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 Article: Weapon Technologies

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PostSubject: Article: Weapon Technologies   Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:44 pm

Since the very dawn of man, humans have killed each other for myriads of reasons, from fighting over food to committing mass genocide in the name of deities. To aid in these acts of violence, tools were created that could inflict more damage than the human hand could on its own, and over time these weapons evolved to be more deadly and precise. The story is remarkably similar for most alien races. However, in the millions of years that warfare has been performed in, few weapon systems have been proven to be effective in the vacuum of space; exotic technologies with explanations as confusing and out-worldly such as black hole generators or gravity cannons have proved to be as feasible as attacking a tank with a sex toy.

The refined principles of interstellar warfare have come to include only a handful of different concepts.

Projectile Weaponry

Since the first man tossed a rock at his fellow being over a poorly-cooked steak, projectile weapons have remained the simplest, most reliable and, surprisingly, effective means of projecting power over a distance. Although the concept has evolved greatly, and only the most primitive of space-faring races still use chemical explosives (such as space-functional analogues of gunpowder) to accelerate the projectiles, the principle is the same.

Projectile weapons at their core are nothing more than an accelerator assembly (almost exclusively a barrel surrounded by powerful electromagnets that activate in sequence, in which case we are talking about a Magnetic Acceleration Cannon), a power source, a means to aim the projectile (which includes rotating turrets, computers to calculate the precise path the projectile needs to take, etc.) and the actual shell (which is either ferromagnetic itself, or more commonly has a ferromagnetic sabot that is ejected after leaving the barrel).

The shells can take many forms, such as armor-piercing, incendiary, explosive, nuclear or combinations of those, and their primary method of damage is the violent transfer of kinetic energy to the target's armor, along with their secondary effect.

LASER Weaponry
A LASER is a device that emits and amplifies light in a coherent manner, at a cost of great energy consumption and limited range. The resulting single-wavelength beam can transfer thermal energy to its target, melting through armor and other vital parts; they function similarly to industrial cutting machines, although they can also ignite fires and cause secondary explosions in fuel storage or explosive munitions. Beams of a higher wavelength generally have greater range but less potency, while those with a low wavelength dissipate rapidly at range but can cause great damage up close. In any case, they are ineffective long-range weapons.

LASERS are divided into several different categories, depending on their method of operation, but the ones most commonly used for combat are the Solid State Lasers, also known as 'crystal lasers'. Advances in crystal physics have allowed LASER weapons with compact sizes and great strengths to be created, although their use inside an atmosphere is problematic due high beam dissipation.

Plasma Weaponry
Designed to bridge the gap between LASER and projectile weapons, plasma weapons are considered a 'hybrid' technology: they are projectile weapons at their core, utilizing many of the same principles of accelerating a mass projectile at high velocities towards the target, but instead of an explosive charge, they include an EM field generator inside the shell. The resulting magnetic field is built to maintain a thin layer of superheated, ionized gas ('plasma') around the shell, which grants it the ability to melt through armor.

Despite their obvious advantages against armor, plasma weapons suffer from extremely poor range: within less than 1-2 seconds the plasma sheath dissipates, leaving behind a hollow shell without any armor piercing or explosive capability that usually bounces harmlessly away from the armor. In addition, the electromagnetic fields of shields are enough to instantly dissipate the plasma sheath, making them useless against shielding even at close ranges. Use of them in an atmosphere, even a thin one, is pointless.

Plasma weapons are considered a niche technology, but they have some limited uses.

Particle Weaponry
Another bridge between LASERs and projectile weapons, particle beam cannons function similarly to LASERs, aside from one gigantic difference: they produce a beam of particles, such as electrons, protons, α-particles or heavier ions. They are not a strong technology because they inherit the flaws of plasma weapons, such as their short range, uselessness in an atmosphere and vulnerability to shields, with none of the armor-piercing benefits. Their only advantage is a low cost, compared to the other weapon types, and they are used by pirates attacking unarmored civilian ships.

Missile Weaponry
Missiles are what got humanity into space, and they remain one of the 'core three' weapon technologies (projectile, laser, missile), even though they are almost always considered 'guided projectiles' by military experts. A missile is similar in function and purpose to a projectile shell, with the only exception being that it has its own source of propulsion (such as a chemical or plasma rocket) and navigation (RCS thrusters) instead of being fired from a barrel. This means that missiles are the weapon of choice for engagements at range or against fast ships, as they can maneuver on their own to strike a target even 'beyond the horizon', in this case from opposing sides of an obstacle. They are, however, extremely vulnerable to interception from fighters or from point defense.

Nuclear Weaponry
Covered extensively in Article: Nuclear Warfare, nuclear weapons have a secondary use to strategic attacks. Nuclear-tipped torpedoes are the most terrible fear of any ship crew: even though their explosive yields are orders of magnitude lower than ISBMs, a single such torpedo can annihilate anything smaller than a cruiser, and severely cripple a larger ship. Only the most well defended of capital ships and Titans can survive multiple direct hits.

Whereas ISBMs have enormous sizes and yields in excess of hundreds of megatons, nuclear torpedoes usually have the size of a regular missile (or slightly larger), and include a single nuclear warhead with a yield in the multi-kiloton range.

If the warhead detonates prematurely before it reaches the target, then the effects to nearby ships are dangerous, albeit usually not fatal: the extreme radiation can cause rapid deterioration of health to fighter pilots or those in unshielded compartments, such as in areas with hull breaches. Any surface facing the nuclear detonation will be scorched as the result of the thermal radiation, much like being hit by a powerful laser, although both the radiation and thermal effects dissipate at a distance. Living beings staring at the detonation without the required protection are almost certain to be blinded. Finally, an electromagnetic pulse is released, which can disable electronics temporarily or completely fry computers not hardened against EMP attack. Ablative armor is excellent for defending against proximity detonations.

In a direct hit, however, the effects are much different. The energy of the blast is transferred through the ship's hull like a powerful earthquake, shattering structural supports, collapsing corridors and bending the armor. The area near the blast is consumed instantly in a fireball, melting entire sections of the ship away, while the radiation can kill an entire crew within hours if containment measures are not taken. Ammunition and fuel can cook off, creating secondary explosions. The blast is usually enough to destroy small cruisers or anything below them instantly. The only effective defense is prevention: nuclear missiles are almost always prioritized by point defense, and fighters may be given orders to intercept incoming nuclear ordinance.

A very unusual type of nuclear attack against ships is the ISBM and its smaller brethren. With yields over a thousand times higher than a ship-to-ship torpedo, an ISBM can instantly wipe out even the most hardened of Titans. However, their bulky, sluggish nature make them cannon-fodder for point defenses if they attempt to attack a ship in space. Inside an atmosphere, however, ISBMs are ideal weapons to destroy ships that attempt to land: point defenses and shields are useless when a ship is re-entering the atmosphere. The USC demonstrated the technique on Talarin, during what they called the 'Great Talarin Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot'.
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PostSubject: Re: Article: Weapon Technologies   Sun Mar 01, 2015 4:47 pm

Technology tags can not overcome the base functions and limitations of the above technologies. Any weapons technologies that can not fall into one of the above technologies must be discussed with both Game Masters.
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