrow's antagonists need not be today's rivals. They can just as easily be today's friends and allies.

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Old 10-10-2012, 07:01 PM   #15
QuantumIguana
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There are a few things that would be good to keep in mind about the military. They aren't all alike, they come from all over the place. It can be a bit of a culture shock at first. Another is that they are young. Your perspective on what counts as "old" can be different in the military. There are a lot of people in their 20's, and progressively less and less of older people. A 50 year-old can be seen as ancient. Think if it like professional sports, a 40 year-old NFL player is seen as ancient, but in a normal job, isn't even halfway to retirement.

One thing I liked about old WWII movies is that they depicted the military fairly accurately. The soldiers weren't supermen, they were just people. They didn't all think alike, the sterotype of the soldier from brooklyn, the soldier from Alabama, the soldier from Idaho works because that's pretty much what it is like.
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