For the gameplay mechanic, see Boarding (gameplay mechanic).
Boarding generally refers to the insertion of people onto an enemy or ambiguously affiliated ship. Boarding may be carried out during wartime in an attempt to seize and possibly destroy the vessel, or it may occur in peacetime by pirates and other criminals, or as a means of inspection to prevent piracy and smuggling. A "boarding party" is a group of naval infantry, typically known as "marines", assigned to capture an enemy ship or station by killing or capturing its crew.
Boarding is used in wartime as a way to seize a vessel without destroying it, or to remove its cargo before it is destroyed. It can also be used to aid in the collection of naval intelligence, as soldiers boarding a sinking, crippled, or surrendered vessel could possibly recover enemy plans or technology. For a boarding to be successful, it must occur without the knowledge of the crew of the defending ship, or the ship's defenses must be suppressed.
Covenant naval commanders utilize boarding to attempt to capture enemy vessels and their technology whole, or to avoid a space battle that could damage both their ships and their enemy's vessel, the destruction of which would deprive the Covenant of valuable intelligence on the United Nations Space Command.
Until the Great Schism in November 2552, Covenant boarding parties were generally composed of Sangheili, Unggoy, and sometimes Yanme'e. The Covenant typically employ designated boarding craft launched from larger vessels to cut through the hull of the enemy ship or station and rapidly insert infantry to the interior. Vacant airlocks may also be used by boarding craft to latch on and gain entry into an enemy ship. Some starships, such as Kig-yar privateer ships, are equipped with docking umbilicals with penetrator tips specifically designed to cut into an enemy ship.
United Nations Space Command
In most cases, UNSC forces use D77-TC Pelican dropships to ferry Marine forces from ship-to-ship. This method was employed during the Insurrection, with the UNSC developing specialised soft seal technology in the final stages of Operation: TREBUCHET to safely deploy Marines inside rebel vessels. This insertion method was used during the Harvest campaign in 2531, with John Forge leading Fire Team Lima in boarding the disabled Marathon-class heavy cruiser UNSC Prophecy. Marines and ODSTs are capable of performing EVA actions utilising vacuum suits and the ODST armor, while Spartans are capable of employing the MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor for similar such actions.
Spartans in MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor are capable of boarding ships through the use of EVA equipment, as the MJOLNIR system is vacuum sealed. This was employed often during the war with the Covenant, with one of the first engagements fought seeing the Spartans boarding the Covenant vessel Unrelenting at the Battle of Chi Ceti. Spartans would later employ boarding actions in Operations WARM BLANKET and UPPER CUT, using craft such as OF92 Booster Frames and YSS-1000 Sabres to planet themselves on the exterior hull of an enemy vessel. In the post-war era, Spartans have a range of MJOLNIR GEN2 armor variants designed to assist in boarding actions and EVA activity, including EVA and Orbital. Spartans have continued to lead the charge in conducting boarding actions, with John-117 using boarding tactics against Mantle's Approach during the New Phoenix Incident, and again with Blue Team against the captured Argent Moon in Operation: BIRD IN HAND. Spartan-IV personnel have also seen use in boarding actions including against the Pilgrims' Pride and the Station at Oth Lodon.
In defending against Covenant boarding parties, a tactic sometimes used by the UNSC against Covenant boarders is the depressurization of hull compartments which have been compromised by boarders, suffocating any hostiles not wearing vacuum suits. This measure was utilized aboard the UNSC Pillar of Autumn during the Battle over Installation 04. If Covenant forces are caught in the airlock, it is possible for UNSC defenders to simply open the airlocks before depressurisation is complete to eject the boarders into space. When these options are not available, UNSC ships rely on on-board Marine and ODST complements for ship-board defense. In times of emergency, naval crewmen may also be expected to pick up arms to fend off attackers.
During the Battle of Installation 05, Flood carrier forms were ejected from an airlock of an infected starship towards an uninfected starship. Also, the Flood used the UNSC In Amber Clad to board and capture High Charity. In the later years of the Forerunner-Flood war, it was standard practice for Flood forces to board and infest Forerunner vessels after the latter had been disabled by suppression fields emitted by star roads or other Precursor constructs at the Flood's disposal. Due to the suppression fields disabling their systems, very few Forerunner ships were capable of self-destructing before they were overwhelmed.
In their first battle against the Flood, the Promethean Knights were deployed from the Mantle's Approach to board the enemy ships and destroy them from within. The Knights would use thruster packs to control their flight pattern.
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