The First Battle of Chin'toka was the first offensive launched by the Federation Alliance into Cardassian territory during the Dominion War. The battle, fought in late 2374, was a tactical and psychological victory for the Allies, but failed to lead to a general invasion of Cardassian space. (DS9: "Tears of the Prophets") The star system remained under almost constant siege by Dominion forces until it was retaken following the Dominion's alliance with the Breen in 2375. (DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil")
Apart from the short and successful campaign to retake starbase Deep Space 9 during Operation Return about eight months previously, the Federation and Klingon Empire were fighting a defensive war. Key Federation planets such as Betazed and Benzar fell to the Jem'Hadar, while core worlds like Vulcan, Alpha Centauri, and Earth were coming into range of the Dominion war machine.
However, with the sudden entry of the Romulan Star Empire into the war (DS9: "In the Pale Moonlight"), the allies had enough combined firepower to launch a full offensive on Dominion-held territory. Starfleet Command, in conjunction with the Klingon and Romulan high commands, agreed that the war could be won only by taking the war into enemy territory.
The Chin'toka system, located on the Cardassian border, was chosen because the Dominion had drastically weakened the complement of warships defending the system – only five squadrons of Jem'Hadar attack ships were left to defend Chin'toka, while the rest were sent to fight on the Romulan border. Admiral Ross, General Martok, and Senator Letant ordered an immediate buildup of warships at Deep Space 9 for an attack on Chin'toka.
However, the Chin'toka System was not left as undefended as the allies believed. The Cardassians had developed a new type of Cardassian orbital weapon platform that compressed a huge amount of weaponry into an independently deployable hull. The platforms were protected by regenerative force fields, and armed with three heavy disruptor cannons and one thousand plasma torpedoes. Hundreds of the platforms were placed around the two inhabited planets in the Chin'toka system.
The allies' intelligence detected the deployment of these weapons barely three days before they were scheduled to go online. However, because of the lack of other vulnerable targets, the decision was made to take the small window of opportunity and attempt to destroy the platforms before they became operational.
As the combined fleet entered the Chin'toka System, it seemed as if the allies' projections had been true – Chin'toka was practically undefended and the automated defenses were off-line. Quick victory appeared within reach, with the odds overwhelmingly in the allies' favor.
The small contingent of Jem'Hadar attack ships defending the system had little care for the odds, though, and brazenly attacked the fleet's flank. In the space of just two minutes, the Jem'Hadar ships managed to cripple or destroy at least 15 Klingon warships – many by ramming the Klingons directly. Undaunted, the fleet advanced into the midst of the deactivated platforms and proceeded to demolish them without resistance.
However, the Cardassians were able to get the weapon platforms on-line before the allied fleet had a chance to destroy too many of them. The orbital weapons platforms' effect proved devastating – protected by their powerful regenerative shields, the Cardassians could pour heavy fire upon the attacking fleet while suffering practically no losses themselves. Several starships were disabled or destroyed by the platforms' furious barrage. Rather than retreat, however, Captain Sisko chose to continue the fight, correctly believing that if the defense platforms could be defeated, then the system would fall to the allies.
In the chaos of the battle, an unusual anomaly was detected by Elim Garak – none of the weapons platforms carried their own power source, but were instead powered by a single central generator. This generator was located on a small asteroidal moon in a low orbit around one of the two inhabited Chin'toka planets. If it could be destroyed, the platforms would be powerless.
The allies attempted a frontal assault, but proved unable to penetrate the asteroid's defensive shields even with the sustained fire from multiple starships. Chief Miles O'Brien of the USS Defiant proposed tricking the automated platforms to fire on their own power source. Using the ship's deflector array, O'Brien imprinted a Federation warp signature on the generator, making it appear as if it were an enemy vessel. The orbiting platforms immediately locked onto this large new signal, pouring fire into the asteroid and quickly destroying it.
Without more incoming power, the orbital platforms quickly fell silent and were once again easy targets for the allied fleet. Once the grid was shut down and thus posed no more threat, General Martok began transporting ground troops to the surface of both planets. (DS9: "Tears of the Prophets")
The following is a partial list of Federation Alliance starships present at the battle.
|IKS Rotarran||N/A||Klingon Bird-of-Prey|
|USS Tian An Men||NCC-21382||Miranda-class|
|USS Valley Forge||NCC-43305||Excelsior-class|
Although the hoped-for grand offensive into Dominion territory failed to develop after Chin'toka, the battle nevertheless had major consequences for the conduct of the remainder of the war. The Dominion faced their first major defeat since Operation Return, as well as the spectacular failure of the orbital weapons platforms, which had been a key plan for the Cardassians to upgrade their defensive capabilities. Although the system was lost to the Dominion in the Second Battle of Chin'toka approximately eight months later, Chin'toka had played an important role in the course of the war.
The allies also had the opportunity to examine Dominion technology like Relay Station AR-558, which boosted the Allies' knowledge of enemy capabilities. However, although the Chin'toka system was nominally in Federation control, it was constantly under attack by Dominion forces. (DS9: "The Siege of AR-558")
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