Space Combat

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Space Combat

Post by Hades on Sat Jul 20, 2013 9:08 pm

Introduction

Humanity found itself unprepared during the alien invasion. Battles had never been fought in space, and as such, all technological advances in that field had remained prototypes, or theories. But since 2116, much has changed. After first contact was made by the various colonies with alien races, the need to defend themselves became imperative. That is why, in the past thirty years, advances have been made in all fields of space combat.

The movies of the 1950s, however, completely failed to predict just how space combat would function in the 22nd century. Instead of looking to exotic technologies and fancy-sounding weapons, the races of the galaxy have looked into the fundamentals of physics.





Spaceship Sizes

Modern spaceships surprisingly don't come in that many sizes. Early on in the development of space warfare theory, it was discovered that medium-sized designs were very impractical due to trying to be the jack of all trades; one had to either go very large, or very small.

Anything between 0 and 30 meters is defined as a fighter. These are (usually) fast and maneuverable vessels that are piloted by one or two people, or are completely automated, and their military function is to make quick precision strikes against targets that are too fast or too well protected for conventional weapons to get through. They achieve this by picking their own attack vector, and are thus able to hit weak points while the larger ships focus on each other. The term 'fighter' generally refers to craft that are designed to counter enemy 'bombers', the fighter-sized craft that do the above. Slightly larger vessels known as 'Shuttles', 'Gunships' or 'Landers' are used to transport troops and equipment between ships or planets.

Although there is no air in space, and thus fighters do not need to have an aerodynamic shape, most fighters double as 'spaceplanes', craft that can travel both in space and in an atmosphere. For this reason, they are usually shaped like 21st century jet fighter craft, and include atmosphere-capable engines to be able to make attack runs beyond the reach of orbital bombardment weapons.

Cruisers and Battlecruisers range from 200 to 350 meters, and are an immediate step up from fighters. The obsolete 'frigate' was smaller, but in the end, cruisers were proven to be the most efficient in most, if not all scenarios, and so are not operated by anyone. That is because of the simple fact that engine power scales with size, so while fighters can get away with being very small and very agile thanks to how effective inertial dampening is on them, cruisers can travel just as fast as frigates (which isn't that fast) while having more firepower and armor. Cruisers are escort and patrol ships.

Battleships are gigantic behemoths that range from 500 to 800 meters, and are a testament to a nation's military-industrial complex. They are more often than not used for defense, due to their lack of speed, but can also lead battlegroups. Carriers are a special category of battleship that sacrifice their firepower for the ability to carry hordes of fighters. Dreadnoughts focus completely on the firepower aspect.

Although more than 90% of all vessels are civilian, the military designations for size are still used to classify them.





Spaceship Design

Unlike the fancy, often ludicrous designs of 20th century science fiction, ships in the 22nd century tend to focus on their function rather than their looks. Without any form of energy shielding to defend them, they focus on various forms of armor and weaponry, or on speed.

Their energy comes from a variety of sources. Smaller probes might use solar power, or radioisotope thermal generators, while larger vessels use fission reactors, fusion reactors, or the expensive antimatter reactor. The reactor is the most well protected part of any ship; any damage to it could bring about the ship's destruction.

Life support is crucial, and most ships have to carefully balance their oxygen reserves, their temperature and their pressure. Without these, the crew could very easily be killed.

Generally, ships tend to use designs that they can exploit in the three-dimensional arena of space. Shapes such as cubes and spheres sound well on paper, but allow for little tactical flexibility. The rectangle is the most common form of ship, along with the triangle. These shapes allow their captains to rotate them as the situation demands; they can present their flat, weaponized side to fire a barrage at the enemy, or their smaller profile broadside to take less fire.

Structural stress is also a concern. Jumping places considerable strain on a ship's internal structure, and so ships have to be able to withstand such strain. Extremely thin or exotic designs that focus on aesthetics often tend to fail miserably at that.





Weapons and Defenses

Fancy 'plasma beams' and 'proton reversal inductors' are dreams of 50s cheesy science fiction. In the 22nd century, combat relies on the simple law of conservation of momentum. Magnetic Acceleration Cannons remain the king when it comes to engagements, and are the conventional railgun and gauss gun.

From Close-In Weapons Systems, which are glorified miniguns that shoot down missiles, to flak cannons, which fire smaller caliber High Explosive/Shrapnel mix shells to devastate fighters and missiles, to the massive spinal batteries that are mounted aboard dreadnoughts, no single weapon has seen more use than the simple MAC. The simplicity of their design and the effectiveness of their function has made them the weapon of choice of sea-borne navies for a century, and space warships since their inception.

The limitations in these weapons come in various forms, such as their recoil, their ammunition, the energy required and their ability to damage a ship's internals. Conventional ferromagnetic shells are very simple and cheap to manufacture, but do little other than punching through a ship's armor and coming out through the other side. This is effective for smaller ships, but for larger ones, explosives have to be used.

Of course, these weapons have their counter. Electric Reactive armor is the defense of choice for MACs, allowing the projectile to be melted into goop and then splashed harmlessly against the hull, all by using a series of circuits that zap approaching projectiles the moment they make contact with the hull.

But what MACs lack in firepower, missiles make up for. Conventional missiles usually carry more explosives than railguns, since mass is of little to no concern, and are often enhanced with a small antimatter charge for maximum damage.

Nuclear missiles can destroy cruisers in one hit, but like conventional missiles, they can be shot down by fighters, flak defenses, point-defense lasers and CIWS cannons.
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