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Kinetic impactors and other space weapons 
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Post Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Since it has been made clear that both of the major players view this as a war of survival/extermination, why not use relativistic bombardment.

Get a large rock, coat it in a very low reflection material, give it a basic guidance system and a long term propulsion drive to continually accelerate it so it gets to relativistic velocities.

Then jump into the star system neighboring the target, aim it at the target and turn on the drive then jump out. Then all you have to do is not lose for a decade and the enemy planets will be destroyed.

If you use one or two rocks for every major enemy population and manufacturing center you could destroy the vast majority of them. And it would be a lot cheaper in terms of energy and resources. This sort of attack would be nearly impossible to stop after the earliest stages, once it is going fast enough, no conventional attack could catch it, nothing could get to it in deep space, and once it arrives in the target system it would have enough mass and energy to plow through nearly any defense.


Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:50 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Fnord43 wrote:
Get a large rock, coat it in a very low reflection material, give it a basic guidance system and a long term propulsion drive to continually accelerate it so it gets to relativistic velocities.

Then jump into the star system neighboring the target, aim it at the target and turn on the drive then jump out. Then all you have to do is not lose for a decade and the enemy planets will be destroyed.

Assuming for a moment that you can reliably hit an orbiting planet with a relativistic projectile from ~10 light years away (which is not a given), there are two problems that come to mind.

The first is that, in this case, there are no major production or population centers adjacent to a system you can reach. Any such settlements were largely destroyed or evacuated a long time ago by more conventional attacks (or the threat thereof). The industrial heartlands of both sides are far from the front lines.

The second is that, even if there were such targets, you'd have to plan to not win the war for another decade. Any territorial advances would result in your relativistic impactor attacking your own system, so you will have to actively forbid your military forces from going on the offense, and resign your population to at least 10 more years of casualties and war privations. Such a plan would be very tough on morale that may already be near the breaking point after such a long war.

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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Isaac Arthur on YouTube talks a lot about relativistic missiles on his channel, and stealth even for a solid chunk of metal with no propulsion is not completely stealthy. The reason he gives, is that because space is still filled with trillions of hydrogen atoms, your kill missile traveling at 10% the speed of light is slamming into quadrillions of atoms a second, which gives of many kilowatts of radiation, which is easily detectable by anything that can pick up radio waves.

Here's a link if you're interested, though he does also poke many holes into other aspects of space warfare, which kinda puts a damper on our notion of cool battles in space. You just have to roll with whatever in universe rules that are in place, because once you try to go too scientific the whole concept kinda breaks down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvs_f5MwT04


Sat Apr 28, 2018 12:07 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Fnord43 wrote:
Get a large rock, coat it in a very low reflection material, give it a basic guidance system and a long term propulsion drive to continually accelerate it so it gets to relativistic velocities.

Then jump into the star system neighboring the target, aim it at the target and turn on the drive then jump out. Then all you have to do is not lose for a decade and the enemy planets will be destroyed.


Starship Troopers movie anyone - the bug-launched asteroid that destroyed Buenos Aires?

I second Arioch in that such "weapons" are a) pretty absurd to begin with, b) impractical due to the time it will take for something to happen and c) one would deny one self any usable territory gained by conventional means.

Guided asteroids as weapons could make sense for asymmetrical intra-system warfare at a low tech level (our current one or 10-20 years in the future) where one side could choose to launch asteroids already present in said system as terrorist attacks at enemy installations or planets which they are unable to attack directly.

Note that in the Outsiderverse all nations present (even the Terrans) have very powerful conventional weapons - thermonuclear, fusion and antimatter explosives, and every starship of frigate size and above has enough of them to if not completely glass a planet, than at least destroy every large installation. If the only goal of the enemy is to damage infrastructure and terrorize the general public, then even with loroi's farseeing ability in place it will still be quite easy for a single fast ship or small squadron of fast ships to penetrate deep into enemy territory and kamikaze into their target. You know - space is big and it would be quite easy to avoid enemy patrols and boarder guards or outrun them if your ship is designed for such a task.


Sun Apr 29, 2018 10:06 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
entity2636 wrote:
Starship Troopers movie anyone - the bug-launched asteroid that destroyed Buenos Aires?

I vaguely recall that this attack also happened in the book version, though I don't think Heinlein went into any detail about it (wisely). The movie version is quite specific, saying that it came all the way from Klendathu (essentially the enemy capital), and making it clear through the encounter with the Rodger Young that it was not moving at any kind of relativistic velocity, nor did it have any visible guidance. Which of course makes the whole thing absurd; it would have to have been launched thousands of years prior. But ignoring the time scales of slower-than-light travel is unfortunately a hallmark of movie and TV scifi (most notably Star Wars and Star Trek; in each milieu, the heroes' ship at some point travels from one system to another on sublight drives in a matter of days or weeks).

entity2636 wrote:
Guided asteroids as weapons could make sense for asymmetrical intra-system warfare at a low tech level (our current one or 10-20 years in the future) where one side could choose to launch asteroids already present in said system as terrorist attacks at enemy installations or planets which they are unable to attack directly.

A good literary example is from The Mote in God's Eye: one the first clues that the Moties were fratricidal maniacs was that the Lagrange points near their planet were absolutely picked clean of asteroids.

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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Kinetic impactors may be a choice in a universe where Einstein is still right: limited speed for matter.

When the army travels slower than such a kinetic impactor would, such weapons also make good counter-threads:
if your planet gets destroyed, your impactor, parked outside the Oort cloud, starts accelerating toward the target which attacked your homeworld.

Making any victory a phyrric voctory.
Kind of like our nuclear weapons were during the cold war.

But in a faster-than-light travel section?
They become difficult to handle effectively, when your fleet has simply more tactical abilities.

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Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:21 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
The Lost Fleet is a military science fiction series written by John G. Hemry Showing good examples of.
Space combat with low relativistic Speeds and the use of dumb kinetic bombs aka "Rocks".

In a sytem aiming and hitting something that does not Change Delta V is kind of easy.
You don´t Need relativistic speeds just along very dense, heat resistent needle...hard to spot, If you hit it congrats.
You just turned a slug in a bugshot.

But as Arioch said no Target there ^^.

But in case of a System Invasion with planetary Targets I would
First fire some "Rocks" at targets of opportunity, Stations ect. just to get my opposing force to react.
These "Rocks" don´t Need to be planet sluggers just enough bang to destroy roads, orbital, sattelites ect.
They can use slingshots to be less predictable and even to do delayed attacks if I´don´t intend to stay.

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Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:18 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
By the way there already was a discussion about kinetic weapons.

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Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:23 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Starship Troopers - either the scenarist was a moron, or humans throw that asteroid themselves in a false flag operation (conspiracy!).

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Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:26 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Krulle wrote:
When the army travels slower than such a kinetic impactor would, such weapons also make good counter-threads:
if your planet gets destroyed, your impactor, parked outside the Oort cloud, starts accelerating toward the target which attacked your homeworld.

Making any victory a phyrric voctory.
Kind of like our nuclear weapons were during the cold war.

Such a weapon surviving is dependent on it remaining secret. Secret weapons have no deterrence value. I think a civilization would be better served to spend its resources on weapons or systems that will help prevent it from being destroyed in the first place.

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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Well, nuclear weapons did a terrific job in that.
Just look at the Kim dynasty.
The weapon they have access too guarantees their survival.

There is no need to keep,it,secret itself, just keep the exact parking position a secret, and the actual speed it will travel.
Nobody will know when the impactor actually arrives.
And if accelerated enough, the radiative scattering it causes will not arrive much earlier than the impactor itself.


Anyway, for the outsider setting they are irrelevant.

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Tue May 01, 2018 12:30 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
This is a pretty old argument in science-fiction discussion land. I present to you an article was originally taken from the internet by Jervis Johnson (of Games Workshop fame) and published in White Dwarf 227 by Andy Chambers. The original author is Patrick Marstall.

Quote:
Rocks are NOT ‘free’, citizen.

Firstly, you must manoeuvre the Emperor’s naval vessel within the asteroid belt, almost assuredly sustaining damage to the Emperor’s ship’s paint from micrometeoroids, while expending the Emperor’s fuel.

Then the Tech Priests must inspect the rock in question to ascertain its worthiness to do the Emperor’s bidding. Should it pass muster, the Emperor’s Servitors must use the Emperor’s auto-scrapers and melta-cutters to prepare the potential ordinance for movement. Finally, the Tech Priests finished, the Emperor’s officers may begin manoeuvring the Emperor’s warship to abut the asteroid at the prepared face (expending yet more of the Emperor’s fuel), and then begin boosting the stone towards the offensive planet.

After a few days of expending a prodigious amount of the Emperor’s fuel to accelerate the asteroid into an orbit more fitting to the Emperor’s desires, the Emperor’s ship may then return to the planet via superluminous warp travel and await the arrival of the stone, still many weeks (or months) away.

After twiddling away the Emperor’s time and eating the Emperor’s food in the wasteful pursuit of making sure that the Emperor’s enemies do not launch a deflection mission, they may finally watch the ordinance impact the planet (assuming that the Emperor’s ship does not need to attempt any last-minute course correction upon the rock, using yet more of the Emperor’s fuel).

Given a typical (class Bravo-CVII) system, we have the following:

Two months, O&M, Titan class warship: 4.2 Million Imperials
Two months, rations, crew of same: 0.2 MI
Two months, Tech Priest pastor: 1.7 MI
Two months, Servitor parish: 0.3 MI
Paint, Titan class warship: 2.5 MI
Dihydrogen peroxide fuel: 0.9 MI

Total: 9.8 MI


Contrasted with the following:

5 warheads, magna-melta: 2.5 MI
One day, O&M, Titan class warship: 0.3 MI
One day, rations, crew of same: 0.0 MI
Dihydrogen peroxide fuel: 0.1 MI

Total: 2.9 MI

Given the same result with under one third of the cost, the Emperor will have saved a massive amount of His most sacred money and almost a full month of time, during which His warship may be bombarding an entirely different planet.

The Emperor, through this – His Office of Imperial Outlays – hereby orders you to attend one (1) week of therapeutic accountancy training/penance. Please report to Areicon IV, Imperial City, Administratum Building CXXI, Room 1456, where you are to sit in the BLUE chair.

For the Emperor,

Bursarius Tenathis,
Purser Level XI,
Imperial Office of Outlays.


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Tue May 01, 2018 1:18 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
OH I remember that one I have the issue still in my basemments archive.....^^° God dear, If I ever move again


Tue May 01, 2018 2:49 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
hi hi

I don't think Warhammer 40k counts as being even a little bit in the realm of hard science fiction. :lol:


Tue May 01, 2018 8:01 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Indeed it doesn't, but the example provided still works to illustrate the impracticality of using asteroids as projectiles :)


Tue May 01, 2018 10:08 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Diverting an asteroid is indeed an expensive and probably ineffective alternative at the techlevels involved. Railguns designed for orbital bombardment would destroy any target without negatively impacting a planet's environment. A weapon that fires a solid metal slug projectile with a diameter of a few meters at a speed of 100 kilometers per second would really mess up everything it hit.

Just play with this basic calculator a bit and input some plausible numbers for a proper bombardment railgun slug:

http://convertalot.com/asteroid_impact_calculator.html

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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
entity2636 wrote:
Indeed it doesn't, but the example provided still works to illustrate the impracticality of using asteroids as projectiles :)


This guy gets it.

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Tue May 01, 2018 11:18 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
hi hi

entity2636 wrote:
Indeed it doesn't, but the example provided still works to illustrate the impracticality of using asteroids as projectiles :)
It provides an example, but not a remotely realistic one.

Firstly, you send a small craft up to the asteroid, sustaining no more damage to the paint from micrometeoroids than they would under normal operations.

Then the asteroid, having been inspected by radar, lidar, and spectroscopic analysis well in advance as a suitable object, is seeded with a mass driver and a small drilling robot. The robot then proceeds to melt down parts of the asteroid to use as fuel for the mass driver, which propels the asteroid into a different orbit.

The offending planet, which apparently does not having a space navy capable of confronting you as you maneuver around in their own system, is consequently unable to mount an asteroid diverting mission in time.

The end.

Depending on the tech level, throwing rocks may be effective or ineffective, but it's not going to be particularly expensive.


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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
icekatze wrote:
Depending on the tech level, throwing rocks may be effective or ineffective, but it's not going to be particularly expensive.


By your statement, the expense of moving the asteroid in question is going to depend heavily on the robot, the driving engine, and your time-table.

Most asteroids don't have a lot of hydrogen and oxygen. Comets do, but kind of as a result, they tend to be pretty low mass; you'll have to hit a much higher % of C (eating up more of your comet) in order to do damage to your expected target. As such if you're not using hydrogen and oxygen as your easy fuel source (and that depends heavily on your tech level and the nature of the asteroid, but unless its chock-full of uranium and you're using nuclear power to toss those chunks of rock you're propelling it with, you'll need something that doesn't rely on light-element fusion), you'll probably want to import fuel. "Melting random bits of asteroid" doesn't work unless you've specifically found an asteroid that's mostly a reactive fuel source.

And keep in mind, this is a "lot" of power. Even in a vacuum it takes a significant amount of energy to distort the orbit of a kilometer-large hunk of stone, particularly if you're planning on hitting a (predictably) moving target at high speed. If you're relying on the contents of your asteroid as fuel, you're going to use up a lot of asteroid just pushing against the asteroid's inertia (and probably the momentum of its standard orbit).

I'm going to agree with the old 40k meme here. Rocks ain't free.


Tue May 01, 2018 1:13 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Rocks ain't free, time costs money and war time costs lives. One would be spending a considerable amount of time, materiel and effort picking out a suitable asteroid, installing the necessary propulsion and guidance systems on it and waiting for results. If the opposing faction doesn't have means to counter the asteroid impactor, or hinder you rolling around in their star system for days to weeks or more, it also begs the question as to why all this effort, unless one is simply being evil for evil's sake, throwing rocks at a planet that can't defend themselves against them. Then one could just as well simply fly over and drop some nukes from orbit.

On second thought, this gives me an idea for a bit of a dick move maneuver that could be pulled off even in Outsiderverse. You could take a small fast ship, a courier or scout corvette and have it carry a couple of capital ship size antimatter torpedoes on external mounts. You jump into an enemy system, accelerate on a course toward your target, release the torpedoes without firing their engines practically from the edge of the star system, then turn away and jump out. Space is big so it's highly unlikely that you'll be caught and the torps you released will travel on inertia towards their target without emitting an engine signature and could go completely unnoticed or being mistaken for space junk until too late.


Tue May 01, 2018 1:34 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Ordinary kinetic missiles (either AMM-style missiles or mass driver rounds) do plenty of damage to a planetary target, and don't suffer from the problems of trying to jockey asteroids around (especially while the enemy is right there looking at you), and are much cheaper than something like a torpedo (which would also be devastating to a ground target). Especially if the launching vehicle has a 1-2% lightspeed starting velocity (which is prefectly doable in Outsider terms) a kinetic missile will do nuclear-weapon scale damage to any ground target, while being very difficult to intercept or deflect. Assuming that you'd like to capture the planet someday (habitable worlds being a valuable commodity), using more precise weaponry is probably more desirable than the ecological catastrophe that an ELE-type asteroid would trigger. And even if total catastrophe is what you're after, a hundred or so AMM-D's would cause roughly the same size mess, but much more effectively. They wouldn't be as massive, but they'd have a much higher impact velocity.

KE=1/2mv^2 is a bitch.

entity2636 wrote:
You could take a small fast ship, a courier or scout corvette and have it carry a couple of capital ship size antimatter torpedoes on external mounts. You jump into an enemy system, accelerate on a course toward your target, release the torpedoes without firing their engines practically from the edge of the star system, then turn away and jump out. Space is big so it's highly unlikely that you'll be caught and the torps you released will travel on inertia towards their target without emitting an engine signature and could go completely unnoticed or being mistaken for space junk until too late.

Space is big, but the jump points are well-known and carefully watched in an inhabited system. Turning around from a jump requires, in most cases, a full-power burn of more than an hour. The odds that you could jump in and out of an inhabited, defended enemy system without being detected are essentially zero. But again, you don't have easy access to these systems in the first place.

Destroying planet surfaces at this tech level is easy. Getting access to inhabited enemy systems that are well behind the lines is the hard part.

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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
hi hi

Gorbash wrote:
...And keep in mind, this is a "lot" of power.
Everything you just pointed out applies to bombarding a planet with mass drivers too. This is a basic consideration of thermodynamics, energy in, energy out. I realize that this is has gotten away from the topic of Outsider, but the Warhammer 40k people need to check their math if they want to make general predictions about realistic costs/benefits.

Much of the point of using an asteroid as a weapon is to apply a low level of energy for a long period of time in advance, and sometimes taking advantage of an already high potential energy.

----
Getting back to Outsider, given that both sides are still trying to win the war, generational relativistic weapons don't seem like something they would try. Although, between the two of them it does seem like a more Umiak strategy than something the Loroi would do.

I could maybe see the Umiak launching some revenge weapons if they realized that they were certain to lose the conventional war. At which point, the Loroi would probably want to capture intel on the trajectories and guidance systems, and then launch some counter missiles. Instead of just destroying the surface. On the other hand, if the Umiak thought they might convince the hypothetically victorious Loroi to show them mercy, launching revenge weapons would be a bad move.


Tue May 01, 2018 3:17 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Someone is posting about relativistic bombardment and my spidey sense tingled.

I always liked the idea, in-universe, of combining a relativistic bombardment with hyperspace travel.

As stated in the comic resources, jumping through hyperspace is a bit like playing darts- when a ship enters hyperspace its flung on a ballistic course in an attempt to hit a narrow target within the gravity well, too shallow and you skip back off into hyperspace again and who knows where you'll end up, too deep and you get "libera tu tutame ex infernus". Not only that but you need to avoid landing in a star or even inside a planet.

What this is, more than anything, is a game of odds; what are the chances that you'll land where you want to land? The shorter the jump, the easier it is to calculate to a high degree of accuracy where you're landing, the longer the jump, the larger the margin of error and the greater the odds of something bad happening. This is why jumps are kept to a few light years at a time; its better to make lots of shorter, safer jumps.

This begs the question: How far could you jump if you didn't have to worry about the crew? What are considered "safe" odds for a hyperspace jump and how far could you jump if you were willing to accept a 1-in-1000 risk of a failed jump? 1-in-100? 1-in-10? Hell, depending on the easy of manufacture of hyperspace drives, how far could you go if you were willing to accept that 90% of your weapons would fail the jump?

Depending on the answer to that question you could potentially use unmanned hyperspace drones; for example you could pop a few dozen drones into a system far beyond enemy lines, have them monitor the system for a few hours before jumping back- even if jump points are known and observed, there's probably at least a few hours reaction time unless each point is watched by its own dedicated picket; something that would generally be unwise since it would be safer to keep a larger mass of warships at a central point further in-system to potentially guard multiple vectors. A few might doink off into hyper space or be intercepted, but if even one makes the jump back successfully you could have a powerful reconnaissance tool.

Even scarier, you could potentially plop a RKV into orbit on the outer edges of an enemy system deep behind their lines, have it light up a H-bar reaction drive. (Most expensive thing about it is the fuel.) Depending on the costs involved, you could potentially send hundred of semi-guided relativistic projectiles on a one-way trip into an enemy staging system to hit orbital docks and supply/repair stations, inhabited planets, etc. But y'know, that's just my inner strategic pragmatist/mad scientist talking.

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Thu May 03, 2018 6:44 pm
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
Arioch wrote:
Space is big, but the jump points are well-known and carefully watched in an inhabited system. Turning around from a jump requires, in most cases, a full-power burn of more than an hour. The odds that you could jump in and out of an inhabited, defended enemy system without being detected are essentially zero. But again, you don't have easy access to these systems in the first place.

Destroying planet surfaces at this tech level is easy. Getting access to inhabited enemy systems that are well behind the lines is the hard part.


The idea is not to jump in and out undetected, rather jump in release the unpowered ordnance on the appropriate course, *Hai, just passing through, bye!", and either going for another jump zone or doing a powered turn and jumping out. Of course the ship would be detected and interceptors would be launched, but it will also take them considerable time to catch the ship, and by that time the enemy ship may have jumped back out again.

The ordnance will travel on it's own inertia for days or weeks until it gets close to it's target where it will then start it's engines for a final approach course adjustments, release MIRVs and *boom* 8-)

@LegioCI - The problem is the cost and bulk of hyperdrives. Such drone ships will cost comparable to scout ships and be of similar size (~100 metres long) because hyperdrives are rather large and have substantial energy requirements. You'll save on life support systems, but an automated ship will be vulnerable to EW and unforeseen circumstances.

By the way, I like the quote in your signature :) Humans do make very uncomfortable enemies to fight as every one of them will find 101 ways of using anything as a weapon :lol:


Fri May 04, 2018 4:35 am
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Post Re: Kinetic impactors and other space weapons
LegioCI wrote:
I always liked the idea, in-universe, of combining a relativistic bombardment with hyperspace travel.

Velocity is an important component in the success of a hyperspace jump. As with varying jump position, varying jump velocity will affect the exit location in the destination system. Jumping with higher than optimal velocity will bring you out of hyperspace deeper into the system (this is exactly what the new Umiak "deep jump" group is doing in page 129). Too much velocity will push you into the bottom of the destination gravity well, and you will collide with the star. Jumping at a high fraction of lightspeed will result in a star collision pretty much 100% of the time, so relativistic attack and hyperspace travel don't go well together.

Using unmanned starships to try to jump farther than normal could work, but even if you double normal range, that still doesn't reach you any juicy targets. It's quite possible to bull-rush a border system to try to overwhelm the defenders and get to the next interior system; this has been done many times in the past, and so any major population center within 1 or 2 jumps of the front has already been hit or evacuated in the past. Major infrastructure or population centers tend to be at least 4 jumps from any uncontrolled system, and well defended.

Because of the power requirements of the jump field generator and inertial dampers, the smallest possible jump-capable "drone" is still a very substantial vessel (at the tech level of the Loroi or Umiak) in the 75 meter range. This is a fairly expensive piece of hardware to deploy in the thousands that you'd need to reliably reach difficult jump targets. But even for those few that make it, they are still subject to interception by defenders. They might catch the defenses off-guard by arriving at an unexpected location in the system (jump points that are considered impossible won't have nearby defenses), but they will still have to penetrate the local defenses of any planet or other infrastructure that they attack. As reconnaissance, each drone would have to survive two consecutive highly improbably jumps; if I remember my combinatorics correctly, the odds of surviving two 1-in-100 events is 1-in-10,000.

Reconnaissance in Outsider must generally be done in force; if the enemy sees you popping scouts in and out of a jump point, they will station defenses there (if there aren't any already) to attack them.

entity2636 wrote:
The idea is not to jump in and out undetected, rather jump in release the unpowered ordnance on the appropriate course, *Hai, just passing through, bye!", and either going for another jump zone or doing a powered turn and jumping out. Of course the ship would be detected and interceptors would be launched, but it will also take them considerable time to catch the ship, and by that time the enemy ship may have jumped back out again.

Any jump point that you expect the enemy might use will have some kind of defenses. Often there is an armed station nearby (as with Leido-Sala Post and Gora Relay in Leido Crossroads), but at the very least there will be a tracking station. Jump travel is not stealthy; the arrival of an object from hyperspace is announced with a bright flash of light that is visible from across the system. Any ship arriving from a known jump point will be observed, as will any weapon launches.

But again, any system that you can reasonably reach with a single jump does not have much in the way of planetary infrastructure for your drone to attack.

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