I’m confused about how space war works in Foundation, which has instantaneous (or nearly so) FTL.

Note that I am not concerned here with space battles for control of an individual star system.

In particular, each side in every war is shown holding a contiguous volume of space, with battles in systems along the border. But that doesn’t make any sense!

Even if FTL jumps have limited range or require expensive calculations for each hop, any intermediate points would most logically be in the vast emptiness of interstellar space, where except by ridiculously bad luck, you could not be detected by the enemy until long after you had already jumped away. You should be able to easily travel from pretty much anywhere in the galaxy to pretty much anywhere else, and not be detected doing so until the moment you appeared at your destination. Therefore, contiguity of territory or “strategic locations” shouldn’t matter at all, only individual star systems and their relative value to each side without regard to their actual location.

What am I missing?

  • 1
    Would need to reference the books for a proper answer, but I think longer journeys did require multiple jumps, and each jump required a pause (sometimes hours, sometimes even days) for various reasons. A deep strike is possible, but the resupply/reinforcement delay would be a problem - especially as the defender's have much shorter supply lines.
    – HorusKol
    Dec 18, 2021 at 22:49
  • @HorusKol Second Foundation gives a travel time of one week from Terminus to Kalgan. They were at war for months, even though Kalgan had a far superior navy that could have easily conquered Terminus in one direct attack.
    – StephenS
    Dec 19, 2021 at 18:08
  • Kalgan's navy wasn't all that superior to the Foundation: their advantage was the Mule and his empathic abilities. And a week seems a long time for resupply/reinforcement when other worlds are closer. By your logic, it would have taken only a few hours to fly from Berlin to London in 1940, but the Germans never successfully invaded Britain. D-Day in 1944 was only successful because of the huge logistic support following up the landings, and could easily have failed if the Germans had managed to disrupt just one whole day's worth of supply.
    – HorusKol
    Dec 19, 2021 at 22:57


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