In the BattleTech universe, Orbital Bombardment refers to the use of naval (capital grade) weaponry of WarShips to attack a planetary surface, including naval lasers, naval autocannon, mass drivers, and nuclear ordnance. While usually carried out with the aim to inflict large-scale destruction, orbital bombardment has been used to support ground forces in some instances.
It is not documented when or where the first orbital bombardment took place. In 2367 Franco Liao famously ordered orbital bombardment of Capella Prime, which was occupied by the Federated Suns at the time. The Du Shi Wang class of WarShips, which is armed with energy weapons (naval grade PPCs and lasers) exclusively, was noted for its "novel use of orbital bombardment at Novaya Zemlya in 2399".
While orbital bombardment took place up to and into the early Succession Wars, it became less and less common as the number of available WarShips carrying capital weapons dwindled. The last known action during the Succession Wars involving orbital bombardment was the Eighth Battle of Hesperus II in 2853, where the defenders used orbital bombardment from the LCS Invincible to vanquish the attacking forces on the ground; the Invincible, considered the last operable remaining WarShip in the Inner Sphere after having just destroyed the last opposing Draconis Combine WarShips, in turn was lost in a misjump on the return trip from Hesperus. Much as the WarShips themselves were considered extinct by the time of the Third Succession War, the concept of orbital bombardment had largely faded into history.
When the Clan Invasion came to the Inner Sphere two centuries later, the presence of multiple WarShips among the attackers was noted with fear and awe. But their ritualistic approach to battles saw the Clans refrain from deploying disproportionate force, and prevented orbital bombardment as a combat tactic. However, Clan Smoke Jaguar destroyed the city of Edo on Turtle Bay in 3050 from orbit as an object lesson when guerilla forces on the surface failed to accept defeat and fought on with terrorist actions, a slap in the face by Clan honor standards. This is widely considered the first instance of orbital bombardment since 2853, and caused shock and dismay, with some decrying it as a war crime. Hundreds of thousands died. (It is often overlooked that Clan Jade Falcon destroyed the city of Remus City on Romulus in a similar fashion around the same time, also as an object lesson against guerilla resistance–but unlike the Smoke Jaguars, the Jade Falcons evacuated the inhabitants beforehand, which may be the reason why this other instance of orbital bombardment is frequently overlooked.)
The renaissance of WarShips across all factions also brought orbital bombardment to the fore again as a military tactic.
The Jihad was caused at least in part by orbital bombardment, ironically from the recovered and refurbished LCS Invincible. Now in Word of Blake hands, it fired a "warning shot" at Tharkad after the failure of the Fourth Whitting Conference that happened to make the planet's huge but ramshackle lostech main reactor explode. Mistaken as a nuclear orbital bombardment, this unfortunate action sparked a war that would see orbital bombardment used with abandon once again, and where entire planets were sterilized with nuclear carpet bombing. The same was happening in the Clan Homeworlds during the concurrent Wars of Reaving.
Massacre of Turtle BayEdit
Clan Smoke Jaguar was always known for the low tolerance and brutality they have shown their captives, treating them as nothing more than lesser beings. This attitude would backfire on them during Operation REVIVAL. In 3050, as Jaguar forces captured the Draconis Combine planet of Turtle Bay, their warriors were unaware that they captured Hohiro Kurita, heir to the Combine and son of Theodore Kurita. Upon learning this news, the Jaguars were furious and set out to recapture him after the prison break. However, the Jaguars' efforts would be hampered from both the civilian population and Yakuza connections supplying the populace. Out of retribution, the Smoke Jaguar Commander would order all Jaguar warriors to evacuate from the planet to begin orbital bombardment. Jaguar warships would arrive to the planet to fire upon the world with fury, killing off the populace until there was nothing left. This action shocked both the Clans and the Inner Sphere as a whole. For the Inner Sphere, the Draconis Combine would swear vengeance upon the Jaguars for their actions, while the Clans would condemn the Jaguars with most hardline Crusaders seeing this as cowardly and giving Ulric Kerensky an opportunity to weaken the Invading Clans by declaring that no naval assets will be used for the duration of the invasion. The Smoke Jaguars agreed to this term to save what little honor they had left.
In 3067, the Second Star League disbanded with a vote of no-confidence. Furious, the Word of Blake attempted to strong-arm the former FedCom nations of the Lyran Alliance and Federated Suns to rejoin the Star League or they would have their capital worlds of Tharkad and New Avalon fired upon. When both leaders refused, the Blakists made good on their promise and bombarded both planets and their cities. The Blakists would do this to every world attacking every nation and Clan starting the Jihad. The Word of Blake would continue to use this tactic with nuclear strikes on various worlds until their defeat in 3081 by the Republic of the Sphere.
Purging of GaledonEdit
On the Draconis Combine world of Galedon V the planet was hit with a virus that was spreading among its population. The planet and its population was quarantined so it would not spread to other worlds. Unfortunately, Clan Snow Raven would get this plague after their war with the Combine. During a Trial of Possession against House Kurita they would defeat their opponents and gain their civilians as isorla. Unknown to them, the Ravens had brought the virus aboard their vessels as well, spreading to WarShips and even their own warrior caste. The situation got even worse, when in order to keep the virus from spreading throughout their entire Touman, the Snow Ravens had no choice but to declare a Trial of Annihilation against their own clan. This made it hard for the Snow Raven Fleet as most of their warriors were unwilling to accept an easy death. The infected warriors were destroyed as a result and the Ravens would bombard Galedon V to prevent the infection from spreading further.
Wars of ReavingEdit
In the Wars of Reaving, orbital bombardments would become commonplace among Clan Space. When Steel Viper Khan Brett Andrews rose to the power of ilKhan, his first order was to reave "tainted" Clan bloodlines that were associated with the Inner Sphere. The planets of the Home Clans would also fall victim to the bombardments as well. Civilian caste who took up arms against the clan attackers would also suffer the fate of orbital bombardment. Whether by design or inadvertently, it did destroy Bloodnames that were not tainted. When the Wars of Reaving ended Clan Blood Spirit would share the same fate by their Star Adder enemies.
The orbital bombardment was again used in the 32nd century by the followers of the Mongol Doctrine. In 3142, the Clan Jade Falcon Khan Malvina Hazen used it against the mercenary group of Kell Hounds on planet Timkovichi, destroying most of the mercenary group, but too the Falcon's allies fighting them, the Clan Hell's Horses.
- 25 Years of Art and Fiction, p. 20
- Technical Readout: 3075, p. 252
- Era Report: 3052, pp. 13, 27
- 1st Somerset Strikers sourcebook, p. 20 (sidebar)
- Jihad: Final Reckoning, p. 47-48
- The Wars of Reaving, p. 156, "Clan Blood Spirit"
- Field Manual: 3145, p. 154, "Clan Hell's Horses"