Heavy Cavalry Redux

“Drive me closer! I want to hit them with my sword!”

no-one with a tank, ever

This is a recreation/reformulation/retcon of the original description of the Empire’s heavy cavalry legions, in light of both criticism received – and assistance to resolve it – and rethinking of my own. It should be considered as a replacement for the original post here, et. seq.

Let us proceed.


Making up the remaining one of every sixteen legions (i.e., one per three light cavalry or heavy infantry, and one per nine light infantry), we have the heavy cavalry. Direct-fire death on very large treads, which is to say, main battle tanks. The biggest of all the big sticks. Putting the “brute” into “brute force”.

For additional flexibility, the majority of Imperial MBTs are built off a common base platform, with a selection of swappable modules to provide specific functionality for specific cases. (Unlike many modular vehicle systems in this ‘verse, however, these aren’t hot-swappable; the need to remove and replace and integrate large and complex chunks of armor plate, etc., when doing it means that this requires some pretty major machine-shop type facilities. It’s not something you can do in the field, and indeed something only seen at the most well-developed remote operating bases.) Due to these functionality differences, MBTs are usually classified by the module.

So first we’ll talk about the capabilities of the base platform, and then we’ll talk about some of the more commonly seen modules:


Base Platform

The base platform of the Imperial MBT is a low-slung vehicle with all-around glacis design, designed to minimize its target profile and give it a low center of gravity. In dimensions, it is approximately 12 m (39 ft) long, 4 m (13 ft) wide, and 3 m (10 ft) high; its total mass (varying, of course, by module), however, is of the order of 60 short tons, due to the extensive use of lightweight composites.

8 m of the length and 3.5 m of the width at the front is the module socket; height of modules varies, but none take it much above the basic 3 m height. At the rear of the platform, an externally-opening compartment can be used to hold resupply, infantry needing transport, or a “hot soup” fuel pod to increase vehicle endurance.

Armament

The armament of the base platform (effectively the secondary weapons systems common to all tank classes) is fitted in four altazimuth ball mounts, located on either side of the vehicle, towards the front and rear.

These mounts’ field of fire extends 180 degrees vertically, and approximately 160 degrees horizontally at zero vertical, i.e., limited only by the occlusion of that side’s other mount. In effect, they maintain full coverage to the side, front, and rear of the tank, with only a small gap in coverage to the front for the rear mounts, and to the rear for the front mounts.

The front mounts include coaxial ortillery target designators and heavy (72 mm) mass drivers/micromissile launchers; the rear mounts only include medium (36 mm) mass drivers.

(While the latter do spend much of their time firing forward and to the flank, their special purpose in being mounted where they are is to give you something to pop the drone lining up to shoot you in the ass with so you don’t have to stop engaging your main target while you do it. In their battlefield environment, micro-AKVs are cheap and plentiful, so this happens a lot. If you had to slew the main gun around every time, you’d be taking your eye off the ball way too much – even if you could get it to reliably track something that small and fast-moving.)

See also Point Defense, below.

Armor

The armor of Imperial MBTs is relatively standard for Imperial armored units; there’s just a lot of it. The core structural frame is honeycomb-patterned diamondoid composite, covered with multiple slabs of interlinked refractory cerametal (i.e., a ceramic-metal composite formulated for both great physical strength and resistance to heat), electrical and thermal superconductor meshes, more cerametal, reactive-armor sections, and an outer anti-energetic ablative coating to sprayed on top of it all. Additional side plating shields the rollagons. A nanopaste-based self-healing system runs through channels in the armor, keeping damage patched up in the field.

The survivability specifications on all this armor is that the vehicle should be able to survive a near-miss with a tactical-range nuclear weapon or equivalent orbital kinetic strike.

Command and Control

An Imperial MBT nominally crews three: semi-specialized commander, driver, and gunner positions; in practice, this is rendered a mite fuzzy inasmuch as they’re both ably assisted by the vehicle’s internal synnoetic (i.e., designed to function integrated with another sophont mind) AI, and linked to each other by internal conflux hardware (i.e., functioning as a loose, mesh-topology temporary group mind for maximal efficiency, enabling coordination and multitasking by splitting off semi-autonomous agents).

Primary control is routed through the AI and direct neural links – the vehicle seats are virtuality chairs, connecting to the crew’s implanted laser-ports – but auxiliary/backup manual controls are also available.

Core sensors and communications include all the standard options: radio and whisker laser communications, access to the OTP-encrypted tactical mesh, threat identification systems, teamware and C3I systems integration, thermal imaging, remote sensor access, and all-around local sensors including pulsed-usage radar and lidar, T-ray high frequency snoopers, ground-penetrating radar, target-painter detection – and, of course, plain old electronic visual and sound transmission, since the interior of the MBT is fully sealed and includes no direct visual paths.

The MBT also includes a battle computer capable of functioning as a major node in the tactical mesh, and a full ECM suite.

Drones

As with all other units of the Imperial Legions, the heavy cavalry too has its drone accompaniments, with each MBT having a pair of WMH-12 Skyorca drones attached to it for close air support, along with a pair of heavy ground drones matching its own tactical function.

Internal Environment

To the delight of those legionaries who like a little comfort in their soldiering, the internal spaces of an Imperial MBT are a comfortable – albeit confined – shirt-sleeve environment. (Climate control, leather seats, the works…)

This is partially because given the expense of building one of these anyway, throwing in a few civilized comforts is barely a blip on the budget, and partially because – well, anything that successfully penetrates the armor tends to leave the crew as a hundred-yard-long red/blue/silver-white/etc. smear on the ground behind the exit hole anyway, so there’s no point in having them sit around in full combat armor. A padded jacket and helmet are sufficient to prevent accidents from concussion and rough terrain.

The interior is also a fully sealed and controlled life support environment for NBCN protection and exotic atmosphere/vacuum use. This also renders all tanks amphibious tanks by default: once you’ve covered all the various atmospheric compositions and pressures you might need to operate in and discarded thereby air-breathing engines and other systems, you’ve built a vehicle that can shrug off submergence, too.You could drive a modern Imperial MBT from continent to continent across the ocean floor, given a case of rat bars and a good reason to try it.

Point Defense

The MBT is equipped, as all else is, with a military-grade kinetic barrier system.

For active point defense, the base platform is equipped with a mix of mini-autocannons (in altazimuth ball mounts) and laser emitters, laid out to ensure all-around coverage, and capable of independently and automatically targeting all incoming fire and close-in soft units, subject to target identification and prioritization routines set by the crew.

Power

It seems a little inappropriate to say that the MBT is also powered by a micro-fission “hot soup” reactor, inasmuch as, well, it ain’t that micro. It is “mini”, perhaps, compared to standard-sized fission reactors, but it’s as large as the thorium molten-salt kind gets. The bigger ones all tend to be the safer “pebble-bed” design.

Naturally, this is buffered through a large set of superconducting-loop accumulators to handle immediate power draws and provide backup power in the event that you lose the power reactor – enough to make a fighting withdraw, anyway, although not enough to continue an engagement with.

Propulsion

The Imperial MBT moves on neither wheels nor treads; rather, it sits atop eight semi-squishy rollagons, near-spheres of a “smart fluid” rotated electromagnetically from within the sealed main hull, enabling it to move with equal facility in any direction, at speeds of up to 150 mph on a good, flat roadbed. Note that this is not a drivetrain developed specifically for military purposes: modern civilian ground-cars use similar technology.

The propulsion system also has considerable electromagnetic control over the shape of the rollagons; while they don’t have them normally, if you need spiked wheels or some other shape-variation to cross some tricky terrain, it can provide them on demand; if need be, they can even form “paddle-propellers” for amphibious operation.

A limited vector-control/impeller system permits the tank to apply vertical thrust to itself; this is used primarily downwards on light-gravity worlds to keep ground pressure high enough for the rollagons to be effective, occasionally upwards to reduce ground pressure where the ground is soft, and even more occasionally to lessen the severity of falls, ground collapses, or deliberate drops from low-flying transport aircraft.

(It would theoretically be possible, on light-gravity worlds, to use it to make “skips” over obstacles or other short vertical jumps, but this is generally considered an excellent way to become skeet.)

Stealth and Masquerade

The Imperial MBT, much like the heavy infantry, supports only the most basic chameleonic coating and signature reduction features; the nature of the battlefield environment of the time is such that any heavy unit has a signature (in terms of heat, reactor neutrinos, and the EM pulse accompanying weapons firing) that can’t be baffled worth a damn. As such, designers concentrated on designing a vehicle that could “tank” (sic) incoming fire in the process of executing shock and awesome.

It should however be noted that this does not preclude the use of external decoys, or the use of signature modification systems to confuse terminal guidance of incoming weapons, or indeed to masquerade as something else — but these systems have to work with the platform’s high signature, not try to conceal it.


Module: Tactical Assault Tank (HV-10 Basher-class)

As close as it comes to a “standard” MBT design, the HV-10 Basher-class module loadout is similar to the V40 Ralihú IFV, scaled up; the Basher-class comes with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver, but substitutes a bilateral quadbarrels with limited independent training for the Ralihú’s single coaxial quadbarrel.

(The heavy mass driver is also designed to function as a heavy micromissile launcher, if required, and as such is entirely capable of delivering large-diameter canister shot for anti-infantry work.)


Module: Long-Range Assault Tank (HV-12 Stormfall-class; also HV-12i Longeye-class)

The HV-12 Stormfall-class LRAT module is equipped with a turreted super-heavy (144 mm) mass driver intended to be capable of long-range indirect as well as direct fire, but substitutes the quadbarrels for bilateral “pop-out” missile pods, each capable of doing a simultaneous launch of up to 16 minimissiles, reloadable with a short cycle time from internal magazines. Just perfect for those days when you want to fight in the shade.

By changing the minimissile loadout of the Stormfall, it can also serve as an active air-defense platform.

Rarely seen is the HV-12i Longeye variant, which trades in both super-heavy mass driver and missile pods for a graser installation, suitable for direct fire only but capable of punching out even more heavily protected targets. Also, notably, the Longeye graser is often capable of penetrating the atmosphere and reaching targets in low planetary orbit.


Module: Drone Tank (HVC-14h Thunderbolt-class; also HVC-14l Stinger-class)

A drone tank, in legionary parlance, is the land-based miniature equivalent of an aircraft carrier. The HVC-14h Thunderbolt module contains nanoslurry and miniature drone components, which it uses to construct and deploy ad-hoc micro-AKVs to suit the requirements of the current battlespace, launching them into action as a centrally coordinated wing, for defense, reconnaissance, attack, or other functions.

(Or, to put it another way, it’s a self-propelled field factory that spews out custom drones and minimissiles on demand, simplifying your logistics and multiplying your options.)

The HVC-14l Stinger functions similarly, but substitutes swarm hives for the micro-AKV factory, and is thus able to saturate the local battlespace with microbot/nanobot swarms, be they the standard eyeballs, shrikes, gremlins, or balefire, or more specialized models.


Module: Tactical Arsonier (HV-10a Flammifer-class)

Used for cleaning up or eliminating nanoswarms (highly vulnerable to thermal overloading), area denial, reducing bunkers and dug-outs, and spreading pure terror, the Flammifer-class replaces the heavy mass driver of the Basher-class with a scaled-up nuclear-thermal flamer, while retaining the quadbarrels as-is.


Module: Command Tank (HV-10c Strategos-class)

The Strategos-class is a specialized vehicle for coordinating tank-squadron activities and close air support. The Strategos module doesn’t add any weapons systems; rather, it adds two more crew positions for squadron command, a specialized tactical/logistics C3I AI, and a nodal communications suite and its antennae.

A pair or triplet of Strategoi are usually assigned to a tank squadron made up of other classes for command/control functions.


Module: Pummel (HV-11 Pugnacious-class)

The pummel tank is a highly specialized variant, designed to rip apart buildings and fortifications. It carries sappers in its rear compartment, and is equipped with specialized demolitions equipment up front.


Module: Wrecker (HV-10w Trison-class)

Another highly specialized variant, the HW-10W Trison and other wreckers are logistics units, used to recover wrecked tanks and other heavy equipment off the battlefield for repair or for scrap.


Transportation

The Flapjack-class cavalry dropship was made specifically for this; apart from that, they mostly drive to wherever they’re needed, because only the biggest transport aircraft can carry them in useful numbers.

Although Most Designs Are Poly

Ascíël coupler: the standard design, in modular habitat and starship architecture, for the coupler that binds adjacent modules into a single unit.

For such semi-permanent connections on a large scale, simple docking adapters are obviously unsuitable; tidal forces and other stresses common in large structures may cause a simple docking adapter to be stressed sufficiently to separate over time, and starship-level thrust applied to a modular design would cause near-immediate failure.

A variety of designs (often based on existing railroad couplers) were tried to prevent this while also avoiding the expense, wasted time, and potential damage involved in bolting or welding additional reinforcement onto the modules, with varying degrees of success, eventually converging on the modern Ascíël coupler.

The Ascíël coupler, as defined in IOSS 64212, makes use of the IUSI androgynous docking adapter (as defined in IOSS 52114) to achieve initial connection. (As such, it too comes in the three there-defined standard sizes.)

Once hard dock has been achieved, the surrounding coupler engages a nested pair of counterrotating helical screws, which intertwine from each side of the coupler to form a solid bond between the modules. Once the screws have advanced to the fully engaged position, twelve locking rods (six per screw, three being managed by each coupler) are electromagnetically released and are forced by springs into their extended position through holes in the screws, preventing them from rotating and thus from working loose over time.

When fully engaged, an Ascíël coupler has an effective strength equivalent to that of the surrounding module hull.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Worldbuilding: Sail Plans

Taking a brief moment to hand out a random factlet, let us turn from space navy to wet navy. Old school wet navy.

Did you know that the most widely used rig back in the days of sail, especially by the Alatian fleet, the largest both mercantile and military and which went on to form the core of the Imperial fleet, was a variation on what on Earth is called the junk rig?

(Well, no, you didn’t, because I’ve only just told you. It was a rhetorical question.)

Using bamboo battens and silk sailcloth, even, for a very Eastern flavor for the Earth reader.

The chief experimenters with alternate rigs and modifications to the standard junk rig were the actual Alatian Navy, principally because the major flaw in the junk rig is its difficulty in sailing close-hauled (i.e., close to into the wind), but in contrast, it’s exceedingly efficient at sailing with the wind, and requires – always a consideration – a rather smaller crew to manage it than a typical western rig.

With careful attention to hull design, too, the eventual junk-rigged clippers and windjammers of the Alatian merchant fleet ruled the ocean trade up to, and even into, the steam era: as their sailors would cheerfully point out, the trade winds were very reliable, and given that, that a good rig could deliver as much or more power than steam could, and also that it didn’t require all that fuel taking up space that could contain earning cargo kept the sailships in business, and in many cases those which carried steam engines used them as an auxiliary power source only, for when the wind failed.

(Why this digression into nautical history? I have no idea. But I found it an interesting piece of the universe, and so I wrote it down.)

Cultural Crossovers #15: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Yay, it’s these guys again!

  • Quill’s parents, we presume. Along with a very large violation of ecological safety practices.
  • Well, that’s a weird way of assembling planets into a megastructure. Wonder what the point is, apart from saying “we can make gravity our bitch?” Although that kind of is a point.
  • Ah, Rocket. Your adventurer-fu is strong. And, hey, you never know when another dance-off might be needed.
  • Well, that’s a whole pile of ugly.
  • Groot: Still adorable. Still trolling Drax. We approve. The space-rat riding is new, but we agree with that too.
  • Drax: still insane.
  • You guys sure love gold, huh?
  • Well, hello, Nebula.
  • Rocket, while we agree with your assessment, you’ve got to have a —
  • Okay, I’m pretty sure doing a “bit of both” wasn’t supposed to be at the same time.
  • Wow, you’re not just understanding but actually constructing metaphors now?
  • Well, that’s an interesting way to control your space fleet. Do they keep the high scores somewhere?
  • Quantum asteroids? Unlikely, but cool concept.
  • Drax: even insaner.
  • You have interesting-looking jump points.
  • $10 says Drax wants another go.
  • …called it.
  • At least it waited until you were done crashing to fall off.
  • Well, that’s a remarkably nondescriptive name.
  • Hey, it’s Yondu!
  • Hm. Ravagers have a code, mythos, a notion of exile. Hmm. Tell us more, plz.
  • Oooh. Nice nano-make-shit spray. Or nano-make-ship spray, in this case.
  • Cool-lookin’ egg-ship.
  • Drax, I don’t think that was a secret to anyone.
  • Oh, this ambush will not go well, if I know Rocket.
  • Yeah, I know Rocket. And the soundtrack makes it.
  • …but then there’s Yondu and his knife missile.
  • Wow, some of these guys came out of the shallow end of the gene pool.
  • Oh, Kraglin. Bad call.
  • Nice-looking planet, Ego. Presumably very much a product of ecopoesis, gravity being what it is.
  • Well, small g, maybe, but you’ve built a hell of a temple-museum to yourself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Yeah, that does look like mutiny. Traditional spacings and all.
  • Isn’t ‘metaphorical’ a bit too large a word for you, Taserface?
  • Taserface.
  • Quite the sense of revenge you’ve got there, huh, Nebula.
  • Sniff. Playing catch with the light-ball is all kinds of touching. But the other shoe has to be dropping any moment.
  • And that seems likely to be it.
  • “Too adorable to kill”, really?
  • Shit, he’s a champion asshole.
  • Not very clear on this, Groot – which is odd considering your language skills elsewhere. But evidently he picked up on Rocket’s love of body parts.
  • Now that’s a much better call.
  • Damn, but Yondu’s good with that thing. That’s friggin’ war-poetry, right there.
  • Oh, now that’s just showing off.
  • Love the incendiary mode. And that’s an impressive – if an expensive – use of a modular ship.
  • Y’know, it generally helps to speak of unspoken things. We find. As a rule.
  • And Gamora, as expected, cuts the matter to the heart.
  • Man, that ship gets crashed a lot.
  • Okay, how the hell is she even holding that gun? Damn thing must be made of spinmetal and aerogel.
  • Thanos has a lot to answer for.
  • Hey, making weird shit sounds good. Actually, it seems like a much better use of divinity than Ego’s starting to preach.
  • (Also, Mantis and Drax are adorable and bizarre.)
  • …that is a lot of corpses. And seeing as Ego is the entire damn planet and is keeping them inside him, dear gods, is that creepifying.
  • Now that was a heart-to-heart.
  • Oh, holy crapballs, you’re a class II hegemonizing swarm.
  • Beyond such things as friends? Killing the woman you loved so you wouldn’t be distracted by her? You are the worst god ever. And considering the competition for that slot…
  • Well, given that you want to turn everything in the universe into you, it’s not like he’d have been spending the next thousand years as anything else anyway.
  • Any chance you assembled a planet-killer bomb from that guy’s eye, Rocket? Would be handy about now.
  • Yeah, it’s actually quite surprising that you don’t have a lot more issues.
  • Hell, if you need that thing to get in, I’m impressed with the security of the Bank of A’askavaria. Beautifully flexible, though.
  • It’s cute that the Sovereign go to the trouble of projecting their faces on the AKVs they’re piloting just so you can see who’s killing you.
  • Or, y’know, you could just improvise a planet-cracker on the spot. That’s cool. Hey, can we hire you?
  • Oh, god, everyone’s going to die.
  • Drax: still a troll.
  • Good gods, what was powering that arm? Was it designed so you could tear it off and throw it as a grenade? (I mean, knowing Thanos, yes, but still.)
  • Also, that entire planet has a terrible case of resting bitch face.
  • Um, a sane, decent, loving one?
  • If you two are all there is, what else is he going to do for fun?
  • Pretty sure he can. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s obligatory. Bugger destiny anyway.
  • Just about any of the infinity of possible meanings. You’re a heggie swarm. Boring and meaningless are among the top concepts associated with heggie swarms.
  • And by some miracle, Groot doesn’t kill everyone.
  • (I wish the people in this hypothetical theater would get all the nuances of the Pac-Man joke.)
  • Not sure Star-Lord is ever going to be just like everybody else. He’s got you out-awesomed for a start, Mister Celestial.
  • The audience rises and salutes Yondu’s final sacrifice. If they could, they’d vote him into Valhalla unanimously.
  • And are delighted that the Ravagers agree.
  • Oops.
  • Okay, are those guys getting a spin-off of their own in which they steal some shit? Please?
  • More rigidity of the stick up his butt, too?
  • (Probably lacking most of the context for teenage Groot too, alas.)

A Sticky Solution

SECRET YELLOW / EYES ONLY OMRD

PROJECT TAR BABY

PROPOSAL

A prohibitive constraint on the use of conventional weapons in the anti-satellite (ASAT) role is their tendency to create debris through a variety of paths: direct ablation, spallation or fragmentation debris, warhead shrapnel, non-intercepting ordnance, and so forth.

The accumulation of such debris beyond a chaotically variable critical point – easily surpassed during military escalation, per Orbital Hazards in Simulated Great Power Escalation Scenarios (Oricalcios, Efiathe, and Cylassé, 2074) – poses a long-term hazard to civilization by inducing a cascade catastrophe, a rapid chain multiplication in debris count likely to render the orbital bands involved non-viable in the long term.

TAR BABY attempts to avert this by developing a specialized non-fragmentation ASAT weapon.

Specifically, we propose a dedicated ASAT warhead designed for compatibility with the Firehawk surface-to-orbit missile system (selected for its multiple-burn capability). Upon closing with the target satellite, this warhead deploys a sphere of viscous adhesive at its nose, formulated to remain effective in vacuum conditions for the duration of the impact event and to retain its shape via surface tension.

It is believed that this mechanism should allow a TAR BABY warhead to achieve a hard connect with the target satellite with minimal uncaptured fragmentation. Embedding within the adhesive body should in itself cause significant disruption to the operation of the target, but for maximal effect, after the adhesive sphere has set (either by passage of time or injection of a catalyst), the multiple-burn capability of the Firehawk can be used to perform a controlled deorbit and destruction of the captured satellite.

For further details of our proposal, please see the enclosed technical documentation.

Submitted for your consideration,

Vidal Amnestrianos

for and on behalf of

Firefly Aerospace, ICC

A Modest Recommendation

I’ve been enjoying reading this webcomic a whole lot recently:

Grrl Power is a comic about a crazy nerdette that becomes a superheroine. Humor, action, cheesecake, beefcake, ‘splosions, and maybe some drama. Possibly ninjas.

…for all those reasons, plus recent SFnal elements, and that our protagonist’s brain seems to work in disturbingly similar ways to the brains resident at Chez Author.

And thus I recommend it to you, Eldraeverse readers, because I suspect it would also suit your taste.