Space Combat in The Black Desert: A Case for Smaller Spacecraft?
One of the distinguishing features of realistic, Newtonian space combat is that small spacecraft in general and “space fighters” in particular are not practical. This has to do with available ∆-v; the measure of how much a spacecraft can change it's velocity. Simply put, because there isn't any friction in space, you must burn just as much propellant slowing down as you do speeding up in the first place. This means that the spacecraft with the largest engines and prop-tanks can accelerate the fastest and move around the most. Needless to say, this means that small, one man fighters are worse than useless; they are slower than the big boys, have a far shorter effective range, and carry much smaller and weaker payloads. Better to build big ships, with a huge amount of smaller missiles and UCAVs, than to make small rockets.
That being said...
One of my favorite Naval ship classes is the lowly Destroyer Escort. The tiny DEs, too small and slow to keep up with the fleet, were under-gunned and built as a stop-gap ship that was pressed into service to escort convoys across the Atlantic and then were pressed into service to bulk up the Pacific fleet buring the island-hopping offensive against the Empire of Japan. Despite being slow and toothless compared to full-fledged destroyers, there were actually better than any other ship in the fleet at anti-submarine warfare, thanks to their impossibly tight turning radius. If you don't know anything about these “tin cans” and their contribution to the American Navy during WWII, I suggest reading Last Stand of the TinCan Sailors and looking at the website of the USS Slater museum, one of only two extant DEs remaining in the world.
|1,200 Tons of AWESOME|
What do these two disparate paragraphs have to do with each other? It occurred to me that stop-gap measures was a legitimate, justifiable reason for making smaller spacecraft in a SF setting, even when we all know that the big ships are better. Like the DE, which Navy planners knew to be an inferior craft compared to the fleet destroyer, a small, “Escort IPV” would be an impractical design on paper but could nonetheless exist because it was cheaper, faster to build, and required less trained personnel to crew.
The way I see it, while big ships in space are faster, they cannot be in two places at once. In addition, their very size makes it impractical to build very many of them. To use a present day analogy, the aircraft carrier, the largest and most expensive Naval vessels in the world, are only present in large numbers in the US fleets, and then there are less than twenty. We in the States have sacrificed health and social services for seventy years, since the end of WWII in order to secure that advantage, and as it is were are now so massively in debt from it that the prospect of another economic Great Depression is more “when” than “if”.
Back to the game: Given that the US in BD in the time of the Great War just finished building a Space Elevator, the most expensive public works project in history, you can see that building dozens of large IPVs is probably beyond them. Brazil in The Black Desert had the means and the will to build a couple of dozen, and the US was forced to respond. After the Turing Fallacy Revolt, when the US lost a big portion of its space fleets after their AI deserted, The US needed to make more IPVs fast, and didn't have a lot of available resources to do it.
Let's also look at the missions that IPVs are expected to perform. As I'vementioned before, IPVs currently come in two varieties: Missile and Tactical Craft.
A missile craft's primary mission is resource denial in the Deep Space Theater. They move into the orbits of Asteroid outposts, and by the very presence of their payloads of hundreds of kinetic kill missiles, they can force a settlement to capitulate of face thirty or so years of isolation thanks to Kessler's Syndrome. The missile craft also carry Espatiers I order to land and occupy these small worlds, in order to secure their resources for their goverments.
|Tactical Craft Concept.|
Tactical craft exist to hunt down and kill missile craft. Their primary payload is a squadron of drone rockets (plus one command and control craft) that are armed not only with KKMs, but Fusion Torches, which are the only effective weapon against an IPVs magnetic sails. Because they carry twelve orbiters, they can also be used for invasion and assault against asteroids.
So, what could a smaller IPV be used for? First of all, an “escort IPV” could be built in larger numbers, which means that it would be easier to respond to tactical hot spots all over the Inner System. They would require only the smallest of crews, which means that they are easier to staff. In addition, IPV-Es could be used as training craft, taking Astronaut Candidates on their missions in an effort to give green crews much needed experience.
These are just the financial advantages. The question remains, of course: Is a small Interplanetary spacecraft is even worth building? There is no question that these pony craft would be less effective than the larger ships of the fleet, but could they even do the mission of their larger cousins well enough to be a viable asset? We'll discuss that in more detail tomorrow, RocketFans!