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Old 10-01-2017, 06:49 AM   #1
Crystalline_Entity
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
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Default [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

I’m trying to work out what a naval task force would look like at TL10 as a thought experiment, and I’m having trouble deciding which options presented by Ultra-Tech are most effective. I’m concentrating on a safe-tech TL10, so no superscience or volitional AIs, and only limited genetic engineering (so it differs from Transhuman Space).

Depending on your interpretation, the principle component of a naval force (i.e. at the top of the admirals’ wish list when governments look at funding and procurement) could change from a surface aircraft carrier to a heavily stealthed battleship with a 160mm railgun and/or heavy missile armament with point defence lasers, or a drone-carrying submarine, which packs most of its offensive punch in non-volitional AI-controlled drones, which it launches before creeping back under the waves.

Some of the questions I’ve come up with are:
  • Are TL10 infra-red cloaking and chameleon systems sufficient to hide surface ships from high-altitude sensors (either satellite or stratospheric drone, possibly with hyperspectral sensors), or would all warships end up being submarines so they couldn’t easily be found by passive electromagnetic sensors?
  • Would there still be a role for manned combat aircraft or would drones operated by remote teleoperation or non-volitional AI completely take over the role?
  • What would subsurface warfare look like at TL10? There’s a notable lack of effective underwater weaponry in Ultra-Tech, no torpedoes, and even blue-green lasers have rather lacklustre performance underwater, though the supercavitating mini-sub can mount a blue-green strike laser (according to the text on UT228, I'm not sure if this is useful though).
  • Would Point Defence Lasers (UT115-6) be a viable defence against brilliant or genius TL10 missiles such as the hunter and striker missiles from UT168?
  • Pyramid 3/37: Tech and Toys II introduces additional heavy weapons on p.22-27, including a 160mm indirect fire railgun, what sort of role would this play compared to missiles?
  • Would warships bother with significant armour, or given the power of missiles and railguns and aircraft-mounted lasers would they assume the best defence is not to be found in the first place?
  • Tilt-rotors, vertols and hovercraft are all possible options for personnel transport, the first two replacing the helicopter, is one of these clearly superior to the others?
  • Is there any useful defence against bombardment from orbit?

I’m not sure there’s any firm answers to these, but I wondered what everyone thought and how other factors I’ve not thought of might influence matters.
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Old 10-01-2017, 08:59 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
[*] Are TL10 infra-red cloaking and chameleon systems sufficient to hide surface ships from high-altitude sensors (either satellite or stratospheric drone, possibly with hyperspectral sensors), or would all warships end up being submarines so they couldn’t easily be found by passive electromagnetic sensors?
I suspect a lot of the problem with stealthing ships is less about the ships than the water. Even if you could hide the ship when it is sitting still, what do you plan to do about the wake? You can't install stealth gear on it.

Quote:
[*] Would there still be a role for manned combat aircraft or would drones operated by remote teleoperation or non-volitional AI completely take over the role?
Would there still be a role for manned *ships*? The problem of what humans are good for in a world with AI is much more general than any particular role.

Quote:
[*] What would subsurface warfare look like at TL10? There’s a notable lack of effective underwater weaponry in Ultra-Tech, no torpedoes, and even blue-green lasers have rather lacklustre performance underwater, though the supercavitating mini-sub can mount a blue-green strike laser (according to the text on UT228, I'm not sure if this is useful though).
This is pretty close to an insurmountable problem. Water is just too close to the properties of the stuff you'd like your weapons to be able to kill - if it interacts strongly with the target it probably will with the water too.

Quote:
[*] Would warships bother with significant armour, or given the power of missiles and railguns and aircraft-mounted lasers would they assume the best defence is not to be found in the first place?
Armor is not likely to get much better unless you can make it out of something other than atoms. And anything that can shoot through water can probably shoot through armor too. Armoring against incidental threats is still worthwhile - it'd be really embarrassing to lose a warship to drug smugglers with a machine gun - but as a defense against serious heavy weapons it's already fairly limited.

Quote:
[*] Tilt-rotors, vertols and hovercraft are all possible options for personnel transport, the first two replacing the helicopter, is one of these clearly superior to the others?
For what? The reason people build all of them in the first place is there are things any of them are better at than any alternatives - even if that's sometimes just "adequate for the job and costs less". For example an advantage of helicopters over tilt-rotors and vertols is uses less fuel/energy - a bigger air moving device means you get the same thrust moving more air less quickly, and the linear energy consumption increase for moving more air is swamped by the quadratic savings for slower.

Quote:
[*] Is there any useful defence against bombardment from orbit?
The same point defense as against missiles fired from nearby? There's nothing especially magical about orbit.
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Old 10-01-2017, 10:00 AM   #3
mlangsdorf
 
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

Some possible answers and/or new questions:

* High altitude sensors might not look for a ship, but for the ship's wake. A ship may be able to use IR cloaking and chameleon surfaces to hide from passive EM sensors, but the ship can't use those systems to hide the wake. On the other hand, some of the same advanced science that is behind useful vortex ring projectors (UT134) might help in obscuring a ship's wake.
* Submarines have wakes underwater that are theoretically detectable by ladar. It may be that a submarine can be found just as easily as a surface ship, at which point submarines might not be worthwhile.
* Aircraft aren't going to have pilots as soon as the AIs become smart enough to conduct strike missions and cheap enough to employ in quantity. Remote controlled drones are only going to exist if the force deploying them can guarantee communications in the face of enemy jamming.
* Submarine attack systems are going to be brilliant supercavitating torpedoes. UT may not list them, but they'll exist if submarines are useful. Submarines are also going to mount missile launchers if missiles are useful.
* The point defense laser of UT115-116 is lackluster, but GURPS Spaceships demonstrates the importance of banks of 300 KJ RoF 30 point defense lasers. There is probably an arms race between missile stealth and PD sensors on one axis, and between missile armor and PD damage on the other. Different forces might have different assumptions about the enemy sensor/damage or stealth/armor doctrine, and might misdesign their missiles or defense suites. Also, if there are multiple competing forces, then the defense suite that force A designs to defeat force B's missiles might not be effective against force C's missiles.
* Huge railgun rounds are presumably less stealthy but inherently more armored, than missiles. They might be used to supplement stealthy but lightly armored missiles (thus widening the threat envelope that the enemy PD suite has to defeat) or if the stealth versus armor trade-off is very heavily in favor of armor, replace missiles entirely.
* Armor versus stealth versus quantity is hard to guess, and depends on some of the above answers. It also depends on whether you can meaningfully armor a vessel against expected attacks. Spaceships implies that the maximum armor of a 30,000 vessel (with 45% of mass devoted to armor, which is a lot) is DR 2100-5000 on all faces. You need about DR4000 to protect against a 400mm cannon firing at 3000 m/s, assuming you can stay beyond it's (very long) half-damage range. So you may be able to win the armor/PD race, and lose the defensive stealth race, and then you'd go with armor. Or you may not be able to win the armor race or the defensive stealth race, in which case you can't prevent your ships from being targeted and destroyed, and you end up building a lot of cheap units and accepted heavy losses.
* Tiltrotors generally lift more total mass per pound of engine/drivetrain weight (Vehicles 2e suggests around 15 lbs of lift per pound of engine versus ~10 for vertols) and have better fuel consumption. They're also much slower at maximum speed. So tiltrotors are going to be used for when you mostly expect to be flying vertically, and vertols when you mostly expect to be going fast. Hovercraft/GEVs can't really replace either of them: you can't use a GEV to perform search and rescue in mountainous areas. GEVs are useful for short-range heavy lift at a low cost and size: an LCAC capable of toting an M-1 Abrahms to shore costs about $40M, while a C-17 capable of flying the same tank costs around $200M (and would cost a lot more if it were vertol capable enough to take off from a carrier and small enough to fit in the carrier).
* Orbital bombardments can be defeated by stealth (can't hit what you can't see), PD (kill the control surfaces/guidance while deforming it and it will miss), and quantity (just have more things that need killing than the enemy has orbital bombardment munitions). As well as orbital battles that kill the launch platforms.

In summary: no one knows for sure what TL10 naval warfare would look like, and there are lots of possible answers to the above questions. You can make some assumptions to get the results you would like.

Myself, I would probably go with something like:
* Ships and their wakes can mostly be camouflaged against enemy sensors.
* Telecommunication to drones is probably not feasible in the face of enemy jamming, and AIs are not good enough/cheap enough for general purpose use (though advanced cruise missiles are fine). Pilots still need to be in the cockpit. There is an open question as to whether any aircraft can survive the PD systems that can hit missiles.
* Submarines are not supercavitating (can't hide the wake from orbital blue-green laser probing) but do fire supercavitating torpedoes.
* PD lasers sensors versus missile stealth and PD laser power versus missile armor is an open question: different forces have different conclusions about the correct answers (and estimates about what enemy forces are doing).
* Armor/PD versus stealth is also an open question, and different forces have different answers. In general, though, it's mostly possible to armor/PD against attacks, but stealth takes up less weight and volume, so if you go the stealth route you have a more capable ship at the same size. Of course, if you go the stealth route and the enemy can still see you, you're a lot more vulnerable, so ship designers have to hedge their bets.
* Railguns and missiles are both useful, depending on the expected armor profile of the enemy and the expected power of their PD suite and PD sensors.

This gives you a range of possible naval task forces:
* Force A is an all stealth force, with lightly armored vessels. They have fairly powerful sensor suites and medium power PD lasers. They attack with a lot of stealthy but lightly armored missiles.
* Force B is a high stealth force, but they don't trust it. They armor their vessels. They have good sensor suits and high powered PD lasers. They attack with many stealthy but armored missiles, augmented by a few railguns.
* Force C is a medium stealth force with well armored vessels. They attack with railguns primarily, augmented by semi-stealthy missiles that are well armored.
* Force D believes both stealth and armor are ineffective. They have large amounts of very lightly armored, not very stealthy vessels. They expect each one to launch a few high powered railgun shots before being destroyed by the enemy, but they hope the attrition rate will work out in the favor.

Which force wins is going to depend on which design doctrine is closest to the truth and which design doctrine correctly anticipates the enemy attack/defense profile. You could easily end up with a situation when Force A and Force C are ineffective to each other (Force A can see and hit Force C, but not enough to damage it, while Force C can't see Force A) or where Force D got the right solution and everyone else's fleets are just an insufficient number of floating targets.
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Old 10-01-2017, 11:38 AM   #4
Ulzgoroth
 
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
What would subsurface warfare look like at TL10? There’s a notable lack of effective underwater weaponry in Ultra-Tech, no torpedoes, and even blue-green lasers have rather lacklustre performance underwater, though the supercavitating mini-sub can mount a blue-green strike laser (according to the text on UT228, I'm not sure if this is useful though).
Most likely torpedoes, probably including super-cavitating ones. Sonic weapons might possibly work as well, but very likely not practical.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
Would Point Defence Lasers (UT115-6) be a viable defence against brilliant or genius TL10 missiles such as the hunter and striker missiles from UT168?
In theory, missile smarts should have a lot of trouble outrunning speed-of-light weapons.

On the other hand, GURPS hasn't got rules that are particularly supportive of point defense...

IIRC, the 'point defense lasers' in Ultratech are quite low RoF too, which seems quite bizarre - it's not like you need huge damage to mess up a missile, and even if you could under the rules autofiring lasers are great at doing lots of damage to poorly armored targets
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
Pyramid 3/37: Tech and Toys II introduces additional heavy weapons on p.22-27, including a 160mm indirect fire railgun, what sort of role would this play compared to missiles?
Shooting defenseless targets, most likely. I'd expect TL10 sensors to have little trouble picking up 16 cm shells, and ballistic flightpaths make them come over the horizon at you high and dumb for easy point defense.
Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
Armor is not likely to get much better unless you can make it out of something other than atoms. And anything that can shoot through water can probably shoot through armor too. Armoring against incidental threats is still worthwhile - it'd be really embarrassing to lose a warship to drug smugglers with a machine gun - but as a defense against serious heavy weapons it's already fairly limited.
Accurate or not, GURPS Ultratech definitely disagrees with the idea that armor won't improve.

I don't think it suggests that the balance of penetration could swing back in favor of massively-armored battleships though.
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Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
The same point defense as against missiles fired from nearby? There's nothing especially magical about orbit.
An orbital strike is almost unavoidably going to be coming in very fast, and is consequently more likely to use a heavy solid impactor rather than a lighter warhead, adding up to something relatively hard to stop. You could make a surface-launched orbital-velocity range kinetic-kill missile, sure, but it'd take an awful lot of rocket.
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Old 10-01-2017, 01:16 PM   #5
Anthony
 
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

A first problem is 'what is your naval task force for'? TL 10 has effective force projection on a planetary scale without any need for ships.
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Old 10-01-2017, 01:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

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Originally Posted by Ulzgoroth View Post
An orbital strike is almost unavoidably going to be coming in very fast, and is consequently more likely to use a heavy solid impactor rather than a lighter warhead, adding up to something relatively hard to stop. You could make a surface-launched orbital-velocity range kinetic-kill missile, sure, but it'd take an awful lot of rocket.
Orbital strike launch platforms are stealthy and sneaky, but when the rod enters the atmosphere, it's going to generate a huge thermal signature. If a PD system is anticipating an orbital strike, it has a reasonable chance of acquiring it and attempting to engage it.

The UT laser cannon has a 1/2d range of 38 miles, which means it gets ~19 seconds to shoot an orbital strike descending at roughly Mach 10. I doubt that laser can destroy the penetrator, but can it damage the guidance sensors or control fins enough to make the penetrator miss? I don't know, it seems within the realm of possibility.

It also seems to me that if I can intercept the penetrator with something like a Sidewinder missile, having the penetrator impact multiple small objects going the opposite direction at high speed is going to alter the penetrator's ballistic profile, possibly enough to overcome the guidance system's ability to straighten the penetrator. Would I want to be the engineer tasked with designing a launch system for a Sidewinder type missile that needs to launch on 10-20 seconds warning, climb 5-10 missiles in a few seconds, and intercept an orbital penetrator? It does seem like a challenge, but the military has generally been pretty good about finding solutions to supposedly unstoppable weapons.
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Old 10-01-2017, 01:24 PM   #7
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

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a Sidewinder type missile that needs to launch on 10-20 seconds warning, climb 5-10 missiles in a few seconds, and intercept an orbital penetrator? It does seem like a challenge, but the military has generally been pretty good about finding solutions to supposedly unstoppable weapons.
This is UT. Your missile already exists there.

It's the 100mm tactical missile. It accelerates at 277 Gs for up to 5 seconds. It wouldn't care if that was horizontal or vertical. You'll get your interception at over 40,000 feet of altitude with a minimum of 6Dx50.
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Old 10-01-2017, 02:04 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

I was under the impression that penetrators coming down from orbit are difficult or impossible to use as guided weapons, as re-entry friction generates a sheath of plasma that's hard to see out of (for self-guided systems) and impossible to radio into (for externally-guided systems). If true, this makes avoiding orbital strikes easier, as the ship just needs to move somewhat unpredictably.
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Old 10-01-2017, 02:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

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Originally Posted by Ulzgoroth View Post
An orbital strike is almost unavoidably going to be coming in very fast, and is consequently more likely to use a heavy solid impactor rather than a lighter warhead, adding up to something relatively hard to stop. You could make a surface-launched orbital-velocity range kinetic-kill missile, sure, but it'd take an awful lot of rocket.
Orbital strikes have a lot going for them, but they've got a lot of difficulties, too.

The most obvious is that it is, well, obvious. Unlike a sea-skimming hypersonic anti-ship missile, which might not come into a ship's line-of-sight until a few tens of seconds before impact and which can be quite stealthy, there is no way to deorbit something at near-orbital velocity without everyone seeing it. And it's not just that they'll know as soon as the missiles hit atmo. Unless you've got some super-science reactionless drives that just plain don't emit any heat or radiation of any kind, it will be perfectly obvious to any nation with basic sensors the moment you launch the attack. The ships will know there's an orbital attack in their area probably tens of minutes before the attack lands, if not longer (And an immediate change of course at high speed with a long lead-time might bleed some of the missile's energy and complicate the already difficult sensor situation during reentry).

The attack profile is also near-ideal for missile defense systems. Something like the modern SM-3 is designed to take out de-orbiting threats such as ballistic missiles, and would probably find this TL10 reentry vehicle an average target (Maneuverability when re-entering at near-orbital velocities is basically nil unless you want to tear your own vehicle apart). Further, being a solid kinetic-kill warhead provides no benefit here; most intercepting missiles would probably be kinetic-kill as well, and even a glancing blow would be enough to tear apart a reentry vehicle travelling at those speeds. And this is with a missile that's 1.5-2 TLs behind; I'd expect more advanced missiles to be even better. Then you've got air-defense lasers, which get a nice, clear shot of an easily detected target, and while the kill-vehicles' heat shielding will provide some protection, I'd expect it wouldn't save them, and it certainly wouldn't save their sensors. Finally, since we're dealing with self-guided projectiles, it's quite possible that they'd have to slow to "just" hypersonic velocities simply to detect and maneuver on-target (See modern ballistic anti-ship missiles like the DF-21D), negating their one advantage over sea-skimming missiles. Between these, I would expect high, extremely-visible missiles to fare poorly against point defense measures. You'd need to saturate enemy defenses, making it more of a brute-force option.

So if you can afford to throw dozens of guided hypersonic reentry vehicles at a surface ship, and don't mind that it might take an hour or so to land (Or, if based in LEO, potentially longer to launch), then it could be viable. Whether it's more effective and efficient than a few stealthy sea-skimming hypervelocity missiles is going to be a rather complex question.
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Old 10-01-2017, 03:16 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Ultra-Tech] What would naval warfare at TL10 look like?

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Maneuverability when re-entering at near-orbital velocities is basically nil unless you want to tear your own vehicle apart
Maneuverable reentry vehicles have been built and successfully tested. The technology is not like other air vehicles, but it works. The US did not adopt them in the early 1980s, but that doesn't prove that they won't be in use at TL10.
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