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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Brain uploading is generally considered a semi-plausible technology and potentially a shortcut to Hard AI.
    If so, it might allow the advantages of human initiative with the mass savings of computer verses human life support needs, as well as making stealth in space somewhat more plausible.
    Last edited by Ravens_cry; 2012-10-06 at 01:47 PM.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    I'm going to assume by "fully automatic" you mean because firing a missile is a matter of a guy pressing buttons in CIC and nobody has to go out onto the deck to open the VLS hatch with a wrench or whatever. And if the ship was properly outfitted with properly networked hardware and software. (And automatic systems being developed for stuff that isn't quite there yet)
    "fully automatic" in the sense that once the key is turned the computer fights the ship. It notes which blips are marked as 'hostile' and automatically fires missiles at them until they are destroyed.

    The Ticonderoga class was designed to beat off a raid against a carrier group by supersonic cruise missiles . There simply isn't time for humans to react quickly enough to such an attack. So once the key is turned the ship fights itself under computer control until either the airspace is clear of hostiles or the ship has exhausted its ammunition.

    Same with the point defense systems . Again, designed to kill incoming missiles. There's no time for humans to react against such a threat, so once the key is turned the CIWS will react to and destroy any designated hostile within its range. Again, completely under computer control until humans turn them off.

    like so

    An advert for a similar product

    This is all technology from the 1980s, of course. I'm sure technology has advanced in the thirty years since AI-controlled naval combat was first made practical.

    ETA : Did some reading. Not only are the weapons automatic, On an AEGIS ship all the different weapons and which ones are assigned to which targets is under the control of the battle management computers. So it is a essentially a combat robot. Once the key is turned, the ship will fight by itself until the key is turned back off, all targets are eliminated, the ship runs out of ammunition, or the ship is destroyed.

    Of course, the ship still needs humans to steer it, maintain it, reload it, perform damage control and maintenance on it. But for the brief minutes of a combat engagement it can fight autonomously without human intervention. Indeed, it is expected to. We saw in WWII how inadequate humans are to the task of anti-air shooting even at the velocities of the time.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Last edited by pendell; 2012-10-06 at 02:30 PM.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Regarding the OP, one thing that hasn't been talked about, but really should in the context of aircraft carriers in any medium, is economics. Quite simply, nothing in the laws of physics or principles of engineering dictates that aircraft carriers should have replaced battleships and heavy cruisers. What dictated the replacement was economic efficiency: a heavy cruiser is pretty darn expensive. An F/A-18 is also expensive, but much less so. A 500-lb. bomb (or missile with equivalent destructive capacity) carried by an F/A-18 can wreck a heavy cruiser; two or three can sink it. An F/A-18 can carry a payload of about 28,000 lbs of bombs and missiles, and a Nimitz-class carrier can carry over a hundred F/A-18's. That is what makes terrestrial aircraft carriers so valuable: because they can deliver destructive capability that can only be matched by a surface fleet that would be insanely expensive to produce.

    So the question about how space combat would work is not simply one of physics. If a Constitution-class heavy cruiser carries a destructive ability that dwarfs what a bunch of shuttles of fast patrol ships can match at equivalent prices, then of course space combat is going to turn towards a Star-Trek style contest between large, powerfully-gunned cruiser-class vessels. If on the other hand those little Vipers can rip up a warship without warship assistance and a carrier can carry a lot of them, then it will gravitate towards a Galactica-style carrier system.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    "fully automatic" in the sense that once the key is turned the computer fights the ship. It notes which blips are marked as 'hostile' and automatically fires missiles at them until they are destroyed.

    The Ticonderoga class was designed to beat off a raid against a carrier group by supersonic cruise missiles . There simply isn't time for humans to react quickly enough to such an attack. So once the key is turned the ship fights itself under computer control until either the airspace is clear of hostiles or the ship has exhausted its ammunition.

    Same with the point defense systems . Again, designed to kill incoming missiles. There's no time for humans to react against such a threat, so once the key is turned the CIWS will react to and destroy any designated hostile within its range. Again, completely under computer control until humans turn them off.

    like so

    An advert for a similar product

    This is all technology from the 1980s, of course. I'm sure technology has advanced in the thirty years since AI-controlled naval combat was first made practical.

    ETA : Did some reading. Not only are the weapons automatic, On an AEGIS ship all the different weapons and which ones are assigned to which targets is under the control of the battle management computers. So it is a essentially a combat robot. Once the key is turned, the ship will fight by itself until the key is turned back off, all targets are eliminated, the ship runs out of ammunition, or the ship is destroyed.

    Of course, the ship still needs humans to steer it, maintain it, reload it, perform damage control and maintenance on it. But for the brief minutes of a combat engagement it can fight autonomously without human intervention. Indeed, it is expected to. We saw in WWII how inadequate humans are to the task of anti-air shooting even at the velocities of the time.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    That works by killing everything except those targets with a valid IFF signature. It cannot decide what to shoot. If you want to pick off one ship or aircraft in an area, you have to manually designate it for destruction and order the system to fire. You need a human mind or a Data-class AI for decisions like that, and light-speed delays make it impossible to make them at a distance in space.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    That works by killing everything except those targets with a valid IFF signature. It cannot decide what to shoot. If you want to pick off one ship or aircraft in an area, you have to manually designate it for destruction and order the system to fire. You need a human mind or a Data-class AI for decisions like that, and light-speed delays make it impossible to make them at a distance in space.
    I doubt you need the whole smash of Hard AI for that. Image and other sensory recognition would be sufficient without having to have something that muses mournfully about its alleged lack of emotions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Calanon View Post
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    It's extremely unlikely for a target to be distinguishable visually at long range, especially if you're using a drive system where there is little room for variation. Most pilots, for example, would have a hard time distinguishing between a Mig-29 Fulcrum and a F-15 Eagle purely on sight, let alone from thermal or radar contact. The difference between hostile and non-hostile is as much a matter of behavior and positioning as anything else, and that's a matter that no AI can reliably appraise. Otherwise, there's be no crew on AWACS aircraft, for example.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    The analogy is correct, but stuff in space don't break so quickly as there's less forces on them. Satellites stay functioning for a pretty long time and missiles sitting in launchers or a powered down laser can be engineered for reliability. And if you're firing them... well, them's the breaks.
    Well "a week" was a bit facetious on my part too. However the point being that there is still going to be limits on how "unmanned" a space fleet can be from maintenance and repair. It something that has to be considered.

    And space has some advantages over the ocean. You presumably would not have to constantly be repainting the boat to prevent rusting happening practically in real time. On top of pulling it out every now and again to scrape off and redo the underside.

    However computing systems can fail or be problematic too (as we've just had case in point) which is of concern. And from an electronics stand point its going to be dryer and cleaner... but space is not a perfect vacuum and you loose a lot of radiation shielding not being in the atmosphere. So stuff will still need fixing.

    And satellites are pretty simple compared to a reacting warship. The ones I vaguely know about going extended operations tend to be one trick ponies. I'd make a rough comparison to a buoy here, or even something like the passive seafloor sonar nets the US has.

    Finally as you allude to at the end... it is presumably in war. Unless you get into simply disposable uses (say small weapon platforms as "mines" for example) you are going to need some kind of logistical support net that will put humans in proximity to their weapons. Perhaps enough that manned ships will simply be the order of the day since anywhere close enough to service the AI drones is still going to be in the war zone.

    You might need to overhaul them whenever they return to shipyards, but if the difference is two or three times engine performance, that's an advantage that is major enough to win every conflict. (there's also the matter of the 1g acceleration cap that humans have; and the whole radiation business)
    Modern warships require overhaul after six months or so at sea despite being manned by a crew of 90% maintenance personnel to keep them going. If space war tech is at least that needy you will certainly still need personnel in the equation somewhere. Maybe less, but still there to be considered

    This to me would suggest something like AI fighters to a manned carrier/tender somewhere relatively nearby. Range depending engine ability and on how reliable comms can be made and how capable the AI can be. And that's at most, not war by remote as it were.

    Well unless one is playing rocket tag from home, that is a distinct possiblity. No navy just missiles is potentially where tech would go.

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    "fully automatic" in the sense that once the key is turned the computer fights the ship. It notes which blips are marked as 'hostile' and automatically fires missiles at them until they are destroyed.
    That's just ...not... how it works. You are very misinformed here I'm sorry to say.

    A CIWS can work something like that because its a basic detector for a short range last-ditch defense.

    Now such a thing could be made yes, but isn't in practice.

    The Ticonderoga class was designed to beat off a raid against a carrier group by supersonic cruise missiles . There simply isn't time for humans to react quickly enough to such an attack. So once the key is turned the ship fights itself under computer control until either the airspace is clear of hostiles or the ship has exhausted its ammunition.
    Obviously the computer makes the radar lock and is behind the missile guidance when launched and such, but a ship is not a fighting robot.

    Naval "combat" already happens (in that it hasn't happened much but is believed would) at ranges that means even a super fast missile takes time to get anywhere. Additionally such missiles are (so far) generally not assumed to be spammed in actual simulations and preparations. Not nessecarily just one but say one missile every couple of minutes, reacted to by humans.

    Now yeah that might not hold up in the long run but its where we are now. Its why you can read articles questioning if navies are out of date, because they aren't equipped to handle a spamming of say shore fired long range missiles. Since they can't handle the numbers. Nevermind there are only so many SM-2s on a ship and very few SM-3s period, with no reloads at seas. This though is a mostly political question of the real world, however factually you are greatly overestimating combat as actually prepared for.

    This is all technology from the 1980s, of course. I'm sure technology has advanced in the thirty years since AI-controlled naval combat was first made practical.
    Its 70s/80s tech in many many cases, with the speed of military development and procurement meaning its upgrades can be to mid-90s tech. And still can't do Wargames for real.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    Brain uploading is generally considered a semi-plausible technology and potentially a shortcut to Hard AI.
    If so, it might allow the advantages of human initiative with the mass savings of computer verses human life support needs, as well as making stealth in space somewhat more plausible.
    That doesn't sound right. If you have computer powerful enough to simulate human brain you have enough computing power to make a hard AI. Not a shortcut at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Salbazier View Post
    That doesn't sound right. If you have computer powerful enough to simulate human brain you have enough computing power to make a hard AI. Not a shortcut at all.
    What if the problem was not computing power, but programming ability?
    Even if we got our hands on some 25th century computer hardware, we don't know enough how a mind works to create one.
    Last edited by Ravens_cry; 2012-10-07 at 03:02 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    What if the problem was not computing power, but programming ability?
    Even if we got our hands on some 25th century computer hardware, we don't know enough how a mind works to create one.
    Same thing. Mind uploading is essentially making a simulation of a brain. You need to understand how the brain works first before you can make any sort of simulation.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by Soras Teva Gee View Post

    That's just ...not... how it works. You are very misinformed here I'm sorry to say.
    Very well, sir. What is the source of your information? Are you a naval officer or veteran yourself?


    Naval "combat" already happens (in that it hasn't happened much but is believed would) at ranges that means even a super fast missile takes time to get anywhere. Additionally such missiles are (so far) generally not assumed to be spammed in actual simulations and preparations. Not nessecarily just one but say one missile every couple of minutes, reacted to by humans.
    Okay. The source of my information for this is mostly old Harpoon simulations and good old Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, but if someone has actual knowledge and can correct me in an unclassified way I'd appreciate it.

    Nonetheless, I'm given to understand the design impetus behind both the Ticonderoga and the F-14 armed with long-range anti bomber missiles was in response to multiple regiments of Long range and really fast long range bombers armed with anywhere from 1 to 3 Kitchen or Kingfish missiles. Once a carrier group was located, raids of perhaps 54 aircraft or more would salvo all these missiles at once from hundreds of kilometers away.

    Those missiles could very well be nuclear , by the way, if the other side was really serious.

    The concept crossed over from reality to fiction as the Macross Missile Massacre , which is also an artifact of the 80s. Note the real life entry on that page.

    This is why all these different weapons systems were developed. Early Warning aircraft to give the maximum warning possible. Really fast interceptor aircraft with really, really long range missiles that were unmaneuverable because they were designed to splash bombers before the missiles were spammed. Aegis ships armed with a large number of missiles in VLS tubes so that time didn't need to be wasted training a launch tube and also to allow the whole lot of 'em to be fired off REALLY REALLY FAST.

    Later, the US navy supplemented it's Ticonderoga defenses with Arleigh Burke Aegis ships . The old Harpoon (recreational game, no government affiliation) scenarios put 1 Aegis-capable ship in the formation. Modern sources have as many as 3 , and I suspect this is not because the air-to-surface threat decreased. During the cold war anyway.

    Today the cold war is over and perhaps navies no longer prepare for a massive spam of standoff air-to-surface missiles. I don't know if that's true or not, but I recognize it's definitely possible, because much of the capability to do that simply isn't around any more. Exactly who the navies of the world intend to fight and how they will fight them is no doubt a secret. But there was a time when such a war was definitely prepared for and expected. Then the world changed.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    From FAS.org

    CIWS, without assistance from other shipboard systems, will automatically engage incoming anti-ship missiles and high-speed, low-level aircraft that have penetrated the ship primary defense envelope. As a unitized system, CIWS automatically performs search, detecting, tracking, threat evaluation, firing, and kill assessments of targets while providing for manual override.
    From Raytheon's site SeaRAM (CiWS upgrade) will do something similar.

    So modern ships can automatically defend themselves against missiles.

    They cannot however automatically defend themselves against small craft, that defense is provided by .50-caliber machine gun that is manned. CNN Article about the gun being used.

    I also know that the helm does not automate so there always needs to be a person steering the ship.

    The Zumwalt has an automated magazine.

    What I can't find is hard evidence on how much the ships attack is automated. What I would suspect is that the target is designated and then a human needs to authorize every missile or burst of gun fire. The human and computer both look at the effect of the previous round before firing the next.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Very well, sir. What is the source of your information? Are you a naval officer or veteran yourself?
    Yes.

    Though I don't want to go into detail for many reasons. More personal then classified, I don't actually remember anything classified to spoil I just don't like to talk about myself online.

    Okay. The source of my information for this is mostly old Harpoon simulations and good old Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, but if someone has actual knowledge and can correct me in an unclassified way I'd appreciate it.
    Clancy isn't terribly inaccurate I would note that in Red Storm Rising this was how the Atlantic was closed by the Soviets thus the spam tactic was effective. He notably put more missiles into a strike then the ship could carry counter-missiles.

    Let's be clear stopping missile raids like this is one of AEGIS's jobs and why it has big super radars. But the numbers and ranges are all still where humans react to them, they don't just set the ship to auto-fire. For Red Storm Rising I believe Clancy was making a subtle criticism of strategy (or perhaps our confidence in it) by pointing out one of the more obvious limitations.

    And Clancy takes a fairly optimistic view of military hardware performance to begin with. In the Bear & The Dragon he has BMD from an AEGIS ship. This is a legit thing now but post-dates the book in active practice by most of two presidential terms. Though I suspect was being talked about so was where he got the idea. However the real AEGIS BMD uses SM-3s not SM-2s, which unless I missed a detail somewhere (its been a few years) would be where the situation falls apart. It perfectly fine for a story though under Rule of Cool.

    To go back to the Russians in Red Storm Rising... you basically wouldn't need to exceed raw capacity with your missile spam to have a reasonably successful attack. A single AEGIS ship would be hard pressed to fend off that 20 missiles if it had intel they were coming and had everybody in position with everything ready to go. A carrier battle group would have multiple AEGIS ships today at least. I can confirm 3 in this group from 2000. In the 80s I believe the frigates would still have missiles too (they don't now) in addition to their job as big metal distractions between a missile and a carrier, and whatever the older ships like Spruance-class were capable of. I suspect Clancy was going for No Kill like Overkill though.

    Now that all said its worth mentioning that a good operator with proper warning could still fire pretty fast (it is pressing buttons remember) and have a reasonable expectation of countering more then one missile. And ships are sort of politely assumed to be able to tank a couple while still being functional. Its not automatic fighting robot though.


    Today the cold war is over and perhaps navies no longer prepare for a massive spam of standoff air-to-surface missiles. I don't know if that's true or not, but I recognize it's definitely possible, because much of the capability to do that simply isn't around any more. Exactly who the navies of the world intend to fight and how they will fight them is no doubt a secret. But there was a time when such a war was definitely prepared for and expected. Then the world changed.
    Its possible as for who the USN plans to fight, well there's a lot to be said there. Its not secret just begins to quickly become political and verboten because you get out of factual reporting into opinion.

    Its relevant for considering spacial navies though as they WOULD have to develop automatic capacities like this though, and such things are more then possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Salbazier View Post
    Same thing. Mind uploading is essentially making a simulation of a brain. You need to understand how the brain works first before you can make any sort of simulation.
    No, it's scanning an existing brain and inputting that. We have a fair idea of how the brain works, how nerves talk to other, but how a mind works?
    That's software verses hardware, though admittedly with wetware it gets a little squishy.*
    *Pun not intended, but accepted gladly.
    Last edited by Ravens_cry; 2012-10-07 at 03:43 PM.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    I've heard the "aircraft carriers in space don't make sense" and the related "fighters in space don't make sense" a few times.

    I'm a bit sceptical about it though.

    If you are wanting to have a force out in the field for more than a few days, you will need to have food, water and air to supply the crew for the duration. On a longer cruise or campaign, you will need (or at least want) sleeping quarters, mess/recreation facilities (to stop the crew going crazy), a laundry, medical/hospital facilities, tools and spare parts to repare anything that gets damaged in combat (or ot the way to/from it), ammunition and fuel to last for multiple fights, etc. And of course the crew to opperate all those things (which will in turn require more of it all for [I]their[I] use).

    All of which costs mass, which in turn affects acceleration and manuvorability.

    So it seems to me that there would be very good reasons to have offensive craft function basically as fighters (or maybe torpedo boats) that basically consist of a weapon system with an engine and a cockpit, and only enough oxygen etc to last the duration of a sortie, and keep all the crew accomodation, food supplies, medical and repair facilities etc on a "carrier" or "mothership".

    The only real issue I see (other than "do we actually need crewed warships?") is can a "fighter"-type spacecraft carry enough firepower to be useful against a "capital" spaceship (or whatever it's normal target would be). Which in turn comes down to the "arms vs armour" balance. Is armour weak enough that a fighter can cripple a capital ship? Or does a capital ship have thick enough armour or powerful enough shields that it can only be cracked by another capital ship with a 1km-long railgun?


    Unless I missed it, the articled linked in the OP didn't address this.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    @Wardog:

    The issue is that depending on how technology turns out... space combat would be more like to ICBM combat of IRL. Any force you could send would be tracked, observed, and have projectiles fired at it with greater speed before it would ever reach you.

    Basically at present space weaponry would trend to being unlimited range, low defense, and zero stealth. There's no value for fighters in that as missile would be even better and therefore no carriers of fighters in that sort of environment. You build missile platforms.

    Its somewhat of a contrivance though. A sufficient hypothetical laser defense system could render missiles obsolete because it one laser could destroy a 100 at once or whatever leaving. Or maybe some kind of localized EMP projector to fry the electronics of a missile.

    Such a system might only be counter-able by say solid dumb projectiles with a high enough melting point and no vital systems to destroy. Or spamming extremely cheap ones to Zerg Rush the point defense. That would demand proper ships and even possibly "fighters" to maneuver into a range where those projectiles could not be dodged.

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    I wonder how useful this would be: Laser missiles.
    What I mean is, a missile that carries an onboard laser instead of an explosive warhead.
    It would only have limited power and 'ammo' compared to a much larger craft, but it could potentially be more manoeuvrable (been magnitudes smaller) and cheaper to spam, potentially overwhelming defences.
    With present laser technology this isn't very practical, but the future?
    Last edited by Ravens_cry; 2012-10-08 at 03:00 PM.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Actually there was an idea to build a "laser nuke" as it were. Basically using a bomb to power lasers. An idea picked up for Honor Harrington's missiles.

    Just firing off a laser though wouldn't really be a missile though it would be some kind of attack drone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    I wonder how useful this would be: Laser missiles.
    What I mean is, a missile that carries an onboard laser instead of an explosive warhead.
    It would only have limited power and 'ammo' compared to a much larger craft, but it could potentially be more manoeuvrable (been magnitudes smaller) and cheaper to spam, potentially overwhelming defences.
    With present laser technology this isn't very practical, but the future?
    This would basically be a automated ship with a laser canon.

    Laser weapons main advantage is the speed at which the "payload" travels.
    This makes "blank range" anything shorter than 300.000 km, as it takes less than a second for the "payload" to reach target.

    Most known means of detection and communication are capped by light speed to collect and transmit data.
    If this doesn't change in the future, then whoever would fire first would win, as targets would be hit before even being aware of the attack.

    Now, in this context, as the attacker, to rely on weapons whose payloads travel at the speed of light would also be in itself a disadvantage.
    If you would fire at a range greater than 300.000 km, it would be very difficult to predict where your target is NOW.
    Especially if acceleration and manoeuvrability of the target is high.
    By the time the laser reaches the target's last known position, said target might be a few thousands of kilometers away.

    Cloaking is impossible in the sense of being invisible to detection.
    But if the speed of light is the limit for speed of detection, communication and travel, then "cloaking by speed" is possible.
    Being speedy enough would in effect make it hard for the ennemy to pin-point accurately your current position.

    In this regard, it makes sense to use "laser missiles".
    Sure, they can be destroy.
    But, if send in swarms against a few target, the destruction of one would allow the other to triangulate the previous position of their target.
    They would be as difficult for the ennemy to aim at as the ennemy would be for them.
    But, being unmanned and expandable, they could be used for suicide assaults meant at locating more precisely the ennemy's firepower.
    Also, being unmanned and short-lived, having them perform manoeuvers potentially risky for structural integrity wouldn't really be a problem.
    They would be one-shot highly mobile laser canon with state-of-the-art sensors and targetting computer.

    Battle in space under these conditions would be close to an highly complex aerial version of "battleship".
    Where you fire blind at an opponent without knowing for sure where he is.
    And with you and your opponent constently moving in a tridimensionnal grid.
    With laser pulse would negate for a brief moment a very narrow path of progression.
    While sustained laser beam could be used to make a simultaneous "search and destroy" at the cost of advertising your own position.
    But since the point of origin of the laser would be moving in a unpredictable pattern, it would be still difficult to locate the actual position for sure.

    In the end, it would be a question of :
    • Who got the more numerous fleets of "laser missiles"
    • Who got the more resistant "laser missiles" (as in "capable of resisting several shots")
    • Who got the more accurate, "imaginative" and fast targetting computers.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    I wonder how useful this would be: Laser missiles.
    What I mean is, a missile that carries an onboard laser instead of an explosive warhead.
    It would only have limited power and 'ammo' compared to a much larger craft, but it could potentially be more manoeuvrable (been magnitudes smaller) and cheaper to spam, potentially overwhelming defences.
    With present laser technology this isn't very practical, but the future?

    The effectiveness of lasers scales with the volume of the lasing chamber.

    Bigger is better, and your base ship can always mount bigger lasers than your missiles.

    Now, in this context, as the attacker, to rely on weapons whose payloads travel at the speed of light would also be in itself a disadvantage.
    If you would fire at a range greater than 300.000 km, it would be very difficult to predict where your target is NOW.
    Not as hard as you'd think. Given that you can see what his engines were doing at T-n (The point at which they emitted their current ER signature) you can if you have a reasonable idea what his maximum delta-V is predict the full volume in which your target could be at T+n (The point at which your laser reaches his actual position).

    So, what you actually have is an array of emitters which basically form a "laser shotgun" that can be altered to saturate the volume your target could be in when they arrive, based on what it's doing now.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Not as hard as you'd think. Given that you can see what his engines were doing at T-n (The point at which they emitted their current ER signature) you can if you have a reasonable idea what his maximum delta-V is predict the full volume in which your target could be at T+n (The point at which your laser reaches his actual position).

    So, what you actually have is an array of emitters which basically form a "laser shotgun" that can be altered to saturate the volume your target could be in when they arrive, based on what it's doing now.
    Well... that sounds difficult to me, especially given the kind of volume we might be speaking about.

    Let's assume a spacecraft with propulsors on several sides of its surfaces.
    They could be use alone or simultanously.
    And each could potentially produce an instant acceleration of, let's say, 1 km/s in any direction.
    Meaning that, after 1 minute of propulsion, if no opposing force are at play, the spacecraft could go from immobility to a speed of 60km/s.
    And would have travelled a little over 1.800 kilometers.

    This means that, if the ship was perfectly still when initially spotted, it could be anywhere in a 24,4 billion km≥ sphere.
    And that's for a fight occuring at roughly 1/8 of AU.
    We are talking interplanetary conflict, here.
    Not even interstellar.

    Probing this with laser could take a while.
    And each second means a sphere of even greater radius could be drawn.

    Now, agreed, as the ship would keep changing direction, there would be opposing forces that will make the probable volume smaller.
    But until you know the maximum possible acceleration of each propulsor, you can't guess accurately, limiting you to shoot blind.
    And being yourself forced to keep moving, that can become tricky...

    As observation time increase, it will be possible to narrow down the volume to be searched.
    But what's valid for you would also be for your opponent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johel View Post
    And each could potentially produce an instant acceleration of, let's say, 1 km/s in any direction.
    What kind of magical drive are you looking at?

    1. Our chemical torch drives barely make 1G. And they have ridiculous fuel ratios. Ion drives have nice fuel ratios (read: almost nothing) but have virtually zero accel.
    This hypothetical 1000 m/s^2 drive is probably a fusion torch or AM core (likely AM core, fusion isn't powerful enough...) drive. Which has its own problems of radiation and heat levels.

    2. 1000 m/s^2 = 100G, you just killed your entire crew. And your ship will need to have some incredible superstructure to be able to withstand that kind of acceleration in any direction. (it's like making a building with your engine as the foundation. And this "building" has to stand up under 100x gravities...)
    Even 10g will be fatal basically instantly. And hard enough to build as it is.

    Note that this is why I advocate drone ships for tactical situations. Drone ships CAN be built to withstand 10g indefinitely. Humans can't.

    --------------------------------

    The point about dodging stands though.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    The effectiveness of lasers scales with the volume of the lasing chamber.

    Bigger is better, and your base ship can always mount bigger lasers than your missiles.
    True, but on the other hand, one ship can only cover so many angles, which a long thin ship can dodge by turning on its axis (which requires only the fuel for their RCS), while a spherical array of missiles could potentially come from all sides, though admittedly they would have to get much closer.
    Last edited by Ravens_cry; 2012-10-08 at 11:23 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    Note that this is why I advocate drone ships for tactical situations. Drone ships CAN be built to withstand 10g indefinitely. Humans can't.
    Drone ships would be built for just that reason. Of course if they are NOT be built it will be for other reasons.

    Actually given the need for communications you'd still need humans on warships as long as lightspeed is a limitation.

    For modern UAV style remote piloted drones you need as little lag as possible, and for real tactical control at an expert level were talking fractions of a light-second as the maximum distance.

    Even less direct while you might be able to technologically, would it be politically possible to let AI piloted drones operate without a sort of manual "Emergency Stop" override order. To be there for occasions like should a drone gets a bad update and start tagging civilian targets as threats. Preventing that... well this is more opinion but I'd not be comfortable with more the around a light-second of lag for something like that. Or around Earth-Moon distance. Which can potentially be next to nothing in space.

    Ergo still needing ways to protect humans in a fight.

    All this assuming comms can be made reliable especially under fire and enemy jamming. UAVs are hot right now in military tech, but operate from stealth and positions of relative superiority. And I know I'm not sure one could make an AI that could be trusted to act entirely off the leash for a battle. Well without going raising certain ethical issues.
    Last edited by Soras Teva Gee; 2012-10-09 at 12:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johel View Post
    This would basically be a automated ship with a laser canon.

    Laser weapons main advantage is the speed at which the "payload" travels.
    This makes "blank range" anything shorter than 300.000 km, as it takes less than a second for the "payload" to reach target.
    The Inverse Square law means that is still pretty far, even for lasers.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Thank you for the response, Soras. I fully understand not wanting to share too much personal detail on the interwebs. That's wise.

    I've heard the "aircraft carriers in space don't make sense" and the related "fighters in space don't make sense" a few times.
    Reading the article, I believe the author drew a distinction between a "mother craft" and an "aircraft carrier". An aircraft carrier has a flight deck, because an aircraft needs to get up to a certain speed to leave the deck in a short space of time. The aircraft are either VTOL aircraft like the harrier or there are steam catapults to get fixed wing craft like the F/A-18 up to speed in the distance that the flight deck requires. Likewise for landing: Aircraft need a lot of deck with arrestor wires to go from airborne to landed in a short period of time. It isn't a trivial task, even for trained aviators.

    Everything else about the aircraft carrier is built around the functional requirement of the flight deck. The big deck means big engines and a big crew and a big infrastructure to support it. The engines even need to be a certain size because they have to drive a vessel as fast as possible to give the wind as much help as possible to give aircraft takeoff speed and lift.

    In space, "lift/drag/thrust/gravity" have no meaning.

    THEREFORE no need for a huge flight deck.

    THEREFORE no need for massive superships a la the Nimitz. Manned fighters -- if they exist -- take off by applying minimal thrust and land by matching speed with the mother craft. "Landing" in space is much simpler because you aren't required to maintain a minimum flight speed to keep from stalling into the water, following a particular path and making very precise course corrections so that you neither overshoot the deck nor crash in front of it, all while trying to land on something bobbing up and down like a cork in the dark on a moonless night while it's pouring rain. In space , you just turn around and fire the thruster until you've matched speeds with the mother craft. So while you could have a massive mothership, it isn't required by the medium.

    It also might be a bad idea. In the near term future, a big mothercraft will be just as vulnerable as a small ship while also being a bigger target. So it might be wiser to have small "mini-carriers" carrying a small number of manned fighters or drones than it would be to have One Big Ship that carriers more than 1/10th your entire space navy's fighting ability and personnel. Having more smaller ships might mean you could cover more of space at once.

    So I don't think the author means to say there is no place for mother craft carrying drones or even manned spacecraft. It's simply that the medium does not *require* super-sized motherships with a flight deck and launch tubes/catapults. There are also many design considerations why such a thing should never exist at all. At least, insofar as we understand science at this time.

    ETA: Of course, manned fighters don't make much sense because they can't handle anything like the acceleration of a drone and have a great deal more complexity due to the needs of the pilot. But then, by that same logic manned fighters should have been replaced by predators armed with AMRAAMs in the real world, and that hasn't happened.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Last edited by pendell; 2012-10-09 at 08:47 AM.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    ETA: Of course, manned fighters don't make much sense because they can't handle anything like the acceleration of a drone and have a great deal more complexity due to the needs of the pilot. But then, by that same logic manned fighters should have been replaced by predators armed with AMRAAMs in the real world, and that hasn't happened.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    To be entirely fair, modern manned fighter craft pretty much universally have much better performance in every respect than a Drone of any kind, plus the fact that our current "AI" amounts to programmed destinations and a camera, making them piloted craft where the operator sits a few hundred kilometers away instead of in the cockpit. In space a drone craft makes a lot more sense, since it can handle accelerations (and drive systems) which would kill a human pilot while freeing up a lot of space devoted entirely to keeping the pilot alive like, say, radiation shielding. Any "Space fighters" will almost certainly be drones with varying degrees of human control depending on the distance they're designed to operate from the parent ship.

    As to whether they'd be used, it depends on entirely on the enemy's point defense. If they're packing lasers or tiny mass drivers capable of destroying a missile but requiring a lot more effort to defeat your fighter's defenses, a bunch of drone fighters with either powerful capacitor-driven one-shot Railguns (turning them into big missiles that can't be easily intercepted), or depending on what sort of armour we'll be able to cook up in the future maybe even something like a simple Gauss cannon might be highly effective. If the point defense is sufficient to knock the fighters out quickly (perhaps because it's based on small supervelocity railguns), they start to look very useless. Might as well just pack in more missiles if the enemy's just going to intercept your Drones before they can effectively engage. Or, better yet, devote that space to putting in a high-power laser that can't be intercepted and can engage at similar range, or maybe a particle cannon of some sort.

    I guess the point is that what sort of weapons we'd use in space depends entirely on what sort of weapons our enemies are using in space, really. With modern tech chemical missiles are plenty effective, so we might as well use them. It's not exactly hard to obsolete missiles as a space-based weapon, though, and drones depend entirely on the delicate balance between defensive technology and weapons tech to determine if they go the same way. But, some sort of high-reflectivity armour could easily cause problems for everything up to X-ray lasers, which might necessitate the use of particle cannons or mass drivers. It's easy to put together a speculative framework when you know what you want the end result to be, but in a broad sense we could just as easily end up with systems where drone platforms are the only thing that makes sense as we could with a system where everything is based on one-shot nuclear-pumped lasers or high-efficiency railguns. There's a lot of possibilities for what could happen, which makes it a lot easier to say what won't likely. And that's without pure sci-fi tech like the ubiquitous inertial compensators we see almost everywhere, which would completely change the game.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    To be entirely fair, modern manned fighter craft pretty much universally have much better performance in every respect than a Drone of any kind
    By what measure?

    Maneuverability? No. A drone can turn as tightly as a missile can.
    Time on station? No. Drones can loiter for longer, IIRC.
    Cheap and disposable? No.

    The one advantage I can see to a manned aircraft is that a manned aircraft has a human brain onboard, one that can make decisions and take initiative and respond much more flexibly in real-time. But I have this mental fantasy of a human crew aboard an E3 enforcing a no-fly zone with a network of airborne sensor drones and missile drones. The sensor network reports possible aircraft, which can then vector drones to intercept. The drones would possess high-powered visual cameras which would transmit back to the command craft, allowing visual identification of suspect aircraft. If the aircraft is confirmed hostile, the drone is instructed to destroy the aircraft.

    Such drones could also be armed with anti-surface or anti-radiation missiles for defense against ground attack. The Egyptians won the war of attrition primarily because the Isrealis ran out of manned aircraft and pilots faster than the Egyptians ran out of SAM batteries and crews. Had the aircraft been unmanned drones, they would have been far easier to replace and there would not have been the need to replace trained pilots, whom you can't simply pick off the streets. It's a good solution for a high-tech society which places a premium on the lives of its fighting men and women.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Arguing about how (long range, fleet scale) space warfare will work is about as useful as asking Caesar his opinions on strategic bombing, or getting Napoleon to weigh in on proper submarine doctrine. By the time it actually occurs, none of what we imagine will really make sense.

    The only space warfare humans will experience in the next several hundred years (until we rewrite the laws of physics) is going to be on the scale of Earth/Mars ranges, and at speeds that are very very small fractions of c. Most "battles" are going to take place between craft orbiting the same body, maybe in a few hundred years, at lunar ranges. At that scale, missiles will see much use, and guns (from small projectile throwers up to artillery pieces) will be used as well.

    By the time we get around to pushing things to 1/4 c, or building a laser that can hit and damage a target several light minutes away, the concept of "aircraft carriers in space" will be as meaningful as asking the best way of getting war elephants over the Alps means today.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    It's still fun to think about and consider.
    Much of the best science fiction is all about looking at a possibility and running with the implications.
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