Starfleet is, we are told again and again, not a military organization. That being said, they are the group that the Federation turns to in times of war, and they have gone to war on several significant occasions, sometimes during terribly destructive and prolonged conflicts.

But in these times of war, it seems like we only ever hear of starships and away teams doing battle, never dedicated infantry combat. The answers to other questions on this site indicate that Starfleet includes all branches of the "Federation military," and the M.A.C.O. units do imply some land-based forces, but even they seem like a very small force for a (proto-)galactic civilization.

Has there ever been any mention of a protracted land war in Federation history? Do they simply not need a large-scale army, given the capabilities of their starships? Or have land battles been mentioned, and we are left to wonder how exactly they were waged?

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    The fear of this ultimate weapon will keep the systems in line... – DVK-on-Ahch-To Nov 5 '14 at 0:40
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    @DVK: The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers. – James Sheridan Nov 5 '14 at 0:51
  • I thought I've once read of some Star Trek game playing on the ground as well; i.e. a 3D RTS with colony building and tanks and such. Did that exist or am I confusing it with some other universe (like Star Wars)? – Mario Nov 5 '14 at 13:55
  • Mario - no, there was a ground combat ST game. Can't recall the name though. Maybe the Federation is like the other Terran Federation in the Starfire game and novels; the prefer to avoid fighting on planets due to the risk to civil populations and the environment. – Covertwalrus May 17 '15 at 4:38

There were protracted land campaigns during the Dominion War. This was even shown in several episodes, most notably "The Siege of AR-558," where Nog loses his leg in a ground battle against the Jem'Hadar. Other than the Dominion War, I don't know of any major land campaigns conducted by the Federation or Starfleet.

  • +1. Shouldn't discuss with people who knows the subject, too. But do you admit that large swaths of armies are a terrible idea with the available weapons and that infiltration is much easier with teleporters ? – Thorsten S. Nov 5 '14 at 0:52
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    There were also land battles in the DS9-era Klingon war, see "Nor the Battle to the Strong": en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Nor_the_Battle_to_the_Strong_(episode) – MartianInvader Nov 5 '14 at 0:57
  • No more so than large infantry columns became a terrible idea with the advent of tactical bombing, and even moreso with the invention of the helicopter. The US military has spent billions secretly researching vertical envelopment from orbit (I am a qualified military historian, though I don't practice it, and the USAF doesn't exactly hide this well) which is essentially what transporter technology would enable. They've also been researching how to block it, which is what other states in Star Trek would do in response to such technology. It's the Iconian gates that are the real game-changer. – James Sheridan Nov 5 '14 at 0:59
  • @MartianInvader: Thanks for that. I remembered that episode, but couldn't remember the name, nor find it in a quick search. – James Sheridan Nov 5 '14 at 1:00
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    Let us not forget Setlik III en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Setlik_III – Tritium21 Nov 5 '14 at 1:10

In addition to the Dominion War, the Federation fought many land battles against the Cardassians in their war that occurs prior to the events of TNG & DS9. Chief O'Brien was a tactical officer and soldier prior to becoming an engineer.

He talks about it from time to time during various episodes of both TNG & DS9. It wasn't until after the war with Cardassia that he switches to engineering and eventually ends up on the Enterprise, then on to Deep Space 9.

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