Citation

With the gratitude of the Empire and the thanks of the Lords of Admiralty: that Ardíra “the Bathrobe¹” Octarthius-ith-Octarthius, while commanding Their Divine Majesties’ destroyer Faithful Hound, did successfully escape a surprise attack mounted by linobir vessels of approximate cruiser and battlecruiser type at the commencement of the Linobir-Embatil War, and in so doing did such damage to the cruiser that she was scuttled by her own crew, while preserving the lives of her crew and the fighting weight of her ship, despite the manifest advantages of the enemy in mass, armaments, and attire. Her coolness under fire, gift for tactical innovation, and the fighting spirit of Faithful Hound do her and her crew great credit, and reflect the highest traditions of the Imperial Navy.

– Mentioned in Dispatches: Imperial Navy Awards, 5300-5400


  1. When battle stations sound, you don’t stop to change.

Bigger and Uglier

DROPSHIPS: EMPIRE OF THE STAR

This supplement to the current edition of Naval Warships presents an update to the infamous Flapjack– and Flapjack II-class cavalry dropships. The Imperial Navy has recently adopted the Waffle-class vehicular dropship – also designated the Flapjack I (Block II) – as a phased replacement for the Flapjacks currently in service.

The Waffle resembles the older Flapjack in most ways, inasmuch as it too is based on the disk-type hull form, and makes use of a pair of laser-fusion nuclear-pulse drives to perform a high-velocity descent followed by a “suicide burn” deceleration. However, unlike the Flapjack, the Waffle does not land to disembark vehicles.

The main body of the Waffle, between the pusher plates, replaces the cylindrical garage of the Flapjack with a bunch-of-grapes packed between the central core and the sidewall armor. These “grapes” are the payload: tanks, IFVs, and chariots – any vehicle type equipped with a vector-control core – enclosed in a protective armor clamshell oversprayed with ablative foam.

As the Waffle performs its suicide burn, it dumps angular momentum from its core gyro, spinning the entire ship up. At the terminus of the suicide burn – typically no more than 2000′ above ground – the ship explosively discards the sidewall armor and severs the retaining structure which retains the “grapes”, causing them to be jettisoned along with a large swarm of decoys, chaff, and hunter-seeker antidefensive missiles.

At this point, the basic dropship structure is abandoned, and the vehicles, lightened by their vector-control cores, are scattered over a wide area, discarding their clamshell protection immediately before landing.

Thus, the Waffle eliminates the core disadvantage of the Flapjack, the requirement for rapid disembarkation and dispersal from a single landing site. Additionally, the psychological effect of a cloud of fireballs raining armies from the sky should not, in this author’s opinion, be underestimated.

– Naval Starships of the Associated Worlds, INI Press, Palaxias,
supplement to the 433rd ed.

Not Somewhere We Need To Go

(Inspired by a reader comment comparing the Brigade in a Bottle™ to the Faro Swarm from Horizon: Zero Dawn.)

from the Eye-in-the-Flame Arms internal memeweave archives

From: Aldysis Cyprium (Directorate)
To: Diziet Cyprium (Director of Entertaining Research)
Subject: Biomass reductors and biopower generation system

I’m not denying that it’s a technical tour-de-force in the area of field refueling, and it is a tour-de-force regardless of what some lesser minds might say. It may be the operating principle behind green goo, but this is the first time it’s been operationalized on the macroscale.

Nonetheless, I must insist that we cancel project OM NOM immediately, and file the project records somewhere deep in the black store.

We’ve built a lot of interesting systems in our time, but the Directorate is agreed that not only are systems build with this technology a war crime in a box (any extensive use of it, and there’s always someone who’ll go too far, would qualify under the Tier IV provisions of the Ley Accords concerning ecocidal weapons), but we absolutely refuse to have our corporate name associated with any weapons systems likely to be seen in newsbytes eating prisoners.

Our corporate values include creativity, ingenuity, and rarity. Not cannibalism.

Your affectionate (if somewhat appalled) cousin,

Aldysis

Air Wings Sold Separately

Bringing the what-the to warfare once again, and following on from both the unquestionable success of Nuclear War In A Can™, and their earlier semi-portable combat drone product Janissary In A Drum™, Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, ICC once again provides a new terror to the battlefield with the release of Brigade In A Bottle™.

Another in their line of self-decompressing nanopaste products, Brigade In A Bottle™ is a pre-programmed assembler system designed to be supplied with raw materials (chiefly metals and industrial plastics, although the paste is designed to forage; the accompanying manual suggests junkyards, disused factories, and captured enemy equipment as potential sources) and electrical power in the field. When these are supplied, the paste uses fast-burn nanoassembly techniques to manufacture, in a matter of hours, a brigade-sized mixed unit (a fighting strength of 4,664) of Jaeger 4400 mechagrunts and Warg 216-A hunter-killer houndbots, primed with command codes ready to join your tactical mesh.

The experienced reader may perceive the single flaw in the product: these are last-generation combat mechanicals, rather than the sleek leading-edge machines you might expect from a company with Eye-in-the-Flame’s reputation. As the product developer explains, though, this is a side-effect of the rough and ready, error-prone nature of field nanoconstruction, which cannot accurately reproduce recipes with the fine tolerances and exacting detail available in commercial nanofacture. As Brigade In A Bottle™ is chiefly intended for use in the creation of disposable shock troops for use in on-alert security systems, diversionary maneuvers, emergency reinforcement, and asymmetric warfare, this may not prove too great an impediment to its success.

– product announcements column, “Destruction Review”

Haz Beans

Neither somewhere you can visit, nor even somewhere you can see up close – it being found deep within a restricted system – it would nonetheless be remiss to omit Ómílarith, the 14th moonlet of the gas giant Bunker (Arvael IV), in the Palaxias (Imperial Core) system.

It should be obvious from the massive docking facilities built into the moonlet’s northern pole and the radiator structures of its southern tip that it has long been converted to military purposes, as has much of the Palaxias System, but Ómílarith, unlike much of the Bunker sub-system, has not been converted for gas mining, nor for antimatter storage, and nor is it a simple warehouse like the structures that surround Depot (Arvael III) with a set of metallic rings.

It is, however, a cryonic storage facility, and one dedicated to a single good.

Bioweapons? No.

Milspec bodies? No.

Pharmaceuticals? No.

Ómílarith is home to the miles and miles of tunnels lined with cryocels, each holding in perfect preservation one more ton of the seed, the fruit-pip, of the Esklavea sendaren plant.

It is, after all, well-established that the Imperial Navy runs on esklav to a far greater extent that it does on deuterium, antimatter, or even paperwork. No-one is entirely certain what would happen should the beverage cease to flow – whether the Empire’s military operations would simply grind to a grouchy halt, or contrariwise, whether the Navy would sweep through known space like an angry, migrainous wildfire – but even fewer are willing to take the chance of finding out.

Against such mischance, the Imperial Strategic Bean Reserve stands ready.

– Around the Worlds on ¤1,000 per Sol

Selectivity

The Habtech’s Peace referred originally to an agreement brokered between the various mercenary companies engaged on each side during the months of drift-habitat fighting that characterized the latter phase of the Black Web War, and continues to refer to similar agreements (again, usually between mercenary groups) up to the present day.

Under a Habtech’s Peace, all combatants engaged in extended combat operations aboard a drift-habitat or other hostile-environment shelter agree to

  • refrain from using control over or sabotage of structural, main power, thermal control, life support, attitude control, or orbital maneuvering systems as a weapon of war;
  • refrain from conducting operations in such a way as to impair the operation, repair, or maintenance of these systems, or in a manner that places key elements of them at risk;
  • permit the passage of identified habitat technicians through and between the combat zone and occupied areas as necessary, without let or hindrance;
  • refrain from making use of identified habitat technicians as agents of sabotage or espionage;
  • actively refuse any offers of intelligence from identified habitat technicians;
  • and so forth.

The purpose of such an agreement should be obvious: operations in such environments offer all too many scenarios in which all sides of the conflict lose, in the destruction of the asset over which they are fighting and/or a mass-death event which destroys or renders combat-incapable both sides. Death for death’s sake is in no-one’s interest.

While combatants often cut a course very close to the line, a Habtech’s Peace is rarely violated, and in such cases mercenaries and mercenary-support organizations adherent to the Iron Concord will often join forces to punish the offender. (It is widely believed that the lack of participation of polity forces in these arrangements is due to the lack of ability – in most cases – to punish defectors.)

– from an article in Blood Cheques and Bullets, 7282Q1 issue

When The Guns Fall Silent

The Imperial Military Service has long been considered somewhat unusual among military forces for the degree of respect it offers to those it has fought, and often defeated. This is not entirely accurate as a consideration, since a certain level of courtesy and mutual respect is hardly uncommon between gentlesoph soldiers; it is hardly uncommon to find other military forces which obey the injunction that strength and honor must also act with grace. There are few, admittedly, that afford – indeed encourage – the militaries of conquered nations the opportunity post hoc to award honors and distinctions to those who fought valiantly against them in defense of their homes.

(Since these honors are awarded under the unusual conditions created by the Annexation Act, and necessarily supervised by the appointed satrap, they are considered both foreign and Imperial in nature; for a full list of these unusual Imperial awards, please see Annex B to this book.)

Unique, perhaps, is the Empire’s creation at the Service’s request of three distinctions specifically to be awarded to the enemy after the fact. Displayed as medals carved from blackened osmium, these three are:

The Order of the Valiant Foe: Most frequently awarded of the three, the silver-chased Order of the Valiant Foe is awarded to those who have displayed outstanding acts of gallantry or personal valor on the battlefield while fighting against the Empire.

Since an overwhelming proportion of these distinctions are awarded posthumously, the Order of the Valiant Foe is a stipendiary order; a stipend is paid from the Privy Purse for the support of spouse, children, and other family of the recipient.

The Order of the Noble Enemy: Taking its name from the Jussovian proverb that a noble friend is the greatest of gifts and a noble enemy the next greatest – a sentiment engraved around its perimeter – the sapphire-on-osmium cluster Order of the Noble Enemy is awarded for dedication to the principles of civilized warfare above and beyond the call of duty.

Most famously, the Order of the Noble Enemy was awarded at the end of the Fourth Oceanic Dominance to the captains of the Ildathach destroyers Levinbolt and Thunderblast for their rescue of over a thousand survivors from the Imperial cruiser Dawning Dragon (sunk the previous day in the battle of White Sands Bay) at great hazard to themselves, such operations leaving them vulnerable to prowling submarines and the load of survivors greatly reducing their fighting ability.

The Order of the Worthy Opponent: An award of gold and topaz upon osmium, the Order of the Worthy Opponent recognizes skillful leadership and outstanding generalship, qualities shared by many of those who have most successfully opposed the Imperial will.

In its origins, the Order of the Worthy Opponent, like its counterparts, was a distinction awarded to officers of those nations absorbed by the Empire during its expansion in the Consolidation, but as with them, its use has since expanded. Most famous among these is the Order won by Matron-Admiral Kajiya ihr-Lomas of the rúrathtu, the award of which she declared the greatest honor of her career in her memoirs, and which she wore to her dying day. Her great-granddaughter presented it to the Museum of the Imperial War College during the celebrations of the signing of the Imperial-Rúrathtu Alliance, where it can be viewed today as a reminder that between honorable enemies, enmity need not be eternal.

– Titles, Orders, and Awards of the Imperial Military Service

Eight Hells (2/4?)

This is Task Force Fourteen, as it steams at a leisurely twenty-two knots steadily east along the rocky southern shore of Míhayll Island, the southernmost in its archipelago. It had passed the entrance to the Míhayll Shallows yesterday at dusk, the shoal offering a back door to Lothell Bay for those with sufficiently shallow drafts, but not even a destroyer would attempt that passage. TF14 had sighted a few fishermen among the shoals, but if they had been sighted in return – a virtual certainty – it would not matter. Their targets had no option but to break out of the bay, which short of charging directly into the teeth of TG Northern, meant transiting the Adessír Straits; if the fishermen reported their passage to the Alliance command, it would make little difference.

The interception, if it happened – the course and speed of TF14 had been selected to intercept the Alliance ships at the mouth of the Straits, if they were indeed attempting a dawn transit – would be a close-quarters knife-fight. The sharp mountain spine running down Míhayll’s length was an effective barrier to both gunfire and radar, and so they would not know of its success until they were almost upon the enemy.

Meanwhile, the wind blew steadily against them, as it had all night. Vicious gusts out of the north-west carried storm clouds down out of Lothell, bringing with them lines of squalls, flat and heavy rain, and a steady swell that was imparting to the ships of TF14 a miserable corkscrewing motion. The only virtue to be found in the weather – and the worse storms further north – was that it would keep Alliance air cover grounded, and make it virtually impossible for Antinomos to fly off or recover aircraft. Or such was the Admiralty’s contention, although the empty skies above them were some confirmation.

The fast battleship Skybreaker, Vice-Admiral Ardelli’s flagship, trails the midpoint of the center line of the formation, following the wake of Invincible, her elder sister, their silhouettes obscured against the storm by the entangling shapes of their dazzle paintwork. Fast battleship is an unconventional designation for the Imperial Navy, but one earned by their unusual construction; rather than heavy naval steel, their citadel armor was wrought from spinmetal, a composite material harvested from deposits left behind by feral silverlife. Absurdly light and strong – albeit in short supply, uncastable, and extremely difficult to work – the spinmetal citadels of the Invincible-class battleships left them vulnerable to only the heaviest fire, while allowing them to outrun most cruisers with ease.

(A framed letter, presented to the ship by the naval architect behind the project, hung in the captain’s day cabin of Invincible; a purloined copy of a reprimand addressed to a junior Alliance intelligence analyst informing them in no uncertain terms that no-one, not even an Empire recently come into possession of the deposits of the Ossirvel Distributary, would expend the wealth necessary to use such a rare and costly material as warship armor.)

Ahead and behind them as they proceeded in line ahead, their escorting cruisers Seabreeze and Waterspout; refits of the older Tempest-class, now fat with air defenses, but still mounting a respectable main armament of a half-dozen 6″ guns.

And around them, the destroyers. Eight of them, all of the Ulricik Bancrach-class, the Hungry Wolves: Gray. Grinning. Pouncing. Leaping. Ravening. Swift. Unseen. Grizzled.

Almost hidden as they crashed through the swell, water sloshing over their bows – while relatively new, the wetness of the class in heavy weather was well-known – the destroyers flanked the main line four and four to port and starboard, the first pair preceding the others and the last trailing. Most visible was Ravening Wolf, on Skybreaker‘s port bow, flying the white pennant of Commodore Chiomé, commander of the destroyer screen.

The voice of a loudspeaker making a long-expected call cut through the quiet of Skybreaker‘s bridge.

“Radar-bridge. Radar-bridge. Contacts, repeat contacts, appearing through ground clutter, bearing oh-eight-four.”

“Signal to all ships: clear for action. Hoist the battle ensign.”

Eight Hells (1/4?)

Vice-Admiral Ardelli, TDMS Skybreaker, commanding TF 14. Battleship CAS Antithemis, carrier CAS Antinomos, escorting destroyers, reported moving out Lothell Bay steaming ESE. Suspect attempting transit Adessír Straits tomorrow at local dawn. Heavy weather over Lothell Is. makes it unlikely fly off air cover. All measures intercept and destroy. 1SL, Calmiríë.

Friendly Stab

“I noticed the knife the first day we were assigned to work with the Spireguard. It was easy to notice: everyone knows what a hanrian looks like, and there aren’t many who carry around multiple fighting knives. But even among those who did, this one was always set off to the side, away from the others. It’s a very distinctive knife; two opposed blades on the same hilt. One’s got a deep hooked notch near the tip, and serrations along the back of the blade. The other’s a fat spike with a triangular cross-section, and grooves wrapped around it; not along the length of the blade, as fullers would be, but circles wrapping around it.

“But not one ever used in the fight, that I could see, and when we were figuring each other out, asking questions about each others’ kit, and sharing war stories, that one knife never came up.

“So a couple of weeks into the fighting, I asked the question. And that night, I learned that it was called a ‘dignity knife’, and not something considered a matter for polite conversation.

“Eventually, I learned what requisition forms called it, which was ‘BS-11 Biological Security Knife, Block II’. One end is a pithing knife, which – while familiar to us now – was quite the shock to learn about in those days; the other, though? The fat blade was stuffed with incendiary explosive and lenses, those grooves, to focus the force of the blast. Per the manufacturer, that was ‘biotech security’, making sure no corpses were left behind for enemy intelligence to plunder for biotechnological secrets.

“Unofficially? The Legions had a unique interpretation of “no-one gets left behind”. For me, unnerving will always be defined by fighting alongside allies who carried special knives to kill their own wounded, then incinerate the bodies wherever they fell.”

– MSgt. Anvis Ankarian, 14th Drop Shock Echelon,
Memories of the Mnekkej Campaign

Squishy

COLLAPSITER (THRESHER MAELSTROM)

Special weapons package THRESHER MAELSTROM, or the collapsiter warhead, is a kugelblitz-based delivery system suitable for deployment from a large-bore heavy mass driver. Put simply, the principle of the collapsiter is the activation upon detonation of a spherical array of annihilation-pumped lasers focused on a single point, raising the mass-energy density of that point to such a degree that a black hole is formed, one which rapidly adds the remaining mass of the warhead to itself. The layout and activation of the array is computed to impart considerable angular momentum to the resulting hole.

The destructive effect of the collapsiter warhead comes primarily not from direct interaction, but rather from the shredding effect of the intense tidal forces exerted by the nascent hole upon objects in its vicinity. Conveniently, these are aligned perpendicular to the controllable rotation axis of the hole, making the collapsiter one of the few coplanar weapons systems in the armamentarium, if one discounts the secondary destructive effect of the eventual quantum evaporation of the kugelblitz and the return of the invested energy in the form of an intense particle radiation burst.

Collapsiter warheads, as relatively contained gravitic weapons capable of remote deployment, are also of particular note for their ability to disrupt and destroy via sharp inflection the controlled space-time distortions used in wormhole-based systems and other metric engineering technologies.

High-yield collapsiter warheads are considered Tier II prohibited weapons under the Ley Accords. However, in practice, the largest barrier to wider collapsiter deployment – bearing in mind the Ley Accords prohibition is on use rather than manufacture or deployment – is the outrageously high insurance rate charged by tort carriers for guaranteeing stargate leases for or in any polity known to deploy collapsiter-based weapons systems. As a corporation dependent upon metric engineering technologies and inasmuch as collapsiter warheads are one of the few weapons systems considered good candidates to overcome the vector-lock armoring of the stargates themselves, Ring Dynamics considers collapsiter deployment in or near systems they serve to warrant a highest-risk assessment.

– A Brief Guide to Special Weapons Packages, IN Press

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

And next in our review of less conventional starship types, we come to that odd duck, the aerospace cruiser. (And many of these remarks, naturally, also apply to its larger cousin, the aerospace carrier.)

Ever since the early Imperial Navy absorbed the old air forces into its Close Orbit and Atmospheric Command (CLATMOCOM, under the Second Space Lord), these specialized classes and their equally specialist crewers have existed in something of a limbo, engaging in practices often deemed unnatural among decent, right-thinking spacers. Such as, if I may write in hushed tones for a moment, streamlining.

In short, while normally one can rely on a comfortable dichotomy between airships – which stay down in the nice, warm, notably present air – and starships – which avoid atmosphere in the much the same way that a thirsty Leirite avoids water – the aerospace cruiser defies this. While even the interface vehicles that bridge these two realms tend to minimize their time spent in the inconvenient middle, it spends all its operational time in a realm too low for low orbit and too high for upper atmosphere, being beholden to neither.

This requires a large number of rather unsettling compromises. Let’s begin our examination with the fundamental reason why: the entire purpose of an aerospace cruiser is to provide a secure base from which atmospheric combat vehicles can sortie, and in order to let them be competitive ACVs, it is necessary not to weigh them down with large extra drive mechanisms just to enable them to get to and from the mama bird. Thus, said mothership must not operate merely in low orbit, but dipping well into the atmosphere – into the lower mesophere – at typical altitudes for lithic worlds no more than 65 to 80 km (211,000 – 264,000′) above the surface. Such altitudes are already painfully difficult to reach for dedicated air vehicles, but manageable with relatively small auxiliary aerospikes.

And yet, the implications! A non-interface starship at this altitude suffers from high levels of atmospheric drag, enough to rip any normal starship’s – one not designed for atmospheric entry – structure apart, and thus, aerospace cruisers must share the great attention to streamlining and the heavier structure required by interface vehicles, but to an even greater extent, since the aerospace cruiser must not only penetrate the entry interface, but hang in it while launching and receiving aircraft from its vomitories.

(This in turn involves various trade-offs in other starship systems, like radiators, which must be accommodated behind streamlined panels while still functioning effectively; the point-defense laser grid must be tuned to atmospheric frequencies despite the effects on performance – and aerospace cruisers are well within the practical offensive range of ground-based aircraft and anti-aircraft systems; the engines must not choke when run in atmosphere; and so forth.)

The next issue, fortunately, partly cancels out this one. While an aerospace cruiser sustaining (via continuous burn; copious fuel supplies and an oiler or two to restock them are also essentials for space-to-atmo operations) orbit at 72 km would have to deal with an arbitrarily long period of fending off the atmosphere at 8 km/sec, consider that the period of such an orbit is a little under 1.5 hours, meaning that an aerospace cruiser maintaining its “natural” orbital velocity will pass very rapidly over the battlespace and out of air range; and pilots in general, it should be said, are notably unappreciative when their mothership leaves them behind.

To avoid this, aerospace cruisers are required to operate in forced orbits, maintaining station above a particular location. This requires, of course, even more copious supplies of fuel and multiplies the required continuous – and for those not familiar with the concept, continuous here means if the drive ever stops, you fall right out of the sky and die – station-keeping burn considerably, but at least it spares you quite so much brutalization by the atmosphere and makes launching and receiving aircraft practical, not just theoretically possible.

So before we continue and look at specific types, let’s raise a glass to these low-flying, fuel-gulping, plasma-shocking, sky-hanging abominations of nature, and all that sail in them! We don’t look down on you – except literally – but we wouldn’t have your jobs for a Service pension and a nice retirement moon.

– the Big Boys’ Book of Boom

Macrophage

“A number of high-biotech polities have taken the immune system as a model for their military forces. What seems an exotic, even amusing quirk when looked at from the point of view of rank titles and equipment designations is much less amusing when you’re drowning in sticky goo, encapsulated, and actively being digested.”

– A Virus Speaks: A Memoir of the Myriasoma War

Laager

A drink dating back to the tank battles of the Southron War, hence the pun, and kept alive by veterans who miss its sharp burn and acute abdominal pains, laager is not beer, but rather a distilled spirit. Specifically, while it can be – and has been – distilled from any number of fermented grains or tubers, it gains most of its character from the method of production – namely, taking advantage of the curious fact that a complete fermentation and distillation system could be crammed into the engine compartment of a TT-19 Werewolf tank, constructed almost entirely from field-available spares, without significantly impairing the performance of the engine.

Color: Clear, with occasional variations towards translucent gray-blue.

Flavor: Raw, bitter, brutally strong alcohol, with a hint of motor oil and cordite.

Recommended: For those with excellent health coverage, and no sense of taste or smell. Alternatively, it serves well to clean engine parts, strip paint, and fuel small stoves. Has been known to spontaneously combust in rich atmospheres.

By the numbers, less than three in twelve habitual drinkers go blind, most not permanently.

– Bottles of the Empire, 2448 ed.

Hold the Eggs

Bacon Maneuver: A stealth tactic used by sailing masters with no sense of self-preservation, the Bacon Maneuver involves hiding a small starship within the drive wake of a larger vessel. Large, multiple-drive craft often have “sweet spots” close in where the drive plumes have not yet impinged on one another, and thus in which a small vessel can lurk without being instantly immolated by the larger vessel’s torches. In such a position, the small starship relies on the “white-out” of sensors looking directly at the drive plume to conceal its own presence.

Carrying this out is fraught with a number of problems: the ability to approach the sweet spot through the distal drive wake without being incinerated; the need to sink radiant heat from the drive plumes surrounding the sweet spot; the high likelihood of a collision with the larger vessel or its drive plume should it maneuver unexpectedly; and so forth.

From this litany of difficulties is drawn the name of the maneuver: one who attempts it while being so much as a minim less good than they think they are will assuredly be fried crispy.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary

Sons of Ancyr

Horns of Ancyr, blow ye wildly,
Thunder forth your brazen fury,
Summon every soul who hears ye,
To the battlefield.

Shields of Ancyr, stand before we,
In your lock-step, ever steady,
Naught was forged can e’er score ye,
Stand and never yield.

Spears of Ancyr, sound your brattle,
In terror drive them forth as cattle,
Ardor quenched in bloody battle,
Death to foemen deal’d.

Sons of Ancyr, make your foray,
Ye shall live in song and story,
This shall ever be your glory:
Free men never yield!

– “Sons of Ancyr”, trad. military march, circa. 400

Pyrrhic

Belchar’s World, Battle of: The Battle of Belchar’s World – a term referring to Fourth Belchar’s, 6882 – while in most respects another of the minor squabbles endemic to the Shadow Systems, has attained a degree of fame through being taught in the majority of the Worlds’ military academies as an example of the problems that can result from close-orbital combat operations.

The battle was the last gasp of the Vile-Born Imperium’s attempted invasion of the freesoil Belchar’s World (Torgu Wilds). While a technical victory for the organized Vile-Born fleet against the irregular forces of the freesoil world, the majority of the battle took place in mid-to-low planetary orbit, resulting in extensive destruction of not only military craft, but also of civilian stations and other elements of orbital infrastructure – most significantly, the self-destruction of the orbital starport twenty-two minutes after Vile-Born boarding parties forced the docking bays.

Inevitably, the introduction of so much debris into this area caused a full-blown cascade catastrophe, resulting in mutual disengagement. After a number of attempts to penetrate the cascade zone with landing craft, all of which were lost with all hands, the Vile-Born fleet retreated from the system in good order.

(This was not to last: much of the fleet was subsequently destroyed in the Osquina Mutiny, instigated by a coalition of sub-admirals who preferred not to return to Vileheim and suffer the traditional sky-bath prescribed for failed naval officers.)

I Can See Your House From Here

Anywhere Killer (n.): hypothetical weapons system using an arbitrarily-targetable wormhole generator to deliver ordnance – or convenient non-ordnance, such as stellar cores – to any target location in the galaxy whose coordinates are known or can be inferred, bypassing all defense systems in the intervening space-time.

Naturally, as a strategic first-strike weapon nonpareil, the development, deployment, and/or use of this technology has been banned by every respectable galactic polity.

Naturally, every respectable galactic polity has a research team or twelve squirreled away in secret working on it.

May their theoretical and practical difficulties long continue.

– A Star Traveler’s Dictionary


(Yes, this is the local version of Schlock Mercenary’s “Long Gun” – since people kept asking me about such a thing in the ‘verse.

And to clarify further: those research teams may not know it yet, but those theoretical difficulties are actually, genuinely insurmountable. The only way to inflate a distant wormhole end at a targeted location is the ER=EPR method used by stargates, and so Anywhere Killers are impossible.)

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.