Some Orion Colonies had space navies of their own, such as Spike, though these could be quite different from the OSN model.
Though in many respects the OSN resembled Starfleet, in terms of structure and duties, in practice it was quite different. It had similar roles in protecting commerce, enforcing the law against smugglers and pirates, defending the borders of the Orion Neutrality Area, and demonstrating strength in the Orion Colonies and to neighbouring states. However, the OSN was a relatively minor and unimportant tool of policy for the BPC, a distant second to the Orion Colonies Intelligence (OCI).
On a military basis, the Orions had no hope of competing with their three powerful neighbors, so they did not waste their resources on ships or training. Instead, they typically rented their ships from major ship-owners in the Rigel system and commonly hired people to crew them, though they kept their own officers and a few trusted enlisted men to keep up appearances and carry out orders.
Despite this neglect and weakness against its rivals, the Orion Space Navy had a certain amount of respect and prestige that few others enjoyed, and a long and illustrious history filled with tradition. And it had fancy white uniforms for its officers. However, it also had a reputation for corruption and incompetence.
The OSN was technically allied with Starfleet, but never fully co-operated with them.
With their borders better protected by their neighbours and invasions by hostile forces thankfully rare (and usually unstoppable by their meagre defensive forces anyway), there was little else for OSN personnel to do but practice manoeuvres and climb the social ladder. For the officers, at least, it was run more like an officer’s social club, with fancy uniforms (spotless and blindingly white) and lavish social functions in opulent surroundings. Strategic exercises were frequent, popular and recreational.
However, it wasn’t all fun and games. One of the prime duties of the OSN was to protect commerce within the Orion Colonies and between them and other spacefaring states, usually by thwarting the efforts of pirates. Though lacking in firepower, its commanders were more than familiar with the ways of Orion pirates and smugglers, and could usually find them where few others could – probably because they shared the same bases. An OSN squadron might also have to deal with occasional lone and aggressive Klingon or Romulan marauders, bring rebellious Colonies into line with BPC dictates, or surrender to or be destroyed by the occasional invading enemy fleet. They also had a fair number of odd and dangerous assignments while they dealt with incompetence and aggression in their own ranks.
Due to the BPC's policies of neutrality, opportunities for open conflict still extremely limited, much to the annoyance of a small, aggressive hard-core element within the OSN. Because of the danger they posed, select members of this group were 'volunteered' for the missions they’d always wanted. Consequently, they suffered a higher rate of attrition than normal.
On certain occasions, an Orion Space Navy ship penetrated the territories of other races to collect intelligence or transport an agent from Orion Colonies Intelligence. Due to the secrecy involved in such actions, and the need to preserve Orion neutrality, commanding officers of OSN ships knew they had to kill or be killed, and often destroyed themselves rather than allow themselves to be captured. Unknown hundreds of ships and thousands of crew died in such missions. Every mission into Federation space was essentially a suicide mission, but there was always a long list of volunteers eager to meet a Starfleet vessel on equal terms.
In the late 23rd century, the Orion Space Navy was legally restricted to the area of the Orion Neutrality Area, though it also frequently ventured into the other neutral areas of the Klingon Neutral Zone and The Triangle to protect Orion commerce and other interests. It could not enter the Federation without first notifying Starfleet, even while pursuing a pirate. By the same token, Federation forces were careful not to intrude in Orion space without authorisation, as per the terms of the Orion Neutrality Act, though Klingon and Romulan ships weren’t so considerate.
Whatever its reputation, the Orion Space was neither entirely corrupt nor completely incompetent. Its officers tended towards two types, with a few others lying in between. Some were the lesser sons of prominent or wealthy families, lacking ambition and playing at being soldiers while socialising and avoiding actual work, while others were military buffs looking for a good war against the enemies of the Orion people. The former were dominant in the OSN, but the latter formed a hardcore cadre of skilled and dedicated officers and enlisted men, kept in strategic positions where their skills might one day be needed, and relied upon for missions of daring and bravery. Since they preferred open warfare to the policies of neutrality and espionage, the most troublesome were 'volunteered' for dangerous missions, which kept their numbers in check.
One could join the Orion Space Navy at the age of 18, as either a recruit or an officer candidate.
The OSN was usually desperate for servicemen, so joining was quite easy. A recruit would receive one year of basic training in starship operations (typically computer use and spacewalking), combat (such as marksmanship, weapon maintenance, unarmed combat and knife-fighting) and planetary survival skills. After this, they would immediately enter service. They were required to serve for at least four years, but bribery and good connections could decrease this time.
An Orion of sufficiently high birth (and usually lower ambition) could apply to the Orion Space Naval Academy and graduate as an officer after four years of study.
Studies were light, but they learned the ways of leadership and management, diplomacy and negotiation, starship operations (navigation, astronomy, computer use and spacewalking), starship combat strategy and tactics, personal combat (such as marksmanship, weapon maintenance, unarmed combat and sword-fighting, as well as squad tactics) and planetary survival skills. They also learned languages, interstellar politics and the laws, culture, and history of the Orions. The party life also had an effect, with graduates becoming good socialisers, gamblers and gamers, as did the criminal element endemic to Orion society. They had plenty of time for hobbies and elective courses.
Further specialty training was then taken in various fields at separate schools. Helm and navigation, communications, weapons and defense, medical, and financial and clerical specialties took two years each, while engineering, science and diplomacy took two and half.
The poorest, low-class members of Orion society were forbidden from most fields, though the richest and most high-class were equally prevented from training in medicine.
In the school of command, OSN officers learned how to demonstrate leadership and control others in the Orion way. Skills learned here were leadership and administration, bribery, medical science, psychology, negotiation and diplomacy, starship combat strategy and tactics, as well as skills in trade and commerce. Command schooling did not necessarily give them higher rank or status, only a fighting chance to get there and survive.
OSN officers came to command positions by various means. An Orion who showed a lot of promise or gained useful experience could be head-hunted for advanced training in a less-physical but no less gruelling occupation. This training could come from a corporate sponsor or local government, and involved further schooling or further field experience. Sometimes it was a reward for a long and successful career. And other times, it was simply to get them out of the way and make them somebody else's problem.
The diplomacy school trained OSN officers to function as diplomats, carrying out Orion policy via negotiation, compromise and political manoeuvring. It imparted useful negotiation skills to those officers who weren't of high-birth and already trained since childhood in cutthroat Orion politics. Diplomacy officers usually mediated between the Orion Colonies and the Federation, the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire, as well as between the corporations and powerful families of the Orions. They tended to be more peaceful and reasonable than most others in the OSN.
The Orion Space Navy appears to have grown out of the pirate fleets founded in the time Orion Dawn to fight a guerrilla war against the alien oppressors of the Orion slaves. At secret meeting of the Orion Alliance in April 891 BCE (reference stardate -28/9104), the Gradualist faction felt the pirates' aggression hurt their careful moves towards independence, while the Militarist faction claimed that a strong space navy was vital for their cause. The pirate fleets returned to fight in the Orion War against the Nine Worlds Confederation and were ultimately successful, defeating their enemies and liberating the Orion people.
- The source history implies that that the Orion Space Navy grew out of these early pirates, however this is not explicitly stated.
After the war, when the Orions of Botchok extended their dominion, the military might of the Orion Space Navy drove out the pirates based on the worlds of Rigel BC-I (Avali) and Rigel BC-II (Ugoan) in the Rigel BC system, which had originally been settled by the pirates founded in the Orion Dawn.
During the Reverse, Emperor Boyor Ignatin the Righteous sent the Orion Space Navy to take control of seceded Colonies, beginning the Fringe Wars. Ultimately, this effort was a failure and began a decline in the quality of the Orion Space Navy.
Stardate 0/72.10 saw the expansion of the Klingon Empire into Orion territory, ruthlessly subjugating the Colonies. Realizing that their collective space navies could not hope to withstand them, the Orions welcomed the Klingons instead.
The Klingons would invade again on stardate 1/9301.04, beginning the Four Years War between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Again, the Orion Space Navy did not resist, but a few lone units attacked and were quickly destroyed. At the end of the war, OSN Admiral Namtac the Tardy reported the withdrawal of the Klingons from the Rigel system, and that Starfleet vessels were in pursuit. An OSN squadron was dispatched to intercept the Starfleet ships to welcome the Federation forces to the newly free worlds of Rigel, but they never returned and failed to respond to communications.
After the Four Years War, when the Federation's Orion Demilitarized Zone Commission presented their plans for the Orion Neutrality Area to the Botchok Planetary Congress on stardate 1/9806.29, the OSN quickly mobilized to seize Vab and prepare it as an outpost at the new border with the Klingon Empire.
- By their claims to be representatives of their government and their naval ranks, the Orion pirates in TAS episode: "The Pirates of Orion" may in fact be OSN officers engaging in privateering.
The worlds Avali (Rigel BC-I) and Ugoan (Rigel BC-II) in the Rigel BC system were the very first pirate bases, as in the Orion Dawn legend. After the Orion War, the Orion Space Navy extended Botchok's dominion here, and drove out the pirates. These worlds become remote bases, until peaceful and permanent civilian settlements took hold.
The historic world of Kammzdast, where once alien masters agreed upon the slavery of the Orion race, was the major base of the OSN outside of the Rigel system. It used the world as a marshaling yard, and the system itself played host to annual naval exercises with nightly parties its opulent hostels. These maneuvers were popular, and lower-ranking officers competed for a position in them.
The OSN seized the world of Vab on stardate 1/9806.29 (c. 2255), after the Federation's Orion Demilitarized Zone Commission presented their plans for the Orion Neutrality Area to the Botchok Planetary Congress. The OSN swiftly mobilized to prepare it as a major base, since it lay on the new border with the Klingon Empire. However, in a blatant example of complicity, pirates still used it for resupply and transfer of cargoes bound for both sides of the frontier. The Vab base – overcrowded, dirty, dangerous and poorly funded – remained the least popular posting in the OSN, and disputes were rumored between the OSN officers and the pirates. (FASA RPG modules: The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge, The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge)
- Admiral Namtac the Tardy