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Subject: Starwars Lasers BS?
AchtungLagg    7/26/2004 11:10:18 PM
I just think this is the best place for this rant, you see, while watching star wars movies which i really like for nonmilitary reasons, it still perplexes me that such an advanced society fights ship to ship like wwii dogfights (where are the 1million mile range missiles?) and why are the laser shots slower than bullet projectiles, and why do they have color? Or am i getting something wrong? Would a projectile weapon be more accurate?
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Ehran    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?-eon to rylan76   8/3/2004 3:19:31 PM
a 120 ton projectile travelling at .9 C delivers enough energy to burn off an entire hemisphere of a typical terrestrial planet. this assumes the projectile was vapourized by a nuke just before impacting the planet. the energy dispersion pattern is different if it arrives as a solid mass but the end result isn't very different. one of those essentially destroys the biosphere of a planet. looking at the bright side it's very doubtful that a mass driver than can push a one tonne object to .96 C is going to be any sort of portable.
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Warhammer    Mass drivers    8/5/2004 10:11:40 AM
Relativistic warheads are rather hard to dodge as well. Not because you can't move out of the way, but because by the time you see it, it is already 90%+ the distance to you. If you detect a warhead moving at .9c 100 billion miles out, the time it took the light to make that 100 billion miles, has given the projectile time to move 90 billion miles closer to you. At this distance, you still have a chance to evade. Anything closer, and you will probably get blindsided. The projectile will seem to have near infinite acceleration, it is only 10% behind the light it is following. Everytime you view it, it will be 90% closer than it looks. If you see it at 100 billion miles away, it is actually 10 billion miles away and it will hit you in about 14 hours. If you first see it at 10 billion miles 1.5 hours. 1 billion miles you only have about 9 minutes. If you see it at 100 million miles, you have about 53 seconds before you need to move or die. That is looking at .9c, .95c cuts all those prior times in half. .999c and it is another half. If we ever get .9c velocities or higher in our weapons, they will be a formidable weapon, close up and relatively far away. Smaller missiles used for shorter ranges, larger ones for longer distances on bigger, slower targets. We don't even have to be able to project the missiles at that speed, just get the ship moving at .9c and the bomb will do the rest of the work. The ship gets to .9c, moves towards target, lets bomb go, alters course, and goes home. The bomb continues on to target, and if it is a planet, there isn't much that will stop it from destroying its target. Relativistic dive bombing could be tomorrows weapon of mass destruction. Energy weapons will play their part in close up encounters, but an alien race doesn't even have to be in our solar system to destroy our planet if need be.
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doggtag    RE:Mass drivers    8/5/2004 11:21:39 AM
"...but an alien race doesn't even have to be in our solar system to destroy our planet if need be." Excellent, Warhammer. And a true point. If we consider the capabilities any race would have who achieved the abilities to move space rocks up to such high velocities, then they also will have developed very effective orbital science principles and formulae. They could, effectively, launch a hunk of asteroid several decades ago at whatever speed, timing its arrival to impact a planet anywhere along its solar orbit. And even near-miss asteroids of sufficient size and velocity can rape a planet of a good portion of its atmosphere. For all we know (or don't know), the "planetkiller"-type asteroids that at several-million-year intervals have impacted our planet and wiped out scores of lifeforms could well have been intentional, or the remnants from some greater calamity taking place well beyond our comprehension. A very interesting storyline about such technologies is a two-parter called, "The Forge of God" and "The Anvil of Stars", about an ancient race who saw a threat from almost everywhere, and developed neutronium and anti-neutronium "meteors" they launched eons ago, a pair of which "intercepted" the Earth. Coupled to the devices following along ocean fault lines which broke water down into nuclear fuel for strings of bombs, when the two meteors met up at the Earth's core, our planet was ripped apart. Can't really give you a decent book report on it here, but they are definitely an interesting "what if" like a thousand other series. But it does make sense: what better way to eliminate a threat species to your cosmic plan than bombard their world with massive space rocks and antimatter asteroids? Even though we got all inspired by movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon, we still do not have anywhere near the technology or capability to stop some far-advanced species from "chunking us" with 10-to-100 mile asteroids. We only comfort ourselves in the hope that any civilization who has evolved far enough to explore space without wiping themselves out will somehow cling to a Trekkian- Prime Directive-type mentality and not go through the cosmos eliminating any other species it sees may become a potential threat to its existence. Here's hoping humanity never follows that path (but considering how we have treated our own kind in the name of the gods we worship, we most likely will commit planetary genocides somewhere in our distant future)..
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eon    RE:Mass drivers    8/6/2004 2:58:54 PM
As for shipboard weaponry, based on Ehran's comment I'd have to conclude you wouldn't need a very big projectile to kill a typical space vehicle (I'd assumed otherwise, proving once more the old adage about "assume"). Forget the 120-ton round; what about a mass-driver firing the equivalent of an old-time cannonball, as per the 12-pounder Napoleon of the Civil War era? A sphere would be just about the ideal form for space combat, minimizing irregularities in CG (and of course you don't have to worry about air resistance, because there isn't any air to resist), could easily be handled by autoloading sysytems (there's no "wrong way" to put it in the loader, sort of like the automatic return at the bowling alley), and could easily be mass produced in any reasonable material (nickel-iron, etc.), and possibly even in an unreasonable one or two (H. Beam Piper's "collapsium", for instance). In effect, you'd have a very big, very long-ranged, and very, very nasty....BB gun..
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realpolitik    The problem with .9C projectiles, and otherwise fast moving objects   8/6/2004 3:55:58 PM
I'm not sure I buy the arguement that combat is difficult "BVR" (Beyond Visual Range) - given the "VR" of such low tech achievements as our own Hubble Space Telescope. Of course, ships don't emit energy like stars, nebulae, etc., but we seem to be able to spot asteroids and the like. Definitely though, stealth in space becomes a very strong factor with increasing ranges - as well as decoy tactics. Dogtagg said Star Trek styled Photon Torpedoes lose effectiveness with range (by consuming their fuel) but based purely on my wargaming experience, it is my understanding that Photon Torpedoes are one trek weapon that do not lose effective warhead yield with range (however they do lose accuracy.) Plasma torps, on the otherhand, do run out of energy (buy they are guided weapons that can make course corrections, in addition to being a big ball of loosely managed energy.) Eon predicts Capital Ships over Space Carriers. That makes sense if you think the carrier based weapon systems are small manned fighters with short range weapons. But space is vast, and your Capital ship is small. I think something like carriers or motherships that carry andyf's wasps are not unlikely. In otherwords, a large ship might tend to many frigate sized UAV (USV?) missile like vehicles that would carry submunitions, one shot massive lasers, or just be kinetic kill vehicles. (Maybe a combination of all.) These would allow a ship to cover a large area and engage enemy forces at extreme range. (What happens when both sides USVs nullify each other is another question.) Finally, one argument to get space combat to resemble Star Wars might be the problem of inertial velocity. Warhammer pointed out the peril of responding to a projectile approaching at .9c speed, but it seems to me that unless the target is fixed (which means in space, it is moving on a fixed path, I guess) how could one ever hope to correctly aim such a projectile, or to make course corrections to keep on target when shooting at a something making unpredictable (evasive) movements. Given two fleets attempting to engage each other from long distances at high speeds, it would seem targetting is difficult. If those two fleets close distance, they would be making rapid flybys followed by a long period of turning around for another pass. Perhaps this would lead to a more practical slower engagement speed, and use of shorter ranged weapons??
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doggtag    RE:The problem with .9C projectiles, and otherwise fast moving objects   8/6/2004 5:58:04 PM
Excellent debate going, guys. But one thing we are still overlooking: space junk. Unless nukes are being exchanged, there will be all kinds of spaceship debris moving at all kinds of velocities in every direction. Ships will not be vaporized like Star Trek and Star Wars show us (unless point-blank nukes are used): instead, chunks will be floating off in all directions: effectively, more bullets. And as there is no "sinking" effect like during sea battles, all the junk will be floating around until it gets pulled down into a planet or sun (which could be centuries or millennium away). And such debris could prevent problems as vessels approach that .9c speed: the kinetic impact of a 25kg chunk of junk at that velocity could destroy your aircraft carrier-sized starship. So until we develop some kind of truly effective particle/debris deflector shield technology, we are going to have problems with space travel. And space is not the "empty vacuum" that many would beilive: there are microscopic particles of dust and gases diluted down into the few-parts per million ratio, minus the other million, plus scores of little bits of rock here and there brought about by millions of years of asterois collisions and meteorite impacts on low-gravity moons. There is some "stuff" in space, but it is in such miniscule amounts, but yet just enough for us to be just as wary of it as the enemy's weapons. And as soon as we start blowing stuff up (or down , or whatever), there will be all kinds of debris, and we will need some damn good sensors, shields, and maneuvering systems to steer us around hundreds-of-miles-per-second chunks of spaceship junk..
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Ehran    RE:The problem with .9C projectiles, and otherwise fast moving objects   8/6/2004 6:01:31 PM
the nuke bomb pumped lasers seem the most likely and lethal nearish term types of weapons to me. even with rail guns being fairly advanced i cannot see them achieving a useful range. the idea of fighters is pretty much suicidal if manned and just plain expensive if not. the bomb lasers can be mounted on stealthy missiles for use at long range and given that ships are likely to be lightly constructed for quite a while to come should be more than adequately destructive. heck you can even hit more than one ship with a single missile possibly.
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Ehran    RE:The problem with .9C projectiles, and otherwise fast moving objects   8/6/2004 6:06:49 PM
a single gram of matter at .9 C would be more than sufficient to send a carrier off to the breakers. the debris problem is quite serious because while you don't go through that much of it the inner planets orbits are "dirty". almost lost a shuttle to a fleck of paint striking a window a while back. it penetrated 90% of the way through the window which is better than a 308 could have done by a goodly margin. this was at a completely trivial speed of a few thousand mph relative.
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wkwillis    RE:Mass drivers    8/7/2004 4:33:35 AM
Space is large. Any unguided weapons in orbit aren't going to hit anyone for millions of years. Of course, Mars and Venus might have fought a war a million years ago...
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Warhammer    RE:Mass drivers    8/9/2004 10:58:38 AM
Mass drivers might not be used in short range, ship to ship combat, but they they are rather feasible for anything more. Big targets in and around a solarsystem such as mining operations, space stations, docked capital ships, or anything moving in a predictable orbit and not suspecting an attack, will be vulnerable to an object moving a .9c. Mass drivers might be the equivalent of strategic bombing of today. I think tactical mass drivers are still practical however. If the object leaves the ship at .9c, it will be about as acurate as any laser. Evasive manuevers aren't going to help you much if it only takes seconds(or miliseconds depending on distance apart) for the projectile to span the distance of you and the other ship. Really though, all space combat will be screwy. If you are several hundred thousand miles apart, detection and prediction are key. Enemy ship A, 1.8 million miles out(10 light seconds) is going to lag behind where you think he is, especially if he knows Enemy ship B detects him. If he is moving along a set course, and doesn't realize that either enemy ship B is there, or that enemy ship B is out to destroy him, then enemy ship A is an easy target. All B has to do is shoot ahead of the target(calculating for A velocity, B Velocity, A to B distance, and Projectile/Laser Speed), and A will float right into it. Whether it is a mass driver, or laser, A is going to be destroyed before it can respond. If A knows B is there, then it will evade randomly, and B will miss A 99% of the time at 10 lightseconds distance. If all this fighting happens within the distance of 1 lightsecond(possibly more, but that all depends on the evade speed of any given ship, for instance unless they have inertial dampners, they can't pull 300G turns to evade the enemy if they have human cargo, and then unmanned vehicles will depend on whatever advancements in thruster technology have been made) then evasion won't be much of an option. If the target is continually 1 second away from being hit by the opponents laser/mass drivers, then it is going to have to move a ship's length in a direction that the enemy isn't expecting, or it will be hit. The ship is going to have to be able to turn on a dime at insane speeds, or it stands little chance of dodging the bullet. This can also depend on how long it takes for the computer to actually fire the salvo after it makes the decision to fire. Mass drivers and lasers both have about the same accuracy given their speeds, what will define what future warships are using will be ship armor. A trillion joule laser might not melt through several feet of armor, but a kilogram mass moving at .9c+ will likely do the trick. Both lasers and mass drivers have advantages, and I think both will be used, in many ways. Stealth will play a role in future space conflicts, but we are still going to have to make ships that can take the hits, as well as take and hold enemy controlled space. A ship designed for stealth and maneuverability will not be what you want guarding your planet from attack. You are going to want a fleet of tough warships that can hold ground(space). Defense techonologies will become as important as offense technologies since it is almost guaranteed you will take hits. A ship can't sit there doing random figure 8 type movements all day long. You can't expect that to be the ship's sole line of defense, you are going to want to depend on something more solid. Depend on something more than good hopes that you will detect the enemy incoming, your trillion dollar warships are going to need to be able to fight battles the old fashioned way even if that will not be the norm. EM sheilds aren't going to stop a laser, you are going to need thick/advanced armor. I think future battles will consist of capital ships/carriers and escorts moving towards planets/moons/starsystems, with other capital ships/carriers and escorts launching counteroffensives against them, hoping to destroy the enemy fleet before they get within bombardment range of the target(which could be billions of miles out). Fighting is going to take place at short, medium, and long ranges. Missiles launched, missiles intercepted. Lasers fired, lasers absorbed by enemy armor. Mass drivers being deflected by enemy EM fields(don't need to stop a mass at .9c, but altering its course by a shiplength using your EM field could be the savior of many a future vessel). Future space conflicts will depend a lot on detection technologies. If we find a way to detect objects using faster than light means, then that changes quite a few things. If we can communicate at FTL, but not detect(IE FTL RADAR) then that will facilitate having huge capital ships/carriers with escorts reporting back to the capital ship about incoming mass driver warheads, and possibly laser shots. In the end, it is extremely hard to lay out a sure plan for future events, because you never know when so
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