The long strange trip
Fourth Frontier War
(1082 to 1084): Also known as the False War. Short, inconclusive war fought primarily in the Jewell subsector between the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate. The fourth of the frontier wars in the Spinward Marches with initial assaults by the Zhodani against Jewell and Regina subsectors stalled at the borders. Its final battle, the Battle of Two Suns, 1084, was waged in the vicinity of Yres and Menorb and resulted in Imperial victory. The armistice was signed before instructions for the conduct of the war were received from the capital.
The Fourth Frontier war began as a incident near Quar (Spinward Marches 0808). Quar was, until the end of the Third Frontier War, an Imperial naval base. The Imperial Naval command insisted upon re-opening the base in 1082, over the objections of the Zhodani.
The local situation quickly escalated before commanders on either side, still several weeks way from the front, could control the situation. The Zhodani and several Vargr units attacked worlds throughout the Regina, Jewell, and Cronor subsectors, with Imperial naval units holding the borders.
The fighting continued for 16 months. The Zhodani commanders, initially unprepared for the war, attempted to take advantage of the conflict and invade both Yres (Spinward Marches 1802) and Menorb (Spinward Marches 1803), thus breaking the Imperial border defense line. The Battle of Two Suns, fought between the two worlds resulted in an Imperial victory. With their offensive naval forces badly damaged or destroyed in the battle, the Zhodani agree to an Armistice.
Under the terms of the armistice, the Imperium lost control of Narval (Spinward Marches 0805) and had to agree to a joint tenancy of Esalin (Spinward Marches 1004). In return the Imperium regained Margesi (Spinward Marches 1020) and Saurus (Spinward Marches 1320), lost to the Sword Worlds a century before.
Because of the distance to the Capital, Emperor Strephon could do little else than simply accept the Armistice. Through clever public relations, Strephon was able to turn the affair to his advantage, creating the image of himself as an effective war leader. The years following the war marked a transition of Strephon’s rule, from quiet management to a more proactive leadership role.
Despite the lack of real territorial gains (or losses) for either side, the war prompted to changes to Imperial naval doctrine, one tactical, the other strategic.
The tactical change was a shift from Battle Riders to jump-capable battleships. The early weeks of the war had shown a serious design weakness of the battle rider. When faced with superior numbers, the riders were unable to withdraw and jump out-system due to the time required to secure them in their Fleet tenders. Thus, rider BatRons suffered disproportionate losses in the early stages of the war.
Prior to the war, naval policy had favored essentially a “crust” strategy, with major fleet elements well forward in potential trouble spots such as the Spinward Marches. This strategy had been effective due to the tremendous technological and material lead enjoyed by the Imperium over its neighbors. The war demonstrated, however, that the Imperium’s lead had narrowed to the point that a clear superiority could no longer be achieved at all points along the frontier.
The new strategy evolved in the decade following the war came to be know as the “elastic defense” posture. Priority in the new strategy places a minimum of fleet assets initially in the actual border areas, but with much larger reserves available for commitment to any one region in the event of war. Within the frontier itself, colonial forces were strengthened and centered around selected “islands of resistance,” high population, high technology worlds capable of withstanding a protracted sieges. Imperial fleet elements in the Spinward Marches are intended to delay any hostile advances and disrupt sieges of key worlds until major fleet reserves, stations in the Corridor Sector, can intervene and reestablish the ante-bellum status quo.