Mercenaries in Warfleet
As powerful as the Navies are, they do not normally protect private assets unless they are of military or strategic value. Neither the UCO or IA navies have enough ships to protect all shipping and stations at all times. Because of this, several private mercenary and militia units have sprung up, defending private interests for hire. UCO (and adopted IA) law forbids mercenary and private militia groups from engaging in armed conflict with one another, but armed disputes between rival employers using mercenaries have been known to take place. Most armed conflicts involve mercenary forces engaging any one of the numerous pirates bands preying on assets they are hired to protect.
The Hellhounds are an older, respected private militia that dates from before the War of Independence. They have been employed by most of the major corporations to protect distant outposts, convoys, and stations beyond the normal navy patrol routes.
During the War of Independence they kept strictly to private civilian contracts and were very of careful not to been seen as taking sides during the conflict. Because of this they retain good relations with both the UCO and IA and can been seen protecting private assets in systems controlled by both governments.
The Hellhounds operate a moderate fleet consisting primarily of escort-sized ships. They do have a small number of larger ships, and were a large contractor for Laborant's Annihilator-class Warcruiser. The Hellhounds were also the primary sponsor of the Serpent-class support cruiser, and were among the first to purchase the warship.
The Blackstar Guard was founded as the War of Independence drew to a close. It was started by several high profile investors, including the DSMG, as a means to increase the armed presence in the outer colonies in an effort to curve the sharp increase in pirate activity during the previous 7 years.
Most of the Blackstar Guard warships are ex-military vessels purchased either as war surplus or ships deemed damaged beyond economical repair from the UAN and EEF respectively. A large number of Blackstar personnel are of former navy and other military employment, giving the militia a diverse range of highly competent people despite the (comparatively small) number of vessels they currently own.
Many other mercenary units exist, of various size and repute. Some are smaller respected units consisting of no more than half a dozen corvettes, while others are little more than one-off thugs-for-hire. One thing is universally true about mercenary militias: you get what you pay for.