Author Topic: Space Combat - what do you think the Effective Combat Range of weapons in space woul?  (Read 18122 times)

Destraex

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A lot of serious science fiction writers seem to think that space engagements between capital ships would take place at millions of kilometres seperation.

However I think that any weapons fired at those ranges would be intercepted by countermeasures well before they made it anywhere near the target ships.

WHat do you think in reality the effective range of capital space warships weapons would be.

In BSG they seem to use missiles and high ROF kinetic weapons. And all of the combat takes place at very close range.
In star wars its all close range also. The two series seem to be like this because of a little thing called "jumping".... both films show cap ships jumping in very close to each other.
In BSG especially we see nothing on the scale of a serious tactical battle that involves anything more than jumping and firing then one side jumping out.

A serious engagment would be a meeting engagement between two fleets intent on winning a decisive battle like Jutland or midway.

Would fighters really pack enough firepower to take on a behemoth like galactica ?? I think not..... because in space mass matters more than weight it is possible to build absolutely massive capital ships compared to the single seat fighter.

Anyway my point is to hear your thoughts on combat ranges, would fleets really ever see each other in a meeting engagement?? Would fleets use FTL drives for short tactical jumps once in sensor range??

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In all probabibility, space combat would most likely involve long range barrages of fast-moving artillery. BSG and Star Wars are "close in" because they're fiction, and not necessarily reflecting reality. Although an argument could be made that combat would take place close in, because of avoidence and interception techniques, until ships are fast enough to be able to move out of the path of a shell fired from long range, then combat will probably take place far away.
I definately think that fighters will pack the strength to take on large capital ships. Why? Because right now, we don't have shields, and a fighter can launch a missile into a fragile spaceship and cut it in half - in fact, fighters do that today with anti-ship missiles.
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Warcaster

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Quote from: Destraex
Would fighters really pack enough firepower to take on a behemoth like galactica ?? I think not..... because in space mass matters more than weight it is possible to build absolutely massive capital ships compared to the single seat fighter.


you forget that the battle is in space. so the slightest amount of damage can be exacerbated by the vacuum. a fighter need only punchture a man sized hole in a vital area or start internal fires and the vacuum of space or the pressurised high oxygen atmosphere will do the rest of the damage for them. think of it as an air liner. if they lose cabin pressure or theres a fire on board then there is a serious problem where as in a ground or sea vehicle such things can be dealt with far easier.

with this in mind fighters can pose a serious threat to a behemoth cap ship even if their combined weapons arent enought to destroy it by themselves. they have the effects of space on their side.
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Wanderer

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I suspect that all space aboard any military vessel would be evacuated from air (or other gases) to prevent decompression prior to engaging the enemy.

karajorma

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Quote from: Destraex
A lot of serious science fiction writers seem to think that space engagements between capital ships would take place at millions of kilometres seperation.

However I think that any weapons fired at those ranges would be intercepted by countermeasures well before they made it anywhere near the target ships.

WHat do you think in reality the effective range of capital space warships weapons would be.

You might as well ask how long is a piece of string.

What space battles are like is completely dependant on the technology of that universe. Both BSG and FreeSpace are very similar in that we are dealing with ships that travel slowly but which can make instantanious long distance jumps.

Under those conditions it's completely pointless to have weapons that fire over millions of kilometres as there is very little chance that the target will still be there by the time your missiles arrive.

If on the other hand you have realspace FTL or near-FTL like for instance in the Honor Harrington books then it becomes much more sensible as the missiles travel so fast over such a huge distance that interception is difficult.

Since both set of technologies are completely in the realms of science fiction at the moment it makes it rather pointless to say what would be a sensible engagement range for a real space battle.

Admiral Zaarin

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ECR in space is somewhere between 0.1 inch to lightyears...depending on available technology. ;)

aonomus

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Quote from: Warcaster
you forget that the battle is in space. so the slightest amount of damage can be exacerbated by the vacuum. a fighter need only punchture a man sized hole in a vital area or start internal fires and the vacuum of space or the pressurised high oxygen atmosphere will do the rest of the damage for them. think of it as an air liner. if they lose cabin pressure or theres a fire on board then there is a serious problem where as in a ground or sea vehicle such things can be dealt with far easier.

with this in mind fighters can pose a serious threat to a behemoth cap ship even if their combined weapons arent enought to destroy it by themselves. they have the effects of space on their side.


Not quite, armor will absorb plenty of damage, and extra unpressurized compartments outside the ship can act like an reactive armor by fragmenting and dispersing enemy fire.

The vacuum of space won't neccessarily do the damage stated in your post, loss of pressure is only a danger to pressure-critical systems such as pneumatics, hydraulics, life support, and of course humans, and loss of pressure will extinguish any fires (as evidenced by the second part of the miniseries). Also, vacuum won't make any hole bigger, because the air cannot exert enough pressure to tear out the surrounding metal near the hole unless its tin foil anyway.

Fires on a ship with a limited atmosphere are of course dangerous, but not many methods exist for starting fires on ships without causing damage to internal structures anyway.

karajorma

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I still think one of the funniest examples is the near lightspeed fight in Larry Niven's Protector where Jack Brennan fires a weapon at the enemy and then has to wait three weeks to find out if he hit him or not :D

Joona

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Well, I dunno just what kind of sensors the DRADIS suite contains, but personally I'd like to see some more electronic warfare in the SF show(s) and the game(s). Without going into boring details, there should be a clear line between active and passive sensors.

A bit like in modern submarine and air combat. You use active sensors (radar, sonar...) at the wrong time, and it would be like screaming "here I am, shoot me!" to the enemy passive sensors.

I can't remember any space combat sim that had this kind of hide and seek aspect modeled more than in most rudimentary fashion.

Joona

EDIT: And, uh, maybe I should note that the "explosive decompression" is often vastly exaggerated in movies and shows (BSG being a notable exception). After all the pressure difference is only one atmoshere. Not worse than an emergency ascent from 10 metres while diving. Eardrums will hurt like hell and with a little bad luck rupture, but nothing ACUTELY serious... unless one is stupid enough to hold his breath, that is...

And that is, no severe acute physical trauma. But you do lose consciousness a lot quicker, cos the blood oxygen evaporates in seconds, unlike holding your breath (which one can easily do for three minutes or so with lungs full), or that's what NASA says, anyway. Then again, if you insist holding your breath with a full lungful... it won't be pretty :biggrin1:
« Last Edit: March 27, 2006, 02:32:24 PM by Joona »
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meleardil

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In space, kinetic weapons will not slow down. With special methods (I wont explain them here) you can accelerate projectiles to several dozen km/sec even now, with good old Earth technologie...you only need energie. So for example to 10km a bullet travels in a fraction of a second... do you wanna intercept? Better the laser. It travels with lightspeed (who could guess?), therefor no way to detect or intercept. The range is limited by the divergence of the beam. A strong enough laserbeam can be effective from hundreds of thousends of kilometers, and hit within a second. According to our actual knowledge of physics there is no way to block it, except to put matter in its way... and if you are thinking about a mirror, all of them is reflective only in a limited range of wavelength. Also... I can imagine missiles accelerated by miniature nuclear explosions (would be fun!). And these thing are todays technologie (at least the things I am aware of, possibly there is much more already). So I would say in capship spacecombat the effective range can be easily in the thousend kilometer magnitude.

In BSG universe the thing effects combat most is jumping... we saw a raider makeing short range tactical jumps within the ragtag fleet. I do not realy understand, why cylons dont do that all the time. That would be an absolut tactical advantage.  (Will raiders make jumps sometimes within the battlefield for more fun?)
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Muriac

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I think the most realistic prediction of space battles involves high-powered, well-focused lasers aimed by computers. In which case, battles would be fought at ranges of 300 000 to maybe 5 million kilometres where shots would take a few seconds to reach their targets. It all depends on the ability of future sensor technology to resolve things at such distances.

Wanderer

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I would add kinetic (just a penetrator) missiles - no explosives, nukes or other stuff, as they are not really required at high velocities and without shockwaves their effectiveness is greatly reduced. And also neutral particle beams though those would have same problems as with lasers

Mr_Brit

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Well you guys got some thing right and some things wrong lol

Iím an aerospace engineer student and also know quite a bit about mechanical engineering.

Right to start things off the max range of space combat will be about 1000 km because of the limitations of technology. Seeing as beam weapons etc will not really take place in space because the amount of electric they use unless you can make a renewable fuel source that can take the drain of them, youíre pretty fucked if you have beams weapons, so scrap them. so now your left with 4 weapon options, hybrid (rail guns etc), projectile (guns etc), mines, missles (explosives) or believe it or not gravity (we are very far off from this but it is possible).

looking at all theses facts the ones we are going to use mainly are projectile and missiles are going to be used because of the cheap cost and the good range, seeing as in space there is no inertia, you can make them things go fast and far. you look at a speed of a shell going about 1000m/s in space and you could get a missile to get about 1500m/s if not more, looking that with sensor technology with light you could only look at a range of 1000 km, thatís your max range because the speed of light is 299,792,458m/s. so it will take it to go 2000km 0.003 seconds to get there and back and this speed is need to track the ships in question without delay so the weapon can quickly update there nav and lock the target in range. And don't forget it will take the shell 1000 sec's to go that far. Thatís around 16 mins lol quite a bit of time really.

With the armour issue, space ships will do the same thing as water based ships do, have a super-structure. It will have compartments that will be able to be breached and still hold the structure of the ship together, I could go into how that works, but I can be very long and very adv. Lol

also this with the fighter bit, they will pack the punch as well as bombers, capital class ships will be used purely as mother ships, hubbing its fighter and bombers to pack the punch, a bit like aircraft carriers in the sea. This is because with fighters and bombers its a lot cheaper and a lot more versatile to use them in combat. They can pack the punch of a capital class ship with 200 times less of the cost. A good example of this is the US carriers on the sea cost around Ĺ a billion up to a billion $, you average sea combat plane costs around 5-10 million thatís about 100 times less, and a single aircraft can take out a carrier very easy, much the same in space. Itís just a lot bigger thatís all.

and also joona in a vacuum your blood boils at around 0* I think lol could be quite funny =p

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Considering how worried NASA is about their ships being hit by all the junk and trash they deposited up their already i would say kinetics would be pretty effiecent;)
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aonomus

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Relativistic KE weapons (non explosive) can have alot of energy and be very hard to intercept using fighters or flak (cause of momentum laws, etc).