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The UNSC Navy (UNSCN) is the branch of the UNSC Armed Forces responsible for space warfare and operations, though they still operate in terrestrial oceans with their maritime arm. Its roles include space warfare, orbital bombardment, the deployment of atmospheric and space fighters, and the delivery of UNSC Marines into combat.
The UNSC Navy's mission is to "Provide naval forces to ensure freedom of access for aerospace and terrestrial operations." More specifically, the Navy is responsible for destroying and suppressing enemy space combatants, especially those attempting to attack UEG commercial and terrestrial holdings. The Navy's collateral functions include;
The UNSC Navy was created during the Interplanetary War of the 2160's—precisely during the Mars Campaign of 2163—as a result of the United Nations' need to oversee and monitor Marine deployments from space, thus forming the United Nations Space Command. After the UN's victory in that war, the UNSC Navy became involved in colonization, the settling of minor trade disputes, and anti-piracy operations as humanity spread through space. The navy has always been a carrier-heavy organisation, with carriers forming the core of doctrine and organisation.
Such low-level operations continued until the Insurrection, which forced the Navy to develop a modern space warfare doctrine. Beginning with the Callisto Incident of 2494, the UNSC Navy was involved in a series of small but important actions against Insurrectionists across human space. In 2494, the Eridanus Government requested aid from the UNSC when rebels performed a well-planned and efficiently executed terrorist campaign on the planet. This led to Operation: CHARLEMAGNE in January of 2496, when the UNSC Navy responded to the government's requests and began their campaign to retake Eridanus II, deploying a battle group to engage the makeshift Insurrectionist defense fleet. The clandestine activities of the Office of Naval Intelligence also proved to be particularly useful in dealing with Insurrectionists during Operation: TREBUCHET in the Eridanus and Epsilon Eridani systems. The Navy played an important role in the elimination of rebel cells and in engagements of more organized insurgent groups—most notably the United Rebel Front. Other major battles and engagements the UNSC Navy participated in include the Battle of Theta Ursae Majoris and the Skirmish at Capella.
The lessons learned from the space engagements of the Insurrection may have contributed to the UNSC's eventual victory in the Human-Covenant War. From the Insurrection came the Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, titanium-A armor, naval protocols, and advances in ship-to-ship warfare tactics, all of which would prove crucial in humanity's fight against the Covenant. Furthermore, the Insurrection also saw the beginning of the career of Preston Cole, who would make an enormously decisive commitment to the Human-Covenant War.
Prior to the Human-Covenant War, the UNSC Navy had a large fleet of warships, including many capital ships and single-ship craft. However, beginning with the near-total destruction of the Colonial Military Administration's Battle Group 4 at the First Battle of Harvest, followed by the loss of thirteen out of forty ships at the Second Battle of Harvest, the UNSC Navy sustained heavy losses of materiel and personnel throughout the war against the Covenant. Going on the offensive from 2526 to 2543, the bulk of the UNSC Navy under Admiral Preston Cole fought a series of victorious but enormously costly actions against the Covenant fleet. To buy the fleet time to prepare, Cole launched Operation: SILENT STORM where Task Force Yama inflicted as much damage as possible on the Covenant through stealth to give them pause while Battle Group X-Ray kept the main Covenant force distracted. The task force was able to cause substantial damage to the operations of the Covenant Fleet of Inexorable Obedience and caused heavy damage to the Covenant planet of Zhoist.
At the Battle of Alpha Aurigae in the Origami Asteroid Field in October 2526, a total of 117 UNSC naval vessels defeated the Covenant's twelve—at least three of which were CAS-class assault carriers. However, thirty-seven UNSC ships were lost. The Battle of XI Boötis A in 2528 saw the loss of thirty ships out of the UNSC's seventy to the Covenant. The Battle of the Great Bear at the Groombridge 1830 system in 2530 saw eleven destroyers out of the fleet of seventeen destroyed by three enemy ships.
By 2536, the Covenant had begun to encroach on humanity's Inner Colonies. To prevent the Covenant from discovering more human colonies or Sol itself, Admiral Preston Cole established the Cole Protocol. The protocol forbade retreating vessels from setting a direct slipspace course toward any colony and dictated the destruction of navigation data on Covenant-captured naval ships. Every shipboard commanding officer in the Navy was ordered to read the new protocol. Some naval vessels, such as UNSC Midsummer Night, were ordered to patrol UNSC space to enforce the Cole Protocol. In 2543, the UNSC Navy scored one final offensive victory against the Covenant at the Battle of Psi Serpentis, though at the cost of the apparent death of Preston Cole. Towards the end of the Covenant War, most remaining UNSC ground forces were consolidated on worlds in the Epsilon Eridani and Sol systems. As a result, the only representative that several surviving colonies had of UEG authority and defense were UNSC Navy ships. While the Navy attempted to provide aid to colonies cut off from direct military assistance, worlds with little strategic value or unstable local governments were sometimes abandoned to prevent risking the loss of irreplaceable Navy vessels and personnel.
In 2552, the Navy scored a morale-boosting victory at Sigma Octanus IV, but this was quickly offset by the crippling military losses of the Fall of Reach and the Battle of Tribute. The Navy lost over a hundred ships, including irreplaceable cruisers and supercarriers such as the UNSC Basra, UNSC Trafalgar, and the UNSC Musashi at Reach, and lost ninety percent of naval assets at Tribute. In the same year, a very large portion of its remaining ships were lost when the Prophet of Truth's military forces occupied Earth. As a result, the UNSC Navy was only able to make a contribution of three frigates to the Battle for Earth and the Battle of Installation 00, with the Sangheili navy handling most of the space fighting.
In the aftermath of the Human-Covenant War, all remaining naval assets were gathered to the Sol system for months so that the UNSC could take stock of its fleet. This time was spent accounting for, repairing, and refitting what little remained—only a few hundred vessels. The Office of Naval Intelligence began operations to sow dissent amongst the Sangheili, disregarding their wartime alliance in the hopes of rendering them unable to fight should they become a threat again. Among this operation's effects was the beginning of the Blooding Years and the establishment of a Covenant remnant led by Jul 'Mdama. While the former Covenant fleet's naval vessels fell into the hands of various splinter factions established by the former client species, the UNSC Navy began to rebuild and continued to grow. In the aftermath of the war, the rapidly modernizing Navy introduced the Autumn-class heavy cruiser, based on the highly resilient advancements applied to the UNSC Pillar of Autumn as well as the Strident-class heavy frigate and the Anlace-class frigate among others, rapidly supplanting the prewar designs still central to the UNSC Navy.
In early 2553, the Navy launched its most powerful warship, the UNSC Infinity, though she would not be officially commissioned for another four years. Built in secret using technology recovered from Forerunner and Covenant sources during the war, the Infinity is the UNSC's largest and most advanced warship to date. In March 2553, she secretly intervened in the Sangheili civil war, and demonstrated the UNSC's new technical capabilities by easily destroying the Covenant destroyer Defender of Faith. A second such ship of the Infinity-class, the UNSC Eternity, was still in development as of 2558.
In March 2555, the Navy had to defend Earth itself from an invasion by Retriever Sentinels sent by 000 Tragic Solitude from Installation 00 to destroy the planet in retaliation for the damage done to the installation by the Battle of Installation 00. A joint mission with the Swords of Sanghelios was dispatched to the Ark while the fleet struggled to hold off the invasion. Finally, Tragic Solitude was forced to recall his invasion force before the planet could fall and was subsequently destroyed by Bobby Kodiak after descending into full rampancy. A fleet was sent to the Ark to investigate what had happened and rescued the survivors of the mission.
In July 2557, the Infinity distinguished herself during the Battle of Requiem and the recovery of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117. The UNSC Navy's forces around Earth had also been rebuilt, and the Home Fleet defended the planet against the Didact when he arrived with the intention of digitizing all of humanity with the Forerunner weapon known as the Composer. Earth's orbital platforms and the Home Fleet's Battlegroup Dakota had little to no effect against the Didact's ship, the Mantle's Approach, but the Infinity managed to damage the ship, allowing John-117 to enter using an F-41 Broadsword and destroy the ship with a HAVOK tactical nuclear weapon. The fighting continued six months later with the Infinity's second expedition on Requiem.
Also in July 2557, the UNSC launched a massive fleet to the Korinth Prior system after the discovery of the debris field of the Etran Harborage, a Forerunner shield world destroyed in 2531 by the UNSC Spirit of Fire. The fleet launched a massive bombardment of nuclear weapons upon arrival, obliterating the shield world remnants in an act of asset denial as the field was too large for the UNSC to cover effectively.
Command and control
The UNSC Navy is subordinate to the UNSC High Command (HIGHCOM). The Navy is administered by the UNSC Naval Command, or NAVCOM, headed by the Chief of Naval Operations, which in 2558 was Fleet Admiral Lord Hood. The CNO is assisted by the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations. NAVCOM is split into three commands;
The UNSC Navy also operates with UNICOM forces to form one of four Central Commands (CENTCOM) which hold responsibility over a certain area of space. These territories are known as CentCom regions, and follow well-mapped routes that connect star systems together. Forces assigned to one CentCom region can not be moved to another without HIGHCOM approval However, a CENTCOM commander has the authority to blockade a system, or aid in the coordination of a battle occurring within the regional space they command. UNSC and UEG space is further divided, governed, and protected by the Navy's Fleet Command sectors which each contain a number of planetary systems.
The Office of Naval Intelligence is technically subordinate to the UNSC Naval Command. In practice, however, ONI's activities extend far beyond intelligence gathering, and it often receives mandates and directives from HIGHCOM or even higher. ONI holds a strong presence in the UNSC fleet and maintains joint control of the Navy's post-war flagship, UNSC Infinity. Despite being under the command of the Navy, ONI's Commander-in-Chief holds a seat on the Security Council with equal stature and privilege to the committee members of the Navy, Marines, Army, and Air Force.
Commanding positions in NAVCOM tend to be held by admirals. Because of their role as an "amphibious", space-deployed force, the UNSC Marine Corps enjoys a close relationship with the Navy, with Marine complements being deployed on most warships.
UNSC Navy forces are divided into a number of fleets. These tend to be large formations, though they seldom patrol together; single ships are commonly seen patrolling throughout UNSC space. System defense fleets, such as the UNSC Home Fleet, the Epsilon Eridani Fleet or Bliss Defense Fleet, are commonly formed to patrol and defend a human colonized-system. Defense fleets were often considered to be little more than glorified revenue police, though they proved to hold an imperative role during the Human-Covenant War as they provided desperately needed training cadres and battle-ready—albeit, sometimes outdated—warships. Defensive fleets typically find a smaller "tactical" carrier at their core. The UNSC Navy also has several numbered expeditionary fleets, five of which were active during the Covenant War—the Second, Third, Fifth, Seventh, and Sixteenth Fleets. Several expeditionary fleets were decimated early in the Covenant War. Expeditionary fleets find their core comprised of massive supercarriers such as the Epoch-class, which formed the core of many UNSC fleets and battlegroups during the Insurrection and early Covenant War.
Fleets are typically assigned to sectors, groupings of Inner and Outer Colonies organised by the most efficient slipspace routes branching away from Reach. By late 2552, there was no longer any appreciable difference between fleets, as the Navy was no longer capable of conducting offensive operations without leaving the remaining colonies and Earth vulnerable- despite this, the navy maintained these divisions. By this time, however, the navy was the only representation of the UEG had in the colonies, as all remaining ground forces had been consolidated at Earth and Reach.
These fleets are further divided into several battle groups, more common tactical formations which are formed on an as-needed basis and vary dramatically in size from three ships to large carrier groups with smaller tactical carriers at their core. Battle groups are flexible fighting organizations that can be "plugged together" into arranged task forces. A squadron is a group of warships that is smaller than a fleet. By the final years of the Covenant War, squadrons became administrative—rather than tactical—units that ships were enrolled in for record-keeping and honorific purposes. Artificial intelligence administrators of the Navy carefully arranging the dwindling ship roles into attack, battle, carrier, monitor, and support squadrons. Many of the Navy's fleets had also become "paper fleets", or "dead fleets", with no command and no ships. These fleets were assigned to sectors lost to the Covenant early in the war, with their destroyed squadrons remaining attached to the sector to honor their sacrifice and as deference for tradition. A new ship was occasionally inadvertently attached to one of these dead fleets due to bureaucratic error, though such assignments were considered ill omens by their crew members.
Large numbers of men and women are employed by the UNSC Navy. Servicepeople hold ranks, which are divided between officers and enlisted. UNSC Navy personnel are given training in self-defense. All crewmen are trained to use the M6 series of handguns. Naval personnel are sometimes referred to as "swabbies", which can be a joke or a sign of disrespect. Navy recruits serve in initial recruit training operated by the Unified Combined Military Boot Camp. At boot camp, recruits are trained, tested, and evaluated on their physical fitness, proficiency with firearms, and command potential. Following graduation from UCMB, a naval recruit may be required to complete additional training revolving around the vacuum of space and microgravity. Finally, a recruit is assigned aboard a naval vessel or installation as a non-commissioned recruit within the Navy. Several human colonies are home to Officer Candidate Schools that provide training and allows enlisted personnel or civilians to become officers. Renowned OCS academies include the Luna OCS Academy and the Corbulo Academy of Military Science.
UNSC Navy personnel wear distinctive uniforms for identification, comfort, and practicality. Dress uniforms are worn on formal occasions, such as ceremonies and other official functions, while service and working uniforms are the basic uniform worn by UNSC Naval personnel while on duty. Carrier flight crew are a mix of Navy and Marine personnel, divided into "Blue" and "Green" sides respectively, with coloured jerseys signifying their role on the flight deck: red for ordnance handlers, white for safety technicians, green for technicians, and so on.
Whilst crewing a war-era UNSC navy vessel, crew members could expect cramped and strictly utilitarian conditions, with most vessels forgoing recreational space and only having rudimentary kitchen facilities. Crew members are allocated a sleeping pod, with multiple crewmembers using the same sleeping pod depending on shift rotation on the ship and if the ship carries additional personnel.
UNSC Navy vessels are typically armored with Titanium-A armor; such protective armor remained the defensive standard of UNSC vessels until they were further reinforced with the introduction of energy shielding in the post-war era. At least the Navy's flagship, UNSC Infinity, and Strident-class heavy frigates are equipped with energy shields, while Autumn-class heavy cruisers featured a cheaper but more limited system of localised shield emitters.
The primary offensive armament of UNSC spacecraft is the Magnetic Accelerator Cannon (MAC). These are high velocity coil guns that are used to accelerate projectiles ranging in mass from 600 metric tons in the case of smaller warships, and 3,000 tons in the case of Super MAC platforms. These projectiles are composed of titanium, depleted uranium, or tungsten with a ferrous core. "Super MAC" Orbital Defense Platforms accelerate MAC rounds to "point four-tenths" the speed of light with twenty-three linear accelerator coils, while ship-based MACs have a lower velocity. Super MAC platforms can also reload a round in five seconds, where as ships will need several minutes to charge their MAC coils.
The UNSC frigate Gettysburg is quoted as firing a 600 ton shell at 30 kilometers per second. Before Reach fell, the UNSC Pillar of Autumn was equipped with a modified MAC that could quickly fire three lighter projectiles in succession instead of just one heavier projectile. It was originally intended to allow the Pillar of Autumn a better chance of disabling a Covenant ship, which was a feature required for a mission that was later scrubbed following the Fall of Reach.
Almost all UNSC warships are equipped with M58 Archer missile pods for ship-to-ship engagements, which prove most effective against unshielded targets. A common tactic among UNSC ships is to disable the target's shields with MAC rounds and then pummel it with Archer missiles. In 2525, UNSC ships carried fusion missiles as an offensive weapon. They seem to have been removed or replaced in later years. UNSC ships may also carry Shiva-class nuclear missiles. In addition, the UNSC mounts 50mm auto-cannons on its ships for defense against enemy fighters and boarding craft, controlled by shipboard AIs.
UNSC warships also carry significant Marine detachments for internal security, boarding actions, and planetary assault, and carry all the equipment and matériel needed by Marine forces. It is implied that a significant portion of the interior of UNSC warships are devoted to this purpose, as there are armories and barracks that hold these supplies.
Ships of the UNSC Navy also carry a number of GA-TL1 Longsword interceptors. These are armed with 110mm rotary cannons and ASGM-10 missiles, and sometimes a Moray space mine system or even a single Shiva-class nuclear missile. They can also be remotely-operated and used to carry a remotely-detonated Shiva missile, which, when detonated, effectively destroys both the Longsword and its selected target.
Despite all of this firepower, however, UNSC warships during the Human-Covenant War had great difficulty in defeating Covenant ships even with a numerical advantage. It typically took multiple hits from a ship-based MAC weapon to disable a Covenant ship's shields, although larger, ODP-based "Super MACs" fire a round that can literally shatter Covenant capital ships. Archer missiles had to be used in tremendous volumes to breach Covenant shield systems. Even with their shields down, Covenant ships have been noted to remain operational after multiple direct hits from normal MAC rounds. Throughout the Human-Covenant War, this advantage in firepower and shielding gave the Covenant an effective 3:1 ratio when in battle against the UNSC. However, as of the post-war era, thanks to Forerunner technology and the Huragok retrieved from Onyx, UNSC ships have become faster and stronger, making them more effective against Covenant vessels.
The largest vessels of the UNSC fleet are carriers and supercarriers. While possessing weapons of their own, their primary role is to deploy fighter craft such as the GA-TL1 Longsword, and may serve as flagships in fleet actions. If a carrier is unavailable, however, then heavily-armed and armored cruisers may fill this role. The UNSC Navy has fielded numerous carrier types, among them the Epoch-class heavy carrier, the Orion-class assault carrier, and the postwar Poseidon-class light carrier. The Punic-class supercarriers, among the largest vessels in human history, upheld the Navy's outreach and field capabilities as "Space Control Vehicles" before assuming offensive roles in the Human-Covenant War. The Punic-class was one of the few vessels to rival those of the Covenant in terms of tonnage and firepower. The current flagship of the UNSC Navy is the UNSC Infinity, the first of the Infinity-class supercarriers which make use of defensive and offensive advances reverse-engineered from both Forerunner and Covenant technologies, with the specific intention of matching Covenant warships in terms of offensive firepower. The UNSC Navy has operated four known classes of cruiser; the Marathon-class heavy cruiser, the Valiant-class super-heavy cruiser, the now-obsolete Halcyon-class light cruiser, and the postwar Autumn-class heavy cruiser.
UNSC destroyers and frigates of various classes are used for escorting larger cruisers and carriers, as well as for independent patrol and scouting operations. Both are roughly the same size, but destroyers are designed with greater emphasis on firepower and armor over versatility. Frigates are multi-purpose warships that are used in a broad range of roles, ranging from heavy air support to fighter escort and fleet engagements. Some UNSC frigates are equipped with a sizeable cargo bay for larger dropships and armor complements. The UNSC has also employed light frigates equipped with stealth systems in a specialized reconnaissance role.
The Navy maintains a wide variety of smaller craft and support ships. These include prowlers for electronic intelligence gathering, refit stations, exfiltration craft, shuttles, and corvettes. Corvettes are notable as being one of the fastest ships in the UNSC Navy, and a number of sub-classes have been developed including the Mako-class and the fast-attack corvette.
Th primary shipyards utilized by the UNSC Navy are on and in orbit of Mars, with at least some UNSC ship production handled by the Reyes-McLees Shipyards over Mars. Tribute is also host to prominent shipbuilding yards. By the end of the Covenant War, the shipyards orbiting Tribute and Mars began building a new generation of Strident-class heavy frigates and Anlace-class frigates, among other warships for the UNSC to replace losses. Additionally, SinoViet Heavy Machinery manufactured and decommissioned Paris-class heavy frigates and Stalwart-class light frigates on Reach prior to the Fall of Reach. UNSC naval design guidelines emphasise that the command crew of a given ship be given visibility of the surrounding area, a tradition hearkening back to the age of naval warfare on Earth. Because of this, UNSC naval vessels are prone to have bridges exposed to space.
Space fighters are small, maneuverable spacecraft, often used for bombing or "dog fighting" in space or in an atmosphere. The UNSC Navy operates a number of fighters, the most common of which is the GA-TL1 Longsword. The Longsword is a multi-role fighter that can be used in a variety of missions, including ground support, anti-ship attacks, and combat with other fighters.
The F-41 Broadsword is a multirole space fighter in use during and after the Human-Covenant War. Like the Sabre, the Broadsword is equipped with energy shielding that covers the entire fighter and recharges when depleted. However, these shields are not rated for slipspace travel. The Broadsword is equipped with two M1075 ASW/AC 35mm MLA cannons and two M6088 ST/MMP missile pods. The fighter can also be equipped with a single piece of heavy ordnance, such as a HAVOK warhead. Broadswords were manufactured in the tens of thousands, and operated by both Navy and Air Force.
A less common UNSC fighter is the OF92/EVA "Booster Frame". The Booster Frame is an experimental fighter developed as a prototype. They are specifically designed for extra-vehicular activity and special operations and Spartan roles, dropped from hooks within the hangars of specialized UNSC ships. The fighter itself has no sealed cockpit, so a pressurized suit must be worn in order to operate the vehicle.
Identified UNSC vessels and stations
As with the rest of the UNSC military, the structure and many of the traditions in the UNSC Navy are based on those in the United States Navy.
List of appearances