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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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doggtag    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   7/27/2004 1:02:46 AM
Even having mile-long ships (the standard Star Destroyers were supposedly 1600m long, while the Super Star Destroyers reached up to almost 18,000m long), you'll have difficulty visually seeing ships out beyond even 50,000 miles (even with the best binoculars, how easily can you spot geo-sync satellites?). Naturally, some kind of future radar/lidar/scanners would be needed, operating perhaps faster than speed-of-light (which could cause problems at shorter ranges...could you detect a ship with faster-than-light sensors before the ship even arrives there then to detect it? And if you already deteceted it and could engage it, would you try detecting it again or avoid sending out the first FTL pulses that found it in the first place? Most likely, even such future space battles are going to be limited (visual) range engagements, or perhaps just into a space BVR range. The Death Stars were 120km and 160km in diameter (DS1 and DS2 under contruction). Effectively, about 100miles overall, a small moon. A 10-mile Star Destroyer would not be easily seen at a lunar distance from Earth, only BVR (radar-ish) sensors will "see" it. A truly fascinating site is Jeff Russell's STARSHIP DIMENSIONS It gives a very nicely done rendition of ship scales. As for "million mile missiles", even the photon torps from Star Trek tech aren't good for much beyond 250,000miles. By then, the torps have consumed a considerable amount of their antimatter (except the quantums) as fuel to the point their yield becomes minimal at the greatest ranges... so Trek ships are always facing off WVR, perhaps within 50-75km at most. Most likely, Star Wars ships aren't engaging each other beyond the relatively same ranges (the only weapons capable of exceeding that are the superlasers of the Death Stars, as was winessed at the Battle of Endor. As for the actual practicality of the lasers... I'll assume that they most likely were particle effect weapons, and not true "light guns" like the USAF is attempting with the YAL-1A Airborne Laser. As for the colors we see around all beam-type weapons, it was once compared to (by Arthur C Clarke, I think) the event horizons of black holes: the actual core (or the beam center that has the actual particles that do the damage) is invisible to the naked eye, and the actual "light" we see is the interaction of particles at the outside edge of the beam. So an actual stream of proton bolts or phaser energy is invisible, but the reaction with the beam's outer edges with the surrounding particle suspended in space generates the visible flash we see. Depending on the particle frequencies in the beam, and what exact type of particles they are and how they react with other various elements of matter, technically could determine the color of the beam we see (just as gas chromatography works. And how differing elements introduced into flame burns different colors. So a true particle beam weapon could "phase" through various colors throughout its "flight", depending on what elements it interacts with in space as it "flies" to its target. And serious advances in particle emission, beam generation and coherence, and power generation will be needed to achieve any truly effective long range ray or beam weapons. In space, a true laser like the ABL mounts may well work, so long as there is power/laser fuel. It could well have considerably greater range than in an atmosphere, but eventually beam propagation will "dilute" the kill abilities at longer ranges. True space warfare may well take the form of various-ranged Thrust Vector Control missiles. But the problem there being, all that exploded debris will be hazardous to your own vessels: ships will not entirely vaporize like we see in the movies. Until effective EM shield technologies are created, true space battles may well rely on total stealth: almost zero RCS and thermal signature, just to avoid detection, because you will still be vulnerable to physical objects and space debris until you got those shields..
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Warhammer    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   7/27/2004 10:44:05 AM
Ever read those books by David Drake where aliens abducted a Roman Legion and dropped them on various planets to do their dirty, low tech fighting? One book in the series was called Foreign Legions, but that was a different line in the series where an english boat crew was abducted... Eventually, a book or two into the series, the Romans overthrow their captors and are able to return home thousands of years after they left. Earth, in its infancy of space travel, something like 2100, recieves word of an alien trade/slaver empire which could pose a threat to earth. They have an alien warship with an alien or 2 on board who are willing to help earth gain a level of technology to be able to join the empire as an equal, only they have to make it look like it is earth original tech. Somehow the aliens learn of earth, so dispatch a fleet to cover up the problem. By this time earth has retrofitted some old sea battleships with fusion powerplants, shields, and anti-gravity drives. In the turrets of the battleships, they modify the 16' guns to be huge lasers. They make fusion bottles(similar to the EM field that would be needed to conatin a fusion reaction) with the bottleneck being the barrel of the 16' guns. They loaded thermonuclear devices into the bottles and detonated them forcing an entire nukes worth of energy into a single stream of destruction. Needless to say, this made short work of the enemy fleet, and won the day. I thought this to be rather original, and would theoretically be an extremely powerful beam weapon.
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Ehran    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   7/27/2004 12:04:41 PM
sounds like the hellbore wpns of the bolos. space warfare is likely to most closely resemble sub warfare today. first guy to get a lock on the foe and fire probably won the fight. it's gonna be all about sensors, stealth and ew.
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blacksmith    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   7/27/2004 7:26:21 PM
In the same way that AchtungLagg described how Hollywood presents space battles like futuristic Battles of Midway, Hollywood also tends to completely miss the dynamics of orbital mechanics. Spacecraft running at each other from opposing planets would in all likelihood never get within millions of miles of each other with closing velocities of ten or hundreds of thousands of miles per hour. An interplanetary war would be fought by attacking the opposing bases of operation. Limited war would be on the surface or within inhabited spaces (space marine kinds of stuff). Unlimited wars would see nukes and/or guided asteroids being tossed about.
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wkwillis    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   7/29/2004 4:18:37 AM
Glen Cook did the excellant 'Passage At Arms', a sub war book set in space. The POV is a newspaper reporter who was space navy (destroyer equivalent, I think) and not submariner interviewing his former classmates and friends. They were all very stressed. More like the German WWII navy than the US one.
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andyf    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   8/1/2004 7:58:34 PM
most realistic space combat i've seen is in Peter f hamiltons nights dawn trilogy.. laser ciws and combat wasps.. combat wasp = fusion powered missile with a hundred or so independant smart sub-munitions , ranging from tacnuke to single shot laser to KE and EW
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eon    RE:Starwars Lasers & David Drake- eon to Warhammer   8/2/2004 10:02:53 AM
It sounds like Drake was developing a rationale for japanimation-style space warships (Space Cruiser Yamato, anyone?). BTAIM, I suspect the idea of space-going capital ships armed with a combination of long-range near-lightsped weapons (energy weapons and/or EM or gravity-accelerator mass-drivers) plus very big PGMs (i.e., the "capital missiles" in David Weber's novels) are far more likely than "spacegoing aircraft carriers", out of simple physics. Or in other words, the starship Enterprise is more probable than the Battlestar Galactica..
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rylan76    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   8/3/2004 7:47:52 AM
Hey guys! I think space combat as depicted in Ian M. Banks' Culture novels is more likely, i. e. superfast computers conducting combat against each other at speeds far beyond what human brains can comprehend, using weapons that harness superluminal drives (missiles) and energy weapons (gridfire). What do you think?
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eon    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?-eon to rylan76   8/3/2004 10:03:13 AM
I've never read the Banks series, but I agree with you. Forget everything in any movie, except maybe some of the Star Trek ones (Wrath of Khan, First Contact, and maybe Nemesis- which overall s**ked on so many levels). Real space combat will be fast, short, and deadly- the best DC in the world won't help much if you get bullseye'd by a dozen or so heavy missiles with laser heads (ala' David Weber), antimatter packages (ala' Starfleet), or just a really big nuke up front (Weber again). Not to mention heavy-cycle energy weapons or mass-driver rounds arriving at about .96C. (Math people- can you figure the yield in ergs, etc., of a one MT nickel-iron projectile travelling at that velocity? My math isn't up to it, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end.) As for novels, if you can find it, check out the classic Eric Frank Russell Sf novel "Next of Kin", aka "The Space Willies"- early in it, he gives a portrait of a space engagement that is chilling in its impartiality while being ludicrous in its tactics. Short take; one task group detects another, and tries to get between it and its base (one of those time-honored naval tactics that don't reaaly work in space). In the process, one ship continues for a few minutes too long on one course, delivering itself into the engegment envelope of the other side's weapons. Their "predictors" (computers) notice this, and fire, without human intervention at any point. Hapless ship goes "boom", and everyone else finally notices that something actually happened....
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joe6pack    RE:Starwars Lasers BS?   8/3/2004 11:07:01 AM
Well, maybe a simple answer.. Say you have a "space fighter" that was capable of traveling nearly the speed of light (without using some sci-fi FTL technology). A missile might not ever catch up. Thus relatively close range fights with energy based weaopons is your next best option. You could also go with the idea that in space - getting a missile reload might be costly, tough to do, and you can run out of missiles. As long as the power source for your ship is working, you have virtually unlimited ammuntion with energy weapons. (OK, its pretty silly.. buts it's sci-fi.. so why not)
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