2950-04-26 – Tales from the Service: The View from Headquarters, Part 6
As I have mentioned in recent weeks, we’ve been working with Admiral Zahariev’s headquarters to set up a proper interview about the two battles in the Håkøya system. It’s taken some time, but we’ve finally arranged a virtual conference with Colonel Durand and Captain Kirke-Moore, who we have spoken with in the past.
As is usual for interviews conducted by this embed team, the audio recording can be found on the Cosmic Background datasphere hub.
D.L.C. - Duncan Chaudhri is a junior editor and wartime head field reporter for Cosmic Background.
N.T.B. - Nojus Brand is a long-time explorer, datasphere personality, and wartime field reporter for Cosmic Background.
C.S.D. - Colonel Carolina Durand is the Naval Intelligence attaché to Admiral Zahariev.
B.K.M. - Captain Bozsi Kirke-Moore is a former pirate who has experience with asymmetric warfare in the Coreward Frontier, serving as an adviser to Admiral Zahariev. His rank is provisional, as he has never held it in Navy service prior to his recent appearance on the Fifth Fleet staff.
[D.L.C.] Thank you both for joining us. I’m sure the last few weeks have been very busy.
[C.S.D.] As always, Mr. Chaudhri, it is a pleasure to work with you and your company, though I’d hoped our next talk would be under better circumstances.
[B.K.M.] Yes, it is good to talk to you again, Mr. Chaudhri. I heard you were injured last month in the first battle. How is your recovery?
[D.L.C.] Thanks to the med-techs, I’m almost back to normal. Luckily my job is mostly desk work.
[N.T.B.] He got off lucky, but we’re glad he pulled through all the same. A lot of good spacers in Fifth Fleet weren’t so lucky that day.
[B.K.M.] Good to hear your voice as well, Mr. Brand. Has this war tarnished your notoriously spotless optimism already? Fifth Fleet’s prospects so bad as they sometimes seem.
[D.L.C.] Perhaps we should start there, then. You remain quite optimistic even after the loss of Håkøya. Obviously the battles there were not unmitigated disasters, but what specifically gives you reasons to be positive?
[B.K.M.] The simplest one is that this fleet has twice contested an enemy for a system over a sustained period, and still has lost none of its eight capital ships. The enemy's fleet seems to either totally lack capital units, or to possess few and to keep them in reserve on the other side of the Gap, and while this gives their forces excellent mobility, it does mean that they lack a real answer for Confederated battleships.
[N.T.B.] It doesn’t seem like they really need to destroy the battleships to achieve their objectives, though.
[D.L.C.] Er, yes. If they can damage battleships enough to force them out of the fight, does it really matter if they can’t destroy our capital ships?
[B.K.M.] The force economics of disabling ships temporarily does not favor The Incarnation in the long term. After all, new battleships are already arriving here on the Frontier for both Fifth and Seventh Fleets to supplement those already here. Already this year, they’ve been thwarted at Berkant and barely salvaged a pyrrhic victory at Håkøya in which they lost many ships to gain an empty world and almost none of its system-level infrastructure. If not for the fleet tenders that were stationed there, they might have gained nothing at all.
[N.T.B.] Nothing except the planet and system, which is barely five light-years from Maribel.
[B.K.M.] That works against them at least as much as it works against us. Maribel is well fortified against raids even without the fleet present, and we left Håkøya without any such defenses, excepting facilities for a large ground garrison. They’ll try to hold the place, but their leaders will regret it in the end.
[D.L.C.] You’re looking at plans to counter-attack and retake the place, then?
[B.K.M.] Eventually, of course, but there is value to the enemy fleet being so close. For example, Fifth Fleet’s skirmishing elements have the range to strike enemy forces there directly without committing tenders or other large ships, which means we can strike without warning at any time. They’ll have to use heavy escorts just to ferry their supply and troop ships in and out of the Håkøya system. This takes their limited supply of cruisers away from other duties.
[C.S.D.] Obviously this is not secret information. The enemy knows about our raiding elements very well by now. Their admirals can see this possibility as easily as we can.
[N.T.B.] So the war really has come down to attrition? To seeing who can replace ships and spacers fastest?
[B.K.M.] Attrition is the sad reality of any full-scale war, Mr. Brand. The war is not about who has stormed the most planets, but about who can maintain an effective fighting force longer. Reneer and I have discussed many ways to save the lives of Navy spacers and magnify casualties on the enemy side, and one of those ways is to let The Incarnation take and hold low-value systems to thin out their resources.
[D.L.C.] Has this thinning out provided any real benefits?
[C.S.D.] Civilians on the unoccupied Confederated Frontier worlds have probably already noticed a considerable drop-off in enemy raiding activity in the last six months. As they need to keep ships on station over occupied worlds and to replace losses in their main offensive fleet, they have fewer to devote to raiding action.
[B.K.M.] The homogeneity of the Incarnation fleet is both its great strength and its great weakness. They use largely the same equipment in all roles and have very few second line warships. This is probably helping them maintain their long supply lines, but it also means that they have almost no ships designed for garrison and raiding duties. Our garrison and raiding squadrons cannot stand up to their cruisers, it is true, but they also are not needed to support the battle line in main engagements.
[N.T.B.] In other words, ours are smaller, but there are more of them, and the Tyrants can’t be everywhere.
[B.K.M.] That is a reasonably accurate simplification, yes. Also, our various raiding units are far stealthier than any cruiser could ever be.
[C.S.D.] We have even experimented with brief ground-side raiding strikes on occupied worlds, such as at Meraud and elsewhere. The details of some of these raids cannot be divulged, but most were far more expedient than the attack at Meraud.
[D.L.C.] When we spoke to Seventh Fleet, Admiral Abarca indicated that he hoped to see one or both fleets on the offensive this year. Do you think that timetable is still realistic?
[B.K.M.] I would say no. After Berkant, I would have thought that was a safe bet, too. Perhaps Seventh Fleet will still achieve that timetable, but Fifth Fleet will be on the strategic defensive at least until all its battleships have been repaired and returned to service. We will certainly still move out from Maribel to contest further Incarnation advances.
[N.T.B.] What about Farthing’s Chain? Does defending that region fall under Fifth Fleet’s responsibilities?
[B.K.M.] I don’t know the jurisdictional situation very well at all.
[C.S.D.] We have been informed that the Admiralty Council is sending elements of Third Fleet to patrol and reinforce vulnerable Farthing’s Chain worlds as a precaution against raids, but no major advance into Farthing’s Chain by the enemy is expected. If they do try that, their supply lines will have to run through Håkøya, where they can be easily cut by Maribel-based Navy forces.
[B.K.M.] Ah, yes, I remember that conversation now, my apologies. I agree with the Council at least in that an attack on the Chain would allow the immediate liberation of Håkøya.
[D.L.C.] An attack into Farthing’s Chain would be a public relations disaster, though. Does that factor into the Navy’s calculations?
[B.K.M.] It must, of course. A loss of confidence in the Navy by the public at large is the easiest way for the Incarnation to win this war, and Admiral Zahariev is always very aware of this fact. The long-term prospects for victory still remain very good.
[D.L.C.] Are you worried about the investigation into the loss of Håkøya?
[C.S.D.] We cannot comment on that in any detail, unfortunately.
[B.K.M.] I think it would be reasonable of me to say that I am not worried, but then, the worst they are likely to do is send me back to my cottage on Allsop. That world, by the grace of God, remains free of hostile forces.
[D.L.C.] I suppose that’s-
[C.S.D.] Excuse me, gentlemen, but I’m receiving word that Captain Kirke-Moore is needed in an urgent conference with Admiral Zahariev, and that we need to cut this short.
[D.L.C.] That’s all right, Ms. Durand. Thank you both for your time.
[B.K.M.] It is no trouble at all. Hopefully we will speak again quite soon.