Data File Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013
About the Weapon Profiles
The profile tables below list weapon damage as a function of range measured in megameters (Mm), or thousands of kilometers. One "point" of damage is an abstracted value of destructive energy sufficient to destroy one ship component or a small target such as a missile. The "RoF" entry represents the rate of fire of the weapon, expressed as the number of times it can fire per minute. Other special features of the weapon are noted in the "Notes" column and described in the accompanying text. While such damage information is admittedly of limited use without an accompanying Ship Systems entry [which I will eventually add, time permitting], at least it's possible to compare weapons and get a sense of effective ranges. For information on the ship classes and which and how many weapons they carry, see the fleet lists for the Loroi, Umiak and Terrans.
The primary offensive weapons in Outsider are various forms of beam weapons. The maximum range at which you can normally expect to score a hit with a beam weapon on a maneuvering target is about 1 Light Second (approx. 300,000 km, or 300 Mm); this is roughly Earth-Moon distance (see image below). Any farther away than that, and the delay between the arrival of your targeting radar pulse and your beam reaching the target becomes such that the target may have changed vector. The Loroi heavy beam weapons such as the pulse cannon and superheavy blaster can cause damage out to this distance; Umiak heavy beam weapons can score a hit at this distance, but need to be closer to do significant damage.
The laser is a tight beam of coherent photons that can be projected over significant distances. It's the basic anti-ship beam weapon of those civilizations in their early starfaring stage (including Humanity) and is still used for specialty purposes such as point-defense and atmospheric operation by even the more advanced fleets. The two main drawbacks are that the beam loses intensity over distance (and light is hard to "corral" back into a tighter beam), and that lasers are not very effective against ablative or reflective armor specifically designed to protect against them. On the plus side, lasers of appropriate frequency can operate through atmosphere with limited loss of power, and photons are effective at penetrating electromagnetic defensive screens, making lasers screen-piercing weapons.
A leftover from the early days of the Loroi Empire, the laser was once a medium-range multipurpose weapon, but with technological advancements, the Loroi Laser Autocannon has become miniaturized and fast-firing, and is used for point defense in lieu of a small version of the blaster. The laser can strike targets at greater range than most other point-defense weapons, and has some ability to penetrate shields and atmosphere. Shipboard Laser Autocannon are usually mounted in a ball turret with three barrels that alternate fire for more or less continuous pulses. Smaller versions of the Autocannon are also used on many Loroi fighters.
Humanity is only just developing viable anti-ship particle beam weapons, so lasers are still the primary beam armament of most Terran warships.
Ground Point Defense Stations
Lasers will be reduced in power when firing through atmosphere, but they are still viable enough to be used in ground-based weapon mounts. The limited range of lasers (especially through atmosphere) mean that these weapons are mainly useful for point defense against munitions or small craft, but they can offer some threat to warships in comparatively close orbit. Unless the ground base is located on an airless moon or other small body, laser weaponry is really the only viable beam option. (See below for more on missile weaponry.)
Laser Beam Damage by Weapon Type and Distance
*SP = Screen Piercing: effectiveness of defensive screens is reduced by the indicated fraction against this weapon.
The particle beam (or "blaster") is a beam of charged or neutral particles that is better at penetrating armor than a laser. The challenge is keeping the beam focused over long distances; particles (especially charged) are likely to spread faster than the photons in a laser. Neutral particle beams were probably the first version of the blaster in service; these would have been relatively short-ranged. At higher tech levels, I presume ways are found to substantially extend blaster range; I imagine a sort of particle helix, where opposed "braids" of particles of opposite charge loop around each other, keeping the beam focused for extended distances. Assuming that this sort of configuration could extend effective ranges out to about half a light-second, the blaster would replace the laser as the standard anti-ship beam weapon. The main drawback of charged particle beams is that they are probably easily deflected by electromagnetic screens. Particle beams also have limited effectiveness when fired through atmosphere.
The Delrias and their Morat cousins both have extensive expertise in perfecting long-range particle beams, and the designs used by both the Loroi and Umiak are based on these examples. The Morat version (which the Umiak use on some of their ships) does more basic damage, but the Delrias version (modified and widely used by the Loroi) is better at penetrating armor.
Terran Mjolnir Cannon
The "Mjolnir" is a modular upgrade to the America-class heavy cruisers, which replaces the forward shuttle bay with a large single-barrel particle beam cannon. The TCA had been experimenting with particle beams prior to alien contact and planning long-term upgrade options; after contact in 2158 they put those plans into effect as rapidly as possible. By the time the Alien Contact Mission scouts left Esperanza in August of 2160, two cruisers (America and Afrika) had already completed the upgrade. The Mjolnir has improved damage and armor penetration capabilities compared with the heavy laser; the drawbacks are reduced range and the limited field of fire of the spinal mount. Because it is an experimental weapon and must draw on ship power systems that were not designed to accommodate it, the Mjolnir has a limited rate of fire and suffers from frequent downtime.
Particle Beam Damage by Weapon Type and Distance
*AP = Armor Piercing: effectiveness of armor is reduced by the indicated fraction against this weapon.
The plasma cannon (or plasma "focus") conducts a stream of fusion-temperature plasma to the target at high speed. Because the net charge of the plasma would very quickly cause the beam to lose cohesion, a "carrier wave" is required to restrict the plasma into a tight beam over distance. Generation of this wave requires direct manipulation of force, and so is at the limits of the technical capabilities of the major combatants -- only the Umiak and Historians have really mastered this technique. The advantages of the plasma focus are very high power and good armor penetration/ablation. The disadvantage is limited range, and like particle beams the plasma usually has a net charge and so will be significantly affected by defensive screens; however, plasma from the heaviest of these weapons can cause a splash effect that may overload screens even when successfully deflected. Plasma weapons are not effective at all firing from within or through atmosphere.
Umiak Plasma Focus
The standard SR version of the plasma focus armed Umiak vessels well before the start of the Great War. The remarkable sophistication of the weapon (which the Loroi have been unable to copy) leads Loroi intelligence to believe that the Umiak did not invent it themselves, but rather obtained the design from a third party, perhaps one of their unknown client states. Though devastating at close range, the SR focus has significant range limitations, and so several years into the war the Umiak introduced the MR version, which increased effective range at the expense of lower maximum damage.
Historian Plasma Array
The Historian version of the plasma focus uses a different focusing mechanism than the Umiak version, and has significantly longer range. It can also be fired in multiple different modes: a normal mode effective over long range, an overloaded mode for maximum damage at closer ranges, and in a pulsed mode for point-defense.
When the Historians gave the Loroi the plans for a dumbed-down version of their plasma focus, it was still too advanced for the Loroi to copy exactly; they could only get it to work in short bursts. The result was the Loroi pulse cannon, which sends multiple pulses of plasma down the carrier wave to the target; it doesn't do as much damage as the Umiak plasma focus, but does significant damage at much longer ranges. Currently the premier Loroi heavy weapon, the pulse cannon is effective both at overloading defensive screens and at damaging armor.
Plasma Beam Damage by Weapon Type and Distance
*AA = Armor Ablating: target armor receives additional damage on penetration. SS = Screen Splash: defensive screen generators receive additional damage if overloaded.
This weapon consists of two long rails and two sets of accumulators, most often housed in the forward prongs of a Loroi vessel. It works on a similar principle to the Pulse Cannon, using a carrier wave to conduct plasma to the target, except on a much larger scale, and the plasma being used is composed of exotic particles that can interact to generate a "quantum loom" effect that can disrupt matter in the vicinity of the target. In order to fire, the Wave-Loom must be charged by diverting main power over several minutes, in the same way (and often using the same accumulators) as charging the jump drive. The advantages of the weapon are long range and the secondary area-of-effect damage which easily penetrates armor. The disadvantages are the extreme cost, size, power requirements, maintenance requirements, slow charging time, limited accuracy (as the entire ship must be pointed at the target), and overheating that may result from repeated firings.
Vortex Assault System
VAS is version of the Wave-Loom Device installed aboard Tempest, the last of the venerable Vortex-class vessels, and the information below refers specifically to the operation of this version. More recent vessels equipped with newer versions (such as the Cry of the Wind) have fewer reliability and heat management issues.
Damage potential is dependent on how much power is accumulated in the weapon before firing. Each minute spent diverting full power to the accumulators is counted as one "charge;" Tempest's accumulators can hold a maximum of 8 charges, but the weapon can fire with as few as 1. Charges may be held in the accumulators without firing, but doing so with more than 6 charges may cause overloads or overheating over time. When fired, the Wave-Loom releases all stored charges. Multiple firings of the Wave Loom can play havoc with the energy transmission and cooling systems of the firing ship. Tempest can fire the weapon with 6 charges only twice before saturating her heat system (any single firing with more than 6 will do it in one shot); subsequent firings of more than 3 charges without time to cool the system risks damage to the ship. Possible failures include overload or damage to the Wave-Loom device itself, heat system overload (in which the main batteries can no longer be fired for a time), or even complete power system overload (in which main engine power is not available for a time).
Wave-Loom Damage by Type and Distance
*IA = Ignores Armor. SS = Screen Splash: defensive screen generators receive additional damage if overloaded.
Because of the speeds and distances in Outsider, missile weapons play a secondary role in combat to beams. Whether carrying a high-yield payload (such as antimatter) or relying on high velocity for kinetic kill, projectiles can do a terrific amount of damage, but the trouble is getting them across large distances in a timely manner to engage very fast-accelerating targets that have effective beam-weapon defenses. With an acceleration of 30g, it takes a missile more than 23 minutes from a standing start to cross the 1 light second of a beam weapon's effective range; that's a lot of time to be intercepted. The higher the acceleration of a missile, the more quickly it will burn its fuel. The larger you make a missile to give it more fuel, the more expensive and economically impractical it becomes to use in large numbers. The two main strategies are either to use them as short-range, high-acceleration point defense weapons, or as larger, more expensive longer range high-endurance anti-ship weapons which are referred to as "torpedoes."
The Loroi Anti-Missile Missile is short-range hyper-velocity missile used primarily to engage enemy torpedoes or fighters, but which can also be deployed against larger targets at very close range (usually by fighters). There are many variants, ranging from 4-6m in length, weighing 4-5 tons, capable of accelerations of 200-400g sustained for less than 60 seconds. Most versions are kinetic-kill weapons that require a collision with the target to do damage, and consist of two stages: the main body contains the engine and fuel, and the upper stage is a minimally-guided kinetic kill vehicle. In standoff mode, the AMM can generate enough velocity through its own acceleration to inflict significant kinetic damage to a target, but against a maneuvering target it typically has an effective range of less than 15,000km. As with any kinetic weapon, actual damage done depends on the terminal velocity with the target (which can be significantly altered due to velocity of either the launching vessel or the target), and such damage largely ignores defensive screens. The AMM can be deadly from longer ranges against non-maneuvering targets (such as asteroid bases), especially if given a velocity boost by the firing craft. The round can also be set to retain its boost stage for additional mass (and therefore increased damage) in such a situation. There is also a cheaper single-stage version (AMM-D) specifically designed for this kind of use, and it is often carried in large numbers by system assault forces for use against ground targets and orbital assets.
The standard Loroi ship-mounted launcher is a cylindrical turret that contains 36 rounds (typically with access to at least an equal number of reloads via internal magazine) in 3 cells, each of which is capable of launching 6 missiles per minute. Some defense-oriented vessels (such as the Rapier-class) use larger 20-cell box launchers. Loroi fighters typically carry the AMM-250 in 3-missile hardpoint modules, from which any or all of the missiles can be fired simultaneously. Fighters can theoretically launch AMM's from close enough range and with high enough starting velocity to do significant damage to larger vessels, but in the current war with the Umiak, the Loroi fighters have had survivability problems in proximity to large numbers of Umiak vessels, and so AMM's are most often used to engage torpedoes and occasionally gunboats. AMM's can also be deployed by blister torpedoes (see below).
The Umiak version of the AMM (the "Gimlet") is smaller and used exclusively for close-in point defense.
Missile Characterstics by Type
*Maximum damage assuming a terminal velocity based only on the weapon's own acceleration. IS = Ignores Defensive Screens.
Torpedoes are essentially small unmanned spacecraft with the same type of powerplants and drives used in starships, and so can have relatively high accelerations sustainable for longer periods, allowing for potentially very long range. Also, the powerplant of a torpedo doubles as its warhead (both fusion and Type-A/antimatter reactors can be induced to explode on demand), eliminating the need for a separate payload. The drawbacks are that torpedoes are relatively easy to destroy at range with beam weapons, and they are comparatively expensive, making it very costly to use them in sufficient numbers to saturate beam defenses. Also, because a torpedo's fuel is also its payload, its potential damage output is reduced the longer it has to maneuver. The major combatants field a wide variety of torpedoes ranging from 4 to 46 meters in length and with typical accelerations from 40-60g, depending on size and role. Torpedoes can be launched from bases, warships, fighters, or as submunitions from larger torpedoes. A torpedo will typically use its maneuvering thrusters to achieve safe separation from the firing vessel before lighting its main drive. A torpedo can cause kinetic damage if it can achieve a collision, but often this will not be possible against a maneuvering target, so it must make a ranged attack by detonating its remaining fuel (which, in the case of the major combatants, amounts to an antimatter explosion). An omnidirectional explosion has the potential to damage multiple targets, but with a relatively small blast radius. Alternately, the explosion can be used to direct a narrower jet of radiation at the target increasing range but limiting the effect to a single target. In either case, a hit from effective range can have catastrophic effects against almost any target.
Because torpedoes have such high damage potential but are relatively easy to intercept, they are often used as a defensive tactic, to draw enemy beam fire away from the launching vessel. The Loroi use modest numbers of short- or medium-range torpedoes in this manner to help survive close-range encounters with Umiak vessels. The Umiak use large numbers of longer-ranged torpedoes (often in conjunction with gunboats) to help screen their entire force while trying to close range with the Loroi; only the Umiak have the industrial might to be able to afford the expense of this tactic.
Blisters and Submunitions
One strategy for addressing the vulnerability of torpedoes is to package submunitions together in a larger torpedo that acts as a protective blister. Similar in some ways to delivery by a fighter, this allows for the possibility of launching numerous high-acceleration missiles close to the target, at the potential cost of having the whole package destroyed before it can deploy. Even if the blister takes a hit, there is a chance it may still be able to deploy some of its submunitions. Since unlike a fighter the blister is not reusable and is always expended along with the submunitions, this is an expensive way to deliver ordnance, but under the right circumstances can increase the chance of a successful hit. Both sides employ a variety of blister torpedoes.
The largest Loroi version, the DX Armored Blister, is larger than a shuttle, and can carry 6 MR or 12 SR torpedoes, 40 USR "Tolot" torpedoes, 40 Type-A warheads, or 60 AMM-250 rounds. Due to its high cost and space requirements, the DX is always in limited supply, but it is much coveted among Loroi captains.
Torpedo Characterstics by Type
*Fuel Endurance at maximum thrust. XM = Has multiple drive nozzles for additional maneuverability.
Also known as "rail guns," "coilguns," or "gauss weapons," a mass driver fires projectiles with minimal guidance that rely mostly on the launcher to give them velocity. Such a projectile can do significant kinetic (or warhead) damage if it hits, but since it will be ballistic during most of its flight, it has very limited capability to hit a maneuvering target at any but the closest of ranges. Mass drivers can be effective against ground targets or space-borne targets that have no ability to maneuver, but they are all but useless in the anti-ship role except against vessels with very poor acceleration and very short-ranged beam weapons (such as those still fielded by the more backward secondary civilizations, including Humanity). Still, being kinetic weapons, they can do great damage if a hit can be achieved. Damage will be greatly affected by the launching ship's velocity and the terminal velocity of the round with the target, and defensive screens will provide little protection. The damage values below represent any mass driver of the equivalent mass and velocity, and the effective interception range assumes a 300m target with 30g acceleration capability.
Mass Driver Damage by Type
*Maximum damage assuming a terminal velocity equal to muzzle velocity. IS = Ignores Defensive Screens.
A minimally-guided package containing a warhead, which is usually just a container for Type-A fuel (antimatter), usually intended for attacks against planetside targets or space-borne targets that are unable to maneuver. It can generate an explosion equivalent to a torpedo carrying the same amount of fuel, but depends on the launcher (ship, fighter, or blister) for velocity and so represents the cheapest possible method of delivering such a payload. The standard Loroi warhead is the size and weight of a USR torpedo, but has the yield of a medium-range torpedo and is much cheaper than either.
How much of a ship's power must be diverted to weapons?
Given the fantastic energies required to push these starships along at 30g, I think that the energy requirements of most conventional beam weapons are going to pale by comparison, and so I'm assuming that as long as a ship has main power, a proper warship can probably accelerate at the maximum capacity of its drives and still have energy to fire all of its available weapons. The rate of fire of most beam weapons is going to be limited mostly by heat management and mechanical issues, rather than available power, and will probably be once per minute or less for most heavy beam weapons.
I'm skeptical about the feasibility of accurately focusing a beam from turret aboard an accelerating, maneuvering ship against a target 300,000 km away. I would think you'd have to use a fixed spinal mount, and point the whole ship at the target.
Even today's mechanical telescope tracking mechanisms are more accurate than what would be required to successfully paint a target at the distances we're talking about. A large turret on a half-million ton starship seems like a pretty stable platform. But in any case, if that accuracy seems hard to achieve for a turret mounted weapon, I don't think pointing the whole half-million tons of starship to that same accuracy is going to be any easier.
With nukes today, you have to have a lot of tech to make them. But in space, just plain kinetics can cause a lot of damage. So even the most primitive space faring culture can launch a planet-killing attack. Of course, the more effective your engines, the easier that is to do.
Yes, destroying the surface of a planet is not very hard, even with our technology today. Kinetic weapons (such as the AMM) will be lethal when launched from high velocity, and various kinds of bombs with thermonuclear or antimatter warheads can easily cause widespread devastation, and either of these kinds of attacks are very difficult to defend against with ground defenses, but can be launched by even the smallest escort warship. However, inhabited planets are rarely on your front lines, and getting access to such planets past the front lines guarded by the enemy's starships is very hard. It's the battle trying to get past the enemy fleet that you need to worry about; once you win that and achieve space superiority in a system, the enemy planet is at your mercy.
What is the energy of one "damage point"?
It's abstracted to give myself some wiggle room, but it would be measured in gigajoules.