Battle Class Orbital Assault Craft (LHO)

In the early days of space colonization ground forces were carried by either Navy or civilian liners leased specifically for the operation, this proved effective only when actions were limited and the landings were uncontested. As nations came into conflict over interplanetary real-estate the need for purpose built landing ships became apparent. Most countries that had a colonial presence began building Orbital Assault Ships in the early 2200s, some countries such as the United States designed ships that would operate in conjunction with other ships providing protection and clearing the way into orbit, other countries where budget constraints were an issue designed ships that could both fight and land troops.

The Australian Army needed a ship that could fight its way into orbit around a planet then once there support at least a battalion sized task force for an extended period operating on the surface and hold off any counter attacks in orbit.

A big job called for a big ship and in early 2243 work began in Mars orbit on the 65000 ton Kapyong designed and constructed by the German engineering firm of Thysen-Benz. From the outset the ship would be one of the largest of its type eclipsed only by the Chinese landers (brigade size task force but unable to operate alone). The ship was designed to accommodate a full battalion of mechanized/mobile infantry plus supporting elements such as tanks and mobile artillery. To land these assets quickly and safely on a planet a fleet of landing craft and interface vehicles was needed along with space to house the myriad of vehicles and equipment associated with a modern combined arms unit. The design took this into account by the addition of a huge docking ring which had a larger diameter than the two accommodation rings, large doors could open into space on each of the fourteen docking bays to allow craft to come and go, the outer ring holding the docking bays could have its rotation stopped during operations while leaving the cargo and staging areas underneath still rotating un under gravity. The wheel within wheel configuration enabled easy launch and recovery of landing craft while still enabling normal operation under gravity for the rest of the ship.

The offensive weapons consisted of a spinal mounted 240cm rail gun/launcher system with the ability to launch both smart and dumb payloads; this included the AGM184 standoff anti-ship missile and the newly developed HAS12 long range area denial weapon. Defensive weapons were similar to any modern warship with multi-barrel point defense rail guns and energy weapons. An extensive command and control suite for the landing force interfaces with the combat control centre to enable the ship to fight in orbit and control its forces on the ground. The large phased array RADAR/LADAR system is augmented by a passive all-spectrum tracking system which enables identification and targeting of ship sized objects out to extremely long range. In essence the Kapyong class is a landing craft wrapped around a missile frigate giving the best of both worlds.

In operation Kapyong and its now four sister ships; Long Tan, Gallipoli, Tobruk and Kokoda have provided sterling service in both national and UN operations, initially the main fear was that by combining a warship with a landing ship would give an enemy an easier target, in actual operation that has proven to be unfounded however to this day there has not been an engagement between a Kapyong class and a like sized dedicated warship so it is yet to be determined who would win out.

Integrated Battlefield Communications and Information Systems

The secret of successful military operations has always been communications, commanders at all levels need to know what their troops are up to in order to effectively direct them- the more information, the better the decisions that can be made. In the twenty fourth century every soldier, vehicle and aircraft is networked together, from the electronic sights on an infantryman’s weapon to the sensors from remote drones, all this information can be accessed by a battle field commander at any time. A few key items of equipment have changed the way soldiers operate in the field-

The Live Map

Flexible display technology has changed the humble paper map to a foldable screen capable of streaming live data from all battle field sources, friendly units are displayed using the standard IFF system in real time with the traditional map data overlaid by satellite imagery and at any time the user can zoom out to a world view or in for a grunts eye look at the terrain, think Google maps on steroids. All operation are done via touch screen and a commander with the relevant permissions can do everything from request artillery to ask an individual soldier to scope a target using his battle sight. The map itself can be folded down to pocket size and out to about 1m by 1m.

Helmet Targeting Systems

Hitting a target with an infantry weapon of any type has always been difficult, optical sights have helped but in the end it comes down to practice and training that determines the amount of damage a soldier can do with his personal weapon. Technology has tried to improve this accuracy by bringing similar heads up technology found in aircraft to the individual grunt. All weapons’ in the modern arsenal have electronic sights that have their targeting slaved to a moving cross hair that is displayed on the visor of the helmet. Additional information is also available on the helmet visor; direction, objectives, threat queues, waypoints, ammo supply and IFF designations. Night fighting capability has also been enhanced by the improved low light vision capabilities which further increase the soldier’s ability to fight in all kinds of light. Unit commanders can designate targets and hand them off to selected units/soldiers for them to engage. If you think of a current day fighter pilot and their heads up technology being integrated into an infantryman’s helmet.

Identification Friend or Foe

Getting smoked by your own team was always an issue, as the weapons got more powerful and the battlefield more chaotic the chance of mistaking your guys for their guys became more and more likely. Modern weapons are integrated into the overall command network and their electronic targeting systems can identify if the target is friendly or not and then disable the ability to fire. Commanders can also set weapon states centrally, a cease fire order can be implemented immediately by locking all weapons’ on a battlefield, civilian casualties can be avoided by proper designation of targets using multiple sensors and assaulting across friendly fields of fire is less dangerous (although should still be avoided). IFF has proved invaluable in urban and close combat situations where sorting out the enemy from the civilians and the friendlies is always difficult.

Integrated Command and Control

To bring this all together and sort through the massive amounts of data generated requires a command team that has access to some very advanced technology. To illustrate a battalion task force command team will have dedicated data analysts for each platoon, their job is to manage the flow to and from the platoons and ensure they are on track and on mission. The data team report into the battalion comms officer (SO6) and ensure the battalion command team are receiving relevant and timely data. The intelligence officer (SO2) is also feeding information into the network by tasking assets such as recon and battlefield RPV. Logistics is using the supply usage data to plan and execute resupply while the operations officer and his planning team are ensuring the battle plan is running smoothly. In the middle of all this, the Battalion Commander is directing the course of the operation and making decision based on the information being delivered to him by the team. The whole command team can number up to forty people, some cases these can be located in orbit or split amongst several command posts or vehicles depending on the unit or operation. HMAS Kapyong, one of Australia’s orbital landing craft, has a battalion command centre capable of running a complete command team from orbit.

The Influence of Traveller

Its the summer of 1984 and a group of like minded highschoolers sit around a lounge room with reams of graph paper, dice and some funny looking books with coloured stripes on them. Over the course of an evening they are transported to the Spinward Marches and have rescued an imprisoned Droyne family from an Imperial research station.
Jump forward to 1988, a different group sitting around a barracks room and battling through post nuclear war Europe, a rag tag bunch of soldiers fighting the Soviets and surviving on their wits and the ability to roll well when firing an M16 (side note to this is we were all actually training to shoot the M16 so very relevant). Later they would all travel into the future and serve in the Transtaffl Freedom Forces and battle some serious aliens that looked a little like giant cockroaches.
GDW created some fabulous universes and influenced my early life, my school marks suffered but it opened an infinite number of worlds to adventure in. Later, long after the book had been lost and the rules forgotten, I embarked on a rediscovery through eBay of the lost treasures from GDW. Much to the dismay of my long suffering family we now have a house full of not only GDW but a fair share of every other role playing franchise (except D&D, nerds played D&D) and board games from the 80s. Squad Leader, Boots and Saddles, Command Decision the list is long. Where am I going with this you may ask? This is an acknowledgement of the effect GDW had on my thinking and an admission that much of the stuff I do borrows extensively from the likes of Marc Miller and Frank Chadwick (gaming demi-gods). If you see a resemblance to their work, its very likely that I have borrowed from it.
Having said all that my major wish is to develop a system that works for me and seems sort of plausible in light of the way the world is heading, who would have thought in the mid 80’s that we would be fighting another nasty war but in the middle east? We all grew up thinking that hordes of T90s would roll through Germany, go figure?
Anyway I am using this medium to put pen to paper and actually do something about a rule set that I would like to play please humour me and if you have any input it would be appreciated.

Space Travel Part One- The Early Years

The major influence on human activity for the past two hundred years has been the discovery and exploitation of interstellar space. The invention of the Alcubierre drive in 2101 enabled faster than light travel within reasonable timeframes. A Drive technology has enabled the nations of earth to colonize and explore stars out to one hundred light years from earth.

A Drive
In 1994, the Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a method of stretching space in a wave which would in theory cause the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract and the space behind it to expand. The ship would ride this wave inside a region known as a warp bubble of flat space. Since the ship is not moving within this bubble, but carried along as the region itself moves, conventional relativistic effects such as time dilation do not apply in the way they would in the case of a ship moving at high velocity through flat space-time.
This method of travel does not actually involve moving faster than light in a local sense, since a light beam within the bubble would still always move faster than the ship; it is only “faster than light” in the sense that, thanks to the contraction of the space in front of it, the ship could reach its destination faster than a light beam restricted to travelling outside the warp bubble. Thus, the Alcubierre drive does not contradict the conventional claim that relativity forbids a slower-than-light object to accelerate to faster-than-light speeds.
Further development of warp theory in the 2060s by both Japanese and European space agency’s led to the first working drive which was attached to a joint venture probe ship. On the 1st of September 2072, the Hikari Explorer, an unmanned probe launched to explore earths closest neighbor- Proxima Centauri. The probe was a success finding a system of three planets, one tidally locked within Proximas habitable zone.
Both the JSA (Japan Space Authority) and the ESA (European Space Authority) signed a joint agreement to mount a manned mission to Alpha Centauri and by 2079 the Chinese, American and Russians had signed up to be part of the program. The combined efforts of these countries enabled the building of the Hikari Wanderer, the first A Drive explorer vessel. The ship would be manned by a large multinational crew with the overall command given to the Japanese Air Force Officer Junichi Asano who was tasked with molding together one hundred and eighty crew from twenty four countries.

The construction the Wanderer was the single most complicated construction project in the history of humanity. The technology of the A Drive worked on the principle of the more power fed into the, the faster you travel the only problem was that the generation of the “warp bubble” was severely retarded by the effects of gravity forcing ships to use conventional drives to get themselves away from the effects of a stars gravitational field. The ideal distance is around one thousand diameters from the star, a single diameter is approximately 1.3 million kilometers so to enable the A Drive, Wanderer would have to travel over one billion kilometers using traditional hydrogen fueled drives to get to this point although a fraction of the distance, the journey to this point would take eight months from the moon orbit. This is where the first limitations of the A Drive technology became apparent- .01% of the journey takes 99% of the time, mass and power.

An A Drive jump, although, takes massive amounts of power discharged from energy stored in capacitors it is relatively quick compared to conventional drives, the Wanderer was a huge vessel incorporating a large spin habitat and survey instrumentation but the conventional drive and its hydrogen fuel took up nearly 60% of the total mass of the ship. Later designs would explore more mass saving methods of propulsion but the hydrogen drives built into Wanderer remain in wide use today as the fastest means of moving about a system.
The actual jump to Alpha Centauri took just under three days and equated to a drive efficiency of one light year per day, today this would be seen as relatively poor in comparison to modern technology but that first jump changed the human race forever and opened the door to a new age of discovery. It also highlighted the second major drawback of the A Drive- charge build up.
The theory of the A Drive did not take into account the need to clear charge buildup from the drive arrays. This buildup increases with the time spent in A Space and with the amount of power applied to the drive array manifesting itself in the form of heat. Active and passive cooling systems can alleviate the problem but there comes a point where the amount of cooling is overtaken by the heat generated forcing the shutdown of the drive systems before they become critically damaged. Practical limits of the amount of mass that needs to be transported to the 1000 diameter limit versus the amount of fuel needed to get it there has put limits on the range of A Drive vessels, Wanderer arrived in the Alpha Centauri system with a drive that required four days to cool. Modern designs, mainly military couriers and high speed freighters carrying non-perishables, can reach up to three light-years per day but still only have four to five day duration. The longest jump made by the experimental scout vessel RV Thomas G Thompson, a US Navy ship, was 18.7 ly in 2172.

Arriving in the Alpha Centauri system the crew of the Wanderer were greeted by three stars all of which had worlds within their habitable zones, the first explored was the world which would later become known as New Earth which orbited the largest star Alpha Centauri A. In total the system had over eighteen major worlds including two large gas giants only one, New Earth, had an atmosphere humans could operate in albeit using Mars style environment suits. The experience gained in colonizing Mars thirty years before and the start of the terra forming process on a largely barren world gave hope to permanent settlement on New Earth. The one thing the explorers did not find was life. New Earth had all the signs of a planet that, like Mars, once had standing water and a viable atmosphere but there were no sign that this world or any other within the Alpha Centauri system ever supported life of any kind. Now with the exploration of hundreds of worlds, we have found life in multiple forms but at the time it was expected there would be at least some sign that we were not alone- it was not to be.
Junichi Asano noted in his diary 23rd June 2085- “We all came with an unspoken expectation that as a race we would finally find we were not alone, Alpha Centauri was going to provide us positive indications of other life outside our own system but it was not to be. We found an amazing system of planets orbiting three stars that were so different to our own sun that we were hard pressed to collect enough data, every discovery pushed the boundaries of our knowledge, every new discovery lead to even more questions but the holy grail; life, was not to be found”

The discovery of new earth gave the nations of old earth something they had never had- perspective. The realization that the human race had finally “slipped the bonds of earth” gave a kick start to the UN starting a process that would later be known as the Berlin Protocols. It was recognized that the commercialization of space was now a reality, interplanetary and interstellar space were now open to both private and national interests and with this the world as a whole realized that if any one power held control over space they would effectively hold the high ground and control the Earth and all who lived there. The solution was found in the Berlin Protocols which effectively designated the orbital real-estate around the home planet as a demilitarized zone, activity would be monitored by the United Nations using resources drawn from each of the Earths nations, although not all nations signed up initially there was enough to enforce the Protocols. Eventually this would develop into the United Nations Orbital Management Authority (UNOMA) and as exploration, colonization and commerce expanded the taxes levied on goods entering earth space funded the policing. UNOMA also took on important role- quarantine.

Over the next fifty years the first wave of exploration burst out from Earth. Nations teamed with corporate interests to expand into the near neighborhood and by 2135 eight new colonies had been founded, most with multiple nations claiming a piece. Technology advanced at a pace not seen since the turn of the millennium, raw materials scarce on earth now became cheaper. Electronics and computing power improved to cope with space travel and advanced manufacturing techniques and zero-g factories produced the building materials for an ever increasing starship building industry. The ultimate expression of this rapid advance was the Orbital Elevator.
In 2138 UNOMA issued a tender for the building of an Orbital Elevator which would transfer cargo to and from orbit without the need for expensive interface vehicles. Advances in materials allowed for this to be built but it would still require a major feat of engineering. In 2140 the combined might of the Japanese firm of Mitsubishi, US giant General Electric and the European conglomerate Eurospace teamed up to win the tender. The first work on the foundations began off the coast of Singapore and in orbit in 2142 and by the following year both the foundation anchor and the tethering asteroid were in place. The cable itself was manufactured using ore mined from the tethering asteroid, the process forming the structure for what would later become the industrial hub of Gateway Heights.

By 2150 the first “train” made the six day journey to Gateway Heights carrying a load of Industry leaders, politicians and media for a grand opening ceremony in the zero-g caverns of the asteroid, the President of Singapore noted in one of the opening speeches-
“No longer are we tethered to the Earth, travel beyond the planet is now within the reach of ordinary people, we are all now citizens of the stars”
Although this opened up the elevator to commercial traffic it would be another ten years before the massive spin habitat of Gateway would be completed, this in itself in many ways rivaled the building of the elevator cable. Rotating around the cable itself the 4.5km long tube housing three floors of commerce, residential and retail and at any one time having a population of 850,000 people is capable of docking over one hundred ships in the docking structures fixed to the top and bottom of the huge space station. Capable of maintaining .8G gravity due to the massive radius of the tube, Gateway serves as the common hub for all interaction between Earth and the rest of known space. Before gateway freight had to be delivered from orbit to the surface by either Automated Containerized Reentry (ACR) or by shuttle. Getting product and people to the surface from orbit was easy and relatively inexpensive but getting from the surface to orbit was extremely difficult. Most durables that could withstand the acceleration we launched into orbit by one of several mass drivers located around the planet, the containers, once in orbit were recovered by automated cargo handlers and delivered to their corresponding orbital stations, ok for stuff that wasn’t affected by acceleration but no good for getting people to orbit.
For the pre elevator space traveler the most expensive part of the journey was getting into orbit via shuttle. Several companies offered regular services to the three orbital ports that handled passengers and perishable cargos but they were only for the well heeled or the Government and Cooperates. Gateway consolidated this into a single operation now serviced by both the elevator and shuttle craft, the elevator still can’t beat the speed to orbit of a shuttle. Mass drivers still continue to deliver bulk durables into orbit and there is still a huge traffic of ACR delivered cargo as they remain cost effective ways of transporting goods, but all this traffic in one way or another is handled through the Gateway complex and tax is gathered by UNOMA for each and every person and ton that comes through.

The elevator today consists of Anchor, the manmade Island off Singapore that handles all operations groundside and through which the cable is tethered three kilometers deep into the earth. Gateway, the orbital port and habitat, plus Gateway Heights which is now home to the largest zero-g industrial precinct in human history, there has been zero-g manufacturing for years but not to the scale found at Gateway Heights.
The cable itself is capable of generating enough solar energy to supply all its needs plus sell off excess to Singapore and Indonesia and provides employment to over 17,000 people directly and over one hundred times that number indirectly; economists credit the elevator with ushering in an economic revival to the whole region and lifting the living standards of millions.

All starships produced from the late 2100s to the current day consist of a more or less standard set of components, like a ship or an aircraft form follows function and although each manufacturer or class of ship looks and operates differently they all share common components that enable them to function. Obviously cargo ships devote space to cargo, warships to weapons and passenger ships to passengers but more or less each ship shares common features and the same general layout.

Starting from the front or “bow” the A Drive array forms a bulbous structure that encloses the field generator and capacitors, the faceted external panels act as radiators to handle heat buildup. A central spine extends the length of the ship to the fusion reactor, conventional drive and fuel storage.
The rear or “stern” is dominated by the exhausts from the High Efficiency Plasma Re-combustion drive or HEPLAR. The fusion reactor is used to heat the hydrogen to a plasma state while holding it in a magnetically managed containment chamber under massive pressure, fusion begins and the superheated mass is ejected through the exhaust nozzles creating thrust. The principle is similar to the way a star operates and generates massive amounts of heat, thrust and light. Operating HEPLAR drives can be detected at vast distances due to their emissions and Military ships have a secondary Ion Drive which can be used in situations where stealth is needed although the thrust generated from these is a lot smaller they are not as easy to detect as the HEPLARs.

Rotating around the middle is a spin habitat that generates a maximum of around .6g enabling the crew to function for extended periods in space. Spin habitats are usually of a ring design with access to the spine through multiple spokes. Crew comfort can vary from different watches sharing bunks or “hot bunking” to each crew member having their own stateroom, commonly officers will have their own stateroom while senior crew will share two to a room, junior crew six or more. The worst duty for crew is in the few ships like fast couriers or long range survey craft where the need for streamlining for planetary landing and mass constraints does not enable the installation of spin habitats.

Warships generally have a mass driver running along this spine for launching ordnance while cargo ships will have their whole length taken up by bulk storage or containers; passenger ships have their spin habitat extending the length of their spine. A ships total length can vary depending on usage, the larger container ships and bulk haulers can hit almost a kilometer from bow to stern, some of the bigger warships can also be this long but usually ships average around the three hundred to four hundred meter mark.

Most ships have a collection of smaller service craft that enable them to liaise between other ships, orbital facilities and the surface of worlds although not all ships have a dedicated vehicle for ship to surface travel that involves atmospheric reentry, large commercial carriers have no need to interface with a planet’s surface, they travel between worlds whose orbital facilities can accommodate their needs without having any interaction with the planets themselves. Docking bays or hangers are usually located in clusters along the central spine. All ships carry a full complement of survival suits and escape pods, this is determined by UN mandate, every crew and passenger must have a survival suit and space in an escape pod, these are located in clusters mounted on the outside of the spin habitat and accessed through floor hatches. An escape pod must be capable of supporting its occupants for a minimum of one week and be capable of reentry and enough maneuverability to get itself away from a stricken ship.

Freedom of the Stars
There have been several major losses over the years, usually through drive malfunction or object strike, the worst incident occurred when the passenger liner MS Freedom of the Stars was struck by a one meter long nickel iron meteor on the 26th February 2162 while in transit through the system of Delta Pavonis, the colony world of Port Anguilla is a popular destination for both settlers and tourists. The meteor was not detected by the ships countermeasures system and crashed through the spin habitat and severed the ships spine just in front of the drives. The initial impact, although not fatal in itself, severed the main power and drive from the ship, backup systems were unable to maintain the life support for the 4300 passengers and 1300 crew, a major part of the solar array mounted to the outside of the spin habitat was destroyed in the first impact. Hull integrity within the spin habitat and the forward control compartments in the spine was maintained but not before 476 passengers and crew lost their lives to decompression.

The remainder of the passengers were embarked in life boats accompanied by the surviving crew that were in the spin habitat at the time of impact, the bridge crew remained sealed in the bridge compartment and attempted to manage the situation as best they could. Communications were maintained with Port Anguilla and Captain Jorge Erickson held his shattered ship and crew together until rescue arrived. The lifeboats were kept in close but far enough away to be clear of the debris field, this enabled all to be recovered and limited the casualties to those killed in the initial impact.

Rescue operations were mounted quickly but it took the best part of a week for the first ship, the freighter Androssen to reach the wreckage. When it did arrive it had no way to slow the wreck down or the facilities to take on such a large amount of people, just matching vector and velocity was enough to use most of its fuel reserves. Time was critical. Androssen could only keep station for eight hours before having to break off and return to Pt Anguilla Orbital. Androssen was a midsized container ship so it was decided to dock the lifeboats to empty container anchor points and leave the passengers in them for the journey back. By this time conditions on board the lifeboats were becoming dire, food and life-support were low and there was no way to get to the boats once they were docked into the container bays. During all this the Captain Erickson and his crew remained at their stations with the full knowledge that there was not going to be any way to get them off.
Androssen broke off from the Freedom of the Stars with six minutes to spare and commenced the burn that would take them back to safety; Capt Erickson maintained contact for another two weeks before the remaining power failed. The passengers and crew locked in their lifeboats aboard the Androssen began to die from lack of oxygen and starvation and by the time the French Frigate La Fayette managed a rendezvous four days later only two hundred and six people were able to be saved.
The loss of such a large ship with so many passengers highlighted the danger of space travel, it is a big universe and you are always a long way from help. Since then all ships have standard docking systems and the ability to connect docked ships to power and life support. Life support on all ships can now accommodate four times the crew number in an emergency and life boats have to be rated at one year per person for life support.
All orbital facilities on the major shipping and tourist routes now have dedicated rescue ships capable of coping with emergencies such as the Freedom wreck but the fact remains that it is a dangerous pastime.

GZG Miniatures and Old Crow Vehicle

My first attempt at some sci-fi miniatures. The idea is to adapt exisiting ranges to my own future history, I will post my early attemps as I complete them, these came from the Hammers Slammers boxed set (a great product by the way). I also intend to write some ground combat rules for 2300 which will suit these little guys.