The McAuliffe Ambush was the first major offensive of the Kilrathi Empire against the Terran Confederation, starting the Terran-Kilrathi War. It was orchestrated by Crown Prince Gilkarg nar Kiranka. It commenced in 2634, within weeks following the declaration of war between the Terran Confederation and the Kilrathi Empire.
In order to make the Kilrathi stop their raids, humans declared a limited scale war. Task Force 23 was sent to Facin Sector to retaliate and push them back. During the earliest stage, the Kilrathi lost 6 bases and 4 systems. They offered no resistance, suffering to lose only the most antiquated equipment, lulling them to overconfidence. However Gilkarg nar Kiranka's main target was McAuliffe one of Confed's major military strongholds and a center of research, orbited by the Alexandria Shipyard where several vessels were being serviced. The Confed main fleet so far remained there with no reason to move out. If McAuliffe fell, so would an enormous portion of the Terran Space Navy, allowing the Kilrathi fleet to move directly against helpless Earth, thus conquering humanity and the Confederation.
Upon the conquest of Fawcett's World, the Kilrathi were able to read everything about humans and the Confederation, such as coordinates, ships and reports such as of past Terran war games. Based on this intelligence, Gilkarg devised a revolutionary plot which gave weight to the usage of faster carriers, with the fighters' accumulated speed; this reversed established combat doctrine since the favored battleships were slower, would alert the humans and were unable to fire the experimental shield-penetrating torpedo on which the Prince based his plans. The assault was scheduled to coincide during the Confederation Day when most of the crews were expected to be asleep or drunk.
Every member of the fleet had been placed on active status, the retired reserves from active service who had completed their 40th year. Gilkarg had pressed for the construction of 1000 transports for military support, but since none had ever been constructed, every available comercial craft was pressed into service. This resulted to limited commercial shipping and signs of economic disruption, such as standstill of of crucial goods.
Gilkarg also feared that rumors would circulate. He put courtesan spies of his security team to approach fleet officers, and discover those with loose tongues. Indeed one commander of a frigate boasted to a courtesan about the feats he was about to do and was executed, the fourth in a row. Notices of the dishonor and executions were posted to the fleet as a warning.
A few weeks prior to the battle, the Terrans finally concluded that peace could not be achieved diplomatically when Kilrathi attacks failed to cease. The Confederation declared war on the Kilrathi on July 5, 2634, sparking an interstellar conflict stretching across four decades.
Prior to the attack, Terran cryptographer Ches M. Penney intercepted a Kilrathi code and decrypted the plans for the invasion. In response to this discovery, Confed deployed a fleet twice the size of the anticipated force to defend McAuliffe.
The Prince ordered the fleet to practive their maneuvers until the last moment. During the attack they'd maintain communication silence, therefore individual plans, missions and analyses then were loaded to each ship computers.
Kilrathi volunteers in 2 light smuggler-type would simulate a hot pursuit luring the Confed frigate guarding the jump point into McAuliffe. Once boarded for inspection, the Kamikazes would detonate the warhead destroying the frigate. 6 carriers of the Second Fleet of the Claw under Nargth will be already underway at hightest speed and freely race to the jump point; once there they would launch their full complement against Alexandria. Less than an hour after the jump, fighters and bombers, armed with the experimental torpedoes would destroy the base. The bombers had to achieve a full stop before locking the target, but they would be supported by fighter escorts who also would assault the base directly, or defend the bombers.
A first wave will hit the power reactors on the surface of the planet with the new torpedoes thus knocking down their shields allowing the Kilrathi to slaughter them. To be able to slow down in time, the craft were equipped with one-use booster engines that would be jettisoned after their use.
With the destruction of McAuliffe and the opening of the frontier, the Fifth and Sixth Fleets would penetrate the zones Etruria and Landreich, forcing the reserve fleet near Earth to sortie, and then combine the fleets straight there and annihilate what is left of them.
On August 23, the Kilrathi Imperial Fleet, led by Crown Prince Gilkarg nar Kiranka, ambushed the Terran Fleet at McAuliffe. Much to the shock of the Terrans, the Kilrathi fleet was discovered to be FOUR times the expected size, as revealed by the fully decrypted Kilrathi code intercepted beforehand. Outnumbered 2:1, the Terran Space Navy engaged the Imperial Fleet and suffered heavy losses. The Terrans faced an overwhelming number of Kilrathi starfighters, and the Kilrathi's new shield-piercing torpedoes rendered dozens of vessels virtually defenseless. Meanwhile, the Kilrathi attacked the Alexandria Shipyards, destroying both the TCS Coral Sea and the TCS Belarus. Within four days, Alexandria and McAuliffe finally fell, and the Terran Space Navy retreated. Despite this strategic victory, the Kilrathi were forced regroup after suffering unexpectedly high losses. The Confederation struggled to determine their next move.
Following the loss of their fleet at McAuliffe, the Terrans lost all means by which to counter the invading forces directly, so they instead focused their energies on cutting off the enemy's reinforcements. The Terrans deployed the supercruiser TCS Concordia and the TCS Ark Royal, commanded by Commander Winston Turner and Admiral Naomi Dayan, respectively. Loaded with a full wing of starfighters, thet jumped into the McAuliffe System to assault the incoming Kilrathi convoys. On August 24, the two vessels laucnhed their attack, targeting a Kilrathi carrier. The Concordia then broke off its attack, circumvented the planet, and ambushed several Kilrathi transports. Meanwhile, the Ark Royal continued its assault on the carrier. Once the carrier was destroyed, the Ark Royal launched its assault on the transports. Having no time for another wave of attacks, both vessels prepared for the jump.
During the attack, Gilkarg's elder son, Ratha nar Kiranka, was shot down by Vance Richards and Geoffrey Tolwyn. Ratha managed to eject, but rather than face the disgrace of being captured in battle, he committed Zu'kara by removing his helmet, suffocating in the vacuum of space.
Upon its return to the fleet, the Concordia was abandoned and destroyed, having sustained too much damage.
The consequences the Terran Confederation would suffer for their initial failure were severe. The disaster at McAuliffe severely crippled the battlefield capabilities of the Terran Space Navy, as they had lost dozens of critically-important ships and equipment in the siege. Thousands of pilots and crew members were lost, forcing the Confederation to call up reserve forces. The initial fall of McAuliffe led to the fall of several frontier systems, including Enyo, whose capture would lead directly to the Enyo Engagement. This disastrous advance would force Confed to be on the defensive for almost the entire duration of the War.
Many of the Terran Confederation's most decorated officers and pilots fought in this battle, including Admiral Vance Richards, Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn, and Shun Tanaka during the battle. Ratha's death left his younger brother, Thrakhath, as their father's immediate heir to the Kilrathi throne.