I do quite a bit of roleplaying at INARA centered around my CMDR and her personal logs. Below is a bit of a role-playing exercise of mine to provide some head canon to my character. Think of it as fan-nonfiction. In it, I sought to answer for myself a few questions:
1. The Alliance is positioned as a third superpower, yet on the surface seems unorganized and has little power-projection capability compared to the Federation and the Empire. How have they managed to hold themselves together in the face of two expansionist powers, since political clout alone is insufficient?
2. What would the Alliance's military look like if the same level of detail that was applied to the Federation and Empire was applied to it?
3. The Alliance seems to have no faction-specific ships. If they did, what would they be?
4. The Alliance seems to have no faction-specific ranks. If they did, what would they be?
5. There seems to be little mention of ground forces in Elite. If they exist, what would they look like in the Alliance?
With that in mind, I took inspiration from a few sources: the United States Naval Reserve, European naval ranks, the historical Continental Militia, the Royal Marines, traditional air forces organization, a tiny bit of the Honorverse, and the skeleton of the Elite wiki's article on this subject.
I make no claims to being a professional writer, or to following the official Elite canon, nor have I bothered to read any secondary info outside of what is contained in the game and on the Elite wiki. This is just how I personally view my own part of the galaxy while playing, and I'm inviting you in to see what it's like. I had a lot of fun writing this, hopefully you enjoy reading it. Also, most of the spelling mistakes, verbose grammar, and general idiocy have been stamped out but I may have missed some things; please be gentle.
A Galpedia Article: The Alliance Defence Force
The Alliance Defence Force is the armed forces of the Alliance of Independent Systems, a rapid-reaction force charged with the defence of member systems, as well as search and rescue and customs and immigration enforcement. The Commander-in-Chief of the Alliance Defence Force, hereafter referred to as the ADF, is the President of the Alliance. This duty, however, this is mostly a ceremonial one. Operational control of the ADF is exercised by the Council of Admirals, a committee composed of service heads from the 6 largest member system defence forces of the Alliance. The Council can act swiftly without prior government approval, which has proved very effective, and over the years there has been little disagreement between the admirals. This has enabled a higher level of organization and cooperation than what is typically seen in the central government. The headquarters of the ADF is located on Turner's World in the Alioth system.
The Alliance Defence Force is divided into three categories, reflecting overall commitment to the combined defence of the Alliance: Member System Defence Forces, the Ready Reserve, and the Full Time Support Element.
Member System Defence Forces
These are the local armed forces for member systems only, such as the Lave System Self-Defence Forces, or the Dagr Space Navy. Command authority is exercised only by local military commanders, and defence responsibility extends only as far as the authority of the local government. These local forces may include space-faring navies and naval infantry, as well as extensive ground-based armies, air defence forces, surface navies, customs agencies, and gendarmeries. Military ranks, discipline, and equipment are specific to local needs, and may not reflect parity with ADF standards. The charter of the Alliance grants authority to the Council of Admirals for levying troops and requisitioning assets and materiel from member systems during times of great military need. Member system defence forces are referred to colloquially in the ADF as "Locals".
The Ready Reserve
Member systems are expected by the central government to contribute a portion of their space-faring navies and naval infantries to the overall defence of the Alliance. The size of the contribution is based upon the member system's gross domestic product. Contributed forces serve in this capacity for one calendar year before they are rotated back to their home system and replaced by other ships and personnel from the same system. Member system forces serving in this manner are known as the Ready Reserve. While serving with the Ready Reserve, personnel are granted brevet ranks in the ADF roughly equal to their ranks in their home system, while ships and equipment bear additional decals identifying their placement in the ADF. Personnel are required to follow all orders from the Council of Admirals and officers of the Full Time Support Element, and are expected to abide by all rules and regulations of the ADF. In cases where orders and regulations of the ADF conflict with orders and regulations of the home system, then the ADF's take precedence while personnel are serving in the Ready Reserve. Ships and personnel serving in the Ready Reserve may be temporarily moved from their home system as operational commitments dictate, but the Full Time Support Element typically informs the local government of these moves before they occur.
Full Time Support Element
The Full Time Support Element, hereafter referred to as the FTS, is the permanent defence force for the Alliance of Independent Systems in its entirety. The FTS was created when the largest systems of the Alliance contributed 50% of each of their defence forces toward the creation of a permanent, polity-wide defence organization. Alliance citizens with a military career in mind may choose to sign up with either their home system's defence forces or the FTS, and later in their contract may choose to transfer away from their original choice. Typically only one of these transfers per career are allowed. Alliance citizens use the word "enlisted" to indicate signing up for the military, regardless of whether or not they are an enlisted member or a commissioned officer. Personnel serving in the FTS can be assigned anywhere within the Alliance, and are typically assigned away from their home system.
The Full Time Support Element is divided into two arms: the Navy and the Naval Infantry (discussed separately). FTS naval assets are organized into fleets (headed by a Vice Admiral or Rear Admiral), divisions (headed by a Commodore), wings (headed by a Senior Captain), squadrons (headed by a Frigate Captain), and flight groups (headed by a Corvette Captain). The FTS maintains a presence in most populated Alliance member systems, either in purpose-built military bases or in facilities co-located within civilian-controlled stations. FTS units in-system are charged with all facets of military defence, as well as search and rescue, and customs and immigration enforcement. Additionally, FTS units are charged with training and direction of Ready Reserve forces in their assigned system, especially in the areas of discipline, doctrine, tactics, and battlefield communication. This training is geared toward the effort of military standardization across the Alliance. For the purposes of command authority, the highest ranking FTS officer present is considered "in command" regardless of the ranks of officers present from local defence forces and the Ready Reserve. This priority towards FTS command has led to occasional friction in certain circumstances, and exceptions to this priority have been observed on several occasions.
Colloquially, when a member of the FTS refers to the "ADF", this person likely means only the Full Time Support Element.
Note that these ranks only reflect members of the Full Time Support Element and personnel serving in the Ready Reserve. Ranks for member system forces are as varied as the systems themselves, and cannot be discussed here with any sort of brevity. Brevet ranks are indicated by "(B)" immediately after a Ready Reserve member's rank, e.g. FLT(B) Smith for Brevet Frigate Lieutenant Smith. Ranks are indicated by diagonal hashmarks, chevrons, rockers, five-pointed stars, and horizontal stripes, located on the upper arms of working uniforms and Remlok suits. The color green is used to identify enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers, while silver and gold are used to identify commissioned officers.
E-1: Ordinary Spacer (OS). Identified by one green diagonal hashmark.
E-2: Able Spacer (AS). Identified by two green diagonal hashmarks.
E-3: not currently in use
E-4: Leading Spacer (LS). Identified by one green chevron.
E-5: not currently in use
E-6: Petty Officer (PO). Identified by three green chevrons.
E-7: Chief Petty Officer (CPO). Identified by three green chevrons under a green rocker.
E-8: not currently in use
E-9: Warrant Officer (WO). Identified by three green chevrons under a green rocker and two green five-pointed stars.
O-1: Corvette Lieutenant (CLT). Identified by one gold stripe.
O-2: Frigate Lieutenant (FLT). Identified by one silver stripe underneath one gold stripe.
O-3: Senior Lieutenant (SLT). Identified by two silver stripes.
O-4: Corvette Captain (CCPT). Identified by two silver stripes under one gold stripe.
O-5: Frigate Captain (FCPT). Identified by three silver stripes.
O-6: Senior Captain (SCPT). Identified by four silver stripes.
O-7: Commodore (CDRE). Identified by four silver stripes underneath one silver five-pointed star.
O-8: Rear Admiral (RADM). Identified by four silver stripes underneath two silver five-pointed stars.
O-9: Vice Admiral (VADM). Identified by four silver stripes underneath three silver five-pointed stars.
O-10: Admiral of the Council (CADM). Identified by four silver stripes underneath the insignia of the Alliance, colored green. There are currently only 6 people who retain this rank.
The Full Time Support Element currently uses Faulcon DeLacy-built ships in direct combat roles, and Lakon Spaceways-built ships in support roles, although there have been rumors that this is likely to change in the near future. Ships used by member system defence forces are as varied as the systems themselves and cannot be discussed with any brevity here.
Viper Mk III (Faulcon DeLacy)
This ship is used for rapid-response interception, space superiority, station defence, and is also of limited use in spaceborne- and atmospheric-strike missions. Units operating the Viper Mk III are known as "Deep Space Strike (Light)".
Viper Mk IV (Faulcon DeLacy)
This ship is used for space superiority, station defence, and spaceborne- and atmospheric-strike missions. Due to its heavier armor and greater weapon capacity, it is used in situations where the use of the lighter Mk III would be inappropriate. Units operating the Viper Mk IV are known as "Deep Space Strike (Medium)".
Asp Scout (Lakon Spaceways)
This ship is used for long distance reconnaissance, intelligence, and search and rescue. This ship is slowly being phased out in favor of the Asp Mk II. Units operating the Asp Scout are known as "Deep Space Tactical Support".
Asp Mk II Block 73 (Lakon Spaceways)
This ship is used for a variety of missions not otherwise suited to more dedicated combat and logistics ships. This includes: logistics convoy escort, search and rescue, customs and immigration enforcement, long distance reconnaissance, electronic warfare, intelligence, minesweeping, and a small capability for logistics transport. This ship is in fact not the historical Asp Mk II, but a version of the Asp Explorer retrofitted by Lakon to classified ADF specifications, although the most visible change is a more heavily armored cockpit. Units operating the Asp Mk II are known as "Deep Space Tactical Support".
Type-6 Transporter (Lakon Spaceways)
This ship is typically used for the transport of supplies and personnel over relatively short distances within heavily populated areas. Units operating the Type-6 are known as "Deep Space Logistics (Light)".
Type-7 Transporter (Lakon Spaceways)
This ship is used for the transport of large amounts of supplies and personnel over long distance, with an additional role as an inflight fuel tanker. Type-7's in ADF service have been modified by Lakon with the ability to "kneel" their landing gear struts while parked in order to accommodate the height clearance of medium-sized landing pads. Units operating the Type-7 are known as "Deep Space Logistics (Medium)".
Adder (Zorgon Peterson)
The Adder is used by the ADF as well as a large number of member system defence forces for initial flight training and familiarization of newly enlisted pilots. Units operating the Adder are known as "Space Flight Training".
Python (Faulcon DeLacy)
The Python is used by the ADF in the role of a corvette. It is typically used as a heavily armed space combatant in populated areas due to its short range, either operating solo or as the centerpiece of a small task force. Pythons also embark a fireteam of Naval Infantry.
Anaconda (Faulcon DeLacy)
The Anaconda is used by the ADF in the role of a frigate. It is typically used as a heavily armed space combatant for long-distance power projection or in situations where the presence of a Python would be inappropriate, either operating solo or as the centerpiece of a small task force. Anacondas also embark a squad of Naval Infantry and two Taipan fighters.
FTS Naval Infantry
The Naval Infantry, occasionally known as "Marines", are the FTS's dedicated ground and special operations forces. The Naval Infantry is charged with the security and defence of stations, ships, unit commanders, admirals, and VIPs. Additionally, they are responsible for boardings, hostile landings, infiltration and reconnaissance of enemy ground positions, operation of internment facilities, manning station-mounted turreted weaponry, as well as the training of naval infantries serving with the Ready Reserve.
Currently the Naval Infantry only includes ranks up to the O-6 paygrade, with command authority above that level being exercised by Navy admirals. Ranks are identified with the same insignia as naval ranks, with the addition of a symbol in the form of a pair of crossed rifles.
E-1: Private (PVT)
E-2: Lance Corporal (LCPL)
E-4: Corporal (CPL)
E-6: Sergeant (SGT)
E-7: Gunnery Sergeant (GSGT)
E-9: Adjutant (ADJ)
O-1: Cornet (COR)
O-2: Lieutenant (LT)
O-3: Captain (CPT)
O-4: Major (MAJ)
O-5: Colonel (COL)
O-6: Brigadier (BRIG)
The Naval Infantry uses a wide range of personal weaponry, powered body armor, armed surface vehicles, turreted weaponry, and skimmers to aid in their missions. In addition, they also operate the following two spacecraft:
-Taipan (Faulcon DeLacy): The Taipan is used as a light fighter deployed from the Keelback and Anaconda. These fighters are used to aid in the defence of their mother ships while performing their missions. Taipan units are also located at military stations and surface bases.
-Keelback (Lakon Spaceways): The Keelback is used as a heavily armored Naval Infantry dropship, capable of inserting 20 troops into a hostile area while laying down suppressing fire with its two ventrally mounted multi-cannon turrets. It embarks one Taipan fighter for additional defence.
Relationship With Other Services
While the Allied Police Force and the Alliance Stellar Traffic Control Agency (more succinctly known as STARCON) are not explicitly military services, they are known as Uniformed Services within the Alliance and incorporate some forms of military discipline and regulation. The ADF works hand in hand with these two services in the performance of their missions, and transfers to the police force and STARCON after military service are common.
Use Of Contractors
The ADF makes frequent use of contracted pilots to perform certain specialized missions, such as stellar charting and transporting of supplies beyond the normal capabilities of the military. Hiring preference is given first to citizens of the Alliance, with previous service in the ADF being highly desirable. Contracted pilots are expected to abide by the terms of their contract as well as all military regulations and doctrines while working for the ADF.
Use Of Black Sites
The ADF is widely suspected of operating several classified bases and installations for currently unknown purposes. Suspected locations include in the Lave, Leesti, and Alioth systems, as well as a recently decommissioned site in the California Nebula.