|This article, United Nations Space Command Defence Force, was written by The All-knowing Sith'ari. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
|This article, United Nations Space Command Defence Force, is currently under active construction.|
The UNSC has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military. While the Secretary-General is the overall head of the military, the UEG Department of Defence (DoD), a federal executive department, is the principal organ by which military policy is carried out. The DOD is headed by the Secretary of Defence, who is a civilian and a member of the UEG Cabinet, who also serves as the Secretary-General's second-in-command of the military. To coordinate military action with diplomacy, the Secretary-General has the advisory UNSC Security Council headed by a National Security Advisor. Both the Secretary-General and Secretary of Defence are advised by the UNSC High Command, which includes the head of each of the service branches, led by the Supreme Commander of the UNSCDF.
The UNSCDF has the second-highest declared expenditure of any military in the galaxy, behind the Unggoy Star Empire, has the largest air force, army and navy in the known galaxy, is one of only three recognised NOVA powers, and is deemed to have the highest power projection capability in the galaxy.
After World War Two and the formation of the United Nations, the Earth entered a period of comparative stability. That is not to say that this ushered in an age of peace - the Korean, Vietnam, Bosnian, First and Second Gulf Wars and the War on Terror, the Alaskan Dispute and the rise of the Chinese hegemony were all conflicts that involved the nations of the world, exacting huge death tolls. But the important aspect is that these were localised conflicts, limiting the (admittedly devastating) damage and casualties to a central area. The advent of the Communication Age, with the world linked to each other via phone, radio and internet, had seemingly made another World War impossible - the transparency such communications brought with it a distrust of governments, and an unwillingness to fight a war, as the War on Terror would prove.
It was with some concern, then, that the nations of Earth found themselves with military forces but no opportunity to put these to use. Some nations, like the United Kingdom and United States of America, involved themselves heavily in peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts - diplomatic fallout from the ill-defined and politically catastrophic War on Terror was still felt even a century afterwards, and the US in particular was still hard pressed to change the perception of itself by the rest of the world as an aggressive and xenophobic juggernaut of destruction. Others, such as the Russian Federation, began fighting border disputes with smaller belligerents - the former Warsaw Pact nations have never had a good relationship with each other, and full conflict broke out, leading to the Caucasus War in 2089. The conflict would escalate until the United Nations involved itself in 2102, putting an end to combat and inserting peacekeeper forces into the wartorn region to ensure all parties' adherence to non-aggression agreements. It is perhaps a combination of these two factors that would form the core of one of the greatest internal threats that humanity has faced in recent history - the adherents of Vladimir Koslov.
Formerly a prominent military figure in the Russian Space Forces, Koslov was a promonent of Russian interplanetary colonialism, in particular supporting a brand of neo-communism, harkening back to the "glory days" of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and was a vocal supported of greater cooperation between the other military branches towards this goal. His activism supporting an aggressive colonisation of the Argyre Planitia would prove a major concern to British and American intelligence operatives, and he likewise distrusted the actions of other states, especially those who claimed to support him. He would eventually become more and more reclusive, keeping only a tight-knit cadre of political devotees. In all likelihood, Koslov may indeed have achieved his goals of a Russian Mars if not for his ill-advised attempted coup in 2141, and subsequent defeat and discrediting by the Russian Federation, which began a major crackdown on Koslov's supporters in what has since become known as the "Great Purge of 2142", including the capture and execution of Koslov himself. Intended as an example against threats to Russian security, the execution was instead hailed as an act of martyrdom by Koslov, and rallied significant support in the coming months. Koslov's supporters, what few of them remained, decried these actions and claimed it as evidence of political suppression on the part of the Russian government, which had otherwise become considerably more tolerant than its reputation would continue to be, and would form the core of the "Koslovics," followers of Koslov's dream of a resurgence of neo-communism and the overthrow of the "oppressors" on Earth, with considerable support from Mars-born first- and second-generation Russian colonists.
The rise of the Koslovics would not be without impact on itself, though. The spread of its tenets, the overthrow of a bloated Terran bourgoise and the rise of the colonial proletariat, was a popular one among the myriad of orbital space colonies, the settlements on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the Mercury colony, and the rapid gains made by the Koslovics alarmed most of the nations of Earth, especially the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China and France, which all had extensive investments in colonial activity. The respective defence forces began to engage in anti-Koslovic activities, at first separate and then, as the insurgency spread, cooperatively under the newly-formed United Nations Space Command.
The beginnings of the UNSC are a humble one. While many of the defence forces of the regional powers had spaceborn branches, the UN itself lacked such capabilities. With the spread of the Koslovic threat, the United Nations decided than an impartial presence was required among the wider solar system to arbitrate the disputes that were brewing and to prevent bloodshed, and especially prevent the increase in Terran colonial imperialism they anticipated. A sub-branch of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, members were recruited from all across the world - former space-combatants from the United States Marine Corps in particular would have a significant influence on UNSC traditions and methodology, and experts in interplanetary travel were hired from the scientific community to create a state-of-the-art fleet of ships, the beginnings of the UN Navy and Marine Corps. It would still be some time before either UNSC branch would see combat, and eventually reform into the UNSC Navy and Marine Corps respectively, but the foundations for the UNSC had already been laid - it existed, it was active, and it would soon become a major force to reckon with.
The rise of the Koslovics had overshadowed virtually all other potential threats to Earth supremacy, and it was a sudden shock when colonists on the Jovian moons attacked UN colonial advisors. The anti-corporation sentiment of Koslovic supporters, and the resulting outlash against Earth-sponsored colonisation corporations, had resulted in retaliation of sorts, especially by German-based corporations which had extensive holdings on Titan, Ganymede, Europa, Callisto, and other colonies. These would eventually form the core of the Frieden, a varied group that would eventually rival the Koslovics in size and potency. While the Frieden were bitterly opposed to anything even Koslovic-related, they also held no fondness for Earth, and saw itself as a liberating force just as much as the Koslovics did. The slaughter of UN advisors in 2160 would spark the largest conflict humanity would fight in its history until the Human-Covenant War - the Interplanetary Wars.
For much of the conflict, combat was undertaken by the regional defence forces of nations with stakes in extra-terrestrial assets, with the United Nations reduced to a side role. The deployment of Bundeswehr troops on Europa in 2160 was the first large-scale combat deployment of German troops since World War II, though Germany has participated in a number of smaller conflicts since then, largely in the interest of self-defence; the resulting conflict would eventually involve the fledgling United Nations forces. Originally present as a peacekeeping force, the UNMC personnel were eventually forced to take a much greater role in the conclift - the difficulties of space travel meant that the German forces, while superbly trained, were not prepared for such a long-proximity war. On the other hand, the UN Navy had already anticipated and prepared for such an eventuality - UN troops have always had to rely on external support, and the forces keeping the peace around the solar system were supported by state-of-the-art troop ships and freighters that kept them well armed and well suplied. The Frieden forces, on the other hand, had intimate knowledge of the environments they were fighting in, as well as significant covert financial backing by corporations who were eager to see the independence of colonies to set up an interplanetary economy - one which they could shape and control, they hoped. As the Jovian Moons Campaign escalated, the UN Marine Corps and Navy would eventually replace the Bundeswehr as the dominant Earth-based fighting force in the region, eventually pacifying a number of moons by 2162 - while fighting would continue to rage until the end of the war, the UN would hail this as the end of the campaign, and the beginning of peace in the region.
As the Jovian moons began to settle, both the Koslovics and Frieden decided that in order to prevent Earth forces from annihilating them utterly, they would need to take the fight to Earth itself, sparking the Rainforest Wars, perhaps the most famous conflict from this period. Although they originated in the South American nations, the conflict would eventually spread to South-East Asia, Central Africa, and the Middle East, forcing the United Nations to significantly ramp up its reaction forces. Combat veterans from the Jovian Moons Campaign would form the core of new regiments and divisions raised to counter the threats posed by the Koslovics and Frieden forces, and by 2162 these conflicts had largely subsided as the two factions failed to gain traction on Earth. The Frieden, in particular, found itself on the verge of bankrupcy as its backers finally realised what a potent force they had unwittingly created, and that it threatened their offworld interests - the Frieden would never again pose a major threat in the war, though they would remain active until the signing of the Callisto Treaty in 2170. The Koslovics, on the other hand, remained an extremely potent threat, with significant holdings on Mars, and a counter-strike was launched in 2164 - the Argyre Planitia Campaign. Spearheaded by special forces personnel from the United States Marine Corps and Army and the British, Australian and New Zealandforces, Operation: HOT EAGLE was the first combat deployment of military personnel from orbiting spacecraft, via dropships and the predecessors to the SOEIV, and the US Marine Corps holds the prestigious distinction of being the first military personnel to touch down. As Earth-backed forces ravaged Koslovic military centres and pushed them back, the UN Navy would play a significant supporting role, working in tandem with Commonwealth and American assets - the final engagement of the campaign, the liberation of New Legaspi in 2167, was fought between Koslovic forces and Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, with UN troops from the 427th and 224th Marine Regiments in supporting roles.
The rest of the war would be one of consolidation, mostly undertaken by the UN Navy and Marine Corps. Its successes during the Jovian, Rainforest and Argyre Planitia campaigns were used as effective recruitment tools by the UN's propaganda arm, and the expansion of the UN Navy and Marine Corps was extensive, followed by the creation of the UN Army and UN Air Force branches soon after, all finally united under the UNSC. Many of the defence forces of Earth were folded into the fledgling UNSC, forming the nucleus of Earth's dominant fighting force for more than three hundred years, and actions across the solar system were aimed at crushing what little remained of both the Krieden and the Koslovics. In 2170, to avoid total extinction, the Frieden underwent a small civil war, with reformists becoming the dominant internal force, hoping to form a truce with Earth - likewise, the Koslovics came to realise that their very survival was dependent upon their ability to put aside their differences and accept that Earth was the superior military force. The Callisto Treaty, signed in 2170 by representatives of the United Nations Space Command, Frieden Secessionists and Koslovic Revolutionaries was hailed as the end of the war. Fighting would continue to rage through the next two decades as various holdout groups and terror cells refused to accept their own sides' surrenders, but they would steadily lose support during the unification of all Earth-held holdings under Unified Earth. Formed in the wake of the devastating Interplanetary, UE would become a world government, based on the model of the United Nations but applied on a far grander scale - representatives of the colonies were given Security Council seats on par with Earth nations, and the UNSC was made the official military arm of Unified Earth, expanded slightly - the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Forces would be grouped under the newly formed UNSCDF, while the UNSC as a whole would eventually encompass a broader array of organisations dedicated to space exploration, humanitarian efforts, and colonisation projects. To satisfy pro-polonist factions, the Colonial Military Administration was set up as a colonial military force for peacekeeping, emergency response, and interplanetary dispute arbitration - for the next three hundred years, the UNSC would be restricted to Sol in a military capacity,t hough UNSC troop ships, freighters and warship escorts would play a major part in the colonisation effort.
For more than three centuries after the Interplanetary War, humanity would enter an unprecedented era of stability as it was unified under Unified Earth and the UNSC - the problems of overpopulation and impending famines across much of Earth required far too much effort to address. The discovery of Shaw-Fujikawa Space in 2291, and the eventual development of the first early colony ships in 2362, would transform the UNSC from a peacetime military into a major colonisation organisation, and UNSCDF would provide escort and personnel for colonisation efforts - Epsilon Eridani II, the planet that would eventually come to be known as "Reach" upon its christening, was largely a military effort, and would support most of the UNSC's military infrastructure until it's destruction in 2552. As humanity expanded, the development of an interstellar political body became apparent - overstretched, the UNSC would find itself hard-pressed to deal with the sudden sprouting of privateer and pirate forces, and the fledgling secessionist groups, intent on independence, that would precede the Insurrection. Nevertheless, until 2490 the UNSC was still largely a peacekeeping and humanitarian force, involved in various police actions across human space, which was rapidly expanding at a rate that took all by surprise. Innovations in terraforming procedures meant that colonies could be created and inhabited in decades, rather than centuries, and while still a long slow process, it allowed the expansion of humanity on a scale never before seen. The population burden of post-Interplanetary War Earth was soon a distant recollection, as the fledgling Inner Colonies took the brunt of the overflow. The first worlds, with significant civilian and commercial infrastructure, would eventually be known as the "Inner Colonies" - not because of any proximal relationship with Earth, but because they were considered the "elite" among Earth's fledgling interstellar empire. As the new Unified Earth territories began to reach equilibrium, the foundation of the Outer Colonies began.
Ultimately, it would be the unfortunately termed "Inner Colonies" that would lead to the first fighting since the end of the Interplanetary War on any significant scale - the establishment of the Colonial Administration Authority was intended by Unified Earth to remove the need for independent "nations" in future colonies. Ostensibly, this was to prevent factionalism and facillitate cooperation in a frontier spirit, though it was percieved by many as a restictive body intent on preventing any potential threats to Earth's supremacy from rising. To an extent, this is an accurate evaluation of the CAA's operations - the CAA had become a bureaucratic force governing hundreds of colonies in dozens of star systems, but had little concept of the individual needs of each colony. A colony on par with Harvest, for example, a full planetary ecosystem with preexisting atmosphere and full support of agriculture and inhabitation with little restrictive factors, is so different to a colony such as those set up in the Madrigal asteroid belts, based in the cores of asteroids and founded on a mining economy, requiring specialist equipment to even exist. Certainly there were catastrophic failures of oversight on the part of the CAA, especially the Ross-128 Incident of 2431 and the insufficient regulation and oversight of Sierra Space Systems, and analysts have speculated that had its out-of-touch approach been prevented in the first place, the Insurrection might have been significantly more manageable, reduced to a handful of backwater colonies. As it was, the CAA's bumbling inefficiency became a rallying cry for millions.
The spark for the Insurrection, ironically enough, would actually be well within humanity's "Inner" Colonies - Reach, one of Earth's first established colonies, would prove the staging ground for the first anti-Earth terrorist and paramilitary factions, and the beginning of the Insurrection proper, with conflict erupting in 2490. In the interval between its foundation and the Insurrection, Reach had become a significant hub of military infrastructure and personnel, in addition to its major population centres - the UNSC believed itself in a perfect position to crush the threat in its infancy. There were a number of factors, though, that would eventually prove the UNSC woefully wrong: firstly, the UNSC had not fought a full-scale conflict since the Interplanetary War, and the nature of warfare had evolved beyond the tactics it had developed during the 2160's, and even the equipment they continued to operate among the armed forces; secondly, the fledgling Insurrectionists used terrorist tactics in an asymetrical warfare campaign aimed at demoralising the UNSC's support base and attract others to the cause, creating enough support for their cause for Earth to truly consider independence; thirdly, the Colonial Military Authority resisted all attempts at encroaching on its own colonial authority, even in the face of internal dissent and Insurrectionist sympathies; and finally, humanity was simply unwilling to accept the fact that the Insurrection was a legitimate threat to it. Centuries of comparative "peacetime" had left humanity with an inability to accept conflict as an inevitability. Centuries of peacetime with Earth as the cultural, scientific and military core of an interstellar human race produced a feeling of invulnerability, and a dismissive attitude to the "primitives" out in the frontier colonies. Worse still, many considered the plight of the colonies a noble one, perhaps harkening back to the spirit of secessionist portions of local history (ie; the American Revolution), and supported regional autonomy on a scale the CAA was unwilling to accept. Even without the bumbling bureaucracy of the CAA, events may have transpired differently.
In the colonies, these attitudes were rarely seen, and where before these secessionists had used public support and protest to garner support, they turned to terrorism, percieving the hostility of the CAA to their cause, and believing that Earth would never agree to their demands. The popular support that they had enjoyed rapidly dwindled, as Insurrectionists targetted UNSC, CAA and CMA assets in a campaign of terror designed to demoralise the Earth-backed factions. In this regard, it was a total failure - while many considered the colonies a lost cause, the UNSC and CMA rapidly swung into action, initiating Operation: TREBUCHET. While the UNSC would have a limited naval participation during the early years, for the most part it was left on the sidelines as a Sol-exclusive organisation, sidelined in the conflict by the CMA.
Perhaps the largest obstacle to UNSC involvement was its blocking by the Colonial Military Authority. Overseen by the CAA directly, the CMA served as colonial forces, raised from colonial populations as a self-sufficient interstellar military force, extremely protective of its duties and authority. In the early years of the Insurrection , the CMA attempted to be the sole respondant to the the crisis, hampering UNSC efforts to increase their level of involvement - the CMA Navy and Marine Corps would become bitter opponents of their UNSC counterparts. Worse still, the CMA found itself increasingly compromised from within, with many internal groups believing that the CMA's loyalties should lie with the colonies rather than Earth, and that the Insurrection was in their best interests. CMA sympathisers would render it ineffective in its role as a colonial reactionary force, and by 2525 the UNSC itself had been granted permission to involve itself further in the Insurreation, completely disbanding the CMA and absorbing most of its assets into itself.
The Insurrection had reached its height in 2525, spreading across hundreds of minor and major colonies, wuith the UNSC struggling to hold it in check. Building upon the earlier Project: ORION and their "Spartan" supersoldiers, the Office of Naval Intelligence would create the SPARTAN-II Program as a response - warfighters trained from childhod for warfare, genetically, mentally and physically augmented to produce a superior soldier, provided with state-of-the-art MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour, the Spartan II soldiers were designed, quite literally, to defeat any enemy they engaged in all types of warfare, but especially the assymetric warfare favoured by Insurrectionists, specialising in infiltration, assassination and covert exfiltration. At the same time, as the UNSC replaced the CMA totally, they found themselves dealing with an increasingly militarised enemy. Factions such as the United Rebel Front of 111 Tauri possessed professional special forces, armoured fighting vehicles, and heavy weaponry, most of it either stolen from UNSC military bases or purchased on the thriving black market after the CMA's breakup. The transition from a peacekeeping force to an active military was complete by 2525 - and not a moment too soon.
The four-year long war put the spotlight on problems facing the overpopulated planet, and the Rain Forest Wars also exacerbated the problems relating to food distribution. The ensuing famine and societal problems related to the post-war population boom providing the spark to change the political nature of governance on Earth and elsewhere, leading to the political system seen in the 26th Century.
These pressures also helped make space colonization seem more attractive in later centuries, as the Unified Earth Government would sign off on a colony ship program that was revealed in 2310 to ease the burden on the ailing home world. This would not have been possible without the invention of the Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine in the late 2200s, which allowed the ships to travel far greater distances than ever before.
It took 52 years before the first colony ship, the Odyssey, was launched, and what became the so-called Inner Colonies were not fully colonized until the end of the 24th century. The apex of Human colonization would come in 2492, when more then 800 worlds were inside UNSC territory and a handful of them were under development or had already developed into colonies. By this time, a ring of Outer Colonies was providing the UEG with the raw materials that made the macro-economy work; the political power, however, remained with the afore-mentioned Inner Colonies. The massive difference in wealth distribution and political power, which became a hallmark of humanity by this period, led to new threats of secession from the outer ring. Fearing the consequences of the breakup of the interstellar empire and seeing the benefits of avoiding all-out war to defend their hold on the colonies, the UNSC would embark on the SPARTAN-Is, the predecessors to the SPARTAN-II program in 2491, beginning with the ORION Project.
The First Great War
The early years of the First Great War are hazy, especially the reasons why the Covenant declared total war on humanity. Harvest was the official first contact between human and Covenant forces, first with the destruction of a Jackal privateer ship and then the ill-fated meeting between UNSC Colonial Militia, local Harvest political leadership, and a Jiralhanae and its supporting Unggoy and Yanme'e staff. Attempts at negotiating soon took a turn for the worst; the Brutes had no intention of negotiation, insisting on a total surrender and the turning over of all "relics" on the world. At the same time, a disasterous fifefight between a Militiaman and a Grunt with an itchy trigger finger resulted in the first fighting, and the talks came to a disasterous end, with the Militiamen barely surviving. On the other hand, the Covenant showed a remarkable understanding of human language, broadcasting fanatical religious threats even from the very first campaigns - ONI speculates that the Covenant had at least some knowledge of humanity prior to 2525, but until then did not consider them a threat, or indeed even worth the effort of investigating.
Regardless, the next eleven years would see the bitter fighting for the Outer Colonies begin. At first, humanity was woefully unprepared to fight an enemy such as the Covenant - technologically, the Covenant was centuries ahead of the most advanced UNSC equipment, utilising a variety of directed energy weapons and energy shields in combat to calamatous effect, and even equipment not intended for combat was still far ahead of anything the UNSC used, especially their ability to manipulate magnetic and gravitational fields. Even worse, the Covenant possessed numbers that the UNSC could not hope to match, deploying themselves en masse in planetary engagements with no concern for casualties taken. These advantages were able to be offset somewhat by human tactical and strategic ingenuity - the emphasis on unit cooperation and communication, lack of internal factionalism except by military branch, and generally superior quality of UNSC Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen over their Covenant counterparts, which stressed the importance of individual excellence and the importance of rank, as well as their unfamiliarity with human environments, meant that UNSC-Covenant engagements on the ground resulted in a disproportionately high kill count on humanity's part. Even with this, ground battles were a struggle, given the sheer numbers and firepower deployed by the Covenant.
The battle for orbital supremacy, on the other hand, was a radically different matter altogether. The technological advantage the Covenant enjoyed meant that even a small battlegroup could obliterate orbital defences and eradicate naval forces with comparative ease. In future engagements, the UNSC would figure that they would need a numerical advantage of three-to-one to make the battle an even fight, and that they would still take massive casualties. Attempts to remedy this were immediately put into place - improvements to slipspace drives improved reaction time, entry/exit accuracy, and facilitated interstellar communication and warning of Covenant attack. Improvements for common and effective weapon systems, such as the MAC, were sought - Archer missiles, formerly the standard offensive weapon on UNSC warships, had proven woefully ineffective against Covenant energy shielding, though tandem use with Magnetic Accelerator Cannons would boost their effectiveness. Furthermore, the UNSC stockpiles of nuclear weapons would rapidly become all but exhaused during the battle for the Outer Colonies, as the UNSC turned to the only weapons they possessed that could strike the Covenant on the same level. Project EXCALIBUR, established in 2530, was only one of many special weapons development projects set up by ONI to study, reverse-engineer, and apply captured Covenant technology to UNSC applications - Project TEMERITY predated it by nearly fifty years, while EXCALIBUR would focus on the applications of the technology, it was TEMERITY that did the bulk of the recovery and study work. Virtually no arm of the UNSC was left unchanged - the Special Forces branches of the Navy, Army and Marine Corps especially saw a huge expansion of their budgets, and subsequent expansion of their activities and composition.
The political fallout from the First Great War would also be dramatic. While the UNSC was still fighting a war on two fronts - a home war against secessionist rebel factions, and a total war against the xenocidal Covenant - it could not tolerate the inefficiency of the CAA. Initially, the organisation's authority was scaled back substantially, a popular move. CAA officials grudgingly gave concession after concession in the name of the war effort, and for the first time colonies were granted, if not independence, then a level of autonomy that had previously been denied to them. Eventually, the CAA simply stopped being a colonial oversight body altogether, reduced to a toothless entity in the name of UNSC protection of Earth and all her colonies. The earlier disbandment of the CMA had prepared many among the CAA for the worst, and when it was finally disbanded a number of officials went into hiding, taking with them classified documents and material that the UNSC deemed sensitive. None of these officials would ever be found, either by the UNSC or the Insurrectionists that they had hoped to sell their secrets to - the exact reason for this has never been determined.
These improvements would be introduced sporadically, and rarely in sufficient numbers to make as much of an impact as HIGHCOM hoped. At best, it delayed the Covenant's inexorable push into human territory, glassing colony after colony as they ravaged population centres and military staging grounds. The only other mitigating factor was the sheer volume of territory that the UNSC encompassed. At its height, the UNSC encompassed a volume of space more than 200 lightyears in diameter, with hundreds of thousands of stars located in that sphere of influence - but only slightly more than a dozen inhabited star systems, and a myriad of smaller minor colonies. Such a sparse population distribution has been perhaps the only thing between humanity and extinction - the effort to locate a star and investigate it for human activity is considerable and time consuming, even for the Covenant. Combining this with the now famous Cole Protocol, NAVCOM Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1, was a stroke of genius on the part of Vice-Admiral Preston J. Cole, its namesake - the protocol essentially means that all navigational data can only be held by authorised UNSC personnel to prevent its capture (or defection by Insurrectionists) by the Covenant. Ships carrying navigational data relevant to UNSC colonial navigation, and the locations of surviving human colonies, must either purge their navigational databanks or, if capture by Covenant forces is pending and a purge cannot be completed, self-destruct to prevent it from falling into Covenant hands. Hundreds of Covenant operations would be launched to try and recover usable data to lead them to more human worlds; none would be successful. The Outer Colonies had been plentiful, and therefore easy to find - the much rarer Inner Colonies would be a much more difficult prospect for Covenant strategists.
It is said that war is 1% action and 99% waiting for the enemy. Nevertheless, over the next eleven years the Covenant took the fight to humanity, conquering world after world, inevitably falling into a constantly repeated pattern - a massive ground invasion, with UNSC forces able to sometimes hold their own or even win major victories, but inevitably forced to retreat in the face of Covenant orbital supremacy. By 2536, even with the Cole Protocol the UNSC had lost all of the Outer Colonies, and was forced to now defend its Inner Colonies - major civilian and military population centres, and now the base of its economy. The loss of the frontier worlds was a damaging blow to the UNSC's industry - many of the Inner Colonies had long ago abandoned or restricted mining or agricultural industries, preferring to rely on the materials shipped back from the Outer Colonies. Massive agricultural areas were set up, and the old mines that had been abandoned were now reopened - before the Insurrection, the UNSC had restricted itself to Sol and the Inner Colonies, and had relied on Earth-based war suppliers. Its consuption of the CMA meant that all of the former entities assets became its own, and it had come to rely on the dozens of smaller local contractors that produced weapons and vehicles for the war effort - their loss to the Covenant was significant, but they were not irreplacable. At about this time, Misriah Armories Ltd. would became the primary UNSC contractor, manufacturing a significant amount of its equipment.
The fall of the Outer Colonies came as a wake up call to many. Inhabitants of the Inner Colonies had thought themselves untouchable by the Covenant, so long as the Outer Colonies existed to take the full brunt of the Covenant's xenocidal campaign. As they found themselves under attack, panic gripped many worlds. Insurrectionist groups recieved a brief surge of support, as colonists lost faith in the UNSC's ability to protect them - propaganda efforts by the UNSC, and continued belligerence by rebel groups, would eventually relieve them of their illusions of security with the Insurrection. Fighting against the only effective defence force for humanity proved to be unpopular, to say the least - by 2542, what was left of the Insurrection was reduced to a few ragtag bands of holdouts, who either refused to believe the UNSC could defend them, or believed that they had a better chance with the Covenant, a belief that drove away even more supporters, especially after the events at Madrigal in 2535.
Whereas the battle for the Outer Colonies was a chaotic and frantic scrabble, the battle for the Inner Colonies would be far more organised. Ground forces had a decade to prepare themselves for such an occurence, establishing military bases and supply depots for future use, setting up defensive emplacements, and training the civilian populace in evacuation drills and raising Colonial Militia units. The Covenant would find their battles to conquer the Inner Colonies a radically different war, especially in the orbital defence - while the UNSC still lacked technological supremacy, their use of superior tactics and numbers gave them a much better chance against Covenant warships, allowing ground campaigns to rage for months, sometimes even years, buying more and more time in actions that would delay the Covenant long enough, the UNSC hoped, for a way to end the war to be found. Investments in special weapons projects went through the roof, and research teams on Covenant military tactics and strategies, history, politics and territory to put to use to leverage any possible advantage that could be gained - covert teams would foster conflicts between different Covenant factions. The Grunt and Jackal species in particular would prove potent and bitter enemies of each other, but they were not the only one - dissent was already brewing from higher in the Covenant's ranks, as the Elites feared the rise of the Brutes and the Brutes likewise sought to supplant the Elites. Even more potent was anti-Prophet sentiment - the war was an unpopular one, even within the Covenant. Factions of Elites believed that humanity had shown remarkable tenacity in its struggle for survival, and that they merited being offered a place in the Covenant itself, while others believed that the Prophets reasons for wiping out the humans were less religious than they pretended. Other factors, such as traditional disagreement over treatment of Forerunner relics and interpretations of religious dogma, would eventually lead o the rise of various Heretic factions, setting the stage for the Great Schism.
By 2552, the UNSC had lost all but a handful of colonies, and ONI analysts estimated that they had months, not years, left before the Covenant eventually found and glassed Earth, shattering humanity once and for all. Operation: HYPODERMIC was enacted, sending stealth ships deep into Covenant space to find prospective targets for assault to divert Covenant attention, while at the same time the surviving SPARTAN-II personnel were recalled to Reach to prepare for a last-resort mission of desperation - the capture of a Covenant ship, its use to travel to the Covenant homeworld and capture a high-ranking Prophet, and the ransom of said Prophet in exchange for a ceasefire. Before either of these missions could be consucted, a massive Covenant fleet attacked the system, engaging the orbital defence grid, smashing through the orbital perimeter, and landing massive numbers of invasion troops. The battle for Reach was long and bloody, but ultimately the planet was fully conquered by Covenant forces and occupied. Most of the planet was glassed, though some portions remained hospitable enough for Covenant search teams to excavate ancient Forerunner ruins on the planet. The Fall of Reach was the most devastating battle of the Human-Covenant War, especially for humanity - outside of Sol, Reach was the UNSC's largest population center, and was also the UNSC military infrastructure hub. The loss of millions of sailors, airmen, soldiers and marines was a blow worse than any that the UNSC had yet taken in the war. Perhaps most devastating of all, however, was the loss of most of the SPARTAN-II personnel - they had become force multiplyers of unparalleled scale, and had proven their effectiveness countless times against Insurrectionists and Covenant alike, especially in infiltration and assassination missions that even the elite UNSC special forces troops would consider suicide. The deaths of more than a dozen SPARTAN-II personnel would have shattered the "Spartan Myth" that ONI had been so careful to foster as a morale boost if ever made known - the practice of labelling Spartan personnel as MIA rather than KIA in all cases would have been a thin veil at best.
The Fall of Reach would prove a catalyst of sorts, sparking a number of future of events that nobody could have predicted. Fleeing from the conquered planet, the UNSC Pillar of Autumn would stumble across an ancient artificial planetoid - a Halo. Built millenia ago by an ancient and now presumed extinct species known to the Covenant as the Forerunners, both the limited Covenant preliminary force and the UNSC survivors would battle over the secrets of the ringworld, only to realise that the Halo was more than a religious symbol, or even a technological treasure trove - it was a weapon on a galactic scale, capable of wiping out all sentient lifeforms in the galaxy, working in tandem with six other such ringworlds around the galaxy. Worse still, an ancient terror locked deep within the ring had been released by accident; a virulent and aggressive xenocidal parasitic species known as the Flood, which if allowed to leave Halo would consume the entire galaxy. The Halo was destroyed by a Spartan survivor, as well as the orbiting Covenant armada, but at the cost of the few UNSC survivors to survive the Flood. This Spartan, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, would return to Reach aboard a captured Covenant flagship, extract even more Spartan survivors from Reach, destroy a Covenant staging ground and hundreds of ships before arriving at Earth, warning UNSC HIGHCOM that the Covenant knew Earth's location and were planning an invasion. The exact details of this operation are unclear, classified at the highest levels, but it was codenamed Operation: FIRST STRIKE, and saw the demise of celebrated naval commander Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb in combat with the enemy.
What little time the UNSC had left between August 30th, the fall of Reach, and October 21st was spent regrouping what UNSC forces remained in preparation for the defence of Earth in one last stand against the Covenant. Surviving forces were raised to full combat alert, ground and orbital assets were activated, and classified intelligence and materiel were moved off-planet in a span of time that was dizzying. No attempt was made to warn the civilian populace that the Covenant were en route - for one thing, evacuation procedures simply didn't exist to evacuate billions of people, and for another the resulting panic would have caused planet-wide rioting and looting, weakening the UNSC's last stronghold without the Covenant even arriving. While the UNSCDF was fully expecting the Covenant onslaught, the non-military population was taken aback. The propaganda released and distributed by the UNSC had always painted a picture of humanity holding its own against a collection of religious zealot barbarians, and the realisation that this picture, while not entirely false, was not the whole truth would have ramifications lasting decades, perhaps even centuries. Nevertheless, it was a near thing - Earth itself was only spared the traditional fate of worlds conquered by the Covenant because it was deemed a sacred site by the Prophets themselves, and the Covenant did not want to risk damaging more holy relics or, worse, angering the Prophets so close to the fulfillment of the Great Journey.
Spartan-117, who had arrived back from Halo earlier, would take part in the early stages of the New Mombasa campaign, pushing the numerically inadequate Covenant back from Old Mombasa into the city centre in an attempt to reach and board the first ship to penetrate the Earth Orbital Defence Grid, an Assault Carrier carrying a Hierarch - a doubly attractive target for the UNSC. The UNSC In Amber Clad would descend to engage the ship, keeping the city recapture effort supplied with troops and equipment, and pursuing the Assault Carrier as it attempted to jump to slipspace in-atmosphere, carrying Spartan-117 with it - the two ships would emerge over a second Halo installation, hundreds of lightyears from Earth.
At the same time, however, the Covenant was undergoing a period of fractionalism known as the Great Schism - events at the second Halo, "Delta Halo," would see the Master Chief assassinate a Prophet Hierarch to stop it activating the ringworld - theoretically, such an action had been anticipated to redouble the Covenant's xenocidal fury. If anything, it had exactly the opposite effect - the Prophet of Truth would use the event as an excuse to raise the Jiralhanae up as the Prophets' personal bodyguards, having lost faith in the ability of the Elites. In turn, the Elites threatened secession in protest - provoking the Brutes to begin a campaign of genocide against the Elites, targetting their leadership on Delta Halo especially. A religious/military warrior, the Arbiter, would eventually team up with UNSC forces to prevent the ringworlds activation and kill the Brute leader, forging a tentative alliance against the Covenant for as long as the two factions had to rely on each other, reaching Earth with a small Elite force with the loss of the In Amber Clad to the Flood.
These events did not go unparalleled. Earth itself was in the process of fighting for its life - the orbital fleet was now in tatters, especially after Covenant forces learnt that they could jump through slipspace to bypass the Defence Grid altogether, taking out the generators swiftly. Population centres were bombed by fighters and warships, and stragglers rounded up for "interrogation" - either questioned for information related to Forerunner relics, which most had no idea of, or captured and butchered for food. By November, the UNSC was in a dire state, reduced to a handful of warships, a few million people on Earth, and its last major bases reduced to a number that could be counted on one hand, especially after the destruction of HIGHCOM in Sydney. The last functioning human resistance forces, based in Kenya, would eventually be aided by returning UNSC troops with the Arbiter, - these same forces would also find the Master Chief, after the Spartan had stowed aboard a Covenant dreadnought and bailed out. Launching a major offensive, in coordination with the last naval assets, the UNSC would push the Covenant's remaining African forces back around the ruins of New Mombassa - reduced toa crater of molten earth, revealing a massive Forerunner structure. The planetary forces would withdraw from around the world to this structure until its activation - generating a slipspace portal from Earth to a location trillions of lightyears away. The Covenant withdrew through this portal, leaving the UNSC and a newly-arrived Elite battlegroup of twelve ships wondering whether to leave them to their fate or to follow them.
Complicating matters was the Flood - released on Delta Halo, it had captured and infested a massive Covenant mobile planetoid, High Charity, and was on its way to Earth to infect it, and to eliminate any threats to its existence. The UNSC would eventually elect to follow the Covenant, and assassinate the last of their leadership - the Elites had already resolved to hunt the Covenant down and slaughter them down to the last "man". Emerging from the portal, the combined battlegroup found themselves outside of the galaxy itself, in orbit above yet another massive Forerunner installation - rather than a ringworld, this one was a small Alderson-disc type construction and control facility known as the "Ark". Teams were immediately launched by the UNSC to track the Prophjet of Truth on the Ark, while the Elites dealt with the numerically superior but tactically and strategically inferior Brute naval forces. A combined attack would manage to assassinate Truth, though the Flood-infested High Charity had followed them to the Ark as well and tried to infect the last threat to its existence - its efforts were foiled by the Master Chief and the Arbiter, firing an incomplete Halo installation to replace the first one destroyed by the Master Chief months earlier.
Retreating through the portal, the Arbiter would emerge in the front half of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn and land in the Indian Ocean. The Master Chief was not so lucky - located in the rear half of the ship, which never made it through, he is assumed to have been Killed In Action, though search teams continue to scour the space between the Ark and Earth for signs of the Dawn's wreckage. In March, the Arbiter and Fleet Admiral Lord Terrence Hood, 23rd Viscount Hood would dedicate a memorial to all Humans killed during the war, and officially bring the First Great War to an end.
Technically, the phrase "peacetime" is a misnomer. Even in the brief lulls between major conflicts, smaller conflicts have always raged - campaigns against drug cartels in South America and terrorist cells in Africa and the Middle-East during the twentieth century, the suppression of piracy during Colonisation, and even after the Human-Covenant War this is a pattern that holds true. While the Covenant leadership was killed, either by UNSC assassination or by the infection of High Charity, and much of the Covenant military forces were left in tatters, neither the UNSC nor the Sangheili Armed Forces were much better off either. The devastation of Earth left the UNSC with a shattered fleet and a handful of operational military units, and the Reconstruction era was begun with only the support of less than a dozen surviving colony worlds to rebuild the civilian and military infrastructure humanity would need to defend itself. Even more damaging, faith in the UNSC had been shattered by the attack - the UNSC had always painted itself as victorious defenders, and the knowledge that even they had been unable to stop the Covenant finding Earth meant that the illusion of Earth supremacy was similarly broken.
However, it quickly became clear to the UNSC that previous assessments of their casualties had been over-pessimistic: Out of the original eight hundred UNSC colonies, less than seventy had actually been found and glassed by the Covenant, the majority of them lightly-populated outposts, harbours of Insurrectionists that the UNSC had felt it could stand losing, and agriculture and industrial worlds. Even the majority of the colonies that the UNSC had evacuated or abandoned for fear of Covenant invasion were still habitable. However, this loss of productive worlds set back UNSC farming and industrial production significantly, and rationing had to be introduced on surviving planets to prevent food shortages. Furthermore, the Covenant had also succeeded in locating and attacking five of the UNSC's seventeen most heavily populated and oldest Inner Colony worlds (Earth, Reach, and Jericho VII among them). All of these worlds had populations going into the several billions, and these attacks resulted in the vast majority of the civilian population being killed. The population of Earth was reduced to a mere 200 million, and the attacks on these planets, combined with the military and civilian death tolls from the other colonies, brought the total death toll up to a staggering 23 billion. However, the UNSC still had a vast population to draw on for conscription and rebuilding.
While Humanity recieved a brief lull in the relentless onslaught of the Covenant, the UNSC immediately set to work consolidating the security of its remnant. Project EXCALIBUR's improvements were activated, in some cases before they were properly field tested, to produce a fleet that, while lacking the numbers for a full-scale war, could more than hold its own in a fight against Covenant or silimar warships. The reverse-engineering of Covenant and Forerunner assets, and its mass implementation among the fleet, would produce warships of unparalleled technical excellence, incorporating advancements in DEW, shield, slipspace travel and communication, and gravity manipulation to a degree not seen outside of Covenant fleets, creating a fighting force on par with the most advanced ships in the galaxy after the Forerunners. Introductions among the ground forces were significantly slow - the fact that the Navy had been all but wiped out made its reconstruction all the easier, but the UNSC Army, Air Force and Marine Corps would continue to use standard wartime armaments for decades afterwards - in the ground campaign, technological superiority had not been as major a factor as it was in the space campaign. Propaganda among the colonies bolstered the UNSC's ranks with fresh recruits, eager to take the fight to the enemy but even more eager to protect what little of humanity was left.
Despite the steady reconstruction of the armed forces, it would still be some time before the UNSC would be ready to commit itself to a true war. Its early role in the War of Vengeance would primarily be a combat and intelligence supporting one - the majority of the war was fought by the Sangheili, now diplomatic allies of the UNSC against the various former Covenant factions still in existence and still a threat to both groups. Only when the UNSC was convinced that inaction would lead to further catastrophies to human space did it act - and when it did, it was a hammer blow like none that it had launched before.
What became known as the War of Vengeance had its roots during the First Great War. During the Battle of Earth in 2552, the vast majority of the vessels brought by the Prophet of Truth to the Sol System went through the Portal to Installation 00, and were destroyed by the pursuing Sangheili fleet. However, a small number of ships were able to escape into slipspace, one of which was pursued by a UNSC Prowler to a Jiralhanae-occupied Covenant colony known as Unmoving Virtue. The Prowler was able to gather a large amount of intelligence on the colony and its defences before returning to UNSC space. However, the intelligence was shelved by the UNSC, who preferred to focus on reconstruction rather than taking the war to the Covenant, who in any case, appeared to be a less important threat than a potential second Insurrection, given that they were ripping themselves apart in a civil war created by the death of the Prophet of Truth and numerous Jiralhanae Alpha Chieftans.
By 2555, the warring Covenant factions had mostly been united under the New Covenant, led by the Prophet of Objection, the Blood Covenant, under Chieftan Hephaestus, and numerous other smaller, but no less dangerous states such as the Kig-Yar Privateer Alliance. The New Covenant, however, was not yet prepared to continue the war with the UNSC and the Sangheili, and it is indeed possible that Objection had lost the stomach for another costly war. In contrast, the Blood Covenant was rearming at full pace and made no secret of its aims to destroy humanity, the Sangheili, and the San'Shyuum, whom they viewed as deceivers responsible for their ill-fortune during the First Great War, and decisively ended negotions with the New Covenant over a potential military alliance by sending the two ambassadors home in pieces.
With their shipping being constantly harrassed by Kig-Yar pirate vessels, and the Blood Covenant rapidly approaching the capacity to overwhelm them, the UNSC recovered the intelligence gathered at Unmoving Virtue, and together with the Sangheili, composed a plan for a strike against the Blood Covenant that would cripple their military capability, and act as a deterrent against further aggression. At the pressing of his senior military advisors and cabinet secretaries, as well as Arbiter Thel 'Vadam of the Sangheili Armed Forces, UEG Secretary-General Pierre Plantard reluctantly made the unpopular move of committing the UNSC to an alliance with the Sangheili, and authorised a joint strike on Unmoving Virtue.
The UNSC has the largest defence budget in the Orion Arm. In fiscal year 2575, the Department of Defence has a base budget of cR 533.8 trillion. Outside of direct Department of Defence spending, the UNSC spends another cR 218–262 trillion each year on other defence-related programs, such as Veterans Affairs, internal security, NOVA weapons maintenance, and the Foreign Office.
By service, cR 225.2 trillion was allocated for the Army, cR 171.7 trillion for the Navy and Marine Corps, cR 160.5 trillion for the Air Force and cR 106.4 trillion for defence-wide spending. By function, cR 154.2 trillion was requested for personnel, cR 283.3 trillion for operations and maintenance, cR 140.1 trillion for procurement, cR 79.1 trillion for research and development, cR 23.9 trillion for military construction, and cR 3.1 trillion for family housing.
Historically, defence-related spending in the UNSC is at its highest inflation-adjusted level since the First Great War. Per-capita spending is at approximately the same inflation-adjusted level as the peak of the early-2560s late-War of Vengeance military build-up and the 2570 peak of the Second Great War.
The Secretary-General of the UEG is the commander-in-chief of the UNSCDF, and in times of war is responsible for the conduct of military operations. The chain of command of the UNSCDF runs from the Secretary-General, through the Secretary of Defence, to the commanders of the Joint Force Commands, who command all military forces within their area of responsibility. The Supreme Commander of the UNSCDF and the service Chiefs of Staff are responsible for readiness of the UNSCDF and serve as the Secretary-General's military advisers, but are not in the chain of command. The Supreme Commander is by law the highest ranking military officer in the UNSC. HIGHCOM does not have operational command of UNSC military forces. Responsibility for conducting military operations goes from the Secretary-General to the Secretary of Defence directly to the commanders of the Joint Force Commands and thus bypasses HIGHCOM completely. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the personnel readiness, policy, planning and training of their respective military services for the Joint Force Commanders to utilise. High Command also acts in a military advisory capacity for the Secretary-General and the Secretary of Defence. However, in wartime, the Secretary-General may authorise HIGHCOM to plan operations for his approval, to be executed by the Joint Force Commanders. The administrative and other non-operational affairs of the services are handled by the civilians of each service's service department within the DOD.