28 April 2012

William's Favorite Space Fighters

In preparation for a blogpost about the realities of hard science space fighters, I thought I would make a list of my favorite space fighters, before hard science kills the idea for me entirely. If you grew up in the 1980's, and were a fan of sci-fi, than you could not help but be overwhelmed with space fighters, since Lucas made them the critical item for science fiction.   
BTW: these are in no order of favor.

Ranger Interceptor from the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
 I grew up watching this show, and I count myself lucky to have seen the series, but it was something special and unique  especially considered that there was another western sci-fi series on at the same time (Bravestarr). During the limited run of this American animation series, the Galaxy Rangers  deployed via two main space vehicles, one was a shuttle, the other was this badass fighter, with a tri-engine layout, and this was the only good imagine I could find. Man, I must half built a dozen of these out of Legos....memories. This paper model is the work of Bill Perry and If you like the image, please follow this link:

 A -Wing The Return of the Jedi
While I had the original 1983 A-Wing fighter toy, and it was awesome, I never warmed up to it like the X-wing, Y-Wing, or even the ugly-duckling B-Wing. Compared to these rock stars, the A-Wing gets lost, and it was not until I played the X-Wing computer game that I developed a love for this hotrod. The steer speed coupled with concussion missiles made quick work of TIE fighters. Plus, it could out running Star Destroyers in sub-light.

Gunstar from the The Last Starfigther
1984 was a great year for films, but the one I looked forward to the most was The Last Starfighter. The plot really appealed to my six year self, where a simple kid from a small town played a video game so well that alien recruited him for their space force as the gunner on the Gunstar, pride of the Rylan Star League. While the Gunstar was a great design, the thing that caught by eyes was not just its beauty, but the way that the gunner controlled the weapons. Because the Gunstar was designed to counter more than one target at a time, the Gunstar's gunner was seated an multi-axis chair that allowed for free-range targeting, which seems more logically than other star fighters on this list.   
Here is a good website on the Gunstar:

SA-47 'Hammerhead' from Space: Above and Beyond
The SA-47 Hammerhead was the primary endo/exo atmospheric attack He3 jet of the US and most United Earth forces committed to the Chig War. The Hammerhead was actually stored onboard ship in two different pieces, and only mated during launch. The series never stated the reason why the Helium3 loaded propulsion base was secured below decks, while the cockpit was bring up inside the carrier, added a nice dash of realism. The series made the most of the figther, not only did it engage hostiles with both missiles, lasers, and Gauss cannons, the Hammerhead was unilizted for close air-support and deploying spy satellites.    

Alpha-Beta Fighter from ROBOTECH: The New Generation
There is something about the ability of the REF Alpha fighter to connect with the Beta to forge a more powerful package that applied to me has a child. Even now when I watched the 3rd ROBOTECH generation, I enjoy watching the Alpha/beta dose out the lethal missiles on the Invid. Been waiting to save for a ROBOTECH masterpiece Alpha/Beta in blue of course.

SKULL-ONE from ROBOTECH: The Macross Saga
Being a huge ROBOTECH fan I love the Veritech, there is something so correct about the way the Macross veritechs appear, they are futuristic but still tied to the F14 Tomcat, making this a nice bridge between now and the future. But the best of the best was Roy Fokker's SKULL-ONE. I still can remember that first time I saw SKULL-ONE in 1985 and connected it to the F-14s that were in the 1980 film the Final Countdown.

Cosmo-Tiger II  from Starblazers: The Comet Empire
Much like ROBOTECH, Starblazers was filled with all manner of space fighters, but it was not until the war with the comet empire that the second generation Cosmo-Tiger appeared that this series got a truly beautiful Earth fighter. This is one of my aero-fighters from any Anime work, especially since the Cosmo-Tiger did not transform...which was very standard at this time. I would post the fighter from the Harlock universe, but it and the Cosmo-Tiger at too similar

B-Wing from Star Wars Return of the Jedi
When I sold off my Star Wars collect, the two items I got the most money for were the Imperial shuttle and the B-Wing, and the dealer told me that the B-Wing was a rare toy, must people couldn't make much out of the design. There was something so odd, but yet striking about the design of this star fighter that caused me to notice it in the toy store in 1983. later, I gained added respect for this ugly duckling when I played the B-Wing expansion pack for the Lucas Art's X-Wing and saw the pain this thing could dish out.

The Earth Starfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th century
While the 1979-1981 Buck Rogers TV series was cheesy, too ligthhearted for its own good, some reason, it got one of better TV space fighters designs. Unlike the Viper from BSG or the space fighters from Star Wars, the Buck Rogers space fighter was more of a set piece and it seems little was developed on the technical specifics of the fighter. Still, it was beautiful.
The Viper Mk. II from Battlestar Galactica
Next to the X-Wing, the Viper from the classic BSG series was an iconic space fighter that created legions of fans of the this design. I knew people that hated the original Galactica but loved the Viper. I was pleased to see the Ronald Moore new series not only kept the Viper but modernized the design and forging the Viper into a more realistic space fighter.  
This was a fighter I built many times out of Legos, and used to regard as my favorite space fighter.  

24 April 2012

FWS News Feed: CRYSIS 3 Trailer!

One of the better MSF video game shooters I've ever played was Crysis 2 on my 360, and now, the series is back with number 3. Much like all of the Crysis games, it is a real stunner, due to the amazing jaw-dropping CryEngine 3 system, which is better than the current standard Frostbite 2 engine.
 It has been 20 years since the events in the second game, and the alien Cephn race have occupied New York City, In response, Cell Industries has the encased the entire city in nanoskin domes and sent in Prophet (who makes a return from the dead) in his nanosuit to hunt down the alien threat and liberate New York...maybe they should havve called in Snake Plissken as well.
Due to the jungle like conditions inside the domes, and the nature of the Prophet's mission, he unilitze a futuristic tech bow, and fields several types of arrows, to bring down Ceph quietly all while, attempting  to tapping  into his inner Katniss.
 In a big change, this time, the player can pick up alien weaponry, most likely, because there will be fewer human soldiers to pickup from.
\The game is set to drop sometime in 2013 and I will be putting it on my list.

Here is the trailer:

21 April 2012

FWS Armory: Bullpup Assault Rifles

There is a growing trend in military firearms that does not seem to the touch the shores of America, to seemingly fit the magazine in the wrong place! These weapons are know as bullpups, and while the origin of the word 'bullpup' is unknown, some sources say that is American slang term for fancy stock guns, or my idea was the since the gun was powerful in a smaller package, it was kind of like a bulldog puppy...just a guess. In the continuing series of FWS armory, we examine the bullpup assault rifle, and its relationship to sci-fi weaponry.`

History of Bullpup Rifles

Bullpup rifles were not technologically possible until the 20th century, and even then, these odd rifles were not to eveyone's taste, due to them flying the face of standard weapons design for nearly 500 years. If you examine the traditional rifle through its technological evolution, one thing as remained standard, where the chemical explosion occurs to drive the projectile into your enemy: the middle of the rifle. From the Arquebus of the Spanish Conquistador, to the black powder rifle, to the bolt action rifle, even today's assault rifle, the powder, projectile, and loading mechanics are located in the middle portion of the firearm. History's first recorded bullpup was the Thorneycroft carbine of 1901. This odd looking bullpup bolt action rifle chamber the .303 round, but had the bolt mechanics near the shoulder, making the Thorneycroft carbine shorter than the typical Enfiled .303 rifle at the time. The gun was developed into a few prototypes, but died a quiet death.
With firearms experimentation in post-WWI world, several attempts were made to develop a bullpup rifle, like the 1918 modified French Faucon-Meunier rifle, and a bullpup pistol. However, the first true assault bullpup rifle I came cross during my research on my AK-47 paper, it seems that in the 1944 or 1945, there was alittle known prototype variant of the STG-44 assault rifle.
America, not known for their love of bullpups, did have one of the most celebrated firearms companies develop bullpup prototype in 1949: the Springfield Armory Garand T31 that chamber the .30 caliber M1 Carbine round.While the T31 was only a prototype that died stillborn, it's magazine design did live on in the M14 battle-rifle.
Finally, in the middle 1940's, there was the first military bullpup rifle, when British army began to toy with a more modern replacement to their aging bolt-action Lee Enfield .303 rifle, and after a number of trial-and-error prototypes, it was discovered that the bullpup layout was the best suited for infantry combat. Of course, British firearm companies have been sly about odd placement of magazines (the Sten SMG and the Bren LMG). Prototypes of the
By 1951, there was the first real attempt to field EM-2 as the British small arms rifle. This highly experimental bullpup assault rifle was developed around a new cartridge to replace the Lee Enfield .303 round, the .280 or 7x43mm. Despite positive ballistic test in 1948 and 1949, there political back deals, and pressure for the US, that prevent the .280 caliber from achieving success across the pond or inside NATO, however, the British officially adopted the .280 in 1951. This set off a storm within NATO for much of 1951 and 1952, where it was seen that the British were acting in their own interests, damning the concerns of the rest of the alliance. This rose fears inside the British government that if hostiles broke out with the USSR, that resupply would become an issue, and leading to British deaths on the battlefield. The British government caved in 1952 to NATO and US wishes, adopting the 7.62x51mm round as the standard NATO cartridge. There was an attempt to rechamber the EM-2 with the .308 round, but it performance suffered to the point of dooming the rifle for being used by the military. Instead, the British Army adopted the FN FAL that fired the correct  and approved 7.62mm  round.
If the EM-2 and its .280 round were adopted by British, we could have our M16's firing .280 cartridges.
While the EM-2 was shelved and died, the cartridge was shopped around in modified light machine guns, FN FAL prototypes, along with a variants of the Lee Enfield and the M1 Garand. Of course, the Enfield EM-2 gave way to the current assault rifle, the L85, and it was even tested with the .280 round! Of course, the elements of the Enfield EM-2 was recently resurrected by COD: Black Ops, as the Enfield assault rifle, allowing the gun to live on.

The late 1970's was a watershed time for bullpup rifles acceptance in major NATO military organizations, these nations were looking at transition from the heavy, large caliber battle-rifles, like the H&K G3, to lighter, more compact weapons suited more for mechanized and urban combat. Assisting in  this change was with adopting the new standard assault rifle cartridge, the 5.56mm. the French adopted the FAMAS, and the Steyr AUG was field by the Austrian military, allowing other nations to either adopt bullpups or developed their own. The new light plastic bodied Steyr AUG was an early international star of the bullpup assault rifle, and given its stellar combat performance, it became one of the more widespread bullpups during the 1980's.  
However, some nations tried the bullpup trend in the 1970's/1980's, and rejected it, like the Finland M82 Valmet rifle for example (that was later used as Kyle Reese's phased plasma rifle in the first Terminator film). The Valmet M82 was abandoned by the Finnish Army in 1986 with fewer than 2,000 fielded to the military. The gun was seen has unfit for army life, and the Finnish later adopted an AK like rifle.
 Bullpup rifles were on the frontline of moving firearms technology forward. In 1987, Steyr, not resting on its success with the AUG, attempted their own entry into the US Army's Advanced Comabt Rifle Program in the late 1980's, with their ACR prototype. Not only was this a lightweight assault rifle, very similar to their current AUG, but it fired 5.56mm flechettes via a new type of bolt cycling system. This is closest the American military ever got to fielding a bullpup rifle. For the next two decades, other nations would field bullpups, like the Singapore SAR-21, the South African Vektor CR-21, the odd-looking Iranian Khybar KH2002, and the Red Chinese Type-95.
In the new decade, there was a game-charger in the world of bullpup assault rifles, much like the Steyr AUG in the 1970's, the Israeli IMI Tavor TAR-21.Using the cartridge and magazines of the M16/M4, IMI developed a lightweight, compact assault rifle that was smaller than the M4, but fields a longer barrel making the TAR-21 prefect for most tactical situations, and does have some of the weakness of the AR-15 design, namely, numerous cleanings and prone to jamming within hostile desert conditions. Since the IDF is one of the more forward thinking military organizations, they incorporated modern features into the weapon, like the MARS red dot, non-zero slight. In addition, they followed the AK47 rule, making the TAR-21 simple, due to the large amount of trainees pass through IDF boot. The success and design of this rifle, has sparked nations like Australia to develop a next-gen lightweight bullpup, the AICW, which will be slowly replacing their older AUGs. But will the US follow? Or will the aging AR-15 platform follows out into the stars? Time will tell...      

Advantages of the Bullpup Assault Rifle

Conventionally layed out assault rifles, mount their ammunition and bolt assembly in the middle of the weapon, which is traditional in the history of firearms, however, the bullpup rifle mounts the guts in the rear. While this may not seem like a big deal, the real advantage of bullpup rifles becomes clear when you examine the hard numbers of barrel and overall lengths of a conventional layout vs. the bullpup. Take for example, the Steyr AUG and the H&K G36, both European assault rifles, both used for the same purpose. The G36 is 39.3 inches in length, and mounts an 18.9 inch barrel, while the AUG is 31.7 inches long, and mounts an 20 inch barrel. Bullpups offer more barrel length for less space, and with more militaries exchanging their assault rifles for assault carbines, one can see that the bullpup offers a full length barrel in a carbine-sized package. If we compare, carbine to carbine bullpup, the M4 is 33 inches in length with a 14.5 inch barrel, while the Israeli Carbine TAR-21 (CTAR-21) is 25.2 inches long, but mounts an 15 inch barrel! Only if you have a 10 or 11 inch barreled M4 or even the super-short Kitty-Kat M4, can you get close to the CTAR's lenght, but the range would be strongly affected. Oh, and bullpups look really cool.

Disadvantages of the Bullpup Assault Rifle

If you have played Airsoft or COD:MW3 with a bullpup rifle than you have seen the major drawback of a bullpup rifle...loading the damn thing. Because of the position of the magazine, being close to the body of the shooter, you cannot use gravity to drop the magazine, like a traditional rifle, instead you must rotate the rifle 90 degrees, resting the weapon on your forearm, pulling the mag out, then slapping another in. This means that you have an awkward position to be in, which can be extremely difficult in prone position, and is slower due to having to extract the empty magazine, instead of letting it drop. While training can making the process faster, it would be harder for American soldiers and shooters to adapt to the change in position, seeing how the vast majority of us are used to loading a traditional rifle, and that would explain the lack of bullpups in the citizen shooter market. Most nations that use bullpup rifles do not allow their citizens to own assault rifles, so, there is little if any experience with tradition loading rifles, allowing for less mental barriers during training. 
Some bullpups have a basic design flaw not found on the FN F2000 or the Steyr AUG, the position of the ejection port. With normal assault rifles, the position of the ejection port is not an issue, however, with bullpups, most of the ejection ports are on the left side, if you are left-handed, like me, then that means you get hot brass in your face. Not exectly what I call a good time. This is also problem, as one website mention, if there is a critical failure in the weapon, and it explodes, it would right next to your face. Ouch! The position of the bolt also brings up another issue, the possibility of the bolt being caught up on the tactical gear of the shooter. That could be death in battlefield conditions. Adding to the mechanical issues, is that bullpups are more complex, and the linkage is much long between the bolt and the trigger, making some bullpup trigger worse than there conventional cousins. Most of the issues, can be chalked up to one word: ergonomics.

Examples of Real-Steel Bullpup Assault Rifles


During the late 1990's to the early 2000's , the US Army experimented with a concept similar to the M41a1 Pulse rifle from ALIENS, a weapon that integrates a grenade launcher, assault rifle, and advanced sensor and scope systems into one package, the XM29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon or OICW. While the 5.56x45mm carbine was traditional, the 25mm grenade launcher was a bullpup, like the current XM25 design. The concept of the weapon systems was latched on to by game designers, especially, the Ghost Recon series. The project died in 2005, however, a few develops of the OICW lived on, like the 25x40mm grenade for the XM25 launcher.

FN F2000

The first time I saw the FN F2000, I thought that someone had made live-fire prop from one of Masamune Shirow's works, and it wasn't until I held one at a gun show with Nigel that I began to like this bullpup assault rifle. Unlike the current crop of military bullpup rifles, the F2000 ejects the spent brass at the forward portion of the weapon, and according to an FN rep, it holds five spent cartridges at a time. This one feature solves one of the basic problems with bullpup rifles. Another feature of the F2000 is ability to be modular, for different tactical situations.

Enfield L85/SA80

The current standard assault rifle of the British Army, the L85, has a long history dating back to the 1940's with the EM-2. While that gun died, and it was replaced by FN FAL, the idea did not die. By 1969, the Royal Ordnance, was looking at developing new small arms based around the 4.85x49mm round, however, NATO standardizing ammunition caused the end of the 4.85mm cartridge. During the 1970's, the British Army embarked on the Small Arms of the 1980's project, to field new assault rifle based on the 5.56x45 NATO cartridge, the L85 assault rifle and the L86 LMG came out of that, and where adopted in 1985.

However, life was not grand for the L85, it was badly unreliable, and developed a terrible rep among its users. Even the SAS wouldn't use the L85, instead turning to the M16/M4 for their standard rifle, and now the H&K 417. Life got better for the L85 when the British Army hired the German H&K company (who owned Royal Ordnance) in 2000, to upgrade the weapon into a something  better. There have been rumors that the British Army will be replacing the L85/L86 with the H&K G36 or the 416/417, even the British Army's new DMR L129A1 rifle.  


In 1967, the French began work on an assault rifle that would replace their aging armory of several weapons. By 1972/73, the prototype of the FAMAS was the be testing, and officially entered service in 1978, making it one earliest bullpup rifles adopted by a major military. However, the FAMAS was beat by the Steyr AUG by one year. Unlike the AUG, the FAMAS has not found widespread popularity on the international arms market, but by all accounts, the FAMAS proved itself during Desert Storm and Afghanistan with effectiveness and reliability. In the realm of of popular culture,the FAMAS was a rare weapon, but now, thanks to Rainbow Six, COD: Modern Warfare 2, and Metal Gear Solid, the FAMAS has entered the popular culture, however, I first came to know the FAMAS via my 1985 G.I. Joe Dusty...what an awsome figure.

 Steyr AUG

The Steyr AUG was developed during the 1960's, and adopted by the Austrian Army in 1977, as the STG77. This was first bullpup rifle fielded by a major military, and featured several elements, like a standard low-power scope, plastic body, polymer magazine,and interchangeable barrels that can change the assault rifle, to a LMG, then to a sniper rifle with little effort. In keeping with the modular theme, the AUG has an ejection port that can be adjusted for right or left handed shooters.
Unlike many other bullpup rifles, the AUG is used by other smaller nations for their standard assault rifle, like Ireland and Australia, and has seen combat, especially in Afghanistan.
In another interesting element about the AUG, When I talked to people I know about bullpup rifles and how people first realized what they were, the answer was the same; the AUG in the movie Die Hard.

TsKIB ASh-12

This new Russian built bullpup chambers a new round developed specially for the ASh-12, the 12.7x55mm. This new round is similar in role and lethality to the .50 Beowulf round developed by Alexander Arms for a specially modified AR-15 rifle. Much like the .50 Beowulf round, the 12.7x55mm cartridge will see some action in the civilian shooter market, but not approved for general use due to the extreme power and expense of the round. While a cut-down .50 round seems like a great idea, dosing out massive trauma to its target, the power of the cartridge would tax both the machine and shooter, causing fatigue and damage to both. And besides that, do you really need an assault rifle that fires a .50 round? Well, unless you're hunting Terminators or T-Rexs, and my TARDIS is in the shop.

Chinese Type-95 (AKA QBZ-95)
In 1995, the Chinese Army developed their own home made bullpup assault rifle to replace their Type-56 AK clone, and it fires a new cartridge, the 5.8x42mm, and takes some design and construction notes from the French FAMAS, but has a oddly positioned safety switch. The Type-95 (AKA QBZ-95) represents a family-approach to firearms, beside being an assault rife, there is a carbine, LMG, and sniper variant. Due to new bullet, and complex buffering system, the Chinese say that the QBZ-95 is very controllable while being fire full-auto, and the gun was recently redesigned to counter some of the issues, including a heavier 5.8mm round. There is an civilian export sporter variant, geared to the American market, the Type-97, that fires the 5.56mm NATO round, along with a military grade Type-97 that is being used by Cambodia and Myanmar. While QBZ-95 used to be a rarely seen weapon in firearms culture, that as all changed with COD:MW3, and now, I cannot play one frakking game without being popped by one of the bullpups!  

IMI Tavor TAR-21

For much of the life of the IDF, they have used other people's guns, like the M16, AK, or the FN FAL, then they developed a short-lived Galil rifle, but abandoned it for the M4 carbine. Now, the IDF has developed a next-gen bullpup rifle, the 5.56x45mm Tavor TAR-21. The base TAR-21 is 28.3 inches in length, and features a 18.1 inch barrel, and its compact design and bullpup layout was chosen to serve in both environments that the IDF fights in: open territory mechanized warfare, and urban fighting, which the base TAR-21 can serve in both without any change. Given the current situation in Israel, the Tavor was developed for troops being deployed from APCs or light military utility vehicles into cramped urban territory in Gaza, which is the reason for the bullpup compact design, but also for the ability of the TAR-21 to mag-dump its entire 30 rounds in two seconds during close quarters combat engagements.
Since the TAR-21 was developed in the 21st century, it features a built-in non-zero red dot MARS sight and laser beam as well. The moment the gun is taking off of 'safe'the red dot pops up, making the gun simple and easy to use, two hallmarks of IDF weapons. Seeing some of the weakness of other military bullpup assault rifles, the IMI developed the Tavor to be used by right or left shooters, and the cocking handle is up front and features a large nob that is easy to use, even if you are using gloves. Much like other modern assault rifles and cars, there are several variants to the base model, the carbine (CTAR-21), the 40mm grenadier (GTAR-21), the extremely compact (MTAR-21), and the DMR variant (STAR-21). There is a growing export market for the IMI Tavor TAR21, fifteen countries have ordered the TAR21 unseen for bullpup, and not seen for an Israeli firearm since the UZI.

 The Future of Bullpup Rifles

Since the 1970's, major military organizations have decided to develop and field bullpup assault rifles, more than the traditional layout, only Germany, the USA, and the Russian Federation have kept that layout for their assault rifle. But has global urbanization and population growth continues, the need for long weapons will lessen, but the accuracy of a longer barreled weapon would still be desired over the 11 inch barreled assault commando carbines, which leads military planners to look at bullpups. We saw this recently with the movie AVATAR. Of course, if and when humanity moves out to the stars, there will be more close combat conditions within in space stations, boarding battles within warships, and domed or sealed off-world structures, which be the natural conditions for bullpups to thrive 
One of the best contemporary applications for the Bullpup assault rifles is very compact CQC variant, like the IMI Tavor Micro TAR-21. Unlike other compact commando carbines, like the AKS-74U or M4 CQBR, this very compact 5.56mm assault commando carbine is 23.2 inches long, with a 13inch barrel, while the AKS-74U is 28.9 inches (stock extended) with a 8.3inches, giving the Micro-TAR the advantage of having a larger barrel, while much more compact than shorty assault carbines or even some submachine guns. This would gave an shooter that uses an Bullpup shorty assault carbine a full-sized barrel, making the rifle able to be accurate in all manner of conditions, in case the fight ventured outside the close-quarters environment.
One question I have for the readers of this blogpost, do you think that the US military will ever adopt a Bullpup assault rifle?

Bullpups in Sci-Fi

Of the world's estimated 500 million small arms, the top three: the AK47, M16, and FN FAL,all are traditional laid out, the nearest bullpup rifle, the AUG, is far down the list. This is important factor when it comes to vast amount of bullpup rifles seen in sci-f works and this means that sci-fi will tend to take something like the bullpup rifle that looks futuristic and tacticool and use it to death. Bullpups are no exception to that rule, often any chemically propelled projectile KEW rifle was seen onscreen has a bullpup, even if it made no sense, like the Mortia rifle from Starship Troopers, or even the phased plasma rifles of the Terminator series.
There is another of looking at it, bullpup rifles were thought at the time of the 1980's and 1990's, to be the next big step in firearms, much like caseless ammunition was in the late 1970's and early 1980's. And that makes sense, when you see how many nations adopting bullpup rifles for their standard assault rifle at the time. There was even talk about the US military adopting a bullpup when the Steyr ACR was tested in 1989/90 for the US Army's Advanced Combat Rifle program. Therefore, sci-fi creators were just attempting to show the assumed and possible future for firearms at the time. Hey, even bellbottoms were cool at one time.  

Examples of Bullpups in Sci-Fi


The two major factions in the KILLZONE universe, the ISA and Helghast, both use bullpup assault rifles and carbines that fire chemically propelled projectiles, but are very different in terms of secondary weapons, design, and magazine design. The main assault bullpup carbine is the Stahl Arms StA-52 bullpup assault rifle that chambers a 5.56x45mm round from a drum-style magazine, and has a underslung shotgun that is limited to single shot. After playing the original KILLZONE, I seriously doubt that the StA-52 fires the 5.56NATO round considering the 50 round drum-fed magazine, I guess that it fires a caseless 5mm or 6mm round and the drum magazines are prepackaged and sealed, like the plastic box magazines of the CARB system in AVATAR. From the model seen in the original PS2 KILLZONE game, the StA-52  takes design elements from the H&K G36 carrying handle/scope and the general shape of the French FAMAS or the Croatian VHS assault rifle.  
In contrast to the Helghast StA-52, their enemy, the ISA, use the full-sized M82 Assault rifle and is a heavier, full-sized assault rifle mounted with underslung 40mm grenade launcher and despite it being a bullpup (Morita rifle anyone?). From the wiki, the M82 rifle fires a 6.8x43 SPC cartridge from a traditional STANAG magazine that holds 32 rounds, that it is jungle-taped. In contrast to the rapid-fire, more SMG-like StA-52, the heavier M82 The fictional 23rd century M82 looks like the American made Z-M LR300 5.56mm assault carbine.  


In this long running mecha intense MSF anime series, there are several bullpup rifles, some used by the Earth Federation infantry, and larger examples used by certain mecha, like the MS-11 Action Zaku, for example. The mecha-based bullpups are used like a rifle, and seem mostly to be 90mm. The reason behind the use of KEW bullpup mecha cannons was due to the expense of producting DEW cannons for the fighting suits during the One Year War. The Earth Federation Infantry uses the old M-72 5.56mm bullpup assault rifle, and appears to be, in design, based on the British Enfield EM-2/L85.


There two bullpup weapons in the ROBOTECH universe, one in the Macross saga, and another during the 3rd Robotech War. The first bullpup rifle is an odd one, the GU-11155mm gun pod mounted on the 1st Robotech War Veritech mecha, being the primary armament in all three modes, serving has a rifle in the Battroid mode and was developed by General John Adkins. This airborne cannon fed from its Armor Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot rounds from a 600-round magazine in the rear of the weapon and ejects them also out a rear ejection port.
The second bullpup rifle in the ROBOTECH universe is the REF Mars Gallant H90 Particle beam DEW system. This was the primary small arms weapon system of the REF and some Terran resistance groups, and in the 'rifle' configuration, a large protoculture power cell is loaded into the stock, making the H90 a DEW bullpup carbine.


Much of the human security contractors are armed with the CARB (cellular assault rifle base) KEW system, which is very much like a gun Lego set, allowing the shooter to modify the base caseless 6.2x35 bullpup carbine to fit the tactical situation. The base CARB carbine is fed by a plastic disposable box magazine that holds 60 rounds. Under the barrel rail system allows for the attachment of 25mm box-fed grenade launcher or a 12gauge box-fed CQC attachment. Per usual, Cameron has developed some very cool science fiction firearms technology that mirrors real-world R&D and placing it just one step beyond that without making it tacticool for the sake of tacticool.

Ghost in the Shell

In the 1995 Ghost in the Shell OVA, the Section Nine agents use a bullpup carbine or even PDW weapon called the Crvena Zastava Nosle M22, which borrows design elements from the FN F2000 and FN P90 (one of Shirow's favorites), and from some sources, used the 5.7x28mm round or the Seburo 5mm HV round (which is most likely the right cartridge). Through most of the Stand Alone Complex series and the manga, the Section Nine CT agents are seen using the Seburo C26A and larger C30 carbine. Shirow has always been a man with vision on the future of firearms, and once again, bullpups seem to represent the future of current firearms technology.  


Much like the other Masamune Shirow other works involving urban counterterrorist units, like the ESWAT in Appleseed, all seem to use Seburo manufactored CQC bullpup SMGs and carbines. Even the ESWAT's powered armor, the landmates, use a large caliber (12 or 20mm) bullpup carbine. The most recent CGI anime works in the Appleseed works show a compact Seburo made bullpup carbine or SMG or even PDW.


The HALO game series seems to have more bullpup rifles than any other sci-fi work, running through each game and book. The trend of bullpups in HALO started with the primary assault rifle of the UNSC, the 7.62mm MA5B, and continued on to the heavy-hitting BR55 battle rifle, and even on to HALO: Reach with the DMR (my personal favorite HALO UNSC firearm). There is no solid reason why Bungie decided to have the human side of the long war use bullpup rifles, my real-world guess is that Bungie wanted the human weapons to be familiar, yet futuristic, and nothing says futuristic like bullpups. Plus, rumors swirl around that the MA5B was inspirited by the FN F2000, and from that real steel model, the die was cast. The fictional world answer, is that due to the radically different environment that the UNSC operates in, planets, and inside spaceships, that compact weaponry was the best opinion, but the cheapest, to not having to field planetside weapons along with guns for internal starship security.

Starship Troopers (Film) Universe

FWS tends to talk about the SST films quiet often, and how could FWS write a blogpost about bullpup rifles in sci-fi without mentioning the Morita rifle? I like the design of the Mortia rifle all and all, but it is a flawed concept. Being a bullpup rifle means that you do not have a mount a massive barrel, but SST did on the Morita, making it a unwieldy and illogically. While the Morita rifle takes its name from a Sony executive at the time of SST being filmed, it's designed was due to the Mini-14 being able to fire blank ammunition with little or no jams. And with Starship Troopers being a Verhoeven film, everyone knew there would be a lot of gunfire. The live-fire props on the film fired both the 5.56 and 7.62, and Verhoeven did capture several scenes were we can see the bolt spitting out brass...nearly pornographic.

 The AKU-94 Bullpup
This not normal for me to just post a weapon down here, but the AKU-94 bullpup conversion kit sold by K-VAR, is a popular stand-in sci-fi bullpup gun. This is very similar to the role performed by the old Mini-14 Muzzelite conversion kit, being the default prop gun for sci-fi media. The AKU-94 bullpup has been seen in the X-Files episode, First Person ShooterStar Trek: Voyager episode Nemesis, and the 1998 Kurt Russel MSF film Soldier as the standard armament for the ADAM program soldiers.   

The Muzzelite Mini-14 Kit

During the 1980's and 1990's, the default futuristic blank-firing gun of choice was the Mini-14 bullpup Mzzelite MZ14 kit. One of the reason behind the Muzzelite being in countless films is that it handles blank ammunition very well, with little or no jamming, being nicknamed the "jammless wonder". Last year, during the Fort Worth gun show, I ran across a booth selling the Muzzelite. I guess they are still around. It was features as the weapon of choice for the Martian Federal Colony troopers, in the 1990 Total Recall. Then as the Westinghouse Model M-30A1 phased plasma carbine in hands of the human resistance in Terminator 2. The last major appearance of the Muzzelite was as the guts of the Mortia rifle in Starship Troopers. One of the more funny examples of action films getting it work, the Muzzelite made an appearence in the dog-shit bad Delta Force 2: the Coloumbian Connection and in equally bad Robocop 3. On the small-screen, the Muzzelite was seen in the seaon one and two of the NBC underwater sci-fi series SeaQuest DSV, and in the Star Trek Voyager epsiode Nemesis along with the AKS-94U.   

The Terminator Universe

In the dark post-nuclear world of 2029, the vast majority of man-portable plasma assault rifles are bullpup, like Kyle Reese's mocked-up real-steel M82 Valmet, to be the Westinghouse 4mm plasma M25A1 (which is fictional manufactured in Tulsa! My old hometown!).Then there is the Westinghouse M-30A1 Plasma Carbine, which is a Rugar Mini-14 Muzzelite, and the very common Westinghouse M-95A1 phased plasma rifle since mostly being by the T-101 models and human resistance fighters in the T:SCC TV show. So, why was Skynet fielding portable plasma weapons that used the bullpup layout? The real answer is the the Mini-14 blank-firing guns were the stable prop gun in the 1980's and 1990's, and bullpups were seen as the next logically step. So, to project that futuristic look, the Muzzelite kits were used or other real-steel bullpups, like the Finnish Valmet M82. The fictional 'in-universe' answer, is that due to the mechanics of generated supraheated hydrogen gas via lasers, the coils, and micro slush hydrogen tanks that were similar to bullet casing, it seems logically to have the maximum amount of room with the least amount of bulk, thus, bullpup layout.
Here is the best website on the dark world of 2029 and its weapons:


Here is a great article on the +/- on the bulllpup layout

Another good article:

Damn good article on the British EM-2 rifle

Here is vintage video of the British Imperium testing the EM-2 or the '280' as it is called in the video

Here is the Future Weapons episode devoted to the TAR-21:

15 April 2012

What We Will Fight Over: Spacers vs. Terrans

One day in the far future, mankind will have to leave the house, and venture out into the stars to survive. With human population rising to nearly ten billion, coupled with more nations joining the nuclear club, and with our crumbling environment, the time is critical for us as a species to push out into the solar system to beyond to find survival. However, when we finally flung ourselves starward, we shall  see change the human species in ways not seen since the days of the Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthals, fracturing the future society between the people that went out and the people that stayed behind.
Spacer humans would be transformed by the what Q described to Picard as "wonders you cannot possibly imagine. And terrors to freeze your soul!" into some of an alien species after thousands of years of space travel, colonization, and exploration...what does not kill us, makes us strangler. For the most part, this topic is about human-only galaxies and the genesis of this blogpost came when I read a 2007 review by Alan DeNiro who identifies the future of Space Opera themes would be mankind giving up their humanity to live in the cold void of space

The Path to Interspecies Space Wars: 'Us vs. Them'

The roots of interstellar conflict between the Terrans and the Spacers can be drawn from examples in our own history: the invasion and conquest of Latin America by the Conquistadors, the vast difference between the Western world and the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate, the American Civil War was partly caused by the different between the Northern and Southern societies and economics  And even today, the political difference between the Red states verse Blue states here in America that threats the integrity of our Republic-Democracy.
Any deep space colonial effort would alter the humans that embark on that one-way trip to the stars, and via the extreme distance from Terra, the Spacers biological modifications, social changes, the threats they encounter out in space, and how technology improves to better the life of the Spacers.
This would also forge them into a new species of sorts, alien to the humans that remained back on Earth.
This sets up in the mentality of 'us vs. them' that would naturally leads to interstellar interspecies wars. 
The flashpoint for these conflicts would come after the initial colonial effort, when these Spacers founded their colonies on exosolar worlds, and after Terra once again becomes overpopulated and overtaxed with supporting the human population, leading to a second mass colonial push into deep space, like what is seen in Asimov's Robot Novels. However, unlike before, the prime interstellar restate is already occupied by the Spacers, and these people living on these worlds would regard the Terrans as nearly alien to them, and the same would be true of the Terrans to the Spacers. Of course, one of the Spacer colonies could grow beyond its planetary abilities to support is population and seek resources in other star systems, and if enough time as passed, Earth could treated by the Spacers as an alien world.  

Factors that Transform Terrans into Spacers:

Interstellar Distances

If we approach how mankind will change and evolve via deep space colonization, where it takes generations to reach the stars, than all we need to do is examine human history. Over 800,000 years ago, we spread out from Africa to over the global, populating the world with variations of human beings and societies.
Space colonization will be no different. At the moment, the closet exosolar planet is located 15 LYs away in the Gliese 876 system, and the most distance is nearly more than  four thousand LYs away, in the OGLE-2006 BLG-109L system (rolls off the tongue doesn't it?) which even at light-speed, the lifetimes of distance between the home system and the colonies, and the between colonies themselves will render them isolated and independent. More over, due to the horrors of time dilation with FTL drive, the distance between stars is not measured in light-years, but in generations.
This distance would also created the need for the starships to become homes for the Spacers, think more of the Babylon 5 or Citadel stations rather than the Battlestar Galactica or the Enterprise D, these types of ships would forge a number of the factors for separating Spacers from Terrans that are discussed below, like society, governments, and even biology, but these mind-shattered distance are the genesis fueling the rise in Spacers being alien to Terrans. This situation  is expertly outlined in the Forever War novel, where William Mandella fights the interstellar conflict leads to him arrive back in the wire hundreds of years later after being deployed. During this gaps in time, Terran society changes, from a society that has their economics based on calories, to one made up of homosexuals only, then finally, to a society of clones that ends the war. All of this was due to the extreme distances between settled star systems, that rendered this soldier an alien among his own people. Unable to live in the new cloned human society, William travels to the middle finger colony founded by 'normal' humans.

Biological Changes

In Dougal Dixon's 1990 book on the future evolution of mankind, Man After Man: an Anthropology of the Future, he outlines a future Earth where global warming is finally reached a point where mankind must escape to the stars to survive, but not everyone is going: "only the most prefect human specimens are being sent to colonize the stars (page 28).Which is the view presented in the film Gattaca and the comic book Shrapnel, where the generically modified were given access to the stars first. However, let us look at it from another POV. The theory of Terraforming planets may not be feasible, causing only a limited number of natural Earth-like worlds, which could doom any exosolar colonization effort to death or permant exile onboard ship. But, with the science of genetic engineering and nanotechnology, it could be possible to Terrform ourselves to met the conditions of the planet, not the planet to ourselves.
This would truly alter the Spacers to much like an alien species from the Terrans. This example is very clear in Man After Man, where five million years after the Spacers left, they return as the Builders (see picture above), and do not recognized Earth as the home of their ancestors. These nearly completely alien Spacer humans processed to harvest the animals of the planet, that were human five million years ago, for food, and strip mining Earth to the point of Earth being a dead world, scoured of life. I also wrote on a similar topic with my flash-fiction serial Custom, where a war with an aggressive insect species, the Nix, forces humanity to bioengineer Terran soldiers to met the condition of exosolar worlds to fight the alien invaders. However, this process is non-reversible, causing the Custom soldiers of the Nix War to be unable biologically to return home to Earth. The very ground they stand on, is the only one they can live on.     


Even here on Terra, early man developed technology based on where they were on the planet, the materials available, and the game they hunted. This is clearly seen in the types of arrowheads used and housing building material used. Whatever space settlers encounter out in among the stars, they will change their technology or invent new technology to confirm to their environmental changes.These spacefaring humans would develop new technology to counter all manner of challenges, either military to encounter threats, or Terrforming technology to create atmospheric standards worlds, and better FTL systems. This would separate the off-world humans from the the Terran bound humans, possible lead to the spaceborne society more advanced, and capable of being the invaders at some future date. This was seen in the different between the Colonial Defense Force and the Earth in the Old Man's War books, and the Robotech Expeditionary Force and the Southern Cross in the ROBOTECH saga.  Of course, given the way that FTL travel screws with time, it is possible that exosolar colonies will be established by settlers  frozen for the trip on a sleeper FTL ships.
One of the better examples of this different in technology between the Terrans and the Spacers, besides the Old Man's War book series, is in the shadows of Blade Runner. In the dark dystopia of 2019, there is a major technological separation between the settlers of the corporate off-world colonies, Replicants. While Deckard is waiting at a spot at the noddle bar,a blimp screams out an advert for the Dominguez-Shimata Company's colonial effort, and sweetening the deal for off-world emigration, each colonists gets a Replicant (and maybe a 40 acres and a mule, too?). This one major element separates the colonial off-world society technologically from their Earth-bound brethren, where Replicants on Earth are illegal and hunted down, they seem to prefect legal on the off-world colonies and a vital element to the colonial effort. This seems to similar to the different between the Earthmen and Spacers in the robot novels of Isaac Asimov.


I am sorry to report this, but when I was examining the idea of a interstellar or even intergalactic government that reaches out across the Cosmo through the hard-science lens, I deduced that would not work. The simple fact is that given the hard science limitations of FTL travel and FTL communications would render a government based on a central world like Terra, or Coruscant, or even Trantor unable to govern over any world much beyond Alpha Centauri with any real-time laws or Representative style government. Can you imagine how long the presidential campaigns would be if they had to travel from star to star? Wee can see from historical examples, that much the Greek city-states or the English colonies of the 17th century, that different styles of government cropped up due to the separation of geography and what population founded the colony.
Spacer colonies would be no different, how humans get out to the stars and what kind of planet they establish their colony would alter the type of government the Spacers would use to govern over themselves. If the colonists are forced to live under domed cities due to the lack of terrforming ability, or if the settlers were able to live on massive ranches with little or no contract with their neighbors, than a different government style of evolve


Founding off-world exosolar colonies would be a one-way ticket to separating yourself from the mother planet and your native culture as much as it was when mankind began leaving Africa 800,000 years ago, to even the English founded Roanoke Colony in 1585, and it will be the same when starship leave the Sol system. The new Spacer colonies will forge their own new society based on many factors, like the politics and background of the colonists who came to found the space colony, and why, who financially  backed the colonial venture, the location and local conditions of the colonial site, and what hardships these Spacers endure during the founding. The Freman society of planet Arrakis in the DUNE novels is shining example of all of the factors, and making the desert wanders nearly alien to the mainstream Imperium culture of the Landsraad.Another disconnection between the starflung settlers and the Terrans could be if embryo space colonization was unitized to found exosolar colonies.
These Spacers would be born at some point in the journey, and most likely educated via robots, these people would completely independent of Terran society entirely, and these genuine spacers would forge their society, that would be liberated from the Old Earth hangups and pitfalls. While this would be a positive on one hand, on the other, this spacers society would be very alien to any Terran that encountered them later.
In the third ROBOTECH series, one of the main characters, Lt. Scott Bernard was born in deep space during the REF mission, lived and education on alien world of Tirol, among the aliens and military members of the REF, making Scott disconnected from the Terran society he encountered during his mission on Earth. His experience being around mostly military personal , made him a bit of a kill-joy and unable to relate well to the non-military Earth rebels and rag-tag survivors of the Invid invasions he met along the way.

New Threats

The different between the average English settler homestead on the undefended frontier of American in the 16th or 17th century and Englishman living back in the home country was partly shaped by the threat of native tribal attack, the threat of French invasion from the north, and much will be the same of the Spacer settlers to a new world...so grab your ray-guns!
What these Spacers will encounter out in the cold depths of deep space will change their society outlook and how their nascent society responses to these threats, will alter the society itself, just look at the Cold War. To counter these threats to their colonial ventures, the Spacers will develop new social order, new military technology, and lost members of their society. If and when the Terrans encounter their starflung cousins in the military hardware, would they recognize them?
This actually happened in the Battletech universe in August of 3049 when the descents of General Kerensky exodus fleet invaded the inner sphere. These clans behaved in such strangle ways, and used the amazing Elemental powered armor, that the mechwarrior thought that it was an alien invasion!
Another of the better examples of how a threat would change the spacefaring humans from the Terrans is found in DUNE's Fremen people. Not only is the desert world of Arrakis completely hostile and forbidding, but is populated with the sandworms, and all of this shapes the Fremen into the Fremen. Also from the DUNE universe, there were hints in the latter DUNE novels that the Honored Matres forged their war skills from something they encounted out in the depths of unexploded space during the Scattering.  

The Human-Only Galaxy in Science Fiction

Running parallel to this general topic, is the human-only galaxy theme, where mankind is the only higher-order of life in the Milky Way. It seems that the major of sci-fi works that deal with separate human societies are also dominated by the human-only galaxy theme. The human exclusive galaxy idea has always fascinated me, mainly because I have always believe in alien life, due to growing up with Star Wars and Star Trek. But even those works that are teeming with alien species have their main characters as humans, and placing very human values and ideas on the alien characters, cheapening the alien characters (just look at Worf).
During the millennium decade, two of the best works of small screen sci-fi, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly have been human-only fictional universes, which both series' creators credit Star Trek with souring them to involving aliens into the stories.

Examples in Science Fiction

The DUNE Novels

Frank Hebert, like Isaac Asimov, developed a rich human-only universe, and used the strangeness of varied human societies to serve the role of the alien species. This made the DUNE universe literally packed with different human societies that vary from the Fremen, the different Houses of the Landssrad (just look at the difference between Caladan and Giedi Prime), to the more trans-humans of the the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, Tleilax and their Face Dancers,Mentats,and of course, the most alien humans in the DUNE universe, the Spacing Guild. DUNE managed to create a universe were alien species were unnecessary, beside the humans societies were strangle enough.

 Battlestar Galactica

 Unlike the classic 1970's BSG, the 2003 Ronald Moore reenvisioned MSF TV series, depicts the Milky Way as void of any life that is not similar to human beings, either that evolved natural on Kobol, artificially created by man in the imagine of man, or that evolved naturally on the second planet to be named Earth. This theme is similar to Asimov's Robot novel, where the human-only universe has several human societies, like the 12 colonies of Kobol, and the Spacers, that developed artificial life, that may or may not be their undoing. BSG took an interesting turn with the finale, where the Spaceborne humans

Isaac Asimov's Robot Novels

In 1954, Isaac Asimov forged one of his greatest novels, the Caves of Steel, and here he lays out the differences that exist between the two human societies: the Spacers and the Earthers. The Spacers are humans that left the Earth due to overpopulation in the past (the book never says for sure) and relays on robots to colonize fifty lightly populated worlds, living in supported luxury. While back on Earth, the population as reached eight billion (!) resulting in the creation of underground cities, while the surface is used for farms to support the population. Once again, Asimov is the master of science fiction, inventing an interesting future were humans are the only intelligent species, and we have separate two the Spacers and the underground dwelling Earthlings. Along the way, humans, like in the Ronald Moore BSG series, create artificial life; humaniform robots in the Asimov universe, and Cylons in BSG. It is through these machine creations of man that we learn deeper about ourselves and our place in the universe.  

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Novels

The Foundation novels tell the story of the fall of the Galactic Empire that spanned one million settled worlds, and how it all came crashing down. During this time of pity savage kingdoms picking at the corpus of the old empire, there was point of light in the galaxy, the Foundation. This institution of knowledge was devoted to founder Hari Seldon's pyschohistory, allowing to predict the future of the galactic society, allowing them to steer the galaxy back towards an 2nd Galactic Empire. During these dark years, the "aliens" of the series were the barbaric kingdoms that surrounded the Foundation on Terminus. Later, we gain the mule and the Second Foundations types also are different societies, but the Foundation becomes the most powerful government in the galaxy.
The interesting element is that the entire galactic society seen in the Foundation novels, is actually the second wave of Earth colonization. The first were the Spacers from the Robot Novels, and their society was incorporated or died off while Earth spread out from the diseased and dying post-Atomic War Earth. The last two novel of the Foundation canon series, Foundation's Edge and Foundation and the Earth (and my personal favorite), citizens of the Foundation discovery the planet of Gaia and the humans that have forged a mental link with the planet's super-organism, like Bliss, and began to the stages of establishing a galactic-wide common conciseness, the Galaxia, breakdown the walls between the different human societies.  


Despite being called the 'HALO-killer' for PS2,    Killzone has a surprise rich and well-developed history that does not make much of an appearance in the games themselves. the developers rather than load their FPS shooter game down with history lessons, they created a website devoted to the background of the Second Helghan War.
The movement to the stars, according to the history of the Killzone universe occurred after a limited nuclear exchange during the 3rd World War, leaving Earth devastated, to the point where off-world colonization was needed for survival. While the Sol system was being colonized, attention was turned to Alpha Centauri, but disappearance of several expedition forced abadonment of a UN colonial mission. Instead, the colonial rights were auctioned off, and the Helghast Corporation won the bidding, then mounted their own colonial venture. Alpha Centauri bore two worlds fit for human habitation, the Terra-like Vekta, and the storm-plagued Helghan. Natutrally, the Helgant settled Vekta, and made Helghan an outpost that served the main Vekta site.
Soon, Alpha Centauri became important waypoint system to the other exosolar colonial efforts, and the Helghan naturally imposed tolls, and the United Colonials Nations began their taxation of the Helghan. This did not sit well with the Helghan, they drew up plans to declare Independence, this forced the UCN to used their military arm, the Interplanetary Strategy Alliance to threat the Helghan. 
The argument over the rights of the Helghan, caused the first war in space for humanity, the 1st Exosolar War. The much strong ISA routed the Helghan corporate fleet, and force the surrender of Vekta at the end of a bloody orbital bombardment. The remains of the Helghast corporation retreated to the hostile environment of Helghan, while the ISA occupied Vekta and transformed it into a UCN world. The Helghast never forgot their bitter defeat, and in 2357, under Scolar Visari, the Helghast invaded Vekta, with the aim to recapture the world, and declare the Alpha Centauri system independent of Earth. This is the events of the original 2004 Killzone game and the PSP Killzone: Liberation. In 2359, the ISA staged a massive invasion of Helghan, with the goal of capturing Scolar Visari, and forced a surrender of all the Helghast. This covers the 2009 sequel and the 2011 third game, and Guerrilla Games is not saying that  there will be a fourth in the series.