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  1. - Top - End - #91
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    If spaceships still have human crews, it will always be more efficient to build a small number of large ships than a large number of small ships due to the facilities necessary for the upkeep of said crew.

    As for interstellar war, it depends on what your objective is. Given that a small mass at high velocity packs as much energy as a strategic nuke, and the predictable gravitational fields and orbits of planets, if your objective is destruction, you could fire a salvo from orbit around your home planet that would annihilate your enemy. After all, your ships are going to take at least as much time in transit as those projectiles need to reach the target (and probably far more - in fact, you could likely fire that salvo and immediately launch a fleet to colonize/conquer the world, as the biosphere will have rebounded from the fallout by the time the ships arrive).

    The redeeming value of missiles in modern warfare is that they have guidance systems. Even so, they can be evaded by targets that are much slower than they are. At relativistic speeds and distances, dodging missiles becomes trivial - a small change in velocity puts the target millions of kilometers away from the point of interception. You might as well be firing a railgun - the projectile will be faster, smaller, and not have a huge energy flare at the back of it, making it harder to detect in time to dodge.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RabbitHoleLost View Post
    Mango:you sick, twisted bastard <3
    Quote Originally Posted by Gryffon View Post
    I think Krade is protesting the use of the word mad in in the phrase mad scientist as it promotes ambiguity. Are they angry? Are they crazy? Some of both? Not to mention, it also often connotates some degree of evilness. In the future we should be more careful to use proper classification.

    Mango is a dastardly irate unhinged scientist, for realz.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    At relativistic speeds and distances, dodging missiles becomes trivial - a small change in velocity puts the target millions of kilometers away from the point of interception. You might as well be firing a railgun - the projectile will be faster, smaller, and not have a huge energy flare at the back of it, making it harder to detect in time to dodge.
    The missile can just match your course adjustments. And if it has left over acceleration, use that to increase closing speed.
    You can't dodge away from a faster and more maneuverable thing. And missiles will almost certainly outperform ships by alot.

    And if the range has decreased to the point where there isn't enough reaction time, well, there isn't enough time for you boost much either. You gain on reaction time from lightspeed lag (speeds closer to c reduce reaction time by the proportion of c you are travelling at), but you lose on time to impact.

    Additionally, crewed ships at relativistic speeds are kinda... not going to happen for combat. Remember that human crew has a tendency to pancake at high accelerations? And at 1g, you'll take literally forever to get up to speed and slow down. Good for interstellar drives, not good for combat.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    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.
    Speaking for at present I believe it would be in a sort of raw power match up. UAVs I'm aware of are all lightweight stealthy craft. That's all well and good but if its detected they aren't sub-sonic and fairly lightly armed. Drones are not yet used for direct combat and establishing air superiority like manned fighters. Or as heavy bombers, a B-52 has pretty good dwell time and can level a small army not just fire off a surgical strike.

    (Also drones not quite cheap enough to be disposable, nothing in the military is. Probably *could* be but its really not something we can really discuss here. Threshold would have to be down around the missiles they carry)

    Now is there some pressing reason you couldn't build more vigorous drones, no. They just haven't been. However performance would change accordingly. A supersonic fighter drone wouldn't retain the dwell time for example and be only a marginal cost savings.

    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.
    Congrats on you Keystone Airwing, now I your enemy need only focus on one slow plane to destroy your entire force! Beautiful strategy!

    That's if you can even get the AI to that level. Consider how often "hard" in video games just comes to ramping the enemies toughness or whatever... and that still isn't enough?

    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.
    I'm sorry perhaps you were reading some other source that just wasn't linkable.

    Because I'm seeing that it ended when Nasser had a heart attack and Sadat called it off only to prepare for the Yom Kippur War later and Israel did not return the Sinai (the primary strategic objective) until the Camp David Accords some time after that. So not sure on what you are citing as victory.

    As for the air end wiki had this to say:

    The Egyptian Air Force and Air Defense Forces performed poorly. Egyptian pilots were rigid, slow to react and unwilling to improvise According to U.S. intelligence estimates, Egypt lost 109 aircraft, most in air-to-air combat for the loss of only 16 Israeli, most to anti-aircraft artillery or SAMs. As for Egyptian anti-aircraft defense, Egyptian anti-aircraft personnel needed to fire salvos of between 6 to 10 SA-2 anti-aircraft missiles to obtain a better than fifty percent chance of acquiring a hit.

    While true the Israeli's lost them to SAMs... its evident they were still outperforming the missiles. And even going with the higher claim for losses I'm not sure we can describe 30 aircraft as being run out given that this wasn't some clear defeat on their part and the Israeli part.

    So your example doesn't bear out based on the provided data.

    Quote Originally Posted by razark View Post
    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.
    I think you might be suprised. While Caesar might consider the operation 'magical' if you explained it to strategic bombing as functioning like long range catapaults and ballistae I'd bet he or any sufficient military mind of any time would see the uses pretty quickly. War's purpose does not change all that much.

    Likewise since we understand space pretty well we have a fairly good base to speculate from. The results depend on how technology will shape range of weapons, speed of travel, ability to defend, and ability to detect. How any of those are achieved is an open question, but their practical effects are conceivable.

    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    Additionally, crewed ships at relativistic speeds are kinda... not going to happen for combat. Remember that human crew has a tendency to pancake at high accelerations? And at 1g, you'll take literally forever to get up to speed and slow down. Good for interstellar drives, not good for combat.
    Remember speed is unlimited in space.

    Its entirely possible for a ship to be going too fast for a missile to catch it because equalizing the velocity would exceed its delta-v allowance. It may not be practical very often and the ship would need to accelerate for a far longer period, but it can be done.

    And should be easier for a ship which to be practical at all would likely need unlimited delta-v just lacking the raw power to make its acceleration match a missiles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    The missile can just match your course adjustments. And if it has left over acceleration, use that to increase closing speed.
    You can't dodge away from a faster and more maneuverable thing. And missiles will almost certainly outperform ships by alot.
    Here's how a destroyer dodges a cruise missile in the modern real world:
    Missile detected, destroyer changes course and speed.
    Missile compensates for change in target aspect, burning fuel to come back into alignment to strike target.
    Destroyer changes course and speed again.
    Missile compensates again, burning more fuel.
    Destroyer changes course again. Missile no longer has enough fuel to maneuver to intercept.

    Most modern cruise missiles have enough fuel to make 2-3 course corrections before any further maneuvering on the part of the target forces a miss. And, of course, this is assuming that the missile is close enough for its guidance system to detect the fact that the target is no longer where it was projected to be at the time of impact at launch.

    Suppose a ship is cruising at 20km/h. A missile traveling at 2000km/h is detected at a range of 100km. Time to impact is 3 minutes. In that time, at that speed, the ship will travel 1km. If it reverses course, it will be 2km from the projected point of impact at the time the missile was launched. The guidance systems on missiles tend to be small and weak, because a powerful, sophisticated array detracts from the payload.

    Those number are unrealistic for the sake of ease of calculations, of course. 20km/h is slow for a warship, 100km is laughably short-ranged, and 2000km/h is fast for an anti-ship missile.
    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    And if the range has decreased to the point where there isn't enough reaction time, well, there isn't enough time for you boost much either.
    If you're close enough that there's no reaction time, you don't need a guidance system. You're better off using an unguided projectile - it's cheaper and has a bigger payload.
    Last edited by mangosta71; 2012-10-09 at 03:27 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RabbitHoleLost View Post
    Mango:you sick, twisted bastard <3
    Quote Originally Posted by Gryffon View Post
    I think Krade is protesting the use of the word mad in in the phrase mad scientist as it promotes ambiguity. Are they angry? Are they crazy? Some of both? Not to mention, it also often connotates some degree of evilness. In the future we should be more careful to use proper classification.

    Mango is a dastardly irate unhinged scientist, for realz.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Congrats on you Keystone Airwing, now I your enemy need only focus on one slow plane to destroy your entire force! Beautiful strategy!
    IIRC, E3 , E2 and similar AEW aircraft are critical to the air battle. The number of such aircraft splashed in the course of air war to date can be counted comfortably on the fingers of two hands.

    I'm sorry perhaps you were reading some other source that just wasn't linkable.

    Because I'm seeing that it ended when Nasser had a heart attack and Sadat called it off only to prepare for the Yom Kippur War later and Israel did not return the Sinai (the primary strategic objective) until the Camp David Accords some time after that. So not sure on what you are citing as victory.
    Correct. The original source was on the Yom Kippur War. I haven't found the original source but this may help

    Thoroughly alarmed, Nasser flew secretly to Moscow in January 1970. He used a threat of resignation to force the Russians to supply the new SA-3 as well as improved SA-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), Soviet technicians and combat pilots to the embattled Egyptian Air Force. The Soviet air crews were to wear Egyptian uniforms and their aircraft were to carry Egyptian markings. In March, three MiG-21 squadrons were deployed around Cairo, Aswan and Alexandria. There were now some 7,500 Soviet personnel in Egypt, of whom about 4,000 were missile crewmen, a number that had doubled by the end of June and within another three months had increased to 10,000.

    It was now clear that the Israeli policy of deep-penetration bombing had failed. In the summer of 1970 the IAF strove to stem the creeping eastward progress of the Egyptians' SAM umbrella. In the 'electronic war' the IAF used US-supplied electronic countermeasures pods to jam the mutually supporting SAM boxes. The results were mixed - the pods were effective only against the SA-2s, and Israeli aircraft losses were now mounting.

    On 7 August 1970 a six-month ceasefire brokered by the United States came into effect. Both sides were not to alter 'the military status quo within zones extending 50km (31 miles) to the east and west of the ceasefire line'. Nor was either party to 'introduce or construct any new military installations in these zones'. Nasser had no intention of honouring this provision and the SAM sites continued their eastward progress. Israel reacted by refusing to renew talks sponsored by the UN.
    So when I read that and another source I stand by my original conclusions:

    1) The Egyptians and the Russians took considerably higher casualties than the Isrealis.

    2) Nonetheless, the Isrealis failed to prevent the Egyptians from establishing a SAM belt over the Bar-Lev line via military action. They wound up signing a treaty which was almost immediately violated but nothing was done about. Because nothing COULD be done about it. The Egyptians won. Their objective was to establish a SAM sanctuary from which the Yom Kippur war could be kicked off, and they succeeded in accomplishing this goal in all respects.

    3) The Isrealis were overwhelmingly successful in air-to-air combat and less so against the SAM threat. This is why both Arab and Warsaw Pact doctrine (which faced a similar enemy who depended on aircraft) relied not on aircraft to achieve air superiority, but on SAMs to deny control of the air to the other side long enough for overwhelming force on the ground to win the battle.

    4) Fundamentally, the Isrealis lost because they ran out of planes and pilots faster than the other side ran out of SAM sites. As fast as the Isrealis could bomb them, they would be replaced. The Isrealis could not cope with the losses. Though their kill ratio was still favorable, it wasn't favorable enough. It's the 1960s equivalent of a Zerg Rush. One marine may be worth 4 zerg, but when you're being swarmed by 40 you're still going to lose.

    That's why they call it the "War of Attrition" after all. If you have an alternate view of the history, I'm listening.

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Last edited by pendell; 2012-10-09 at 04:53 PM.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Those aircraft have never been used in a full-scale war. The closest any operators have come to a real air force was Iraq in 1991, and the Iraqi Air Force was mostly poorly maintained second-line aircraft with rookie pilots (most of their veteran pilots and better aircraft were lost in the Iran-Iraq war.) Simulations and doctrine suggest that they are likely to survive, but simulations and doctrine mean little on the battlefield.

    More importantly if AWACS is lost, the remaing aircraft are still able to fight with the full range of their own onboard sensors and the skill of their pilots. If a drone control ship or aircraft were lost, it's checkmate, All your forces are now taken off the board.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    Those aircraft have never been used in a full-scale war. The closest any operators have come to a real air force was Iraq in 1991, and the Iraqi Air Force was mostly poorly maintained second-line aircraft with rookie pilots (most of their veteran pilots and better aircraft were lost in the Iran-Iraq war.) Simulations and doctrine suggest that they are likely to survive, but simulations and doctrine mean little on the battlefield.
    This.

    Modern air performance has not been put to a full test. People have been arguing that missiles make fighters irrelevant since they were introduced. Thus far it hasn't happened yet in practice. Beyond that is really too real world.

    More importantly if AWACS is lost, the remaing aircraft are still able to fight with the full range of their own onboard sensors and the skill of their pilots. If a drone control ship or aircraft were lost, it's checkmate, All your forces are now taken off the board.
    This, even more this.

    Taking out observation is nice but you broadly are going to priortize those with the ability to kill you first. When taking out one target though neutralizes the entire group, it becomes the primary target.

    A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Continuing in the same unfortunate vein, the primary weakness of any drone system is in command and control. While a human-operated unit can continue to operate and possibly reestablish chains of command following the destruction of communications posts or heavy electromagnetic jamming, a drone unit is immediately disabled as a combat unit and likely destroyed as well. While this is no problem in asymmetric warfare, where strongpoints are virtually inviolable and supply chains and combat patrols provide the greatest weak-points, in a proper conventional war the destruction of C&C elements is always made a top priority, and with the sheer number of long-ranged destructive options available to a modern army virtually guaranteed in the long run. There is no way to hide a drone control centre; their electromagnetic emmissions are going to light them up like a burning christmas tree on most modern surveillance systems, which means that they will be targetted, which means they will be destroyed. Until drone technology has developed to the point where drones can operate independently of human operators*, or communications technology develops to the point that we can locate all command and control points so far behind the frontline that they are all but impossible targets**, drones will not make good frontline combat units.

    In short, your drone flock concept isn't likely to ever be put into practice. Too easy for the enemy to break through your defense and engage the command craft. In practice, frontline combat drones would be best controlled by sattelite, preferably using laser communications to minimize the potential for jamming and signal interception. Which has its own problems, like not working at all on a really cloudy day, but at least takes the vulnerability of the control platform out of the equation. And, amusingly, makes some degree of combat in space to eliminate enemy command and control much more attractive.

    Alternatively, drone-human pairs might not be a bad idea at all. Set up each human-controlled fighter pilot with a single drone escort programmed to keep pace with him, follow his orders and provide supporting fire and redirect or spoof any missiles headed for the human. You still get to leverage the experience, initiative and human nature of the human pilot while effectively doubling the amount of combat potential each pilot can bring to bear, and theoretically reducing casualties and experience loss. Plus, drones can be programmed to switch command to a new pilot upon the loss of their original controller, limiting "double-kills", and designed to be all but indistinguishable from the piloted craft. Much more attractive a proposition than a single, highly vulnerable control craft.

    *May never happen due to political (and moral) resistance.
    ** Assuming equivalent advances in jamming technology, this may result in substantial vulnerabilities.
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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Well its currently possible to put control stateside and fly drones anywhere in the world. However this only works because so far satellites have been untouched and only a few world powers have the means to get at them.

    This however is already changing technologically, both China and the United States have demonstrated ability to destroy satellites from from Earth with missile technology. I'm not aware of China's specs, but the US did it with AEGIS and an SM-3. Though at present there aren't nearly enough SM-3s around, but their potential platforms are any of the many Arleigh Burkes or the dozen or so remain cruisers.

    Not to mention it would relatively simple at present to launch a sat-killing satellite since they aren't built to take any punishment and have finite maneuvering ability. A fairly minimal missile would be sufficient with the right programing and intel to put it on a converging orbit.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Both the US and the Soviet Air Force had anti-sattelite missiles in the '80s designed to be launched from fighters. IIRC, that program was canned by one of the arms treaties, but it's well within China's technological capability, along with any European nation and several Middle Eastern ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gnoman View Post
    Both the US and the Soviet Air Force had anti-sattelite missiles in the '80s designed to be launched from fighters. IIRC, that program was canned by one of the arms treaties, but it's well within China's technological capability, along with any European nation and several Middle Eastern ones.
    I believe I've heard the same thing. And so help me the US withdrew from the specific restrictions during the Bush administration, but that may be separate from the SDI/BMD stuff though I don't think so given the hardware.

    And I was referring to hardware that has actually done this within the past few years, much more recently then Cold War era. The US and China examples specifically.

    Though much of Europe should be capable, I'm less certain on the Middle-East simply because I don't know that they have space programs, but I've got no claim to comprehensive knowledge there. Especially considering what might have been purchased from other powers.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    The tech required for the fighter-launched ASAT isn't much more involved than that required to make a Scud or an Atoll, both of which are manufactured or obsolete in most of the Middle East. Soviet-era Mig-29 should be able to reach the necessary altitude for engagement. The US used F-15s, and the early -15 isn't far enough ahead of the Mig-29 A to make a significant difference to the mission requirement. So they're almost certainly capable of building such a system. Testing and deploying it in secret is another question entirely.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Hmmm ...


    ... listening to Soras and Gnoman and others, I concede the problem in a conventional war against a peer who could destroy the command craft.

    However, I still think the drone flock would be useful in a situation such as enforcing a no fly zone as occurred in the 1990s, where you have constant low-intensity warfare in which the primary objective of the opposition is to shoot down 1 or 2 friendly fighters and parade the pilot before the TV cameras, as happened to CAPT O'Grady.

    In such a situation, the drone flock could enforce the no fly zone while the command craft remains well out of range of the bad guys. Satellite comms are not a problem in this scenario. It's simply a way to take any possible win condition away from the bad guys , whose best efforts will give them nothing but a small pile of twisted junk if they kill a drone.

    It also frees up the actual pilots of manned aircraft to do something other than fly racetrack patterns over the back end of nowhere waiting to be shot at.

    So ... in a theoretical war against a peer or near-peer enemy, the drone flock would have serious problems. But in a low-intensity situation such as enforcing a no fly zone, the drone flock would save wear and tear on the manned aircraft as well as reduce the risk of human casualties. It could also free up manned aircraft to do something more useful if a peer situation should break out and we don't have the ships to both continue enforcing the NFZ and fight the peer competitor.

    Getting back on topic -- the reason drones are more attractive in space than in the air is because of the more extreme life support requirements, the longer duration mission, and the fewer environmental stresses. All of these things combine to make drones more attractive than they are at present. True ?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    Last edited by pendell; 2012-10-09 at 10:13 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Getting back on topic -- the reason drones are more attractive in space than in the air is because of the more extreme life support requirements, the longer duration mission, and the fewer environmental stresses. All of these things combine to make drones more attractive than they are at present. True ?
    The factor is much larger than for airplanes. IIRC, the manned missions to the moon had most of their weight in trying to get a guy there and back. If all they needed was to send a robot, well we sent those all the way to Jupiter already.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Hmmm ...
    <snip>
    Getting back on topic -- the reason drones are more attractive in space than in the air is because of the more extreme life support requirements, the longer duration mission, and the fewer environmental stresses. All of these things combine to make drones more attractive than they are at present. True ?

    Respectfully,

    Brian P.
    That's basically what we use drones for right now anyways, though, and doesn't require a parent aircraft. Just guide the drones by sattelite from a secure ground base a few hundred kilometers away and call it a day. Since most aircraft you're going to be dealing with are either civilian or extremely outdated military you don't need a high-performance air superiority fighter anyways; a Predator drone with an AMRAAM or two is more than enough to do the job.

    And yeah, sorta. Drones are more desirable in space not necessarily because small craft will have any place, but because they're way more practical than manned craft in every respect. A combination of the factors you mentioned above makes manned fighters extremely difficult; trying to fit in everything you need to make it move, plus everything to keep the pilot alive and not riddled with tumors after one flight, plus guns, plus some sort of defenses against enemy attack? It's basically a pipe dream. By the time you get something vaguely functional it's bigger than a modern shuttle and you might as well scale up to a full-scale space ship, whatever that might look like. Basically, if what you want is small-scale assault craft based on a single parent ship, drones are the only way to go. Even if the drone control systems are no better than modern ones, space is a much simpler environment than atmosphere and it's far easier to identify civilian targets. The simple fact is, human beings really do suck as spacefarers. Just because we'll probably need to have some on our theoretical space warships to make sure the machines don't break or screw up doesn't mean that a ship without humans on it isn't going to be mechanically more efficient in every single way.

    In short, it's not that Drones are more desirable in space, really. It's that humans really, really suck at hypothetical high-tech space combat (really, anything with tech beyond the current level). We die if you accelerate at a reasonable speed, we need to devote something like a quarter of the ship's mass just to keeping us from dying from the harsh environment of space (less for bigger ships, of course), our brains are positively awful at three-dimensional spatial awareness and miniscule structural damage will kill or cripple us with terrible efficiency unless we expend even more critical mass for moderately effective safeguards. A computer doesn't have to worry about most of those things to anywhere near the same extent, and can be programmed to deal with the rest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    <Snip>

    Most modern cruise missiles have enough fuel to make 2-3 course corrections before any further maneuvering on the part of the target forces a miss. And, of course, this is assuming that the missile is close enough for its guidance system to detect the fact that the target is no longer where it was projected to be at the time of impact at launch.

    <snip>
    Just to continue on this vain, the performance of a rocket in space is based purely on it propellant and engine configuration. Not it's size or mass.

    So if you took a rocket and made it twice as big in every way, you would have a rocket with the EXACT same specs.

    This means that a missiles advantage over a spacecraft is that more of it's internal volume is dedicated to it's propulsion then it's target.

    The missiles disadvantage over a spacecraft is that it has farther to go.

    The point where the disadvantage cancels out the advantage determines the missiles effective range.

    For the rest, what is happening is the missile is trading off endurance for acceleration. It's accelerating faster then the spacecraft, but it's also going to run out of propellant sooner. Therefor dodging a missile comes down to how much propellant the spacecraft wants to expend.

    We can expand on this by postulating that victory in a space battle is forcing the other side to run out of propellant and hence lose the ability to maneuver first. The side that has the advantage is the side that is closest to Dock/support/a tanker that can refuel it which means that side has more propellant available for maneuvering.

    Note:
    Assuming that the spaceship and missile are using the same type of engine.
    Assuming that the spaceship is not limited by the acceleration that it's crew can survive.

    Note 2:
    I am sure most of the people on this thread have been to the Atomic Rocket Website. One of the things that taught me a lot was taking the equations from that site and then plugging them into excel and playing with them. It gave me a much better idea of what is important and what effects what.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Hmmm ...


    ... listening to Soras and Gnoman and others, I concede the problem in a conventional war against a peer who could destroy the command craft.

    However, I still think the drone flock would be useful in a situation such as enforcing a no fly zone as occurred in the 1990s, where you have constant low-intensity warfare in which the primary objective of the opposition is to shoot down 1 or 2 friendly fighters and parade the pilot before the TV cameras, as happened to CAPT O'Grady.
    For certain applications that's how they are use now. I'd point out that that maintain air superiority means some level of parity with your targets. Current drones would be so much easy pickings.

    However once you build a fighter jet its not going to have the same factor in cost savings or things like long duration performance. So raises the question would having these ontop of having the manned fighters you already need work out to being profitable.

    For their present use of aerial spies and limited ground attack weapons though they could definitely be used though. Bit more of a support role but possibly enough that you could stand down an active CAP (or at least reduce it) saving on maintenance and fuel costs.


    Getting back on topic -- the reason drones are more attractive in space than in the air is because of the more extreme life support requirements, the longer duration mission, and the fewer environmental stresses. All of these things combine to make drones more attractive than they are at present. True ?
    The issues remain the same just with different considerations. How far away can the control craft be stationed versus how effectively can it be attacked in turn.

    On Earth lightspeed gets you anywhere, but in space it takes IIRC a second to reach the Moon. For actively piloted drones that is just plain unacceptable delay in control. And its a little open ended whether AI is up to a more limited tether.

    As I stated before I'm not sure basic safety for things like the emergency shutdown order should let you be more then a light second away as operating practice. Which is potentially not far enough away. Certainly you will not be able to just maintain planet side bunkers so at some level you will still need command ships capable of getting into a fight while carrying humans. You may not have manned fighters but you would still have battleships. (Heck you'd probably want that for just for maintenance purposes too)

    And there's still the question of reliable comms against jamming. Though lasers are also more viable to a point, though the geometry can be a lot more complex.

    Really nothing quite eliminates the Keystone problem. Though in space since they aren't crashing you could even potentially install say a recall point navigation command if control is lost that could let you recoup some of the mission kills. It would need to be very carefully done though.

    Its still more favorable then in air certainly. Really at present tech indications though the most favorable option is massive games of rocket tag and counter-tag.

    Quote Originally Posted by DaedalusMkV View Post
    A combination of the factors you mentioned above makes manned fighters extremely difficult; trying to fit in everything you need to make it move, plus everything to keep the pilot alive and not riddled with tumors after one flight, plus guns, plus some sort of defenses against enemy attack? It's basically a pipe dream. By the time you get something vaguely functional it's bigger than a modern shuttle and you might as well scale up to a full-scale space ship, whatever that might look like.
    I'd point out keeping men alive can be done on a smaller scale then the space shuttle.

    Depending on the type of warfare you can go even more minimal then the old capsules. Do you really need an air filled cabin of any size or just a suit to hook in to an air supply, a built in heating blanket and an IV system for a bit longer treks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Megaduck View Post
    The missiles disadvantage over a spacecraft is that it has farther to go.

    Note:
    Assuming that the spaceship and missile are using the same type of engine.
    Assuming that the spaceship is not limited by the acceleration that it's crew can survive.
    Um, no? A missile just has to get to the enemy from where you launch it.

    An actual warship sent on patrol duty is not only expected to get there and come back (4x fuel cost), it is actually expected to stick around and do things which likely cost fuel.

    Add that patrol distances are likely longer than combat distances (otherwise why are you patrolling?)...


    Also, spaceships are not just acceleration limited, the engine design has to be radiation shielded (heavy) and has to have lots of heatsinks if it is inefficient.
    A missile doesn't care if it is subject to hard X-Rays and has a lower requirement for reliability than a starship drive, it just needs to get there and probably won't be on its own for more than a few days at most. Its engine can be less over-engineered, less-shielded and even use technologies (nuclear fission & AM) that would be rather difficult to shield for.
    A missile also doesn't care if its temperature is 200*C (provided it is engineered for it) except for being easier to spot (but then a torch drive under thrust is ridiculously easy to see anyway). And heatsinks get more efficient the higher your working temperature is, which means missiles dedicate less of their mass to bulky and hard to armour heatsinks.

    - Note that laser and railguns currently are... not efficient. The heat sinks you need to fire those things in space from a crewed vessel are going to be huge, but of course, drone vessels can have smaller heat sinks and higher temperatures and so can mount bigger and more powerful lasers/railguns per ton.

    Soras Teva Gee:
    If you have a drone AI that requires continual instructions ala Predator drones like now, I think you'll see a human crewed AWACs style attack craft following along behind the drone. Maybe a light second.

    If you can designate tactical targets and the drones work it out themselves, then you can have a task force command ship and everything else is drones. Maybe a ten seconds to a minute away.
    Around here, the constraints of space combat start to show. Most ships on extended missions will be reaction-mass limited. Your fission pile might be good for another ten years, but without the hydrogen propellant, you aren't going anywhere. Catching an enemy ship who doesn't want to engage can be incredibly costly just in the fuel required, especially when his drones are shooting you.

    The thing is that in space, there are no horizons, you can just use LOS communication techniques that only require a bearing and some lasers. Lasers are kinda hard to jam and with no-stealth-in-space, this also applies to the drones trying to find their command ship, there's no way you're jamming a drone's sensors from seeing the command ship's torch drive short of blowing off the sensors (which is a mission kill anyway)
    The only limit to your control is AI smartness, but the tactical advantages are pretty darn serious. Would you take a drone aircraft that went four times as fast, was twice as hard to hit (after the four times speed part), and cost roughly one-tenth of a normal plane? (because that's the kind of advantage ratio we're talking about here)
    EDIT: oh, and its weapons are bigger = longer ranged and more deadly
    Especially if its comm-links to the AWACs plane was nigh-impossible to cut.
    Last edited by jseah; 2012-10-10 at 02:48 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    Um, no? A missile just has to get to the enemy from where you launch it.
    Were discussing dodging here. A missile has to move from its launch point to the new position of its target while the target has to just move from its old position to its new position.

    An actual warship sent on patrol duty is not only expected to get there and come back (4x fuel cost), it is actually expected to stick around and do things which likely cost fuel.

    Add that patrol distances are likely longer than combat distances (otherwise why are you patrolling?)...
    Which is a good argument for propellant tankers if you think about it. Otherwise the spaceship might not be able to continue patrol after a single battle.

    Also, spaceships are not just acceleration limited, the engine design has to be radiation shielded (heavy) and has to have lots of heatsinks if it is inefficient.

    A missile doesn't care if it is subject to hard X-Rays and has a lower requirement for reliability than a starship drive, it just needs to get there and probably won't be on its own for more than a few days at most. Its engine can be less over-engineered, less-shielded and even use technologies (nuclear fission & AM) that would be rather difficult to shield for.
    A missile also doesn't care if its temperature is 200*C (provided it is engineered for it) except for being easier to spot (but then a torch drive under thrust is ridiculously easy to see anyway). And heatsinks get more efficient the higher your working temperature is, which means missiles dedicate less of their mass to bulky and hard to armour heatsinks.
    Um, what? Youve put out a lot of information but Im not really sure what point you are trying to make here. Are you trying to say that missile engines will be more efficient? Or that you think Robotic ram ships would be really cool?

    One thing I would like to point out here is that computers are delicate and slightly temperamental things right now and they do not like high temperatures. I feel that you are overestimating how tough a computer is compared to a human.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Megaduck View Post
    Were discussing dodging here. A missile has to move from its launch point to the new position of its target while the target has to just move from its old position to its new position.
    Well, assuming a missile has higher engine performance than a ship (whether through better engines or just high engine fraction), all it has to do is to set a closing vector then match accelerations.
    - I am assuming that the range is long enough that lasers and kinetics will be infeasible due to dodging (they can't hit you or the missile with it); the ranges that those will be feasible will likely be within the powered envelope of the missile anyway. (you DID give your missile enough reaction-mass right?)

    After that, if you try to dodge the missile, you spend your delta-v. If we assume a very generous equivalent engine and fuel fraction for the missile and ship, you can *barely* dodge it (the missile still has to use some fuel to close and perform its own final approach maneuvers) and almost run out of fuel.
    And then he fires another missile. =D

    Hypothetical situation:
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    Our intrepid captain is on a regular patrol mission to Titan when a nasty pirate cruiser fires a missile at him from Jupiter. (or some suitably long distance shot)
    Now, "no stealth in space" more or less says that before we get to final approach, the missile will always be able to tell if a flare is the patrol vessel or just a decoy.

    We will assume that both the patrol vessel AND the missile have the same fuel fraction and the same engine performance. This gives them identical delta-vees.
    Both the pirate and the captain are at rest when firing (apart from orbital velocities and such).

    Since the captain came from Earth, he's already burnt 20% of his delta-v getting to Saturn and slowing down. The missile burns 20% of ITS delta-v to get a closing vector.

    If the captain only thrusts perpendicular to the missile's current vector (the most costly dodging maneuver for the missile to mimic), the missile will simply copy him. Both of them lose identical percentages of their delta-v.
    The captain then proceeds to carry out doding maneuvers in a rough circular dance around the missile, which the missile mimics and continues closing. At the end of the run, his ship is down to 10% delta-v and the missile likewise; upon which the missile doesn't have enough delta-v to make final course evasion and is gunned down by the ship's laser weapon.

    And then the sneaky pirate, knowing that the captain has just burnt millions of tons of fuel dodging one missile weighing less than a thousand tons, fires his second missile... with another ten more sitting in his magazine.

    The situation gets rapidly worse as missile engine performance exceeds ship engine performance.

    Trying to dodge an equivalent performance missile with a ship is mostly impossible. You have to intercept it with another ship making a firing pass or counter-missile or just run down its delta-v enough that it can't even try to make it through your laser point defence.

    Guess whose delta-v costs more? The 100 ton missile or the 300 kiloton space frigate?

    Quote Originally Posted by Megaduck View Post
    Um, what? Youve put out a lot of information but Im not really sure what point you are trying to make here. Are you trying to say that missile engines will be more efficient? Or that you think Robotic ram ships would be really cool?
    Well, I'm saying that missile engines are able to use different technologies, usually more unstable ones, than is acceptable for human-crewed vessels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Megaduck View Post
    One thing I would like to point out here is that computers are delicate and slightly temperamental things right now and they do not like high temperatures. I feel that you are overestimating how tough a computer is compared to a human.
    The difference of about 100 degrees makes rather alot of difference in the mass fraction that you need for your heat sink.
    Which can be quite substantial. After all, if your armour glows (in IR spectrum) at 100 or 200*C, then it functions as a poor radiator in its own right.

    EDIT: of course, it would have to be specially engineered for heat/cold tolerance. But at least we have the prospect of actually doing that engineering... humans are a bit harder.
    Last edited by jseah; 2012-10-10 at 05:19 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    The redeeming value of missiles in modern warfare is that they have guidance systems. Even so, they can be evaded by targets that are much slower than they are. At relativistic speeds and distances, dodging missiles becomes trivial - a small change in velocity puts the target millions of kilometers away from the point of interception. You might as well be firing a railgun - the projectile will be faster, smaller, and not have a huge energy flare at the back of it, making it harder to detect in time to dodge.
    A "tactical drive", with high acceleration and poor endurance, would make you very hard to hit with lasers and railgun projectiles at anything over a handful of light-seconds. You can't see a laser until it hits you, but you can still avoid one by performing a random burn the moment you realise you're under attack (you can also deploy some sort of countermeasure).

    Nuclear missiles and antimatter missiles offer a much better chance of defeating evasive manoeuvres than basically anything else. Their disadvantage, of course, is that you can shoot them down. Point defence lasers would be fairly effective, as would anti-missile missiles.

    For most 'strategic' transfers, I'd expect both civilian and military vehicles to rely on cryogenics, sails, and propulsion supplied by beam satellites or ground installations. High-endurance rockets should be used sparingly, mainly for construction and exploration work.
    Last edited by lesser_minion; 2012-10-10 at 06:03 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    Soras Teva Gee:
    If you have a drone AI that requires continual instructions ala Predator drones like now, I think you'll see a human crewed AWACs style attack craft following along behind the drone. Maybe a light second.
    Well if you have viable light attack "fighter" craft at all then a 2+ second delay to everything is a very serious disadvantage.

    Around here, the constraints of space combat start to show. Most ships on extended missions will be reaction-mass limited. Your fission pile might be good for another ten years, but without the hydrogen propellant, you aren't going anywhere. Catching an enemy ship who doesn't want to engage can be incredibly costly just in the fuel required, especially when his drones are shooting you.
    Hey now this is all using magic tv reactors that have years of delta-v

    You wanna talk realism then so far its only really a missile game for much the 100 ton versus 100 kiloton issue. And even point defense is still going to demand ships that are going to need a crew simply for maintenance from their complexity. I only consider drones plausible in a small pure attack craft, fighters, mold. Which needs at present a little bit of suspension of disbelief.

    The thing is that in space, there are no horizons, you can just use LOS communication techniques that only require a bearing and some lasers. Lasers are kinda hard to jam and with no-stealth-in-space, this also applies to the drones trying to find their command ship, there's no way you're jamming a drone's sensors from seeing the command ship's torch drive short of blowing off the sensors (which is a mission kill anyway)
    Laser also pose certain limitations. Unless the reciever had 3602 degrees of coverage it could have difficulty keeping the connection. Geometrically difficult. And even more difficult I think for the more difficult for the transmitter needed for two way. Probably require multiple comms suites or you cut into the manuvering options.

    And it become geometrically inconceivable for LOS to operate if you have to fly behind a target. Or have an 'eclipse' created for you

    And the control ship, wouldn't it need a suite for each unit it controlled and to find room on its hull for? For that matter how well could those lasers keep up with their targets?

    Laser comms can have their place but space but have limitations too. They're better for more static interactions I think.

    The only limit to your control is AI smartness, but the tactical advantages are pretty darn serious.
    I think you also overestimate the performance gains while underestimating the cost savings.

    However AI smartness is by far the most important factor in my book. And I'm not sure I buy that you can have the sort of sweet spot where fighter drones could exceed human fighters, but capital ships (that need crews) even better weapons don't simply render both mute. You almost require something approaching dogfighting. And there I'm just not sure I buy even a the computer being a real life cheating bastard pulling out the win. Its a sort of loose thinking that just is ill suited for computers.

    You'd need the (highly unethical) true AI to really make the most of the performance differences.

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    Um... Perhaps we have different conceptions of what the general tech level will be. Like what you mentioned with the years of delta-v thing.
    I was thinking delta-vees more in the range of a few hundred km/s at most.
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    The way I see a standard "ship" would be basically a huge fuel tank; most ships would be roughly 50-60% fuel, with missiles going all the way up to 70% or more. (Best kinetic energy is when your fuel fraction is 2.71 times your mass, given certain assumptions about engine efficiency; that of course is when you are using a kinetic attack, nuclear warheads might settle for less)
    This is, of course, assuming a low-end not-quite-Torch drive, probably nuclear thermal. Fusion reactors might be in the offing but they won't outperform nuclear thermal until we are very good at it. (there's a design change in fusion powered drives when you can do fusion in an open chamber without ridiculous magnetic fields; the laser fusion thingy might do it)
    Missiles use Nuclear Salt-Water rockets, which sheds tons of radioactivity and won't "go" for very long before the radiation corrodes your thruster - rather unhealthy for anyone nearby, but there isn't anyone in a missile anyway. It has high efficiency *and* high thrust, but a minimum working limit, so the thrust on small vessels will pancake people but again, a missile can be engineered to handle that.

    Due to the vagaries of space combat, tactical combat lasts anywhere from ~10 hours (a small scale scuffle in Earth orbit) to a couple of days (a running fight between task forces in the Jovian moon system).
    Strategic combat is just a series of maneuvers and force deployments made weeks to a month in advance. (it still takes a week or two to get something from Earth to Mars)


    More hard SF than space opera. Not even anywhere close to Honor Harrington.
    Last edited by jseah; 2012-10-10 at 08:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lesser_minion View Post
    You can't see a laser until it hits you, but you can still avoid one by performing a random burn the moment you realise you're under attack (you can also deploy some sort of countermeasure).
    Light-speed weapon = it hits no later than the instant it can be detected to be firing. In short, you would have to know that you're under fire before your sensors detect the threat to avoid a laser.

    Quote Originally Posted by jseah View Post
    Well, assuming a missile has higher engine performance than a ship (whether through better engines or just high engine fraction), all it has to do is to set a closing vector then match accelerations.
    - I am assuming that the range is long enough that lasers and kinetics will be infeasible due to dodging (they can't hit you or the missile with it); the ranges that those will be feasible will likely be within the powered envelope of the missile anyway. (you DID give your missile enough reaction-mass right?)

    After that, if you try to dodge the missile, you spend your delta-v. If we assume a very generous equivalent engine and fuel fraction for the missile and ship, you can *barely* dodge it (the missile still has to use some fuel to close and perform its own final approach maneuvers) and almost run out of fuel.
    And then he fires another missile. =D

    Hypothetical situation:
    Spoiler
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    Our intrepid captain is on a regular patrol mission to Titan when a nasty pirate cruiser fires a missile at him from Jupiter. (or some suitably long distance shot)
    Now, "no stealth in space" more or less says that before we get to final approach, the missile will always be able to tell if a flare is the patrol vessel or just a decoy.

    We will assume that both the patrol vessel AND the missile have the same fuel fraction and the same engine performance. This gives them identical delta-vees.
    Both the pirate and the captain are at rest when firing (apart from orbital velocities and such).

    Since the captain came from Earth, he's already burnt 20% of his delta-v getting to Saturn and slowing down. The missile burns 20% of ITS delta-v to get a closing vector.

    If the captain only thrusts perpendicular to the missile's current vector (the most costly dodging maneuver for the missile to mimic), the missile will simply copy him. Both of them lose identical percentages of their delta-v.
    The captain then proceeds to carry out doding maneuvers in a rough circular dance around the missile, which the missile mimics and continues closing. At the end of the run, his ship is down to 10% delta-v and the missile likewise; upon which the missile doesn't have enough delta-v to make final course evasion and is gunned down by the ship's laser weapon.

    And then the sneaky pirate, knowing that the captain has just burnt millions of tons of fuel dodging one missile weighing less than a thousand tons, fires his second missile... with another ten more sitting in his magazine.

    The situation gets rapidly worse as missile engine performance exceeds ship engine performance.

    Trying to dodge an equivalent performance missile with a ship is mostly impossible. You have to intercept it with another ship making a firing pass or counter-missile or just run down its delta-v enough that it can't even try to make it through your laser point defence.

    Guess whose delta-v costs more? The 100 ton missile or the 300 kiloton space frigate?
    You're making some assumptions here. First, that the missile's target detection system is active from the moment the missile is fired. Second, that the target is within that system's range. Third, that the detection zone is wide enough that the target cannot leave it (but not wide enough to pick up the ship that fired it). Fourth, that the missile has thrusters on every axis to allow for maneuvers in a zero-g environment (each with its own fuel supply, otherwise the main thruster will burn it and leave the missile incapable of maneuvering despite the thrusters). Fifth, that the missile has a delta-v that's anywhere close to that of the target. And all this assumes a lack of point-defense weapons, which render any maneuvers on the target's part unnecessary anyway.

    So, yeah. Lasers (and other light-speed weapons) are the way to go for pirate captains.
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    I have a question about dodging things in space that perhaps our physicists might be able to answer.

    A couple of pages back someone said that a manuevering thruster moving at 1000m/s or whatever it was would generate enough G-force to instantly turn its crew into crunchy red pancakes...

    ...but then we're also discussing ships moving at lightspeeds or near lightspeed with crews that are unharmed?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    You're making some assumptions here.
    I think I listed my assumptions in my previous post.

    I assumed a delta-v of a couple of hundred km/s and in the range given, the missile would be closing over a period of a couple of days at least.

    There's more than enough time for the firing ship to correct the missile's course until final approach.
    There's also so much time that cold gas or gyroscopes will still be able to rotate the thrust axis easily. (there's also that a missile has a smaller problem than a space frigate)

    Also, a missile will *always* outperform a ship in terms of delta-v budget and engine efficiency. Simply because it is an unmanned platform on a one-way trip.

    The thing about point defences is valid. However, point defences are also limited in accuracy and there are a few ways for a missile to get standoff range (fragmentation, x-ray laser warheads and good old saturation fire).
    Laser point defence is good though, I'll give you that. Doesn't prevent a jinking missile from being a pretty serious threat, even when disabled, if its on track, a small fragmentation charge can turn it into a shower of high speed debris.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Succubus View Post
    ...but then we're also discussing ships moving at lightspeeds or near lightspeed with crews that are unharmed?
    This one was on assumption of near-term technology.

    So not more than a couple of hundred km per second speeds.
    Last edited by jseah; 2012-10-10 at 10:38 AM.

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    Default Re: Aircraft carriers in space

    Quote Originally Posted by The Succubus View Post
    I have a question about dodging things in space that perhaps our physicists might be able to answer.

    A couple of pages back someone said that a manuevering thruster moving at 1000m/s or whatever it was would generate enough G-force to instantly turn its crew into crunchy red pancakes...

    ...but then we're also discussing ships moving at lightspeeds or near lightspeed with crews that are unharmed?
    That's the difference between velocity and acceleration. Any object with a constant velocity has no acceleration since acceleration is the change of velocity.
    And that brings us to the thing that actually flattens the crew: force. Force is proportional to acceleration, so a greater change in velocity means a greater force on the ship and the crew. Of course that also means that with no change in velocity no force is working on the crew.
    Or in short the current velocity has no bearing on the force.

    This goes out of the window should we go near lightspeed thanks to relativity. But is a close enough approximation for realistic spaceship speeds.

    Edit: Of course there are dangers in high speeds. While space is pretty empty, it's not completely empty. Hitting things going at 50% c is unpleasant to say the least. If we ever get to those speeds we'll need a way to handle these things. But that's not really a limitation on crewed ships.
    Last edited by Anima; 2012-10-10 at 10:59 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    Light-speed weapon = it hits no later than the instant it can be detected to be firing. In short, you would have to know that you're under fire before your sensors detect the threat to avoid a laser.
    I think his point was that in hostile territory, you never travel in a straight line for any length of time. When you are under threat of being fired upon, you keep changing your heading and velocity in an unpredictable manner, so that if they aim at where you are going, you aren't there when the beam is, and the enemy has no way of predicting where you will be at any point in the future.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIYVwqHM488
    Actually, flak barrages would probably be the best way to deal with an evasive enemy. Simply fill the space he could be in with as much ordnance as you can, and hope you hit him. The volume of fire needed would be quite high, though.
    Last edited by razark; 2012-10-10 at 10:46 AM.

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    This raises a question: How would an interstellar pirate make his/her living?

    Do you :

    1) Match speed and dock with a target, then execute a non-compliant boarding?
    2) Threaten the target with destruction if it doesn't cooperate, then board?
    3) Prey only on unmanned vessels or on cargo which is essentially blocks of resources with thrusters attached? Match speeds, strip off the thrusters, jet off with the cargo? But is that piracy or just plain theft?

    How would you board a ship in space, assuming you could? Against an unarmed ship, boarding is fairly simple -- but can't it use it's exhaust plume as a weapon, even if it has no other defense? It occurs to me that the exhaust of a fusion engine or an antimatter reactor could do terrible, terrible things to a close-in ship. How do you prevent that? Have two ships, one to threaten to blow the target to dust if they resist the boarding, while the other executes the actual op?

    At any rate, once aboard, how do you fight if need be? You can't just swing a wrench, because equal and opposite reaction sends you up as the wrench goes down? Do you use magnetic boots to get leverage? Rocket pistols? What if it makes a hole in the hull?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    This raises a question: How would an interstellar pirate make his/her living?
    You could raid isolated orbital colonies and lightly defended ports.

    False flag distress calls and see who's a sucker.

    Fast accel craft after you draw close with a mother ship by match velocities.

    No major reason to think merchantmen won't follow a container ship pattern. Large but with much of the ship not even inhabitable, long range but not high accel engines and so forth. For some tech development you might not even have engines or a crew, just some tugs to handle velocity at either end with the middle wide open.

    How would you board a ship in space, assuming you could? Against an unarmed ship, boarding is fairly simple -- but can't it use it's exhaust plume as a weapon, even if it has no other defense? It occurs to me that the exhaust of a fusion engine or an antimatter reactor could do terrible, terrible things to a close-in ship. How do you prevent that? Have two ships, one to threaten to blow the target to dust if they resist the boarding, while the other executes the actual op?
    Because any cargo ship loaded with mass is not going to turn on a dime. It would be non-trivial to have engines that can spin it fast in any direction. If you raid with a small, manuverable, high accel boarding craft while the main ship stays out of reach.

    At any rate, once aboard, how do you fight if need be? You can't just swing a wrench, because equal and opposite reaction sends you up as the wrench goes down? Do you use magnetic boots to get leverage? Rocket pistols? What if it makes a hole in the hull?
    Guns would come to mind.

    If the hull is that fragile you've got bigger problems. Though use of lighter calibers, shotguns, and frangible ammunition would cut down on ricochets in enclosed space.

    Bullets are also sealed and self-oxidizing, so they even work in a vacuum. Though I heard the wonky temperature of space can make things problematic but that should be a conquerable. Use reliable actions and so forth.

    Also you would obviously fighting styles would need adapt but if you swing a wrench you aren't going to move much unless it hits something, which it would hit with all the normal force. You can also do things like kick off a wall to charge your opponent with something like a knife.

    If Char and Amuro can sword fight so can you.

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