18 April 2015

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The MORITA Rifle

In the original 1959 Starship Troopers novel, that became the founding literary classic of military science fiction, the powered armor wearing Mobile Infantry uses Atomic grenades and hand-held flamethrowers. There was no convention assault rifle, let alone the Morita, mention in original text that was prominently featured in the perplexing 1997 film adaptation. However, despite that fact, the Morita Rifle (especially the Mark I) has become one of the most popular and iconic weapons of science fiction. Here is everything and anything you wanted to know about the Morita Rifle.

Why is the Morita called "the Morita" and Was it in the Original 1959 Novel?
Unlike many sci-fi weaponry, the Morita has a proper name and that name is said in the film leaving no doubt about its identity (do you hear me Blade Runner?!). However, unlike many military weaponry, it has a Japanese last name that reminds most people of famed actor Pat Morita. In actuality, the Morita Rifle was named for the co-founder of Sony, Akio Morita. Sony Pictures released SST back in 1997. I've never been able to discover the genesis for the rifle being named for Mr. Morita...perhaps because of his involvement in some weapons development or as some weird tribute. When it comes to the original of the Morita Rifle, it was a complete construction of the 1997 film production and does not appear in Robert Heinlein's book...nor does any real rifle-based offensive weapon systems for that matter. Only weapons close in the SST world before the film was the "sci-fi" looking laser rifle of the 1976 Avalon Hill boardgame and the "standard rifle" of the 1987 Japanese OVA SST called "Uchu no  Senshi".

The Connection Between Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers (1997)
In the original 1990 Total Recall film, which is also directed by Paul Verhoeven, there is another bullpup brass-spitting rifle: the Federal Colony Soldiers' Muzzelite Carbine. Both the Morita Mk. 1 and that standard assault rifle of the Federal Colonies are made from the Muzzelite Bullpup Stock kit for the Ruger Mini-14. Both these futuristic firearms are designed based around Ruger Mini-14 rifles, however, both films had different armorers. 


The Morita Rifle Mk. I 
During the 1st Bug War, the Mobile Infantry and the Fleet use the iconic and (in)famous Morita Mk. I rifle that was the progenitor of the entire Morita family of MI firearms. This bullpup full sized assault rifle fires the NATO 7.62mm round from a 50 round magazine with an secondary 12 gauge shotgun with separate trigger for those close encounters. The weapon is over 44 inches long with an barrel length of over 30 inches(!). This science fiction rifle was created by Rock Galotti based on the notes from the studio that they wanted these MI troopers to be outfitted with a weapon to take down armies of bugs and they wanted a "real" weapon not a laser blaster.
Based on that requirement and the massive cinema battles between alien insects and humans that the Morita would be inolved, Rock Galotti used one of the most reliably blank-fire weapons: the Ruger Mini-14 and the AC556. Some of the Moritas on set where live-fire, others were rubber stun props, and most of the background Moritas were fiberglass; and only one had the working shotgun. The live-fire hero props were handbuilt and no two are alike. One interesting design element was the shotgun trigger located under the assault rifle trigger, allowing the user to operate with very minimum adjustment...handy when a bug comes a callin'. This design detail is seen in the real-steel FN EGLM grenade launcher.

The Morita Rifle Mk. II "Advanced Systems Rifle"

This Morita is a bit of a mystery, the Morita at the end of the 1997 film in a FedNet Propaganda segment. The weapon is called the "Morita Tonshi (Japanese for sudden death)" and it was not based on any real-steel weapon. It is on-screen for about 30 seconds, and it never appears in live-action form again. So, what the frak is it? The Morita Mk. II Advanced Systems Rifle was a major update to the individual destructive power of the MI trooper's Morita assault rifle. It is shown bring the hate on a mesa, but it is uncertain which barrel produced that blast or how.
Some sources state that the grenade launcher on the Mk. II ASR is the cause for the explosion. One website says that the Morita Mk.II is: "Microwave Accelerated Particle Rifle". After rewatching that short portion of the 1997 film, I am not certain which barrel is responsible for the landscaping. Either way, we never see the ASR again and it could be that the Mk.II ASR was a prototype that the Federation could not product in any numbers. Or that the ASR was to be heavy support weapon for the MI and not their standard assault rifles. It could also be true that Federation used the ASR as a tool of propaganda. In the 2005 SST PC game, there is a plasma DE rifle called the "PIG-1 Plasma Rifle", which resembles the Morita Rifle Mk. II ASR and could be the same weapon.

The Morita "E-Pulse 44" Directed-Energy Rifle

Okay...this is not completely an "Morita", but it deserves a place here. In the 2004 straight-to-video shitty Z-Rated sequel to the 1997 film, we see our hapless MI troopers locked in a deadly Rorke's Drift scenario. Instead of the familiar 7.62mm Morita Mk. I rifles, we see the MI troopers uses an DE weapon called the "E-Pulse 44 rifle"? SST II: The Hero of the Federation is not a good film and the inclusion of a DEW Morita could be due to budget. Blank ammo costs money and the laser gun flashes seen in the film could have been cheaper than blank ammo. In fact, after seen the film, I believe that the E-Pulse 44's trigger was rigged up to a lightbulb at the barrel of the prop gun to show the visual effects minions were to put in the DE laser flashes. The overall design of the E-Pulse 44 is not bad at all and unlike the Moritas from the 1997 film and 2008 films, this one was not based around a real-steel weapon, it is just a plastic-fantastic snowjob. The E-Pulse 44 rifle was only seen in the second film.

The Morita Rifle Mk. III

In the continuing trend of SST borrowing liberally from ALIENS, we now have a 10x50mm caseless variant of the Morita rifle: the Morita rifle Mark III. As seen in the 2008 not-too-bad 3rd film, the Morita III is similar in overall design to the Mk. I, but sports an traditional layout from the bullpup, an optical aiming system, flashlight, and a grenade launcher. The Mk. III feeds from an 90 round magazine of 10mm caseless rounds with a magazine-fed 30x71mm grenade launcher that has a 4+1 capacity. This allows M.I. and Fleet Marines to engage the bugs for longer and with more tools to cut down the number of incoming hostiles via the grenade launcher and the larger magazine.
During the 2nd Bug War, MI were trained to form firing lines, like 19th century infantry tactics, and concrete fire on the alien phalanx. Unlike the Mk. I, the prop gun was based around an South African R5 assault carbine, an clone of the IMI Galil, and not the Mini-14, however, both are 5.56x45mm. Much like the M41 Pulse Rifle, shell casings of the blank-fire ammunition can be seen despite being an caseless weapon. Some fans of SST believe that the Morita Smart Rifle from the Roughnecks animated series was the inspiration for the Morita Mk. III. IMFDB.org believes that the Morita III was inspirited by the old XM29 OICW. The Morita Ml. III is only seen in the 3rd film.

The Morita Rifle Mk. IV
There are several types of Moritas available in this 2005 PC game, and one being the Mk. IV "unlimited ammo" rifle. According to the in-game information, the Marauder Program MI Special Forces are the only ones issued the Morita Mk. IV and it uses an on-board plasma generator to plasma projectiles. Yes, the Marauders get plasma rifles in the 40 watt range here. While this sounds great, it overheats and it is short ranged. This weapon was designed for the Marauder Program so that the powered armor wearing MI trooper could engage several unarmored bugs at once. For armored targets, the player switches to the conventional ammo Morita Mk. I rifle. Given that the 2005 game connects the first and second films together, the Morita Mk. IV may or may not be another version of the DE weapon seen in Hero of the Federation, the mysterious E-Pulse 44.

The Morita "Invasion" Rifle 
In the computer animated 4th SST film, Invasion, we get yet another Morita rifle, the 5th in the generation of the Mortia. Not much is known or said about this weapon, and even the name is odd. According to my research, this Morita was called "the Mk. I" and may fire the .338 Lapua Magnum round instead of the 7.62mm of the older Moritas. It appears to feed from a boxy magazine in the from of the weapon(?) and this Morita can be fitted with an grenade launcher similar in design to the M203. This Morita has only been seen in the CGI Invasion film.

The SCION "Smart" Morita Rifle
 In the short-lived American animated series that was based on the 1997 film, the CGI Mobile Infantry troopers carry yet another variant of the familiar Morita: the Smart Morita Rifle. This interesting version of the Morita was more akin to the Colonial Marines M41A1 Pulse Rifle than what we saw on-screen in 1997. This seems to fire caseless rounds and is still bullpup, but the dense boxy magazine is loaded into the upper rear. The overall size of the weapon is more compact the Mark I, and this one, like the Mk. III, is equipped with a pump-action grenade launcher that also feds from an magazine as well. Oh, one of the bullshit grenade types is anti-matter. Fuck me that would be expensive to lob at some bugs.
In the series, the Smart Morita is used in all types of environments and  appears to more SMG/PDW than assault carbine, and could even fire a smaller high-velocity round, like the Pulse Rifle or even the FN P90. This is all based on the report of the weapon and a general feeling. Fleet uses a carbine variant as well. Of course, the Smart Morita was inspirited by the ALIEN Pulse Rifle and possibly the HK XM29 OICW. To me, this is a very cool Morita rifle and is more realistic for future soldiers to carry than the Morita Mk. I, however, the "smart" portion is never explained. Some websites have called this Morita the "pulse rifle Morita". This Morita was seen in the series, the Mongoose RPG games, and seen in some comics.

The Morita Rifle Variants

The Morita Carbine
In one of the cool real-world touches that the 1997 film uses in their firearms was the inclusion of an carbine variant and who uses them. In the film, Fleet personnel, Marines, Special Forces, and NCOs are seen with a cut-down carbine of the Morita Mk. I. The film gets the issue of who gets to use the carbine variant correct (to my surprise) and that the carbine is devoid of the shotgun attachment. During the climax of the 1997 film, we also see that the escape pods of the Roger Young have Morita Carbines stowed inside to fend off nasty bugs.

The Morita DMR
In the 1997 film, we see an interesting variant of the Mk. I Morita: the "sniper rifle" in the hands of badass Sugar Watkins of the Roughnecks. There is only one sniper variant of the Morita Mk.I seen in that film. This weapon is wrongly called a "sniper rifle", instead it is an Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) because it is using an existing assault rifle foundation for a more accurized weapon.
Of course, in the tongue-in-cheek SST universe, this is a fully automatic DMR with a massively oversized optical system AND an shotgun attachment is considered an "sniper rifle". We clearly see Watkins banging away with this Morita DMR on fully auto, spray bugs with no regard for the advanced futuristic scope system. The only time that the DMR Morita is used in the manner of an DMR is when Lt. Rasczak takes Watkins' rifle to kill a captured trooper. Other than that, it is spraying time. There is not another DMR/Sniper Rifle with the Morita moniker until SST: Invasion. 

The Morita Mk. III "Survival Rifle"
Much like the first film, Federal personnel are forced to abandon their starship and take to the escape pods in the 3rd 2008 film. Inside these escape pods are Morita IIIs. In the first film, they were the carbine variant, in the 3rd film, Marauder, they are an "survival rifle" that simply has the stock deleted. That's it. There is still the oversized optical system, the grenade launcher, and without the stock, it is wonder that anyone could fire it accurately.


The Force-on-Force DE Morita Trainer
Today, force-on-force training is done via IR MILES (laser tag) gear, simunition, and good ole paintball. In the future, as predicted by SST, there will be another options: laser beams. During the boot-camp scenes in the 1997 film, we see our fearless recruits of the MI battling in a force-on-force training ground at Camp Currie with "Training Beam" Moritas. These very Star Wars laser beams are blue and red and are highly visible to the naked eye. They operate similar to current MILES gear, but these training beams activate a violent shock feature in the MI vest. Much like MILES, the real-steel Morita are fitted with a training beam tip attachment, allowing for the real Morita to be used, allowing troopers to train-like-you-fight.

The Morita Mk. III SAW LMG
Well, it only took three movies for the Mobile Infantry to get an frakking light machine gun! The Morita SAW is an LMG variant of the Morita seen in the CGI Invasion film and the handheld phone game. There is nothing on this gun save for it being in the film. It is heavily dotted with barrel shroud for heat ventilation/air cooling and has a bipod. I'm guessing that if the Morita rifle calibers the .338 Lapua that the SAW would be firing the same round which seems completely insane and you would need powered armor to deal with the recoil of that package. 

What Do Those Morita Rifles Fire?
That question largely depends on what movie we are addressing. In the originally 1997 film, the Mortia rifles are said to be firing 7.62x51mm rounds. This round is mostly found in battle rifles, LMGs, and DMRs. In actuality, the prop gun under the plastic-fantastic covering is firing 5.56mm blanks. In the 2nd "film", the DEW Moritas fire some sort of directed-energy pulse beam, and the effect is mostly post-production. In the 3rd film, the MI troopers 3rd generation Morita fires an 10x50mm caseless round (similar to the M41A1 Pulse Rifle). The prop South African R5 under the plastic fired an 5.56mm, which spent brass can be seen in the frames of the film. In the last entry in the SST world, Invasion, those CGI Moritas are rumored to be firing the deadly .338 Lapua Magnum round. This round is mostly seen in sniper rifles in today's military and I am not sure how the .338 would perform in an assault rifle platform.

What Does the Morita Rifle Say About the Federation?
Actually, quite a bit. The 1997 film takes place in the 23rd century, but the Mortia Rifle seen in the film is very 20th century technology. We have to remember that there is nothing stopping you from constructing a Mortia Rifle today that is the same technological level as the M.I. Troopers have in the film. Hell, there was nothing futuristic about the Mark I Morita Rifle back in 1997 when the prop armorers constructed the weapon. In the 23rd century, the Federation's elite troopers, the Mobile Infantry are outfitted with a primary weapon that is three centuries out of date technologically speaking and lacks the most basic aiming system: iron sights.. Weapons of today are more advanced with more features than the Morita Rifle of the 1997 film. This may speak to how the Federation views the Mobile Infantry due to giving them rifles without iron sights and spray-and-pray tactics observed in the field. The Federation may view the MI as meat for the grinder and that numbers are more important than individuals. The more MI, the greater the volume of fire. This is similar to the thinking of Soviet-era commanders.

Under the Plastic: the Morita Rifle Blank-Fire Weapons
During the film of Starship Troopers, over 300,000 blank ammunition were fired. Most of the live-fire Moritas were Ruger Mini-14s and AC556k rifles due to their proven track record with blank-fire and given the script and the requirements, Rock Galotti knew that the Mortias need to be up to the task of firing blank ammo on full auto. Interestingly, the caliber that the Morita Mk. I are suppose to be firing, the 7.62mm. Not one of the real-steel gun under the plastic casting fired that caliber. When it came time for the sequel to SST, the Z-rated Hero of the Federation, no real-steel weapons were used under the plastic. However, that trend was ended with the 3rd film, Marauder, when the South African carbine variant of the Vekotr R4 5.56mm assault rifle, the R5, was used surrounded in a bulky plastic casting. What happened to the blank-firing Ruger Moritas? Due to firearm laws, the nearly trashed Mini-14s and AC556s were returned to the prop master, and any in private hands are void of the action. The shotgun attachment on the Morita Mk. I was an cut-down ithaca Model 37 12 gauge and according to sources, there was only one working Morita prop gun with an working shotgun, the others were visual fabrications.

Why is the Morita Rifle So Popular?
The Morita Mk.I has become one of the most popular science fiction weapons of all time, ranking up there with the M41A1 Pulse Rifle, the Lightsaber, and Deckard's PKD. Today, it is easy to find live-fire Moritas, even ones that fire airsoft, paintball, and display props littering the internet...but the question is why is the Morita such a popular sci-fi gun? One reason could be that the Morita rifles in SST films bang harder on-screen than pornstar Gianna Michaels and the bolt can be seen cycling away as brass flies in a nearly pornographic display of firepower.
More than 300,000 rounds of blank ammunition was used on SST and it says something about how hardcore the Morita is...this is no "phasers on stun" sci-fi weapon system! This more realistic hard-edged reality of the Morita over raygun laser sci-fi weapon could be another factor coupled with the spitting brass and huge muzzle flash. Also, SST is a cult favorite and a guilty pleasure, and combined with the coolness factor of the Morita itself, could be another source of the gun's popularity. To the fans of SST, the Morita is their Lightsaber or phaser, you cannot have a cosplay MI trooper outfit without the Morita.

The Things that Piss Me Off About the Morita
One of the things that really pisses me off about the Morita Mk. I is that it was a bullpup layout. Real world bullpup assault rifles are designed that way to take advantage of the mechanics being in the rear stock assembly over traditional layout. Thus, bullpup assault rifles can have traditional length barrels (16-20 inches) with the overall rifle length being similar to a carbine. That's the big advantage of bullpups over traditional assault rifles and SST is doing it wrong...very wrong. The Morita Mk. I is 44 inches long, about the same as FN FAL with the fixed stock and the 21 inch barrel. A weapon similar to the Morita Mk. I, the bullpup Steyr AUG is 31 inches in length with a 20 inch barrel. While I could not find the exact barrel length, it seems to be over 30 inches long!
So, why is the hell is the Morita a bullpup then? Simple answer: bullpups are future cool. That is my only answer. The armorers used the Muzzlite kit for the Mini-14 and being that the Muzzlite has a long history of being in science fiction films, allowed the Morita Mk. I to have a foundation...hence it is a bullpup. If the Morita Mk. I was the carbine, I wouldn't be bitching or if the full-length Morita Mk. I was the LMG variant...but it isn't. Another element that pisses me off is that the Morita Mk. I has no iron sights. That is bad tactics. Always have a backup rule and the KISS rule apply here, but not in the SST universe apparently. Of course, we are talking about the future starflung military organizations that offers no support to their infantry once they are dirtside. Lastly, there is the bulk of the Morita Mk. III seen in the 3rd SST film. That weapon was based around the HK XM29 OICW concept. Surely, in the 23rd century, firearms companies can construct something smaller and more compact that the bulky Morita Mk. III? And why is the "caseless Morita Mk. III fire a 10mm round that is longer than the regular cartridge round? The 10x50mm is longer than the 5.56x45mm round...does it need that much propellant or is someone not paying attention? Okay, rant over.

Where Else Have We Seen the Morita?

The Starship Trooper PC Game (2005)

Before Strangelite was bought by Rebellion, they gave us the 2005 SST PC video game. This had the player take the role of a powered armor equipped elite member of the Mobile Infantry's Marauder Program. Marauder Zero Six is tasked with a number of missions on planet Hesperus too tough for the regular troopers, and besides the powered armor, Marauder Zero Six has an entire armory of weapons, including two Moritas. The Morita Mk. IV is the endless plasma DE Morita and the Morita Mk. I is featured and is to be used against armored bugs. This game was raped at the time in reviews due to errors in the programing and a lackluster experience overall. However, it was cool to take on massive amounts of bugs with cool SST universe weaponry.

The Galoob SST film Action Figures

It is hard to believe that SST had a toyline and that said toys were marketed to children considering the hardcore gore and nudity in the first film. Galoob's line of SST toys did feature some of the core characters from the film, however, much like the Kenner ALIENS toyline, the characters are mere shadows of themselves. Some figures were packaged with the standard infantry Morita Mk. I. As you can see, the Morita is close to the film's and is just as long as the film's as well. This toyline sold poorly and was quickly forgotten. FWS will be explore and tying to explain the Galoob SST toyline in a future Military Sci-Fi Toys blog article.












IR "Laser Tag" Morita-like Rifles
Oddly, the Morita Mk. I rifles have been created for an IR laser tag game by a company called Battlefield Sports that operates international. These IR beam guns are called "Moritas" and are available in either "sniper rifles" or "SAW". The company states these IR laser tag guns are for more long range laser tag experiences and realistic battlefield experiences with the mess or pain of paint. They resemble the Morita Mk. I assault rifles in a more boxy format.



The SST Comics
There have been a number of SST comics over the years with some being published by Dark Horse and other smaller presses. Some are set the world established by the 1997 film while others are based on the 1999/2000 Roughnecks: the SST Chronicles. The SST comic follow some of the gear and weapons seen in those works, while some artists take liberties with the weaponry and design new Moritas. I contacted a few friends that have the SST comics, and they informed me that during the Dark Horse run, the Moritas were front and center with additional variants. They could not provide me with scans of those other variants,

The SST Minature Game 

In 2005, Mongoose Publishing released a miniature RPG wargame based on the Verhoeven SST universe. The game liberally borrow from heavily from the 1997 film, while other elements were culled from the Roughnecks animated series. The United Citizens Federation armies miniatures for sale had MI troopers from both the film and animated series with Moritas to match. The game was disconnected in 2008.

Next Time on FWS...
 Here it is...the blogpost I've been wanting to write since I started FWS way back in 2010: the complete the Forever War Graphic Novel series. After finally getting my hands on Volume 2, I now have the complete collection and it is time to write. Join this next time when FWS will be diving into a true Forgotten Classic of military science fiction comics!












11 April 2015

The Masterworks: the Best of Military Science Fiction (film): ALIENS (1986)

There are those movies that set themselves apart, becoming the best examples of certain genre or the entire film industry. We are talking about movies like Citizen Kane, Psycho, Jaws, ET, Star Wars, and Gone with the Wind. Along side these classics of cinema belongs another movie, and this became the best example of military science fiction films: ALIENS. In this new FWS serial, we will exploring the best of military science fiction works in their media type. In this opening salvo of The Masterworks: The Best of Military Sci-Fi, we will discussing the very best military science fiction film of all time, 1986's ALIENS.

Why is ALIENS the Best of MSF Cinema?

It is the Progenitor
Given ALIENS success and endurance, ALIENS would become the starting point for many sci-fi creators, giving them inspiration for their own works (including me). It would also popularize and expand some science fiction concepts and terms, like dropship, caseless weaponry, space marines, and general military science fiction. The pattern and themes of ALIENS would be repeated and expanded upon by works within the universe, and others like my favorite arcade game Xenophobe.

It is an Ambassador Work for the Genre

Some science fiction works are just too geeky and too dense to be an attractor for new fans to the genre, but some works serve as an "ambassador" to be an entry point for new fans to the genre. While DUNE is the best sci-fi book ever written, it is not a book you loan a friend to get them into science fiction, but Star Wars attaches new fans into the fold by being easily digestible and it has serves as a way to get new fans into the science fiction world since 1977. The same is true of the Hobbit for fantasy fans. ALIENS is that film for us fans and creators of military science fiction. ALIENS is a film that applies to a wide audience and is considered one of the greatest sequels of all time, this allows it to be an ambassador of military sci-fi. It does not hit you over the head with military themes and technology, it is part of the settings and some characters, not the end-all-be-all, and this allows it be enjoyed by a wide audience.



Realistic Space Military Organization
Military organizations seen in science fiction are nothing new. There was Star Trek's Starfleet, the Galactic Empire of Star Wars, and the Mobile Infantry of SST, but until the Colonial Marine Corps (CMC); there was not an realistic space military organization that was akin to the modern military. James Cameron set out to make his sequel to the iconic ALIEN to be a "combat film" and this mindset helped. The production staff used elements of the US military during the Vietnam War and the 1980's to model the CMC after. This makes the authenticity of the CMC more than most previous fictional military organizations...after all, most Marines I knew, talk & act like the Colonial Marines. It also helped that Cameron was wanting a realistic space marine unit in the film and hired former Vietnam War era Marine Al Matthews to portray Sgt. Apone. It was also helped by the tactics, chain of command, mission, and kit that the CMC wear in the film . All of this added to the realistic nature and the authenticity of the Colonial Marines that has been inspiration for countless space marines.

Using Real-World Military Hardware with a Sci-Fi Twist
In the film, we see the Colonial Marines use an very cool APC that loads into a tactical transports that is armed to the goddamn teeth. Back in the heady days of the 1980's, we had never really seen anything like this on-screen...it was not the machines of Star Trek or Star Wars. Some how, ALIENS got it right where so may get it wrong. Unlike a great deal of science fiction, the hardware in this film is not a center character or the entire reason for the film. It is not the laser sword from Star Wars, or the Enterprise from Star Trek, or the masturbation that Pacific Rim mecha, but the hardware from ALIENS was part of the world and it fit organically into the setting, giving us sci-fi lovers a vision of a realistic space military and their badass machines. The production staff used elements of real-world vehicles, like the Cobra Gunship, to develop some of the iconic hardware that since become the progenitors of sci-fi tactical "dropship" transports, the return of the bullet-firing sci-fi weaponry, APCs, and space marine armor.

Superior Filmmaking
One thing that really helps ALIENS is that is it simple a great fucking movie...bar none. Unlike other films that are either cheesy (Starship Troopers), uneven (Blade Runner), weird (2001: A Space Odyssey) or just bad (Star Wars: Episode I), the talent in front and behind the camera of ALIENS is firing on all cylinders, turning in product that is superior the majority of science fiction cinema. James Cameron and Gale Hurd had a difficult task with the sequel to the beloved 1979 classic that was ALIEN. Instead of rehashing the plot from the 1979, they took a bold step and pushed the universe 57 years in the future and told a different story that was much more centered on the journey of the broken Ripley character. While ALIENS does feature all manner of cool space vehicles, weaponry, and badass space marines, it is the story of Ripley's character that takes center stage...plus Sigourney Weaver performance is one of the finest in any sci-fi film. As I stated above with the "ALIENS has an ambassador film", it helps that the film is so good to all a vast audience to enjoy the breathtaking work.

One Hell of an Enemy

While the protagonists of any story is generally the focus and ALIENS gives one hell of a hero in Ripley and Hicks, there is the Yin to their Yang, the antagonist: the Xenomorphs. Their nature was well established in 1979's ALIEN, but ALIENS add another layer on the cake-o-horrors with dozens of warrior-drones and the new Queen. ALIENS provide the xenomorphs with a fresh playground to unleash in and give us fans some new to scream about. ALIENS would simply not be as good without the xenomorphs. They provide an enemy to test our brave space marines and their fancy tech. This rounds out the experience of why ALIENS is the best military science fiction film, because for most stories, there HAS to be a good enemy for our heroes to shoot at and die from.




What Derek Says...
FWS friend and uber-ALIENS fan Derek Restivo was recently asked by FWS about why he thinks ALIENS is the best military science fiction film of all time:
So it's definitely the best military sci-fi movie. Why? Because it set the blueprint for the look and feel of military sci-fi. Pretty much everything that came afterwards borrowed from it. The gritty marines in space, the smack talk, the assault rifles, the gear, all of it. Maybe most importantly, they basically took US marines and put them in space, which I don't think had been done before, at least not in a big way. I'm sure it wasn't the first, but it was the biggest and most influential start to those tropes. When you think of space marines, you think of the marines from ALIENS I bet that any military sci-fi movie that came out since has some of the tropes that ALIENS created. Video games are even more guilty of borrowing the ideas; HALO steals like 90% of everything the movie. Plus, even aside from how influential the movie is, it's also just an incredible movie on its own merits. I'm sure I don't have to explain why...

Runners-Up
I have to be honest, while there will be runner-up to other media types for the Masterworks blog articles, there was none here. I did not even consider any other movie for the title of the best of military science fiction cinema.

Next Time on FWS...
Keeping with the killing creepy aliens theme, we will be discussing another iconic weapons of science fiction. ALIENS has its Pulse Rifle, Deckard has his PKD, and Starship Troopers has its Morita Rifle. It is finally time to discuss one of the most popular sci-fi weapons of all time: the Morita Rifle from the SST universe. We will be picking this weapon apart and examining every little bit of what makes the Morita Rifle one of the greats.

05 April 2015

FWS Topics: Tactical Transports

Science fiction is filled with futuristic technologies and machines. From blasters, to warp drive, to lightsabers, you take your pick. In the genre of military sci-fi, one of the iconic pieces of future hardware is the tactical transport. Designed to transporting troops, vehicles, and supplies from ship-to-shore within in a ruggedized and well-armed dual-atmospheric spacecraft, the tactical transport handles the always difficult and painstaking job of military transportation. Any operation that involves ferry duty in a combat zone is some of the riskiest in any combat zone. It only gains more complication when we factor in the challenges of space into the tactical environment along with the challenges of ferrying troops, vehicles, and supplies from starside to planetside. Science Fiction has created several unique space vehicles to deal with those challenges: the dropship and the tactical transports. While they are similar, they are quite different and are often badly confused in the realm of science fiction across all media. In this blog article, FWS will be exploration and explaining the tactical transport.

What was an "Tactical Transport"?
The best way to think of the tactical transport of the military sci-fi is they are an dual atmospheric military spacecraft that is 1/3 Space Shuttle, 1/3 helicopter, and 1/3 gunship. It is go-to-utility-vehicle for spacefaring military organizations, and is used for a number of roles. Mostly, they transport a limited number of soldiers, and/or supplies, and/or armored vehicles from ship-to-shore and back again with enough firepower to provide aerial close fire support for planetary units and defend itself. Tactical transports use VTOL thrusters for landing and taking-off and some sort of rocket motor to achieve breaking away speeds. These can be the primary military aero-vehicle for any spacefaring military organizations that operate in both endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric environments and often call their homebase a starship in orbit. Their range in space is limited and often are not FTL capable. With the tactical transport being such a flexible platform, the basic design is altered of various models that serve various roles, like CASEVAC, gunship, and C2 bird.

How is the Tactical Transport Different from the "Dropship"?
 FWS covered the science fiction dropship in some detail recently, but I will summarize. The term "dropship" as I bitched about above, is not the same as a tactical transport. Dropships are a more limited role military spacecraft that is designed to ferry a greater number of space marines/vehicles/supplies from the space navy flotilla to the planetary battlezone. These dropships are not designed to operate like an airplane once in atmosphere. They are a bus, there to drop off the goods and marines, and haul ass back to the stars. They can be armed, but are not designed to delivery close air support like the tactical transport. The best dropship is the egg-shaped spacecraft from the Battletech universe.

How is the Tactical Transport Different from the Assault/Military Shuttles?
Space shuttles and tactical transports are similar in their transatmospheric operational capabilities. Shuttles and tactical transports can go from orbit to ground and ground to orbit, and both will be used by future military organization for peacetime and wartime operations. The difference is in capabilities. Shuttles are primarily designed to be a transport system, while tactical transport are more Blackhawk helicopter than Orbiter. While tactical transports are more flexible and more heavily armored, they are limited in range once in outer space. Shuttles of any space fleet, like what we've seen in Star Trek, could serve a short-range transport and even may possess a limited FTL ability.
Tactical transports do not possess that because they are already pulling double-duty, excluding them from being more useful in deep space operations. Tactical transport are more orbital-based spacecraft. Of course, there is the "Assault Shuttle" that has elements of the tactical transport within it. These are more well-armed military shuttles design to be more tactical flexible in combat zones and planetary operations. Instead of an starship carrying an tactical transport and normal shuttlecrafts, the assault shuttles could be a nice fusion of both and allow less auxiliary spacecraft from being carried onboard. Assault shuttle examples are the Lambda class Imperial Shuttle from Star Wars and the Raptor from BSG.

How is the Tactical Transport Different from the Helicopter/Tilt-Rotor?

In the iconic HALO Reach, the difference between the tactical transport and the sci-fi helicopter is spelled out. During the Battle of Reach, NOBLE Team uses Pelican tactical transports to stage an VBSS operation on an alien warships in orbit of Reach. But while on-planet, the SPARTAN SpecOps team uses the UH-144 Falcon. While the Pelican can and does operates in both endo and exo atmospheric environments, the Falcon is more suited to endo-atmospheric operations and burns through less fuel for VTOL and hovering. I can see a future military organization using tactical transports to establish a beachhead during the initial planetary operations, then once the DZ is secure, they will bring down helicopters in a dropship for later planetary operations.

How is the Tactical Transport Different than the Troop Transport?
When any military, now or in the future, the need to mount an all-out assault or invasion with serious presences, they need a serious people/machine mover...and it is not the tactical transport. We have to remember that the tactical transport is not a orbital dropship that can land tanks, mechs, and hundreds of space marines to a planet-side DZ. Rather, tactical transport can transport a dozen to twenty troopers in armored and armed comfort and is more tactically flexible than the heavy-mover dropship. It is difference between the V-22 Osprey and the C-130 Hercules or the military hover landing craft and the Mi-8.

The Roles of the Tactical Transport
With the tactical transport being one of the more mission flexible spacecraft in any space navy, they are tasked with all manner of ship-to-shore duties. Here is the main three roles of the tactical transport:

Troop Transporter
One of the most common (and critical) roles of the tactical transport is the ferrying of spaceship troopers from starside to dirtside in an armored and armed spacecraft. In most science fiction, tactical transports are slightly larger the size of an V-22 Osprey and carry around two dozen full-outfitted soldiers from ship-to-shore with some supplies. However, in other sci-fi tactical transports are even larger with expanded capabilities, like the ALIENS Cheyenne, that can transport an specially designed APC (the M577) in the belly cargohold with marines inside. The HALO Pelican is capable of carrying the Scorpion tank or the Warthog via a powerful magnetic field that does not effective the amount of interior cargo capability. While the tactical transport cannot compete with larger troop transport shuttles on delivery the numbers of troops, it does have the ability to place their more limited number of soldiers anywhere on-planet and support them.

Gunship

"Gunship" is overall term that encompesses aerocraft that are similar to 20th century attack helicopter like the badass Mi-24 Hind-D, but are not just kept aloft using blades. One of the roles of the tactical transport is to act as an gunship when the need arises to provide CAS to friendly units. This abilities allows the tactical transport to be part of the combat team, and very tactical flexible. The soldiers being ferried in the tactical transport can rely on the armament of the vehicle if CAS is needed or to soften up ground targets or just simple protection. With all of these duties, the armaments of the tactical transport would be varied and flexible to counter most known threats.
However, the tactical transport is not an endoatmospheric gunship nor is it an attack fighter able to engage in ACM. Any extended endoatmospheric operation for a tactical transport would tax the engine, consume a great deal of fuel, and create more maintenance. Any invading spacefaring military organization is going to pack endoatmospheric attack craft that fulfill the traditional roles of the attack helicopter on-planet. However, during the initial phases of establishing a beachhead on the planet's surface, the tactical transport will be the default gunship of the invasion force. Once that secure DZ is established, the orbital starships can send down the traditional gunships and take the more fuel-greedy tactical transport off of the frontline.

Space Shuttle
Tactical transports are dual atmospheric vehicles, designed for orbit-to-surface-to-orbit flight, and this ability gives this military vehicle a great deal of flexibility. During combat operations, tactical transports will ferry soldiers and support them with their offensive armaments. However, during other times, the tactical transport would serve as a general space transport system, like the US and Soviet Space Shuttles. In that role, the tactical transport would move personnel and cargo up-and-down the gravity well. This will burl the lines between military shuttle and tactical transport, because both would be used. A good example of an military shuttle being used as an tactical transport and general utility spacecraft is the BSG Raptor. 

The Challenges of an Real-World Tactical Transport
The closest we have to the tactical transport in the real-world is the old American and Soviet Space Shuttle Orbiters. Take that real-world vehicle and mix it with the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft abilities, and you have an idea of the challenges of a real-world tactical transport. Much like we discussed in the older FWS Topics: Troop Transports blog article, the challenges of a military-grade dual-atmospheric are many, from AAA to climbing out of a gravity well, the job of an tactical is a hard one. Once the tactical transport is hauled to a combat zone by its mothership, its job begins. Using the tactical transport in orbital space is much easier than in-atmosphere, and is less taxing on the fuel supply allowing gravity and Sir Isaac Newton in the driver's seat.
Once the vehicle enters atmospheric reentry, the thermal protection system takes over, along with the computer system (nearly all Space Shuttle reentries were conducted by the HAL-9000). If the thermal protection is damaged or the computer is faulty during this chaos, the spacecraft is lost along with the troopers. After this, the spacecraft will transform into a endoatmospheric aircraft, as the crew regains control, determining their position as the sensor systems sweeps for incoming threats. This is when the tactical transport is vulnerable to interception or AAA systems, especially as they close to their ground DZ. The closer to the ground the dual atmospheric craft comes, the more threats that can engage the tactical transport.
From traditional AAA weapon turrets, to ground-based lasers, to even personal portable SAMs. If the craft survives the trip to the DZ, and drops off the space marines and their shit, there is still the matter of getting starside. If the spaceframe of the craft is damaged, than spaceflight could be impossible or if too much fuel was expended as well. This concept of a VTOL spacecraft that is able to use its own engines and not a rocket booster to escape the atmosphere is one of the biggest technical challenges of the tactical transport...only if anti-gravity generator pods are not a reality, of course (and that is just cheating anyway!).

The Progenitor: the ALIENS UD-4L Cheyenne Dropship 
Sometimes, one work can inject a concept into the collective imagination and ALIENS was the perfect vehicle to host the progenitor of the tactical transport and import the concept to all of us fans. The reasons for the term "dropship" to be used for tactical transport, the overall design of this type of futuristic transatmospheric vehicle is all due that uber-classic and its very well designed UD-4L Cheyenne. The Cheyenne  design moved away from the more military shuttle designs, with some of those being based on the American Orbiter. The UD-4L itself was based around the UH-1 "Huey" and the AH-1 "Cobra" gunship and give the Cheyenne a certain look.
This created the fusion of modern military vehicles and space transport technology that still exists today. What the Cheyenne did as well is to boldly demonstrate the role of this type of military science fiction spacecraft. One also to remember that the Cheyenne is very well designed. Speaking to this, take the protected secondary weapon bays. All UD-4s have the caseless 25mm rotary cannon, but in that iconic scene in the film, missile launcher unfurl from the body of the spacecraft. While a cool scene, it does have it practical purpose: protecting the missiles from the violence of reentry. In the end, without the UD-4L "dropship" we could not have similar spacecraft in science fiction...can you imagine HALO without the Pelican?

Science Fiction and the Tactical Transport
When researching tactical transports, I realized that the concept of tactical transports is more recent in sci-fi lore. During the pulp era of science fiction, when our gallant space heroes wanted to explore strange new worlds, they landed their rocketships on those dangerous alien planets, often vertically. This vision of space exploration and the landing craft of these astronauts was also backup by NASA art and countless pulp era sci-fi covers at the time. During the 1950's, a new tool of warfare was seen in Korea and the French War in Algeria, the helicopter. After this, and especially during the Vietnam War, the idea of a military-grade troop transport that was space rated was beginning to enter into the literature, as with the Ornithopters in DUNE.
These armed shuttles, like the retrieval boats in 1959's Starship Troopers, were still not the armed spaceborne troop transport as in ALIENS, but this were the idea became to enter the genre. Vietnam Veteran Joe Haldeman wrote about scoutships that landed UNEF APS troopers in The Forever War (Oddly, the graphic novel showed American Space Shuttles being used). This idea of using shuttles was reinforced by works like Star Trek. The marriage between the shuttle and the military helicopter would only take shape, in a grand fashion, in ALIENS. The loving designed Colonial Marines space transport was a marriage of high-tech and Vietnam-era steel that created itself as the progenitor of the military science fiction "dropship" tactical transport.
The UD-4L Cheyenne gave birth to the look, operation, and the use of the (wrong) terminology for futuristic spacecraft of this design: the dropship. After that landmark 1986 film, science fiction creators of all types, began to include similarity designed troop tactical transports. Some of these were little more than thinly veiled copies of the UD-4L Cheyenne and still others were armed shuttles patterned after the American/Soviet STS spacecrafts, but all carried the label of the dropship. In 2001, Bungie would forge the game for the new Microsoft Xbox with HALO: Combat Evolved. In that game and the following works, the UNSC would ride into battle across the stars in the other iconic tactical transport: the Pelican. Today, the tactical transport is hallmark of military science fiction media and literature, including my own.   

Examples:

The UD-4L "Cheyenne" Tactical Transport from the ALIENS Universe
The genesis of the one most iconic pieces of Colonial Marine hardware was after the Tientsin Conflicts when the CMC put out a contract for an multi-role light aerospace shuttle capable of carrying payloads up to 35,000lbs. The UD series of tactical transports or Cheyenne is the workhorse of the aerospace wing of the Colonial Marines and the US Army. It serves in various roles from gunship, shuttle, medical evac bird, to cargo transport. The UD-4 series is at home in atmosphere or in the cold void of space due to its unique engine design that allows VTOL and transatmospheric flight.
Given the limitations of starlift capability, the UD-4 series was designed to make the most of a single spacecraft by allowing the massive cargo bay to not only haul Colonial Marines, but those marines packed into a M577 APC. This allows for rapid protected deployment of boots on exo-planetary dirt. There are several limitations to the UD-4 series. If engaged by hostile aircraft, the Cheyenne cannot behave as an attack jet fighter, and any damage to the spaceframe can result in the Cheyenne being trapped on-planet and unable to transverse to outer space. Also the Cheyenne is limited on fuel. Under normal circumstances, the Cheyenne can make one complete loop of ship-to-shore-ship. During a hot engage, the fuel supply could be sucked down beyond the level of allowing the Cheyenne to return to its homebase. Despite this, the current UD-4L Cheyenne tactical transport is one of the symbols of the Colonial Marines and the United States colonial effort.

The D77 Pelican Series UNSC Tactical Transports from the HALO Universe

Where the UD-4L Cheyenne left off, the Pelican tookover. This is one of the most iconic tactical transports in all of science fiction, and much like the UD-4L in ALIENS, the massive popularity of HALO has propelled the Pelican to legendary status. This is the workhorse of the UNSC and is used to transport marines from ship-to-shore, to act as an CAS gunship, or even a military shuttle or medevac transport. During the Human-Covenant War, thousands of Pelicans were on the frontlines, and for everyone lost, another was cracked out by Misriah Armory factories on Earth and Mars. This spacecraft was fitted with VTOL thrusters and forward thrusters allowing for transatmospheric and space flight, however, it was limited on range in atmospheric operations due to fuel consumption and in space by not being equipped with an FTL drive.
These vehicles were used on nearly every UNSC base, outpost, and warship due to the toughness and flexible. Adding to the flexible ofthe D77 is the magnetic tail section that allows for the transportation of vehicles, including the Scorpion tank. A large troop carrying pod, the "troop deployment pod" can be added to the tail section for more troop capacity, from 10 to 20. With the vast numbers of Pelicans in service and their abilities, most SPARTANs and ODST personnel are trained in rudimentary flight operations.
An interesting note about the Pelican in UNSC service, while it is one of the most used pieces of UNSC hardware, most serious UNSC planetary installations use endoatmospheric UH-144 Falcon tilt-rotor aircraft as seen in HALO: Reach. One of the elements to HALO games that fans have been asking for is to pilot an Pelican...and this was accomplished via easter eggs or glitches. It was not until HALO 4 that a Pelican became playable. I wonder if HALO 5: Guardians will feature an playable Pelican?

The Cylon Heavy Raider from Battlestar Galactica
Given the limitations of budget, only a few types of ships were seen in the BSG series on either side. Much like the multi-role Colonial Raptor, the Cylon Heavy Raider was designed for one role, but used for various other roles in their fleet and was equipped with an FTL drive. However, unlike the Raptor, the Heavy Raider was primarily a heavily armed and armored troop transport. While not seen extensively in the series, the Heavy Raider was used to ferry toasters, equip, and skinjobs from ship-to-shore-ship, along with VBSS operations, and serving as a general transport vehicle. Also unlike its compart in the Colonial Fleet, the Heavy Raider was heavily armed with heavy rotary KE cannons and missile launchers.   


The Crow and the Goblin  Tactical Transport from Titanfall
In one of the best military sci-fi games on the next-gen consoles Titanfall starts off with the players riding into the battlefield onboard a tactical transport. The Goblin is an IMC transatmospheric transport designed around picking up and dropping off the mech pilots of the Titanfall universe. This spacecraft has an odd look that reminds me of the old Soviet Mil Mi-6 helicopter. The Militia uses the Crow tactical transport for the same duties as the IMC Goblin. The Crow is the older tactical transport to the Goblin. I have to say, having the matches opening with mech pilots being dropped off in a tactical transports is a very cool element to the game.

The Covenant Type-52 Phantom Troop Carrier from the HALO universe
The Phantom  is one of the few examples of an alien tactical transport in science fiction. The Covenant Type-52 Phantom is a troop carrier for all of its member races and can carry about 30 soldiers in battle with defensive 360 degree weaponry. Unlike its Terran counterpart, the D77 Pelican, the Phantom has a crew of four and has a gravity lift to allow rapid entry and exit from the spacecraft. Much like the Pelican, the Phantom is the workhorse of the Covenant military and is a transporter of various vehicles as well as being a troop transport and shuttle. After the end of the Human-Covenant War, the Type-52 was replaced by the upgraded Type-44, but was the Type-52 was upgraded and changed several times from HALO: Combat Evolved to HALO 3. Despite being alien in construction, human forces have taken control of Phantoms as seen in HALO 3: ODST.

The SMC Dropship from the Quake Universe

In the more "story" games of the Quake universe, the Space Marine Corps (SMC) uses a transatmospheric spacecraft, yet another "dropship" tactical transport based around the ALIENS model. Interestingly, the SMC dropship is not armed save for countermeasures to defend Strogg missiles. This are used to transport the bulk of invading SMC forces in the games, and to defend various installations in the Quake Wars game.

The D79H-TC and G79H-TC/MA  Pelican UNSC Tactical Transport from HALO 4
From the time of the end of the Human-Covenant War, the UNSC redesigned its iconic workhorse, the D77 Pelican, and the HALO 4 D79H-TC Pelican was rolled out. This spacecraft takes lessons and technology from the bloody Covenant War to form a more heavily armed and armored military spacecraft. More thrusters propel the D79H-TC faster and more smoothly than the older D77, and the chin-mounted 70mm autocannon allows for more punch in ACM. Soldiers are able to access armory stations on either side of the spacecraft.
Like the D77, the D79 can transport troops as well as vehicles. Some of the design of the D79 appears to be taken from the Soviet Mi-24 Hind-D gunship with the double bubble cockpit design. There is a playable variant to the D79, the G79H-TC/MA, "the gunship" used in the HALO 4 level "Shutdown". This was the first fully playable version of the Pelican in the game's history and heavily armored with the crushing 70mm autocannon along with side-mounted heavy machine guns pods that troops and/or crew can use to provide more defensive fire. However, the G79 does mount a newer version of the "SPARTAN Laser" DEW system, the M8C Grindell/Galilean Nonlinear Rifle...which can zap Type-44 alien transports into debris in one hit.

The Terran Quantradyne APOD-33 Dropship from the Starcraft Universe

Given its military science fiction setting, Starcraft simply must have an tactical transport. That workhorse of the Terran Confederacy is the APOD-33 "dropship". This heavily armored and armed spacecraft is dual atmospheric flight capable, able to transported about 8-10 powered armor wearing Terran Marines and even Siege Tanks from ship-to-shore in armored and armed protection. Like the majority of tactical transports and modern military helicopters, the APOD-33 serves as a platform for much more than an tactical transport. There are several variants, like a shuttle, assault variant (seen in the aborted Ghost Xbox game trailer), and medivac transport.  This Terran Confederacy tactical transport seen in the Starcraft games is a offspring of the ALIEN UD-4L dropship (along with the dropship pilot) but given the popularity of this video game series, it has become its own symbol of this type of spacecraft.

The R-165 "Raven"Assault VTOL from Elysium
This is called an "Bird of Prey" VTOL aerocraft by its designer TyRuben Ellingson, and was designed from the beginning to be an military dual-atmospheric spacecarft with VTOL capabilities. This aerocraft was the base-of-operations for Kruger and his two other PMC buddies while hunting Max in LA. This craft hosts all manner of weaponry and toys, including drones, a rapid fire doorgun that fires 5mm electro-chemically propelled rounds at an astonishing high RPM. The R-165 Assault VTOL is piloted via computers in the film, and does not seem to have any type of cockpit. This is backed up by the creator of the Raven...and this could mean that the flight control computer could accept voice commands. The bulk of the craft's interior space is devoted to hauling troops with a few workstations, and more space was created by the lack of cockpit. 
So, why is there an white painted Oryx emblazoned on the side of the camo'ed tactical transport? According to Neill Blomkamp, he took inspiration from the Bear Paw symbol of the old Blackwater PMC and designed the "Oryx Warfare Group" PMC with an outline of the Oryx as its symbol. Not only is this seen on the side of the Raven spacecraft, but also patches worn by Kruger's two creepy mercenaries buddies. The very African Bush camo pattern itself is similar to the old SADF camouflage that itself was based on the badass and much beloved Rhodesian Brushstroke camo pattern of the Bush Wars. All of this adds up to one hell of an tactical transport!     

The SICON "Dropship" from The Roughnecks: The SST Chronicles

In the American animated TV series, The Roughnecks: the SST Chronicles, our brave MI troopers use an very standard piece of MSF hardware: the "dropship". This insect-shaped VTOL spacecraft is seen throughout the series, and during it transition between exoatmosphere and enodatmopshere, it deploys a folded out VTOL thruster arms, like the weapon arms of the Cheyenne. It is likely that the SST dropship is inspirited by the ALIEN UD-4LWhat is interesting is that the dropship is launched at a 45 degree angle ramp from the belly of the transport ship. Once the dropship gets over the target planet, it can deploy the troopers via high altitude insertion from special airlocks on the bottom of the spacecraft. The MI troopers in their jump armored protection suits land via thrusters as the dropship moves along home without needing to land. During the first episode of the Roughnecks, we see quite a bit of this tactical transport, including its great amount of interior space.

Next Time on FWS...
The question is often asked online about what is "the best" of something. Even I have been asked via e-mail, what is the best military sci-fi works often. That lead to the genesis of the new blog article serial here on FWS: the Masterworks of MSF. Here will be discussing the best of military science fiction in every media type. To kick things off, FWS will start off with the best damn MSF movie of all time: ALIENS....was their any doubt?