On AKVs and Survivability

From the questions box:

Dear Gentlesoph,
Having been reading your posts, I have a question about AKVs such as the ‘Daggerfan’ and ‘Slasher’ classes. With high-powered lasers capable of doing damage at one light second, how do AKVs survive the 300,000km journey into single kilometer range? As stated in your ‘Nonstandard Starship Scuffles’ post, military vessels use armor woven through with thermal superconductors dumping heat into ‘thermal goo’. I assume this armor/thermal management system applies to AKVs as well, although you also state that point-defense lasers will shred a vessel unfortunate enough to get into very close range. How can an AKV survive at single kilometer ranges long enough to inflict damage on the target? Thank you for your time, I look forward to more posts!

Well, there are two parts to this: how do AKVs close to skin-dancing range, and how do they survive when they get there? I’ll take ’em one at a time.

On the first point: with great difficulty.

If you take a wing of AKVs and throw them at a fresh battleship, all you’re doing is providing its point-defense computers with skeet; they’ll be chaff and charnel before they get anywhere near the inside of the BB’s point-defense zone.

What you have to do is wear it down first. That’s is the job of the non-carriers on your side of the fight: throw a lot of kinetics at the enemy to make their PD work hard. That does three jobs: one, it keeps the PD grid busy in itself; two, any of it that gets through may just take out a chunk of the PD grid; but most importantly, three, by making them run their point-defenses, you’re building up heat in their ship. Your non-carriers also have the job of pumping heat into their ship directly with the big lasers.

That heat, in turn, is going to eat away at their PD efficiency in a variety of ways. Most simply, it’s going to have to cut back on its firing rate once the heat sinks start filling, because otherwise the crew will cook, but also the hardware becomes less efficient, processor error rates go up, and similar badness ensues.

That’s when you send in the AKVs, and you send in a lot of AKVs mingled with a lot of chaff and decoys, swamping the capabilities of the now-degraded PD grid. They won’t all get through – you plan for a lot of them not to – but once the grid’s sufficiently degraded, enough will to ruin the BB’s day.

As for when they’re there? Remember, they’re described as operating within the point-defense envelope, which is to say, inside its inner boundary, which is defined by the minimum effective range of the PD – set by a variety of factors, such as the range at which firing the PD will seriously damage your own ship, but of which probably the most important is the ability of the PD to track the target and slew to fire on it. At the sort of hug-the-hull sub-km range AKVs like to operate at, it doesn’t take much velocity to generate a huge traversal angle, and what you can’t track, you can’t reliably hit.

(And it’s hard for your screen to fire effectively at the AKVs ruining your day, ’cause even discounting the effects of the AKV exploding at point-blank range, every miss will hit you.)

All of which is to say: While there are some subtleties and complexities to the tactics (defense AKVs, screening vessels sharing PD, etc., etc.), the short answer is it takes a lot of work and losses to get an AKV force within range of a target, but once you do, that target is dead meat.

Heavy Cavalry: Fields of Fire

It seems there is a peck of confusion out there concerning exactly how the “base platform” weapons on Imperial heavy cavalry units actually function, and even are mounted (including at least one case of confusion so profound as to believe the rear/local defense guns were “sticking out the back of the turret”, in the style of anti-infantry defense MGs from early last century, despite the platform – without a module installed – not having a turret.).

Here is a diagram in my inimitably terrible style:

20181101_175819952_iOS

That’s your base platform, driving left to right. Green at the front are your cheek-mounted (i.e., in a three-axis gimbaled mount on the side of the vehicle) heavy mass drivers, target designators, and micromissile launchers. Purple at the rear are your cheek-mounted medium mass drivers for local defense. Both weapons are illustrated in their default rest position, i.e., forward-facing or rear-facing, respectively.

As can be seen from the shaded fields of fire, both can train sufficiently to hit anything on their side of the vehicle that doesn’t actually involve training through the platform body or the other weapon mount; i.e., the forward cheek-mounts can hit anything from directly forward (with a small blind spot directly in front of the vehicle) to not-quite-rear; and the rear cheek-mounts can hit anything from directly behind (with small blind spot directly behind the vehicle, likewise) to not-quite-directly forward.

In short, there are plenty of things for them all to shoot at.

 

Question: Useless Machines

Specialist290 asks:

So what do the eldrae make of the idea of “useless machines”?

The most famous example, of course, being the machine whose sole purpose, once turned on, is to turn itself back off. (Like so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z86V_ICUCD4 )

Insert usual disclaimer about the reliability of capsule summaries of the opinions of over a trillion sophonts.

Well, for a start, they aren’t “useless machines”. Useless machines manifestly fail to work properly. These are “amusing mechanical follies”, like Rube Goldberg designs, which are… amusing. Also decorative.

(The ur-example of the class *there* is actually a Precursor artifact, nicknamed “The Uncrater”, a black-box widget whose sole function appears to be declining to be packaged up in the current local language, then quietly disintegrating any packaging material used to attempt to do so.

You’ll find it indexed under “Amusing Mechanical Follies”. Also under “Suspected Precursor Practical Jokes”, and “Seriously, Guys, What The Hell?”)

 

Question: Marlinspike

Phineas Imhoff asks:

I have heard mention of the “spacers marlinspike” several times, I am curious what exactly is it for? Does it serve the same role as a traditional marlinspike, just recycled in space. Or is it something else?

It’s essentially the same tool, albeit with some minor microgravity adaptations. While there isn’t quite so much rope involved in celestime sailing vis-à-vis maritime, there’s more than enough to make such a tool useful (especially in the cargo department, for lashing of breakbulk), and that’s before you get to its handy secondary uses for poking suspicious-looking objects and rapping miscreants soundly across the base of the skull.

 

You’ll Want Us High and Clear

ICED FIRE-CLASS ANTIMATTER TRANSPORT

Operated by: Extropa Energy, ICC
Type: Antimatter Transport
Construction: Islien Yards, ICC

Length: 1,600 km (overall)
Beam: 3,200 km
Dry mass: 39,200 tons (not including cryocels)

Gravity-well capable: No; not even low-orbit capable.
Atmosphere capable: No.

Personnel: 31

  • Flight Commander
  • 3 x Flight Executive/Administrator
  • 3 x Flight Director
  • 3 x Flight Engineer
  • 3 x Propulsion Engineer
  • 3 x Cargomaster
  • 3 x general technicians
  • 2 x riggers/EVA specialists
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  •  3 x Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 1×1 “Sunheart V” fusion torch

Propellant: Deuterium/helium-3 blend
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 3.5 standard gravities (3.3 Earth G) at nominal load
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c unloaded, 0.1 c loaded (based on particle shielding)

Drones:

  • 3 x general-purpose maintenance drones
  • 3 x tether-climbing rigger drones

Sensors:

  • 1 x standard navigational sensor suite, Islien Yards

Other Systems:

  • 2 x Islien Yards boosted commercial kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies Mark VII regenerative life support
  • 2 x Bright Shadow EC-780 information furnace data system
  • Islien Yards custom dual vector-control core and associated technologies
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies dual-mode radiator system

Small craft:

  • 1 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 1 x Adhaïc-class workpod

The standard vehicle for ferrying antimatter from the Cirys bubble at Esilmúr to its various places of use, the Iced Fire-class is a starship designed around one core principle, commonly adhered to when dealing with antimatter:

Don’t get any on you.

The core hull itself is much smaller than the dimensions above suggest; a blunted cylinder a mere 252 m in length, including bunkerage. This houses the entire livable volume of the starship, including a dock for the Élyn-class microcutter at the bow, and a bay housing for the workpod. Rather than the typical stern mounting, the three Sunheart V fusion torches are located in nacelles set off from the hull on radiator pylons amidships, located 120 degrees apart; these nacelles are fully vectorable for maximum maneuverability.

The stern of the core hull instead contains the attachment points and winches for a 1,600 km tether, at whose fully extended end is in turn attached the spinhub. This is a simple unit containing monitoring equipment and a centrifugal ring, to which in turn are mounted eight further attachment points and associated tethers, terminating in heavy couplings. It is to these couplings that antimatter cryocels are mounted during loading, and dismounted upon arrival. In flight, the action of the centrifugal ring maintains appropriate safe distance between the core hull and the cryocels, and between the cryocels themselves, while also ensuring that jettisoned cryocels will move away from the main body of the starship in the event of containment failure.

 

Covered In Bees

HURRICANE-CLASS DRONE BATTLESHIP (CARRIER)

Operated by: Empire of the Star
Type: Drone Battleship, General Operations
Construction: Palaxias Fleet Yards

Length: 2.3 km
Beam (avg.): 0.8 km
Dry mass: 2,900,000 tons

Gravity-well capable: No.
Atmosphere capable: No.

Personnel: 1,294

  • 396 crewers
  • 514 flight operations
  • 384 espatiers
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  • Imperial Navy 3×3 “Neutrino Dawn” antimatter pion drive
  • Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 4×4 “Nova Pulse” fusion torch

Propellant:

  • Deuterium slush/metallic antideuterium
  • Deuterium/helium-3 slush blend

Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 5.6 standard gravities (5.2 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust: 6.6 standard gravities (6.1 Earth G)
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c (rated, based on particle shielding, with flight deck doors closed)

Drones:

  • 43,200 x AKVs (loadout varies by mission, typically Daggerfan-class)
  • Associated thrust packs and modular swapout payloads, by mission
  • 64 x “Buckler VI” point-defense supplementary drones, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 32 x “Rook” tactical observation platforms, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective (with supplementary IN hardware)
  • 64 x general-duty modular drones (not counting flight operations hardware)

Sensors:

  • 3 x independent standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks
  • 6 x [classified] enhanced active/passive tactical sensory suite, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective
  • Imperial Navy tactically-enhanced longscan

Weapons (Auxiliary):

  • 96 x “Slammer III” dual turreted mass drivers (local-space defense)
  • Artifice Armaments, ICC “Popcorn” point defense/CQB laser grid

Other systems:

  • 3 x Artifice Armaments, ICC cyclic kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies, ICC Mark VII regenerative life support (multiple independent systems)
  • 3 x Bright Shadow, ICC custom-build megaframe data system, plus multiple EC-1140 information furnaces for sectoral control
  • AKV repair facilities
  • 3 x Extropa Energy, ICC “Calviata” second-phase fusion reactors
  • 6 x Imperial Navy AKV tactical management suite
  • 3 x Imperial Navy DN-class vector-control core and associated technologies
  • 3 x Nanodynamics, ICC “Phage-a-Phage” immunity
  • 6 x modular swapout regions (large)
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC high-capacity thermal sinks and dual-mode radiative striping; 3 x deployable droplet heat radiators
  • Tactical bridge

Small craft:

  • 4 x Nelyn-class modular cutters
  • 2 x Ékalaman-class pinnace/shuttle (atmosphere capable)
  • 16 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 32 x Adhaïc-class workpod

(You’ll notice the obvious similarities to the Leviathan-class dreadnought in systems installed, which should come as no surprise; these two came off the drawing board at roughly the same time. And if you’re wondering why a BB-sized carrier has a DN-sized vector-control core – well, you’ll note that the much more tightly packed supplies of, for example, bunkerage plus AKV bunkerage, plus the need to propel all those AKVs, make it mass significantly more than a Leviathan in practice. Carriers tend to be thus.)

The core hull of the Hurricane-class drone battleship (carrier) is divided into five segments: from bow to stern, the flight operations section, the AKV bunkerage, the command section, the bunkerage, and the propulsion bus, laid out tail-lander style. The flight operations section, by design, is a hexagonal prism, flat faces to dorsal and ventral, and the other ship segments follow this pattern.

Attached to this on the starboard side, extending to dorsal and ventral of the core hull, and running from 100 m ahead of the flight operations section (to give AKVs exit and entrance cover) back to cover the first 100 m of the bunkerage, is the starship’s “buckler”. The core hull of the Hurricane-class is relatively lightly armored for an IN vessel, since carriers are intended, doctrinally, to stay out of CQB and mass conservation supervenes. However, to provide protection against long-distance fire in the outer engagement envelope, as a less maneuverable ship class, the buckler – heavy armor plate connected to the core hull by shock-absorbing trusses – covers and extends slightly beyond the two starboard facets, providing additional protection for as long as the vessel maintains the proper attitude.

The flight operations section at the bow, taking up the first half-kilometer of the ship, is effectively a single large flight deck, opened to space by an armored spacetight door in the for’ard hull. (Unlike smaller flight decks, this region cannot be pressurized.) The 43,200 carried AKVs occupy hexagonal cells clustered on the inner hull to port, starboard, dorsal, and ventral from which they launch themselves, while a small conventional flight deck at the aft end of the section provides space for the Hurricane‘s small craft. The after hull of the flight operations sections is heavily armored, to provide what protection it can against a lucky shot penetrating the flight deck.

Immediately behind the flight operations section is the AKV bunkerage section, which houses fuel and propellant, along with ammunition and other consumables, for the carried AKVs, permitting refueling and rearming. This is the most protected area of the ship, as AKV fuel and ammunition tends to be highly volatile.

The command section, the primary habitable area of the starship, is a relatively small area sandwiched between the AKV bunkerage and the carrier’s own bunkerage, also protected behind the buckler, and housing both the starship’s own operations and the majority of the outsize flight operations department. From dorsal and ventral, sensor towers extend beyond the buckler, allowing line-of-sight sensing and communications with the battlespace without exposing the core hull.

(As a side note, the Hurricane-class, like most large carriers, is an example of the IN’s dual command system. The starship itself is commanded by a Flight Commander, ranked Captain [O-7], from the line branch, while the AKV wings are commanded by a Group Captain, an equivalent rank. Overall command of both is held by a Mission Commander, ranked Commodore [O-8].)

Aft of these, a conventional bunkerage section and propulsion bus, equipped with droplet radiators for primary cooling, fills out the remaining length of the vessel.

Scattered about the length of the vessel is the same heavy-duty (“Popcorn”) point-defense grid used on the Leviathan-class dreadnought, along with 96 small turreted mass drivers – similar to those used on lighter IN classes – for heavier local-space defense.

(They are not intended as offensive weapons; the carrier has 43,200 of those in its AKVs, and would-be Flight Commanders who can’t resist the urge to take their ships into close-quarters battle are redirected towards frigates, destroyers, and other roles where such is (a) tactically useful and (b) much less likely to get one either cashiered for gross incompetence or relieved of command by an XO for whom it is not a good day to die.)