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From: Tom B <kaladorn@g...>
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2010 19:59:42 -0400

Gzg-l mailing list comments
interspersed with [TomB]

Our resident Ginger Beer said:

IED challenges in SG/DS

1: "Sniffers" -- vapor analysis which detects traces of explosive.

used to discover caches of explosives.	Problems - false positives,
won't detect gunpowder (must be set to ignore any propellant used in
the weapons of the troops using it),

[TomB] - We don't know that they haven't perfected binary propellants.
We also don't know that making BP explosives isn't possible. And it may
be that there are other fingerprints you can engineer into the gunpowder
that a detector could differentiate from stuff made by the locals. You
play this one either way is what I'm getting at.

2. If Thermals are down to the size of goggles, and image analysis
software is far more powerful and accurate, spotting IEDs is going to
be significantly easier.  Camoflage is going to be much more necessary
and hence they are going to be more time consuming to emplace.

[TomB] But the similar sorts of technological advancements may provide
solutions for the insurgents. Camouflage may be a trivial matter with
technology of the day.

3: Concentration of chemical industry.	Fertilizer production is not
something that is going to be spread out all over the planet,

[TomB] That would depend on colony maturity, economic profile,
and national division. It might also depend on attitude (a libertarian
colony might well split out such things into smaller local centers, as
might an eco-green colony to avoid the carbon footprint of transporting
the stuff all over). In general, you might be right, but exceptions may
well exist.

primarily concentrated in areas easily accessible to major
agricultural areas.  Smuggling is going to relatively difficult,

[TomB]: I can easily construe at least one scenario for smuggling
that works on a crappy colony world. Stipulate that these places
aren't worth a huge high-tech presence. High tech forces may
deploy some spy sats, but they'll be limited in how much of the space
around the planet they can monitor. If stealth material is cheap (and
it may well be), it could be easily possible to have a ship jump in
of detection range, drop a stealthed pod of munitions, and jump out
without ever being seen. The pod then inserts ballistically, using some
crappy parachute system to slow its descent. It arrives at particular
coordinates and the insurgents pick it up. The spy sats may or may not
pick it up. High tech forces may or may not be able to get there to stop
a pickup.
Requirements: Cheap stealth materials enough to fool a spy sat,
some coordination with offworld brokers/smugglers or extra-planetary
influences (enemy gov'ts are one example).

4: Should be plenty of non-nitrate fertilzer, or fertilizer which is

  Of course, it's produced in quantity in Pakistan and
smuggled in, but that would not be an option if there are only three
fertilizer plants on the planet, all surrounded by counter-insurgent

[TomB] Depends a lot on the nature of the colony.

5: Grav vehicles have a physical seperation from the ground, so they
are less vulnerable to blast damage.

[TomB] Makes an assumption about the susceptibility of Grav systems
but that seems vindicated by existing rules.

  Any wheeled or tracked vehicles
are likely to built mine resistant

[TomB] A fair number of the minis might have you question that....

 unless sniffers are so accurate as
to make underbelly explosives completely ineffective.  Not sure it is
even theoretically possible to build a mine resistant GEV, since they
have to have exposed fans and skirts.

[TomB] I think it may be. Your vents need not be directly in line with
This gives a 'jog' to protect the fans. Perhaps GEVs also have a sensor
system to detect
an overpressure and slam some sort of shield over the fans. Yes, you
ground your
GEV and crumple some skirting, but it might save the fans. I do concede
should be the most vulnerable.

[TomB] Ground penetrating scanners capable of making 3D models and
evaluating threats
from 'mystery objects' may well be able to rule out most landmine
that rely on
vehicles overrunning a mine or IED.

[TomB] Improvised off-route mines may be one option for the bad guys,
requires a
slight increase in technical ability. Not terribly effective against
(think SG2 IAVR vs. Armour 3)
but perhaps useful against soft skinned vehicles.

But recovering a GEV or a
GRAV vehicle presents some significant challenges of its own.

[TomB] Worse than recovering a tipped over or rolled wheeled vehicle?

can't be towed, they will always require a 'lowboy' of some sort.

[TomB] Do we know that a GEV doesn't have a deployable wheel system
underneath to allow it to be rolled around while unpowered? (Ditto
With that, an emergency tow may be possible. Alternately, a large
dolley might be available to be fit to hull fittings on a damaged grav
to allow towing in a conventional manner. [Or maybe engineers can bolt
an external Grav unit to a wreck and float it back....]

[TomB] Note, I'm assuming GEVs will tend to be a bit lighter than
or Grav vehicles because they need to be lifted by fans. That would tend
suggest easier lifts.

[TomB] Your lowboy scenario also has merit, of course. Perhaps future
also have a 'Skycrane' style VTOL with enough capacity to lift a tank.
recovery quick from any terrain.

IED trends
1: Passive electronic sensors are primary means of activation.
Command wire is dangerous, radio controlled can be jammed too easily,
pressure plates are too detectable.  Widespread light manufacturing
capability means ability to make relatively simple electronic devices
will be more widespread.

[TomB] Radio can only be jammed if you know what frequency to jam and
This is a non-trivial power expenditure for jamming effectivley across a
If you foe has all bands from baseband up to high GHz available to them
can in theory use the same frequencies your military system hop through,
there is no reason they can't use command detonation.

[TomB] The chips and circuitry to support a variety of transmission
will be
trivially cheap (they aren't that expensive now if you aren't planning
buy them
from a US defense contractor). I'm not even sure that spread spectrum
commonplace in the civilian market. There's already some moves that way.

[TomB] If I was building this system, I would have 1 or 2 radio triggers
plus a sensor trigger. A fiber optic cable may also be acceptable - no
radiation threat, hard to detect if it is hair thin, spools of fiber may
available commercially. In the long run, its far cheaper than copper.

2: Simple blast IEDs will be limited -- need massive ones for a solid
kill and again, sniffers make them difficult to use.

[TomB] Except that if we posit the high-tech force doing what they do in
real world, we'll find many nations won't have as many sniffers or
systems as they should, people will use multi-purpose vehicles for light
light armour for heavy, etc. and so there will be more opportunities for
than the tech level by itself will suggest. How long did it take to
some protection
for HMMWV gunners was required? (Or M113s if we want to go back a
There's always a part of your military that is underequipped even for a
force and they usually get deployed at some point.

3: The precision machining capacity for EFP disks will be far more
widespread.  You really do need a better grade of explosive than can
be done with fertilizer and diesel fuel, ability to produce explosives
that are of high quality and in which the blast wave propagates evenly
is a question for discussion.  But if it's possible, this will be
preferred technique.  You can park them 80 meters off the road and
shoot them off, almost a one-shot HKP.	Anti-personnel method of
choice, again, to beat 'sniffers' is going to be DFC/DFFC (aka
grapeshot).  These can use HME (Home Made Explosives) that are
fertilizer based.

[TomB] Or perhaps other propellants. It might be possible to homebrew
some form of FAE mixture. Or a gas based propellant for shot for AP
purposes. Certainly, if you can get a good blast wave, you can do some
crazy things. I saw one film of a US company that had manufactured a
large copper disk (I'm guessing about 15-20 inches in diameter) that
was propelled this way from a remote control 4 wheel ATV. It destroyed
the ATV, but it blew through the derelict tank they fired it at like the
armour was irrelevant.

4:  If I have to support an insurgency by loading a limited-volume
spaceship and using it to run a blockade, I'm going to pack it full of
things that give me maximum bang for volume.  This means military
grade explosives, blasting caps, anti-tank weapons, and ammunition.
Not pallets of fertilizer bags.  You're getting a data chip with the
specifications for EFP plates and assembly, and specs for some
electronic sensors for activation.  The rest is on you.

[TomB] Right, but you'd never risk the ship when you can deliver this
stuff by ballistic pod or (if you want a notch up) a delivery missile
manouvering and perhaps even decoy/ECM capabilities. Make it something
that scatters fake payloads or fakes landing sites to confuse response
forces. You don't need to expose the ship and the high tech force just
can't build a deep enough, good enough blockade to stop every stealthed
packet coming in ballistic.

Science fictional interrogation techniques:  If accurate lie detectors
are possible in a 'hasty' situation, or safe and reliable drug
interrogation exists (see David Drake's short story about the
interrogator, can't recall title, I'm sure someone else can)

[TomB] Also assumes you cannot be conditioned to beat these systems.
Assumes there is no chemical counter. Insurgents that are well supplied
may have a counter that kills their guys when they are subjected to drug
interrogation. Maybe there are ways to trigger similar effects with
detectors. If we can build a lot of the other space tech, we can surely
some implanted systems (we see it even today, the beginnings thereof
micro-chip vitamin/nutrient distribution systems for SF in development).

insurgency is pointless, making IEDs is pointless, and you're
completely unless you have tanks to take the other guy's tanks in a
head-on fight.	Insurgency requires deception.	If I can dope up a
random local and find out where all the IEDs near his village are, who
the insurgents are, and who their relatives and supporters are, it's
Game Over.

[TomB] Or a different game. The insurgent have to change tactics then.
Bribe local colonists. Make their cells tight and limit information
those small cells. Find mechanisms to beat your interrogation methods.
Play the political, legal and human rights cards (against nations that
care about such things... not sure it would work against the ESU).

Nationalism:  The Ground Zero Games universe seems to presuppose the
death of the concept of nationalism.

[TomB] Funny, I'd have said the opposite.

 I know it's an ingrained part of
a modern mindset, but it is not fundamental to human nature.  If
changing one set of off-world tax collectors for another which
actually provides the promised protection in return for taxes doesn't
bother most people, an insurgency would never get a whole lot of
traction in the first place.

[TomB] There's a lot more than just protection. The American Revolution,
for instance, doesn't seem to have had much to do with security. It had
a lot to do with not honouring local input and I can see vast pan-system
polities being very poor in terms of responsiveness. The ESU would
be culturally disposed to be and the NAC would be so for bureaucratic
reasons if no other.

  Many of the cultural and linguistic
issues can be settled with the assumption that someone assigned to
work on a Francophone colony would have the finest French-translation
software money can buy in his earpiece, and 'sleep learning tapes'
that implant a deep knowledge of the cultural mores and sensitivites
of the subjects.  :)

[Tomb] It is debatable whether peoples would put up with this. You could
argue both sides from current episodes in the "War on <insert flavour of

[TomB] I would argue the GZGverse is the exact opposite. It has
in spades.
It also has nations galore, from as small as an asteroid colony of
independent miners to
multi-national inner colonies. There are probably more flavours of
nationalism in the GZGverse
than there are today and that's saying a lot.

Civil Rights: If I can dope up random locals and squeeze them dry, is
it likely that I will be permitted to do so?  I'm betting yes, because
media will be far less immediate (unless you assume non-ship FTL
communications, which changes the game a great deal), and because
honestly, most people could care less about stuff happening on the
other side of the our planet when it's the only one we have, they
aren't going to care about stuff that happened six months ago on
someone else's planet.

[TomB] Maybe, maybe not. Although your observation on human
nature is generally true, look at the American Revolution. It was very
much an affair where greivances of a local sort were ignored (one would
even say actively exacerbated) by the English Crown and its
And part of that was the whole 'we don't want foreigners putting the
to our people and tromping their liberty'. I don't think that basic
of human
nature is going away either. There'll still be enough complaint and
rebellion if
any offworld governance becomes onerous. And there will also be a lot
players in the Great Game of Nations, using agitprop, Quislings, 5th
and so on to foment disquiet in trouble spots. So I see a lot of revolts
from a combination of local discontent with centralized power structures
pay no heed to them and of remote meddling to encourage such revolts.

[TomB] To me, the GZGverse in any time between massive wars (or at least
nations not currently active) would be a lot like the cold war, with
multiple hands
muddling around in the smaller client states for their own larger
Also, in big pan-stellar nations, there will be a lot of bureaucratic
feudalism and
power mongering (ref: any modern big gov't) and this will result in
in those
gov'ts playing factional games using colonial policy as a tool. This
inevitably lead
to discontent in some of the colonies. The bureaucrats will be so busy
and building their own power base, they'll be too self-absorbed to
the danger
of revolt until it happens, then they'll have to send in the Army to
out the wogs (aka
their citizens on foreign worlds).

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