“A "decapitation" capture (suicide?) mission. As if there was a choice.”
Operation: RED FLAG was a planned UNSC ONI Section III operation conceived to put an end to the Human-Covenant war. The operation was never executed as planned due to the Fall of Reach. However, the operation was altered to focus on the defense of Reach's orbital defense generators.
RED FLAG was initially planned sometime before the November of 2549[note 1] and was originally intended as a last resort measure.
The operation was to be executed in four phases.
The first phase consisted of the disabling and capture of a Class-Five Covenant vessel. As such vessels only appeared in combat zones to collect Forerunner artifacts, this phase would require the use of a colony located on a planet with a high concentration of such items as bait. It would also require the retrofit of a cruiser, either Halcyon or Marathon-class, to be capable of conducting in-atmosphere operations and surviving the punishing firepower of a Covenant capital ship.
For the first phase, Dr. Halsey selected Captain Jacob Keyes to command the newly fitted cruiser UNSC Pillar of Autumn for his exemplary performance during the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV.
The second phase involved the boarding of the captured Covenant vessel by the SPARTAN-IIs, who would then neutralize the onboard defenses and take control of the ship. They, with help from a then-unidentified mission specialist, would then crack the navigation database of the ship and discover the location of the Covenant homeworld.
Halsey created Cortana for the role of mission specialist.
In the third phase, the Spartans would use the captured Covenant vessel to travel to the Covenant homeworld with the help of the mission specialist.
The fourth and final phase of the operation involved the infiltration of the Covenant homeworld and the capture of a Covenant Prophet for negotiating purposes. The UNSC hoped that by capturing a Prophet and holding it hostage, they could force the Covenant into agreeing to a truce, ending a war that the UNSC would most certainly have lost.
The highly advanced AI Cortana was activated on November 7, 2549, who was created for RED FLAG. The UNSC Pillar of Autumn was refit specifically for RED FLAG in 2552.
The Fall of Reach
The Fall of Reach began on July 24, 2552. On August 14, 2552, Margaret Parangosky officially green lit the operation to take place at Reach. However, the UNSC Army destroyed the only confirmed Class-5 vessel at Reach at the time; the Long Night of Solace. Despite this, Hieronymus Stanforth forwarded to Parangosky Cortana and Dr. Halsey's choices for the mission a week later on the 27th. As well on that day, Dr. Halsey had a preliminary briefing with the recalled SPARTAN-IIs. August 30th would see the arrival of 314 Covenant vessels to the battle. Admiral Roland Freemont would recall all vessels to Reach in order to defend the planet. The original plans were scrapped in favor of defending Reach from the Covenant.
As such, RED FLAG itself shifted from its original plan to the defense of Orbital Defense Generators on Reach.
Pelican Bravo 001 was deployed from the Pillar of Autumn to deliver SPARTAN-IIs to aid in the defense of the generators. The Pelican would crash, killing four SPARTANs. These SPARTANs linked up with the remnants of Charlie Company. The SPARTAN-IIs were split into four different squads to accomplish the defense of the orbital generators; Team Alpha (Frederic-104, Kelly-087, and Joshua-029) was to destroy an encampment of Covenant, Team Beta (11 SPARTANs) was to defend Orbital Defense Generator Facility A-331, Team Gamma (Li-008, Anton-044, and Grace-093) was to retrieve Vice Admiral Danforth Whitcomb, and Team Delta (Charlie Company Marines, William-043, Isaac-039, Vinh-030, and three other SPARTANs) were to secure CASTLE Base.
Team Alpha hijacked several T26 Banshees and proceeded to the Covenant encampment. Using a Fury Tactical Nuclear Weapon, the team destroyed a hovering cruiser and all the ground forces below it. Joshua-029 was killed by small arms fire during this process.
Team Beta would fight intensely at ODG-331. However, the facility would be overrun on the ground. Followed by the arrival of three Covenant cruisers. The UNSC Majestic would then bombard the area near the ODG in order to eliminate the three cruisers. All three were destroyed and Team Beta, who were in the splash zone at the time, were likely killed.
Though the operation was never fully executed, the planning introduced new pieces of technology: the AI Cortana, the MJOLNIR Mark V, and an upgraded Autumn. Invaluable assets that would be used effectively in the Battle of Installation 04 and later influence large swathes of the UNSCDF.
Despite the Fall of Reach, the loss of most of the SPARTAN-IIs, and objections by Lieutenant Haverson and Cortana, John-117 still intended on continuing with Operation: RED FLAG's original plans.
Despite all the effort, the ODGs were destroyed. The powerless Orbital Defense Platforms in orbit were destroyed as well. This allowed more Covenant to reach the surface and glass the planet.
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