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June 02, 2004

Space Fleet - New Thought

Sorry about the light posting. I've been thinking a bit more on space fleet combat and what happens when you try to engage in a beam on beam fight. At first it looked like a simple task of being able to put out a more concentrated beam of laser energy than your opponent, so you could directly eliminate his optical system. That would just devolve into a WW-I type combat, which isn't all that interesting unless it really is the game to play.

However, with lasers there are still clever tricks you can use so that you can hit without getting hit in turn, such as making the optical path from your laser to your opponent one way only. This requires fast moving optics and fairly long distances, but does look like it will work. Think of it as a volleyball game with two balls. You fire off a laser pulse toward a rotating, spinning, or otherwise moving reflector. The reflector isn't exactly aligned properly till even after your beam is launched, so in effect it's doing a moving intercept, just like a volleyball player. That reflector bounces the beam to another, which wasn't even in the correct position when the pulse was first fired. That second reflector might even bounce your shot to a third moving reflector before it finally proceeds to the target. An enemy laser could fire on the final reflector but the time reversed path doesn't work because by the time the final reflector is lined up, the previous reflector is already moving out of its path, as is the reflector prior to that. So just as you couldn't slam a volleyball back and expect the player's hands to be in the same orientation that they were originally in to make a path ending in a shot at you, you can't fire down the "barrel" of this optical system and get back to the enemy's laser.

If you had multiple reflectors in a cloud around your ships then they could be moving and spinning in a pattern that you'd programmed. You'd have control over fine tuning the time and angle of their aim, and your ship's lasers are timed to take advantage of the paths that line up. If you squeeze down the size of your cloud to where they can't move sufficiently to create a miss (the light is covering the small distance quickly and you're not getting sufficient movement to prevent partial hits on your own laser) then you can use a large number of them to create a targeting problem for the enemy, as only maybe 1% or so are lined up at any one time. The enemy can wear down the number of your reflectors, forcing you to continually change your patterns. If you play this game it probably becomes one of encryption, so the enemy can't predict your next pathway and fire back down it. What's interesting is that it takes you from the very simple tactics of WW-II to very sophisticated mathematics and design where brains can overpower brawn.

If these tricks work then instead of trying for the reverse shot, "target enemy weapons!" - which will just reflect your beam energy off into empy space, you'd directly target their ship with a thermal or burning attack. However this raises another question of whether your fleet could be deployed in depth and pass beams forward, much like volleyball. However, I'm not sure you could beat the diffraction limit on the original transmitter in your rear, so it might not buy you much. It might be possible to directly transmit energy to your forward ships and thus save them the necessity of generating all their own laser and maneuver power, thus making them more powerful and more agile. I'll have to think on that though.

June 2, 2004 in Science | Permalink


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One way mirrors etc. and the returnfire has a different wavelenght returning than outbound wavelenght so you can tune it for what is best for your mirror

Posted by: carl at Jun 2, 2004 7:53:17 AM

But can those reflectors dodge projectiles without making a mess of all your firing solutions? And how are you going to deploy them if you're moving? (Can ships in a fleet serve as deflectors for each other?)

I was thinking back about the missle/laser posts, and I want to look at using railguns or similar to boost missles rather than using rockets. If you do it this way, and the missles are moving at less than the vaporization velocity (say, a carbon rod moving at 10km/s), the energy advantage goes to the attacker.

Need to look back at evasion, though...

Posted by: mike earl at Jun 2, 2004 2:02:54 PM

Maintaining mirrors in front/towards your enemy to deny the direct shot, and using multiple side mirrors = interesting!
This scenario doesn't allow for much maneuvering as far as I can see, since it would be hard to take your mirrors with you.
That could be a problem, since relative positions would be easy to calculate, allowing for physical weaponry.
Then again, mylar (or something similar) reflectors are quite light, and could be carried in extremely large numbers.
My thought is that if you don't maneuver, you are liable to get swatted by material-based weapons. If you do move, the energy-based weapons will get you while you are so doing, unless you can keep deploying shields that cover you during the acceleration.
Finally: what about particle beams?


Posted by: tweell at Jun 2, 2004 2:17:31 PM

Actually sending an enemy beam back at him?
Should be a game in here somewhere.

Posted by: Walter Wallis at Jun 2, 2004 4:25:10 PM

So, I built a spreadsheet to run the missle numbers (let me know if you want it - not sure there are no bugs, but)...

It looks to me like long, skinny, heat-resistant missles are a winner; probably with length a bit more than we expect enemy hull armor to be in thickness, perhaps of carbon or diamond or silicon?, and anywhere from 1cm to 1mm(!) or less in diameter depending on our fabrication technologies and what the minimum to actually cause damage is.

I think that's actually plausible with some extension of microchip fabrication technology. A barrage of several hundred .5cm diameter by 3m carbon needles with chemical boosters looks pretty good to me...

Posted by: Mike Earl at Jun 2, 2004 8:23:25 PM

That sounds pretty interesting, Mike. Almost like a volley of arrows. Side illumination from mutually supporting ships might hamper them, though, but given enough of them some might get through. Carbon-carbon sounds pretty good to me because it's fairly stealthy, and items this small might be more easily picked up on radar. Hmm....

And I'm not sure on particle beams, tweel. Den Beste mentioned them, but also noted that you have to balance the charges or the beam will become diffuse through mutual repulsion. X-rays might be beneficial but I'm not sure just how well we could focus them, and gamma rays just don't play well with atoms, which creates even worse focusing problems.

Posted by: George Turner at Jun 2, 2004 9:39:47 PM

For particle beams, you probably want two (or multiples of two) accelerators, one throwing electrons and one throwing positrons in another direction to keep your charge neutral. A particle beam hit would mess up electronics, making it a disabling weapon.
The only way to make decent X-ray lasers I know of is by bomb-pumping (which is not a thing I would want onboard).
A way to feed your forward ships from the rear would be via microwaves. Put a grid back there and pull power off of it. I've read about supplying power to the earth with satellite microwave stations, it would work much better with nothing in the way.
Microwaves could also function as a heat beam, with two or more heterodyning beams and varying focus.

Posted by: tweell at Jun 2, 2004 11:57:19 PM

Positrons? I assume you mean protons otherwise just use the postitron annihilation on the enemy ship.

Posted by: carl at Jun 3, 2004 11:25:34 AM

A bit new to this forum, but figured I'd put my 2 cents worth in anyway. As a defense against these energy weapons would a cloud of reflective surfaces/shrapnel, such as extremely small mirrors, work as an effective shielding system by diffusing the laser? Mind you I am not sure what materials you'd need to produce this cloud out of, but even extremely highly polished glass my throw the laser off in theory. The question then comes to be in a missile or laser fight how much shrapnel your ship carries. Also how large are the ships to be? Couldn't an extremely large ship with a translucent outer hull difuse most of the energy before an inner hull recieved it? Also what range do these beam weapons operate at? They might realy be useless if an atomic warhead where heading toward them. Shooting an atomic bomb out of space would be an option for a long distance fight, but if your particale weapons are very short range what then? Do you realy want to detonate an atomic warhead at close range? Yes I know shooting down an atomic warhead would neutralise it if it didn't have a computer guidance system and logic rutines to detonate when it recieved thermal buildup. Though somehow I see atomic weaponry advancing with energy weaponry and having such things. Ok this post turned into a ramble of ideals instead of one or 2. Anyone who would care to answere or e-mail me feel free as I am asking more questions than providing answeres here.

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