Author Topic: What made Operation Thresher so costly?  (Read 1657 times)

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Offline CT27

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What made Operation Thresher so costly?
I remember reading that Operation Thresher at the beginning of FS1 was a defeat and cost the GTA 500+ pilots (that's more than a few Orion complements IIRC, ouch...).  Has there been any speculation as to why it was so costly for the GTA?  Did the Vasudans have some destroyers in ambush or something? Did the Terrans just execute poorly?   

Speculation here, but what could the GTA have done to Operation Thresher into a success?
« Last Edit: May 13, 2016, 03:38:15 pm by CT27 »

 

Offline Lorric

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
Well since they were trying to cut off supply lines to Vasuda Prime, no doubt it was a big operation and both sides would have thrown a lot of ships into it. Just imagine if it was the Vasudans trying to do the same to Earth. There's very little canon information on the Terran - Vasudan War, so it's really a blank canvas that anyone can paint whatever story they want onto.

 

Offline NGTM-1R

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
Little or nothing is known about Thresher. The 500-pilots figure is weird, considering they're pilots (perhaps aircrew? GTA might have multi-crewed fightercraft we haven't seen), and I wouldn't have batted an eye if they said it was ship crew, but pilots? I'm not sure that 8th Air Force lost that many people at Schwinefurt.
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Offline General Battuta

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
We know the operation 'succeeded' but cost a ton of pilots. It seems possible that strikes were deployed and hit their objectives but then couldn't be recovered — maybe the Vasudans drove off the warships? That kind of precipitously huge casualty rate seems like something you'd get from a no-escape situation where one force had to fight until annihilated.

I don't know if we have any canonical info on fightercraft endurance (by FS2 it seems to be ~long) but maybe the Vasudans ran some of the Terran ships so hard they just couldn't continue maneuvering or jumping and ended up as dead targets.

 

Offline CT27

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
We know the operation 'succeeded' but cost a ton of pilots. It seems possible that strikes were deployed and hit their objectives but then couldn't be recovered — maybe the Vasudans drove off the warships? That kind of precipitously huge casualty rate seems like something you'd get from a no-escape situation where one force had to fight until annihilated.

I don't know if we have any canonical info on fightercraft endurance (by FS2 it seems to be ~long) but maybe the Vasudans ran some of the Terran ships so hard they just couldn't continue maneuvering or jumping and ended up as dead targets.

http://www.hard-light.net/wiki/index.php/Thresher

Wasn't the operation a strategic failure (main goal being secure the jump node I believe) but achieved a secondary goal of cutting off supply lines?

 

Offline Snarks

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
Perhaps an Orion was lost and subsequently a good part of its air wing was killed before it could fight back. But then again, I think losing an Orion would merit mention in the briefing.

 

Offline General Battuta

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
Yeah, an Orion would definitely get a note, I think. I mean it's FS1 writing but still.

 

Offline Black Wolf

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
There's no good way to rationalise that huge number, IMO. Even being enormously generous with the complement of an Orion, that figure of 504 pilots is at least two or three entire Orion complements, with a more realistic interpretation of the tech description for the Orion, it's more likely somewhere around 5 entire complements.

And that's everything from interceptors and scouts to heavy bombers wiped out completely, which doesn't seem likely - realistically, to lose 500 pilots, you'd expect partial losses from 6 or 7 destroyers, and those kinds of numbers just don't tally with what we see in FS 1 or 2, unless this was a mire it less whole-of-fleet operation... which is possible, but you'd think an operation like that failing would deserve more than a few lines in a briefing.

If you were desperate to use the number and wanted to fanfic or FRED around it though, there are some possibilities.

1. Significantly more pilots died than airframes.

If the GTA have multiple pilots available on a given airframe on a given ship, then you can imagine an event that kills significant numbers of pilots outside of direct combat. Possibly a transport or convoy carrying replacement pilots was destroyed, or possibly a barracks or something on an Orion was destroyed in battle, killing a lot of pilots without them ever getting into fighters.

2. A big, unknown carrier class was involved.

If there was a large carrier in use at the time that we simply never encountered in FS1, it's possible that a lot of airframes might have been destroyed without requiring vast numbers of destroyers to be committed. Seems like something that might have been mentioned in FS1 though if something that large existed within the fleet.

3. It went on a very long time.

If Operation Thresher was a long term thing, like the way the US names things like "Operation Enduring Freedom" that last years, that casualty rate is more understandable. Granted, the way the briefing is delivered makes it sound like an event rather than a long term thing, but that's never confirmed explicitly. 504 pilots lost over a year long engagement is far more realistic.

That said, I don't like it, partially because of the way it's delivered, but largely because I just don't see the TV war working that way, as a full-time, 14 year long high intensity hot war. I've always thought of it as more like a semi cold war punctuated by major operations. I just can't see that kind of casualty rate being maintained for 14 years straight.

Short answer, it's a bad figure that's difficult (but not quite impossible) to justify.
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Offline 0rph3u5

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
1. Significantly more pilots died than airframes.

If the GTA have multiple pilots available on a given airframe on a given ship, then you can imagine an event that kills significant numbers of pilots outside of direct combat. Possibly a transport or convoy carrying replacement pilots was destroyed, or possibly a barracks or something on an Orion was destroyed in battle, killing a lot of pilots without them ever getting into fighters.

Or pilots died after returning their fighters to base. There are a number of combat injuries that can happend to the occupants of a vehicle without the vehicle becoming inoperable (esspecially there is a degree of automation in place that allows for safe recovery of the vehicle despite pilot incapitation - if an fighter aircraft pilot dies in flight, the plane crashes; a space ship doesn't neccessarily)

3. It went on a very long time.

+1

I tend to think of Thresher more like the First Battle of Marne 1914 than modern air combat
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Offline Snarks

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
What if Operation Thresher was used to conceal losses from Shivan encounters? If you bundle losses on to an operation, it draws attention away from rumors of black ships and on to the Vasudans. So all in all, a piece of propaganda work.

 

Offline Mongoose

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
What if Operation Thresher was used to conceal losses from Shivan encounters? If you bundle losses on to an operation, it draws attention away from rumors of black ships and on to the Vasudans. So all in all, a piece of propaganda work.
Really like this idea. :yes:

 
Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
Yeah, that's quite ingenious.

 

Offline NGTM-1R

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
What if Operation Thresher was used to conceal losses from Shivan encounters? If you bundle losses on to an operation, it draws attention away from rumors of black ships and on to the Vasudans. So all in all, a piece of propaganda work.

Maybe, but it's still much too large. You can only conceal so many losses that way; a few here, a few more there, etc. If you inflate the forces sent out and lost too much then it'll be obvious what you're doing to the people on the line, and possibly to others.

It also raises the question of how you lose even 100 pilots to the Shivans and don't focus on them as a serious threat, and how you lost 400 pilots to the Vasudans because that's still a ridiculously huge number still isn't answered.

tl;dr: if you were concealing 18 extra losses inside a a month-long operation that cost you 82 pilots, that would be feasible. At this scale however...
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Offline niffiwan

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
I'm not sure that 8th Air Force lost that many people at Schwinefurt.

Oops, meant to say this earlier; wikipedia reckons they lost ~650 aircrew, 77 bombers lost, 121 damaged, 1 fighter lost.  Obviously the number of crew per WW2 bomber was much higher than what we've seen in Freespace.  The worst Bomber Command night in WW2 lost around 100 bombers (Nuremburg), again well short of the 250-500 fighters you'd need to lose for 500 pilot losses.

Mind you, in the Battle of the Philippine Sea the Japanese lost 550–645 aircraft, but that was a decisive loss for them.
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Offline Trivial Psychic

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Re: What made Operation Thresher so costly?
I had a thought that perhaps Operation: Thresher didn't just take place in Antares.  With other nodes leading out of Sol, GTVA could have had forces engaging the Vasudans in Alpha Centauri and Deneb, meant to pin down Vasudan reinforcements from supporting the main attack in Antares.  Unfortunately, I just reviewed the Command Briefing, and it clearly says "Operation: Thresher in Antares", so that theory is shot down.
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