Battlestar Galactica: Military Analysis: The Battle for the Tyllium Asteroid

Concerning the Battle of the Cylon Tylium Refinery in The Hand of God:

I’ll do a follow up to The Hand of God doing an after action report and cover those contradictions.

For example; comments by Colonel Tigh lead me to believe that the Cylons are at the limits of fuel range.

They may not have the fuel reserve to jump base stars in without that Tylium base to refuel.

This makes sense as their ships are far larger than Galactica.

Remember what Zachary/Gaius1 said about Tylium? A half billion megajoules per kilogram is what it delivers as refined fuel.

That and its(Tylium’s) rarity indicates to me tremendous logistics problems for the Cylons this far from their home bases.

So no base stars jumping in.

It also occurs to me that we have seen base stars jump in but not move with reaction drives when they have attacked.

That would explain why the Cylons would use raiders when to devastate a world all they would need is a jump capable missile barge. The raiders are the mobile element of the Cylon military machine.
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In any event here it is.

The Battle of the Cylon Tylium Refinery Base.

Synopsis of the Colonial plan.

a.laying out the battlespace

The Colonials have tri-sected the asteroid field into a pair of equilateral conics. Where the conic’s tips intersect: is the asteroid refinery. A pair of jumbled gravitational loci where loose clusters of rock aggregate, provide cover for the in-jump of Galactica at one conic’s base, while a decoy group of freighters masks itself by in-jumping at the base of the other conic. The trisecture is staged so that the freighters, Galactica, and the base form the points of an equilateral triangle.

b.-intent of operation.

The intent of the operation was to capture the Tylium asteroid. For that purpose, since the Colonials have their own extractor/refinery ship it was not necessary to take the Cylon refinery base, intact.

c.-plan of operation

The Colonial staff faced three obstacles in this operation.

-The Cylons have a local numerical force ratio of single pilot fighter craft advantage of greater than three to one.

-The Cylons have superior CM/CCM capability.

-The Cylons have greater fuel reserves.

-the refinery has a comprehensive integrated local area anti-spacecraft defense complete with an asteroid based SWAC(Ground Controlled Intercept) system.

Against these disadvantages, the Colonials have the following advantages.

-superior intelligence and knowledge of the battlespace.

-simplicity of objective.

-mobile forces equipped with space based SWAC(Raptors) against a static base with fixed range scan systems.

In simple terms the Cylons have numbers: the Colonials have
mobility.

The Colonial plan was based on their knowledge of the battle space, their ability to exploit their mobility advantage, their understanding of the Cylon psychology(known penchant for formulaic tactical pre-dispositions and re-active predictability)-in short DECEPTION and surprise.

Means and methods

The Colonials plan to yoyo the Cylon mobile forces between their two forces, the Galactica at point B and the decoy freighter force at point C, after the Cylon force was drawn out from close cover patrols from their base at point A(see diagram above.)

At the correct moment when the base was uncovered and its integrated defense system was separated, a strike package would set off the Tylium precursor fuel in the processor facility to destroy the Cylon base(including the GCI control and the point defenses) and then the Colonials would move in and mine and process the asteroid with the fleet fuel processor.

To draw out the Cylon cover force the freighters would jump in first, announce their presence and in general make themselves targets.

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This hopefully would cause the Cylons to uncover their base, so that the Galactica could jump in and launch its strike and make itself a target.

The strike package would then draw out the Cylon base raider reserve husbanded against such a surprise attack plan to sortie a midrange intercept.

The Cylon force following main threat machine logic would home in on the Galactica launched strike package.

Referring to the above diagram then, the Cylon main body would be headed on a direct line along the vector A/C to attack the freighters.

The Cylon reserve force would be headed on the line A/B to intercept the Galactica Strike Package.

As the main element in the Colonial plan at this point is DECEPTION: to lure the Cylon covering forces out of position, the Galactica package was expected to fight, feign panic, and retreat upon the Galactica.

As the battle showed this had the desired effect with the Cylon reserve force pursuing.

Whether it was task prioritization or a Cylon calculation that it would take more than fifty raiders to destroy a battlestar;(The latter is more likely, based on shown technical capabilities present in gun camera footage.)the Cylons committed EVERY mobile unit they had to defeat and destroy the Galactica(machine formula logics).

The Colonials then pulled the Tired-Trojan-Horse-Trick with a hidden strike package based on a container ship. This strike package(the freighter package of the twelve snakes of the Pythean Prophecie) followed the vector B/A to its objective by direct route, suppressed(or tried to-their attacks on the anti-spacecraft missile sites were spectacularly unsuccessful!) and sucker-punched the Cylons and blew the base with suitable heroics by their strike leader.

The entire battle plan thus depended on enticing the Cylon raider forces to commit to long futile pursuits after bait forces that caused the Cylons to position their mobile forces out of position to defend their base.

Op-Sec.

One thing must be mentioned. Colonial military leadership knew it had a Cylon in its operations group and used that fact to further its deception plan.(Adama to Roslin, “Old habits die hard.”)

The plan was deliberately revealed in controlled stages, in the presence of the agent, so that it could relay updates as to the Colonial dispositions(Adama to Baltar, “Everything is on the board.”).

Immediately as soon as the Cylon agent was misled as to total strength displayed by the battle plot, that agent informed its counterparts in the battlespace AND THE CYLONS SHIFTED EVERY RAIDER onTO WHAT THEY THOUGHT WAS THE COLONIAL MAIN EFFORT.

AAR. Comments

-The deception plan upon which so much was contingent worked flawlessly.

-Colonial Viper pilot dogfight skills are shockingly poor against GCI controlled Cylon raiders.

-Perceived Cylon countermeasures/counter-counter measures remain superior to the best Colonial tech.

-Colonial Viper pilot CAS and Integrated Anti-spacecraft Defense Suppression skillsets(IASDS) are almost as poor as their dogfighting skills.

-Colonial staffwork is good. Their execution of the plan was remarkably effective, showing a profound understanding of their “TOASTER” enemy.

-Cylon understanding of the operational art was by contrast terrible. When presented with an unfolding enemy plan that was scattering the Cylon mobile forces across half an asteroid field, the machine logics running their side of the battle chased after obvious decoys, further drawing mobile forces away from what had to be the primary Colonial objective. This reveals a pre-determined Berserker(TM) psychology that a competent enemy(the Colonials) can and did exploit to offset the Cylon positional, numerical, technical and individual fighting prowess advantages.

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-Colonial situational awareness during the battle was acute.(Boomer and Crashdown in their Raptor are the unsung heroes of the battle, contributing in their own way;MORE, than Apollo did with his heroics, by their timely and accurate SWAC reports to their strike packages and to the Galactica of enemy strength, location and vectors.}.

-By contrast Cylon scouting and reconnaissance was poor, seeing only what the Colonials wanted them to see; when the Colonials showed it to them.

Observations;

Kara Thrace is the Arleigh Burke of the Colonial staff. It was her plan. This is incredible. In history I can think of only two naval officers that combined the abilities of a superior single combat warrior with the staff skills that Kara is by filmed canon shown to possess.

One was Mathew Perry of the United States Navy in the War of 1812, and the other was Minoru Genda of the Japanese Navy in the Second World War. (No “Sandy” Woodward doesn’t even come close!}

Logistics, which is the heart of all war, and which generally causes the selection of most battle spaces by one or both sides, was the chief cause and problem in this battle.

Walker wondered why the base didn’t send out a distress call and call for base star support?

There has to be a reason.

I have several:

a.-No FTL radio.
b.-asteroid field to hazardous for the base stars to in-jump.
c.-Base stars were too far away to reach the battle space in time to affect the decision.
d.-unrefuelled range.

My guess is that the Cylons couldn’t call for re-enforcements, either due to Colonial jamming(Those pesky Raptors, again.) or the base didn’t have FTL radio.

I also speculate that the base stars have a limited radius of action and that once they in-jumped they would be hurting for fuel more than the Galactica.

Colonel Tigh compares space to a desert with the Cylons sitting on all the water holes(oasis/Tylium fuel deposits).

That meant two things to me. The Cylons had an urgent need for the fuel themselves for their fleet above and beyond what a Colonial naval officer might.

The Colonials had an underway replenishment naval train which the Cylons lack. That the Cylons built a base to refine fuel and the Colonials built a ship-speak volumes about Who has the “legs” on Whom.

It indicates Colonial technical superiority in logistics and mineral extraction.

It also indicates to me that the Colonials build longer-ranged ships.

This is especially true of Raptor versus Raider, as it is mentioned in The Hand of God by Lee Adama that Raptors can jump up to twelve light years round sortie without incurring bingo fuel.

That is phenomenal!

A few more points;

-this battle had the feel of Chancellorsville where misdirection and widely separated Army of Northern Virginia converging columns was supposed to misdirect the Army of the Potomac and make it go chase willow-of-the-wisp so that Lee could smash Hooker off his supply line with Stonewall Jacksons far weaker independent column at the decisive moment. If Jackson had gotten hold of Hooker’s trains like Lee wanted….

-This battle was a game of spatial hockey with the Cylons losing the puck and playing the battle space like it was a game of soccer. They chased the ball, when they should have defended their goal.(Yes it is a slap at that European sport of soccer-REAL MEN play hockey-to sharpen the mind as well as strengthen the legs. Damocles)

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Impressions of the filmed battle.

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I’ve covered this in the episode review, but I would like to add a few notes.

This is the first series of science fiction since Babylon 5 that has tried to show how supply, time, and distance is more important than sheer weight of numbers in battle.

Historically the side that gets there first(on the objective) with the most(force) wins.

That, this, is usually the larger side; is due to the larger side’s ability to tie down the weaker side, so that the weaker side has nothing to spare to get to the common objective.

In this filmed battle, the writers contrived the plot: so that the incredibly stupid Cylons, would obligingly run off and ignore their obvious prime objective(defend their fuel dump) in the face of their previously explicated(and shown) naval tactics of harassment and pursuit, to force the Colonials to run out of fuel; so that the Cylons can bring the Colonial fleet to battle and destroy it at leisure. Tigh implies as much when he states that the Cylons are fortifying every Tylium deposit within Colonial reach.

Whatever “TOASTER”(It HAD to be a Leoben model-it sure was stupid enough to qualify.) it was, that ran the asteroid base must have had rocks for processors-given this obvious set of circumstances the Cylon High Command set up.

I won’t comment on Baltar’s “lucky guess”, of what part of the Tylium plant to hit except; to say: that when a military force does its homework, it gets the breaks all the way down the line.

(Google; The Battle of Midway and Spruance’s Luck)

That means I don’t believe in accident. Good planning and good execution(in this case good writing based on historical precedent and reasonable for television accuracy in The Hand Of God) leads to such unbelievable outcomes actually being believable. Especially since history is filled with examples of such “wild guess” luck.

Cowpens
Lake Erie
San Jacinto
Chapultepec
Midway
Samar

are some of the most famous American examples.
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Some notes.

1. Zachary/Gaius is a tag I invented as a reference for the character, Gaius Baltar, as misportrayed by James Callis. He certainly reminds me of the character, Zachary Smith, as portrayed by Jonathan Harris on a lamentable science fiction series called “Lost In Space”.(Which it indeed was.)

Normally one doesn’t do a “battle report” when analyzing an episode of a science fiction show like Battlestar Galactica, but The Hand of God was so obviously a battle episode that it cried out for some kind of “tactical” analysis to explain its composition.

I saw no one doing such an analysis, anywhere. I just had to have a crack at it.(The show is called Battlestar Galactica-about a fleeing “spacecraft carrier”-herding an exodus fleet of human refugees from rapacious robots. The military element of the show is kind of important…..)

I hope this little work up gives some insight into the strange world evolving on Galactica.

By now, if it hasn’t been made clear in Act of Contrition or You Can’t Go Home Again, then The Hand of God should have made plain just who the military geniuses of the Colonials are.

It isn’t Lee Adama or Saul Tigh.

So here’s to Kara Thrace and William Adama.

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This Battlestar Galactica review  is © 2005 Frank Reddick.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission

Battlsestar Galactica names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of Sci-Fi Channel, NBC-Universal and R&D Television.

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