Illuminatus Primus wrote:
In response to this idea, likely implications suggest that surface military tactics focus heavily on preventing penetration of active and passive planetary defenses (ground-based, anti-orbital artillery and shield grids), to prevent landings in the first place, and failing that to fallback on hardened defenses and shelters located within areas of dense population and/or near loci of valuable resources, to discourage the use of dominating heavy weaponry which would class as WMD in the presence of sensitive resources or population.
Yes. That doesn't tend to be shown well in SW. In Star Wars, there are battles like the droids vs. Gungans fighting away from cities in TPM, the clones vs. droid engagement in a desert in AOTC, and so on with some EU battles. I know someone could make up explanations, but such would tend to be convoluted and artificial to cover all sides in all relevant cases. Indeed, some battles have masses of closely-packed troops or droid infantry shooting at each other while standing or marching in open terrain. Such look cool but don't even resemble well most post-WWI combat, let alone a world where there isn't a political situation preventing tactical nuke usage.
There is no minimum yield for a nuke with the right technology. (For example, fission tactical nukes made with today's technology are relatively impractical or at least wasteful if designed for too small yield, but critical mass doesn't apply at all to a pure fusion device). Even sub-kiloton weapons could be useful, like a soldier able to fire rounds of 1-ton yield, 10-ton yield, 100-ton yield, or whatever was appropriate depending upon the targets. Groups of enemy troops foolish enough to be close together in the middle of nowhere would tend to vanish into large craters and fireballs tens to hundreds of feet in diameter. Adjustable yield would allow rounds to kill most infantry in the open within an approximate area like 100-meters or 500-meters in diameter, while blast and radiation would drop towards less destructive intensity by a few times greater distance, in addition to how many structures might be very resistant. In the GFFA, vehicles with such weapons could drive under theater shields to quickly deal with situations where the shield was stopping orbital fire support (which would relate to what LordShaithis already suggested), though in a more hard sci-fi scenario that wouldn't even be necessary due to no shields to stop space weapondry.
Illuminatus Primus wrote:
But consider this: within populated areas, in sufficiently sized and dense cities (by SW standards), and also considering the fantastic toughness of their construction, I think it could be argued that in some cases use of, say kiloton-range airbursts as suppression weapons might be rationalized as a scale analogy to the use of white phosphorus, napalm, and cluster bombs by U.S. forces in Fallujah for much the same reasons. I think orbital bombardment is like dropping a nuke on Fallujah, whereas this is useful for suppressing enemy movements and organization and while controversial may slide in some cases.
While I mostly utterly agree with you, it is worth pointing out that there is nothing in principle preventing even pinpoint orbital bombardment with the right technology, like a precise computerized system where a soldier could click a designator at an enemy position a few hundred yards away to have it converted into a crater a second later from a tracking beam weapon from a space warship overhead.