Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Steelinghades » 2018-01-15 01:37am

Formless wrote:
2018-01-15 12:37am
So, uh, I was wondering-- this sounds like a Science Fiction topic and setting, yet you have put the thread in the Fantasy forum. At first I thought it was a mistake, but now that you mention that things like planetary shields exist in the setting, I must ask-- are you even intending this to appeal to Hard SF sensibilities, or is this thread really intended to run through the internal logic of a Space Opera style setting? Because if so, that changes the discussion significantly. I think there may be some unspoken assumptions about the genre of this story that may need to be stated before this can go anywhere productive, because Skimmer is kinda not the guy to talk to about Soft SF.
It's science fiction/fantasy, as in literal fantasy Ala Starship's mage: https://www.goodreads.com/series/124536-starship-s-mage

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-15 09:08pm

Steelinghades wrote:
2018-01-15 12:09am
For a full on star nation, the costs are minimal but for a planetary militia who gains the majority of their budget from the rich nobles and aristocracy on the planet it does get expensive.
Then such planets will not be independent; they will be property of whichever nation can roll up to this little feudal backwater with its "rich nobles and aristocracy" and say "you belong to us now, in time honored feudal tradition."

Or, more realistically, they will randomly get raided and harassed by opportunistic warlords until the colony has to be abandoned or is pillaged and bombed back into the Iron Age and has nothing worth stealing anymore. The point is that one or two of the smallest available armed spaceships are unlikely to be a more effective defense than their weight and cost in surface-to-space weapon emplacements.
Sea Skimmer wrote:
2018-01-14 02:06pm
Nuclear weapons by definition would be something you can shoot down with ground based defenses. Without some kind of ground based defense any colony is highly vulnerable to covert attacks, and things like the enemy landing on the far side of a planet and then attacking by aerodynamic craft or similar. Anyway the whole point is you can disperse a huge amount of firepower on the ground for very low operating cost as a deterrent. If the enemy is just going to nuke the colony that only increases the need for some kind of terminal defense.
Planetary defenses only really exist on shielded worlds who can have full on proper space defence systems. Without things like a planetary shield there is nothing a planetary weapons system CA do against an enemy warship that decides to sit far outside their own range and bombard them to hell and back. And if a bunch of--say, slavers--were to come along and fine a planet that has gone full on with their ground based defences they won't approach, they'll just grab a small asteroid and throw it at the planet and scavenge from the remains ground side.
http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Rocks_Are_Not_Free!]Rocks are not "free," citizen!

Munitions fired from long range (including asteroids accelerated towards the planet) can be shot down by ground defenses. Railgun and directed energy weapon fire that penetrates the atmosphere (which tends to partly attenuate and reduce the effect) may or may not put the ground defenses out of action before the ground defenses put the enemy ship out of action.

Furthermore, it is inherently risky for pirates and slavers and the like to hover menacingly around a star system engaging in protracted sieges against planetary defenses, even assuming they don't get lured into range and blown up before they know the defenses are there. Assuming that anyone out there fights and hunts pirates and slavers, they can't afford to waste time hanging around cracking the defenses of a world that can shoot back, especially not if distress calls are a thing.

And if no one does do pirate-hunting, then the pirates will quickly become warlords who end up taking over these planets for themselves, not just randomly raiding and harassing them.

Furthermore, typically pirates in real life are about as minimally armed and equipped as possible; they go around in little boats and small ships, not battleships and aircraft carriers. This is because in real life, nation-states exercise more control over the most powerful weapons and do not routinely let them fall into the hands of pirates and barbarians. Extending the logic to your setting, the most probable threats are minimally armed spaceships that are designed to land, steal stuff, and get the hell out, not to get into shootouts with planetary missile batteries.
As for nuking, I was using it more as an example of why unshielded world's don't have large ground side military forces. An example of a thing a starship can do to a planet with impunity. Bombing runs from fighters, kinetic impactors or precision DEW strikes, etc.
Why would any of those involve impunity for the ship launching the attacks? Why is there an absolute prohibition on, say, the planetary missile force launching hundreds of missiles at an offending warship, more than it can plausibly shoot down and more than any ship in its own weight class could plausibly have carried?
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Stewart M » 2018-01-15 09:49pm

Simon_Jester, I largely agree with your post, but I have a criticism of this argument.

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Furthermore, typically pirates in real life are about as minimally armed and equipped as possible; they go around in little boats and small ships, not battleships and aircraft carriers. This is because in real life, nation-states exercise more control over the most powerful weapons and do not routinely let them fall into the hands of pirates and barbarians.
While this is true of real life today, when the world is small and orderly, there are models of historical piracy that aren't so minimalist. During the Golden Age of Piracy (1600s), sea travel was slow and ships less plentiful, so colonies were isolated. Ships themselves were even more isolated, so mutinies were more common, leading to more renegade craft. There was considerably less difference in design between vessels for war and commerce, so any decent ship could be converted into a modest warship. There wasn't an enormous difference between civilian weaponry and the best official military weapons. And governments were more casual about secretly supporting pirates (many pirates were some degree of privateer). History is full of examples of pirate warlords creating successful pirate states, occasionally with proper navies of their own.

If any of these factors echo the conditions of space in this SF setting, and I'm not saying they do, then piracy may behave in a more antiquated way.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-16 01:36am

The thing is, the pirates of that era, as you point out, weren't just "pirates," they were quasi-official extensions of state policy. It was the Golden Age of piracy for a reason- for several overlapping reasons, even.

You had a region of the seas dominated largely by a single, spectacularly wealthy but senescent and declining empire. You had several other ambitious powers nipping at Spain's heels trying to expand their own share of the pie at Spain's expense. You had states with incentive to subsidize piracy. You had, as noted, a relative balance between civilian and military weapons that is relatively unlikely to occur in the future.

It's theoretically possible that you could see pirates sailing around in battleships comparable to the warships of national fleets in some soft SF settings. But I wouldn't bet on it, unless the incentives are very strongly stacked to promote that kind of heavily armed piracy. And most circumstances that do promote it will also tend to promote the idea of successful pirates setting themselves up as warlords, as happened during the Viking era in the Atlantic, or (apparently, to some extent, the historical records being patchy) during the Bronze Age Collapse circa 1200 BC.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Patroklos » 2018-01-16 06:50am

If you are trying to make kinetic (railgun/coilgun) and energy weapons coexist here are some thoughts.

1.) All of these weapons require lots of energy, but the effective energy efficiencies of actual examples of these can be modified in your universe (because they don't actually exist yet) to make some more practical than others. This will yield the radiation differences which will drastically change how a warship designed around either will look and operate.

2.) An effective weapon of each type is not going to have the same power requirements. If a particle beam requires double the power generation to be effective in your universe than say a laser, that means more mass per destructive power (however you measure that). This probably means more reactors, which means a more complicated design. More radiation shielding, more machinery, more crew, and remember reactors have to be shielded from each other. Reactors are also not 100% efficient themselves, so this means another radiator load.

2.) Energy use being equal (for the sake of argument, energy weapons need their energy instantaneously over very short timescales (nanoseconds per pulse), basically at the speed of electricity. By definition coil guns impart their energies in multiple jolts over a time period that is relatively much longer than an energy weapon. A rail gun needs to keep the rail charged for the entirety of the shot. This difference can allow you to introduce all sorts of technical reasons for prioritizing one of over the other. Capacitors are a big part of this. You are not going to be drawing power from these weapons directly off the reactors unless you severely over build them. You will need a ready source of instantly accessible power to actual shoot, which means you need to worry about what the mass penalty of these capacitors will be, and also what rate you can recharge them between shots/salvos.

3.) Damage modes. All of these weapons deliver their damage in different ways. If your universe has effective armoring and you are using real world materials it will be a very difficult undertaking to do so in a way that protects against all damage modes equally. Optimized laser armor is not optimal kinetic slug armor. If particle beams are a thing most kinetic armors are just asking the for the enemy to turn your ship into a giant X-ray machine of death. Such charged partical beams, however, could be deflected by a magnetic field. This means its advantageous for an attacking ship to be able to deliver multiple damage modes, as it forces defenders to protect against each to some degree. It also lets you swap from one type of assault to another based on battlefield circumstances. Again, this presupposes passive defenses are effective in your universe in the first place.

4.) Tactics. It should be remembered that the reason kinetics and maybe missiles won't be effective is not because they can't destroy things, its because they can be seen and avoided or their launch to impact timetable is so long the possibilities for enemy maneuver (even if they can't see your fire) make hits improbable. It should be noted, however, that space does not entirely lack geography. There are certain volumes that are more advantageous than others, and while improbable a ship under power is limited in their scope of maneuver based on their possible delta-v, so you can conceivable use these kinetic weapons to deny enemy volumes, which can be effective coupled with other weapons and tactics to accomplish tactical objectives.

All of these things can be played with to yield concurrent weapons classes.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-01-16 04:44pm

Energy production for weapons shouldn't really be big strain on systems. Any decent spaceship capable of casual space flight will have engine power in multiple terawatt or even petawatt range. If you can tap into a bit of that power for electricity then you have all the electrical power you may ever need to power energy weapons.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Patroklos » 2018-01-16 11:01pm

Not all propulsion types are readily suited for bimodal operation in that way. It depends on what you are using, and the efficiency of conversion of energy to useful types may not disqualify a separate source.

It should also be noted that max energy usagy by the propulsion system would probably coincide with weapons usage. The option to borrow from one for the other isn't usually a useful trade for warships.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Steelinghades » 2018-01-16 11:40pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Then such planets will not be independent; they will be property of whichever nation can roll up to this little feudal backwater with its "rich nobles and aristocracy" and say "you belong to us now, in time honored feudal tradition."
I never said anything about them being independent, what I said was that the local planetary and system militia is payed for and bought by the aristocracy whether that's through training a proper militia or just hiring a mercenary band.

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Munitions fired from long range (including asteroids accelerated towards the planet) can be shot down by ground defenses. Railgun and directed energy weapon fire that penetrates the atmosphere (which tends to partly attenuate and reduce the effect) may or may not put the ground defenses out of action before the ground defenses put the enemy ship out of action.
There's the chance a projectile could be shot down, doubtful, but it can happen; if it were to happen though, the pirates would just throw more projectiles, it's pretty simple and there's a hell of a lot of ammunition in space.

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Furthermore, it is inherently risky for pirates and slavers and the like to hover menacingly around a star system engaging in protracted sieges against planetary defenses, even assuming they don't get lured into range and blown up before they know the defenses are there. Assuming that anyone out there fights and hunts pirates and slavers, they can't afford to waste time hanging around cracking the defenses of a world that can shoot back, especially not if distress calls are a thing.
With the absolute fastest FTL around being 3/Ly a day and with some colonies being dozens if not hundreds of parsecs away, the pirates are in for a fairly easy time of it, nor can intergalactic space be patrolled. And while there are organizations out there, they're funded directly by the public, and are somewhat limited in number. Even mercenary guilds that temporarily take on a few headhunting jobs can't be everywhere at one.

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
And if no one does do pirate-hunting, then the pirates will quickly become warlords who end up taking over these planets for themselves, not just randomly raiding and harassing them.
Which would be a seriously bad idea if it were to happen anywhere near a star empire since full on proper solar empires would fall over each other for the chance to knock down such a petty kingdom, since in essence it's free real estate. While warlords can rule their own petty kingdoms--and these could include pirates--they're very far away from civilized space--I.E areas where empire's commonly interact with.

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Why would any of those involve impunity for the ship launching the attacks? Why is there an absolute prohibition on, say, the planetary missile force launching hundreds of missiles at an offending warship, more than it can plausibly shoot down and more than any ship in its own weight class could plausibly have carried?
Because a planet an't warp. A ship can sit millions of kilometers away--well outside of standard ranges--and fling all the weapons fire toward a planet, which is a immobile--relatively speaking--and large target. And if the planet were to fire back, the ship just warps away. Something which doesn't really happen in ship-to-ship combat because it's far closer ranged and there's the threat of ramming things or materializing within one another, etc. Issues that are not really around when bombarding a planet since the ship can choose were it will remain.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-01-17 12:34am

Stewart M wrote:
2018-01-15 09:49pm
While this is true of real life today, when the world is small and orderly, there are models of historical piracy that aren't so minimalist. During the Golden Age of Piracy (1600s), sea travel was slow and ships less plentiful, so colonies were isolated. Ships themselves were even more isolated, so mutinies were more common, leading to more renegade craft. There was considerably less difference in design between vessels for war and commerce, so any decent ship could be converted into a modest warship. There wasn't an enormous difference between civilian weaponry and the best official military weapons. And governments were more casual about secretly supporting pirates (many pirates were some degree of privateer). History is full of examples of pirate warlords creating successful pirate states, occasionally with proper navies of their own.

If any of these factors echo the conditions of space in this SF setting, and I'm not saying they do, then piracy may behave in a more antiquated way.
Even in the golden age of piracy most pirates were in small boats or even canoes in the absence of direct nation state support, such as the various assaults on Cartagena the British organized. The lifespan of pirates with large ships was incredibly short, barely over 2 years in the case of the infamous Blackbeard for example, precisely because it was all but impossible to logistically support such vessels as a pirate. Either they rotted and got wrecked or they made themselves a nuisance enough that a real warship did in fact go hunt them down. The ocean might be big but the logical sea lanes between ports are not, and that meant a pirate either had to occupy a much smaller zone to hunt in those lanes, or else they weren't making and money and doomed anyway.

As far as pirate kingdoms goes I'm interesting in which ones you had in mind? Certainly people labeled as pirates did establish themselves as states, but usually the details show that these were cases where piracy as only one aspect of an entire culture with a significant population base. Also such examples tend to predate the concept of freedom of the seas and be let us say, less then equally applied. The Danish for example enforced a toll at gunpoint for passage into the Baltic Sea until the 19th century, which was little different then what the Barbary Corsairs were demanding, yet the later are called pirates and the former mostly know for making porn and Lego.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Patroklos » 2018-01-17 03:23am

Steelinghades wrote:
2018-01-16 11:40pm
There's the chance a projectile could be shot down, doubtful, but it can happen; if it were to happen though, the pirates would just throw more projectiles, it's pretty simple and there's a hell of a lot of ammunition in space.
Some thoughts on how you imagine this to work.

1.) If you are just planning on bombarding the planet to death, this being a thing that is normal and accepted in your universe, then yes the space force can just rain matter indiscriminately for large booms that kill everything and probably win. If this is the case you won't have colonies like you describe, because they would be casually destroyed at the onset of any conflict.

2.) If you want to actually occupy and aquire something reasonably intact, what you describe won't work. Its not as very easy to pick out targets on a background as busy as a terrestrial setting if you want to kill them without scorching the surrounding countryside. It can be done, but not at ranges that will keep your ship safe from defensive fire. And knocking out something hardened to the scale of current nuclear silos requires a very big boom if you don't have accuracy within kilometer or so. Best guess won't really work. And there is no reason much of these targets can't mobile and just plug into any number of propositioned thousands of camouflaged power plugins. There are other advantages, the big ones being an unlimited heat sink, no concern for mass penalty trade off (they can have essentially unlimited armor by burying most of their equipment (and can have hundreds of emitters per reactor spread over thousands of square miles, again no mass penalty) and they can compete very favorably in the energy generation/unit cost race. There stuff doesn't have to be hardened for operating in space and travel. Etc. Etc.

All you really have to do is look at the current competition between land based and ship based antiship missile platforms. Sure one has vastly more mobility than the other and you can concentrate multiple mobile platforms to overwhelm any single land based platform, but the cost difference between the systems essentially delivering the exact same class of munition is 100 to 1 or more. There are definitely plausible use cases with that disparity, which is why land based ASMs are all the rage at the moment.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-17 12:01pm

Steelinghades wrote:
2018-01-16 11:40pm
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Then such planets will not be independent; they will be property of whichever nation can roll up to this little feudal backwater with its "rich nobles and aristocracy" and say "you belong to us now, in time honored feudal tradition."
I never said anything about them being independent, what I said was that the local planetary and system militia is payed for and bought by the aristocracy whether that's through training a proper militia or just hiring a mercenary band.
Which changes nothing I just said. Such planets will not belong to anyone who is not equipped to defend them against casual raiding. Period. End of sentence. Either they will change hands frequently and chaotically, or they will fall into the hands of someone who can protect them. Protection may take the form of building up permanent defenses, or it may take the form of actively hunting down anyone who might threaten the planet.

The point is, if the defenders are on such a shoestring budget that importing some cannonballs for their mass drivers, be those cannonballs ever so advanced and guided, is a serious obstacle... The odds are, the defenders are unfit to defend the planet, and will lose to someone with a bigger operating budget.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Munitions fired from long range (including asteroids accelerated towards the planet) can be shot down by ground defenses. Railgun and directed energy weapon fire that penetrates the atmosphere (which tends to partly attenuate and reduce the effect) may or may not put the ground defenses out of action before the ground defenses put the enemy ship out of action.
There's the chance a projectile could be shot down, doubtful, but it can happen; if it were to happen though, the pirates would just throw more projectiles, it's pretty simple and there's a hell of a lot of ammunition in space.
Asteroids are big, slow targets by space warfare standards, they don't shoot back or maneuver, and boosting them up to dangerous speed is hard. They are not good weapons against a target that has active defenses. Or against a target that has friends who may show up in the middle of your asteroid redirection attack and murder you.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Furthermore, it is inherently risky for pirates and slavers and the like to hover menacingly around a star system engaging in protracted sieges against planetary defenses, even assuming they don't get lured into range and blown up before they know the defenses are there. Assuming that anyone out there fights and hunts pirates and slavers, they can't afford to waste time hanging around cracking the defenses of a world that can shoot back, especially not if distress calls are a thing.
With the absolute fastest FTL around being 3/Ly a day and with some colonies being dozens if not hundreds of parsecs away, the pirates are in for a fairly easy time of it, nor can intergalactic space be patrolled. And while there are organizations out there, they're funded directly by the public, and are somewhat limited in number. Even mercenary guilds that temporarily take on a few headhunting jobs can't be everywhere at one.
In this context, these little colonies belong to whoever can play warlord most convincingly. Whoever does that, will do so by crushing all their competitors in the immediate area and deterring anyone else from muscling in on their operation. It'll be rule by the Starship Mafia, and these 'local defense forces funded by aristocrats' won't exist. The defense forces, that is to say the fleets of individual warlords, will BE the governments and the aristocrats and the defense forces.

And the successful warlords will be the ones who don't stint on their weapon budget.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
And if no one does do pirate-hunting, then the pirates will quickly become warlords who end up taking over these planets for themselves, not just randomly raiding and harassing them.
Which would be a seriously bad idea if it were to happen anywhere near a star empire since full on proper solar empires would fall over each other for the chance to knock down such a petty kingdom, since in essence it's free real estate. While warlords can rule their own petty kingdoms--and these could include pirates--they're very far away from civilized space--I.E areas where empire's commonly interact with.
You literally just said that space was sparsely settled and travel relatively slow compared to the distances involved. If it takes an "empire" a month to get a punitive expedition out to a threatened border colony, the border colony is unlikely to remain an imperial belonging for long. It will either be raided until it's worthless to the empire, actively seized by a power too strong for the empire to easily dislodge, or declare independence and wind up under the control of someone who can defend it.

Again, assuming conditions of international affairs tend more towards war than towards peace, this system culminates in rule by a combination of big empires (that don't stint on their weapons budget), border principalities (successful warlords who don't stint on their weapons budget), and opportunistic raiding warlords (hungry, ambitious warlords... who don't stint on their weapons budget if they want to survive).

Nothing in this status quo explains or justifies why planetary defenders WOULD stint on their weapons budget.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-15 09:08pm
Why would any of those involve impunity for the ship launching the attacks? Why is there an absolute prohibition on, say, the planetary missile force launching hundreds of missiles at an offending warship, more than it can plausibly shoot down and more than any ship in its own weight class could plausibly have carried?
Because a planet an't warp. A ship can sit millions of kilometers away--well outside of standard ranges--and fling all the weapons fire toward a planet, which is a immobile--relatively speaking--and large target. And if the planet were to fire back, the ship just warps away. Something which doesn't really happen in ship-to-ship combat because it's far closer ranged and there's the threat of ramming things or materializing within one another, etc. Issues that are not really around when bombarding a planet since the ship can choose were it will remain.
So the planetary defense force just holds fire until the ship gets closer, too close to dodge. Defensive installations can be concealed, or decoys constructed, to prevent a bombarding ship from being able to casually target the defense from millions of kilometers away.

Ultimately, if all the enemy can do is pelt you from extreme range, and if they can't be sure they've suppressed your defenses without mass destruction on your planet, and if your enemy's objective is to rob you rather than to destroy you...At some point, it just is not worth it.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-01-19 11:32am

I think problem for surface based defences are gravity well requiring big expensive missiles to quickly deliver nuke to high orbit and atmosphere messing with sutface to space laser weapons. Also depends on a setting if you have cheap fusion torch engines gravity well no longer is such a big problem.

However if you want to defend only against raiders or pirates then all you have to do is deny chance to land. Have loads of well concealed Sprint type missiles with nukes and it should be enough to deter pirate shuttles from entering atmosphere.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Formless » 2018-01-19 03:05pm

Sky Captain wrote:
2018-01-19 11:32am
I think problem for surface based defences are gravity well requiring big expensive missiles to quickly deliver nuke to high orbit and atmosphere messing with sutface to space laser weapons. Also depends on a setting if you have cheap fusion torch engines gravity well no longer is such a big problem.

However if you want to defend only against raiders or pirates then all you have to do is deny chance to land. Have loads of well concealed Sprint type missiles with nukes and it should be enough to deter pirate shuttles from entering atmosphere.
Surface based lasers and masers don't care about a gravity well. And if the atmosphere is approximately similar to Earth's, then the diffraction shouldn't be so bad that you couldn't fry a spaceship in orbit. Better yet, lasers and masers mounted on a submarine should be resistant to nuclear attacks even from orbit, and if they have similar systems to a spaceship (which of course they should) they can retaliate against orbital weapons platforms with far more endurance because the ocean serves as a nearly unlimited heat sink for their weapons.

You can also install ridiculously big weapons like kilometer long free electron lasers firing X-Rays and hide such weapons underground or under a mountain with only the emitter being exposed. That's the kind of weapon that would be able to hit the attacking fleet with radiation long before they even get into orbit.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sky Captain » 2018-01-19 04:21pm

X rays get absorbed in atmosphere so would not be viable as planet based weapon, however if planet has one or more moons then it would be ideal place for such system. Laser submarine, that's neat idea. Only problem such systems would be expensive, a distant colony probably could not afford them in large numbers.

However a rich planet should be able to build enough planetary defenses that invading force would have to resort to massed attacks from extreme range with weapons of mass destruction causing large scale devastation maybe even making the effort to take planet intact pointless.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Formless » 2018-01-20 06:17pm

If you have a high enough power output to weaponize X-rays, I'm pretty sure you can penetrate the atmosphere by sheer brute force. X-rays aren't absorbed instantly by the atmosphere, it happens over a distance. Yes, there will be significant diffraction, but whereas laser weapons in the visual spectrum cause damage through heat transfer, X-rays are also ionizing radiation. A beam many meters wide will still rad-kill many spacecraft that aren't specifically hardened against such attacks. And the armor needed to absorb X-rays and other penetrating radiation is fairly heavy-- we're talking about putting sheets of lead or tungsten in the hull. The mass payload for most spaceships will mean that you will have a few "radiation bunkers" for a given ship (necessary given that stars also give off X-rays and cosmic rays), but most of the vehicle will remain vulnerable to such attacks.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-20 11:24pm

Formless wrote:
2018-01-20 06:17pm
If you have a high enough power output to weaponize X-rays, I'm pretty sure you can penetrate the atmosphere by sheer brute force. X-rays aren't absorbed instantly by the atmosphere, it happens over a distance. Yes, there will be significant diffraction, but whereas laser weapons in the visual spectrum cause damage through heat transfer, X-rays are also ionizing radiation. A beam many meters wide will still rad-kill many spacecraft that aren't specifically hardened against such attacks. And the armor needed to absorb X-rays and other penetrating radiation is fairly heavy-- we're talking about putting sheets of lead or tungsten in the hull. The mass payload for most spaceships will mean that you will have a few "radiation bunkers" for a given ship (necessary given that stars also give off X-rays and cosmic rays), but most of the vehicle will remain vulnerable to such attacks.
The dropoff is something like "the beam reduces its intensity by a factor of e for every fifty meters it propagates." That's a lot of e-fold reductions of energy before you get out of the atmosphere, enough that even "you don't need much radiation to kill" isn't going to cut it.

Also, there's a word for what happens when a massive amount of X-rays is released within the atmosphere, and the surrounding air gets a chance to capture as much of the X-rays as it can, and is heated up accordingly. It's called "a nuclear fireball." An X-ray laser powerful enough to produce lethal doses outside the atmosphere would probably destroy the muzzle of its own gun mount, with a blast equivalent to a small nuclear explosion originating immediately around the gun where the vast majority of the beam energy dissipates and side-scatters into the air.

Optical lasers are a much better bet.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-01-21 01:59am

Formless wrote:
2018-01-20 06:17pm
If you have a high enough power output to weaponize X-rays, I'm pretty sure you can penetrate the atmosphere by sheer brute force. X-rays aren't absorbed instantly by the atmosphere, it happens over a distance.
It's pretty functionally close to instantly actually, which is why X-ray observatories don't exist on the earth's surface. This is more or less exactly what a nuclear fireball is the result of. The nuke releases a huge amount of X-rays which flash the atmosphere around it to a roughly 10 million degree F plasma. At that temperature and matter state the atmosphere turns nearly transparent to the X-rays, allowing them to propagate further. The fireball radius gets reached when the X-rays run out of intensity to keep making more fireball. But on larger yield nukes the X-rays don't even get to the limits of the fireball, thermal propagation alone is increasing the size. You might notice even ~100 megaton nuclear bombs still don't produce a fireball that would reach the top of the atmosphere, which in practical 'affects weapons and lift generating drag' terms is about 100km from the surface. Trying to burn your way past is indeed not impossible but the energy required is incredibly high.

The compounding problem with an X-ray laser beam trying to penetrate the atmosphere is wind exist, so you've constantly got to superheat more mass, and if the target is moving at all the beam has to move too, introducing even more mass into the equation. This will also tend to bend the beam, which can be corrected for but requires yet further energy imput. However other forms of DEW would be much less affected. Of coure this works both ways, space based weapons have the same problem attacking a surface target. Sci fi tends to operate on the basis that weapons that can attack other space ships work by default on planetary surfaces but in reality that's a veeeery soft sci fi idea. And one which indicates a very high tech basis, allowing other things to become true.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Formless » 2018-01-21 02:40am

Okay then, what about UV? IIRC it isn't absorbed as well as X-rays are, but is also a form of ionizing radiation.

Note that superheated air can be useful in its own right. I once read something about a Russian weapon concept where they were working on a laser that ionizes the air right in front of a missile so that the hot plasma would both damage the warhead through EM effects and knock it off target by effecting its aerodynamics. You know anything about that?
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Patroklos » 2018-01-21 05:14am

That seems to be a rather inefficient use for that technology. If you could ionize the air in front of a missile you presumably have to ionize all of it in between that point and the beam origination at the same time. That's a lot of energy. And in order to have it interact with any degree of consequence you would have to keep that space like that for a significant period of time. The instant you turn the beam off new air rushes in, and unless the is not change in target area at all you will have to swing the beam into new air constantly.

To be blunt, if you could pull all of that off you would be smart just destroying the target with the bean outright.

Where I have seen this technology contemplated is with "lighting" weapons. Essentially you do the above, ionize a path through the air from weapon to target, for a fraction of a second. You then have a path to discharge electricity from capacitors to the target. There are issues with this like grounding and have to apply the damage mode, but it uses the technology you mentioned.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Formless » 2018-01-21 01:55pm

Patroklos wrote:
2018-01-21 05:14am
That seems to be a rather inefficient use for that technology. If you could ionize the air in front of a missile you presumably have to ionize all of it in between that point and the beam origination at the same time. That's a lot of energy. And in order to have it interact with any degree of consequence you would have to keep that space like that for a significant period of time. The instant you turn the beam off new air rushes in, and unless the is not change in target area at all you will have to swing the beam into new air constantly.

To be blunt, if you could pull all of that off you would be smart just destroying the target with the bean outright.

Where I have seen this technology contemplated is with "lighting" weapons. Essentially you do the above, ionize a path through the air from weapon to target, for a fraction of a second. You then have a path to discharge electricity from capacitors to the target. There are issues with this like grounding and have to apply the damage mode, but it uses the technology you mentioned.
You know, come to think of it, it might have been a variation of the Pulsed Energy Projectile concept, but applied to missiles instead of people. But I can't find the source, so who knows. That's kind of why I'm asking? But yes, lightning lasers are a cool concept. The one thing I'm wondering is if they could be space to ground weapons, or are they strictly something you have to use in atmosphere?
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Patroklos » 2018-01-21 02:53pm

Electrons can move through a vacuum, but you need a lot more voltage to induce this and I am not sure exactly how you could make the target oblige. The purpose of ionizing the air is to provide a plasma channel like you said, so I suppose if you can come up with a way to provide such a channel in space via a "plasma beam" it could work but I am drawing a blank on how to do that. In a way that again doesn't prompt you to use the channel mechanism for the weapon itself. Or a beam of other state matter and then zap that (the image of a fire hose popped into my head when I said that), almost like a tazer.

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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-22 01:22am

Formless wrote:
2018-01-21 02:40am
Okay then, what about UV? IIRC it isn't absorbed as well as X-rays are, but is also a form of ionizing radiation.
UV is going to be a lot easier to keep out with a ship's hull than X-rays. At that point, you really, really might as well just go with a laser that shines through air very easily, and just heats or burns or melts the target ship's hull.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-01-22 02:33am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-22 01:22am
]UV is going to be a lot easier to keep out with a ship's hull than X-rays. At that point, you really, really might as well just go with a laser that shines through air very easily, and just heats or burns or melts the target ship's hull.
Yeah I'm trying to think or find a reason why UV might be better then certain IR wavelengths and I'm not finding one readily. Visual wavelengths are the only thing that suffers no real absorption by earth like atmospherics, but they have the downside of being very easy to reflect at high efficiency. Aka mirrior armor. For reference its H2O, CO2 and free oxygen that dominate earth like atmospheric absorption of lasers. It would be possible to have a dense atmosphere made of different gases that was much less absorptive; but if you don't have breathable gases then the incentive to human colonize a planetary surface vs orbital colony or purely automated resource extraction would be way less.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-01-22 05:29pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:
2018-01-22 02:33am
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-01-22 01:22am
]UV is going to be a lot easier to keep out with a ship's hull than X-rays. At that point, you really, really might as well just go with a laser that shines through air very easily, and just heats or burns or melts the target ship's hull.
Yeah I'm trying to think or find a reason why UV might be better then certain IR wavelengths and I'm not finding one readily. Visual wavelengths are the only thing that suffers no real absorption by earth like atmospherics, but they have the downside of being very easy to reflect at high efficiency. Aka mirrior armor. For reference its H2O, CO2 and free oxygen that dominate earth like atmospheric absorption of lasers. It would be possible to have a dense atmosphere made of different gases that was much less absorptive; but if you don't have breathable gases then the incentive to human colonize a planetary surface vs orbital colony or purely automated resource extraction would be way less.
I could vaguely theorize a situation where you have a solar system with one such dense atmosphere on a planet, and humans live on another planet in the same system, but for whatever reason that particular world is used for combat. Perhaps it's ritualized, perhaps it's a proxy, perhaps there's some valuable substance on that planet that they're always fighting over. Thus battles on that planet are some kind of atmospheric light-show with differently coloured lasers flying everywhere.
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Re: Worldbuilding: Mil Sci fi/fan feedback

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-01-22 09:45pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-01-22 05:29pm
I could vaguely theorize a situation where you have a solar system with one such dense atmosphere on a planet, and humans live on another planet in the same system, but for whatever reason that particular world is used for combat. Perhaps it's ritualized, perhaps it's a proxy, perhaps there's some valuable substance on that planet that they're always fighting over. Thus battles on that planet are some kind of atmospheric light-show with differently coloured lasers flying everywhere.
Smoke and dust and clouds would disrupt them much more then IR, and as far as the visual light show goes, you're talking about something that will be intrinsically super blinding! As in once you reach anything like weapons grade laser powers even slight reflection becomes dangerously eye damaging. Your own weapon glinting off the target becomes a problem, and reflections can be multi pathing, they will affect more then a strict LOS.

If the laser is IR you can use goggles to filter that out, up to a point where the goggles melt, and the users normal vision is basically like sun glasses. On the other hand if you want to filter out visual wavelength lasers...you're going to filter out at the least a significant chunk of the color spectrum doing it! And that assumes the enemy is nice enough to leave any gaps in the spectrum in the first place. Protective devices that adapt in real time are entirely plausible and sorta already exist, but that doesn't solve the basic problem in a major laser to laser battle.

So basically you might have a heck of a light show, but nobody would see it like that without electronic aids. At which point we can make a thermal image of a IR laser beam display whatever color we want electronically. That will probably be a 'thing' in the real life future to help troops tell what's what.

Also in real life visual lasers have always been harder to get to high power then other types, though not the hardest outright, obviously that doesn't have to be true in sci fi but it's again, a question of why you would bother.
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