Essay: Head Hunting
Head Hunting is one of oldest and effective tactics to eliminate enemy military command centers, bases and communications. Since old ages, this has happened in all wars through history. The invention of the BattleMech just elevated this to a new level.
A correct use of head hunting if successfully executed, can cripple entire regiments regardless of the damage they have taken and sent them back crawling in disarray.
The creation of the BattleMech made some of those operations more complex if the commander was inside his 'Mech. The Star League Defense Forces developed two technologies, the Null Signature System and the Chameleon Light Polarization Shield that were incorporated to the EXT-4D Exterminator and the later Spector. These two 'Mech's profiles were so effective in his task of finding and destroying as much of the enemy's command structure as possible - the mission profile included attacking Mobile Headquarters, field bases, and command level officers - that during the First Succession War there were lances whose sole mission was to hunt down and destroy this type of 'Mech. That, coupled with the destruction of General Systems' primary factory on Caph in 2793) ended this type of head hunting operations until Capellan Confederation ingenuity developed a stop-gap solution suitable for mass-production: the so-called Stealth Armor, that integrating the heat baffles and required components directly into specially designed armor plating, when linked with a Guardian ECM Suite, enables the Stealth Armor to replicate its benefits (and disadvantages).
The SLDF created the Nighthawk Mk. XXI, a Power Armor (Light) [PA(L)] design and the progenitor of modern Battle Armor. The original Nighthawk was based upon exoskeletons originally used for commercial purposes during the Star League. It took fifteen years and twenty prototypes before the SLDF finally perfected the design that would eventually be produced. A working prototype was first introduced in 2718, which was followed by two years of field testing and, finally, full production, entering service with the Special Forces Command. Nighthawk numbers were never large as the SLDF wanted them to be, partly to keep its existence a secret, as the suits were given to the Special Armed Services troops known as the Blackhearts and their deployment was never public knowledge. While plans were made for a design of the Nighthawk to reach SLDF Royal units, the Amaris Civil War and the fall of the Star League prevented that version from entering full production.
The development of the Battle Armor Stealth Armor allowed the Federated Commonwealth to develop the Infiltrator and the Infiltrator Mk. II, with the second seeing wide use in head hunting missions.
The Word of Blake took the concept of head hunting to the next level:
- The development of Purifier Adaptive Battle Armor by the Word of Blake introduced an excellent battle armor commando unit ideal to take out commanding officers with surgical strikes using stealth as cover, creating the perfect infiltrator.
- The creation of the Bolla Stealth Tank, a stealth tank able not only to deploy Purifiers in-depth but also to deal with limited resistance.
- Their Raptor II was a virtually invisible covert reconnaissance and search-and-destroy 'Mech.
Known Inner Sphere Head Hunting Operations
- One of the most notable examples of this tactic happened in the year 3028, during the Fourth Succession War. In the battle of St. Andre, the leftenant Andrew Redburn, facing the heavy unit Cochraine's Goliaths, identified his commanding officer, colonel Fiona Cochraine, destroying it with a Death from Above attack. The colonel's unit was forced to flee and was totally destroyed, despite his attackers consisting only of a light BattleMech company.
- Another notably Head Hunting attack happened during the War of 3039, when DEST strike teams launched an attack on Lyran headquarters on the planet Vega that incapacitated Lyran commander Nondi Steiner and forced her evacuation. Her long recovery allowed her subordinate commander's preference for older Lyran tactics to undermine the Commonwealth Thrust.
- Tai-sa Basil Itemji usage of 412th DEST Company attached to the 18th Dieron Regulars to strike against the Clan Nova Cat's command Trinary, the element of surprise allowing the DEST troops to eliminate twenty Clan 'Mechs, including Galaxy Commander John Rosse from Beta Galaxy and his command staff before they were killed.
- Agent "Tamroy" was known for having killed more than two hundred objectives from afar with his Infiltrator Mk. II.
- In December 3075, WoB forces decapitated the command structure of the 103rd Division by killing Precentor Styven Kimmelry.
- Simonson's Cutthroats mercenary unit became master headhunters, eliminating the opposing command 'Mech and disrupting their foes.
- A headhunter attack launched by the Blakists during the coalition assault on Gacrux in early 3077 cost the Sixth Benjamin Regulars their Commanding Officer, although the coalition forces went on to liberate Gacrux, under the command of the Lyran Lieutenant-General, Thomas Hogarth.
But during Operation Revival they found out that Inner Sphere tactics were completely different to theirs, and that most of the Inner Sphere forces lacked any honor. To counter this behavior, they created their own head hunting elemental units, Clan Wolf developed an Elemental Battle Armor Headhunter in 3050 to carry out decapitation strikes against Inner Sphere command personnel. It removes the missile launcher to include an additional Power Pack, Heat and Improved Sensors, a Remote Sensor Dispenser, and a pair of extra Fuel Tanks for its jump jets, while mounting a fixed anti-personnel Machine Gun in addition to the anti-personnel weapon mount.
Those battle armor units proved to be very good using this tactic: their first objectives always are the defender's commanding officers, control and command positions. This strategy helped them to conquer several worlds with minimal losses, opening a way inside Inner Sphere space.
Known Clan Head Hunting Operations
- In November 3051, during the Clan assault on Sevren, a battalion headquarters from the defending 25th Arcturan Guards RCT was destroyed by Elemental headhunters, the defenders were forced to retreat, and Garth Radick claimed the world for Clan Wolf.
- During the Battle of Tronsk, an action that happened when Lothan was invaded, Clan Wolf sent a headhunting Elemental Battle Armor unit that discovered and attacked the 2nd Kavalleri's mobile headquarters. The powerful armor tore apart the vehicle with the regiment's staff, with only Överste Signa Pegrem managing to escape. In the final battle for the planet, the unit poorly chose to turn and face the 328th Assault in an open valley where the many members of the unit would be slaughtered. Only five companies of the Kavelleri were able to escape from the planet and fall back to the world of Ueda.
- In early November 3051, when Clan Wolf assaulted Maestu, Galaxy Commander Mikel Furey performed a combat drop scant kilometers from the General's headquarters and unleashed a Star of Headhunters to assassinate Hauptmann General Jane Craigie. Though the headhunters managed to slip through the Lyran lines and attack their headquarters, General Craigie managed to escape. Before she could regain control of the situation however Galaxy Commander Mikel Furey launched simultaneous attacks at Rance 5633, Sjulla and Zwelton Grey and broke through the RCT's defensive lines, forcing a retreat towards the capital New Yoko. Before they could reach the city the Lyran Guards were cut-off at Cold Harbor and General Craigie, under orders to persevere troops rather than throw them away for lost causes, decided to retreat offworld to Shaula. This showed that even a headhunter missing that did not kill the commanding officer could alter the balance of power of a campaign.
- In Kiamba, during March 3052, Clan Smoke Jaguar, Jaguar's Spirit Keshik, enraged by the 3rd Proserpina Hussars dishonorable tactics, Loremaster Edmund Hoyt ordered a headhunter unit to locate the regiment's command staff and eliminate them. Tai-sa Richard Weston, along with most of his command company, died in the headhunter's attack, forcing the rest of the demoralized Hussars to retreat back to Collins' Ridge for a brave but futile last stand
- Hohiro Kurita almost fall to one of these attacks, when, during the battle of Teniente, the bunker serving as command post of the Kuritan defenders was attacked by a team of Clan Nova Cat Elementals, ironically, only seconds after Hohiro warned the bunker's officers about the threat of a head hunting attack.
- When the 7th Jaguar Dragoons dropped on to Port Arthur landing in the Zuave Vale in March , they immediately attacked the First Proserpina Hussars forcing them to fall back to defensive positions at Disher. Here the Jaguar attack stalled and Sarah Weaver ordered a headhunter attack that wiped out half the Hussars command units, but failed to eliminate their commanding officer Tai-sa Jong Moon Lee. It did however force a second retreat to Point aux Trembles; an area with automated turrets in hardened bunkers which stalled the Dragoons for over a week before they pushed the defenders off planet.
- The Fifth Davion Guards lost of its commander to Clan Jade Falcon. A star of Elementals assigned to headhunter duty found the Fifth's commanders and killed them. The Falcons then used concentrated fire on several command and support units.
- The usage of a Headhunter unit by the 1st Falcon Striker during the Battle of Tukayyid against Com Guards' 403rd Division as they approached a bridge. The Division had number of heavily fortified defensive positions just 2 kilometer out from the bridge. Star Colonel Rard Hoyt would dispatch the Cluster's lightest to draw Guard's fire, while his heavier OmniMech units hit their positions. The Cluster launch array of artillery and Fighter attacks try push the 403rd out. Cluster's success would from in form a Star of Elemental Battle Armor who was able to slip behind 403rd's lines. Deployed as Headhunters, the Elementals successfully attacked and killed 403rd's Precentor Robert Maigatter. With the Precentor's death, the unit would suffer from the destruction of the Division's critical supplies and commination equipment. The 403rd broke from the engagement, allowing for the Cluster to close in and destroy 70% of Division.
- When the Clan Smoke Jaguar forces landed first in Avon late November 3051, the defending troops of the 2nd Amphigean Light Assault Group were routed from their dug-in position on the Pollit Plains and Tenderlands by a Nova Cat assault. Realizing they were outclassed and the defenders opted for a guerilla campaign. Allowing the Clans to set up forward bases, the defenders attacked these under cover of darkness with 'Mech companies in a attempt to destroy as much of the supplies stored there as possible as well as commando sabotage missions in the Devon Heights, Beachweld and Fresno. In response the Jaguar commander sent out headhunter missions and in a single night eliminated the entire command structure. After which the Amphigean Light Assault Group was destroyed at Fresno by an assault by the 214th Jaguar Dragoons.
- In 3064, during the Battle of Melissia the Falcons broken a situation of stalemate launching a Head hunter attack, making a DropShip launch Elementals over "The Rock", a heavily fortified base, killing the Lyran Marshal Sharon Byran and forcing the remaining Lyran forces to retreat.
- Tactical Operations, p. 336, "Null Signature System"
- Combat Equipment, p. 44, "Nighthawk Power Armor (Light)"
- Technical Readout: 3075, pp. 12-13, "Nighthawk MK. XXI PA(L)"
- Technical Readout: 3058 Upgrade, p. 24
- Technical Readout: 3058 Upgrade, p. 31
- Jihad Hot Spots: 3076, pp. 112-113, "Bolla Stealth Tank"
- Technical Readout: 3085, p. 70
- Warrior: Riposte, pp. 244-245 - "Colonel Cochraine's Goliath is attacked and finally killed by Delta Company".
- Historical War of 3039 p. 21
- Invading Clans, p.112-114 "The Fifth Wave - Irece"
- Total Chaos, p. 148-149, "Comes The Reaper"
- Mercenaries Supplemental Update, p. 127, "Simonson’s Cutthroats"
- Jihad Hot Spots: Terra, p. 27, "We Have Met The Enemy"
- Record Sheets: 3058 Unabridged (Clan & Star League), p. 83
- Jade Falcon Sourcebook p. 25
- Wolf Clan Sourcebook p. 64, Sevren
- Era Report: 3052, p. 34
- Clan Wolf sourcebook, p. 69, "Lothan (FRR)"
- Wolf Clan Sourcebook, p. 64
- Invading Clans (sourcebook), p.69
- Lost Destiny, pp. 34-40, 103-105, 119-123, 257-263, 292-295
- Era Report: 3052, pp. 18-19, "Timeline of Events"
- Invading Clans p.69
- Jade Falcon Sourcebook, p. 43
- Field Manual: Federated Suns, p. 83
- Jade Falcon Sourcebook, p. 31 Battle of Tukayyid - Unit's actions during the Battle of Robyn's Crossing on Tukayyid.
- Jade Falcon sourcebook, p. 58 - Star Colonel Hoyt named as commander for Battle at Robyn's Crossing. Unit's name is incorrect.
- Era Report: 3052, p. 49 - First Falcon Striker unit profile is named fighting the Robyn's Crossing with Hoyt in command.
- Invading Clans, p. 68
- Invading Clans, p. 119
- Invading Clans, p. 60
- Operation Audacity p. 10
- Operation Audacity p. 78
- Combat Equipment
- Era Report: 3052
- Field Manual: Federated Suns
- Historical: War of 3039
- Invading Clans (sourcebook)
- Jade Falcon Sourcebook
- Jihad Hot Spots: 3076
- Jihad Hot Spots: Terra
- Lost Destiny
- Mercenaries Supplemental Update
- Operation Audacity
- Record Sheets: 3058 Unabridged (Clan & Star League)
- Tactical Operations
- Technical Readout: 3075
- Technical Readout: 3058 Upgrade
- Technical Readout: 3085
- Total Chaos
- Warrior: Riposte
- Wolf Clan Sourcebook