31 January 2014

FWS News Feed: The Official Future War Stories Image and Frickin' Laser Beams!

"Deployed" The Official FWS Image!
Some time ago, I posted about FWS possibly moving towards a t-shirt design for all of you who desire to perform some free advertising for FWS. One of the things holding the project back was the art (naturally), while I can draw, it is nothing that anyone would pay for, and I needed an artist. Lucky, I have a friend with amazing art talent, Mr. Derek Restivo. He recently founded his own art design house, called Gateway Studios, and he turned out this amazing piece of sci-fi art for FWS. My idea for a symbol/image/mascot for FWS was always an astronaut with a gun, at its most basic level. Derek took that idea, and formed it into reality with "Deployed". I love the little details on the "Deployed" space-soldier, and the color scheme. Orange is an historically correct color for spacesuits, and channels some Space:1999 vibe! Derek is looking in to translating the piece for a t-shirt design that could be appearing on CafePree, Zazzle, or even teespring later on. If you love what Derek is creating and want your own DR original, than visit him at:
http://gatewaystudios.deviantart.com/

Frickin' Laser Beams!
It was promised over a year ago, but now it is going to be a reality: the long awaited FWS Armory blogpost on Lasers! But, we are all going to have to wait for it a bit longer. Up until a month ago, my job had no issue with me blogging at work, and that is one of the main reasons I stayed...until now. It seems that all-of-a-fucking-sudden, everyone has a got a problem with the blog, and my boss came down hard on me. I has gotten to the point that I cannot trust anyone to not rat me out while attempting to work on my beloved blog while working. Most jobs, I simply couldn't blog while getting my work done, however, my hospital job was different. This has soured me along with the lack of trust to the point of me leaving. That means that the majority of the blog is crafted at home, with research being down at work, since my job as little to no internet policy. Something like the research-intense future weapon armory posts took me weeks while at work for my 12 hour shirts, now I'm blogging at home...which has created a slower turnaround time in production. I need to be rich, and write at will in my book-lined study. It will be up soon, my hope is next week. Stay tuned! I'm going to go buy lottery tickets now.

25 January 2014

FWS Topics: Dropships

The movement of troops, supplies, and vehicles has been one of the challenges of waging wars far from home since the days of the Punic Wars, and it is forgone conclusion that this need will be present with the advent of the warfare on other worlds. One of the key futuristic vehicles developed by sci-fi creators to handle the challenge of space warfare is the dropship. While the concept of the "dropship" is incredibly common in science fiction, how the dropship is projected varies from source to source in the realm of science fiction, and encompass everything from the Pelican from HALO, the retrieval boats from Starship Troopers, to the massive spheroid spaceships fron the Battletech universe, and of course, the UD-4L Cheyenne dropships from ALIENS. But are these fictional space vehicles really "dropships"? Much like the 2012 blogpost on Troop Transports, FWS will try to clear up the confusion about dropships seen in science fiction with our own definition of this staple spacecraft of military science fiction.

What is a Dropship?
Unlike tactical transports, jumpshuttles, gunships, and the aerodyne-APCs, the dropship is designed to ferry larger amounts of infantry, supplies, and armored vehicles from an orbiting starship in orbit (star-side) to the planetary combat zone (dirt-side). These vehicles are not typically designed to ferry troops and/or equipment once the vehicle is within the atmosphere of the planet. Once the troopers, supplies, and vehicles are off-loaded, the dropship is recalled to the mother ship using powerful rocket motors to return to orbit or in some cases, it could be used as a mobile command/supply point for an invasion force. Also unlike most dual atmospheric tropp transports, dropships could be unmanned or remote-piloted from mother ship based operators.

The Difference between Tactical Transports and Dropships
In science fiction, the vast majority of "dropships" seen and described are actually the "tactical transport", due to the manner in which they operate and duties on the future battlefield. These tactical transports are more akin to the modern military helicopter and/or tilt-rotor than say, the NASA Space Shuttle. In these future military organizations, the tactical transport is often the utility vehicle, serving as a gunship, shuttle, troop transport, med-evac, command & control bird, and rescue craft. In both combat and noncombat roles, the tactical transport is the versatile platform for all types operations and different environmental conditions, such as endo and exo atmospheres.
 Unlike the bigger, heavier, and more limited role dropship, the tactical transport is limited in cargo room, passengers, and heavy star-lift capability. While the dropship is technical a dual atmospheric craft, and capable of flight, it is not an aerodyne, and limited on maneuverability, flight-range due to the weight.When it comes to roles, the tactical transport is used as a "battle taxi" to soldiers, smaller mecha, APS wearers, light military vehicles. These elements can be more tactically inserted than with the heavier, larger dropship. The majority of technical dropships, according to the FWS definition, are more designed to delivery large amounts of troops, supplies, and vehicles to the planetary battlesite. One of the most basic design different between these two often confused craft is their look. In science fiction, the tactical transport is more insect or avian in apperance, while the dropship is more geometic, often being depicted as a spheroid or egg-shaped. FWS will be discussing tactical transports in-depth on their own blogpost in the near future.

The Life-Cycle of the Dropship

Deployment to the Front
Far away from the interstellar frontlines of our space war, the dropships of the invasion force are loaded onto the mother ship for transfer to the front. During the entire journey between interstellar locations, the armada of dropships stand idle and most likely, unloaded. Just before the arrival at the final destination, the dropships receive a buzz of activity and attention, loading supplies and war machines. The bitch of the thing with the dropship at this point, is that they are at the mercy of the mother ship. If their transporting vessel is intecepted and destroyed, than the mission of the dropship fails as well. This is similar to the troop transports that were sunk by submarines during World War One and Two.



The Drop
Orbital injection is one the most dangerous moments of dropship's life cycle. Consider that this vehicle will be subjected temperatures over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and any damage to the thermal protection say during orbital combat, could result in complete loss of the vehicles, crew, and cargo. During atmospheric reentry, there could be a blackout of communications and sensor data, allowing for the dropship to be blind, deaf, and dumb. All of this, makes for the prefect opportunity to strike the invasion force prior to their landing on your world. Or is it? Consider that any dropship on the scale we've been discussion that is more than a simple drop capsules from Starship Troopers, and not only is reusable, but can be utilized for a number of purposes once on the ground would need a big power sources, and that means nuclear. Also, any dropship that was used as a base-of-operations, would carry fuel to power the vehicles of the invasion force. Destroying the dropship while descending into atmosphere could rain down nuclear debris across the planet or major population center. Could the planetary defenders justify the risk of Fukusima? Once clear of the reentry phase, the defensive armament and countermeasure of the dropship would become critical to fend off incoming drones, AAA, and fighter-interceptors.

Planetary Operations
If our invading dropships surviving reentry and atmosphere flight, they would touch down in a drop-zone that is either secure by Special Forces Pathfinders or just isolated/distant from the planetary frontlines. During this phase of the dropship life cycle, our brave dropship crew or Cylons would be engaged in off-loading operations, possibly under fire. Depending on the operation, it is likely the large more Battletech-like dropships would be used as a base-of-operations for the invading force. During the initial phase of planetary operations, the dropship would act as a secure shelter, unlit more of a front was established. This could mean that dropships used in this manner would be armed to defend and support the invasion force. It is 100% possible that the DZ for the invasion force dropships would see some of the heaviest of planet-side combat. Much like a Vietnam War-era firebase, the dropship could rain down fire support, or deploy scouting drones, or drive away attacks until the invasion force was ready. Once the dropship is off-loaded, and the invasion force is out waging combat, the role of the dropship is either to return to the mother ship or to act as a ready-made temporary base that could serve as a field hospital, repair shop, C3 center, and billet for dirt-side troopers.

Getting Star-Side.
At some point, no matter how much fun you're having, you have to go home. And just as that applies to us married guys, it also applies to dropships. Once the planetary duty phase of the dropship's life cycle is complete and no longer needed, she will be recalled to the mother ship. Of course, the dropship could be acting as a recovery boat for the invasion force, or even a large medical-evac vehicle if there are a number of causalities. Thus begins the climb out of atmosphere, and one of the real challenges of the reusable dropship space vehicle. Breaking free of the planet's gravity and getting orbit will be solved by Delta-V...plain and simple. Here on Terra, from ground to space is about 100 kilometers or 62 miles, give or take. While you can thrust a small package into space with small rockets, any of the dropships in sci-fi are going to be classified as a heavy lift launch, more than the 118 metric tons of the Saturn V rocket's payload. To solve the issue of getting star-side, future military organizations could field one-shot dropships, which would be more like the cheap one-shot cargo drop-modules from my book Endangered Species.
However, most dropships, are able to land and lift-off, seemingly without issue. In reality, space launches are labor-intensive matters with massive amounts of fuel and preparation time that require a space launch facility. Thing would be easier with future-technology, like anti-gravity motors, or nuclear-powered engines. However, even in the Battletech universe of the 31st century, they mention that spheroid type dropships are completely at the mercy of their own engines. If they fail, the dropship is shit-out-of-luck. There are some advances outside of anti-gravity motors, like Anthony Tate's closed-cycle, gas-core nuclear thermal rocket, or you could say "fuck it!", and use a nuclear-pulse propulsion engine in atmosphere! Greenpeace would not be happy about that! There could be magnetic mass driver launch catapults as well, but they would defeat the idea of a tactical VTOL military vehicle. I do believe that this is one of the central challenges of interstellar combat: getting troops, vehicles, and supplies from orbit-to-ground-to-orbit-again effectively. Even if easy starlift capability is mastered, and we have reusable dropship vehicles, if the planet is not completely secure and air superiority is not achieved, than dropships could be targets on their way up, as they were on the way down.      

Modern Military "Dropships"?
At the moment, there is no military organization that is fielding spaceborne dropships to land space marines and/or space tanks to combat-zones on the red deserts of Mars. Pity. While the modern military does sent service personal into space and onboard the ISS, the bulk of the military's presents in space is via military satellites, and is no plans for space dropships. However, some could make the case that the old Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the current Soyuz capsules could be considered a type of space dropship. As I've stated above, the modern military helicopter and the new tilt-rotor are similar to the tactical transports of science fiction, however with the more limited FWS definition of the dropship, what military vehicles are similar?
 I think that some modern military vehicles, like the military hovercraft, the cargo transport aircraft, along the old World War II glider are all excellent examples of current day dropships. Consider the military hovercraft (AKA landing craft, air-cushioned or LCAC ), like the USMC's LCAC, the Soviet-era Aist class LCAC, the British have their own LCAC, and the current heavyweight of military hovercraft, the Russian Zubr class LCAC. Much like the fictional dropship, the LCAC is transported to the combat zone, via a mother ship or in this case, an amphibious assault ship, and lands troops and vehicles to the beach. After the drop-off at the DZ, the LCAC returns to the amphibious assault ship for another trip.

Around World War II, the Allies and the Axis used the military glider to delivery troops and light military vehicles, and are mostly connected to the Allies' Normandy and Sicily invasions along with Operation: MARKET GARDEN. The Germans, like it it seems with most things in WWII, were the first to field military gliders and use them in combat during the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium. The 3rd Reich had planned on constructing large gliders to transport 130 troops for the upcoming invasion of Britain, called the Messerschmidt Me 321. Due to issues with these massive gliders, only 200 ever built and an none saw combat. American and the British would mostly use the Waco CG-4 gliders, and specially trained soldiers, called glider infantry. While military gliders would fall out usage after the 2nd World War, and be replaced with the helicopter, they would not be completely forgotten with appearance in movies like Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, A Bridge Too Far, the Longest Day, and in video games, like Brothers in Arms series.

I personally believed, due to the limited information about military gliders in those dark ages we call pre-internet, that they were developed for the D-Day invasion, and were only used by the Allies. It made sense to me that you would want a silent delivery system on the invasion of Fortress Europa, however that was not the only reason why gliders were used. Given the limitations of cargo aircrafts at the time, air-dropping jeeps, artillery, and supplies were was limited and gliders allow for guided delivery of these items. Unlike paratrooper drops, glider infantry need little in the way of specialized training, and stay together after touchdown to ensure rapid battlefield deployment. Just look at what happened on the D-Day airborne drop.
When it came to ninja-like insertions, the glider ranked above the paratrooper, due to the glider being cut loose from its tow plane many miles from the LZ, and the watchful eye of German AAA. Sadly, the military glider was replaced by the time of the Korean War with the helicopter  improvements military cargo planes. Gliders could be similar to low-cost, one-shot dropships that an future military organization would use for a massive planetary invasion that didn't involve recovery operations. Some might make the case for the heavy-lift military cargo planes, like the C-5 Galaxy being similar to the sci-fi dropship, and I could see a reason for that, especially given their similar to the aerodyne shaped dropships from the Battletech universe.   

Dropships and Science Fiction
Because of the lack of conformity with science fiction creators on the usage of the term 'dropship', and how cool and concise the term really is, it is litter throughout science fiction; from comics, games, movies, and books. As stated above, I firmly believe that most of the so-called 'dropships' in science fiction are actually more akin tactical transports, jumpshuttles, gunships, or even the rare aero-APCs, however, with the easy of the term dropship, it became the keyword for all futurisitic dual-atmospheric troop transports. It also helped that some of the popular works in science fiction and military science fiction use the term liberally. Works like: Starship Troopers, DUNE, Battletech, Starcraft, HALO, as well as any military sci-fi video game or book, you can find the term be used. Why is the term dropship so uniformly used? I believe that all of the attention and impact of the term came be traced back to the Citzen Kane of all military sci-fi films: ALIENS. Due to excellence of the film, continued impact, and just plain coolness, that one mislabeled dropship spawned legions of others. In the few works that feature the dropship being used accorded to the FWS defintion, they are used mostly as large heavy lift space vehicles, designed to bring mecha, infantry, and vehicles to the planetary battlefield. Often, these dropship are more utility than flash, firepower, and sexy appear.  
Examples

The Dropships of the Battletech universe
In the first pages of the 1994 FASA Battletech Technical Readout: 3057, the Inner Sphere dropships are front and center, and this tells a great deal about the importance of the dropship to the Battletech universe. In those opening pages, the Technical Readout: 3057, had one of the better quotes about dropships and their role in Battletech universe: "Dropships form the first link in the chain of interstellar travel. These venerable craft transport 'mechs, vehicles, troops, and material from orbit to planetary battlefields." Dropships eat up the first 80+ pages of the only Battletech Technical Readout to cover the spaceships of their universe and between the Inner Sphere and the Clans, there is no less than 40 separate classes of spheroid and aerodyne dropships, most are Inner Sphere, though.

The most familiar dropship from Battletech is the egg-shaped spheroid dropship that is a prime example of FWS's definition of the term "dropship". They used powerful engines to take-off and land with massive thrust, and are not endo-atmospheric flyers, but can mount some serious firepower to protect their cargo and passengers. Throughout most of non-RPG Battletech works, the spheroid is the commonly seen. The aerodyne dropship looks more graceful than the spheroid craft, and appear closer to typical military planes or even shuttles and are not bigger than 35,000 tons in mass. These have two central weaknesses, the aerodynes require long runways to land and take-off and they carry less cargo than the egg-shaped dropships. Their design does not simply allow for the steer vertical-thrust production of the spheroid dropships. Unlike many other science fiction works, Battletech breaks up dropships over five classification: fighter carriers, mech carriers, troop carriers, assault carriers, and finally, the civilian carrier. Each one is different in operation on the interstellar battlefields of the Inner Sphere.
The assault dropship is designed around defensive and offensive firepower, but often less utility as a typical space transport system. Because I've never battled Aerotech, the concept of a dropship being used as a "pocket warship" and in anti-aerocraft/anti-dropship operations is a little lost on me. Some of the assault dropships, like the Inner Sphere Intruder class are used for marine boarding operations and covert operations on-planet. The troop and mech carrier-type dropships are better standard, it is worth noting due to the size of the mecha in the Battletech universe, these spacecraft are giants and carry on many of the roles discussed above, like base-of-operations planet-side. The fighter carrier variant is an interesting dropship. Achieving air-superior on-planet would be a key goal in any combat zone, and these specialized fighter transport craft allow for delivery of fighters from star-side to dirt-side, however they are much more than that.
It seems that in the Battletech universe, due to the Jumpships, these fighter carrier dropship act as sci-fi aircraft carriers in orbital combat. The civilian variant is used like a cargo hauler or passenger liners, and at times, decommissioned military dropships are converted or even in reverse, which are known as Q-Ships. Even the nearly forgotten Battletech: the Animated Series from 1994 had the familiar spheroid dropships. In the near future, FWS will discuss this oddball military sci-fi animated series with a military sci-fi oddities blogpost. Does that mean I have to watch this? The things I do for this blog! Anyway, for me, Battletech was in the introduction to the concept of the dropship and the prime example of the FWS definition of these futuristic military spacecraft.

The AeroTech ISSCV/APC from Space:Above and Beyond
In the 1995-1996 American TV military sci-fi show, Space: Above and Beyond (SAAB), the most common futuristic vehicle used by the USMC during the Chig War is not the SA-43 Hammerhead space fighter, but the space-going utility vehicle: the ISSCV/APC. The Inter-Solar System Cargo Vehicle/Armored Personnel Carrier is a modular endo-exo transatmospheric transport vehicle constructed by AeroTech Space System, and used by all branches of United States armed forces during the Chig War of 2063-2064, most seen in the series were either Marine or Army. Primarily, the ISSCV/APC functions as a both a spacegoing cargo hauler, delivering supplies to planetary-based units, a space shuttle, and an armed APC/military transport craft for operations in and out of space. Helping the modular nature of the ISSCV/APC is a tilt-rotor type He3 thruster design mounted to the "flight arm" section, along with the swap-able underslung section. in the belly of the beast. The flight arm section mounted a few DEW and KEW systems, with a flight crew of two, while the heart of this space transport system was the middle modular section.
During the run of the show, several ISSCV/APC modular containers were shown. One was a basic trooper hauler (APC) with rows of seats, man-able weapons turrets, sleeping quarters, and lockers. The flight arm portion could drop off the container section on-planet, and the Marines could operate out of their new boxy base-of-operations of a period of weeks (as seen in the pilot episode and "the Dark side of the Sun"). It is believed that these modular sections could be fitted together to construct an basic off-world military outpost, as was seen on the disputed planet Tartarus ("The Enemy"). There could even be a more basic trooper-hauler shuttle variant. Also, fitted under the flight arm section was the "Red Cross" modular container. While only seen in the episode "...Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best", it could have been a med-evac bird or even a mobile MASH unit for a ready-drop field hospital. One of the most rare module sections seen during SAAB was the cargo vehicle module...as far as I remember, it was only seen in one episode: "Our Enemy".
Most of the ISSCV/APCs seen on the show only existed on computer screens, and were excellent early examples of CGI SFX, and done by Area 51 studios and supervised by artist Glenn Campbell. Most the interior shots during the series were a constructed set on a sound-stage, and some redressing was done from dropship to dropship. The goal of the production crew was to present the interior of the ISSCV/APC as a real military spacecraft with the all of the military spartan interior design elements. The outside shots of the actors working in and around the module sections were possibly a redressed truck cargo container...hard to get solid intel on this show at times. While I cannot verify this, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that the inspiration for the ISSCV/APC could have come from real sea-to-land shipping containers, or even the modular sections seen on the Starcom: the U.S. Space Force military sci-fi toyline vehicles from Coleco. However, it could be the iconic UD-4L Cheyenne from ALIENS. The impact of the ISSCV/APC has been seen in other key military sci-fi vehicles, like the Pelican from HALO and the DR-4 Viking from the 1997 Starship Troopers movie.         

The DR-4 Viking class Dropship from the Starship Troopers Universe
When it comes time for the Mobile Infantry to take the fight dirt-side, the Fleet transport legions of the troopers to the battlefield via their Corvette class transport vessels, and ships the M.I. down the gravity well via a vast number of the DR-4 Viking class dropship. Much like the Federation's dim view on the rest of their armed, the Viking is a cheap, lightly armed space bus to get the meat down into the grinder. From the ventral view, the Viking appears more like a giant ugly seabird with the bulky box-like module stripped to its belly. This is in contrast to the more sleek shuttle-like dorsal portion that houses the flight crew and the forward propulsion engines.

Seemingly sprucing out of the dorsal flight section, is a set of giant legs that hug the ventral cargo box and are tipped with downward thrusters for VTOL. Vikings are loaded with troopers inside massive lower deck bays on the Corvette class, and then pushed out into the black via overhead conveyor, then "dropped" from the mother ship by explosive bolts, and they use their own thrusters for atmospheric injection. While the DR-4 is widely used by the branches of the Federation armed forces, there is another similar vehicle: the DR-8 Skyhook Jumpshuttle. The Skyhook by the Fleet as a "retrieval boat" for smaller groups of MI troopers in hot LZs, as seen in the film during the Whiskey Outpost battle on Planet-P. The Fleet's own Marine Corps use the sleeker DR-8 for the bulk of their operations, as seen SST:3 Marauder. When it comes to armaments on the DR-4 class, it is hard to see in the 1997 film, but pictures of the model display an number of small ball cannons mounted on the nose and sides of the little ship. My guess would be that these are used for point-defense turrets or even close-air support, but they are never seen in use. The only weapon that the DR-4s use is during the invasion of  Klendathu...but we still don't know what the hell it is or what it was supposed to be.

When the FWS blogpost about troop transport was posted back in 2012, I received several comments on what the very bright discharges are. Some readers said that they were flare launchers, and the lighting in that scene of the film indicated that...but, what purpose would rapid-fire flare launchers be for a 25th century military? While flares are used on modern military vehicles, they are not featured that prominently. Maybe they are a system of marking the M.I. infantry's objectives since the bug homeworld does not have any kind of artificial lights? Could these be some sort of futuristic defense system, like a main battle tank's smoke dischargers? My theory as always been of light artillery fire, to soften up the bugs for the troopers. I think that SFX team used flares for the effects. I decided to see what the SST script says about the DZ on Klendathu and the dropship. Interestingly enough, the script is that available online says that MI are deployed via space-drop capsule, just like in the 1959 book!
According to the website Starship Modeler, the original concept was to have the underslung module be drop-off at the LZ, and the flight section of the Viking return to the mother ship. While this was never seen on-screen in any of the appearance of the DR-4 dropships, the basic design of the model bears witness to it. It is my theory, that the original idea for this came from the ISSCV/APC from SAAB, and the DR-4s were to have modular containers, also, much like the ISSCV/APC. From close examination of the 1997 film (the things I do for you people), I believe there are three variants: cargo, troop carrier, and medical. Paul Verhoven was said to have been inspirited by the landing craft of D-Day for these vehicles and the overall feel of the invasion of Klendathu.


Interestingly enough, several versions of the SST dropship and retrivel boat jumpshuttle have been made into toys! Duringthe 1997's "action fleet" line of SST toys by Galoob. One of these was the DR-8 Skyhook retrieval boat seen on Planet-P in the film, and came with three micro-figures (one was a medic), and free-fall bombs. The DR-4 Viking also got its day in plastic, with a motorized remote-controlled toy and more desert-camo schemed paint job. This was much rarer than the retrieval boat toy, and featured a corded conrtoller that operated a dorsal missile launcher, ramp, and moved via wheels instead of VTOL thrusters. Oh, don't worry faithful readers of FWS...I will be covering the SST toyline in a future Military Sci-Fi Toys blogpost.

The Carry-All from the DUNE universe
Mining the spice-drug Melange is an extremely risky endeavor on Arrakis. The giant sand worms are able to hone in on rhythmic vibrations of the Harvester machines that mine the spine. This has forced the dunemen to employ ground and aerial monitors to watch for worm sign (many of these were made into toys). Protecting the miners (most were contractors) from being eaten up the old man of the desert is the massive specialized aero-vehicle: the Carry-All. The Carry-All operates using the Holtzman Effect to generate an Suspensor Field. This stable platform allows for the Carry-All to life and lower two Harvesters into positions around the endless deserts of Arrakis. When House Atreides took over from their enemies, House Harkonnen, there was an inventory of about 1,000 Carry-Alls. However, given the reckless attitude of the Harkonnen's toward mining the Spice, more than 1/3 of the Carry-Alls were unable to be fielded.
While the Harvesters get all of the attention for their mining of the Spice, they are only able to do their job via the Carry-All. This vital importance of the Carry-All was not lost on Paul Atreides, after witness an worm attack on a Harvester after the Carry-All failed to arrive in time. During the Fremen insurrection led by Paul Muad'Did, Carry-Alls were targeted to grind Spice production to a halt. The model of the Carry-All for the 1984 sci-fi epic (and box-office bomb) DUNE was conceptized by director David Lynch from the pages of the original text, and the wedged shaped model was constructed by model-maker Rafael de Maria y Campos in Mexico. In the novel,  the Carry-All is an large ornithopter, and House Atreides Mentat, Hawat called the Carry-All an "rescue vehicle". The Carry-All is a unique concept in the realm of science fiction dropships, and one of the only endo-atmospheric dropships in sci-fi. In the 1998 PC real-time strategy game DUNE 2000 by Westwood Games, the Carry-All is re-imagined as a more sleek aerodyne design that appears to be more "bomber" like.           

The Y-85 Titan Dropship from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Ever wondered how the hell the Empire got those massive AT-STs onto planet Holt? Wonder no more! Here is the Y-85 Titan dropship! In the Imperial Army, the Y-85 delivery the massive armored walker AT-STs, the smaller AT-ATs, and pre-fab military bases. Once the Y-85 hit the planetary battlefield, the AT-STs and AT-ATs could be deployed immediately, due to them being stored battle-ready, as was seen during the Battle of Hoth. Due to the size of these dropships, only the larger Imperial Navy warships could carry the Y-85 and the accompanying vehicles. The SW wiki-article states that the Titan dropship off-loads the AT-ATs and AT-STs via crane that drops the mecha out of massive ventral doors. That means that the entire weight of the Titan and its cargo are supported by anti-gravity motors or landing gears. That is impressive. These dropships have never been seen in any SW game or movie, while the Y-85 was in some books and technical manuals, like the Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections.

20 January 2014

FWS Movie Review: LONE SURVIVOR (2013)

Bring real stories of valor under fire has been a trend in humans since we could express language. Some deeds are drawn on the cave walls, some are remembered in tales written by Homer, and in today's media, the almighty "based on true events" war movie is how many of us witness the heroism of warfighters. In my lifetime, I've seen every major war movie and action film there is, and since 1986's Platoon, the genre of the war movie has changed with more realism and less glorification of the horrors of war. Both Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down have reshaped the genre, creating a template for the current realistic war film, and 2013's Lone Survivor  is part of that seachange. The Navy SEALs have also been receiving more attention lately due to high-profile operations and the recent Act of Valor film. Directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark (don't call me Marky ) Wahlberg, this film is based on the events of late June in 2005 in Afghanistan, which was one of the largest loss of lives for the Naval Special Warfare community since WWII, and tells the story of a four-man SEAL recon team during Operation: RED WINGS. In a recent interview, former SEAL and author of the book that this movie was based (and fellow Texan), Marcus Luttrell said that film Lone Survivor: "it keeps the memory of my teammates alive forever." That is the most important element to remember while reading this review and the movie, it is a video testament to those men that were lost on that day of June 28, 2005. Both the SEAL recon team and the soldiers and sailors onboard the MH-47 on Turbine 33. I saw this film in Dallas with my wife on January 18th, 2014.

Operation: RED WINGS
First off, the name of the Operation is RED WINGS, not Red Wing. It was named by Marines of the 3/3 after the Hockey team. Operation: RED WING was a series of nuclear tests done in the south Pacific in the mid-1950's The goal of the operation was to stabilize the region for the upcoming September elections, moving the Afghan government towards republican-style democracy and prevent disruption by local anti-coalition forces; like the local Kunar Province militia leader, pro-Taliban, pro-AQ, Afghan named Ahmad Shah, operating in the Korengal Valley. He was one of the focuses of the operation headed up the 2/3 and 3/3 Marines. These Marines had already performed successful operations in the area prior to Operation: RED WINGS. Since the operation was being planned by Marines, they were originally going to use RECON Marine units for the surveillance duties of intel gathering and ID'ing Shah. With the spirit of everyone getting a piece of the operational pie, the SDVT-1 and SEAL Team 10 expressed interest in some of their assets being involved with the operation.
The first stage of the operation was for a four man SEAL recon from SDVT-1 where to get eyes-on intel gathering of Shah's group, ID Shah and their AO. During the second phase of RED WINGS, a joint Marine/SEAL unit would capture or kill Shah and his men. The operation never got to phase 2 out of the five stage operation. After the loss of Turbine 33 with 16 souls aboard, and three of the four SEALs, Operation: RED WINGS altered from the original goals. Operation RED WINGS II and WHALERS would follow to meet the goals and recover the bodies of the fallen. It was during the joint Maine/SEAL Team 10/160th SOAR operation of RED WINGS II, that Marcus Luttrel was recovered from a Pashtun village some 0.7 miles from the battlesite on Sawtalo Sar. The odd thing was that Ahmad Shah gained more popularity and draw from the operations than he had, he also video'ed the battle, and his men recovered the SEALs gear, weapons, and laptops with some sensitive information on it. Before he could make much of his new found fame, Shah was driven into Pakistan to regroup after being wounded during the August of 2005 Operation: WHALERS, and his group of "Mountain Tigers" were crushed. This shit stain was killed in a shoot-out with Pakistan Police in April of 2008. Even today, there is controversy over the number of hostiles. Figures range from as little as 8 to all the way to unrealistic 200. Most believe that the SEAL Recon team was engaged by about 20-35.

The GOOD
I'll be honest here, I did not think that Peter Berg had it in him to give Lone Survivor and the fallen heroes of Operation: RED WINGS their due credit, but he did. Lone Survivor is Peter Berg's most serious and best work, and he balances the chaos of the mountain battle with the SEALs...well...being SEALs and men in wartime attempting to live their lives. There are some amazing shots and he uses the New Mexico mountains with all their angelic light to full extent. Instead of a puff piece that is a thinly veiled recruiter film for the US military, Berg channels Black Hawk Down and Tears of the Sun in the best possible way, but also creates an interesting and original opening to Lone Survivor.
To give the audience a frame of reference for the endurance and mindset of a Navy SEAL in case all you've ever met is internet wanna-bes posing as a SEAL, he included actually footage of sailors at BUD/S, culled from different classes to setup what it takes to be a SEAL. Also helping the realism angle of the film is actually Navy SEAL advisers, including Marcus Luttrel (who is in the movie...watch for him!), and the commitment of the core four actors to get their parts the honor due. This might be Mark Wahlberg's best performance.
Most average film-goers will take away the heroic deeds, the bond of military brotherhood, and the chaos of the mountain battle, which are all reasons that 2/3 of Lone Survivor is a great "based on real events" war film. However, to me and others that have studied the events of June 28th, 2005, the real center and heart of the film is the debate between the four SEALs on what to do with the Afghan civilians that walked into their hide spots. After this scene, all hell breaks loose, and Berg expertly filming the combat scenes with realism and chaos needed. Once again, this is no puff piece. SEALs are engaged in heavy fire in a bad tactical position in bad terrain to fight a pitched gun-battle. The feeling and intensity of these combat scenes are captured without cheapening the gravity of the situation...

The BAD
While watching this movie with my wife, I firmly believed that there would be nothing for me to place in the bad or even ugly sections of the standard FWS movie review format...boy, was I wrong! Due to the last 1/3 of the film being so wrong to the spirit of the Lone Survivor project, I could only bring up a few bad elements in the excellent 2/3 of the picture...and most of these bad points are nitpicky at best. During the massive mountain battle, the actor portraying Matt Axelson pulls out his sidearm and engages hostiles at close range...the only thing is that the pistol is NOT the standard Navy SEAL Sig Sauer P226 9mm, but is instead the US Army's standard combat pistol, the Beretta M9. WTF?! How could the advisers on the film get that element wrong? Hell, even me, some REMF geekboy, knows that shit! I've studied Navy SEAL pictures for years, and only a few times have I seen a SEAL firing a Beretta...that was more in the 1990's, than today.
There is a scene depicting anti-coalition milita leader Ahmad Shah and one of his henchman, beheading an rumored American collaborator in a village over a log in front of his son. Why is this in the movie? Most audience already know that semi-Taliban and AQ terrorists are bad dudes...it wasn't needed especially since it doesn't seem to be true. There should have been a better way to introduce Ahmad Shah that didn't scream fake as a hooker's smile, and he could examined Black Hawk Down instead of playing to the cheap seats. Also, the quote about shitbag Ahmad Shah killing 20 Marines is completele false. At that point in the war in Afghanistan, there had only been a TOTAL of FIVE Marines lost. Another thing that bothered me was when talened actor Eric Bana's character gets the name of the operation wrong. He calls it "Red Wing" instead of "Red Wings".

The UGLY

!SPOILER FREE! 
Simply put, the last 1/3 of Lone Survivor did not happen the way that it presented on-screen. That is according to the official accords of the events and the book. While the genre of "based on true events" films almost always takes licences with how the events transpired, they general attempt to say true to the major events and spirit of the events. That is not true here. The best way for me to describe the ending of Lone Survivor without the spoilers is by bring up Black Hawk Down. After the October 3-4, 1993 battle,  CWO-3 Michael Durant was captured by the gunmen working for Aidid, he was held for 11 days, until released to the Red Cross. Now, if Black Hawk Down did what Lone Survivor did, they would HAVE twisted the ending, showing after the battle, DELTA operators Hoot and Sanderson tracking down Durant and rescuing him in a epic firefight. That is how wrong the ending of this film is. While I watching the film, I commented to my wife that none of this happened, and it completely broke my emotional involvement with the characters and the events on-screen.  The shame is that the actual events of the four days that Marcus was in the village of Sabari-Minah are more compelling this tacked-on over-the-top revenge fantasy ending. One of my friends at work, Tucker, commented that the false end of the film could have been a requirement of the financial backers of the film.

!SPOILERS!
Do you want to know more? Than here it is...in all of its spoiler goodiness! According to the real events, after the bloody mountain battle, Luttrell is on his own, and searching for water desperately. He comes upon a waterfall and takes two drinks until an Afghan man yells at him, Luttrell pulls his sidearm and an grenade. That man is Gulab, a local shepherd from the small village of Sabari-Minah, shows him that he has no gun and is not Taliban. Over the course of four days, they move Luttell from houses, to stables, and even a cave to hide him from Shah's men, who knew that the SEAL was in the village of Sabari-Minah (I've seen it called Salar Ban as well). Gulab took great personal risk aiding the wounded SEAL, and later, his home burned down and a cousin was killed over Gulab's decision. Luttrell was lucky that he was found by people from the Shuryek Valley, who were more friendly towards the Coalition. The note that Luttrell wrote was given to the Marines at a base in the town of Nangalam by Shina, and this led to his rescue. During Lutrell's stay in Sabari-Minah, Shah's men did come into the village and threatened the village and Gulab, but unlike the movie, Luttrell was never almost beheaded on a log, nor did he kill an militaman with a knife during a pitched gun battle in the village. And there was no heroic battle where US forces with Apache gunship and an AC-130 drove the enemy from the village...all 100% fake.

Should You See Lone Survivor?
I think given what really happened on June 28th, 2005, along the bravery of the men involved with Operation: RED WINGS, and the excellent nature of 2/3 of the film, Lone Survivor is worth seeing. It will be one of those war movies that is talked about in the ranks of Black Hawk Down, and the majority of the film is worthy of that praise. Despite my misgivings about the ending, I will buy this on DVD, and watch most of it...just not the ending.

LINKS

Jeremy Jahns's Lone Survivor Review















The 60 Minutes Interview with Marcus Luttell (Part One)















The 60 Minutes Interview with Marcus Luttell (Part Two)






14 January 2014

Our Enemies: Space Tigers


In the first of a new blogpost series, Our Enemies, FWS will be exploring the common enemies of humanity in science fiction, and in this case, killer space tigers. Frequent readers to FWS will know that I am a cat lover. Yep. It is true. Around my house, the only pets we have are cats, specifically Tortoiseshell cats. I have always enjoyed and been mystified by the dual personalities that cats have. One minute, they are soft and loving, purring away. However, watch them outside with a prey animal, they transform into ruthless hunters, trained to be one of nature's most badass killers. I have respected for their nature, and being the cat lover I am, I am acutely aware of the trend in science fiction that features killer alien tigers from outer space as our future enemies.

Why are Hostile Alien Space Tigers Popular Foes?
Fear. It is plain as that, and it is rooted in our common experiences as a species with tigers and lions that extends even through today. At one time, prior to culture, metal tools, or even Starbuck's (the horror!), mankind lived among animals that killed and ate them. Wolves and tigers/lions were among the beasts of murder, and this even continues today. It has been estimated the nearly 400,000 humans have been killed by tigers/lions from 1800 to present day. When I lived Anniston, Alabama in the early 1980's, a mountain lion was loose on the mountain where we lived, and the while the police hunted for the beast, we gathered the five cats, and waited for the all clear. This crystallized in my mind that mother nature was still a bitch, and she will kill you with the right tools. One of these tools of mother nature is her Tigers and lions.
They are one of the prime predatory species on this planet and are designed (like sharks) to stalk and kill their prey with speed and stealth. Ever watched a cat stalk a bird in the backyard? Imagine that little bird is you, and that little fuzzy warm kitty is hundreds of pounds larger with five inch claws. Welcome to being murdered....Given all of these factors, the genesis behind killer alien tigers from outer space seems logical. Like all alien species born out of our imagination, they inhabit our collective fears. In the case of our space tigers, they are a manifestation of our fear of the darkness and the creatures that live there, and wait for us to fuck up, and then it's claw-and-blood time. Even my beloved cat Ginger would pull her "ninja assassin" routine when she was alive, by waiting in a darkened room, and then attack when my back was turned...if she had been one of Siegfied & Roy white tigers...well, you know that story.

The Human-Tiger Connection
As a whole, Homo sapiens are assured of their place
on top of the food chain. However, that was not always the case, and even to this day, people are still eaten by species that are man-hunters. One of the most murderers of man is Felidae biological family.   Since before our species had formal language or art, we both celebrated and damned the nature world around us. Animals and natural events that terrified early man, also inspirited us to wonder on a world unseen. One of the hunters of man, besides ourselves, was (and still is) the tiger, and our ancient ancestors were very aware of these beasts and their frighting abilities.  Some 40,000 years ago, humans living in the Hohlenstein-Stadel cave curved a zoomorphic man-tiger figurine that is about 11 inches tall and discovered by modern society in 1939. While we can only guess that the meaning behind the lowenmensch, it does translate to a genesis behind sci-fi's love of the space tiger.
Tigers are a symbol of power, fear, and sheath, while early man was afraid of these abilities, they also wished to harness these abilities hence the Lion Man of the Hohlenstein-Stadel. Humans incorporated tigers and lions into their primitive gods, like Mut or Aradia. While most of the world as whole as migrated away from worshiping animals (I think my mother still worships the cat), the power of the tiger and their hold on the human common imagination is still very much alive and transcends culture and religion.

Are Aggressive Alien Tigers Even a Possibility?
When you look up at the night's sky, and wonder on if someone is staring back at us, could they really be aggressive space kitties ready to kill and eat us? The real question is, does life replicate itself in similar patterns that could give rise to lifeforms that we are familiar with here on Terra? Science is divided at the moment about if alien sentient life would appear like us, however most believe that their behavior would be similar if they evoluted along similar lines and developed a civilization similar to ours. When it comes to if the aliens will resemble Hobbs or Mr. Spock, it seems highly unlikely. For that scenario to be plausibly, biological evolution would have occurred along the exact lines as Terra, with exact environmental conditions...fat chance on that! We also have to remember that any sentient spacefaring ET species we met, will be like us...top of the food chain with big brains to out-think other native predatory species. Humans evolved brains to overcome our lack of claws and fangs, tigers and lions all have those tools of the killing trade...that may preclude them from evolutionary intelligent developed to the level of us, the mostly hairless thinking ape.
Some believe that we have already been in contact with an alien feline race, the Lyrans. According to UFO theorists, these ET Lion people are from the star Vega that lays 25.04 LYs away from Sol or even the Lyra constellation. In the distance past, the Lyrans were benefactors of early man, and could be the origin of the rash of feline gods and goddess in ancient mythology. Some "sources" on the internet say that the Lyrans were driven out of their star systems by other ET species, and Terra was a layover for other interstellar destinations. There is no agreement on the appearance of these outer space kitties...some say they are small with fur, others say they are more like Mr. Bigglesworth.

The Social Structure of the Space Tiger
Often sci-fi creators and authors develop their vision of the space tigers around the terrestrial Felidae species This creates the prides social structures that populate the fictional space tigers. Much like Lion Prides, there is an alpha male on top of a family. Creators often use these prides to develop some sort of monarchy, normally based around an emperor or even a queen-mother figure, as we have seen with the Kilrathi or the Tavitans from Dynamo Joe comic. Often these space tiger monarchy is divided along blood-lines, and some of the royal broods that often formed the core of the felinoid military elite and commanders. The Man-Kzin Wars novels focus on these social structures and difference between the Terrans and the space tigers.

The Space Tiger Warrior: The Killers of Man
Packs often come up in the space tiger social structure, and pack hunting is used as a basis for the felinoid military tactics. Stalking, taking an enemy when they do not expect it, and from an angle not expected, along with raid tactics are all hallmarks of the warrior felinod. They also attack either the weakest or the strongest assets of the enemy This alien martial culture also worships loyalty, honor, and victory. Often leading these packs are the royal family members of the monarchy of the felinoid social structure, much like the British nobility leading their officer corps. This was seen with Kilrathi, where their top space fighter aces were nobility. If one off-shoots of the nobility achieves honor via victory in combat, than they would curry more favor with the monarchy, and some creators have used these angle.

If They Existed...Why Would We Fight the Space Tigers?

Would we fight space tigers over the Vega sector as depicted in science fiction? Why would fight these Felinoids when we push out from the Sol system? Let us assume that on some other world, tigers have evolved to the point of intelligence on par with homo sapiens and achieved interstellar spaceflight without wiping themselves with nuclear war. Just because they are tigers instead of jelly fish or bumpy-headed humanoids does not inherently translate to aggression and space wars. As stated before, any species that it the dominate form of life on their planet is going have experience with combat and hunting, and any spacefaring race will be industrial, requiring resources, and other worlds besides their own. For course any notion of aggression, leading to interstellar warfare would also greatly depend on the government, religion, and history of our intrepid felinoids. I think there could be a possibility that because the space tiger developed from a naturally predatory species could lend some credence to these aliens being more aggressive and  could fuel wars or conflicts.  

Science Fiction and Space Tigers
Battlecats from outer space are nothing new in the realm of human imagination. Long before there was the Kzin or the Kilrathi, there was the Egyptian Sphinx, the Goddess Bastet, the Chinese Li Shou, The Hindu god of Narasimha, and the Polish Ovinnik. This trend is even older than those mythological beasts. In 1939, a zoomorphic lion-man statue was founded in Germany dating back 40,000 years ago to the Aurignacian culture, demonstrating our species long held love-hate relationship with the feline. The idea of using felines for aliens that are both friend and foe has no certain genesis, however, we can seen space tigers in the pages of Flash Gordon in the 1930's with the character of Prince Thun along with other types of "tiger people".
By the 1960's, there were felinoid populating pulp sci-fi magazines and comic books. This trend of feline aliens was firmly established with literature works like The Wanders by Fritz Leiber and the Kzinti stories of Larry Nicen beginning in the . ET space felinoids as became popular in the emerging RPG and video games of the late 1970's and 1980's, like the Wemic from TSR's D&D, the Fteirle from GDW's Traveller, and the Tabaxi from TSR's Forgotten Realms. Science fiction creators and authors would gift our space tigers with monarchies, clans, prides, and at times, a taste for human meat. Science fiction swings both ways on the felinoids, some are aggressive, empire-minded killer space tigers that hunt in packs, and wage ware for fun. Other times, sci-fi has visions of gentle felinoids with an eye for art, government, and environmental living. One of the reason for the number of felinoids could be that a majority of authors keep cats, this one included, and they draw on the age old tradition of felinoids as both and foe. One unsettling element that I came across during my research was the amount of art that depicted sexualized felinoids...there are some really sick people in the world with fantasies of fucking space tigers instead of Orion Slave Women.
Examples

The Kilrathi from the Wing Commander universe

In the Wing Commander universe, the main foe of the Terran Confederation is the Empire of Kilrah, composed of aggressive space tigers called the Kilrathi. Since the original computer space fighter simulator dropped in 1990, the Man/Kilrathi War was the focus of the series. According to the back story, on March 15th, 2629, an Terran Confederation exploration is destroyed by the Kilrathi. All attempts at communication are refused, and two years of raids by the Kilrathi are answered by a full-scale war. For 11 years, the Empire and Confederation engaged in a bloody war that ended when the homeworld of the kitties was destroyed by Christopher Blair. After the war, the various clans of the Kilrathi organized themselves, and attempted to keep the tense peace with the Terrans.
The Kilrathi society is constructed along lines of clan and status. Much like ancient Terran societies, the nobility on Kilrah ruled over the masses of lower-born, and only the ruling classes could endeavor within the arts or creative efforts. The values that run throughout the bulk of Kilrathian society is honor and loyalty. These traits are often credited to the 10 million year developed cycle of the furballs from pack hunting felines to spacefaring imperialist space tigers.Unlike the Terran Confederation, the Kilrathi have a warrior class that direct and fight their wars. These wars are not just isolated to the Terrans. Prior to that conflict, the furballs were engaged in a long struggle with the Mantu that ended in a stalemate. At the time of the Man/Kilrathi War, it is believed by TC intelligence that a low-level conflict still brews with the Mantu. They have subjugated other races, like the Varni, and the TC used these races against the furballs. The depiction of the Kilrathi evolved over the various video games. By the time of the Full-Motion-Video Wing Commander III, the Kilrathi were people in costumes, and over-sized hairless puppets for the beyond shitty 1999 Wing Commander movie...oh yes, FWS will be talking about that "movie" soon...prepare thy self!

The Kzin from Larry Niven's Known Space universe
On a cooler world orbiting the star known to humans as 61 Ursae Majoris, some 31 LYs away from the Sol system, evolved an 500lbs feline race known as the Kzinti. During the Kzin iron age, aliens known as the Jotok landed and uplifted the space kitties to be used as interstellar mercenaries. The Jotok got more than they bargained for...the Kzinti revolted and enslaved the Jotok, and even ate them. This started the ball rolling on the five Man-Kzin wars. The Kzinti have a royal family, and their whole society is based on the superiority of the males. Honor and being heroic populate the Kzin mindset, and they live under a marital honor code...sound familar...yeah the Kzinti are some sort of alien samurai space tigers. The female Kzin are breed to be stupid, and any female showing signs of intelligence is killed. Lovely.In the 1960's, one of the great minds of science fiction, Larry Niven developed the Kzinti, the warlike and bloodthirsty outer space tigers. They would make their first appearance in 1966, and from 1988 to 2013, 11 volumes of the Man-Kzin Wars volumes were printed. The Kzinti would influence generations of sci-fi writers and creators to include their own take on the felinoid.    

The Dilgar from Babylon 5
During the first season of Babylon 5, the ninth episode exposed us fans of B5 to the felinoid race of the Dilgar from the planet Omelos. When the Centauri Republic weakened, the Dilgar made their move on the other races, who the Dilgar regarded as mere slaves, and would serve the Dilgar. In the 2230's, the League of the Nonaligned Worlds and the Dilgar were locked in a bloody war. By 2231, the Dilgar were winning and committing war crimes and medical experiments, causing the Earth Alliance to join the League and fight the Dilgar back to their home system. One of the reasons for the Dilgar aggression could have been linked their home system's star going nova shortly after the war ended in favor of the League. The Dilgar could not escape the supernova with their jumpgates blocks and were completely extinct in 2232 save for one. Interestingly, the Dilgar aggression would thrust Earth into the galactic stage, and allow for the critical Earth-Minbari War.

The Y'Kin from The Hunters of Man 
Around 2010, I was watching my tortoiseshell cat, Ginger, hunt a bird in our backyard. To me, my little kitty was family, who loved us, purred at the slight of me, and slept with me nightly. But now, Ginger was a hunter on the prowl for a victim. Within a second, she went from motionless dark spot in the grass, to claws and teeth. That fucking bird never had a chance. Of course, Ginger presented the bird from my approval of her hunting abilities, and after the went to finish off her snack, I ran to the computer, and typed the opening pages to The Hunters of Man. It was also around this time I was reading the book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, and decided to write my own spin on killer alien tigers from outer space. The Y'Kin are based on my observations of cats over the years, from feral cats to fat lazy house cats, the Y'Kin embodied all of pussy that I've been exposed to. I originally was going to discuss the Y'Kin society is some depth, but I decided to forgo that...cannot give away all of my best ideas! Hopefully, one day, a publisher will see the promise in The Hunters of Man, and decided to give it a go. Let us hope...would make a great movie and a line of action figures! Call me Hollywood.

The Kzinti from the Star Trek universe
As we've read above, the "Kzin" was originally developed by Larry Niven, well outside the web of the Trek universe, and became a major feature in Niven's Known Space universe for decades and an icon of the sci-fi literary world. However, these aggressive space tigers did appeared in the 14th episode of the Star Trek Animated Series, as an old foe of Terra. The Kzinti were transplanted from Niven's stories with consent of the author, and he as been quoted as saying he wanted to see what someone else could do with the concept of these alien outer space cats. So, Niven's 1967 short story, "the Soft Weapon"
Despite the hundreds of Trek episodes, the Kzinti would never made an live-action appearance, however they were mentioned a few times, and their homeworld would appear on "official" maps of the Trek Milky Way galaxy. Interestingly, there were no less that two attempts to bring the Kzinti into the live-action Trek universe. During the proposed Star Trek: Phase II TV show that would have marked a return of the original crew to the air-waves on an Paramount TV network around 1978. This new Trek series would have been the keystone show of the new network...which happened with UPN and ST: Voyager in 1995. One of the original unproduced scripts of Phase II involved the the Kzinti. The second time that these Niven-creatures space warrior cats would been seen is if Enterprise would have continued into their 5th season.The Kzinti would have been introduced in the episode entitled "The Kilkenny Cats", and most likely would have been a faction in the Earth-Romulan War of 2156-2160. There are pieces of production art of this stillborn episode of ST:ENT floating around the internet, some showing menacing space felinoids with some design elements from gorillas, and their spaceships.

The Caitian from the Star Trek Unvierse
During the run of the Star Trek: Animated Series in the mid-1970's, there was a sexy female bridge officer Felinoid name Lt. Shiboline M'Ress that belonged to the much nicer space tiger race of Caitian rather than the murderous Kzinti. Also, unlike the Kzinti, the Caitian were members of the Federation, and they liked to sleep with humans rather than eating them. Lt. M'Ress was the first member of the Caitian we'd seen, and the name of the race came from the mail-order company Lincoln Enterprises, run by Gene and Majel Roddenberry. When the animated series came to a close, the Caitian were rarely seen in Trek. My first introduction to these felinoids was via the 1st volume of DC Comcis ST comic series in the mid-1980's.
The big boost for the Caitian race came with 1986's Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home, when a feline alien race was shown being members of the Federation. While the race was never named by the film, FASA did it for us in their Star Trek IV: Sourcebook Update. On page 64-65, the Caitian race is profiled. These Felinoids are from a topical world, a born from litters, and belong to clans that live in great houses. Because life was easy and good on Caitia, the race turn towards towards the arts early on, and lacked the military history of somewhere like Terra. Caitians have an high opinion of themselves, are fastidious, and very environmentally-conscience, and tend to believe that other races look up to them, especially Terrans, who seem to find these cat people attractive. Unlike other felinoids in sci-fi, the Caitians are not especially violent or war-like, afew serve in the Starfleet Marines or other security branches. Mostly they serve in science and diplomacy functions. According to some sources, the Caitian hail from the star of 15 Lynics, which was an ancient colony of the Kzinti, giving rise to the Caitian people. Trek, via non-canon and canon sources has other Felinoid races, which seem as common in the Milky Way as bumpy-forehead aliens. Who knew? Probably Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, I'm guessing.

The Tharil from Classic Doctor Who
Wow...talk about bad kitty makeup! There are sometimes when you look at old Who and see what it really was. Anyway, these felinoids were time-sensitive that lived in a castle between N-Space and E-Space, and could enter any of the different realms of spacial realities at will, and none could follow. These rejects from the cast of CATS, enslaved other, included humans, and because the gateways leading to the kitty castle resulted in death for anyone. Humans constructed Samurai-like robots called Gundans to assault the kitty time-castle. With the assault being successful, these time-kitties were made slaves of the humans as forced time navigators.

The Na'vi from AVATAR
In 2009, James Cameron gave just one of the greatest sci-fi movies of the new millennium, AVATAR, and one that moon of Polyphemus, is a felinoid species called the "Na'vi", or "the people" in their own tongue. Despite the groundbreaking 3D SFX, and AVATAR being one of the most celebrated sci-fi movies of the new millennium, the Na'vi are not that original. Don't get me wrong, I love AVATAR, but these blue stone-age space kitties are heavily borrowed from native peoples here on Terra. I personally found the story of the RDA humans much more interesting, but they did do a bang-up job on the look of the Na'vi. One of the more original elements was their tail queue and how it interacted to the biosphere of Pandora.

The Hani from The Chanur Novels by CJ Cherryh
In The Chanur novels, the Hani, who are bipedal feline aliens that hail from Anuurn. Much like the Kzinti, the Hani were "uplifted" to the stars by another race. These space tigers live in clans with on male lord of the clan. These clans were not unified under an emperor. The Hani have a bad tradition of casting out males that could threaten the clan lord, and these cast out males, who work on their fighting skills. The women of these space kitties, are the ones with the brains and the abilities, allowing them to go into space, not the males. The lack of resources fuels the clans to unite. Some sources call these males "drones", who wage war against one another for sexual right over the females. During the novels, the natural balance of the Hani sexual rituals is upset by Pyanfar Chanur, who teaches the males to take their place in space along with their females.




The Garudan from ROBOTECH II: The Sentinels
For most of the readers around FWS know, I talk a great deal about ROBOTECH, and the aborted sequel, The Sentients. And here we go again...After the epic success of the original ROBOTECH series, Harmony Gold started developing a sequel that would chronicle the adventures (and misadventures) of the ROBOTECH Expeditionary Force. Soon after the arrival of the SDF-3 at the ROBOTECH Masters homeworld of Tirol, and encountering the Invid, the REF also meets the alliance of freedom fighting aliens, the Sentients. All of the five races shared the experience of being enslaved by the Invid, and these resistance fighters were attempting to liberate their homeworlds, while the Invid were busy with their main nemesis: the Robotech Masters. These Sentients joined the REF, and the meat of the ROBOTECH II: The Sentients storyline is this war of liberation. One of the five races is the Cat People of Garuda. The Garudan were a hybrid design that mixed elements of felines, foxes, and it seems, Pomeranian, as well. According to the Palladium Book The Sentients RPG manual, the Garudan can only breath their own air, and most of the race are gifted with a number of psionic powers. While they are involved in an interstellar war, the true nature of the cat people is one of peace, but given their brutal treatment by the Invid, and they have committed themselves to end the threat to their race and their allies. Unlike the REF, the Garudan were not a spacefaring race, the RPG manual says that these cat people hovered around the 1950's, but they did adopted the high-technology of the REF, just not the mecha.  


The Fucking Thundercats from The Thundercats
I can still remember way back in 1985 when the original Thundercats pilot episode aired, and very soon after, my local Tulsa Toys R Us became overran with these toys. The origins of the animated TV series went back some two years, and while it was animated in Japan, it was an American production. Much like most American animation of the time, there had to some pro-social friendly message. The backstory was that these felinoid were the few survivors of a doomed planet, and would arrive on the 3rd Earth with their enemies in purist for the eye of thunder...or something. From 1985 to 1989, the Thundercats ran on American TV, and in 2011, a rebooted TV show would air on Cartoon Network, for a single season. The Thundercats are frequent fodder for Robot Chicken. Despite watching this back in the day, I never really dug this series.

The Tavitans from the Dynamo Joe comics
In the mid-1980's, First Comics would published Doug Rice's brilliant military science fiction comic Dynamo Joe. In those pages, was the cat-like alien race of the Tavitans located on the Londree. This race is ruled by a queen-mother, the matriarch. When the Orion War started with the invading Mellanares, the Terrans, the Imperial society of the Great Khan, and the Tavitans joined together in the Alliance. According to the few clues presented in the fifteen issues of Dynamo Joe, the Tavitans were not warlike, and contributed few "hard" military assets to the Alliance, mostly technical elements. The main kitty character of the DJ series is Private Pomru, who worshiped Old Earth culture, and is the navigator/technical of the Joe battlesuit. However, a few times, Pomru would pilot Joe into combat. It is sad that DJ would only run for 15 issues when it was plotted out over a two year run. It is likely that we would have seen the homeworld of Pomru's cat-people.



The Mrrshan from Masters of Orion
Okay, before researching space tigers, I'd never heard of the video game Masters of Orion, nor the Mrrshan. Masters of Orion was a 1993 turned-based strategy game. One of the weaker races was the felinoid Mrrshan race. Despite being excellent spaceship gunners and weaponry researcher, they have two enemies, and only one friend, the Terrans. Two of the hallmarks of these space tigers are a ruthless and fearless nature and ruled over by an empress. Fielding one of the largest fleets in the galaxy, the Mrrshan, they attack first.