chimericoncogene wrote:Thank you all for responding.
I think I understand the point of disagreement. In fictional space battles, multiple exchanges of missile fire are depicted as a normal state of affairs.
You really shouldn't make blanket statements without citing examples from actual science fiction, or alternatively if you feel ballsy real military history. No argument is actually possible as long as you keep evading specifics. In my experience, most science fiction writers seem to prefer bullets and beam weapons, and missiles are treated as an afterthought. RedImperator obviously had many conversations with people on this forum about missiles and other military hardware, including some very knowledgeable people like SeaSkimmer, so that's why he's an exception. But even The Expanse inverts the trend and gives short shrift to lasers most of the time and for the same reason. The writer was more concerned with writing an interesting story than considering all
of the implications of currently experimental technology for future military hardware.
I believe that when your first salvo fails to achieve objectives, you’re in big trouble and should be asking yourself “Why the heck was I stingy with missiles? Why didn’t I add more missiles to that salvo? Why the heck did the spacecraft designers not sacrifice armor for more launch tubes?”
Because they missed, because they outmaneuvered or shot down the missiles, and it may very well be that the performance of the enemy ship is so far beyond your missiles that no number of additional missiles in the volley would actually count. Quantity is not always a quality all of its own. Particularly when talking about a nuclear weapon like a casaba howitzer, the only reason more than one warhead should be necessary is if we are talking about ridiculously soft
science fiction. Casaba Howitzer weapons are expensive by default, and therefore need as many countermeasures as they can afford; it will, however, be a very effective
the need for large volleys by its very nature. Again, if you can make Casaba Howitzers you can make NEFP's that fill space with shotgun pellets traveling at nearly 1% C. You don't need much more volume of fire than that. But even when talking about conventional kinetic warheads, you have to consider the ship's overall performance and not just its amount of dakka. For example, if you use a laser as a countermeasure weapon, firing multiple salvos could eventually overwhelm the laser's ability to eliminate heat, and then you can actually get a missile through. The optics can only fire for so long without breaking or melting. Same goes for a ship that's simply dodging with its engines. On the other hand, if that ship's engines are good enough to dodge one missile, it might just be able to dodge a huge salvo of them, so you do not want to waste all of your ordinance in one go, you want to out-last their engines.
Oh, and the point is well taken that a nuke can destroy a huge volume of missiles just by exploding inside the missile swarm. It won't make their kinetic energy go away, but they would be rather useless without a guidance system.
Meanwhile, a ship with more missile tubes doesn't actually have to have less armor, because the tube will usually be sealed behind an armored door. When you fire it, you open the door and briefly lose some armor value. However, here's the real reason you don't want too many tubes: they take up volume inside the ship, volume you might very well need to allot to other necessary ship functions like life support, the reactor, or heat management. The same goes for the magazines, which are also a historic liability since ordinance can explode when shot and take out an entire vehicle. If you want to launch huge salvos of missiles, you need merely put those missiles in weapons pods attached to the outside of the ship (much like how missiles are attached to helicopters). However, you must also accept that those pods won't be re-loadable in the middle of combat, and are more vulnerable than a magazine of missiles inside the hull of the ship safely behind armor. Remember, the longest range weapons in space are lasers
, because they travel at exactly C, and they maintain coherence at tens of thousands of kilometers (even a hundred thousand, but at that point you won't be hitting anything accurately). Any reasonable Hard science fiction warship will have to be designed to survive laser strikes, which could mean no unarmored weapons pods on the outside of the ship-- they will just get seared off by laser fire or particle beams, and you won't get to launch that big alpha strike at all
Volley fire has its place, but precision fire can be more valuable in many situations. If I want the ability to overwhelm the enemy defenses with an enormous amount of missiles, you can also redesign the tubes for rapid reload capability, essentially turning the launcher into a machine gun. Thirty missiles launched simultaneously isn't much different from launching thirty missiles in as many seconds. But the latter, while perhaps requiring a more sophisticated launch system, has the advantage of needing fewer launch tubes and magazines taking up the ship's internal volume.
Because, if the target set has mutually supporting defenses, now you have to launch as many missile-equivalents to engage the target set as you did before, and account for freshly repositioned, regenerated, and redeployed defenses (if they exist), instead of having added a marginal number of missiles to overwhelm the enemy previously.
I propose that there is more to tactics than just "more dakka". Your approach is to look at one tactic and apply it to all situations rather than considering the situation where volley fire is actually appropriate and compare it to the situation where staggered fire or precision fire is more
appropriate. Just as an example, the enemy defenses don't matter if they are pointed in the wrong direction entirely. How do you get them pointed in the wrong direction? That's an exercise for the imagination, but achieving that kind of result is how military commanders have historically managed to turn the numbers game on its head and win battles outnumbered, because they were smarter
than the enemy commander. I doubt war in space will be any different.
Even in Anime, the whole point behind the Itano Circus is to show how skilled a pilot is that they can manage to dodge or shoot down an overwhelming number of very agile missiles. And yet, you don't see that tactic used in real world air war because the countermeasures mean that it really isn't as implausible as it looks. If you can spoof one missile, you can spoof a dozen missiles with the same guidance system just as easily. And most of the time, spoofing is the go to countermeasure against missiles in the real world, not point defense.
There are valid answers to these questions. But they tend to be sketchy when sci-fi series postulate relatively inexhaustible laser defenses, mutually supporting spacecraft, and offensive missiles that are bigger than defensive ones.
Again, lasers are hardly inexhaustible, and combined arms is a given in any military application of spacecraft. There are ways to fight against multiple enemy ships, perhaps the most obvious being to bring more ships of your own, or to use missiles with submunitions like I talked about earlier. You did read that part, right? Because I don't like having relevant points ignored because they are inconvenient to you.
I personally see little reason you would use reloadable launch tubes instead of a big armored bomb bay/VLS setup unless the launch tube is some sort of electromagnetic projector.
Well I mean, how else do you propose the missile be thrown far enough away from the ship to safely ignite its engine? Like others have said, you can't use gravity like you can on fighter aircraft. Although, its not such a big deal if you have exterior weapons pods because then they can act like a recoiless rifle. That might scorch the hull of your ship a bit, but you don't have to ignite the main engine, just use a lower thrust booster if you are worried about that. Of course, in real life, assault helicopters get away just fine with launching missiles near to the body of the aircraft, so as long as the back-blast is more or less parallel to the hull it shouldn't be a problem.
It is difficult to understand why four super-smart super-hardened space torpedoes are not better than two, if you do not expect to engage another enemy before resupply (emphasis). Warships tend to be expensive, and should be (contextual) well worth the cost of expending a few extra missiles with a good margin of safety.
Because your mission profile may require you to save ammo? Come on, do you know anything about how military operations work? Its not just about tactics, but about your goals in the war or even just the one mission. If weapons are expensive, you conserve them. If they are cheap, you can get away with throwing around tons of dakka, but not always. Perhaps you are concerned with collateral damage (or of leaving too much debris in orbit and rendering the space around a planet difficult to navigate without suffering damage), in which case its better to invest in a more accurate missile with a smaller payload. That's actually the reason why the Soviet Union created the Tzar Bomba and the United States didn't: the US had a more accurate ICBM, so they trusted that a smaller nuke would do the job of destroying a city or military base just fine; whereas the Russians were concerned that their missiles were less accurate, so they built a bigger bomb that would work even if they missed the target by miles. Military doctrines are highly contextual, sometimes even political in nature, and always relate to the goals of the war or of the individual operation.
For instance, lets look at Star Trek and see why the Federation would be stingy about the use of torpedoes. First of all, their torpedoes max out in the multi-megaton range, but are treated as pretty damn dangerous in most parts of the galaxy. However, Starfleet considers itself an exploratory organization first and a military second. Many officers like Picard are trained to mission kill targets with minimum loss of life even onboard the enemy ship-- hence why we so often hear him say things like "target their engines" or "target their weapons." Those are orders to defang or disable his opponents, which achieves the goal of defending his ship without having to vaporize his enemies with antimatter. And it makes his organization look good if they can keep casualties low even on their enemy's side, because it reinforces their doctrine that starfleet ships are armed for defense, not war. Indeed, its for the same reason that Picard and other officers always try talking their way out first, except during declared wars like the war with the Dominion. So too does it then make sense that their torpedoes, the more powerful weapon compared to phasers, would be employed sparingly and in small quantities. They only need them when the situation looks like it could go FUBAR, but even then there is no perceived need to launch more than maybe four at a time because they are so powerful. So there doesn't appear to be more than one torpedo tube covering the front firing arc of the Enterprise D, even though its one of the biggest ships in the fleet, and even the Defiant-- the first ship made for war
by the Federation-- has only two in the front firing arc. It apparently doesn't need more than that to do the job because torpedoes are so damn poweful.
And really, the question could be turned on its head. If I can kill you with one shot, isn't that better than shooting you over and over again just to be sure you are dead?
When you're throwing Casaba Howitzers and nuclear warheads around, I think any mission kill will be reasonably hard for the plausible mid-future.
They are fucking nuclear bombs, unless point defense is so good that lasers have become the only
practical weapon on the battlefield (in which case the only reason to talk about missiles is in the context of laser countermeasures), there is little a Casaba howitzer can't
mission kill or outright vaporize that we could build in a plausible Hard SF series. If you want to make something that can survive a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, you are no longer talking about hard science fiction.