Trope-a-Day: Point Defenseless

Point Defenseless: Utterly averted.  The automated point-defense systems – usually plasma lasers or other Energy Weapons, for their speed and reaction time, gridded across the hull – will rip to pieces just about anything that gets within their range in an colorful orgy of photonic destruction, unless it’s extremely fast, capable of turning on a dime, and very smart about doing both.  (This is another reason why meat-piloted Space Fighters don’t exist, since AKVs can at least try to be competitive in this close-combat environment.)  Even then, defeating them is a matter of wearing them down (until heat buildup, primarily, lessens their efficacy) and swamping them with sheer volume of incoming fire.

Drake Stories: And Then You Have To Repaint That Section

“I once asked a Drake captain if he was worried about hostile boardings when on the ground. You know, because none of the main guns can range on the area in front of the landing bay doors, and it doesn’t have a security turret? So he handed me some binoculars, pointed me at his ship – this was at a goodwill airshow – and said that at least two of the point-defense grid emitters had each bay door covered, look? I didn’t think that was very practical, and I told him so.

“He just laughed and said that even with the smallest trickle-current the accumulators could push through a starship laser, anything made of flesh trying to board without asking couldn’t help but be set on fire… and exploded.”

– Ven Tar Villis, shipspotter

Giving Flak Some Flak

Don't do this. Don't ever do this.

Don’t do this. Don’t ever do this.

There is one other small point to make, it occurs to me, regarding lasers and appropriate uses of same.

One of which is that the Imperial Navy, by and large, uses carefully targeted laser weapons for short-range point defense, the intent being to vaporize small projectiles, blind sensors, overheat close-in AKVs and send ’em into thermal shutdown (being small, they have precious little heat-dumping capacity, relying instead on avoiding being hit), and convince missile warheads (for those people who feel the need to use missile warheads, kinetic energy being plenty of fun on its own) to explode before they actually get to their target starship.

Some folks (the screenshot on the right is from Battlestar Galactica) are of the opinion that an even better way to do this would be good old-fashioned flak. Mount point-defense turrets on your ship, and fill space around you with enough projectiles that anything incoming gets shredded by those before reaching you.

What those folks forget is that Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space!, ’cause all those projectiles – all those clouds of projectiles – will keep moving, with all their kinetic energy, until they hit something, and ruin its day. If you’re lucky, that will be whatever poor bastard is next to you in the same formation, weapons and small craft you’re trying to use, or your own ship on some future occasion, and you’ll only manage to hurt yourself. If you’re unlucky, they’ll just carry merrily on hitting things completely unrelated to the original target at random and providing people with casus belli, atrocity fodder, and other reasons to whup your ass for the next ten thousand years or more.

Cleaning up the debris after a space battle to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen is already a giant pain in the ass (the kind that there’s even a dedicated class of fluffship – crewing which is generally thought to be the worst job in the IN – to handle) when all you have to worry about is hulks, spallation debris, ricochets and accidental misses, and such-like, without deliberately making the problem a million times worse by filling the sky with high-KE flak. You don’t fire anything without a firing solution attached to it. Here endeth the lesson.

Or, as Mass Effect 2 put it in a somewhat more pithy manner: