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Real Space Combat Help:

From: Joachim Heck - SunSoft <jheck@E...>
Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997 10:19:06 -0400
Subject: Real Space Combat Help:

Mark A. Siefert writes:

@:) I have some general questions for all of you armchair physicists
@:) out there in GZG Mailing List land.

  Well I've already proven my keen understanding of physics :)	You
probably could immediately notice that I was actually a Physics major
for a year at WPI.

@:)	1.  Which would be better suited for space combat: lasers or
@:) particle beam weapons?

  C) Railguns, for reasons already given by other list members.
Current research ("Star Wars" SDI Program) was working mostly with
railguns because they're relatively easy to produce with current or
near-future technology and because they are power-efficient compared
to lasers.  For a railgun (one was demonstrated at one point) you need
a bunch of whoppingly big capacitors which, I believe, destroy
themselves when the gun is fired.  Replace these with smaller
capacitors that don't self-destruct and you've got a viable weapon.
That may not sound like a great prognosis but compare it with the
X-ray laser Teller was trying to get funding for: that device would
harness and focus the emmissions of an exploding hydrogen bomb!
Plenty of power but obviously a one-shot weapon.

@:)	2.  How does a directed energy beam weapon damage a target?

  The particle beam situation has also been discussed by other list
members.  The laser idea is generally to heat up the skin of the
target (a missile in SDI's case) so fast that it 'explodes', the skin,
that is, which will kick the missile hopelessly off course.

@:)	3.  Which sort of missile warhead would be better suited for
@:) space combat?  Nuke or kinetic kill?

  Kinetic kill.  Nukes look real impressive when you set them off in
Nevada but remember that as desolate is it may be, there's still AIR
in Nevada.  There's no air in space.  No air means no shock wave and
precious little blast from the explosion itself.  I wouldn't want one
glued to the side of my ship but if it's relatively far away (like if
it's a missile) then we're mostly talking about a radiation problem.
We need to wrap the ship in lead or some such.	Not easy but doable.
Contrast your kinetic kill flying crowbar (or telephone pole) -
there's no defense against this weapon at all.	It does have to hit

@:)	5.  How would one target a enemy ship in space (realistically
@:)	that is)?

  Toughie.  For close-in stuff (SDI again) you can use radar.
Obviously radar would be good for terminal missile guidance.  For
longer range combat, I would recommend telescopes.  Track the target
with an array of optical, IR and UV sensors.  If it's got a nuclear
engine running (likely when it's manouvering) you can probably use a
gamma-ray or radio sensor as well.

  So my suggestion would be to track it with these kinds of long-range
sensors, figure out what path it's following, and lob a missile at
it.  Remember that in the near future, the target is not going to be
steering very much.  The missile accepts guidance from the mothership
until it can pick up the target on radar, and after that it makes its
own course corrections (which, being small and having a sickening
amount of fuel, it can do more readily than the target ship).  When it
gets close it launches submunitions.

  If you ask me near-future space combat will probably be pretty
boring (I'd still like to make a game out of it to find out).  Right
now spacecraft (once they're in orbit) have very little thrust
compared with other vehicles.  Giving them the kind of manouverability
that would make combat interesting would require a lot of fuel.  So
until somebody invents an engine that can impart some real steering to
these ships, we've got mostly targets moving along predictable paths
(because they're not applying any thrust) which can be intercepted by
missiles or whatever.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's EASY,
just kinda dull.


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