Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by bilateralrope » 2020-03-04 11:51pm

Assume the existence of two types of missile defense systems:
- A single target system. It takes out incoming missiles one at a time. For example, a laser turret.
- An area of effect system. It fills a volume of space with something (shrapnel, radiation, etc) that kills all missiles within that volume. If there is only one, it kills it. If there are 1,000 missiles, it kills them all. For example, your targets anti-ship missiles set to detonate in the middle of your missile swarm.

Now you have two downsides to firing off all the missiles you're capable of:
- You let your target cheaply kill them all because you're flying them too close together.
- You don't get to have some missiles loaded into your launcher in case you need to shoot down their missiles.

chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-03-04 09:59pm
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).
Maybe because you want to keep some in reserve in case an unexpected enemy shows up.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Jub » 2020-03-05 12:32am

chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-03-04 11:49pm
Okay, the "obviously silly" bit was a little too on the nose and for that I am sorry.
Cool it with the triple posts my dude.

Also, you're basing this complaint off of two stories? :roll:

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-05 01:05am

Sorry, the edit timer ran out on me, and I really have a problem with tone when posting.

Err... kinda? :cry: Also Revolution From Rosinante - another really good (waaay over-optimistic on the engineering, though) book which I hate to critique because I love it so much - where the NAU nuclear-electric-drive warships also have missile launch tubes and chemical lasers.

The Expanse (softer), in contrast, has missiles mostly launched in single big waves which are attrited down as they close, IRRC. Relatively few missiles are kept in reserve for follow-up salvos. They have mostly kinetic defenses, though, and unsophisticated space battles.

IIRC, Through Struggle the Stars has missile launch (single main salvo) taking place after closing to laser range, because missiles are way to vulnerable to laser fire. IIRC, the setup was VLS-type, so launch everything is possible. This makes more sense to me; but again, everyone is correct in that this sort of thing is setting-dependent.

I'm getting more sympathetic to the view of why dedicated launchers might be useful on a spacecraft (vs. a cold-gas-thruster VLS-type setup), though - thanks, DarthRevan and everyone else. And in a larger fleet action, with great uncertainty regarding enemy capabilities, yeah, using multiple attacks makes sense - and they have to be serious attacks in order to force the enemy to battle (thus demonstrating capabilities) - probing attacks need to be large to be effective, to the point where they evolve into an opening salvo. Still, if you bet on your intelligence being good (never a sure thing), there seems to be an incentive to start with an all-out attack. If your ships get hit with missiles still in their racks, you can't launch them... and down goes the effectiveness of your Salvo Two. You could disperse them.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Jub » 2020-03-05 01:10am

chimericoncogene wrote:
2020-03-05 01:05am
Still, if you bet on your intelligence being good (never a sure thing), there seems to be an incentive to start with an all-out attack. If your ships get hit with missiles still in their racks, you can't launch them... and down goes the effectiveness of your Salvo Two. You could disperse them.
If you have to make a bet that involves blowing your entire load in a single volley; you decline the bet. Would you risk everything you own on a bet you were only 99% sure to win when the other bet at your disposal is 75% sure to work but costs you far less?

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-05 01:24am

I never said "not a single missile in reserve"... except in my title. DARN ME!

I was arguing for a 5-80-15 split between Probing Attack, Main Salvo, and Reserve. Actual space warfare is unlikely to be so neat, and this is a horrible way to describe war, but such is the concept I am arguing for, as derived from maritime warfare (Backfires against CVBGs - if technothrillers and commentators are to be believed, the Soviets would have shot their wad on a Backfire strike and accepted high casualties) or 1970s SIOP nuclear warfare (globalsecurity has a nice article on that), of a large alpha strike. If your enemy does not require 80 units of firepower to kill, obviously, you can go for 5-30-65 but you would still want enough to assure kills.

The impression from some science fictional works is that they argue for a 5-40-40-15 or a 5-30-30-30-5 split between Probing Attack, Salvos Able, Baker, and Charlie, and reserve weapons, seemingly for no good reason (it's not like the enemy has nothing but bomb-pumped x-ray lasers that can be evaded by launching one missile at a time). This may misrepresent them somewhat, but that's the impression I sometimes get. I was wondering whether such a distribution makes all that much sense, or whether the authors just wanted some dramatic tension.

I hate using these numbers.
Last edited by chimericoncogene on 2020-03-05 01:25am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Formless » 2020-03-05 01:25am

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 weapon without 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.
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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-05 02:16am

Formless wrote:
2020-03-05 01:25am

"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."
Thank you very much Formless for an excellent critique. Agreed. Space battle in the Expanse novels and in Rosinante, to a lesser extent, are an afterthought. And yeah, sorry about the blanket statements. It was stupid of me.
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. [...] 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.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. That makes very good sense, and seems to gel with energy-maneuverability theory in fighter combat.
The same goes for the magazines, which are also a historic liability since ordinance can explode when shot and take out an entire vehicle. 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.
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.
That suggests a requirement for fewer, more expensive, smarter, harder, higher-performance missiles, but that doesn't necessarily invalidate launching them in a bigger volley...
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.
...but this does. Very much so. Thank you for reminding me. Maneuver and firepower beats firepower, and I guess the same can hold true in a cloudless desert of an empty sky where you think you see everything, with sufficient creativity, deception, and tactics.

I mean, we have real "stealth" (deception) in space right now, if http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2012/0199.html is to be believed.
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.
Yes. One view has been that networked laser command guidance of space missiles may make them harder to spoof. I dunno whether that's right, but your take sounds like a good one.
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.
Relatively(!) inexhaustible (compared to missiles). And not necessarily even that. Could even be one-shot chemical lasers, or they could overheat faster than you can launch missiles. I'm sorry I appeared to overgeneralize, and I overestimated the regenerability of countermeasures and the value of time to the defender vs the attacker. A lot of this is context-dependent, which is why your call for specific scenarios makes sense.

I never excluded the possibility of submunitions, or small numbers of very high performance missiles. I have heard that missiles can be buses, or railgun rounds, or particle-beam propelled thingambobs with mag sails (as a layman, I once dreamed up external-proton-beam-nuclear-thermal(neutron spallation reactor), didn't work very well because apparently proton beam energy multiplication isn't very good and so the proton particle beam gun still overheats your ship). I just failed to see why submunitions spread across multiple volleys would in general be superior to submunitions in one big volley, possibly coming from multiple axes with other fancy tactics or preceded by defense suppression, etc. My imagination was limited, and I knew a lot less than everyone here, and am happy to have been corrected. Your points on maneuvering targets, the hard-to-saturate nature of soft-kill countermeasures, and the value of maneuver and deception have been particularly helpful, as has reflection on the need for launchers.
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.
Cold gas thruster pack, then chemical booster for separation, then main stage (nuclear?), then submunitions. You guys know better than me. The coilgun launcher is starting to sound really good now. (As a layman, I once tried to think up a spinning battleship that could drop off dozens of nuclear missiles hanging from launch racks. Didn't think much of the idea either.)
Military doctrines are highly contextual, sometimes even political in nature, and always relate to the goals of the war or of the individual operation.
And we wouldn't have it any other way.
When you're throwing Casaba Howitzers and nuclear warheads around, I think any mission kill will be reasonably hard for the plausible mid-future.
This is on me and my idiotic phrasing. "With nukes, I think any mission kill will be reasonably hard for the PMF" = "With nukes, I think any mission kill can be reasonably expected to be a hard kill for the PMF."

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Zor » 2020-03-05 07:29am

Missile Lauchers are not simple boxes from which missiles are launched. They are often linear accelerators which give a missile a kick out of the ship so it can A: get from the ship to it's target faster, B: approach the target at higher velocity so it spends less time in the PD envelope of the enemy ship and C: it can engage it's engines far away from the ship that launched it. If you have a fusion drive or an antimatter drive powered warship this is very important.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-05 11:30am

Heck, you want a few kilometers (?) of standoff distance even if you're shooting off nothing more exotic than a NERVA missile. Unless you want to wait an unreasonably long time for the missile to drift off/pushed off with wheels or something/chemical fuel gun/cold gas thruster/compressed gas/steam/small chemical rocket that comes with a mass penalty, you're gonna want to give it a solid kick. And unless your spacecraft is pretty well-hardened (well, at least not made of commercial-grade tinfoil like a civilian craft), I suspect a Minuteman-sized chemical booster running next to it wouldn't be too healthy either.

I got it. At some point, launch tubes can become a necessity rather than optional.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-05 12:15pm

Thank you all for clarifying the advantages (and sometimes necessity) of dividing a missile attack into smaller salvos. You were right and I was wrong.

Salvoing is clearly useful under a much broader range of circumstances than I thought, and the need for specialized launchers sufficiently pressing, that the use of salvoing in fiction is hardly contrived.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Sky Captain » 2020-03-05 03:26pm

It really depends on sci fi setting. For example Honorverse space battles usually have huge missile volleys because you need multiple hits with nuclear bomb pumped xray lasers to kill enemy ship and point defense systems are so good that anything below saturation threshold is wasted. Honorverse ships often have external missile pods they shoot dry in initial opening salvo to achieve saturation of enemy point defense and then use internal missiles and gamma ray lasers to engage whatever survived initial opening salvo. However this is fairly soft sci fi setting with shields , extremely durable armor and almost unlimited delta V because of gravitic propulsion,

However in more hard sci fi it may be more beneficial to launch relatively few missiles per salvo because any hit is at least a mission kill, point defense is not 100% sure thing and you may be able to force enemy to burn valuable delta v to dodge incoming missiles. If it takes 5 missiles per salvo to be threatening enough to cause enemy to burn 10 km/s of delta v then it is unlikely that 10 missile salvo would be worth extra 5 missiles. May as well keep them in reserve and launch later on a different vector to force enemy to burn another 10 km/s to dodge again.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-05 09:38pm

Well, that really depends on whether your missiles have comparable drives to your spacecraft.

For plausible mid-future torchdrive settings, with high thrusts and specific impulses, my layman's impression has always been that you need at least nuclear thermal rockets to make missiles work very well; that or make very close intercepts with your combat spacecraft (assuming laser range in the hundreds of kilometers; but that's not very meaningful). I used to lean towards liquid core NTR with water propellant for volume reasons, but I'm sure everyone else knows better than I. This in turn limits the minimum economical size of missiles, and overall numbers (but not submunition numbers). I guess that people would keep a few cheap chemfuel missiles just to kill tramp freighters, nuclear-electric spacecraft (you can't outrun me within a week!), and pirates and crap that didn't warrant an expensive missile but which you wouldn't want to stick around to kill with lasers (might be a bit niche).

In the Plausible Mid-Future, combat spacecraft may have very low-thrust high-impulse engines; with only chemical maneuvering thrusters for last-ditch maneuvers. In such situations, missile combat would primarily be a point defense game. Alternatively, nuclear-electric spacecraft might deploy a large constellation of more maneuverable spacecraft (say a lower-impulse nuclear thermal rocket) for combat, remaining behind as logistics and possibly C&C craft, or even just act as an engine pod of some sort.

Is MagBeam still considered viable? Because that changes settings considerably.

An interesting point in space war is that all systems become strategic. In near-earth space, every nuclear anti-ship missile can kill installations in Earth Orbit and on the lunar surface. Every anti-ship nuclear-tipped missile, even chemfuel with a few km/s delta-vee, can theoretically be used to engage "static" free-space targets anywhere in the inner solar system (electrical systems permitting, and provided you're willing to wait a few months to a year; with brilliant missiles you can engage slow-moving targets too). The Rosinante trilogy had a space battleship fighting in a civil war on Earth pop off a specially modified one-megaton antiship missile with what seems to have been a solar-electric drive upper stage to kill a space colony in the asteroid belt. Time on target was months, of course, but it was interesting to see.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Sky Captain » 2020-03-07 02:06am

If high thrust high impulse fusion drives are a thing, but don't scale down to anti ship missile size then chemical or maybe even nuclear thermal drive missiles would be a short range stuff, maybe workable if standoff nuclear warheads are employed. If long range lasers an particle beams are well developed in offensive and defensive role then it may not be worth the tradeoff to carry around large numbers of heavy missiles.that mostly would be evaded or intercepted anyway.

Missiles really work well if they have comparable or better performance than warships. If missile have similar delta v and better acceleration because no sqishy humans inside it would be pointless to try to outmaneuver it. All would come down to point defense and various ECM stuff. This is the setting where launching large salvoes to saturate point defenses would be go to tactic. IIRC during Cold War Russian forces planned to use similar tactic by launching large anti ship missile salvoes against US carrier battle groups to overhelm defenses.

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2020-03-13 11:16pm

Yeah, going to agree with what's already been said, which is that while ideally one would launch enough missiles to ensure the destruction of the target in a single salvo, the likely limit is going to be that you can only fit so many launchers on your ship, and dumping them all out at once is probably not the most efficient (or safest, as others have pointed out) way to do it.

One thing I do wonder is if it would be possible to launch multiple waves of missiles at different velocities, so that they would all end up reaching the target more or less simultaneously?

Other reasons, dependent on the situation, might include wanting to minimize collateral damage (if for example you didn't want to completely wipe out an enemy ship or station, but just damage it enough to take intact, or just kill kill the escort and then capture the cargo ships it was escorting), or as noted above, if you needed to save some munitions for the next engagement.

Also, I'm just going to comment on this, since its a favorite subject of mine when it comes to space combat and its often misunderstood.
Has the zeitgeist of "there is no stealth in space" changed these few years? While we have increasing reports of stealthy satellites and secret constellations, these measures mainly relied on deception rather than purely low observables (they used them too, I guess). That would be news to me, and I would be happy to learn more. I was not aware that ECM/laser jamming (?) was considered highly viable in a space environment with large thrust signatures (contextual as always).
In a traditional "hard sci-fi" setting, where there are no things like cloaking devices, stealth in the sense of completely hiding something's presence is impossible. Contrary to how this is sometimes portrayed, however, deception is not. For example, one might deceive an opponent as to the nature and strength of their opponent by disguising armed vessels as unarmed cargo ships (the classic "Q ship" concept), albeit probably at some cost in combat effectiveness and you'd have to keep the drive from operating at full power to keep the ruse up. Given that, you might not know exactly what your opponent is capable of when launching your initial salvo, so the first salvo might be stopped by the enemy's defenses, or it might be just a probe to test what they're really capable of before launching your real attack, or even a feint to bait them in with a show of weakness.
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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Formless » 2020-03-14 03:02am

chimericoncogene wrote:Has the zeitgeist of "there is no stealth in space" changed these few years? While we have increasing reports of stealthy satellites and secret constellations, these measures mainly relied on deception rather than purely low observables (they used them too, I guess). That would be news to me, and I would be happy to learn more. I was not aware that ECM/laser jamming (?) was considered highly viable in a space environment with large thrust signatures (contextual as always).
I'm going to say that yes, it kind of has, given that even Atomic Rockets has reposted Matterbeam's arguments in favor, including the exact design he thinks would be optimal for a perfect stealth ship that can go for years without anyone detecting it. The basic gist of his argument is that almost every argument you come across assumes detection is binary. You're either hidden/invisible, or else everyone knows exactly where you are and have you in their crosshairs. But there are actually four levels of detection and getting from level one to level two is a much harder feat than most people realize. Its not enough to know that there is a ship out there or even its general vicinity, if you want to know where it is going, what it is doing, and who it even is, that takes work. The final step, getting a target lock, can never be guaranteed because the pilot doesn't want to die.

But even before him, Mike Wong was making similar arguments that the "no stealth in space" crowd basically knew just enough about astronomy and optics to make huge blunders from an engineer's perspective, let alone that of a military commander. You have to think of the sensor as a big 'ol telescope, and once you realize this you also realize that most warships won't be able to tow one of them around all the time-- nor would they want to because they would tend to be expensive and fragile equipment, not at all like the magic scrying orbs they seem to use on Star Trek. Warships tend to instead carry radar (because its a well developed and robust technology, albeit one we already know how to fool) and smaller cameras that spot targets at tens of thousands of kilometers away rather than millions. Its just more practical and affordable. And the strategic sensors will tend to be dedicated outposts that, ironically, need stealth themselves as their primary defense against attack. Assuming that the sky is filled with sensors just begs the question of where the damn things came from and why they haven't been shot down yet. Aggression is its own form of stealth. At millions of kilometers away, resolving an image into anything more than just a dot of light is extremely difficult, meaning that tactics like using flares as decoys and blinding sensors with explosions carefully set off at the same time as an engine burn should actually work to fool sensor platforms, despite what everyone before Mike was saying. Again, like in Matterbeam's arguments, Mike argues that it takes time and effort to turn the measly information a telescope actually gives you into useful military data, let alone data you can aim a weapon with. And time in war is a precious resource.

Common to both arguments is that those who see space as completely empty therefore any emission is proof of a spacecraft's presence is an idiot. And I know I am calling out some very technically knowledgeable people with that statement; but I think its still true. In fact space isn't empty at all, a sensor is always looking at a backdrop of asteroids, planets, dust and stars which all constitutes noise a ship can blend in with using the right methods or technologies. Plus, cameras can glitch, and at interplanetary distances even a single pixel could be mistaken for a ship's engines or radiators when there is no ship actually present. Therefore you cannot afford to act on every blip that the telescope notices; there are literally billions of them in any given slice of the sky. Thus stealth in space isn't about becoming invisible, its more like camouflage. In order to stay out of detection level one you need merely fool everyone into thinking you are either an inanimate rock, a background star, a glitchy pixel, or just not worth the time and scrutiny needed to prove otherwise.
The Romulan Republic wrote:One thing I do wonder is if it would be possible to launch multiple waves of missiles at different velocities, so that they would all end up reaching the target more or less simultaneously?
I mean, you could, but I don't see what the point would be in most cases. It just means the missiles have more time under point defense fire, especially if laser weapons are being employed. The easy to overlook advantage of a missile still in the tube is that its behind armor, and the advantage of just launching your missiles one by one at combat velocity is that you launched just as many missiles, but with minimal exposure to point defense. In order for a missile volley to overwhelm point defense by striking simultaneously you actually do need to launch them simultaneously and at the same speed, otherwise the laser can more easily shoot them down one by one. This way if you use enough missiles it might not have enough time to shoot down all of them period. As I've said before, there obviously is a time and place for the Itano Circus, its just not the go to tactic for all situations.

The Expanse gives a situation where staggering shots in such a manner that they are fired at different times, but arrive simultaneously, is actually necessary, but its a strategic situation involving strategic weapons. The Earth is trying to destroy a bunch of Martian nuclear platforms using strategic railguns. The railgun rounds have to hit all the platforms at once or else the Martians will launch, and even one nuke hitting the Earth is considered too many nukes. But the shots have to be staggered because we only have so many railguns able to take the shot, and a lot more missile platforms than that to shoot. Hence why it would be necessary in this case. And because they are railgun rounds, you don't care if they get shot so much-- especially given that lasers aren't used much on that show.
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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by chimericoncogene » 2020-03-14 08:09am

Yeah, good point. Although I, as a layman, never really thought Matterbeam's design was a credible general-purpose warship - might make a good spyship or something (which was the point, I guess, but sometimes Matterbeam seemed to overhype his ship).

In a Plausible Mid-Future setting with anything approaching eighteen-months-to-Neptune performance, it seems to me that a hydrogen steamer just won't cut it for military operations (it won't have the same strategic mobility as the rest of the fleet, even if it did have comparable weapons systems). As a specialist craft (spyship? retaliatory strategic missile carrier?), it may have a niche, but it seems like a very expensive capability to maintain (steamer rockets aren't going to be common, and engineers for them will have to be specially trained and everything). It's highly setting-dependent as usual.

Nuts! wrote a great Spacebattles post on the state-of-the-art (as he understood it) on stealth spysat tech - a lot of it is speculation, and the comment on "secret constellations already exist and are operated by the NRO" is from Russia, but if we have deception in space now, deception in a PMF setting with prevalent interplanetary travel (with or without the aid of low observables) seems virtually certain. I mean, the NRO reportedly fooled the open-source world with a balloon decoy in LEO for three years (radiation pressure gave it away, yeah) (but then again, satellites don't maneuver that much). With adequate creativity, the opportunities for deception seem endless. Open-source people simply don't track burns with sufficient diligence to determine whether, say a Centaur upper stage has a dummy balloon or a big satellite as its payload.

The corollary is that I can't really tell whether the deception worked on the Russians and Chinese, though.

https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads ... t-63996692

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Re: Space Missile Combat: Why salvo when you can launch everything?

Post by Q99 » 2020-03-27 03:03pm

It all depends on how your systems work and how big your launchers are and so on.

Take Crest of the Stars-
Image

This is a Patrol Ship. It fires it's missiles at high speed offensively- they're hard to intercept and it can't fire more than 4 at a time per direction for visibly obvious reasons. It is not physically set up to do more.

Image

This is a battleship. It unfolds like a flower into a + shape, and launches 160 missiles at a time.

It's also low in maneuverability and point defense due to the nature of the design (there exist ships designed purely to guard these). It's devastating in the line of battle but also limited in the roles it can fulfill due to being approximately 70% missile launcher.


A patrol ship set up to fire all it's missiles at a time would have less effective range and less odds of getting through point defense than another patrol ship in the first way, because with smaller number of missiles accelerated much faster, it's going to hit first and have a better job against dealing with a patrol ship's point defense guns.

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