08 August 2015

FWS Topics: The Tactics and Maneuvering of Space Combat

Since the first recorded naval battle in 1210 BCE between the Hittites and people from Cyprus, ship-to-ship engagements have been the feeding ground for tales of adventure and heroism. It is no different in the genre of science fiction, when the fighting ships of the high seas were replaced with starships trading beams of deadly light across the black void of space. Unlike naval combat, there have been no battles in space (unless UFO conspiracy stories are right), and space is not the ocean. But, at times, sci-fi creators get confused and ignore the realities of hard science space combat. In this much needed blogpost, guest contributor Moran will be exploring and explaining space combat.
Be sure to check out Moran's work on his site: SF Worldbuilding 

The Hand Can't Hit What the Eye Can't See
As both "Wash" Hoban form Firefly and our favorite Nerf-Herder Han Solo from Star Wars have demonstrated on numerous occasions, firepower is not the only asset that can win a fight. Quite often in sci-fi movie, the heroes of the story will be aboard a smaller spacecraft than their opponents, their only hope of survival lying in their superior abilities. While this is largely due to dramatic reasons, it does draw attention to the importance of maneuverability in space combat. 
When dealing with scientifically hard fiction - no handwavium force-fields or technobabble energy shielding - one shot kills are very probable: nukes, mass drivers, particle beams, lasers, all posses more than enough potential to negate any form of armour we know about today. And while no real spaceship will ever fly with the grace of a X-Wing starfighter this does mean that the ability to avoid hits may be more important than surviving them(structurally, the crew is still a concern), much like the situation in aerial combat today. For science fiction writers this is a boon. A battle that requires maneuvers is intrinsically better suited to one in which humans might play a role. Randomness and intuition could be vital, and so far computers don't offer that. Even if the ship can fly and fight itself this leaves room for a human tactician, negating Burnside's Zeroth Law of Space Combat - SF fans relate more to humans than they do to silicon chips. However, it can also pose difficulties. 
Space is not a familiar environment, and movement in it is counter-intuitive at best. It is also radically different for a spacecraft in orbit around a single planet, in a planetary system, or in deep space. And for those of us who try to avoid the dreaded Space is a Ocean trope this can be very...frustrating. So, I'll look at four basic situations; deep space with low relative velocity, deep space with high relative velocity, single planet, and planetary system. For each I'll also take a look at the changes in the situation that different tech will have. This post is not so much about maneuvering itself, but about how different situations shape it. An in depth discussion of tactical maneuvering down to the level of orbital physics or specific technologies would make the article far to long. In the future I'll attempt to do follow up articles that look at maneuvering in the context of a specific spacecraft, but for now this should provide an indication of what a spaceship would be doing. For simplicity's sake I'm only going to consider one-on-one battles in detail, not constellation engagements. Fleet actions are a whole separate ball game, a will warrant a separate post.

Deep Space - Low Relative Velocity
Just what is "deep space"? For the purposes of a story, it is that area of space which only the bigger spacecraft can reach, so interplanetary or interstellar, depending on tech levels. From a navigational perspective it could be defined as 'flat' space. That is, space in which the gravitational acceleration is insignificant. Insignificant is defined by the power of the drives your spacecraft is using, so this adjusts itself to match the setting. Maneuvering here are closest they will get to those found in Space Opera. The lack of a gravitational source means that movement in any direction is equally easy, and the fight becomes truly three dimensional.

For High-Tech
Multi-gee acceleration and big delta-V - the fights will be "dogfights" to some degree. This will be more marked if the craft use spinal mounted weapons, or if they have large blind spots in offensive or defensive weaponry. If kinetics are the main weapon then the fight could become quite interesting, with KE rounds restricting the possible choices for maneuvering, a possible tactic for the adept captain to employ. Missiles will be very effective, with s straight line of flight to the target, as will beam weapons. Particle beams will benefit, as they are degraded in accuracy and range in the presence of a planet's gravity or magnetic field. If lasers are the primary weapon then the fight will be less of a dogfight, and more of random 'drunk-walking' to throw off targeting and decreasing the beam's dwelling time, spreading the energy across the hull.

For Low-Tech 
Milli-Gee acceleration and limited delta-V - visually this would be quite boring. The ships cannot perform elaborate maneuvers to get in each other's blind spots, nor can they expect to dodge beams and kinetic weapons at short ranges(ranges dependent on velocity of the weapon). Instead orientation and sensor data is the most vital. The spaceship must bring the most weapons to bear, while at the same time keeping a small target profile, and reducing signals that might give its opponent an effective targeting solution.
 The ships orient themselves, enter weapons range, fire a few salvos, and the battle is decided, like Old West Gunfighters. In this case missiles are very effective, as they can come in at an angle to the primary attack vector, distracting sensors and avoiding point-defense capabilities. Kinetic rounds are also more effective, and could be able to dish out massive structure damage to an hostile warship with just a single hit.  KEW systems also do not require dwelling time and generate less heat than directed energy weapons. Kinetic weaponry could scoring a hit from longer range, but they can be more easily used to "box in" an opponent than if accelerations were high. As before, "drunk-walk" will be used to throw off targeting.

Deep Space - High Relative Velocity
The chances are that spaceships will rarely intercept each other in deep space. It is simply too large, and too easy to see someone coming in the black. When they do, it is likely to be a head-on pass at high relative velocity for two spacecraft following the same or similar orbit in opposite directions. Note that once unrealistically powerful torch-drives become common, interception is possible, if still unlikely unless both parties wish it, or one slips up. It turns out that for both high and low tech the maneuvers are much the same in this situation. Any reasonably fast orbit will result in the two ships passing with Rv of tens if not hundreds of km/s. At this speed there is not time to dogfight. Even a torch ship, which will have a much higher intercept velocity, will take so long to cancel its Rv and return to the battle it would be considered as a separate engagement, rather than a second pass. For a ship with foreseeable tech it would be nearly impossible. If anything it will resemble a joust between two medieval knights on horseback. Unlike a joust, however, they might not be a winner.
The longest commonly accepted range for a laser weapon to target effectively is about one light second, or 3*10^8 meters. At a very low end relative velocity - I randomly chose 40 km/s, which means that each ship has ~half solar escape velocity, which is not unrealistic, nor is it that high for a advanced ship. At this range and closing speed the time for targeting the incoming ships and its projectiles is ~2 hours. Plenty of time to shoot down incoming projectiles, you say. But at this speed one kilogram of inert matter has an energy of 8*10^8 J. And how many of those is the opposing ship going to throw out in your path?You can make considerable sideways movement relative to direction of travel in an effort to avoid the projectiles, but the opposing ship can easily see any move you make, and at charter ranges dodging will become impossible. 
Pretty much any kinetic hit at this speed will be fatal, so it will be the ship with the best point defense, sensors, and emergency maneuvering that will survive. During the approach both ships fill space with inert projectiles, possible with last ditch terminal guidance. They will be hard to spot at long range, tiny, inert, and possibly cooled down so that they have no discernible thermal signature. So, it will be only in the last stage of the pass that the combatants can begin to dodge the projectiles. High lateral acceleration and powerful attitude control will help to weave through the incoming fire like a skier on a slalom course. Good sensors will be needed to sport the incoming, and good point-defense to shoot those that can't be avoided. However, it is my personal opinion that this sort of situation would be "two men go in, half a man comes out". If energy wagons are primarily used, them this is even more so the case, as dodging becomes effectively impossible.

Orbital Space - Single Planet
Most space battles in SF take place in orbit around a planet. This makes sense in both hard and soft SF 'Verse's for several reasons. Primarily it is the place where hostile spacecraft are most likely to meet. It also adds a new layer of complexity to the fight, introducing 'terrain' to the tactical considerations. The planet can hide opponents, restricts maneuvers, sucks up delta-V, and provides something to crash into.
Aside from hiding spacecraft who are on the other side a planet can provide some cover for combatants.
Picking up a spacecraft against the disk of a planet is significantly harder than spotting one against the backdrop of space after all. A low orbit that brushed the atmosphere prevents opponents from attacking from most of one hemisphere, a great advantage. For a craft equipped to reenter the atmosphere it also offers the possibility of maneuvers not possible with the amount of delta-V they posses. From reading Atomic Rockets kinetic weapons seem to hold the advantage shooting from a higher orbit at a lower. An DEW is not effected so much, and so the orbit used is less of an advantage or disadvantage aside from the detection aspects. Lasers also posses the potential to be "bounced" around the horizon by remote drones, meaning that the attacker can shoot without exposing themselves.
So the aim of any maneuver is pretty simple. Orientation to bring weapons to bear, and the standard "drunk-walk" are a given. The opposing captains will try to gain the better position in an orbit underneath the enemy ship, or perhaps between the enemy ship and the sun, which might help to blind sensors. This will be complicated by the fact that change orbital inclination is very hard compared to other maneuver restricting the spacecraft to a 3D layer of space, although not 2D plane shown in so many soft SF works. Forcing the ship into a lower orbit will decrease its orbital period, and vice versa. Combined with changing the orbit from circular to the elliptic and back this gives spacecraft commanders the ability to surprise their opponents by appearing around the planet at a different place or time than expected. There will also be a large amount of 'mine-laying' of a kind, seeding or its will kinetic projectiles in order to herd the enemy into a bad position. But while the aim of the maneuvering is simple, execution is not. Trying to explain it is beyond me, so I suggest that anyone serious about grasping orbital mechanics begins by playing the Kerbal Space Program game, or browsing YouTube for anything helpful. It makes a lot more sense visually than it ever will in writing.

For advanced ships a planet is a much smaller piece of terrain, a hill rather than a mountain. They can more easily afford to change orbits, to drop below minimum orbital velocity or go over the maximum, and can perform delta-V heavy maneuvers such as change the orbital inclination. The ultimate of course is a ship that has drives powerful enough to reverse its orbit completely, surprising its opponent when it emerges around the opposite side of the planet to what was expected. With higher acceleration and delta-V the seeding of orbits becomes less effective, much easier to dodge than with a low powered spacecraft.

With low levels of acceleration, even if the spacecraft has a high delta-V, changing orbits can take days if not weeks. The position of the enemy will be highly predictable, and so kinetic weapons become very important. The advantage converted by different orbits will be much more apparent, as it is harder for anyone to turn the tables on their opponent. Most tactics would be a combination of maneuvering into a good position, and using kinetics to force the enemy into a bad one. Low tech ships would also gain a large advantage by being able to dip into the atmosphere, as this provides essentially free deceleration, saving reaction mass.

Planetary Systems
Orbital spaghetti
Adding more heavenly bodies to the mix vastly increases the tactical possibilities. While 'planets' per se do not do much, moons do. A gas giant with seven or eight moons is a extremely complicated system, and has travel times of only hours or days as opposed to years between planets, and that is with Hohmann orbits. High acceleration, low delta-V spacecraft could follow complicated routes, sling-shot themselves around the moons to gain an unexpected position. For much of the time they could be out of sight of the enemy, making it a scenario reminiscent of The Hunt for Red October.
The fact that moons often have lower gravity than planets also means that the maneuver in proximity to them can be more extreme given the same tech level. It even brings up the possibility of landing on a moon, camouflaging the spacecraft, waiting for the enemy to pass by, and then launching and taking them by surprise. The changes imposed by tech levels are the same as those for a single planet, so I won't both to go into detail. This kind of setting will be the most complicated for a SF aficionado to get right, and I would suggest finding a solar system simulator to model the setting before attempting to figure out a complicated battle. It does lend itself to far more interesting scenarios, however, and will be far more rewarding. 

Note from Author William Moran
This is far from a complete discussion of the topic. I hope to write more on the subject, and I might even do a short story describing a battle, and then write a post describing the tactics used by the combatants. Anyway, keep your eyes peeled.

Science Fiction and the Tactics and Maneuvering of Space Combat
Somehow, the creators of science fiction ship-to-ship combat confused or mixed traditional sail-era naval combat with their space battle scenes. Of course, one of the worse offenders is anime creators, namely Leiji Matsumoto. His Space Cruiser Yamato and Captain Harlock both liberally use the "boardside" to unleash all manner of sci-fi weaponry pornography on the enemy. And yes, it does look cool. but it is a lie I emailed the author and asked him about mass media and hard science space battles: "The 'Hornblower in Space' trope does seem to be prevalent, and although it has been done well, i.e. the Honor Harrington books, is always a bit of a letdown.  Seems to be most common in visual media, perhaps simply because it is the most dramatic of ways to depict a 'big gun' battle in a soft scifi 'Verse. As far as I know there are no real had scifi space combat scenes in any movie ever made, and only very few in written work, most of which tend to focus on that strategic rather than tactical aspects.  It is something that needs to be fixed, but Hollywood does not seem interested"

Next Time on FWS...
The world of tactical military shooter video games changed in 1998 with the release of the hard-edged shooter game: RAINBOW SIX. This game was one of the first major releases for Tom Clancy's Red Storm Entertainment, and it was unlike any game on the market, before or since. Join us next time, when FWS will be exploring and explaining the forgotten classic that is 1998's RAINBOW SIX


  1. Wow, really interesting, and new guest on blog... I think your blog will became a new Atomic Rockets, but easier to read for someone not after physics studies ;)

  2. The credit for this blogpost goes all to Moran. Atomic Rockets is an epic site that is the standard...FWS just hoping to be the source for MSF topics....and I suck at physics

    1. I am good in physics enough to know 1/2 what is on Atomic Rockets ;D, and my biggest problem is: what is the difference between electromagnetic and magnetic field, and what is transferring these forces :/ And i have an idea for Our Enemies blogpost, maybe not MSF at all, but really popular, The Zombies. I just like the zombie apocalypse theme =D
      And sorry for my English :(

    2. Awwhhh, my comment look like written by 5 year child

    3. Electromagnetic and magnetic fields are essentially the same thing, typically the distinction lies in what is generating the field. The field generated by a permanent magnet would likely be referred to as magnetic, while an electromagnetic field would be generated by an electrically charged object. As far as what exactly transfers the forces, there are numerous theories but nothing is known for sure.

    4. Thank you for answer, well... It is not that hard. It is strange that we don't know what trasfers these forces, when we are using it in many devices, maybe when we will discover that magic particle or something, it will make easier things like thermonuclear torch drives or something...

  3. I'd like to point out that broadside engagements are *not* an unlikely occurrence. While arranging the main battery of any given warship to concentrate fire in a forward arc does allow you to present a significantly smaller target silhouette, it also vastly limits evasive maneuvering.

    This is, obviously, bad.

    Given that it's not unreasonable to design the main battery so that it can fire both forward and to a given "side" of the ship with most of the ship's firepower in that direction (especially under certain technical/engineering configurations of laser weapons), then fighting broadside-on is actually advantageous, as it increases the number and magnitude of evasive maneuvers that can be made.

    Certainly it does limit the *direction* of evasion- a ship that's prow on will have an evasion zone that's roughly spherical, whilst one that is broadside-on will be evading into an exponentially curved cone "shape", with the tip of the cone aligned on the axis of travel. However, I don't consider this to be much of a problem, since the chief issue with prow-on combat is that you end up being required to fly *straight into* the enemy.

    Which rather defeats the purpose of evasion in the first place, it would seem.

    All that said, broadside engagements in popular fiction tend to depict fleets that appear to be moving at relative velocities that are either zero or near-zero. This, of course, is inaccurate.

    Truthfully speaking, however, part of my bias is due to the fact that while spinal mounts are incredibly awesome, they are also insufferably inflexible and impractical.

    Even assuming a battery composed of turrets that can fire forward, it's of more use to approach on a broadside-on trajectory (preferably with a highly acute or oblique angle), as this reduces exposure to counterfire (mainly by increasing the potential target volume that you occupy via evasive action), and also potentially reduces time and risk of engagement if you're doing a high-speed pass of the target.

    If you rely heavily on kinetics that themselves require high relative impact velocity, this can be potentially detrimental, at which point the tradeoff is "do I go for a head-on strike that greatly increases potential damage to both the enemy and myself, or do I go for a much more angled pass that reduces risk to me, but will not inflict as much damage". Which actually sounds like a potential point of dramatic tension for a story...

    That may, however, be due to the fact that a certain well-known franchise relies almost entirely on spinal mount kinetics...

    1. I respectfully disagree with you on the concept of "broadside" weapon batteries. The spinal mount makes far more sense, especially with high-powered kinetic energy weapons, as the axis that recoil forces apply stress to the structure is the same, more or less, as the thrust axis. This reduces the structural mass needed for the ships frame to maintain its integrity even while firing massively powerful weaponry, and also allows the main engine to easily compensate for any change in angular momentum that the weapons recoil would generate. The recoil from broadside weapons would twist and turn the ship in all directions upon firing, which would require input from the reaction control systems just for the ship to maintain its heading, let alone carry out basic maneuvers.

      The inflexibility of a spinal mount is compensated for by the fact that a ship can fly through space at any orientation. While it's true that velocity alterations and maneuvers would necessitate moving the nose off target, the direction wouldn't have to change for more than a few degrees over a matter of seconds: the ranges in space combat are so great, at least initially, that small changes in heading can result in great changes in trajectory, at least relative to an object on a similar opposing trajectory. This is obviously an advantage best suited to deep space combat, but still applies in orbit.

      Additionally a spinal mounted weapon doesn't necessarily have to fire straight ahead, if within the last few meters of the barrel there were magnetic fields that would alter the projectiles trajectory slightly. Not much, but for battles at stupendous ranges would be all that was necessary to compensate for any orientation changes caused by combat maneuvers. If carefully controlled, this could also increase the accuracy of dumbfire munitions and make them an effective but cheaper alternative to guided munitions when used against targets with limited maneuverability, such as space stations and asteroids. Of course the weapon not firing straight ahead would change its heading slightly, but the amount would be small when compared to non-centerline mounts.

      Having multiple turrets spread out over the hull wouldn't necessarily provide an advantage even in rate of fire: in wet navy warfare, the introduction of breech loaded artillery greatly reduced the number of cannons carried while still allowing a similar rate of fire, with lower mass, crew, and maintenence requirements. Obviously the biggest limiting factor for both advanced kinetic energy weapons and for combat in vacuum is heat generation, and multiple weapons might seem to enjoy an advantage at first, but once they all heat up they will be limited by their ability to transport heat away from the barrel, the same as a single, larger weapon. When the added mass of all the redundant components of all the inividual weapons and their mounts, especially if they're are mounted on turrets, if that same mass and complexity were added back to the cooling system on a single spinal mounted weapon this would likely either negate the multiple gun advantage or possibly allow the single gun an even higher rate of fire.

    2. Laser directed energy weapons, however, are a different matter altogether. You could have a single beam generator and simply "pipe" the laser throughout the ship using a series of mirrors and lenses. This could allow the ship to fire in any direction using the same laser, just through different apertures. Redundant apertures would also be useful in the event of battle damage or mechanical malfunction, and as they don't have to be hardened against intense recoil forces the mass penalty for the turret/flexible mount are much lower. When you take into consideration the large diameter aperture that would be necessary for combat at ranges approaching a light-second, possibly several tens of meters across each, it might seem like the increased surface area of a broadside mount would lend itself well to use of laser DEWs. However being mounted on a turret, the laser apertures could very well fire in almost any direction, regardless of the ships orientation. In addition, when you consider that a laser requires dwell time to pierce an armored target, you'll find that the best way to reduce damage taken from a laser weapon (you can't outrun it) is by imparting a slight spin to your vessel, changing or reversing rotational velocity every couple of seconds to keep the enemies targeting computers guessing. Rotating around an axis offset from the center line of the vessel would likely be the best method, and this can be accomplished with control moment gyroscopes: no propellant need be expended.

       When spinning a broadside oriented ship, at first the increased surface area seems beneficial by being able to spread the energy out over a wider area. However if the spinal mount ship were to have a long tapered cone forming a frontal armored outer hull, this increases the effective surface area the laser is striking at a given time and drastically decreases it's burn rate: the spot the laser is shining on is no longer perpendicular to the beam, and at extreme angles the spot becomes much, much larger. You could easily demonstrate this for yourself with any off the shelf laser pointer and a flat surface by examining the spot size and changing the angle and direction of the pointer itself. Obviously a spinal mount would allow a ship to use much more extreme angles to get the most out of this advantage. In addition, a front oriented ship offers much more material to burn through as your cutting into the long axis of the ship, and by putting critical hardware towards the rear would allow the ship greater survivability, in theory at least. Of course this also means that virtually every critical component could be reached eventually, simply by firing into the ships nose, given a long enough time frame. A broadside oriented ship would be quicker to pierce all the way through, but the odds of knocking out a critical component with one shot are likely lower.

      While some people might argue that armoring a ship against such powerful weaponry would be an excersise in futility, and it is certainly possible a single full power shot could totally obliterate a ship one also has to consider the use of point defenses, and that a projectile that is damaged and broken up into many small pieces would be much more manageable to defeat with armor. Just consider meteorites passing through the atmosphere: little ones aren't a problem, big ones can be devastating.

      Finally another thing to consider is precision: a spinal mounted weapon would be much more solid and in theory, accurate and durable. The flexible nature of a turrets mount means that there are a lot more considerations that have to be made to keep the weapon precise. Guided munitions would of course limit this disadvantage, but dumbfire kinetics would almost certainly remain in use for certain roles as they are much cheaper, and a spinal mount would lend itself well to their use.

      Had to split my comment into two parts, that's probably the internet giving me a tl;dr warning.

    3. A long (and well-reasoned) reply, so I'll probably have to take this in pieces. Part the 1st:

      "The spinal mount makes far more sense, especially with high-powered kinetic energy weapons"

      The main issue I take with this is that it presupposes that kinetics are inherently superior. Considering the velocities involved in space warfare, if you're able to sling kinetics at something resembling a useful velocity (minimum 100s of km/s, IMO), then you're better off using a laser or particle beam to increase your hitratio and long range accuracy.

      This is, incidentally, my main issue with the Mass Effect franchise's handwaving of laser ineffectiveness. Considering that ME fields effect mass, and particles have mass, and you can use a particle accelerator as a beam generator for a laser cannon... I have a hard time understanding how, in-setting, nobody has figured that out and built dreadnoughts with a bunch of laser turrets fed by a central beam corridor.

      "The inflexibility of a spinal mount is compensated for by the fact that a ship can fly through space at any orientation."

      Fair enough; however I still contend the ability to direct fire at significantly off-axis angles to your direction of travel *when accelerating* is far more advantageous than you seem to think.

      Small changes in heading do result in significant trajectory changes, but the issue of a spinal combatant is that the potential evasive volume is just not nearly as big as that of a broadside combatant; the broadside fighter might have an arguably more "predictable" evasive pattern, but considering that it ends up being a gigantic flared cone, rather than a smaller sphere... I'd rather be in the giant cone myself, since there's just a lot more area to try to cover.

      "Additionally a spinal mounted weapon doesn't necessarily have to fire straight ahead, if within the last few meters of the barrel there were magnetic fields that would alter the projectiles trajectory slightly."

      This *would* work for a particle beam, but a slugthrower? Not so much; it would have too much momentum built-up, AFAIK, for this to be viable. It also presupposes the use of ferrous slugs, requiring a coilgun launch. What if the technology is reliant upon conductive slugs punched out of a railgun? The magnetic fields don't help in the slightest, unless your slugs are not only conductive but also ferromagnetic.

      Which seems like an overly expensive slug, IMO, when it'd (probably) be easier to just make a basic inert slug with a conductive coating.

      "Having multiple turrets spread out over the hull wouldn't necessarily provide an advantage even in rate of fire"

      That's not really the goal of having a bunch of turrets, IMO; rather, it's all about redundancy. A spinal mount might be harder to scrag, but once it's gone, then the ship is effectively mission killed, and might in fact be completely dead in the void and filled with corpses rather than spacemen that get to eventually go home.

      Turrets allow for a ship to be "mission killed" from an armament perspective, and still run away like a scared little girl- discretion is the better part of valor, I believe the saying goes.

      "Laser directed energy weapons, however, are a different matter altogether. You could have a single beam generator and simply "pipe" the laser throughout the ship using a series of mirrors and lenses."

      This lends laser armaments very nicely to a turreted approach, too. And again, the main emphasis of multiple turrets is less "maximum RoF" and more "redundancy". Particularly in the case of lasers, where it's entirely possible to scrag even a mighty spinal mount by nailing the lens- it'll tend to do bad things to not only the lens/mirror, but also the delicate internal optics.

    4. Part the 2nd:

      "When you take into consideration the large diameter aperture that would be necessary for combat at ranges approaching a light-second, possibly several tens of meters across each,"

      This is by far not a given- assuming I did the math right some 5 or 6 years ago, then for a beam in the near-UV range, you can actually squeeze an ~6" spot size at 1000 km using a 2.5 meter wide aperture. Going into extreme UV bands, you can an ~3 meter spot size at 1 light second.

      Which sounds ridiculous, but when you consider that that's still quite phenomenal accuracy at such ranges...

      It's also the case that lasers don't preclude combat at shorter ranges than light second+.

      I'd also like to point out that the further up the optical spectrum you go (extreme UV into x-ray), the more desirable a smaller aperture actually becomes. This is due to the requirements of mirror design to work with the x-/gamma-ray spectrums, wherein the laser weapons end up looking less like gigantic mirrors and more like skinny artillery cannons.

      " In addition, when you consider that a laser requires dwell time to pierce an armored target,"

      Not necessarily; a laser could be designed to fire a pulsetrain within a half-second or less. This would, in fact, be a far more optimal design to penetrate armor as well, though there are some additional hurdles to overcome.

      "you'll find that the best way to reduce damage taken from a laser weapon (...) is by imparting a slight spin to your vessel, changing or reversing rotational velocity every couple of seconds"

      I'd honestly say that if this is a viable countermeasure then missiles are probably the dominant weapon system, and lasers/kinetics are reserved for defensive fire and close engagement (in space terms). The other issue is that that's going to be a very remass intensive maneuver, to constantly change rate and potentially direction of longitudinal spin.

      Being very cynical, that actually seems like a great way to waste remass and have to retreat early or even surrender to the enemy so that you don't end up stuck in the "deep black", as it were.

      "Rotating around an axis offset from the center line of the vessel would likely be the best method,"

      And also a great way to never be able to bring your spinal mount to bear on the enemy. Seems a tad counterproductive to me.

      "and this can be accomplished with control moment gyroscopes: no propellant need be expended."

      Must be some really big gyros then... I can't help but think you could have carried other things that would be much more useful instead, like missiles or more kinetic rounds or some kind of open-cycle coolant to boost laser refire rate, or maybe additional remass or even just more endurance-related stores.

      "When spinning a broadside oriented ship, at first the increased surface area seems beneficial by being able to spread the energy out over a wider area."

      You say this and then never follow up on it. Why is it a supposed benefit, rather than being a technique that is equally effective for both spinal mount and broadside fighters?

      "However if the spinal mount ship were to have a long tapered cone forming a frontal armored outer hull,"

      I don't see why the turret/broadside fighter can't use the same hull plan. Turrets on a spacecraft really are intended to be expendable redundancies (IMHO), so that it's impossible to mission kill the ship's offensive capabilities with a single hit.

      What happens, after all, if a laser bolt manages to strike the muzzle of the spinal mount? The spinal gun will likely be sufficiently damaged that it is no longer safe for the crew to attempt to fire it- especially if it's a coil/railgun, as the coils/rails are likely to be packing enough juice that they might very well explode if shot.

    5. Part the 3rd (and final):

      "Obviously a spinal mount would allow a ship to use much more extreme angles to get the most out of this advantage."

      I don't really see how a ship armed with turrets instead of a spinal mount can't take the same advantage.

      "In addition, a front oriented ship offers much more material to burn through as your cutting into the long axis of the ship, and by putting critical hardware towards the rear would allow the ship greater survivability, in theory at least."

      True enough; however, the flaw I see is that the spinal mount provides a potential risk of a "lucky" shot getting deep into a ship's interior *without* having to go through all the armor.

      "A broadside oriented ship would be quicker to pierce all the way through, but the odds of knocking out a critical component with one shot are likely lower."

      The main issue, however, is actually hitting the broadside ship. As I've mentioned, the potential volume that evasive maneuvers can take a ship into within a given timeframe will end up being significantly larger for a ship that's fighting broadside-on (resembling a flared cone), as opposed to the smaller, spherical volume of a prow-on vessel.

      "Finally another thing to consider is precision: a spinal mounted weapon would be much more solid and in theory, accurate and durable."

      For kinetics, and particle beams? I'd certainly agree on the accuracy mark. For lasers... I'm not so sure. Yes, a lot of the issues of turrets is that there's simply a lot more to compensate for, but with a laser it's a lot easier to simply compensate via RoF and basically spraying down a volume with laserfire. Heat is as always a concern, but the issues of recoil, shell/slug loading times, and/or in the case of particle beams 'space charge', are all things lasers do not have to worry about.

      As far as durability... in terms of how easy it is to completely destroy and emplacement, sure, a spinal mount is "tougher". In terms of how easy it is to mission kill a weapon system? I'd actually rate turrets as being more 'durable', purely because turrets would offer multiple redundant emplacements.

      "but dumbfire kinetics would almost certainly remain in use for certain roles as they are much cheaper, and a spinal mount would lend itself well to their use."

      I disagree as to the optimal path for deployment of cheap dumbfire kinetics- if you really want cheap and easy, then a bunch of inert solid fuel chemfuel boosters with the shiny equivalent of a rock on the front would be much better.

      Sure, on a per-shot basis it's more expensive, and it's a little more complex to manufacture and store than a totally inert kinetic slug that's fired from a rail/coilgun... but it also needs a significantly less complicated and heavy launching system. If you're really desperate, you could potentially push chemfuel booster kinetics out of an airlock (assuming it fits, of course) or a hull breach (assuming anyone is alive to push the rockets out...).

      Such a round doesn't need to be guided- though it could be (assuming it is economical to do so). Of course, since you were referring specifically to dumbfire rounds, I'll assume it's not... but in the end, it doesn't much matter.

      A railgun with slugs is nice, and the ammunition is cheap, simple, and "safe"... but chemfuel booster rockets are also cheap, simple, and "safe". Perhaps a little less so than a railgun *slug*, but probably quite a bit more than a railgun *emplacement*.

    6. What some might not realise is that the direction of travel and orientation of the craft don't have to be the same in space combat.
      Space Above & Beyond and Babylon 5 both had several dogfight scenes where the ships would spin around using vectoring thusters to bring weapons to bear, while the ships conitnue on their original course.
      This really means that spinal mounts aren't really the "shoot only in direction of travel" weapon that one would initially presume, the whole ship could be spun around while continuing in a straight line and the main weapon brought to bear on a target.
      Possibly more practical with DEW, but it might work to some extent with KE weapons as well.

    7. I fully realize that direction of travel and axis of fire for a vessel with a spinal mount are not automatically the same thing. However, a spinal mount generally requires the entire ship to be pointed at whatever you want to shoot at.

      Which means that you end up closing the gap if you fire up your mains while also firing the spinal mount. Which is probably not a good idea. Even a horrifically expensive torch missile is still cheaper than sending home letters that start "We deeply regret...".

      The other issue is, again, that of redundancy. Turrets offer fantastic redundancy- especially so if you use a central laser engine that pipes through one or more beam corridors to fire through a turret emplacement.

      Realistically, the only DEW that's better as a spinal mount would be a linear particle accelerator cannon. Cyclotron/synchrotron type particle accelerators are too heavy to be practical on a spaceship, and unguided, unboosted kinetics are unlikely to have a practical velocity to be effective lethal weapons.

      Lasers are better mounted as a turret battery fed by a central laser engine, as this not only provides redundancy, but even allows you to retain full firepower up until such point as the last turret is destroyed.

    8. Been busy in my personal life, and it seems this thread has been busy too. 

      As far as the superiority of spinal mount kinetics, in order to generate a useful velocity an extremely large accelerator would be required, and to mount one on a turret would likely require extreme engineering on a vessel that would very likely be prohibitively large and expensive. A spinal mounted magnetic accelerator could be thought of less as a warship and more as a mobile artillery piece, operating in batteries and coordinating their fire. Space is vast and expensive, not to mention pointless, to patrol with an armed warship when drones have already been proven to be more than capable of the task of exploration. It is a far more likely scenario that individual task forces would be stationed around valuable infrastructure and dispatched as necessary, with automated craft filling in the gaps. The reason I mention this is that mission killing one ship would accomplish very little, as fleet actions themselves intrinsically offer a degree of compartmentilization. So having one ship, or even a fleet, with redundent, yet much less powerful weapons (as would be necessary to mount multiple units on turrets) would likely find themselves withered by the superior kinetics of opposing vessels using spinal mounts. But, as you said this presupposes that kinetics will be the primary weapon system, an assumption that in my opinion relies largely on the effectiveness of lasers in the point defense role.

      I noticed that hole in the tech of the Mass Effect universe as well, and while it is possible to stop photons with gravity, it requires the gravitation pull of a black hole. And if that kind of technology were available, why wouldn't you just use your gravitics to open a wormhole and send the laser beam somewhere far away? I mean as long as we're talking magic-tech and everything. But, I digress...

      Now that I have thought about it some more, the main advantage to the maneuverability of a broadside-oriented vessel, and you may have alluded to this without actually stating it, is that the broadside vessel has the advantage of having his main drive perpendicular to his enemies line of fire. This provides maximum potential for movement, (the main drive being necessarily far more powerful than any RCS thrusters) relatively speaking, when compared to its enemies field of fire. This, however, presupposes that maneuverability will actually be a factor at all in determining the outcome of battles. Lasers may be very effective, which really can't be totally out maneuvered, or cheap guided kinetics with hardened electronics that rarely miss and have enough delta-v to stay on target.

      Altering the magnetic field could be used to make small, incremental changes to a coilgun slugs trajectory, more of just a way to enhance precision than actually assist with gross aiming ability.

      Your point of a spinal mount weapon being destroyed and having the hole ship die along with it assumes a ship that contains the weapon within the habitat module. Which is grossly impractical yet very common in most science fiction. More than likely habitat modules would comprise a very small volume tucked away in some well protected corner, minimizing collateral damage should critical components be destroyed.

      I will be the first to admit I do advocate the use of laser apertures mounted on turrets, it allows for the generator to be protected inside the hull (spinal mount, anyone?) And the apertures, the vulnerable points, be redundant. But lasers are not kinetics...

    9. My own designs often use laser apertures of differing diameters: smaller, more numerous turrets for up close and personal and larger ones for precise, long range fire. And while it is true that the effective size for a laser aperture firing in vacuum may be more reasonable than I have been led to believe, it still remains that a smaller spot size will lead to a higher burn rate. How much faster would remain to be seen, however, when all factors are taken into consideration.

      Ultraviolet lasers would certainly be of extreme usefulness in vacuum, worthless for shooting through an atmosphere as the air would ionize and sap power from the beam at an alarming rate. Perhaps enough to actually reduce the range when compared to an extreme-visible frequency beam when shooting at low angles through upper fringes of an atmosphere (as would be likely in orbital combat) and would certainly be detrimental if carrying out bombardment from orbit through an atmosphere.

      X ray lasers as is typically understood require the use of low angle reflectors and those do in fact resemble more traditional artillery weapons versus, say, a camera or satellite dish, but that doesn't mean the have small objective diameters. The objectives are simply small relative to the length of the reflectors, the weapons themselves are many times more larger and more massive than those designed for longer frequencies. Also shorter frequency beam generators tend to be more power hungry than others, although I'm not sure if this is necessarily a function of the frequency alteration itself or a simple reduction in efficiency.

      It is well known that lasers fired in a pulsed fashion would outperform continuous wave beams in armor penetration, as it allows the outgassing material from the ablated material to clear out before attempting to carve out a deeper hole. However ablative armor, designed to increase the amount of outgassing material, could easily force the attacking laser beam to spread out its pulses even more to be effective, requiring even longer dwell time.

      The rotational maneuver I advocate is slow, and really only changes enough to keep an enemy computer from concentrating for too long at extreme ranges. I don't believe that this would be used as an alternative to effective armor, rather as a method to maximize it's effectiveness. A computerized fire control system would be synced to the RCS systems and would first stabilize the craft and then fire, without greatly changing it's trajectory, similar to how modern tanks can fire on the move over rough terrain.

      Both ships could make use of angled armor, this is true, but the amount of exposed surface area on a broadside ship would be compensated at least partially by the fact that a spinal mount can utilize more extreme angles by the simple fact that the armor runs along the longest axis of the ship, allowing it the greatest degree of taper, forcing the beams spot to cover a larger area.

      One could use trapdoors or possibly even plasma windows to help defend the spinal mount against lasers, it's also worth noting that the internals on a coilgun could be laid out so that a laser would simply pass between the coils without actually striking them, either striking the projectile or rear of the firing chamber. Railguns have tighter internal dimensions, but when considering the length of the firing chambers and the necessarily low angle of an effective laser beam, (as well as the heat-rejection capabilities required of the internals) I don't see this as being too much of an issue.

    10. Your point on chemical rockets being the best source for cheap kinetics in space is one I agree with, to a certain extent. Their simplicity and availability could make for some extremely interesting assymetrical warfare tactics, but for sustained bombardment more traditional guns are generally considered superior. This is the logic behind the US Navies railgun project, allow for cheaper long range bombardment of targets costing less money per shot, even after the cost of the weapon itself is factored in. One of the main reasons the Iowa class battleships were retired as bombardment platforms was because their effective ranges were very limited, several times shorter than that of the guided missile cruisers that "replaced" them, but their sustained bombardment capabilites have been utilized since they were retired, when their target is sufficiently close to deep enough waters.

      Back to cheap dumbfire kinetics, missiles would likely be a replacement for railgun turrets, rather than spinal mounts. A spinal mount could be used to launch missiles, allowing them a much higher terminal velocity, and while smaller emplacements could very well do the same thing their final velocities would be lower (due to the reduced size necessary to fit on a turret) making them less appealing when compared to simply increasing the quantity or delta v of regular missiles. Missiles allow for even more redundency than turrets (chain explosions notwithstanding), a theoretically higher rate of fire (as they could possibly all be released at once) and they carry their own heat away from the ship.

      However one thing that is far more difficult to consider is the engineering constraints that a warship may be subjected to. Any reaction engine powerful enough to be practical will likely be very massive, and certain designs such as a deep plasma focus fusion rocket are very, very long. This length may be enough to make combat maneuvers totally futile, or it may simply preclude the ship from adding a spinal mount in front of the drive. One could offset the spinal mount, losing some of its advantages, but then isolating the magnetic fields used by a coilgun or railgun from those of the drive becomes an issue. So one could look at turrets, or perhaps even fixed broadside guns like an age of sail man o' war. Or missiles.

      There are so many factors going into all aspects of a warship design it would be very easy to justify building a ship of either type and do so convincingly. It's hard to go wrong when so much is debatable, as long as you ask yourself the right questions and make changes accordingly either layout could work.

      One of my older ship designs actually has the engine and the main gun pointing the same direction. I'll give you a hint, they're both the same thing. A giant spinal mount coilgun used for both locomotion and attack, capable of firing out of either end, a two headed monster of sorts. The more you think about it, the more it actually makes sense.

    11. Part 1; Ah, so many replies! It's like lunchtime, only instead of a sandwich it's words.

      In any case, to business.

      "As far as the superiority of spinal mount kinetics, in order to generate a useful velocity an extremely large accelerator would be required, and to mount one on a turret would likely require extreme engineering on a vessel that would very likely be prohibitively large and expensive."

      Depends on what useful velocity is though. More than that, IMO, is that it depends on what the assumptions regarding the role of unguided or limited-guidance kinetics in space warfare. An excellent treatment of this is John Lumpkin's novels "Through Struggle the Stars" and "The Desert of Stars"; briefly, the US and many NATO forces' doctrine is that kinetics are unlikely to actually hit the enemy, but can be used to create "terrain" in space. In contrast, dedicated spinal mounts are used by other nations (notably an older Russian-origin vessel) as a primary anti-ship weapon.

      "A spinal mounted magnetic accelerator could be thought of less as a warship and more as a mobile artillery piece, operating in batteries and coordinating their fire."

      True, but I think that this touches more on doctrine, both strategic and tactical, than technical assumptions. It does provide an interesting look into what could be a very radically different treatment of space warfare- I've seen it mentioned somewhere that a "battle constellation" of various warships could be thought of more as a massive mobile fortification rather than a collection of ships.

      "The reason I mention this is that mission killing one ship would accomplish very little, as fleet actions themselves intrinsically offer a degree of compartmentalization."

      Depends on the scale of a fleet action, and whether or not a ship would be more likely to encounter a single opponent or multiple attackers/defenders. But that's getting quite a bit further into meta assumptions.

      "So having one ship, or even a fleet, with redundant, yet much less powerful weapons (as would be necessary to mount multiple units on turrets) would likely find themselves withered by the superior kinetics of opposing vessels using spinal mounts."

      See above. Also worth noting that this presumes that both parties are of equal maneuver capability. It might be that turret combatants can manage better maneuver functionality. If this is via superior thrust and/or delta-V, then the turret combatants can pretty much run away whenever they please- and at the same time, they can pursue the spinal combatants until the latter reaches the point of "surrender or suffocate/cook/starve".

      "Now that I have thought about it some more, the main advantage to the maneuverability of a broadside-oriented vessel, and you may have alluded to this without actually stating it, is that the broadside vessel has the advantage of having his main drive perpendicular to his enemies line of fire."

      No, I'm pretty sure I actually stated that. I mean, not quite so plainly, I admit, but I did specifically state that a turret combatant that's firing broadside has a flared cone/trumpet shape volume where it could be, and that such a volume is going to be significantly larger than the spinal combatant that's fighting prow-on and will have a spherical volume of maneuver.

      "This, however, presupposes that maneuverability will actually be a factor at all in determining the outcome of battles."

      True, but it's also the case that maneuver is likely to be important, insofar as requiring the enemy to canvas increasingly large volumes of space in weapons fire. This causes a dispersion of enemy fire such that it's possible that you won't be hit at all, or at the very least will take more minimal damage.

      OTOH, that also relies on the assumption that a single hit will not be so powerful as to mission-kill a ship. YMMV, I suppose.

    12. Part 2:

      "Lasers may be very effective, which really can't be totally out maneuvered, or cheap guided kinetics with hardened electronics that rarely miss and have enough delta-v to stay on target."

      Well... lasers may not be able to be outmaneuvered in the traditional sense, but if you possess a maneuver advantage over your opponent (either/both more thrust or more delta-V), then you can open up the range such that your opponent's lasers are rendered ineffective. Alternately, you could run away entirely, or blitz the enemy in a close range slugfest.

      Missiles that rarely miss also ultimately presupposes that you can take a spaceship drive and squeeze it into a missile. This isn't a given (though this could be because of writers not thinking about it), particularly since many potential drive systems do have a minimum size.
      "Altering the magnetic field could be used to make small, incremental changes to a coilgun slugs trajectory, more of just a way to enhance precision than actually assist with gross aiming ability. "

      Hmm... still seems unlikely, IMHO. Either the precision benefits will be negligible, or impossible, I think. Also, an alternative would be to design the spinal weapon as being built in an internally flexible mount- the cavity would be roughly cone-shaped, with the tip coinciding with the muzzle of the weapon.

      Both options have significant engineering problems, and I would argue that the cost/benefit of *both* is not in favor of the benefit side.

      The other issue is, however, that IIRC/AFAIK the main benefit of a coilgun would really be in assisted-launching big heavy things.

      "Your point of a spinal mount weapon being destroyed and having the hole ship die along with it assumes a ship that contains the weapon within the habitat module."

      It's less about the weapon and habitat being contained in the same volume, and more about a shot into a spinal mount being able to completely bypass the armor belt and get to whatever delicate bits are inside the ship.

      Whether those delicate bits are meatbag crewmembers, circuitboards, or a fusion plant, is down to the particular design.

      This also relies on a ship that is, by your own description, a flying artillery piece, requiring a crew. A ship of such overly specialized usage is better served as literally being a heavy weapon with an engine, remass tankage, and FCS package strapped to it. Which also means that it would be an ultimately expendable asset... which in turn means it's unlikely to see much protection, relying primarily on distance to be armor instead of actual armor.

      Not a bad idea, actually. Just very very specific.

      "Which is grossly impractical yet very common in most science fiction. More than likely habitat modules would comprise a very small volume tucked away in some well protected corner, minimizing collateral damage should critical components be destroyed. "

      It's common in most works since it helps build dramatic tension, IMO.

      OTOH, this touches on the above comment about flying artillery weapons. There's little reason to put a habitat module on most direct action combat spacecraft in the first place *anyways*, due primarily to the fact that there's not a whole lot such a vehicle does other than blow its analogues up.

      Which ironically makes the crewed ships the spacegoing equivalent of the Coast Guard. Go Coasties, I guess.

      "And while it is true that the effective size for a laser aperture firing in vacuum may be more reasonable than I have been led to believe, it still remains that a smaller spot size will lead to a higher burn rate."

      Wavelength counts for a lot, IMO. Going to a shorter wavelength allows improved performance within the same size package.

    13. Part 3 (wow this is going to be long):

      "Ultraviolet lasers would [...], worthless for shooting through an atmosphere"

      This presumes two things:
      1) There is something in an atmospheric environment worth shooting at.
      2) That lasers are the preferred/optimal bombardment weapon.

      The first is a meta assumption, so I'm not going to bother with it- whether or not planetary targets exist and are desirable to fire on is entirely up to the author.

      For the second, I'd contend that kinetics are a vastly more efficient bombardment weapon than a laser.

      "X ray lasers as is typically understood require the use of low angle reflectors and those do in fact resemble more traditional artillery weapons versus, say, a camera or satellite dish, but that doesn't mean the have small objective diameters."

      Perhaps not... but I do think it telling that they can get away with a smaller objective diameter (in theory, at least) than longer wavelengths.

      "Also shorter frequency beam generators tend to be more power hungry than others, although I'm not sure if this is necessarily a function of the frequency alteration itself or a simple reduction in efficiency."

      Probably an efficiency issue with the hardware we currently use. A Free Electron Laser (or FEL) can theoretically lase in the extreme-UV and X-ray spectrums, and is itself potentially capable of an 80% efficiency (IIRC)- meaning that only 20% of the energy inputted is dumped as waste heat.

      Of course, 20% of a few terawatts is still enough energy to potentially vaporize ridiculous amounts of ship, so this is a bit of YMMV.

      "However ablative armor, designed to increase the amount of outgassing material, could easily force the attacking laser beam to spread out its pulses even more to be effective, requiring even longer dwell time."

      A lot of ME fans like to play up the awesomeness of ablative armor, but none of them ever really realize its' greatest flaw; namely, that ablative armor only really works *once*.

      Ablative armor, IMO, just means that you take a little longer to die. It doesn't really change the fact that it kills you, and the difference it introduces might not be particularly appreciable on human timescales.

      Of course, whether or not a human timescale matters....

      "The rotational maneuver I advocate is slow, and really only changes enough to keep an enemy computer from concentrating for too long at extreme ranges."

      Well, I see two problems here. First, a pulsetrain is going to be striking so fast as to effectively appear to be a single hit. Second, it also assumes that a heat-ray style weapon can't be directed to strike the same spot on a very slowly rotating target.

      There's also the issue of what this does to any meatbag crew present. Introducing what is basically very weak spin gravity, on a separate axis as the thrust gravity, is probably a bad idea.

      "...spinal mount can utilize more extreme angles by the simple fact that the armor runs along the longest axis of the ship, allowing it the greatest degree of taper,..."

      I'm not sure why that changes anything; a ship armed with turret weapons doesn't have to fight directly broadside on, after all. It's part of why a turret battery is vastly superior to a spinal mount IMO- you *can* fight prow on, and unlike a spinal mount, you can also fight broadside on *while under thrust*.

      All it really takes is some "clever" turret arrangements.

      "One could use trapdoors or possibly even plasma windows to help defend the spinal mount against lasers,"

      I'd consider both of those to be overly complex solutions. There's also the issue that it's entirely reasonable to set up a laser cannon so that it can zap an enemy *laser* the moment the shutters start quivering open.

      Given that lasers have a much shorter response time, as it were, I doubt that at trapdoor/plasma window is going to help an electric cannon that much.

    14. Part four and final:

      "it's also worth noting that the internals on a coilgun could be laid out so that a laser would simply pass between the coils without actually striking them,"

      This assumes a perfectly aligned shot. More likely is that there'll be some angle variance involved, even if only minor, that the coils could be struck.

      It also assumes that a strike against the internal containment chamber would produce no damage, rather than possible rupturing the barrel in catastrophic fashion. The barrel "sleeve" of a coilgun is likely going to be used to contain the projectile and keep it properly lined up (most coilguns actually house the coils on the barrel exterior), or if the coils are exposed to the internal barrel space, then the barrel sleeve is probably EM containment to keep the coils from affecting the rest of the ship.

      A rupture in either case is bad.

      "Railguns have tighter internal dimensions, but when considering the length of the firing chambers and the necessarily low angle of an effective laser beam"

      A railgun bore could be exactly the same size as a coilgun bore- it all depends more on the desired diameter of the projectiles in question. In fact, I can think of a compelling argument where in a railgun would have a larger bore- it requires a conductive sabot to propel the slug, and the slugs are the same size as coilgun rounds in order to maintain munition commonality and simplify logistics.

      Also, keep in mind that this particular scenario doesn't require the beam to go the entire length of the weapon to mission-kill the *weapon*. If a portion of the rail is slagged or otherwise damaged, then firing the weapon will likely pose an extreme danger to the ship.

      "as well as the heat-rejection capabilities required of the internals"

      Timeframes in this case are important- a laser pulsetrain is going to be dumping thermal energy far faster than a conductive rail will be able to handle; the reason why carbon or boron composites are desirable anti-laser armor is because the heat of *vaporization* of these materials is significantly higher than most contemporary options (this is in relation to their mass, however, since every gram counts on a spacecraft).

      "Your point on chemical rockets being the best source for cheap kinetics in space is one I agree with, to a certain extent. [...] but for sustained bombardment more traditional guns are generally considered superior."

      Well, I would also contend that any purely orbital engagement will not include sustained bombardment, and doing so against a surface target is overkill unless your objective is to kill everything on the surface.

      "Missiles allow for even more redundency than turrets (chain explosions notwithstanding)"

      This kind of assumes that the warhead is explosive and that both warhead and propellant are themselves highly volatile.

      For a cheap kinetic missile, it'd most likely be a solid-fuel booster with an extra-dense/-heavy nosecone, functioning as a sort of ship-sized Gyrojet weapon.

      "There are so many factors going into all aspects of a warship design it would be very easy to justify building a ship of either type and do so convincingly. It's hard to go wrong when so much is debatable, as long as you ask yourself the right questions and make changes accordingly either layout could work."

      Hence why many of these factors are very "meta" dependent. An old phrase I've seen about it is that it's a Purple vs Green debate, because it depends entirely on going-in assumptions.

      I realize that I didn't touch on a lot of the dumbfire kinetic bombardment, but I think that my comment about sustained bombardment not being particularly relevant in space-to-space conditions, or being very objective-specific in space-to-surface conditions, covered my view of that reasonably well.

    15. I think the main point of contention between our viewpoints are differences in our estimations of the capabilities of advanced ships' drives, and our understandings of the "landscape" of space and it's relationship to combat.

      For a ship to have the capability of either "running away" or "chasing down his foe", this has absolutely nothing to do with maneuverability. This has much, much more to do with the ships total delta v, it's ability to change its velocity rather than its ability to execute "combat maneuvers". You see, the more reaction mass or fuel a ship carries negatively effects it's ability to initiate changes to its relative position, or "maneuver" as it were. So a ship with enough reaction mass to cancel out its vector and take on another one, and then cancel out that vector when necessary is going to be carrying much, much more reaction mass, likely 2 or 3 times the amount needed for a simple point A to B trajectory. So the more massive ship would require greater input to execute any form of maneuver, making it slower to react and cutting deeper into its total delta v budget. A ships maneuverability is actually a function of thrust, from both its main drive and reaction control systems. Engines providing greater thrust typically do so at the cost of efficiency, as such their total delta v is reduced relative to a lower thrust equivalent. A more maneuverable ship would most likely have reduced maximum velocity, while a "faster" ship would be less agile. Even a drive with a variable specific impulse would be subject to these restrictions, perhaps even moreso, as a drive optimized for one particular output level is almost certain to outperform a more versatile engine operating at a similar output. For a ship to be more maneuverable, or to have a greater total range requires tradeoffs in one area or the other.

      So how does this relate to spinal mount versus broadside? I do agree that the broadside gets the most out of using the ships main drive, which is in all likelihood much more powerful and efficient than the reaction control thrusters. This is a definite advantage, but suggesting that this advantage would allow the broadside combatant to control the where the battle takes place is a gross over estimation of the advantage this provides. If the broadside ship is traveling towards the spinal mount ship and is maneuvering to avoid enemy fire, he is merely changing his position relative to his initial vector: he would have had much, much more time to put on his initial velocity on his original trajectory before initiating combat and would require a large amount time and/ or fuel to make any major changes, and even at lower speeds where the vector is easier to change this doesn't factor in the variable of the enemy ships own trajectory and velocity. The spinal mount ship does lag behind in maneuverability, other things such as RCS being equal, but this discrepancy will likely have little effect on the outcome of battles, because the ships will likely be moving at high relative speeds on intercept trajectories, not sitting still relative to each other. The distances are so vast that any maneuvers will have only a slight effect on the total landscape of the battle. It won't matter much if you can change your relative position by even a couple thousand miles, when you're still flying towards an enemy that has a range of tens of thousands of miles. Initial vectors taken before the onset of active hostilities will be the main contributing factor to the final location of combatants, when using realistic drives and physics.

    16. My point here is that maneuverability has less of an effect on the ability to control the tide and location of battle than you let on, when all things are considered. Maneuverability affects a targets ability to dodge incoming ordnance, and little more than that. Outmaneuvering a guided kinetic energy weapon, or rather a swarm of them will likely be futile, regardless of if the missiles are powered by solid fuel rockets or fusion torches: it's based on the capability of the projectile to alter it's relative position with RCS, assuming high closing velocities and not the stationary combat seen in most science fiction. A missile or guided coilgun slug will likely be a piece of tungsten or similar material covering the nose, making it hard to blast to pieces with lasers. It would require no habitat, minimal structure and support equipment, just a big rock, some simple electronics, and a few guidance rockets and fuel. It would be much more efficient to maneuver than a warship, and could likely match any maneuvers the opposing ship within a certain, likely quite generous engagement window. Sure, you could blind it's guidance systems, but if it's appropriately configured it could simply get its homing information from other projectiles with their own active guidance systems, drones, or even its origin ship. If the kinetics cannot be blinded, then they must be vaporized or deflected, requiring large amounts of input energy, as well as time, averted away from actually attacking the enemy ship and focusing on defense, to keeping your own ship functional. My justification for a larger and more powerful spinal mounted coilgun is that it allows for either higher velocities, or perhaps more usefully higher projectile masses: more delta v for maneuvering, or more mass for soaking up laser energy, or even the ability to deploy submunitions or decoys as force multipliers. Higher velocity slugs have the advantage of closing the vast distances slightly faster and providing less of an opportunity to be deflected or destroyed. While a broadside ship using its main drive could perhaps put on enough thrust to evade missiles launched early in the engagement, the enemy could simply seed the area in front of him with more kinetics, given his predictable and limited trajectory, ensuring that at least several projectiles will pose a threat and force a different reaction.

      As far as scenarios where relative velocities are low, the battles could become ones of attrition: kinetics cause less damage at lower closing velocities and the engagement will likely last longer. Lasers begin to look more appealing as they don't require "ammunition" in a traditional sense, and it could be more acceptable to sustain a few hits from kinetic energy weapons in order to give some back. This would really boil down to luck, who hits a critical system first and mission kills the opposition. Even in this scenario, the higher practical velocities of the spinal mount increases it's likelihood of a one-hit kill, and thus making targeting of its slugs by point defenses a higher priority.

      This creates a scenario where the kinetics versus laser argument gets truly interesting, do you focus on the enemy ship with your lasers, and risk kinetics getting through? Or do you focus on defense and letting the distances close and hope to have enough offensive capability to counterattack at shorter ranges. Turret ships could possibly have a close range advantage, but they would have to survive hell to take advantage of it. Another interesting scenario is what happens when both sides fire kinetics and they pass by each other? Do the slugs/missiles try to dodge each other and continue on to their targets, or take on a defensive role and destroy deflect or disable the other sides kinetics? This makes it very likely a ship would carry many projectile types, with some special purpose rounds mixed in with solid slugs.

    17. Now onto part two, the "landscape" of space combat. The things that are to be considered here are, obviously, the proximity of all massive bodies and their strategic importance. If there isn't anything of strategic importance, it's highly unlikely anything will actually be fought over and the story would be quite dull. The point you made where you questioned the validity of orbital bombardment actually having any targets worth attacking truly mystified me: attacking a planet surface in support of an invasion, destroying enemy infrastructure, cutting off their resources, all of these would be of far more importance to winning a war than destroying a couple of combat vessels. The locations of strategic assets would be responsible for the presence and position of military units in the first place. As far as what to use for bombardment? Kinetics have a greater impact on targets, true enough. Guns can sustain a bombardment longer than missiles, but not as long as lasers (assuming a nuclear electric laser that only requires energy input). I would suggest using a mixture of all. Sudden attacks on specific priority targets with missiles, bombardment of strategic positions using kinetics, followed by sustained, and likely more precise, laser fire.

      While the idea of simply shelling a populated area seems like a war crime to our modern sensibilities, this is because the wars fought in our times have been largely unpopular, and the "win at all costs" mindset has been suspended in favor of a "hearts and minds" agenda. In truth, a war in space, especially one between planets, would be extremely expensive and be handled with much more seriousness and ruthlessness than our modern campaigns. Both sides would have to represent serious mutual threats, and both sides would have to feel they had a reasonable chance of winning. If we were talking about an invasion scenario, the motivation of the defensive side would be obvious, defense of the homeland. For the invading side, in all likelihood they would lose the morale battle unless having previously faced naked aggression from the defenders, giving them a sense of moral superiority. With motivations such as these, extreme measures seem both justified and necessary, and orbital bombardment would be utilized just as strategic bombing Europe was in WW2, although hopefully with greater precision and less collateral damage.

      Fighting for planets, moons, asteroids or even space station would all have very similar doctrines for "space to space" battles. The attacker puts himself on a course that enables him to fire upon his primary target. The defender mobilizes his force to intercept the attacker. More than likely they will try to minimize collateral damage by placing the intercept point, where the battle will take place, well away from any infrastructure. The defender will need enough fuel to return to a base or station of some sort, and as this is presumably his territory will likely have several options. If he let's his target pass, the attacker will likely reach his initial target and eliminate it, completing his mission. The attacker not only has to survive and carry out his mission, but also be able to return to friendly space when he's finished. More than likely requiring more fuel, which means maneuverability will likely be on his opponents side. This would likely necessitate the attacker holding off on taking action until he has a larger force or similar advantage, enhancing his odds for success. Unless of courss time was of the essence, then he's likely screwed. The defender will always have to be in the same place to defend his objective, and cannot dictate when the battle will take place, giving him a disadvantage unless he takes a risk and attacks first.

    18. My point is that a realistic space battle isn't going to be two ships meeting each other in deep space to fight it out and see who's better. Space is so vast that two opposing ships even encountering each other is unlikely unless they share a common "landmark" that they both frequent. Battles not occurring in deep space does not greatly reduce the engagement ranges or velocities, as interplanetary distances are still great enough. However this doesn't entirely rule out low velocity short range battles. The exact nature of the battle will rely on who is going where, and where they are coming from, and where their courses intercept. And these are dependent on strategic assets in the area. To throw in another variable, one could consider it unlikely that two warships would ever meet in combat if large defensive space stations or moon/asteroid bases were used. Instead of fighting an enemy that is more or less your equal, you would be fighting against a much tougher target with better firepower, but also with minimal maneuver capability, for whatever that is worth. They could readily defend a single position, perhaps better than even an entire fleet of spacecraft as their trajectories are very consistent and the enemy could not simply "fly by", surviving their onslaught and destroying their target successfully. The attacker would be vulnerable for the entire duration of his assault, if the defensive station were close enough to his objective, giving the defender a distinct advantage by shortening his enemies window of attack.

      The types of battles that take place will be subject to factors beyond just spinal mount versus turrets, or a question of whether or not bombardment will be necessary. It's entirely possible to design a role that caters to any type of ship design you see fit, and really there is no right or wrong way of doing it if all factors are considered because, as a previous commentor stated, technological development is unpredictable. Maybe lasers are more effective than kinetics at long range, but for short range turret mounted kinetics provide the best solution. Maybe not. I have designed a situation where lasers and kinetics are both used extensively, for multiple purposes. This allows me to justify tailoring the outcome of a particular battle to suit one side or the other, because the sheer number of factors taken into consideration make battles highly unpredictable. If lasers become the dominant weapons, then those factors are reduced considerably and it mostly comes down to who has the better lasers. Plus you would be limited to which types of badass technology you could justify using, having both more or less equal allows you to have your laser cake and eat it sitting on the barrel of your railgun too.

      My setting favors spinal mounts, for their raw power. Maneuvering factors in very little, more for avoiding debris from slagged ships and missiles/slugs with dead electronics than actually outmaneuvering actively guided munitions, as this is considered mostly futile. If you want broadside ships, or turret ships, it's your setting, and you can do with it what you will. With the amount of thought you have obviously put into your configurations, you'll have no problem justifying them and would likely make for a hell of a good read.

      As far as the other particulars, such as bore size differences between railguns and coilguns and the like, that would be another long string of comments and I'm tired. Maybe at a later date.

    19. Damn, I didn't post these where I wanted to. Plus it seems I went off on a bit of a tangent. Oh well, I'm too tired to try and fix it.

    20. Sleep has proven elusive. Might as well pick out a couple of your points and present my counter arguments.

      I have read Lumpkins "Through Struggle, the Stars" and while I enjoyed it, have not yet picked up the sequel. Still, I am familiar with the "terrain" in space idea so that concept has not been lost on me.

      The maneuverability of broadside versus the power of spinal could become a potential storyline, with the broadside ships having less powerful kinetic offense but, due to having greater defensive capacity through their movement, could focus less weapons fire into incoming kinetics and target the enemies themselves. Then again, focusing more power into the drive could counter this advantage completely.

      Altering the magnetic field to make incremental changes in point of aim is unlikely and probably impractical, but it is just an idea I had. More than likely it won't be used at all.

      Bypassing the armor belt was a concern of mine, and the weapons, kinetics and lasers alike, are all protected by armored shutters that open a split second before firing. The enemy also has shutters of his own, and while he could sit and wait on the main gun hatch to open, that would entail leaving his own open to minimize his reaction time, and in turn be vulnerable to counter-laser fire against his optics. More than likely, it would be similar to playing whack a mole only with people's lives at stake.

      As to the relation between bore size and electromagnetic weapon tech, it can go either way. Coilguns traditionally do not need to contact the projectile in order to accelerate it, and like railguns many utilize an armature that holds the projectile. However advanced railguns, particularly those operating at very high velocities use plasma armatures, so physical contact need not be made, so I guess railguns don't necessarily need a larger bore either, except perhaps at the breech end where initial acceleration and electrification of the projectile takes place. My assumption was based that one technology requires some form of contact for conduction to take place, and the other does not. Also coilguns and possibly even railguns could be and likely would be compartmentalized, or rather, staged. Having multiple independent stages would be a significant engineering hurdle, but could optimize acceleration of the projectile and provide some resistance to battle damage, although you would lose some velocity for every stage that was disabled. As long as there wasn't current passing through at the time the damage was sustained, explosions are unlikely. If there is current, well that's likely it for that weapon system.

      Timeframes are important when dealing with lasers, but during and after firing the railgun chamber would be filled with plasma discharging from the bore, so the split second between the shutter opening and the projectile leaving is your only opportunity. Even if you did make it through an empty bore and did minimal damage to the coils/rails, basically a dead straight-on shot, the only thing at the back of the chamber is the radiation shield for the reactor on my design. Good luck damaging that thing.

      My reason for having habitats on these crafts comes down to politics, rather than pragmatism. Drone strikes cause ugly PR problems, because people, for some (irrational) reason, prefer missiles used on civilian populations be fired from a plane with a pilot close by, rather than far away piloting by remote. I'm not sure why it's drone strike themselves being protested and not necessarily the way they are used, but I digress. People have an opposition to semi autonomous machines being used for killing each other (other than missiles), so by that logic, or lack thereof, meatbags are placed in a tin can strapped to a billion dollar cannon and sent to the meat grinder or furnace, depending on what kills them.

    21. Lasers do benefit from shorter wavelengths, but technology hurdles abound, particularly with far UV and beyond. Free electron lasers are certainly interesting, but for one to ever even approach 80% efficiency, well the pessimist in me says anything above 50% would be considered excellent, even centuries into the future.

      Ablative armor only works once, it's true. Just like most other armor. If you hit in the same spot multiple times on practically anything you'll make it through eventually. My own armor plates are composite, with layers of carbon nanotube embedded boron ceramics, silicon ablatives, and flexible carbon nanoweaves, organized into thick plates with occasional thin layers of vacuum seperating them. Basically a super-material whipple shield. Expensive, yes, but any civilization with widespread enough populations in space to justify a military presence will have access to tremendous amounts of resources, even rare ones like boron. High hardness, tensile strength, heat of vaporization and ablation should all coalesce to provide the best all around protection possible.

      The spin gravity effect wouldn't likely be much of an issue, as the crew would be minimal, and strapped into systems designed to dampen any outside motions and keep things stable.

      The point that I make about the optimized geometry for a prow-on vessel would certainly work on a turret equipped vessel, but  my point is wouldn't that totally eliminate the maneuverability advantage? If your turrets are facing forward most of the time, why even have them on turrets at all? I suppose it gives the vessel more options as to how to engage it's targets, but a jack of all trades is a master of none. Optimized configurations would likely prevail.

      My point on chain explosions is the propellant exposing, I agree kinetic energy penetrators are the way to go. The scenario I alluded to depends mostly on how the missiles are stacked together, i suppose. Nose-to-tail, the dense nose would likely offer some degree of protection. Side-by-side, on the other hand, could be ugly.

      Wow, I am really stretching out this comment thread.

    22. Proofreading after posting. So many mistakes. On railguns, I meant they do not necessarily need a smaller bore to make contact and energize the projectile.

      I would also add in that my ablative armor and rotation, as well as the possibility of high heat conductivity or capacity materials could all be used together to reduce the effectiveness of lasers. Nothing can stop them totally, but slowing them down could be enough.

      Also, when I mentioned the high angle prow on design, the drop in maneuverability I alluded to was versus a broadside ship, if I didn't make that clear.

    23. So, I'm going to try very hard to keep my reply to a single post, because this is getting a bit hard for me to handle how the massive walls of text we're throwing about. Everything is well thought out, by far, though.

      RE: Space terrain and Maneuver Power

      There are a few concepts that provide both high thrust and high efficiency. Zubrin's Nuclear Saltwater Rocket (though it's not clear if it would really work), and more notoriously, the Orion Drive. I believe a few antimatter-based drives also fall under this category. It's also the case that even many "hard" SF stories postulate a sort of Magic Fusion Torch that provides both high thrust and efficiency. Magic Torches are something like FTL drives- it's just a conceit of the genre.

      You also seem to be assuming that both parties are using the same propulsion system, which isn't a given. A ship designed to fight prow-on, and one designed to fight primarily broadside-on, will probably be optimized in very different directions.

      It's also the case that I certainly recognize that more delta-v does require more remass storage, but it is simultaneously the case that any high-thrust, low-efficiency drive will be carrying lots of remass by default. I'd also like to point out that remass tankage can be used as radiation shielding and even habitat shielding as well.

      A minor detail to keep in mind is that if one party has better delta-V, then before they engage they can choose to commit or run away, and if the latter, they can successfully do so, no matter what the opposition does. Once committed, it's realistically the case that it'll be a proverbial Thunderdome- two go in, one leaves.

      Also, it looks like Purple vs Green is definitely rearing its' head- maneuver power is so dependent on the assumptions made regarding propulsion technology, after all.

      RE: Validity of Orbital Bombardment

      Ortillery becomes irrelevant if any and/or all desirable assets are in space.

      Planetary surfaces holding desirable/useful infrastructure should never be assumed- while many settings do work under this assumption, and quite well, it's not an automatic one. That said, the most likely scenario is that strategically valuable targets are distributed between various orbital and surface structures.

      RE: Bombardment and Modern Opinion

      I'd say that that has more to do with the fact that WW2 was the last total war that we've ever fought. The Cold War turning hot would have been a total war, but there was also a tacit admission of the participants that that would be really really bad.

    24. It turns out I failed. I did split it around the middle though, so that should help readability a little.

      RE: The Cost of War in the Void

      Why hello there Purple vs Green!

      If spacelift is cheap (or unnecessary because everything important is already in space), then that changes the economics of war quite a bit. Also depends on where exactly a war is taking place- if you're going between two habs in orbit of the same thing, it's probably very cheap and only a 3rd-party with a much bigger stick is likely to keep the situation stable.

      Even two habs in orbit of different bodies are going to be fairly cheap to go between- it's just going to take longer (long enough, and it may no longer be desirable to wage war).

      RE: Lumpkin's Novels

      I highly recommend the sequel. I'd also recommend Joshua Dalzelle's Black Fleet Trilogy as well, if only because I find it excellent mil-SF.

      RE: Drones and Weapons

      People want other people in control of those weapons because an autonomous drone pulling the trigger brings up a really tangled mess of "who's fault is it when a bunch of civilians are murdered". Or maybe it's due to the ridiculous idea that the machines will try to kill us when they get to be as smart as us.

      Maybe it's just the fact that there's a built-in block for most people regarding killing each other, and a machine designed for war would never have such a block.

      RE: Turret Layout Design

      Turrets offer better flexibility if they can point both forward and broadside. If you primarily use lasers, there's also no reason not to use turrets.

      RE: Optimal Ordnance for Blood in the Void

      I actually lean more towards lasers and missiles, particularly if torch missiles are possible. IMO the "optimal" laser warhead would be a cluster-charge of bomb-pumped x- or gamma-ray spectrum lasing rods.

    25. Minor clarification of last point: what I mean is that the optimal torch missile warhead (IMHO) is that of several nuclear charges pumping an equivalent number of lasing rods, to produce a "blast-pulse" in the x-ray or gamma-ray spectrum.

      I do admit, however, that I seem to have an unusual fascination with particle beam weapons, despite their severe range limitations.

    26. If magic tech torches are available, it's very likely that everyone would be using more or less the same drives, since that level of technology would be hard to beat. It's possible that whoever developed it first would be an unrivaled force to be reckoned with for years after, until everyone else catches up. Or steals the plans and builds their own. It is possible for two well developed space forces to have drives that do not perform equally well, but this really only works in a more or less peaceful setting: in a setting filled with small independent conflicts, the discrepancies would by noticed by analysts and attempts to remedy these issues would be made.

      I doubt the prow-on ship and the broadside ship would have large differences in their main drives, they would both have their drives facing the same direction and would accelerate and brake in much the same ways. Their approach to combat and maneuver capabilities are the only differences, which may lead to changes in RCS thrusters but the main drives would work equally well for gross movement.

      Remass can be useful for many things, but still adds a great amount of mass. Personally I advocate the use of disposable drop tanks, with the ship itself carrying only enough fuel to slow down upon arrival, plus plenty of surplus for whatever maneuvers or course corrections may be necessary. Also a contingency plan in the form of a minimal delta-v route back to allied lines would be useful for worst case scenarios, and while this would open up the possibility of "pursuits" happening it would still likely require the other ship to refuel and rearm, and would probably unfold over a time frame of days or weeks.

      Bombardment with dumbfire kinetics can still apply to moons and asteroids, even space stations. Anything with a particularly predictable trajectory can be hit easily with dumbfires, but deflection becomes an increasingly viable counter to this type of ordnance.

      As far as orbital bombardment, this does assume something on a planet worth attacking. But given our (admittedly limited) knowledge of planetary bodies, the scarcest, and possibly most valuable resource in space will in all likelihood be habitable real estate. Not space stations, but planets with comfortable levels of gravity and breathable atmosohere, which is necessary for a civilization to expand and survive. Even if the worlds have to be terraformed they are still likely to be worth the tremendous cost, given a long enough timescale. While a new colony world would have precious little infrastructure highly valuable to any occupiers, it could still be useful to launch precision strikes against any military assets that may be present. On an older, developed colony it would be easier to justify more widespread bombardment as infrastructure would be more spread out and easier to replace.

    27. Cheap space lift is indeed a major contributer to the validity of any space program, but that doesn't necessarily mean military assets would be cheap. Even if constructed almost entirely from asteroids or material harvested from moons, the complexity of the weapons, electronics, drives, and a thousand other components would mean that even a modular mass produced warship wouldn't be cheap, just look at the cost of modern military assets, adjust for inflation, then add in the complications of constructed load-bearing structures in zero gravity. Honestly if you want a space mercenary setting with cheap highly available warships, your best bet is to either use converted civilian spacecraft or privately owned shipyards building death machines for any warlord or despot with a surplus of cash. Government funded programs are simply too inefficient to ever create something as "cheap" as the private sector is capable of, because if the private sector fails they just go out of business and disappear. If they succeed, they do so economically with added innovation and market driven business models.

      My point about drones is just the silliness of the whole situation. Someone gives the order to strike a civilian population, someone else hits the button or pulls the trigger, the chain of command is quite clear. It has been muddled by politicians so they can carry out questionable attacks and spread the blame around. Also the disconnect created by the distance between the drone pilot and his target almost certainly makes it easy to pull the trigger. But how is a drone any more an automated death machine than a missile? Or even a bullet or arrow for that matter? Humans still make the decisions.

      As far as self aware machines go, ill agree with you on the ridiculousness of that trope. Any machine that is programmed to carry out a task then begins to act outside it's parameters will be decommissioned and destroyed because it is broken. Computers as we know them are not capable of spontaneity of thought, thus cannot act outside their basic programming (except those caused by outside influence or simple glitches).

      I agree with you on laser turrets, if I haven't made that clear. It's kinetics where I favor spinal or otherwise rigid mounts.

      Nuke-pumped lasers are definitely an awesome weapon, but their main limitations are for one, political. Nukes are ugly. Even in space where the fallout and radiation don't cause any real environmental damage there's still a stigma that exists. An irrational one, I'll admit, but it does exist. Two, detonating a nuke in space, or operating a nuclear drive, or using a nuclear bomb pumped laser all require heavy radiation shielding or distance, or a combination of both. There is no atmosphere to absorb ionizing radiation, so a bomb pumped laser would have to be carried well clear of the ship before firing, or detonated behind the radiation shield as in an Orion-type craft. This isn't a huge issue, but it does place limitations on the weapon. It would likely be heavier and more expensive than simpler kinetics and likely less precise than traditional lasers (that is conjecture on my part, it just seems harder to aim with certainty). This limits bomb pumped lasers to a "medium range" role, in my opinion: too inaccurate for long range, risk of collateral damage at short ranges. Still a potentially powerful weapon that I have included in several settings.

    28. I understand your fascination with particle beams, I used to share it. Still do, to a lesser degree however. To me their limitation in atmosphere is less an issue of range and more one of an unpredictable ionization path making the beam path as consistent as a lightning bolt. Of course when paired with a laser to pre-ionize a beam path, then things get interesting. While still shorter ranged than a laser due to the atmosphere sucking away its energy, it would likely have a quicker response time than regular kinetics and greater impact effects on the target compared to lasers. It also has the potential to completely fry unshielded electronics. In vacuum, the limitations lie in the electrostatic repulsion between the particles in the beam and the influence of local magnetic fields. It would be a damn shame if you fired off your particle beam only to have it arc around and strike another member of your fleet. Remember that your ships will in all likelihood be bristling with electrically charged components and magnetic fields, complicating the beams path and possibly affecting it's accuracy. These factors are possible to engineer around, possibly by sending out a "pilot beam" to get a feel for its trajectory or even just by careful mapping and monitoring of all outside influences.

      Or, you could overcome these limitations with a neutral particle beam, which is a design nightmare of its own. My "be all, end all" weapon system for my most advanced settings is a neutron beam, created by carefully controlled tritium/deuterium fusion, which results in emitting a neutron travelling at approximately 8.7% the speed of light. The beam is further coalesced by low angle boron reflectors, similar to what would be required for an x-ray laser: long and skinny, with relatively narrow diameter. It would be slower than a laser, but still fast enough to be impossible to dodge and very difficult to effectively defend against with armor. Free neutrons have a half life of about 10 minutes, which means that the beam will still have 90% of its initial strength at 2 million miles, meaning it's range limitations are more a function of the emitters ability to coalesce the beam than anything else. The only real counter to this system are x-ray lasers, but in my setting these are large and unwieldy and used primarily in stationary mounts or capital ships.

      As far as trying to reign in these many long winded responses, I've simply given up. Obviously people are taking the time to read them, it's flattering really.

    29. Another point to add in on particle beams, even a charged beam that has lost its focus due to propulsion can deliver a lethal pulse of radiation. If the lethality is delayed, however, and pictures are taken of a crew vomiting blood and dying in agony, well that looks very bad and could be classed as a war crime. I would expect focus radiation weaponry to have very clear and strict rules of engagement, or perhaps be banned altogether. The concept of banning this potentially devastating weapon type could give mercenaries or pirates an advantage over regular militaries, not being subject to treaties themselves. Just another idea for potential plots or settings.

    30. With these additional thoughts, we hit 60 comments. I feel like most of them are mine....

      Honestly, so much of this debate is subjective to what the author wants to do. A thought that I just had relates to this. Think about the majority of spacecraft in fiction with extremely powerful and versatile FTL systems. Halo, Battlestar Galactica, just to name a couple, their FTL drives allow them to disappear one place and reappear at another seemingly at a whim. If you can FTL anywhere you want to, why even have a main drive? You could just use docking thrusters on most craft, and maneuver thrusters on military vessels, main drives would become obsolete as you could just jump wherever you wanted to.

      In order to justify having main engines, your FTL has to be restricted in some way. Mass Effect uses the mass relay systems, so the Normandy has to use its main engines to travel there (IIRC the Normandy used antimatter engines, every time it docks somewhere the thought of all those gamma rays burning everyone in sight makes me cringe a little). Lumpkins novels use wormholes, other works use jump points. All accomplish the same thing, necessitating traditional, familiar layouts to the ships engine systems. One could still have a decent hard sci fi setting with virtually unrestricted FTL, as long as they consider the repercussions of this tech. Most of the vessels in Halo have main rearward-facing engines, despite being shown to jump practically anywhere, even deep inside a planets gravity well and atmosphere. Spongey soft sci fi right there, and even if you consider the Frigates being shown to "fly" through the atmosphere (suspended by invisible magic) I would say, why? Why bother flying through an atmosphere when you have bombardment capabilites from orbit and all your troop/equipment transport needs can be fulfilled by dropships?

      IMHO, the main difference between hard and soft sci fi is less dependent on the advancement level of the technology they use, rather it is the authors focus on the repercussions those technologies have on the universe they exist in. If you fill in all the major holes and gloss over the small ones, only then you can maintain suspension of disbelief. At least that's my thoughts on the subject.

      Honestly, the biggest issue that my various settings are having right now relates to my FTL. It's been bothering me so much I've actually considered not using it, and have some interesting ideas for working around those limitations. I will likely end up with a more classic sci fi setting with space battles and even, far into the future, aliens, with another setting that is much harder with a minimum of handwavium and magic-tech.

      As of right now I'm debating between two particular technologies, the first being "jump points" with on-station FTL drives that a ship need only dock with, or at least stay within its event horizon, to perform a jump to another system. The second prospective technology is that of massive dedicated "jump ships", those with on-board FTL that can travel nearly anywhere and carry a fleet along with them. The first method helps create "choke points" of strategic importance, and the second largely avoids them. I'm considering all things, wormhole generation, gravitics, extradimensional travel, and keep finding myself dissatisfied with what I come up with. I keep finding myself coming up with similar technologies as Lumpkin uses in his novels, with small, mostly cosmetic alterations. A stabilized wormhole would likely require less energy input to maintain than constantly opening and closing one, plus the energy required for creation/stabilization of remote wormholes would likely require the portable power of antimatter, which makes initiation of exotic fusion reactions easier, in theory, at least. I don't want to rip the guy of, but his work is very well thought out and I keep finding myself following similar trains of thought.

    31. Lots of great points, but a couple in particular jump out at me:

      RE: Magic Torches

      Not everybody is guaranteed to use the same drives, even if said drives are the best available- economics will play a pretty big part in that regard.

      RE: Orbital-to-Orbital Bombardment

      My point was more about sustained bombardment than anything else. "Bombarding" a habitat of some sort will really be a case of threatening to put a bigass hole in it, and if they surrender/obey, you don't. If not... well.

      In any case, I was more thinking that the strategically desirable targets would themselves be confined primarily to man-made artificial structures, and so you'd engage them more like they're (for the moment) stationary ships.

      There's also the issue that most artificial structures IN SPACE! will be fairly fragile, so bombardment would likely be counterproductive at best.

      RE: Machines Acting Outside their Programming

      Some people will want to design machines that are capable of doing this. It's not a bad thing mind, given that it's basically a big experiment of "can we artificially create something as smart as a human", and that's an interesting question (doomed to failure, IMO, though).

      The issue I take is that popular fiction on the subject is generally built on the premise that any robot we make as smart as ourselves, will automatically decide that we're unnecessary and then try and kill us.

      Which is stupid. If it's about resources, then *why* does it even want the same resources that we do? I mean, take the Matrix- it'd be much simpler for them to use *anything* other than human bodies for their power supply. The alternate proposal that the filmmakers tossed around, IIRC, was that the machines used human meatbags brains as supplementary hard(wet?)ware.

      Which is halfway-to-making-sense, rather than completely idiotic.

      RE: Turrets and Different Guns

      I suppose the point of contention, then, is that I don't much see the point in kinetic *gunnery* for the most part, as an offensive weapon. It just ends up taking too much work, IMO, to get the slugs moving fast enough to matter- in reference to time-on-target and practical accuracy, mind, definitely not lethality.

      RE: Bomb-pumped Lasers

      IMO, the reasons you brought up are precisely why it would be a missile payload. It nicely solves the "don't set if off too close" and "what about accuracy" problems.

      In regards to the political situation regarding nuclear ordnance, that's definitely a consideration for most near-future or "Plausible Mid-Future" works (or what might happen IRL), but for a more 'out-there' approach, it tends to fall by the wayside.

      At least, for dedicated military craft.

      RE: Particle Beam Guns

      The idea is that it doesn't need to punch through armor to kill things; secondary braking radiation is bad stuff. Basically pseudo-EMP plus neutron bomb effects. I'll also note that my main idea for particle beam ordnance is as a space-to-space weapon.

      I'm also reasonably certain that a particle beam will not be effected too badly by ambient magnetic fields- if only because such things tend to be a well-known quantity.

      RE: Go-anywhere From-anywhere FTL drives

      The more cynical point is why do these civilizations still exist, given the potential for immediate, unstoppable alpha-strikes with planet-destroying ordnance.

      RE: SSV Normandy and Antimatter drives

      Honestly, I personally think Bioware failed at building a well-thought out setting with their ME franchise. Mostly because of biotics, but generally the angle of "it'll be hard science because we'll explain stuff" just so totally fails that it's basically a case of "I suspend disbelief because the game is entertaining".

      Don't even get me started on the idiotic "The Captain is your family dysfunction counselor" shtick.

    32. It is true that not everyone will use the same drives, but my point is that if there is a big performance discrepancy between the two, most likely the person with the better engine will win. Even so, I don't see how this is an issue because in discussing the merits of spinal vs broadside mounts we must assume all other things are equal, otherwise the added variables will invalidate the results.

      It's true that capturing bases in space would be more useful than destroying them, but when you consider the possibility strikes into well-defended enemy territory, the complexities of transferring troops between an attacking spacecraft and the station, as well as the logistics of maintaining added infrastructure will more than likely make simply blowing stuff up not only have a higher success rate, but also be more economical in the short-term (long term doesn't matter if you lose).

      That objects in space would be fragile is not a given, considering the dangers of micrometeorite impacts and radiation. It would be possible for people to economically build massive structures in space using resources already in orbit. As a matter of fact, I would consider it very likely that any military installation would be built underground, in asteroids or moons, giving them both protection and a degree of camouflage.

      When you consider that a war between man and machines would cost both sides greatly, it makes considerably more sense for the machines to simply leave mankind behind. Space is much more habitable to machines than it is to people, as our fledgling space programs have shown innumerable times, so why would they risk conflict when they could simple find somewhere else to occupy? They would have infinite solar power, reduced wear and tear via microgravity conditions, and are not (as) affected by radiation, vaccum, muscle atrophy, bone decalcification, etc.

      The factor that I'm using in my settings to justify use of kinetics is primarily the increased hitting power, as well as a way to occupy a ships laser systems to prolong battles into becoming more than just a long distance eye-gouging contest, as battles between laser ships would likely be. It also increases dramatic tension, as mutually assured destruction remains a distinct possibility.

      I never considered bomb pumped lasers for anything other than missile use, the accuracy I speak of is a question of the effectiveness of counter-laser fire on the missile before it activates, meaning will it's necessary stand-off zone offer it a reasonable chance to hit effectively before being mission killed by point defenses. The short wavelength of x-rays and gamma rays will at least partially compensate, but are the aiming systems as precise as the adaptive optics on a spacecraft? Seems like a stretch, but close enough to justify going either way, it's really up to the author.

      I think you confuse the FTL I speak of with relativistic weapons. For FTL to work, there has to be some very exotic physics at play, and is not a simple "go really fast" drive. Consider a warp drive, theoretically capable of FTL, this drive circumvents the laws of physics by imparting no added velocity to the ship, rather moving space around it. If it were to strike something while traveling at "full speed", it would have no more kinetic energy than it would sitting still, or at whatever relative velocity it had prior to warping. If they were capable of warping in anywhere, they would still have to deal with the reaction times of laser weapons, and really to justify "planet-killing" you either have to have an excess of habitable planets (unlikley) or war between different species who require radically different environments, which reduces the likelihood of invasion and permanent occupation to near-zero.

    33. I agree, while I love the Mass Effect games and the characters, the dialogue trees really start to bore me in subsequent playthroughs. Not to mention the break in consistency when ruthless Commander Shephard asks self-reliant hardass Miranda about her daddy issues. If Bioware would only implement a way to skip the dialogue on later playthroughs, yet still allow you to unlock all the missions and gain squad mate loyalty. One can hope...

    34. Having done some more thinking about it, perhaps we're all wrong. If maneuverability proves itself to be a deciding factor in battles between spacecraft, then I propose that the most effective hull plan for a warship would be spherical.

      The spherical spacecraft is nothing new, and personally I've never cared for them. As an artist, I find them boring and it's difficult to do anything innovative or exciting with basic geometric shapes, but as a writer I think they offer unique advantages.

      For one, consider maneuverability. Assuming the center of mass is close to the middle of the sphere (this is not a given) then the ship will be able to change its orientation faster, with a lower total velocity input from RCS thrusters or CMGs. This leads to faster response to control inputs and more unpredictable movements to fool the enemy. In addition, one could use fixed kinetic energy weapon mounts, preferably with the recoil axis in line with the center of mass, radiating outward with the capability of alternating fire between mounts by simply rotating the ship. This reduces the extra mass required by mounting the weapons in turrets and potentially allows use of more powerful armaments, while still allowing a level of system redundency. Or you can add turrets nearly anywhere you want, and have an extremely wide field of fire for each as being on a convex structure allows each one to be on a "peak" of sorts, allowing them considerable depression capability on all sides.

      In addition, the cross sectional area representing an enemies potential targeting solution remains the same regardless of the spheres orientation (more or less). So prow-on, or broadside, the visible area remains the same. Versus a traditional office building-style layout, this offers a decrease in exposed surface area compared to a broadside ship, but an increase versus prow-on, for a given mass.

      Now we come to armor. Which may or may not be useful, but still is worth considering. A sphere offers the most internal volume of any shape for a given surface area. This means a spherical armored hull would offer the highest total degree of protection for the least amount of mass (technically a prow-on ship needs only the front to be armored, but you're screwed if enemies approach from multiple vectors). Also, in the event of battle damage, one needs only rotate the ship to protect the damaged section, assuming the ship survived the hit. In addition, spheres are naturally very strong and rigid structures, and if critical components are kept close to the center would always require a laser weapon to burn through the longest axis of the ship in order to cause serious damage.

      Now on to the drawbacks. First off, in order to support the wider structure additional rigid mass is needed. One could argue making the outermost armor sections self-supporting, but then you run the risk of sustaining damage that compromises the structural integrity of your armor, watching it peel away the next time you step on the gas. Not good. Also, you have to deal with the awkwardness of squeezing all of your components, tankage, habitats and everything else into an awkwardly shaped space.

    35. I'll try to keep it short, mostly due to constraints on my end. Also I'm lazy.

      RE: Capture vs Destroy of Space Assets

      I think you and I have fundamentally different views of how coercion works in space warfare. Personally, I subscribe to the model wherein one party provides the choice of destruction or surrender, with surrender stipulating that troops may be placed to enforce surrender... but that the real reason for surrender is that one party can totally destroy the other.

      Of course, I suppose I'm also inherently presuming a highly balkanized (politically speaking) arena, wherein there are numerous 'neutral' parties that can be paid off or coerced into assisting one side over the other.

      RE: Fragility of Space Habs

      Certainly there are *military* targets that would be well-hardened to attack, and major "centers" would likely be well-hardened by dint of being constructed within large asteroids or on various lunar surfaces due to convenience... but I also assume that there are vastly more manufactured habs akin to, say, colony cylinder. Which would very likely be more fragile than an asteroid colony.

      RE: Kinetics vs Lasers

      Fair enough- I would say that kinetics of some variety are likely to be the earliest ship-to-ship ordnance in space, but that eventually lasers would outstrip them. It is also the case that lasers can still produce dramatic tension- but it also probably requires a very different paradigm of... maybe everything? Hmm, that might be interesting to explore at some point.

      RE: FTL-RKV confusion

      Actually I'm speaking of the ability of a go-anywhere from-anywhere FTL drive to be used to conduct ambush attacks against high-value infrastructure... like an enemy homeworld... with zero warning ability.

      Star Wars and Star Trek get around it due to travel limitations and the fact that they do possess early warning systems... and SW has the additional countermeasure of interdictor-type ships and/or installations.

      Halo, though, does not possess early-warning systems beyond "oh noes, slipspace rupture forming right there!"

      It's also the case that killing a civilization is different from killing a planet- and there is the assumption that innately habitable planets are super-valuable and probably-rare (not in the slightest unreasonable, mind). But what happens when, say, posthumans who live in acid soup environments just because they can decide to get into a shooting war with the squishy meatbags who can't live in acid soup.

      They might very well try to bomb each other to oblivion.

      RE: Mass Effect and Daddy-Issues

      Miranda asking for Shephard's help didn't bother me so much- in part I consider it Shephard simply being present and capable of helping (and also of being suckered into helping), while also being a case of Miranda having some degree of respect for Shephard's ability to help.

      That said it was poorly executed, IMO.

      Does remind of the issue, however, regarding the fact that for some reason Cerberus personal do not believe in body armor, and seem to contend that catsuits are far more protective.

      RE: Spherical War Cows (as I saw it expressed once)

      The other issue is that of heat load. With reduced surface area, there's also less room to support heat radiators, and I'm not sure of the viability of a droplet radiator on a spherical platform.

      Otherwise an interesting analysis.

    36. I understand the concept of coercion and it'd usefulness, I think our differences lie in that I am assuming a total warfare situation between more or less equal opponenets, where the defeat of the enemy by any means necessary is the primary goal. In a more balkanized situation, where mutual hostility is commonplace but actual total warfare somewhat rare, I would agree with your view.

      The fragility of a transhab-style cookie cutter space colonies is pretty much a guven, but in all honesty destroying one full of civilians would be a huge PR mess and may not necessarily help your cause. If the civilians housed inside are asteroid or moon miners, or gas harvesters, etc. it would likely be the primary objective to destroy the infrastructure they use to harvest said resources and minimize casualties while still reducing the enemies access to resources.

      Lasers overtaking kinetics could lead to some interesting old-school versus new-school scenarios, with smaller newer fleets engaging larger fleets of obsolete vessels, and also could allow a situation where the use of each type of ships unique manual of arms to fight where it is the strongest and allow even the obsolete vessels to prevail, at least occasionally. It's been done before, compare the F4 phantoms early troubles caused by its missiles-only approach. In some situations even with all that fancy new tech, you still need a gun.

      One could place constraints on their FTL, such as inability to operate to deep inside a gravity well, it's really up to the author how to implement it. It would greatly speed up and intensify the battles, possibly they could be over in minutes or even seconds, but unfortunately would probably be handled mostly by AI, leaving the crew members as mere observers.

      As far as the Cerberus dress code, I believe Ashley once said "I wear armor into battle, not swimwear." Sums it up quite nicely I think.

      IIRC the spherical war cows is from the Rocketpunk Manifesto blog, although I suppose it is possible that they too borrowed it from somewhere else. It's funny you mention heat rejection, I'm wrestling with that problem right now. Fortunately It's unlikely this particular design will require excessive amounts of heat rejection, as it'll either be powered by simple chemical rockets or possibly a solid core nuclear thermal rocket that is deactivated when the craft is not under thrust. Electronics are minimal, as this setting uses appoximately 1950's level tech, so really the only heat rejection required is cooling of the guns and to keep the crew from cooking. This particular craft is actually never meant to leave the orbit of its home planet, the first of its class was built specifically to assault a moon base, and later additional units were built after the occupiers of the moon base began building warships of their own. An arms race in SPAAAAACE!!!!

      Success, kept it constrained to a single post this time.

    37. WRT Lasers vs Kinetics, I suppose that I just hold that lasers are far more generally useful than gun-based kinetics.

      I do think kinetic gunnery has a place, but it will probably be in a much more limited fashion and isn't likely to end up being a primary armament.

      RE: FTL constraints

      Given that FTL is, at present, magic, then whatever constraints are imposed are up to the author (naturally). One thing that I do find interesting is that there aren't very many settings where multiple methods of FTL exist.

      And not of the ME-style "gates+drives" approach, wherein the 'gates' are really just a very large-scale variation of the same methods as the 'drives', but wherein there are two (or more!) fundamentally different FTL systems.

      RE: ME Dress Codes

      I find that quote ironic, because of the fact that I can think of a fanwork of the ME-verse that rather lambasts the Alliance's dress code.

      Ashley might not don swimwear for battle... but it sure seems close, given how form-fitting, flexible, and thin that armor is.

      At least one of the appearance DLCs for ME2 had the decency to provide Miranda with proper armor that looked the part instead of a rubber suit pretending to be armor.

      RE: Spherical War Cows

      Yes, I did indeed take that Rocketpunk Manifesto. This being said, whilst your concept doesn't need enormous amounts of heat rejection equipment, that is due to the technical assumptions.

      A 'far-future' design I once threw together used 4 fusion reactors producing a total of 1 TW of power, with 95% efficiency (for about 50 GW of waste heat). To handle not only the native reactor waste heat, but also any waste heat generated in combat, it used 8 solid-state radiator fins capable of dissipating a total of 80 GW of waste heat, along with a pair of droplet radiators capable of dissipating a total of 292 GW of waste heat.

      Which by any metric is an insane amount of heat, and implies a level of materials engineering beyond what is currently imaginable (AFAIK).

      An earlier and even more insane design used a single fusion plant producing 5 TW (!) of power, and 4 magic fusion torches that had a total thrust power in the high-thrust "combat" mode of almost 11 TW (!). Which is positively *insane*.

      And also indicates that it must either have really robust and capable radiator infrastructure... or it's got a woman chanting in Welsh to deal with the waste heat.

    38. Not to mention an efficiency of 95% being a massively optimistic technical assumption, but of course allowances must be made to enable any kind of space combat, and given a long enough time frame who knows what will be possible. The radiator efficiencies also seem optimistic, although I lost most of my research on that subject some time back and am too lazy to try to find it again. Then again, the higher the efficiency the more free-reign the author has with his ship designs.

      Most of my designs, for which most of my technical details have also been lost (had them saved on a phone for which the charger no longer works, and no backups) assume less optimistic efficiencies for most of my technologies, at least in my midfuture settings. My near future settings are almost totally plausible, with the only real piece of supertechnology being a space elevator, which considering recent breakthroughs in materials science, seems more and more realistic all the time. The downside to this are the tremendous amounts of technical considerations that have to be accounted for, time that could be better spent developing plot, characters, and writing the actual story. Hopefully these will be the last big hurdles to jump through before I actually start the writing process on my most well-developed near future setting, which is long overdue. One day soon, I hope...

      Back to the dress code of ME, really the only characters to never wear sexy form fitting clothing, male or female, are the Krogan. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite thankful for that, but nearly every other alien, except for maybe some aspects of the Turian armor, tend to be quite low mass and slim. But this does fit the story, to some extent at least, due to the reliance on magical force fields for protection and the movement impediments that bulky modern armors inflict upon the wearer. A problem I see with most science fiction is that so many artists design their aliens basically naked, and just throw more or less human clothing styles on them, with only minor cosmetic changes to suit the differing anatomy. Some of my aliens have radically different body types, and as such their clothing must be radically different as well, especially when you consider how the clothes are worn, where they are fastened at, how they are manufactured, what parts to hide and also what bits they like to show off. Since Mass Effect had to form most of their aliens to match the same movement patterns, unfortunate limitations of current technology, the lack of variation is not suprising, if still slightly disappointing.

      Which leads me to my next point. How do Elcor carry and use weapons if they walk on all fours? They mention carriage of the weapons on their backs, but how are they fired? More importantly, how does this affect their development? Humans evolved an erect posture to allow us to carry things with us as we moved, elcore would have to be weaving delicate baskets and making straps to hang things off their backs and chests with fingers that look like hams. Not impossible, i suppose, but still a question anyone designing aliens should ask themselves.

  4. If you like Zombies...you will like FWS next book review.

  5. I intentionally avoided going into the issue of 'spinal' mounts Vs 'broadside' in any depth despite the impact it has on manoeuvring in a tactical sense. It is a complexed debate, with many many pros and cons on both sides of the line, as demonstrated in the comments above. I personally think that it is so dependant on the technology level of the attacker and defender, the combat theatre, and the economic aspects that it is impossible to give a 'right' answer. In the end there is likely to be a compromise, with a fleet having ships designed both around spinal mounts and around broadsides, to suit different conditions or operations.

    Ultimately the only way we can decide these questions - with the exception of an aline invasion :) - is through the use of a tactical space simulator designed around real-world physics. Such a sim would be hugely complexed to create, and require massive processing power if going into the level of detail needed for a conclusive answer - i.e. calculating the exact damage caused by each hit, and the reduction of performance it causes to specific systems. It would be a 'simulation' in all senses of the word.
    Although, while that is not something that we can ever hope to have access to, it is a shame that there are no space combat games that have really focused on realism over all else. I'd try to create one myself if I thought my coding/programming skills were up to it. Even a basic one to calculate the probability of missiles penetrating a given point defines array would be helpful, especially to those of us trying to write SF space combat.

  6. The game Rogue System is attempting to get it mostly right. http://imagespaceinc.com/rogsys/

  7. Well, first point, the one thing to consider with directed energy weapons, and really any unguided weapons system, is the engineering limitations in the weapons aiming mechanisms themselves. Even with a light speed Directed energy weapon, the amount of engineering precision required for a weapons mount designed to hit a target a lightsecond away would be insane. such a mount would also be insanely sensitiveness to damage, or even any vibrations in the ships hull can throw the training and elevation gears for the mount off. Realistically, it is very likely that the practical effective aiming distance with any unguided weapons wouldn't be more than a few thousand kilometers. This problem would also be a big killer with any fixed forward firing weapon system as well, as hitting your target would require incredibly precise maneuvers, plus the ship would be expending a lot more energy aiming the dam thing, than if it was in a turret. Plus a turret mount could stay on track with a maneuvering target a lot better than an axial mounted weapon. This and for other reasons, is the main reason why I consider any fixed forward facing weapon on any ship larger than a fighter to be incredibly impractical.

    But ultimately the limitations of unguided weapons, means that in any real long distance combat, guided weapons will prevail. And its not just missiles that can be guided either. there is no rule that guidance thrusters and sensors cannot be stuck on a rail gun round. Guided artillery is a technology that exists today, and the experimental rail gun has guided rounds in development. So don't tell me that this isn't possible. In fact, i would consider guided railgun rounds to be a lot more efficient than missiles, as the railgun makes the heavy rocket boosters unnecessary, so the rounds will still be a lot smaller than a missile, and its a hell of a lot more efficient than unguided rounds, which, while they may be half the size of the guided one, the engagement range would be a hell of a lot smaller, and even within effective engagement range, you may get one in fifty rounds that may hit. Space heavily favors guided weapons, since a lack of clutter makes high precision sensors much more usable, and fooling guidance systems with decoys is a lot harder to outright impossible. And even if a jammer is used, a HARM like guidance package will till be able to home in on the jamming source. No granted, yeah, guided railgun rounds may not make sense in every setting, but of all the sci fi settings i have seen, and all the concepts, to date, in my own SF that I am working on, I am the only one I have seen that makes extensive use of the concept.

    1. A guided railgun/coilgun shell would have an engagement envelope that looks like an flaring cone, with the tip of the cone naturally resting upon the firing ship.

      A guided missile, however, will have a much larger engagement envelope, on account of the fact that a guided railgun shell is going to be self-adjusting, but not self-*propelled*. A missile could execute radical course changes, but a guided shell cannot.

      If you rule that it can, then the different between a guided missile and a guided shell is one of semantics at best and a farcical distinction at worst.

      Also, I think you underestimate the potential durability of extreme-range laser armaments; most optical or near-optical spectrum armaments that would be plausible would use an adaptive mirror, which is surprisingly resilient.

      This being said, there are particular roles I can see for a spinal mount- heavy bombardment ordnance for use against planetary targets, for example. Also, heavy-duty linear accelerators for particle beam cannons; such weapons greatly benefit from increased length, and are also much lighter than the more compact cyclotron.

      In any case, guided rail rounds are likely uncommon due to the fact that in most settings, it often makes little sense. The chief advantage of dumbfire electric cannon (like a railgun) is the inexpensive simplicity of the ammunition. Making the rounds guided is generally an unnecessary expense.

      Alternately, the depiction is such that guided rail rounds are desirable, but the technology (or economy) to field them as a standard-issue munition simply doesn't exist (yet).

      Incidentally, missiles gain even more superiority over guided shells if you can take a spaceship's propulsion system and make it small enough to go into a missile. Wherein it then becomes the case that if your spaceships can cross a solar system on their reaction drives... so can your missiles.

      Hard to outrun something that's got just as much (or more!) maneuver capability as you do.

      Also, what setting/SF are you working on? The last year or so I've been particularly keen to look out for interesting new settings to read.

    2. Guided munitions in space do not require or even exactly favor precision sensors. Thermal telescopes available today could see the thermal plume from the space shuttle main engines from beyond the orbit of Neptune. More sensitive electronics would also be easier to damage, making the missile more vulnerable to hard-kill point defenses like lasers. Lasers seem to be the ultimate hard kill point defense, and if they are proven effective could render most kinetics obsolete, at least in most space-to-space engagements. Plus you have to consider that in space, you can push on object onto a trajectory that will eventually hit where you want it to, with a surprising degree of accuracy, months or even years after it leaves any form of guidance behind. So as far as long range bombardment goes, dumbfire munitions are likely only limited by a targets ability to maneuver (anything with only basic station keeping capability, or a planet, moon, etc.) and the presence of any hard kill point defenses. Of course, guided shells would prove superior in most areas, but that doesn't mean dumbfire munitions wouldn't prove useful.

      If you consider that fighters with fixed forward firing weapons were very effective versus bombers armed more heavily with defenisve turrets during the early days of air combat, you will find that it was the maneuverability of the fighters that earned them kills. Shooting at a strafing target from a stationary (more or less, relative to the target) platform was found to be very difficult to do well. A spacecraft is even more maneuverable than an aircraft, in the sense that it is capable of continuing motion at any orientation. This allows it to keep its weapons on target regardless of their maneuvers, except in extremely close quarters, a distance at which the viability of combat is a dubious proposition at best, considering the vastness of space. The small, delicate movements necessary for the precision required for extreme range combat are certainly possible, look at the precision used in genetic research involving cell modifications, or experiments in quantum physics. Gyroscopic stabilization should be more than sufficient for precision aiming a spinal-mount, and gross movement using thrusters to change the ships orientation wouldn't be required until the terminal phase of a ships trajectory, right before they pass each other. Turrets would indeed be very useful in this phase of combat, of course that assumes you survived the initial long range engagement that would likely take up 99% of the battles total duration. And turrets would likely have shorter effective ranges than spinal mounts, due to both precision and size/power limitations. A spinal mount can be bigger, resist higher amounts of recoil, and likely be slightly more precise than a turret, due to its more rigid mounting.

      You're not totally alone in your railgun guided munitions, my endoatmospheric military forces use scramjet-boosted railgun-launched guided shells as their ultra-powerful long range precision weapon of choice. In space, spinal mounted mass drivers use guided shells steered by rockets, as well as dumbfire munitions. In fact, most of my electromagnetic weapons are thought of as more of a delivery system for a wide range of different types of munitions, rather than as simply a "gun".

    3. As a minor nitpick, the reason I would argue that bombers struggled to hit fighters with their defensive weapons, it came down to the fact that said bombers were using regular human meatbags as their FCS for their "PD" weapons.

      If a modern fighter were to make a strafing run against a similarly modern ship, then the PD armaments of said warship would kill the fighter long before it had the opportunity to inflict significant damage.

      Many modern CIWS are even intended to engage cruise missiles and other airborne anti-ship ordnance.

      There's also the fact that engine performance is totally ignored in such a scenario; if the turret ship has superior maneuver function, it *will* control the entire engagement. If it's losing, it can and will be able to run away with impunity.

      If it's winning it can and will be able to chase down its target with similar impunity.

      The same applies if the spinal mount ship has the maneuver advantage, however I find that the doctrinal requirements of deploying a spinal weapon would probably end up reducing the maneuver advantage such a ship might have.

    4. Just make believe that my maneuvering argument was placed right here.

      As far as the fighter versus CIWS argument I agree, computer assisted aiming helps greatly. But this is not a valid comparison, as a ship with a bunch of CIWS turrets versus an aircraft with only one gun has a major discrepancy in mass, much more than a bomber. A more apt comparison would be two ships, one with several turrets with advanced fire control, and one with a single larger gun with similarly advanced fire control. More than likely, both will hit each other on their first shot, but which one has the higher likelihood of a one hit kill?

      When you factor in point defenses things get more complicated, however. Smaller projectiles may get through better, but cause minimal damage. A bigger shell with the same muzzle velocity would be easier to hit, if not necessarily stop, but the same lower mass shell as the first one fired at higher velocity from the bigger cannon will be harder than either to hit.

    5. Well the only reason that guided munitions are really so expensive today has more to do with the military industrial complex engaging in price gouging, more than the electronics and guidance packages being particularly expensive now. Whether that is still present in the future, well who knows, future politics will dictate that.

      Now as for a missile engaging in radical maneuver's, this is dependent on the design of the missile more than anything else. But either way, I am not arguing Guided railgun rounds as replacing Guided missiles, but rather being a useful supplement to missiles. But the chief advantage of a guided railgun round would stem from having a greater engagement envelope thaan the equivalent dumbfire rounds. Dumbfire rounds can only be expected to hit so far, before a target has ample time to simply maneuver out of the way. A guided railgun round, by virtue of being able to make course corrections, will be able to accurately hit its target from much further out. How much is design dependent, and the caveats in this case, and in the case of really any potential future weapon system are legion.

      However the other thing to be careful of in any SF weapon system, is practicality. a Lot of SF does go for whats possible, but fail to account for practical value. This is why I am leery about any weapon system that is going to require a huge amount of precision in the design. Anything that requires an insane amount of precision to work properly, is usually very failure prone and not very practical.

      The setting that I am working on though, well, its one i have been working on for a while, but I have posted very little information about it on the internet. A lot of stuff is still subject to change, as I am constantly looking to gain that unique feel over other settings. What little information I have though, I mostly have on my deviant art page. Her is a link for one of my ship designs, though there has been some adjustments to he design since I made this reference sheet.


      Ultimately though, I don't really shoot for ultra hard realistic in my works. Indeed with the setting being about 2,600 years in the future, ultra hard realistic isn't a feasible option. Too much is going to change in that amount of time. Yes my ships do kinda resemble WW2 ships with the gun turret designs that are used, but this is really a stylistic choice on my part, and part because, when it comes to gun using ships, WW2 designs where, you know, actually practical for their time. That being said, I am very careful about the Naval references that I do use. take for example, the way i designate a ship type. I retain the designations of battleship Dreadnought, Battlecruiser, cruiser, Destroyer and Carrier, because, outside of their naval designation, these are incredibly generic terms that could translate to spaceship without much difficulty. Designations that I don't use, such as Frigate Corvette, sloop, schooner, torpedo boat, missile boat, ect. I don't use those, because those are very nautical specific designations. Now granted, my designations for some of these ship types, namely Destroyer, Dreadnought and Battlecruisers, are very significant departures from their usual SF and Naval roles, while cruisers battleships and carriers are not as big of a departure from their usual depicted role.

    6. When it comes to small craft, I retail the designation of fighter, though almost all fighter designs in my setting are of the unmanned variety, but I don't use the term bomber, as no small craft is really going to be using unguided dumb bombs in space, so the term makes little sense. But for the niche role, I use the term lancer or attack drone instead. And in regards to small craft, they aren't the dominating influence that they tend to be in a lot of SF settings, and battleships aren't hideously vulnerable to small craft attacks either. Small craft are usually just mission specialist, in that they specialist very well in one or a couple roles, But going outside of that role usually means being turned to scrap metal. However the big reason why drones exist in my setting and not manned fighters, is simply because drones can pull delta V that a manned fighter or larger manned ship could never pull without turning the crew into chunky salsa. And yes while I do have inertial dampeners in my setting, they have some very real limitation's to them, in that they can only handle so many G's before they just simply don't work anymore.

      That being said, my setting is universally ruled by guided weapon systems, with average combat distances ranging from 120 lightseconds down to the closest of about 10 lightseconds unguided weapons just don't work in the setting. and DEW CWIS simply doesn't work in the setting because of the way missiles work in the setting. Missiles don't use contact warheads, rather they carry a high powered single shot energy beam emitter, that once they get close enough they fire a DEW beam at their target, not to dissimilar to how the missiles in the Honor Harrington series work

  8. Also the other thing to be careful of, and fortunately, you aren't too bad about it, is that technological development is inherently unpredictable, sometimes wildly so, which is why I dislike the hard and soft SF monikers. Given the unpredictable state of technological development, there is simply no way of knowing what technologies will be hard or soft. It irks me to hell that SF writers put too much focus into this, they are quick as hell to dismiss especially things like Focefields or energy shields, but happily jump all over FTL technology despite the fact that the former is likely to be a fer easier technology to achieve than the latter. Especially hilarious, that when you consider that naturally occurring forcefields exist today, in the form of the magnetic fields of many planets, including the one that keeps all of us from being cooked by the sun. However a realistic energy shield is more likely to resemble a planetary magnetic field, and protect the ship using it in that manner, rather than being like the typical bubble shield used in most SF. Also the other thing to consider is that super strong materials that will potentially lead to extremely strong armor, can still very well happen.

    But ultimately, SF writers really shouldn't fuss so much about what technologies may be realistic and what wouldn't, technology is just too darn unpredictable for that. Just look at the technological development from 1915 to today, the advancements that occurred just in the past 100 years. You take someone from 1915 and put them into 2015, there will be technologies that exist that he would never dream of, but yet, in other fields, it wouldn't be all that different from 1915. This is another factor that I find that SF writers don't grasp well, is that technology in different fields advance at different rates, and the rates in all different fields can advance very quickly, or they can stagnate, and they can go from one to the other remarkably fast. But i can tell you this much, we are not going to know what 2115 is going to look like in a technological sense. and int hat 200-500 years in the future that most SF settings tend to settle on, well, I would say, damn near anything goes from a technological sense, and in far future settings, anything goes. It's an exercise in futility to try and determine which technologies will be realistic and what wont be. So really, from a space combat tactics perspective, only the environment can be counted on being consistent, so as long as the properties of space are respected, the tactics of space may be just as unpredictable as the technology. Trying to predict how space combat would happen, and the tactics used, is like someone from the 17th century trying to imagine how air to air combat would occur. Good luck.

    1. For the most part I think the real distinction between "hard" and "soft" SF comes down to the ratio between handwavium, technobabble, and unobtainium, along with a few other factors. Some quick definitions:

      Handwavium: breaks and/or violates physics; ex- FTL, time travel, magic
      Technobabble: any phrase that is a nonsensical string of scientific-sounding buzzwords; ex- at least 30% of dialogue in Star Trek
      Unobtainium: anything we can't build now, and is at least theoretically possible/buildable, allowing known physics to be applied to its functions; ex- the practical effects of laser weapons and/or fusion drives

      Generally speaking, the more handwavium you add, the "softer" the setting becomes. Technobabble can easily make something come off as farcical in the written arena; alas, most visual SF and/or scifi is mostly technobabble, by dint of the requirements of plot (which technically makes it phlebotinum...).

      That said, lots of handwavium doesn't automatically make a setting "soft"; this is where those "other factors" I mentioned come into play. If you have lots of handwavium, *but* you figure out all the ripple effects and consequences (or at least as many as you can), and then apply these results consistently, you can end up with something that's very "hard" in nature.

      Star Wars is "soft" SF- insofar as it could be considered 'SF' given that there's some contention that 'SF' and 'sci-fi' refer to two subgenres of the general 'science fiction' genre- primarily due to the fact that it's mostly handwavium and technobabble. It's more weighted toward the handwavium end of the spectrum, however, as for the most part they never delve into science-buzzword soups.

      Star Trek sits on the opposite end of the spectrum due to said buzzword soups.

      There's also the fact that the fans of "hard" or "soft" SF also tend to expect a certain type of setting, and many will often dismiss those settings that do not fit their expectations as being "too soft" or "too hard"... when in fact such settings are objectively "hard" or "soft".

      As an example, I'm sure that there are some who consider Hannu Rajienimi's (sp?) Quantum Thief series to be the epitome of hard SF. Whilst it does have some hard SF elements, I personally classify it as being extremely "soft" SF.

      As far as force fields vs FTL drives go... no matter which side of the hardness scale you like better, FTL is far and away a staple of the genre, to the point that I would argue that those novels and series and settings which work well without FTL are the exceptions that prove the rule.

      Also, on the subject of force fields, I think the main issue is that most "realistic" ideas rely heavily on magnetic fields, which don't really bother neutron particle beams, lasers, or spears of nuclear fire.

      Or non-ferrous kinetics, for that matter.

    2. Here is the problem with Handwavium though, and its one of the fundamental problems I have with modern science today. All our laws of physics, laws of thermodynamics, and all these other laws of how things wirk that us humans, all have one common variable, our perception. We have to remember that the reality that our in is not truly reality, but it is our perception of it. It is rather saddening how much physicists and all the big wig scientist's dismiss psycology as being a soft science, when psychology plays an insanely massive role in how we perceive the universe around us. So we have to remember that all these laws of how the universe works that we like to lay down, is still based upon our very limited perception of the universe around us. And our perception does and will change over time. So at this point in time, given our limited perception, we really have no way of knowing if the laws of physics that we perceive, are truly the right ones or not.

  9. Force field can be created with cold or hot plasma, not just magnetic field, i don't know what can be stopped by this type of shield, but i think it can be particle beam weapon, some wavelenghts of lasers, and kinetic rounds but it depends on its thickness and density of plasma.

  10. The Russians have been claiming development of plasma for stealth for years.
    There has also been some thinking of use in a Startram system to prevent Air from entering the Vacuum Shaft well allowing the Tram/Payload through and into low earth orbit.

  11. I've always been a bit dubious of plasma as armour, at least in the sense that it is normally thought of. Although you can create a 'plasma window' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_window) the energy cost is quite high - 8 kW/cm of diameter - and they have to have a 'frame' to support them. It would probably be easier to armour the ship with the same mass of whipple shields, ceramics, and aerogel.

    If, however, the main weapons are particle beams/plasma cannons, or even casaba howitzers, then plasma might become effective. Not as a shield, but as a way of 'inflating' a magnetic field as is done with the M2P2 solar sail. (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/enginelist.php#id--Sail--M2P2) If the field was big enough it could diffuse or deflect incoming fire, and might even be useful against neutral particle beams. There is also a chance that such fields will one day be used as radiation protection on real-world spacecraft, so it makes sense in a hard SF setting at least.

  12. Plasma window is like force fields in hangars from Star Wars and Star Trek. About that plasma shield, i meant exactly the same thing like you inflating magnetic field. I have an idea now, to make cold plasma radiator is it possible?

    1. I one asked myself that very same question about a cold plasma shield/radiator, and came up with a design making use of it. Rather than relying solely on conduction, I made the magnetic containment fields oscillate, moving the plasma around like wind within an atmosphere. The ship would use more traditional radiators outside of combat, only releasing the plasma when the ship was threatened. After release, the plasma would pass through heat exchangers, moving heat away from the ships weapons and reactor. In reality, the plasma bubble would likely serve as much of a heat sink or even an expendable coolant as it does a radiator, with the disadvantage of trapping you in a bubble that increases in temperature as combat goes on. The crew would likely spend the duration of a battle in a thermally isolated habitat module, with systems designed to keep it a comfortable temperature for as long as possible, until they either purge the plasma and allow the radiators to begin cooling the ship down (perhaps as a show of surrender) or are baked to death. I believe it is possible, but I have no idea just how practical it would be.

  13. I doubt it is possible to use plasma in a radiator; it is to tenuous to gain heat by conduction, so conventional heat transfer would be out the window. Of course there are solutions like the Curie Point and Droplet radiators. They don't use plasma, but are similar in that they use the cooling fluid or other medium o radiate heat directly, cutting out the mass of a physical radiator.

    1. I believe the liquid droplet and curie point radiators to be superior to traditional panels, but find it difficult to find any detailed engineering information. I've had to come up with my own theories, and design around these. For warships, I prefer the curie point, as instead of having a physical "collector" for the coolant particles/droplets it instead uses a magnetic field, which is easier to protect if the emitter is buried within the hull.
      The closest thing that I have found to a functional curie point radiator is one that uses ferrofluid, ferrous metallic particles suspended in a fluid matrix, to carry heat from sensitive electronics (ferrofluid has been used to shape adaptive mirror lenses for telescopes, and could potentially be used to keep them cool as well). The problem with ferrofluid would be the tendency of the liquid matrix to boil away in vacuum, which would likely result in the ferrous particles sticking together. I am not aware of a liquid suitable for this role that wouldn't boil away, but will be the first to admit this is an area that my understanding is tenuous at best. My idea would be to coat the particles in a dry lubricant, that is also very conductive to heat. A carbon-based material seems likely, with the benefit of being resistant to high temperatures as well.
      Of course this assumes that radiators would be useful at all during combat, worthy of deploying at least: it may simply be the better option to use heat sinks while under fire, retracting the radiators behind armor. Advanced weapons will likely generate megawatts of waste heat upon every firing, and finding a place to put it temporarily may allow one a better chance of survival, rather than maintaining a slower, more sustainable rate of fire.

    2. I've always wondered if there is a way to create small magnetic capsules of fission fuel, so that the leakage of fuel from a open core nuclear thermal engine could be slowed. The small capsules should, due to created surface to volume ratio, be able to withstand a higher heat than a solid core, perhaps close to that of a closed cycle vapour core. I suspect it is impractical/impossible to to the heat and shock/impact stress involved.

    3. If the capsules are ferromagnetic, as would be necessary for solid fuel pellets, you would have to keep the temperature above the curie point of the magnet otherwise it loses its ferromagnetism. If you want to operate at higher temperatures gas core is the way to go, because you can use magnets to contain the fuel assuming it is ionized plasma, as it likely would be. Honestly it's been awhile since I studied nuclear thermal rockets, I think it's time for a refresher course.

  14. I Just hope you make a comment on how Rainbow Six was and how it IS today...very notable changes. Keep up with this good blog man, also, good luck with your book!

  15. Wow. Just...wow.

    This had got to be one of the longest discussions that I've seen on FWS. And it is a fascinating subject; partly so because there is infinite variation, and no 'wrong' answers. But we need a space battle simulator to settle the turret vs spinal debate. I'm currently working(or trying to) on a numerical simulation for various parts of space combat - point defence, homing missile intercepts, hit probability with kinetics, etc - but I doubt I'll ever get it working.

  16. Nice job Moran! Thanks for giving your genius to FWS for this blogpost, I could not have written this one myself, no fucking way, and you knocked it out of the park. Thanks for everyone for reading and commenting!

  17. Whoah, 53 comments! Well it's 54th ;) i wrote only 5 short comments, but there are people that have time for writing all articles in comment section! I think you are right Moran, it's one of the longest, if not a longest discussion on FWS!

  18. An interesting blog entry Moran. It gives idea seeds and makes a creator ponder such limitations and questions. Such ponderings that would, in theory, make for a much richer story for drama and suspense for both multi-gee, high delta-v settings and their mili-gee, low delta-v counterparts. Especially in their tactical limitations.

    With that being said, and this is due to ignornace of the above debate and its ensewing details, but there is one aspect that I don't think any other MSF setting had ever considered beyond one or two instances: the Starfuries of Babylon 5 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xx7L5woa3Rk ) with a fine example found on the episode "Midnight on the Firing Line", and the Mk. II Vipers of the Battlestar Galactica reimagining ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBgjS_xQWXM&t=4m24s ) with the example being from the episode "Ressurection Ship Pt. 2". Basically, these combat spacecraft were able to rotate around their vertical axis or Yaw Axis to bring their weapons to bear.

    To help illustrait my point, a shameless plug in the form of a combat spacecraft design rough draft ( http://cronguswars.blogspot.com/2012/04/guncraft-diplomacy-rough-draft-design.html ). The design has the majority of its conventional armor towards the nose of the spacecraft rather than evenly distributed across the fuselage, for the most part, in many other visual media representation of capital ships. The placement of said armor is tactically placed towards the direction where the heaviest incomming fire would approach along an under-thrust orbital trajectory. This is also the angle that offers the smallest target sihouette so there would be plenty of "jinking' or as Moran termed it as "drunk-walking" to keet as much armor pointed at the Predicted Impact Point of the incomming round as possible. This being paramount due to the fact that other vectors of attack aren't as heavily armored, or force-walled.

    1. Darn thing was too long, had to cut it in two.....

      How does this illustrate my point about combat spacecraft rotating upon their Vertical-Yaw and Lateral-Pitch axis is that in the previous video entries, those maneuvers were done when the spacecraft was not under thrust. Something I'd like to call a "Coast Maneuver" until someone comes up with a better term, though I have a feeling that, with the subject in mind people would start calling it a "Drive-By Manuver". But to get to the point, the combat spacecraft would be able to bear the majority of its offensive armament towards its target while simutaniously providing the maximum coverage of its armor and presenting as small a target as possible. Granted, the idea is heavily dependent upon the design philosophy of the combat spacecraft in question. However, that is to say the target spacecraft may be force the choice of trying to out maneuver the firing solutions due to the attacker is not under thrust during this maneuver, or kill its burn and match the rotation rate of the attacker and respond in kind. And by matching the rotation rate, I mean that the rotation of the attacker would be syncronized so that said profile is presented towards its target at the maximum amount of time and is even able to continue to fire when the Fly-By/Interception point has been met and passed. Heck, a rocket engine might have thrust vectoring ( http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns.php#id--Basic_Solid_Core_NTR--Thrust_Vectoring ) to aid in the tactical axis rotation maneuver, and with a Cascade Vane design ( http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/realdesigns.php#id--Basic_Solid_Core_NTR--Cascade_Vanes ), the rocket engine doesn't have to be turned off but instead set so that the net thrust is zero. It, arguably, makes for far more dynamic combat maneuvers than seen in most visual media depicting space battles. I'm sure that someone more imaginative than I would make for even more dynamic and inventive maneuvers but it's a platform to jump off from. Not sure if such a maneuver is applicable in either a High Tech, multi-g and high delta-v setting versus a Low Tech, mili-g and low delta-v setting let alone both, but I'd like to think that it's a viable combat spacecraft tactic to keep in mind.

  19. from your explanation, looks like spaceship battle is smiliar to submarine battles, not battleship. maybe than using laser as primary weapon, they will use laser as jammer. main weapon are railgun(since this one launched with electicity, they can use solar panel for energy source)& rocket ( guided one).active defense system probably use gun turret with plenty of weaponry. passive defense one based from superconductor design, to reduce impact from railgun.