Friday, November 26, 2010

Space Combat in The Black Desert V: A Combat Scenario

     ...or, "How to Destroy 40 Billion Worth of Military Hardware in 10 Easy Steps!"  Because, essentially, that's what we're about to do.

     That's right, RocketFans!  This is the moment we've all been waiting for; a blow-by-blow explanation of combat in deep space, using all of the nifty gear we've been discussing.  Rather than waste time with the build up, I'll just link to the appropriate post so you can get a recap.  All done? Then let's GET IT ON!

    STEP 1:  The two opposing IPVs have been slowing down for days now, and at this point they are only going 15 kps or so.  They release their Wings of rockets, and continue to change vector.  I say 'continue' because even throwing everything they've got into it, those IPVs change direction reeeeeeeeeal slow.  In the diagram, IPV-1 is in the top left and IPV-2 in the bottom right.
     WHAT TO REMEMBER: The deployed Wings are also moving at 15 kps, and will only add to this prodigious speed as they maneuver.  While the below pictures are static, remember that in space everything is moving all the time.

      STEP 2:  The laws of physics cannot be denied.  As soon as the opposing IPVs change vector, their probable positions in space when the enemy's Wing intercepts are easy to calculate.  The opposing Wings blast off to the intercept points, intent on their prey.
     In atmosphere combat, opposing Air Wings would engage each other in a dogfight to gain air superiority.  This is not the case in space; the distances are too vast, and rockets have only so much Delta-V.  Therefore, the opposing Space Wings are flying on the most direct vectors to their targets.
    WHAT TO REMEMBER: You do not have enough gas to screw around, here.  Maneuvering for position is useless at these speeds and with these weapons. 
   WHAT ELSE TO REMEMBER: The IPV I showed you all the other day carries 16 rockets...only one of which, the Command-and-Control (C2) rocket, will have a crew on board.  The rest of the rockets are drones controlled by their autonomous systems and directed by the C2 rocket.  Don't put the Wing Commander in the center of your formation, or in the very back- it's way too obvious.  Pick a defended-yet-random location in your formation.  That is, if you want to live...

      STEP 3: If the opposing rocket Wing reaches your IPV intact, you will have a long ride home.  To keep this from happening, both Wings fire their kinetic missiles on a vector that will put them between the enemy and their IPV.  They won't be going after the bad guys directly; like I said before, the distances are too great.  Besides, physics being what it is, you don't have to.  Anywhere along the opposing Wings attack vector will do the job.
      WHAT TO REMEMBER: Timing is critical.  Launch your kinetics too soon, and they will pass the enemy's vector before the enemy does.  Launch too late and they will miss the party; their speed along the Wing's vector will be to great to turn away from.  The best tactic is to listen to your ballistics computer.

     STEP 4: As the two opposing sides continue towards their deadly rendezvous,  the kenetic missiles begin to break up into clouds of debris.  The debris continues along its course.
      WHAT TO REMEMBER:  There is no friction in vacuum.  No matter how tiny the particles of debris, they will continue along the same vector, at the same speed, until acted upon by an outside force.  The only difference is that the debris will be impossible to dodge by the time it reaches the opposing Wing.  Don't bother trying; save your Delta-V for deceleration and, if you're lucky, the trip home.

     STEP 5:  As the two opposing Wings reach their closest approaches to one another, they launch their laser missiles.  These are sneaky; they will attack the opposing Wing and the opposing Wing's L-Missiles in an attempt to catch the enemy's rockets in a pincer later on.
      WHAT TO REMEMBER: By now, two opposing Wings are going to want to find the enemy's command rocket real bad.  There will be at least one person in charge of this, and another person charged with keeping your command rocket anonymous.  The tangled knot of rockets, lasers and sundry distractions is one of the few times when specific spacecraft are difficult to detect.  Use this to your advantage.

     STEP 6: The L-Missiles open fire on one another.  These are the first direct attacks of the battle.  The goal here, obviously, is to keep as many of your L-missiles intact while taking out as many of the enemy's.
      WHAT TO REMEMBER: Do not fire your rocket's lasers.  You are as likely, at this range, of hitting one of your own L-Missiles as the other team's  Besides, you'll need them later.
       WHAT ELSE TO REMEMBER: Lasers travel at light speed.  Targeting optics do not.  If one of their L-missiles is in a "staring contest" with one of yours, hit it!  These missiles only have one laser turret apiece; concentrate your fire.

      STEP 7: By now, the two swarms of L-Missiles have passed one another and have clear shots at the rocket Wings.  Even better, the rockets are about to enter the debris clouds from the kinetics.  This is where the fun begins.
      WHAT TO REMEMBER: Flip, you fool, flip!  For one thing, you're halfway there, so you need to shed all that acceleration you've been putting on since step 1. For another, Any ship designed to enter atmosphere has its heaviest armor and thickest insulation on its rump.  And things are about to get very hot indeed...
      WHAT ELSE TO REMEMBER: Now you can fire your lasers at the L-Missiles.

      STEP 8: Congratulations!  You are now officially in the kaky.  Both Wings are fighting through a hailstorm of debris with laser missiles sniping at their noses.  This is where the most damage will occur to the rockets.  
           WHAT TO REMEMBER: There is really only one way out of this:  Fire the Fusion Torch.   Nothing clears away unsightly space debris like a searing jet of hydrogen blasting out at ten million degrees.  Just remember, you only get a few seconds of hard burn before using up your propellant reserves, so don't overdo it.  Besides, if you survive this, you still have to take out the IPV.  Keep in mind also that the debris is coming at you sideways reletive to your vector.  There is really nothing you can do to avoid this, as firing your Torch in that direction will blast you off course and into space.  Spread the damage around by rotating your rocket nstead of letting the debris shred only one side.
            WHAT ELSE TO REMEMBER: Those L-Missiles are still out there, and they don't have to enter that cloud of death to shoot at you.  Make sure you keep shooting back.

             STEP 9:  What paltry few rockets escape the debris intact will now spread out and attack the enemy's IPV.  The IPV will attempt to hold them off with lasers long enough that the thrust imparted to the IPV by the rockets' attacks boosts it out of there.    
     WHAT TO REMEMBER: If the rockets in question are Heinleins, they have, in addition to their Fusion Torches, four laser turrets on their tails.  Use them to stare down the IPV's lasers so those expensive Torches get a nice clear shot.

      WHAT NEXT? It depends.  A surviving IPV will continue its long, slow turn, eventually reaching the point in space that its rocket Wing was fighting in.  If any of the rockets happened to survive, they will maneuver and change velocity with any remaining propellant they have (or can scavenge from the wreckage) and dock with their parent craft.  At this point, the survivors of the losing side's command ship scavenge what propellant they can as well and plot a course for the closest friendly port.  They will not have the resources to attempt another pass; they may not be able to get home again.  The victorious IPV can rescue them, of course, and take them prisoner.  Any stranded drone rockets are pick up if possible, because they can be repaired and used to replace the victor's losses.

      Quite often, of course, there are no  survivors.  Just more debris and wreckage strewn across the Black Desert.


  1. Step 2 is faulty. Opponents will know where the humans are because the human ship will be different from the weapon ships. In that case the humans should lag well behind. If the battle is in doubt the humans can escape from their rear position.

  2. ...why does it follow that the manned spacecraft? In this setting, drones and manned ships are designed and carefully calibrated to be identical in mass, thrust, heat output and performance. Signals from the manned ship are bounced around via tight-beam laser through every drone in a random pattern in order to confuse. As far as I can tell, this should be enough to keep the manned command ship anonymous.


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