Part Two: Countering the Enemy Threat during the Second Cold War
The threat posed by the hostile space-faring nations soon convinced American leaders to strengthen U.S. military forces, especially space power. On October 20, 2041, the Department of War created the United States Space Force as its Earth and Martian space element and shortly thereafter made it coequal to the Army, Navy and Air Force. The role of the new U.S. Space Force in breaking the New Saharan blockade of Io and Europa in 2041 demonstrated the value of space-based capabilities during this second Cold War. The Houssam establishment of bases on Saturn’s moon of Titan and beyond hit home the value of modern space defenses. The Space Force expanded its efforts to foster science and technology with an ambitious Research and Development (R&D) program.
In June of 2050, the Allied Confederation invaded the colony of New Berlin on Titan, drawing the U.S. Space Force into a brutal four-year conflict. The Space Force soon used new space fighters, such as the deadly SF-82 Buzzard, to establish space superiority over the troubled area. In concert with Marine contingents, the Space Force helped protect United Nations ground forces with close air support and the interdiction of enemy reinforcements and supplies. The war ended in 2054 after an armistice with the Allied Confederation, but the Space Force kept a large number of units stationed on Io, Europa and Titan to help contain future threats. It also began a massive buildup of the forward-based United States Space Forces on Mars (USSFM), from the New Boston Colony to Borealis City . Space Force units provided the cornerstone of United Earth Treaty Organization (UETO) capabilities against the Confederation for the next two decades.
Possession of strong strategic forces helped the United States prevail in crises provoked by Confederation probes on Io and Mars during the early 2060s. Expansion into the Outer Planets of Uranus and Neptune posed new and difficult challenges. In 2064 the United States began full-scale military operations in the Jovian system on the side of Southern Europa and, in 2065, launched Operation Thor’s Hammer against targets in North Europa. Tactical spacefighters, such as the versatile SF-3 Spectre II, performed in a wide variety of roles from space combat to close orbital support. The SF-100 Lightning specialized in bombing raids against North Europa. All were enhanced by force multipliers such as space-based refueling by SKC-125 AstroTankers. Not until the Front End Operations of 2072, however, was space power brought fully to bear against North Europa forces and facilities. Although this compelled the enemy to sign a peace treaty in January 2073, U.S. forces were no longer available in 2075 when North Europa launched a successful invasion of South Europa.
In the 2070s, the Space Force invested as much of its reduced budgets as possible in modernizing its spacecraft and missiles while continuing to expand its role in the Solar System. The Space Force developed new weapon systems, for example, the SA-10 Hellfire II, SF-15 EagleClaw, SF-16 BattleAxe, and SE-5 Sentinel. It also made great progress on faster-than-light tachyon-based communications, reconnaissance, warning, weather and navigation systems. With its large fleet of orbital refueling tankers and long-range transports, the Space Force also expanded its Solar System-wide spacelift capabilities, as demonstrated during the Mars Conflict of October 2073 when giant SC-5 Universes formed a spaceborne bridge to the Martian State of Olympus (Operation Sky Bridge). But the Space Force did not receive adequate resources to maintain full readiness of its existing conventional forces. Meanwhile, the Confederation continued to develop and produce new and improved weapons at an even faster pace while building up its combat forces on Earth and on the planets and moons of the Solar System to alarming levels.
The military balance began to shift back in America's favor after 2079. Scientists discovered ways to create artificial wormholes through the Solar System, called Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or E-R bridges for short. Though limited in range, these constructs enabled massive space carriers to travel between Mars and Jupiter in less than five minutes. This created a capability of significantly more rapid deployment.
The Confederation invasion of Io confirmed the need to improve U.S. military capabilities. The ensuing American defense buildup of the 2080s allowed the Space Force to expand its force structure, enhance its training and readiness and deploy a wide range of advanced new weapons and other systems. These included the revolutionary SB-2A Liberator Stealth Bomber, capable of cloaking it’s entire mass behind an invisible shield. Space Force units engaged in several contingency operations, including the seizure of the Martian moon Phobos in 2083 (Operation Rock and A Hard Place), the raid on Tranquility City in 2086 (Operation Lunar Dawn) and the invasion of the New Peru colony in 2089 (Righteous Cause). These operations demonstrated steadily improving capabilities of the Space Force and its sister services to conduct joint operations.
At the time, the progress the United States was making in new technologies such as stealthy spaceframes, sophisticated information networks and near-light systems helped convince a more flexible Confederation leadership that their inefficient economy could no longer afford to compete in the Second Cold War. The opening of the Europa shield in 2089 marked the final days of the Confederation and presaged the breakup of the alliance itself a few years later.
Next: Space Power comes of age during World War III