Friday, March 21, 2008

Book 2 Ship Tactics - Fast or Slow?

I wrote a bit a while back on the effect of book 2 sensors on ship tactics IMTU:

I have yet to smoke-test all this, but here goes.

I suspect that a fleet exercising due caution on arrival in a system should be able to detect and engage targets, with missiles and sensor drones in concert, outside sensor detection ranges. Hence, it's to be expected that fleets will be heavily missile-based, using ship-killing nuclear missiles in an attack role and retaining lasers for anti-missile duty. What isn't clear to me is how important velocity will be in this kind of combat.

It's clear that ships will have to maneuver to evade missiles somewhat, especially in the early stages of battle where the intruder hasn't necessarily even been identified on scan by the defender: The attacker will launch a flight of missiles, then change vector as drastically as possible so as to make it impossible for a counter-flight of missiles to trace back and target the intruder. But this doesn't seem to demand terribly long vectors, or require terribly fast ships. A 5000-ton, m-1 behemoth could play this game and win, it seems.

In fact, a long vector for a missile ship might be a positive detriment. If the launching ship's vector isn't close to parallel to the line of fire between it and the target, then a missile's got to spend a lot of its fuel correcting course, and may well miss. If a ship is closing with a target, and has a long vector, that might be a help - the missile's going to get there faster, and will be able to spend more fuel on targeting than being speedy - but then, the launching ship will likely make itself available as a target as it closes. It seems likely that if the vector's too long, even a high-maneuverability missile might miss its target. On the other hand, missiles will be unlikely to target such a fast-moving ship but still, why present the target when missiles can be launched from as far out as three light seconds?

Now, it seems that a ship could, having located a target at extreme range with sensor missiles, accelerate steadily at top speed while launching missiles - it would be able to launch two or three salvoes before ever being acquired as a target. By the time it reached detection range, a fast warship ship could have a vector half a light-second long or more- no impediment for lasers, but probably very difficult for a missile to target.

I'm thinking with a spreadsheet here, but assuming an intruder that can accelerate at 4G while evading and missiles that accelerate 6G. I assume a native that starts out with a short vector.
I reckon game turn one, the intruder begins acceleration and starts launching missiles.
by game turn three, the first of three missile salvoes have been scanned by the native, who will begin trying to get out of the missiles' track; perhaps the native will respond with a salvo of missiles along the incoming track as well.
Game turn five, both ships are in each other's detection range, and are at long range for lasers.
Game turn six, the intruder's missiles should start intercepting the native, if it hasn't been able to get outside the missile's turn. Laser range is still long.
Game turn seven, laser range is short. The intruders missiles are still intercepting. The intruder, still accelerating, has a vector of nearly a light second.
Game turn eight, the intruder has whipped past. Laser range is long. The intruder's missiles should all have either intercepted or overshot by now.
Game turn nine, the intruder will be out of effective laser range.
Game turn ten, the intruder should be out of tracking range.

I don't know how well missiles will be able to intercept targets moving that fast. If they can't, this kind of high-velocity attack might be ideal for a fast warship with lots of lasers against missile-heavy, slow craft.

Ships maneuvering that much won't be able to use sandcasters at all.
Ships moving to avoid missile tracks will probably not be able to run their evade programs.


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