Trope-a-Day: Space is Cold

Space is Cold: Averted.  You need matter to have a temperature, and guess what space doesn’t have?

You’ll freeze to death eventually, sure, thanks to the slow process of radiating your heat away – in the absence of any form of conduction or convection – into that giant sky heatsink that surrounds you – unless there’s a star nearby, in which case you’ll roast to death first.

But on the whole, you are much more concerned with how to get rid of excess heat in space than you are with how to hang on to the heat you have.  Starships carry a lot of machinery – radiative striping, liquid-droplet radiators, and in extreme cases, neutrino heat pumps – to get rid of heat, and a total failure of these systems will pretty much slowly bake you from the reactor and life support system’s heat budget.  (Naturally, they’re pretty redundant.)  This is also why you can’t have perfect stealth in space, and even very imperfect stealth – using heat sinks to capture most of this – runs out fairly quickly as those sinks run out of capacity.

Building the Imperial Navy: Force Management

Building-a-NavyAnd now here we are at the last (sixth) part of Building the Imperial Navy (one; two; three; four; five), Force Management. In which we discuss matters relating to keeping the fleet in top fighting form, to wit: Personnel Policies, Logistics Concept, Level of Readiness (Afloat and Ashore), and Acquisition Strategy.

Personnel Policies

A good chunk of this is actually something I touched upon last time in discussing manning strategy; namely, how much personnel turnover does the IN plan for? The answer, in this case, is not much: being an effective naval officer or an effective naval spacehand depends on extensive training and experience both, and the Imperial Navy has long since concluded that offering the generous remuneration, excellent working conditions (compared to the conditions some navies consider acceptable, the IN operates a bunch of floating five-star hotels), high-quality training, etc., etc., it does is worth every taltis in keeping retention up, and that saving money there at the cost of losing its highly cross-trained, highly experienced “lifers” as the solid core of its personnel roster would be the falsest of false economies.

The other main aspect is the “personnel tempo” (PERSTEMPO) of the force: i.e., how often are people deployed and away from their families, which has a high impact on personnel retention. PERSTEMPO isn’t quite so great as it might be: as mentioned in previous parts, the Imperial Navy prefers a forward-leaning strategy and likes to keep as much of the fleet out in the black, in motion, as it can reasonably manage, which implies an uncomfortably high PERSTEMPO.

Under peacetime and “standard wartime” circumstances, as per this post, the Imperial Navy ideally prefers a 2-for-1 rotation, where half the fleet (not counting reserves) is deployed at any given time, while the other half is in dock refitting, training, etc. The logical implication of that for spaceborne personnel is that they operate under a similar PERSTEMPO: three-to-six months deployed, three-to-six months on base, and repeat.

To ameliorate this as much as possible, while the IN is not willing to countenance downright crazy policies such as letting people take their civilian families aboard starships intended to get into firefights, it does subsidize all the costs and transportation and other inconvenience necessary to accommodate naval personnel’s families aboard the Supremacy-class mobile naval bases, at fleet stations, and so forth – places not significantly less safe than any ecumenical colony – in order to keep the time-apart down to just that implied by the PERSTEMPO, as well as providing free communications over fleet channels and being happy to arrange for couples who are both in the Navy to serve on the same starship, where operational requirements permit.

Logistics Concept

The Imperial Navy’s thinking on both this and the following section (Level of Readiness) are dominated by one simple thing: space is big, really quite inconveniently so, and when things go wrong, they can go wrong awfully fast.

(And while you may be able to tolerate the local member of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms gobbling up a couple of dozen systems that you can take back from them later – assuming they’re not rampaging xenocidal bigots – the same does not apply if you’re facing a runaway perversion or a heggie swarm. The Second Lord of the Admiralty does not want to be in the position of explaining how he let an entire constellation get eaten while waiting around for the below-establishment personnel/reserve dreadnoughts/missile colliers to turn up.)

As such, in logistics, the rules are that all task forces shall be fully stocked upon deployment (typically, as mentioned, to support up to a year’s cruising), and all OPAREAs shall be within ready reach of resupply.) We touched on this last time, too, under Organic Support Functions & Shore Infrastructure, but to elaborate somewhat –

It’s certainly true that the main resupply stocks and manufacturing capabilities are located at Prime Base – as are those stocks of “special” weapons that require equally special care – but the IN forward-deploys lots of resupply, using the fleet train, to those fleet stations throughout each Field Fleet’s operational area, and in the case of the Supremacy-class mobile bases and long-established fleet stations, builds local manufacturing capabilities, too. (Some limited manufacturing capabilities are even deployed aboard starships: every starship has some kind of machine shop for making certain types of spare parts, for example, and large types that can afford the volume will carry fuel skimmers and capacity to fabricate k-slugs from asteroid materials, etc.)

(For the Home Fleet’s use, “fleet stations” are also established at several worlds within the metropolitan Empire as a backup in the unlikely event of an attack on Palaxias itself.)

Meanwhile, the Imperial Navy’s logistics doctrine is built around underway replenishment. While starships can and often do resupply at fleet stations, that’s not the purpose of the fleet stations. The fleet train is designed to take necessary supplies to forward-deployed starships as necessary rather than requiring them to return to base: the fleet stations exist to shorten the journey of the fleet train in so doing, letting them get supplies to the fleet from themselves forward-deployed nodal bases rather than having to haul them all the way out from the Core on demand – keeping the flexibility of UNREP without lengthening time-to-readiness.

Level of Readiness (Afloat and Ashore)

As with logistics concept, the Imperial Navy’s level of readiness is dominated by the notions of space being big and trouble setting in very quickly. Of course, much as most navies would like to maintain full wartime readiness, that’s also very expensive… but then, as we mentioned back in part one, the IN has a relatively comfortable fiscal environment, which is also what lets it maintain its oft-mentioned forward-leaning posture.

So, y’know, while it’s not exactly all keyed up and operating at Strategic Condition One all the time, the IN is very ready in logistic terms. A ship that isn’t fully stocked with all the necessities, live ammunition – well, insofar as inert k-slugs are “live” – included, or that doesn’t have the requisite crew establishment, does not go forth into the black. Training exercises, war games, and so forth, run more or less continuously to keep the fleet occupied while it’s leaning forward. Supply depots at the fleet stations are kept fully stocked, because if it turns out you need them, odds are that you won’t have time to stock them at that point.

In short, the IN believes very firmly in the notion that it’s the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns that get you, and behaves accordingly.

(Navies whose admirals appreciate the sense of this but whose political masters won’t spend the money and/or whose political masters’ economies can’t support spending the money grind their teeth in envy. But, y’know, if you don’t have a Navy that can fight as soon as you need it to, you don’t have a Navy at all. You have an ornament.)

Acquisition Strategy

In which we address the question of how the Navy purchases new starships, given that they’re significant capital investments with a lengthy design and construction cycle…

This, again, is a situation in which I can cite part one and said relatively comfortable fiscal environment – being basically post-material-scarcity with a huge industrial and autoindustrial base is great for acquisitions, and as I said there, most of its payout goes to things like personnel and outsourced services, not capital for capital ships, and so forth. The limiting factor, in this case, is not so much of a limiting factor especially since, as said back then, there’s a lot of upside in the budget.

The actual IN procurement cycle, for starships, is essentially continuous FIFO replacement (with slow expansion as the stargate plexus, and thus the space it needs to patrol, also expands), at a pace set to loosely keep up with the rate of relevant technical innovation that can’t be absorbed by refits. Unless there’s some specific necessity, the IN runs through its entire collection of types and classes replacing all its oldest vessels one after another with the latest model: although “replaced” in this case may well mean and probably does that the older ship is any of:

  • rebuilt into the latest model, if the basic spaceframe is still sound, in a process that’s sufficiently more thorough than a refit that the new model is basically a whole new class, maybe not even of the same type; or
  • mothballed at Palaxias or one of the Empire’s other internal fleet stations as part of the Reserve Fleet; or
  • sold into civilian service.

Rather than ending up at a wreckyard. This is a slow process, considering what refits can absorb by way of innovation – the IN has plenty of well-maintained centuries-old starships in service – but is maintained at a certain minimum level to ensure that there’s a core number of cageworks and yard dogs with experience in building IN-style ships that can serve as a cadre should the IN need to dip into its fiscal reserves for a sudden, unexpected fleet expansion.

…and now we’re done.

Trope-a-Day: Space Elevator

Space Elevator: A standard fixture on most moderately developed planets – while shuttles and lighters can make easy ground-orbit transfers in any direction, and ground-based mass drivers can shift arbitrary amounts of mass upwards and downwards quickly, once a world’s passenger and freight volumes increase to the point that it’s taking commuter traffic, passenger liners and grapeship megahaulers, you need something that can handle multiple continuous streams of traffic in both directions.  Hence, the space elevator.

(Heavily developed worlds often have more than one.  Seranth (Imperial Core), the busiest tradeworld in the Empire, has six, with a starport-heavy ring-city linking them at the geostationary end.)

Such elevators often become vertical cities, with residents living around and among the cables at various levels, and with an even larger city at their base; as the primary interface between planet and space, there are usually a lot of people wanting to live and do business right there.

Building the Imperial Navy: Force Size

Building-a-NavyIt’s part five of Building the Imperial Navy, it is. (Parts: one; two; three; four.)

In this part, Force Size, we talk about the people and infrastructure behind the fleet: manning strategy, organic support functions, and shore infrastructure.

So let’s begin:

Manning Strategy

In which we answer questions like these:

How many entities do you need for spacecraft crews? How do you get them? Are they drafted or are they volunteers? How qualified is the population base you are drawing upon? Are the spacecraft of the fleet fully crewed during peacetime or do you just keep a cadre and frantically recruit and train when war breaks out? Do you maintain a military reserve force, if so how and when can they be activated? What is the ratio of officers to enlisted people, and do you even break it down that way? Does the ratio change between peace and war? Do you use large amounts of robots and automation with few crew, or lots of crew for flexibility?

Well, to start with the obvious thing even though it’s last in the question list, the Imperial Navy uses lots and lots and lots of automation. That’s been the Imperial way of doing things since it was an urgent necessity of population demographics and when the automation consisted of clockwork automata powered by wind, water, and muscle, it stayed true when it had changed to mean steam-powered clanks with Stannic-cogitator brains, and it’s still true now that it means ecologies of ubiquitous processors, nanites, and optronic robots.

As such, Imperial naval vessels usually have significantly smaller crews than most of their counterparts in more… biochauvinist… polities. Or, to be slightly less smug about it, polities whose robotics is less sophisticated and as such less able to handle the complexities of crisis decision hierarchies and damage-control triage – although, in fairness, there is also a significant element of polities whose damage-control crews develop a stick up the cloaca at the prospect of their ship tellin’ em what to fix and in what order.

As for the personnel it does have, the Imperial Navy, as is the case for the rest of the Imperial Military Service, is an all-volunteer service. (It couldn’t be anything else even if it wanted to be: the people who wrote the Imperial Charter meant every word, no backsies or finger-crossing, when they wrote that “There shall be neither chattel slavery nor any other form of involuntary servitude in the Empire” clause, and a draft would definitely count. All that trying to institute one would do is give everyone a revolution to deal with as well as whatever other war might be going on at the time.)

Fortunately, the people in Imperial governance can generally be counted upon to adhere, philosophically speaking, to the “Any polity that can’t get its people to defend it voluntarily when the shit hits the fan deserves to end up covered in the aforesaid shit” position.

The majority of these personnel are professional, long-service officers and men who may not have chosen to make the IN a life-long career (given the very long if not indefinite lifetimes available), but who may well be spending as much time as tradition permits under the Six-Century Rule. The standard enlistment term is twelve years, Imperial calendar, with the option to extend “for the duration of hostilities” in the event of a major war breaking out. (There is a legal definition of exactly how major it has to be to enable this clause, but it’s never actually been tested.) A similar option permits the IN to recall former serving personnel who have agreed to enter the Reserve in the event of war: this, also, has not been tested except in “voluntary recall” mode.

Fortunately for the IN, it has a very technically competent population to recruit from, complete with strong cultural predispositions to maintain the generally high level of education, and with three-fifths of the population being spacers by domicile and culture, an equally high level of space-awareness. Unfortunately for the IN, these same conditions mean that the IN has to recruit the same pool of talented individuals in a very competitive market that everyone else is, and thus has to pay generous market-plus salaries; as mentioned back in Strategic Assumptions, personnel costs are one of the big three items on the IN balance sheet. It also compensates somewhat for this by the very high quality of the training offered to its personnel: it is understood to the point of cliche that a retired master chief boatswain’s mate, for example, can write his own ticket at any starport or space facility in the Empire or much of the rest of the Worlds, for almost any salary he cares to ask for.

As a consequence of this basis for its personnel, the distinctions between officers and enlisted personnel are primarily the distinctions between policy and execution; the ratio is slanted officer-heavy compared to many fleets, due to the greater automation of IN starships. Unlike many polities’ services, there is no particular social distinction between officers and enlisted personnel (everyone is a gentlesoph!); starships in the IN do not even have separate mess-decks by grade.

As should be expected from the IN policy of keeping the fleet forward-leaning and in continuous motion, peacetime manning levels are effectively the same as wartime manning levels; the Reserves are only activated, and the pace of recruitment increased, when an exceptional situation calls for it.

Organic Support Functions & Shore Infrastructure

While not entirely located within the IN itself administratively, the Imperial Navy provides for as much organic support as possible. To a large extent, this is necessitated by the limitations of secure interstellar communication and light-lag, as well as the problem of providing security for nodal bases in “hot” areas.

As such, the shore establishment is concentrated at Prime Base, at the six Supremacy-class mobile fleet bases, and at the fleet stations located at convenient points in the outer Worlds. The former are enormous concentrations of fabrication, maintenance, fueling, arming, and resupply capability, requiring very little in the way of outside support: the latter are lesser concentrations which act as nodes in the overall supply chain. Naval research, development, and prototyping is concentrated almost entirely at Prime Base, and at certain specialized facilities elsewhere.

To a certain extent, organic support is concentrated within ‘line’ starships themselves: theater and battlespace command is conducted from command-vessel superdreadnoughts, for example, while any capital ship is equipped to provide facilities for flag command. So far as supplies are concerned, fleet vessels are designed to be nominally stocked for up to a year’s peacetime cruising (allowing for on-board recycling and fabrication capacity) before requiring replenishment, although typical deployment lengths are only one-quarter to one-half of that.

In addition, though, the Imperial Navy assumes that its starships may need to operate at any time distant from the nearest available fleet station, and under circumstances which make it inconvenient at best to withdraw for resupply; as such, it coordinates with the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics to maintain an extensive fleet train including oilers, resupply colliers, hospital ships, personnel transports, and mobile maintenance yards, which are built to military standards  regarding drives and defenses, permitting them to deploy behind the fleet and resupply it both in situ and under way. The IN also provides CC/DD/FF escort squadrons for the fleet train and its forward-deployed logistics nodes.

(In addition to the dedicated fleet train, the Stratarchy has arrangements to charter civilian vessels for equivalent services in rear areas, where defensive capacity and the ability to keep station with naval units is not a factor.)

As a final note in this area, even training is organic: while both initial and follow-up training is provided to IN personnel at the Imperial War College (a shore establishment), all the Navy’s schools include ongoing training aboard supervised by the Operational Training Command. One learns best by doing, so they arrange that one should do.

Darkness Within (7): Headaches

MET 186-14-2

I have now completed a dead-reckoning navigational fix using the surviving server rack and data stored in the logs. The good news is that the kinetic impacts do not appear to have significantly altered Gutpunch‘s trajectory.

The bad news is that while the shit-pile’s no deeper than I’ve been assuming, it’s also no shallower.

Gutpunch was on a brachistochrone course for the Kerjejic stargate. Kerjejic’s an untenanted system but a major gate intersection, which made it the perfect place for the task force to meet back up after sweeping the Loop. Trouble with a brachy is that making your zero-zero counts on maintaining continuous deceleration throughout the second half of the course, so the moment your ship gets broken, you’re off on a long ride to nowhere. One of those ways in which space travel became less safe when better drives were invented, the irony of which is rather less appreciated when you’re experiencing it personally.

On my present orbit, I’m heading off into the Shards without intercepting anything further in this system. If these calculations are correct, I should reach another star system – IGS 88-99172-B, given some dubious assumptions about the emptiness of the deep black – in roughly 875,000 years.

I’d like to be rescued before then. Well, I would be rescued before then, but by the time the squadron notes that we’re overdue, comes looking, runs the search pattern, and so forth, they’ll be rescuing my backup out of my space-chilled skull. That seems rather unsatisfying, even if no unofficial salvors find us first. Narijic System isn’t what you might call the good part of town.

That defines the next problem, then:

I have four and a half days to build a candle, sufficient to move myself, the substrate, and preferably the FDR, that can produce enough acceleration, and have enough delta-v, to reproduce the second half of the brachy plus correction (although at least for lesser mass) – close enough that I can survive it without a vector-control core. The closer I get to the Kerjejic gate, the quicker I’ll be picked up once they start coming; and if I’m under thrust, I’ll be easy to spot.

Time to check out the remains of the hangar deck.

…and then there’s another impediment. Which I will not call a problem because there’s very little I can do about it that’s not already being done.

The impact evidently shook something loose in my own hardware that my medichines can’t find, or at least can’t fix, because drugs or no drugs, this headache is not going away. And now there are little light-haloes around characters I’m reading, and other irritating visual glitches. Which might mean that I’ve got a slow leak bleeding into my brain, except the ‘chines would have fixed that by now, but in any case, something is wrong upstairs that a good scanner and a healing vat could probably fix overnight, if I had either a good scanner or a healing vat.

As it is, there’s not much to do but hope that I don’t stroke out or go insane before I get the candle built, and that whatever it is doesn’t react too badly to being put under multiple gravities of thrust.

On I go.

Trope-a-Day: Space Cold War

Space Cold War: Oh, lots of them, simultaneously.  The Empire vs. the Voniensa Republic over AI rights, proper contact protocol, economics, and No Transhumanism Allowed.  The Silicate Tree versus AI-slaver civilizations, with contributions from the Photonic Tree, Empire, and others.  Random bits of the Rim Free Zone versus whichever states have annoyed it this week. The Leviathan Consciousness versus everyone who doesn’t want to be non-consensually hegemonized and optimized.  And so on and so forth, with many more smaller ones (about which also see Enforced Cold War).

Got to pass the time somehow, I suppose.

Trope-a-Day: Space Clothes

Space Clothes: Averted; even in space, people just wear regular clothes.  (Sure, they have lots of pockets, but that’s not specific to spacer culture.)  The only difference is that the pure-skirt option is eliminated for both sexes (because microgravity), and the cloaks have to come with MEMS and occasional microfan thrusters to let them manage themselves as people move.

And spandex is not used for regular, day-to-day clothing anywhere.  Even not in space.

Building the Imperial Navy: Fleet Design

Building-a-Navy(First, a somewhat apologetic editorial note: I know there’s been a lot of worldbuilding and not much fiction here, relatively speaking, recently, and this will probably be the case for a little time to come. Sigh. Sorry. Things are a little difficult right here and now at Chez Moi, and that makes it hard for me to get into the headspace necessary for writing the sorts of things I write. The worldbuilding, on the other hand, that I can do, so that’s what I’m putting out there right now.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as normal service is resumed.)

And so to the fourth part of our six-part series on Building the Imperial Navy (one; two; three), in which we talk about the starships that compose the IN’s fleets, and their general disposition to fulfil the fleet’s missions. This section comes in four parts:

Fleet Capabilities

Well, honestly, on an ship-type-and-class level, we’ve actually already covered most of this in the article Ships of the Fleet, so the first thing I’m going to do is suggest that you go there, and read that, which should give you a good idea of what each type is for in isolation.

What it doesn’t really talk about is how these combine to perform the various functions the IN needs in order to perform its missions, so that’s what we’ll talk about here. The Imperial Navy has three-four more-or-less standard ORBATs depending on the operation type it’s engaging in. Of course, as has been said of the US military a time or two, having read the book is not all that much use when the Imperial Military Service so rarely follows their own book – but it’s still useful to know the standard forms so you can tell what they’re deviating from.

All of these are generally built around a six-ship squadron.

The first is the “plane of battle”, the ORBAT adopted for major fleet actions, with capital ships in play going up against their own kind. A single task group for that looks like this:

  • A squadron (six ships) of capitals (battleships, dreadnoughts, or superdreadnoughts), two of which in any case may be specialized SDs; accompanied by
  • Two squadrons (twelve ships) of heavy screening elements (CCs for BBs and DNs, BCs for SDs);
  • Four squadrons (24 ships) of light screening elements (DDs and FFs).

Alternate versions of this may include carriers instead of traditional capitals, in which case an additional squadron of point-defense cruisers are included in the task group out front to protect the more vulnerable carriers. Maulers are attached organically as required, usually with their own squadron of pd cruisers to protect the glass cannon.

Each squadron rates a Commodore (O-8) at the squadron command level, who may or may not also hold down the captain’s slot in the squadron’s senior vessel; each task group has a Real Admiral (O-9) for group command, who definitely doesn’t.

These task groups are designed with the notion that they’re modular; you plug as many as you need to match the opposing force together to form your actual task force. Typical off-the-shelf mixes include the doublet (two matching groups, or a capital and a carrier group together; commanded by a Vice Admiral/O-10) and the triptych (usually involving a single DN group with two BB groups as flankers/screens or a single SD group with two DN groups; commanded by a full Admiral/O-11); anything bigger rates a High Admiral/O-12 or [Fleet|Grand] Admiral/O-13, and may have its own internal hierarchy for flexibility including further admirals of less exalted seniority.

The second and third are both patrol ORBATs, one for cruisers and one for destroyers. Nominally, they’re both fairly simple – the cruiser version is functionally a squadron of BCs with a pair of CC squadrons for screen, while the destroyer version is a squadron of DDs with a pair of FF squadrons for screen. (In practice, given that cruisers and destroyers, cruisers especially, are the most flexible and heavily used types in the IN, it’s not uncommon for these task groups to end up all the same type, or with the ratios reversed, or otherwise mixed up due to whatever-was-available-at-the-time syndrome.)

While it varies quite a bit for ad-hoc missions, the nominal ORBAT for long-range patrols is one BC/CC task group, as above, with a pair of DD/FF task groups attached. The former travels the main route of the patrol, while the latter take divergent routes to either side around it and crossing its path (making rendezvous regularly, of course), looking for trouble that needs shootin’. In practice – well, depending on what they find or need to look into, patrol commanders have been known to slice their forces down as finely as two-ship task elements to meet current needs.

The final ORBAT is that intended for planetary assaults, which defines additional task groups for orbital fire support (assault cruisers and screen), habitat assault (troop transports and screen), ground assault (assault carriers, dropships and, yes, screen), space-traffic interdiction (interdictor cruisers and fast DDs), and so forth, which are organically inserted into task forces containing the requisite numbers of the above task group types also to form the assault task forces.

There are also a number of peculiarly specialized starship classes operated by the IN, such as the Skyshine-class cautery; the Legends-class fleet carrier (i.e., a relativistic transport framework to move a task force between stars without using stargates); the Supremacy-class mobile fleet base (of which more below); the Winter-class relativistic kill vehicle and its opposing anti-RKV superdreadnoughts, and so forth, which don’t fit neatly into this taxonomy of types and groupings. In practice, many of them operate alone, attached to a task force, or with an organic support squadron or two of CC/BCs.

Fleet Size & Mix

As for size and mix…

(And while I have some notes on hard numbers at various points in history, please forgive me for not crawling through those strictly numeric details here to avoid complications as to the whens and the wherefores… and also, honestly, to leave myself some breathing room.)

The IN is, not to put too fine a point on it, very big. In keeping with the “three idiots or one Armageddon” policy mentioned back hereeach directional fleet wants to be able to keep at least three task forces configured as planes of battle (appropriate to the size of their anticipated local opponents). They’d like double that if they could get it, because you can never be too prepared, but it’s very specific policy not to let it fall below that point. Mix-wise, the fleets are relatively cruiser-heavy; both the strategic goals the fleet has to produce and its concept of operations rely very much on its nimble middleweights rather than its heavy hitters, as I think we’ve established, so you can safely triple their strength-in-plane in terms of cruiser/destroyer squadrons.

Field Fleets Spinward (which has an extra three task forces, with extra reinforcement in times of tension, spread along the Borderline) and Nadir (which has an extra three task forces parked outside the Leviathan Consciousness Containment Zone as its contribution to the Containment Treaty) are heavier than that in capitals, although only Spinward also makes up the extra numbers in lighter types.

(If this starts sounding like a vast and overpowering mass to you, do remember that each directional fleet has to patrol or otherwise keep an eye on something like 1,600 star systems, and a star system, not to put too fine a point on it, ain’t exactly small.)

The Capital Fleet attempts, approximately, to maintain the same strength as all six of the directional fleets (if you don’t count the special additions to Spinward and Nadir) simultaneously, half of which is active and the other half of which should be considered the “spinning reserve”. While the Capital Fleet is divided into a number of special-purpose flotillas, most of this strength is packed into “Heavy Six”, the Sixth Capital Flotilla, whose function is to be the heaviest hammer in the arsenal. The intent of that design policy is that if they have to bring it out as a whole unit, rather than merely drawing the odd special task force from it, the outcome cannot possibly be in doubt.

Fleet Laydown

In which we answer various questions such as: Where are the parts of the fleet located? How many bases are there? How many ships are located at the bases? What mix of ship types are located at the bases?

Well, the main base of the Imperial Navy as a whole is Prime Base, Palaxias. To be clear about that, the IN’s prime base isn’t in the Palaxias (Imperial Core); it is the Palaxias (Imperial Core) star system. The entire system has been turned over to the IN’s use, complete with thousand of docks, giant complexes of cageworks, entire gas-giant moons given over to shore leave, planets with metallic rings made up of containerized naval stores, moonlet-sized antimatter cryocels, don’t even ask about the AKV-minefields, and so on and so forth. It serves as the Prime Base for both the Capital Fleet and the Home Fleet.

For extra mobility, though, the directional fleets are based not only outside the Empire, but out in the Periphery, about as far away from the Empire as it’s possible to get. It’s for this purpose that the IN invented the Supremacy-class mobile fleet base, a multimodular self-propelled space station that comes complete with absolutely everything you could possibly need to support an IN fleet, which it has used to establish fleet bases for the directional fleets: CS Unconquerable Self to coreward at Netharn (Idrine Margin), CS Armigerous Propertarian to rimward at Tainaze (Rim March), CS Liberty’s Price to spinward at Karal (Vanguard Reaches), CS Order Emergent to trailing at Quecel (Starfoam Threshold), CS Asymptotic Glory to acme at Amendin (Bright Jewel Cluster) and CS Ever-Burning Flame to nadir at Anan!t (Starfall Abysm).

The majority of each directional fleet is homeported at the corresponding Supremacy, from which it runs patrols inward throughout its direction to the Imperial Fringe, and back out again. Usually, for flexibility, it keeps a portion of its force in the Fringe (supported from Palaxias) to support operations in the inner chunk of its direction.

For additional flexibility, there are a number of fleet stations scattered throughout each direction – often but not always in association with Imperial ecumenical colonies – established in locations that might be considered future hot spots, require higher-level commerce protection, support interdicts, or otherwise are strategic nexuses: while not possessing anything like the capacities of a fleet base, they provide fleet concentration points and advanced resupply, maintenance, and communications nodes (recalling that tangle channels cannot be carried onboard) for forward operations and maintaining defensive depth. These fleet stations all have associated pickets, but except in known time of war, these usually consist of cruiser-based task forces only.

Trope-a-Day: Sonic Stunner/Static Stun Gun

(Sorry, folks, no fic today. We spent much of said day having electrical work done, leaving me separated from the notes and assorted apps which I need to check various important details of the whichness of the whyfore, so…)

Sonic Stunner / Static Stun Gun: Averted the former because the general mixture of different species nervous systems doesn’t play ball, played the latter straight.  Stunners in the Eldraeverse are electrolasers, i.e., electrocuting the stunnee, which still isn’t universal, but comes much closer to it.

They are small and readily concealable, at least as much as a pistol – not so much quiet or low-power, though.  And there is stun sickness, because, well, it’s electrocution – and this does, yes, extend to being unfortunately lethal where people with undetected preexisting conditions are concerned.  “Stunner tag” has its drawbacks.

Trope-a-Day: Something Only They Would Say

Something Only They Would Say: A number of intelligence agencies and other organizations use this kind of call-and-response code as a non-technology-dependent shibboleth, but for the sake of extra security, they’ve more or less perfected the technique of embedding them into subconscious levels of the mind-state, so that the person using them doesn’t actually know what they are to give them away, even under duress.

Privately Owned Warships

Asked in a G+ comment:

How common is it for individuals to own full up dreadnought or super-dreadnought class warships? Am I correct in thinking that individually owned and operated cruiser and frigate class warships are commonplace?

Actually… not very common at all. (Even for corporations and other coadunations, even.)

That’s not a matter of legal restrictions, of course. While there are lots of remarkably illegal things one could do with a personally owned SD or DN (or BB, for that matter), the Empire continues to follow its basic ethical and legal principle that you don’t go around exercising prior restraint on the innocent just because that’s easier than dealing with the guilty, insert opprobrious remarks as appropriate here. It may not quite be the same SD/DN/BB that the Imperial Navy is flying around (given things invented and manufactured internally at BuInnov, and certain timed-exclusivity research and development contracts), but by and large, if you want an SD/DN/BB, Islien Yards and various other Imperial cageworks will be more than happy to sell you one.

(For clarifying the following comments, it might be an opportune moment to revisit Ships of the Fleet and Non-Standard Starship Scuffles.)

The question is more “why would you want one?”

The primary problem is that, per SotF, in addition to being a bloody expensive piece of hardware, a SD/DN/BB is also a bloody specialized piece of hardware. It’s pretty much got one function: counteracting other ships of the plane in the major fleet action battlespace, or dominating the volume in which other such ships aren’t. And to do that, per the implications of NSSS, it doesn’t operate alone: SD/DN/BBs operate in squadrons much of the time, but much more important are their screening elements. They need their associated CC/DD/FF squadrons to counteract the other guys’ CC/DD/FFs, otherwise they get swarmed and destroyed by smaller vessels that can dance circles around them under their guns.

About all you can practically do with an SD/DN/BB is fleet actions, for which you also need a supporting fleet. This is a very limited set of applications for anyone except “navies” and “seriously top-end mercenary groups”. If you had a personal one, you might be able to spend a few months playing “Send me tribute and attractive tribute-sack carriers” with underdeveloped hicksworld colonies before an actual naval force crushes you like a bug, but that’s about it. (Assuming you can get to them, because many polities don’t have the Empire’s relaxed approach to privately owned capital ships.)

All of which is to say: you can have one, but by the time you pay for it, and the crewing of it, and maintenance and resupply for it, and the eye-watering amount your tort insurer wants to cover it – well, what you have is a giant hole in space that you pour money into, and almost no applications for the thing to make the money back. Even by the standards of hilariously rich people, and even if you were deeply invested in status games – which people *there* by and large aren’t – there are better status symbols, y’know?

(Which, I rush to emphasize, by no means denies the existence of the Eldraeverse equivalent of Booster Terrik and his Errant Venture – it’s just that all the problems he had with it, with the exception of being leaned on by the New Republic, will also afflict his analog.)

On the other hand, you’re absolutely correct that there are more’n a few privately owned CCs and FFs around (both individual and corporate), although not necessarily intended in a primarily-warship role, just a warship-capability role. A FF makes for an expensive yacht/courier/etc., but if you’re in the habit of visiting the bad parts of the galaxy and/or getting into fights when you get there, it’s probably a worthwhile investment. Likewise, the design parameters for a CC include operating solo and being a heavily customizable part of the design-space – most of the specialized variant starships within and even without the IN tend to be built off a CC base – so if you have a task to do that also requires a decent helping of ass-kicking ability, starting with a CC spaceframe is a good move.

Neither of them is exactly ubiquitous – because most people don’t have practical reasons for investing in the military-grade stuff – but they’re certainly common enough that no-one would be surprised by seeing one or hearing that so-and-so had one in dock somewhere, belike.

More generally: if the imperial military and major mercs were to disappear tomorrow, how much military hardware would still be around and what would the force distribution look like?

Quite a lot, although biased fairly heavily towards the light end. By the time you’ve added together the Watch Constabulary (who use basically the same light infantry, light cavalry, and light starships as the Navy, just with a different paint job and software loadout), corporate and non-corporate branch security forces, military recreationists and other hoplo-hobbyists, huscarles, etc., etc., etc., together, it’s a lot.

If you allow keeping the 95% of the Home Guard that is citizen-shareholder militia and only delete the 5% that’s the central military cadre, it’s a whole lot.

And then, if you first bear in mind that arms manufacturers thereabouts don’t see any dichotomy between products for the military market and products for the civilian market (which is almost entirely created by regulatory requirements *here*), and then, second, bear in mind just how much equivalent-functionality hardware is out there in the form of, say, hazmat-protection “armor” and construction worker’s “exosuits” that don’t take much refactoring, and then third, consider that the one thing that is guaranteed to be around just about every corner is a cornucopia machine…

…well, I’m not saying that losing the heavy stuff wouldn’t hurt, in many ways, and there would be many complaints about the inconvenience of it all, but one would still have to be the heir to the throne of the kingdom of idiots to try your hand at invading that.

Trope-a-Day: Some Call Me Tim

Some Call Me Tim: They didn’t go to all the trouble of acquiring such an impressive collection of syllables (see: Overly Long Name) to have some git go and shorten them.  Use all of them.

Well, at least, use everything up to and including the attributive name if you aren’t just going to go for the extremely respectful address by name-and-honorific alone.  If you are privileged to use personal or attributive name alone, you’ll be told so.  (And, no, reciprocity cannot be taken as implied, nor can it be extrapolated human-style from relative status.)

But they’ll never tell you a deliberately shortened version of one of those without meaning something by it, and you may not make one up.

Building the Imperial Navy: Fleet Missions

Building-a-NavyThis is the third part of our six-part series on Building the Imperial Navy (first here; second here), in which we extend the strategic goals we made in the second part by defining the Navy’s role relative to the other parts of the Imperial Military Service, and define in general terms what the fleet does in support of its missions. In this step, there are three sub-steps:

Service Roles & Missions

What services (the Navy included) exist, and which parts of the larger strategic puzzle are allocated to each service? Which types of mission does each service consider a core capability? How does the Navy support its own missions, and what services does it offer to the other services – and vice versa?

In the Imperial Military Service, the Imperial Navy is definitely the senior military service, as tends to be the case for any interstellar polity. While (in a relatively unusual case for a star nation) it does not directly control the other services – that being the responsibility of Core Command and the Theater Commands – IN admirals dominate these by the numbers, and strategy is heavily driven by fleet actions.

The IN is, after all, tasked to provide all combat and patrol functions anywhere in the Worlds (and, quite possibly, anywhere else in the galaxy), along with all necessary support functions for the Legions when operating outside the Empire or off-planet within it, and any support functions required by the other stratarchies likewise. With a remit like that…

Well. The First Lord of the Admiralty may be officially styled Protector of the Starways, Warden of the Charted Void, Warlord of the Empire, but it’s the Second Lord, the Admiral of the Fleet, who rejoices in the nickname “King Of All Known Space”.

To achieve all of this, the majority of the Imperial Navy is organized into a number of fleets: the Home Fleet, the Capital Fleet, and the “directional fleets” – the Field Fleets Coreward, Rimward, Spinward, Trailing, Acme, and Nadir. The first of these, the Home Fleet, is based at Prime Base, Palaxias, and is the garrison fleet for the Imperial Core and Fringe, keeping up patrols and strategic defenses along access routes; meanwhile, the Field Fleets operate outside the Empire, each in its assigned sextant, providing continuous patrols and security services from their associated fleet stations.

Capital Fleet, meanwhile, has a double name: on one hand, it is the defensive fleet for the Capital District, the throneworld, Conclave Drift, Corícal, Esilmúr, and Prime Base itself. On the other hand, it also possesses the highest proportion of capital ships in the Imperial Navy, because it forms its major strategic reserve in the event of war breaking out, and is also the fleet from which flotillas and task forces to handle situations that the lighter units of the Field Fleets cannot is formed from. As such, curiously enough, it’s probably also the fleet that sees the most full-contact military action.

There are also certain very specialized functions (command of certain fixed defenses, including tripwires and englobement grids; anti-RKV defenses; the RKV deterrent fleet; relativistic war operations; and so forth) using equally specialized starships that don’t fit neatly into the fleet structure, which are grouped together under specialized areas such as Nightfall Operations Command, Perimeter Security Command, Fortress Command, Tripwire Command, and so forth.

The Imperial Legions are the Empire’s “ground” combat organization, with the understanding that in this case “ground” includes in habitats, on asteroids, in microgravity temps, underwater, and basically anywhere else you can’t fit a starship, including starship-to-starship boarding actions.

They serve both as onboard “ship’s troops” – providing shipboard security, boarding and landing forces, and additional damage control personnel – and as an offensive combat arm with their own assault cruisers, drop pods, shuttles, and ships, and organic light and heavy armored cavalry, which is attached to Naval task forces as required.

The Navy, in turn, is responsible for the Legions’ transportation, escort, and orbital fire support.

As the possessor of the “misc”, various specialized forcelets that don’t fit anywhere else, the Stratarchy of Military Unification is called upon by the Navy and the Legions when they need one of those specialties somewhere, relies upon them for transport, etc., and otherwise has a similar but much less called-upon relationship to the Navy-Legions one.

It is perhaps notable that the Empire has no “Army”-equivalent service: i.e., no branch concentrating on mass warfare, long-term occupation, etc., the Legions being highly specialized in the raiding/commando/special operations/strike-hard-and-fast role. This is entirely deliberate, as the Empire has chosen a policy of deliberately eschewing those types of warfare in the current era[1] to the extent that they are not substitutable. This policy is intended to have a twofold effect:

First, reassurance of the Empire’s neighbors with regard to its own peaceful intentions; the Empire may have a large and potent military force, but any strategic planner with eyes should be able to tell instantly that it is extremely badly adapted for attempts at conquest, and would need considerable reengineering to become a suitable tool for setting out on imperial adventures.

But second, of course, those hostile polities or sub-polity factions whose strategic calculus might let them conclude that they can get away with fighting a long guerilla war against an occupation should think twice when it’s equally obvious to the trained eye that that isn’t one of the options on the Empire’s table, and that the most likely substitution from the force mix they do have is to blast them back into the Neolithic with orbital artillery.

(Occasional miscalculations on this point in the Conclave of Galactic Polities have led to accusations of “k-rod peacekeeping” and on one occasion the Cobalt Peace Wall Incident, but it’s unlikely to change any time soon.)

The IN coordinates its operations and provides transportation (when necessary) for the Stratarchies of Data Warfare, Indirection and Subtlety, and Warrior Philosophy, as well as certain other special services (like, say, preemptively burying hidden tangle channel endpoints where they might be useful). By and large, coordination is the main relationship: Indirection and Subtlety, for example, might consider it a failure if they’ve let things get to the point of there being a war at all, but as long as they’re doing assassinations and sabotage in wartime, it is best if it happens at the appropriate time, belike.

Their biggest relationship apart from the Legions is with the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, which owns the oilers, the logistics bases, the transportation and supply contracts, the freighter fleet, medical and personnel services, etc., etc., and basically all the other logistical back-end needed to run the Military Service that the Navy would be doing for itself if the people who designed these systems didn’t much prefer that they concentrate on specifically naval things. They work closely together to get logistics done, and in wartime, ensure that the logistics functions are adequately escorted and otherwise protected.

The IN has very little at all to do with the Home Guard, it being a domestic security militia force only.

Fleet Concept of Operations

In general what does the fleet do? When and where will the fleet execute the missions defined in the last step? Will the fleet fight near home, along the border, or will it fight in enemy territory? Is it offensive in orientation, or defensive? What’s the standard operating procedure?

In orientation, by and large, the Home Fleet is defensive; the Field Fleets are mostly offensive (although less so to spinward and nadir, where they rub up against the borders with the Republic and the Consciousness, respectively); and the Capital Fleet, which can be called upon to reinforce either, splits the difference with a bias to the offensive side.

On the defensive, the rule of thumb is, as it has always been, “fight as far from whatever you’re trying to defend as possible”. Space battles are messy, and if at all possible, you don’t want to be fighting them with anything you care about preserving as the backstop. Home defense, therefore, involves a “hard crust” – although one backed up by a “firm center” – around the core Empire’s connection to the greater stargate plexus, but expands this by placing pickets, and of course the “field fleet” patrols, well in advance of these. The intent is that the defensive fleets should advance to meet any attacker and take them out, or at least greatly reduce them, before they ever reach Imperial territory.

And, of course, the best defense is a preemptive offense – when Admiralty Intelligence and Indirection and Subtlety can arrange that.

On the offense, the IN adheres to the military doctrine the Empire has always practiced, given various factors previously discussed, namely that only an idiot chooses a fair fight, and only a double-damned idiot fights anything resembling a frontal war of attrition. Misdirection, whittling flank attacks, deep strikes on crucial nexi, and eventual defeat in detail are the hallmarks of the IN’s strategy on the attack.

In terms of scale of operations, the IN plans for disaster: conventional readiness standards call for the IN and the rest of the Military Service to be able to fight three major brushfire wars simultaneously and/or one sub-eschatonic war (i.e. one step below ex-threat, like invasion from a massively larger polity such as the Republic or an unknown higher-tech polity), even while sustaining normal operations. The former, at least, is known to be possible. The latter… has not yet been tested in a completely stringent manner. But that’s what the Admiralty is planning for.

Fleet Posture

Is the fleet forward deployed (so that it can rapidly deploy to known threats) or based outside of the home system(s)? It is garrison-based, i.e., homeported in the home system(s)? Does it conduct frequent deployments or patrols or does it largely stay near home space and only go out for training? (Fleet posture is not where the starships are based, but instead how they are based and how forward-leaning it is.)

The nature of superluminal travel in many ways defines the nature of the strategic environment. Since travel between star systems is normally done using the stargates, a surface defined in terms of a list of stargate links can be treated, effectively, as a border or as an effective defensive line. While it is possible to bypass such a surface by subluminal (relativistic) travel, this is a sufficiently difficult and expensive process (and one requiring specialty hardware) as to make it a minor strategic consideration, for the most part.

That, at least, frees the IN from having to picket every system all the time.

That said, its posture is as forward-leaning as they can make it. Both the Home Fleet (within the Empire) and the Field Fleets are kept in constant motion, on patrol; the field fleets, in particular, travel on randomly-generated patrol routes from the Imperial Fringe out into the Periphery via various fleet stations and then return, throughout the entire volume of the Associated Worlds. (This requires a great many agreements with various other polities for passage of naval vessels, usually gained with the assistance of Ring Dynamics, ICC, who find this desirable with reference to the defense of their stargates.) Constant motion is the watchword: the IN doesn’t want its task forces to be pinned down or for it to be known where they are at any given moment, and this additionally helps make it very likely that anywhere there’s a sudden need for a task force, there will be starships available for relatively ready retasking. (I say relatively ready: the nature of stargates means that while you can cross from star to neighboring star instantly, you have to cross the star systems in between from stargate to stargate the slow way – and while brachistochrones at single-digit gravities are skiffily impressive by Earth-now standards, they still aren’t exactly express travel between, say, two points 120 degrees apart on the orbit of Neptune.)

The Field Fleets are, in short, about as forward-leaning as it’s possible to be.

The Capital Fleet spends more time in garrison, by its nature, but in addition to training operations, units and squadrons are routinely transferred back and forth to the Field Fleets or dispatched on special operations so that every IN unit maintains at least a minimum degree of seasoning. It’s the view of the Second Lord and BuTrain in particular that a Navy that doesn’t fight is likely to be bloody useless if it ever has to fight, so it’s best all around to keep everyone out there as much as practicable.

[1] In previous eras, such tasks were the responsibilities of the Legions: should they be needed again, the remit of the Legions is likely to be once again expanded.

Trope-a-Day: Sociopathic Hero

Sociopathic Hero: The Fifth Directorate has special tools (ICE BLUESHIFT) to induce the capacity for this sort of behavior – albeit very high-functioning ones, who genuinely don’t have any desire for cruelty [1] – under special circumstances, because in the existential threats business, sometimes necessity really does mandate, and so forth.  (They are also responsible for performing the various feats of mental editing necessary to let the operatives in question not go crazy when their empathy and conscience get switched back on.)

[1] Because that requires empathy, don’ch’know. There’s no point in hurting someone if their pain would be as essentially irrelevant to you as everything else.

Talkin’ About Me

contact canon (n.): (also contact ‘chive) The collection of documents and multimedia resources, stored uncompressed and in simplest-possible encoding, kept for transmission in first contact situations – once basic-level communications have been established – to enable one’s interlocutors to derive a comprehensive linguistic and cultural corpus for their translation software.

To achieve this as fully as possible, a good contact canon begins with the simplest educational materials, and extends through a variety of scientific and engineering references  (for a common frame of reference, although carefully selected to avoid giving away advanced technologies), historical and cultural data, mythology, art, literature, and even contemporary popular culture (to avoid accidental mistranslations of slang and references).

The practice of the contact canon has been invented independently by many of the species with whom first contact has been made over the Worlds’ history, including several of those known for their xenophobia and/or isolationism. The irony of giving away a millennium of one’s cultural products in order to say “go away” more effectively has not been lost on anyone.

No-one outside speculative fiction writers, fortunately, has yet confronted the case in which all that art and culture is merely the communications preamble to “surrender or die”…

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Things to See, Places to Go (3)

Kodelyk (Crescent Nebula): The second planet of its system, Kodelyk is one of the two best known exemplars of the adage that while modern technology permits us to colonize virtually any asteroid, moon, or hostile-environment world we please, and even construct habitats in the deep black or upper atmospheres of gas giants, garden worlds can still be problematic.

Unlike Glainevar (High Verge), notorious for the keratin-devouring microorganism which literally flays many oxygen-breathing, proteinaceous species alive when exposed to its atmohydrosphere, it is at least possible to survive for short periods on the surface of Kodelyk. The lethality of its ecology, stoked by the fierce radiation of its flare-star primary and high-oxygen atmosphere, is primarily due to its macroscopic lifeforms, and approximates that of Paltraeth (Banners) at its former height. The majority of the plant life is toxic, carcinogenic, and teratogenic. So is the majority of the animal life, it is believed, but the probability of surviving an encounter with the animal life – uniformly strong, at least opportunistically carnivorous, and armored – is sufficiently low that this remains, for the most part, untested.

The single outpost of civilization in the system is mor-Calek Station, a high-orbital outpost above Kodelyk Actual. It is owned by Interworld Safaris, ICC, which operates a successful if low-traffic business in “extreme hunting” expeditions, made up almost entirely of kaeth wishing to pit themselves against the conditions of their ancestral world – albeit this time with modern weapons – or simply seeking an opportunity to fire off selections from Eye-in-the-Flame Arms’s latest Overkill range against something with a chance of fighting back, spiced with a few big game hunters of other species with an eye for a greater challenge and very poor risk assessment skills. The majority of the expeditions are assumed to be probably one-way in practice, at least where corpus is concerned: the station is renamed after the latest hunter to make it back to the ascent pod alive in body, an event that has occurred less than once per century of the station’s operation.

On the bright side, if you’re passing through the system anyway, the station bar is excellent – if you don’t mind the stories.

– Leyness’s Worlds: Guide to the Core Worlds