Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Studying Warfare: 'Fleet in Being'

I'm sorry that I've been silent lately. Between school ending for the year (for those that don't know I'm a teacher by day) and a bit of a malaise on 7th edition, I've kinda been meh on gaming lately. To that end, I finally got in a game today (with brief battle reports to come) and it got me thinking about a concept in military strategy called the Fleet in Being.

In short, a fleet in being is the mere presence of a naval force that actually remains in port, or even at sea, but doesn't necessarily engage in battle. While some might look at this and think "Cool! I don't have to even fight them to win!" they'd simply be wrong. The force is still there. The potential impact ever present and simply waiting for its time to act. That time can easily be once you're not ready for it.

The worst part is that there isn't anything you can do about it either. A fleet in being at port has the support of coastal batteries to keep it safe. A fleet in being at sea could potentially be anywhere if you can't find it. Either way, if you don't keep a countering force ready to go and counter them then you're looking at an enemy resource that can sucker punch you at the worst moment.

I can think of two big instances off the top of my head where this concept altered the course of human history.

The first is the Spanish American War. The Spanish Pacific fleet was beaten like a red headed step child early in the war. It was ugly and a lot of histories focus on this part of the naval aspect of that war. What a lot of histories neglect is the Spanish Atlantic fleet. This fleet put out to sea early and a lot of America's eastern coast was in a state of almost panic during the early portion of the war with fear that this fleet could show up at any moment and shell New York or Boston into rumble! Or worse, land troops and take the war to American soil. Sadly, for the Spanish, the Admiral in charge of that fleet was an honorable fellow and decided to seek open conflict around Cuba. While this could have resulted in casualties amongst American ships an sailors it was still a better situation than the entire eastern coast left at high alert and much of the American navy having to remain ready to fight them over a large area.

The second instance is during the first World War. The German navy was actually fairly impressive but it gets overlooked in history because it didn't do much...except be a fleet in being. The most advanced forces of the British Royal Navy simply stayed in port or nearby the home isles waiting for the Germans to come out and play. The Germans, quite intelligently because they'd have likely lost, didn't. By simply siting on their behind, they were still able to tie up most of the most power force on the water since the British fleet leaving where they were would have resulted in the German fleet shelling British coastal cities (there was even a plan for attacking London.)

So, how does this apply to wargaming? Simple, reserves. Flyers and deep strikers in particular but all of them.

As long as an enemy has these things still in reserves they are a fleet in being and you have to stay ready for them. Drop Pods and Deep Strikers make us not want to leave the board edge because then they can land safer and get shots off at rear or side armor without drifting off the table. Flyers make up want to keep men in cover rather than advancing into no man's land where we'll pay once the enemies heavy hand shows up. Without a model actually on the table they have influenced our actions in their favor!

How do we counter this? If you've got an answer then call the Pentagon because I'm sure they'd love to hear this. Aside from attacking ports, which hurts, and improving reconnaissance there has never been a good answer. Thankfully, wargaming is a bit simpler. We have a few options to help us out.
  • Interceptor - Let them show up!
  • Fortitude - If I'm tough enough to take them on when they show, however they show, I'm fine.
  • Reversal - Do the same to them so that they must use their fleet to counter yours (flyer on flyer.)
  • Prioritization - Force them to use their fleet, once it shows up, on things you don't really care about.
The second and last options are the worst because it still relies on what we don't like, taking casualties. The third requires us to take good flyers...which IG has few and definitely not cheap (170 is a lot for the Vendetta, imo.) The last hurts me as a mech player since melta is a thing.

This leads me to believe that IG has three great strengths against fleets in being: platoon blobs, Coteaz, and Aegis Defense Lines. They can take casualties and can target fleets in being as they arrive, preventing them from being effective.


1 comment:

  1. Not to forget the extra travel time imposed on Arctic Convoys to Murmansk caused by the Tirpitz being in Norway. That extra time gave more opportunity for the subs and Luftwaffe to attack the convoys.

    Nice post by the way.