Good morning, Variants!
Recently I was invited to come onto a Podcast with RollWithIt, during which we talked about Power Armor from various science fiction franchises. We spoke at length about the different variations, tropes, and uses of Power Armor in sci-fi and fantasy, but there is another aspect that I’d like to cover here. It is a tactic typically employed by fantasy forces with Power Armored soldiers, and that is the Orbital Shock Assault.
This tactic requires a sci-fi army to have orbital capability (and typically space ships), along with the advanced mechanical equipment to manufacture and maintain the equipment needed. This is a long winded way to say “I know most depictions of this tactic are not very realistic”, but they are cool, so I am not terribly concerned about realism in this case. The tactic originates in the same place as Power Armor itself, Robert Heinlines’ Starship Troopers, and has been included in other sci-fi settings from Halo to Warhammer 40k and many others. It is typically depicted as a cross between amphibious invasion and paradrop, (mostly because it looks cooler that way).
Let’s skip straight to the interesting bit – how does this Orbital Shock Assault work? First, the Power Armored infantry is brought into position in orbit by their ship from which they are deployed. This is typically done in reinforced drop pods, which safely carry the soldier to the ground, or by fast moving aircraft. In some cases, extra pods are deployed as chaff to discombobulate anti-air defences. The soldiers are then deployed feet first onto an objective, which is typically destroyed or captured. Command posts, strategic headquarters, weapons platforms, and other strategic sites are common objectives for these sort of attacks. Once on the ground, the infantry can use their Power Armor to move rapidly to their next objective, or maintain control of the area they land in.
You may now be asking yourself “Why would you do this? The Orbital Shock Assault leaves troops surrounded in enemy territory?” There are two main reasons why this tactic is selected. First, it allows rapid deployment of heavily armed troops directly into combat. There is no slow advance toward forward positions or advancing into enemy fire. The second, and arguably most important, is surprise. These assaults are aggressive and give little to no warning before the troops hit solid ground. In cases where forces are dropped onto command objectives, leaders can often be captured or eliminated as required. Aggressive assaults like this can also be used to secure routes of retreat or strategic geographical locations, such as bridges. A modern example of this was the paradrop assaults of Operation Market Garden.
Overall, the Orbital Shock Assault is a high risk, high reward tactic used by many sci-fi armies equipped with Powered Armor. If you would like to know more about Power Armor, check out the podcast I was recently invited to with RollWithIt.