Among science fiction stories with space flight, the overwhelming majority are about combat, both between spacecraft and between futuristic ground troops. Not to mention the occasional starship marine assault trying to board a hostile ship while in flight. Yes, there are a few non-combat stories, mostly about exploration, but space combat is here to stay.
This is just the natural continuation of the process of militarisation of space
Which naturally leads to questions about the space branch of the military of various nations. The "astro-military" in other words. Some may start out as a subdivision of an existing branch and eventually grow large enough to split off (such as how the US Army Air Corps spit off to become the US Air Force in 1947 ). Some may grow large enough to absorb other branches of the military, others may be reabsorbed into other branches. In William Keith's Galactic Marines series one of the themes of the early novels is how the US Marines fight being absorbed or eliminated. Their solution is diversifying their mission to include performing assaults on Luna and Mars.
There will generally be something like a "space navy" who deal in combat spacecraft (with a sub-branch for space fighters, even though those are unlikely). There will be "space marines", who generally are found on board combat spacecraft. They are generally elite fighters, since spacecraft usually can only carry a limited number of them. There will be a "space army", which are usually just the old ground army troops ferried to combat zones on other planets on huge lightly armed troop carriers. Finally there might be a Spaceguard.
Two on-line resources I recommend are William S. Frisbee Jr.'s Tips on Writing Military SF and William's Future War Stories. Both are almost the equivalent of college-level courses in the subject. It will take you a long time to read through the many essays and entries, but it will be worth it.
Specifically for the topic of astromilitiares, you should look over Mr. Frisbee's essay on Designing Militaries, Future War Stories essay on things that military science fiction are constantly getting wrong, and Thomas Evans' The Problem with Military Science Fiction Part 1 and Part 2
In the game SPI's Universe, there are some colorful names for various professions.
|Astroguard||Member of a planet's or star system's local military spacecraft force.|
|Star Sailor||Member of the federal spacecraft navy.|
|Freefaller||Soldier in the zero-gravity branch of the federal armed forces.|
|Ranger||Soldier in the standard ground branch of the federal armed forces.|
|Spacetrooper||Soldier in the assault force branch of the federal armed forces.|
|Scout||Member of the exploration branch of the federal armed forces.|
Tyge Sjostrand suggest the term Espatiers for space marines, since after all the term "marine" implies the ocean (French marine, from Latin marinus, derived from mare "sea"). The best guess I have at how it is pronounced is "Ess pa tee yea". Rick Robinson really likes Mr. Sjostrand suggestion:
Frederik Vezina disagrees about the pronunciation.
Another term for ground troops is "Gropo". A contraction of "ground-pounder", as opposed to sailor. Term coined by British Navy, popularized by J. Michael Strazynski in an episode of Babylon 5.
And in the anime Macross, the (Japanese) writers noted that the military on the ground is called the "Army" and the military on the ocean is called the "Navy", so logically the military in space would be called the "Spacy" (alternatively it could be a contraction of "Space Navy"). Since the release of Macross, the term has been used in other works: Martian Successor Nadesico, Voices of a Distant Star, and Mobile Suit Gundam.
Alas, "Spacy" is a little too similar to "Spacey", which in the slang of the United States means "vague and dreamy, as if under the influence of drugs".
First off, you should read Future War Stories in-depth analysis of space marines. For some of the standard features of space marines in media science fiction, there is the incredible time-sink of the TV Tropes Space Marines entry. And SF master William Keith has done a remarkable job with the creation of space marines in his Galactic Marines Series. Read a few of those novels to see it done right.
Remember that a better term for marine is "Espatier". After all, the term "marine" orginally came about because the fighters were deployed on sea going vessels. Espatier sounds better than "space-ine".
And if your science fiction universe contains space pirates, they are the natural prey of espatiers.
As previously mentioned, espatiers will tend to be elite units, compared to ordinary ground troops. This is because most combat spacecraft do not have much capacity to spare to carry espatiers, so the number of espatiers will be limited. Therefore with espatiers you will be relying upon quality over quantity. Since espatiers are usually based on board spacecraft instead of in ground bases, espatiers can be deployed much more rapidly than army troops. Unfortunately this means the espatiers will also be stuck with the job of trying to hold the ground taken for however long it takes the space army to get its act together and transport battalions of troops to the combat zone.
Since espatiers will generally be deployed in smaller numbers than ordinary troops, they have more options for insertion and extraction. To make up for their smaller numbers, they probably will have access to force multipliers, such as powered armor suits. Usually, the more elite a unit is, the more specialists it has.
Espatiers will be highly trained in hand-to-hand martial arts, though these will have to be modified for microgravity use. Espatiers will also be skilled in how to fight while wearing a space suit, and how to defend against your opponent's attempts to puncture your suit skin. Dougherty and Frier call troops with this training "protected forces" (Profors) meaning how to fight while wearing gear that protects you from a vacuum or other hostile environments. Espatiers space suits will probably be armored.
(ed note: this is from the US Army's Project Horizon for a lunar military base)
A. THREAT ANALYSIS
Self-preservation is probably the strongest human motivation. Throughout recorded history, man, when entering into new and unknown areas, has always armed himself with the best weapons available. Therefore, in preparing for a lunar outpost it is only natural that due consideration be given to devising a complement of weapons to protect the lunar pioneer.
The need for weapons is intensified by USSR. statements of intention to establish a lunar station plus intelligence estimates that would grant them the ability to do so. A USSR outpost would be a threat to the US outpost because sole possession of a lunar observation post, weather station, etc. , would provide a military advantage in case of terrestrial hostilities. Defense must therefore be provided to deter attack to obtain such an advantage. For this study it has been assumed that the opposing force is comparable in size and composition to our own. The threat considered in the choice of weapons consists of the following:
- Personnel in space suits.
- Lunar surface vehicles.
- Moon-orbiting space vehicles.
- Non-orbiting space vehicles.
Each of these threats is further discussed below.
1. Personnel in Space Suits
Due to the lack of atmosphere and the intense radiation, men walking on the lunar surface must be provided with full space suits. It is possible that they may approach the outpost either walking or in vehicles. The suit will probably be designed to include armor protection and will have self-sealing characteristics. It is safe to assume that decompression of the suit would prove fatal to the man within a very short time (about 90 seconds). It is believed that a kill mechanism of fragments with sufficient energy to puncture the space suit and retain sufficient velocity to be lethal against man would suffice against this threat. Certainly the greater the number of punctures, the higher the probability of a kill. An optimized system would therefore contain a large number of lethal fragments.
2. Lunar Surface Vehicles
Many authors have written of expeditions to and on the moon. Among the proposals have been either man operated or robot vehicles for exploration purposes. It is therefore conceivable that such a vehicle, manned or unmanned, may constitute a very real threat to an outpost. While this vehicle will very probably not be armored other than that necessary to permit pressurization, it is probable that the vehicle may be capable of rapid movement and may be provided with means of climbing or otherwise traversing the steep slopes and rugged terrain present. It is felt that anti-material type munitions capable of defeating this type of target on earth would be equal or more effective against this type vehicle on the moon and would be sufficient to immobilize such vehicles by puncturing the pressurized compartments or damaging vital parts.
3. Moon-Orbiting Space Vehicles
The moon—orbiting space vehicle, from the point of view of the lunar outpost, may be either friendly or unfriendly, manned or unmanned. It is presumed that prior knowledge of the intent to place a friendly vehicle in lunar orbit would have been received from earth. The intent of the orbiting vehicle may be either surveillance or an attack on the outpost. Assuming that the mission of the vehicle is of a surveillance nature, the vehicle may not be an immediate threat to the outpost. The detection, tracking, and destruction of this vehicle present essentially the same type problems as a non-orbiting space vehicle.
4. Non-Orbiting Space Vehicle
As in the case of the moon-orbiting space vehicle, it must be presumed that there is prior knowledge of the approach of a friendly vehicle from earth. This non-friendly vehicle may either be manned or unmanned and the intent may be to land with opposing forces or may carry a large nuclear warhead capable of mass destruction of the lunar base material and personnel. The lethal radius of personnel of a 10MT nuclear burst at an altitude of 80,000 feet above earth is of an order of 70 miles. However, when the burst is in the vacuous conditions around the moon, the lethal radius from this yield would be in excess of 200 miles. The estimated kill mechanism for either the orbiting or non-orbiting space vehicle is primary and secondary radiation from a nuclear warhead capable of destroying the vehicle, the electronics systems of the vehicle, the warhead, or killing the personnel. Another possible mechanism to be considered is beamed electromagnetic radiation, better known as the "death ray," and also an electron accelerator. (see paragraphs C1.a, and C2)
B. ENVIRONMENT AND EFFECT ON AMMUNITION
The effects of environment in changing the characteristics or the design requirements for lunar outpost equipment are certainly not unique to ammunition. Probably physiological and psychological considerations will dictate the major design characteristics of most of the landing party materiel. However, there are a number of environmental conditions which have significant effect upon ammunition and Weaponry. Some of these fortuitously enhance the performance characteristics of certain weapons and result in significant simplification; on the other hand others will require major weaponry development programs to adapt them to lunar use. This section will cover four major areas of environment and how they affect weapon handling and performance. The four categories are Vacuum, Temperature, Gravity, and Human Factors. It should be noted that the discussions are limited strictly to the effects of environment on weaponry and the capability for effective use under lunar conditions.
The absolute pressures near the surface of the moon are of the order 10-13 of the earth's atmosphere. In terms of the ammunition and weaponry this extremely low pressure may be considered for all practical purposes as perfect vacuum.
a. Explosive Initiation and Propagation
There is evidence which indicates that stab type detonators and percussion primers as they are presently designed will not operate reliably in a vacuum. There are methods of overcoming this situation by substitution of explosive materials or sealing the cartridge cases.
b. Storage Stability
Some aspects of the vacuum environment will be advantageous to good storage stability. There will be no oxygen or moisture present to cause corrosion of metal parts and any gaseous reaction products will be dissipated with the consequent tendency to reduce the rate of any decomposition reactions.
c. Dissipation of Gaseous Products
The hot gases ejected from the rear of rocket propelled weapons or recoilless rifles will be unretarded by air and will retain their full expansion velocity for relatively long distances. If the normal precaution of not standing directly to the rear of such a weapon are exercised, the danger from the gases by direct thermal conduction should be no greater than they are on the earth.
d. Blast Dissipation
The usual air shock wave from detonation of a blast type warhead will not exist since there is no medium in which it can propagate. The expanding gaseous products from the detonation of an explosive will exert some pressure on nearby objects. An estimate of these pressures as a function of the distance from the center of a spherical explosive charge is as shown in Figure III-C-1. This serves to demonstrate that the pressures produced by a blast type warhead will drop in a very Short distance from the charge to such low levels that it is impractical to consider using blast effects as a means of defeating vehicular or human targets.
e. Heat Transfer
f. Fragment Ballistics
Regarding the flight of fragments from their point of launch to the target, the vacuum environment enhances the overall lethality of fragmentation weapons to a considerable degree. In view of the fact that the wounding capability is a power function of velocity (Ke = 0.5 * M * V2 with velocity raised to the power of 2), the air drag in the earth’s atmosphere is a very substantial factor in degrading the wounding capability at the target. Under lunar vacuum conditions the individual fragment is essentially as lethal throughout its trajectory as it is at the very instant of launch. Thus, overall lethalities of fragmentation weapons will be orders of magnitude greater under lunar conditions than they are on earth.
The lack of drag, while enhancing the lethality of fragmentation weapons, at the same time introduces a problem of safety to the using personnel. Under lunar vacuum conditions the absence of drag allows the omni-directional fragmentation devices to be just as lethal against friendly personnel over long distances as they are against enemy personnel. The use of an omnidirectional fragmentation weapon will thus require firing or launching from a masked position such that friendly personnel are shielded from the returning fragments (i.e., if you throw a grenade, immediately take shelter behind a bolder).
In terms of fragments other than "chunky" types (L/D ratios of about 1) there appears to be no particular advantage to considering such things as flechettes or darts. Basically, these are fin-stabilized devices which depend on air for stabilization for their effectiveness (i.e., aero-stabilization don't work if there ain't no air). While the flechette offers considerable promise on earth by eliminating a good portion of the velocity degradation associated with "chunky" fragments, this would not be the case in a lunar application.
g. Exterior Ballistics
The vacuum lunar conditions present some radically different concepts insofar as exterior ballistics are concerned. The absence of air drag serves to preserve velocity over the entire trajectory. Thus, the ranges attainable on the moon, because of the vacuum conditions, are far in excess of earth ranges. The absence of an atmosphere while enhancing the range offers an entirely new slant on stability. Obviously, fins or any other type of aerodynamic stabilization are physically impossible. Spin stabilization is possible and would be similar to stabilization on earth with one exception — once a shell or projectile is spin stabilized at launch at some angle to the horizontal, it will continue to travel in this attitude throughout a vacuum trajectory.
h. Nuclear Effects
The phenomenon associated with the detonation of a nuclear device in the absence of an atmosphere differs considerably from that within the atmosphere. On the earth, a nuclear detonation will normally release most of its energy as blast and thermal radiation and a smaller portion as neutrons and gamma radiation, along with several other radiations. Under vacuum conditions, as found on the moon, a nuclear detonation will produce very little blast and thermal energy in the conventional earth reference sense, and instead will release essentially all of its energy solely in the form of nuclear, atomic, and electromagnetic radiations (mostly x-rays with a bit of gamma-rays and neutrons), The lack of atmosphere will result in the fact that no attenuation of radiation will occur, and the only reduction of intensity will occur as a result of geometrical I/R2 dropoff,
i. Electrical and Electronic
One effect of low pressure on electric circuit behavior is that high voltage arcing is a serious problem. For example, with the voltage levels required in the current atomic implosion warheads, it is necessary to maintain a pressure of at least 7 psi to insure functioning. This problem is solved by sealing a dry nitrogen atmosphere in these warheads which in addition to preventing arcing, also prevents oxidation and humidity effects. The problem of breakdown voltage can be eliminated by proper design but must be given careful consideration. In some situations where a nearly total vacuum is needed in electronic components, the possibility of designing to take advantage of the near total vacuum already present on the moon might be helpful. Design of specific fuzing circuits should at least consider this aspect.
The lack of an atmosphere on the moon allows the surface of the moon. to be exposed to the direct rays of the sun (about 1.4×106 ergs/cm2/sec) throughout the entire period of daylight which is approximately 2 earth weeks. During the lunar night (also about 2 earth weeks) the surface of the moon dissipates its heat by direct radiation to space and does not enjoy the effect of any insulating atmosphere. Consequently there is a large variation in the temperature of the moon's surface from the lunar day to the lunar night. For the purposes of this study the maximum temperature of the lunar surface has been taken to be 248°F (120°C) and the minimum temperature -202°F (-130°C). The rate of change of temperature may be as high as 250 to 300°F per hour. It is expected that there will be some equilibrium temperature maintained at a reasonable distance below the moon's surface. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider the storage of munitions in a cave or tunnel until they are required for defense in order to maintain reasonable temperatures.
Present Ordnance items are designed for possible storage and operation over the temperature range of -65° to 160°F. In the standard JAN temperature and humidity cycling test for fuzes the temperature is changed from one extreme to the other in about 4 hours. This represents a rate of change of about 60°F per hour. It can be seen, therefore, that the possible lunar rate of change in temperature of 250 to 300°F per hour may present serious problems since present ammunition is not designed with such high rates of temperature change in view. Because of their relatively high co-efficients of thermal expansion, explosive charges will have relatively high internal stresses induced by the rapid temperature changes. In almost all explosives, except plastic explosives such as Composition C4 (plastic explosive), these thermal stresses will be greater than the strength of the explosive and will result in cracking of the explosive charges. This cracking of the explosive charge is not likely to have any deleterious effect on conventional ammunition. However, in items such as implosion type atomic warheads where the shape of the detonation wave is important, the cracks may so distort the shape of the detonation wave as to seriously detract from the performance of the warhead. Rocket propellants might also be expected to be cracked as a result of the thermal shock. Such cracks would increase the burning surface of the propellants and possibly lead to rupture of the rocket motor because of the greater pressures produced.
These considerations lead to the conclusion that it would be desirable to provide some means of insulating the ammunition so as to reduce the rate of change of the temperature of the items. This might be accomplished by proper selection of the surface treatment of the items so as to reduce the rate of heat transfer by radiation.
It would also be desirable to store the items below the surface of the moon so as to reduce the temperature variation.
Conventional cast explosives which are based on TNT as the casting medium become molten at temperatures about 175°F and will not be acceptable if they are expected to operate at 248°F. This problem may be overcome however, by using cast explosives based on trinitrobenzene (TNB) or by using plastic-bonded explosives based on HMX or diaminotrinitrobenzine (DATB).
Atomic warheads presently require the use of plastic-bonded explosives for their high strengths and high explosive outputs. Present plastic bonded explosives decrease in strength at elevated temperatures but it is expected that current work on improvement of the binders used in these compositions should produce compositions of satisfactory stability, strength and output at 248°F by 1965.
The stability of propellants at 214°F presents a more serious problem. The stability of nitrocellulose based propellants after storage for one year at 160°F is marginal. It is therefore. doubtful that these propellants will be able to withstand storage at 248°F for long periods of time. Some provisions will have to be made for storing them below the surface of the moon or otherwise shielding them from the solar radiation so that their temperature will not exceed 160°F for extended periods of time.
The difference in coefficient of thermal expansion of two dissimilar metals which might be used in a fuse would create a considerable variation in the clearances between the parts. Any fuzes or other assemblies which would be expected to operate on the surface of the moon would have to be critically examined to determine whether the temperature variation would prevent its proper functioning.
It has been suggested that the temperature may be controlled by storing the ammunition below the surface of the moon in caves or tunnels. It is also possible that packing could be designed to suitably insulate the ammunition. Because of the almost total lack of an atmosphere on the moon it may be possible to design containers for the ammunition which would act much like thermos bottles.
The fact that the propellants and explosives used in the ammunition items for this project may be exposed to temperatures of 214°F for relatively long periods of time raises the question of the danger of cook-off or spontaneous ignition (thermally induced firing, or why you don't put your handgun on top of a hot stove). It is considered that there will be no cook-off problem with any of the standard military high explosives except possibly PETN. However, tests of the specific explosives intended for this use would have to be conducted. Electric detonators which contain PETN base charges have been found to cook-off when exposed to temperatures above 310°F for periods of less than 30 minutes. The possibility that such detonators might cook-off after exposure to 248°F for periods of 2 weeks would have to be investigated by actual tests.
The possibility of cook-off of propellants (missile fuel or artillery shell charge) is a more serious hazard. No definite data are available on the results of prolonged storage of propellants at temperatures near 248°F.
The choice of weapons outlined in this study points toward certain fuzing techniques as being required. One of these, and perhaps the most desirable type of fuzing, is a mechanical contact fuze dependent upon inertia or deformation at impact to provide the fusing signal. The signal could either be an electrical signal or a percussion signal depending upon the specific weapon. While it is true that these fuzes are sensitive to the type of terrain upon which impact occurs, it would be possible to design the fuze to be sensitive enough to function against soft materials but require acceleration arming for safety. The device can be designed with a minimum of moving parts to decrease high and low temperature effects.
The contact fuze represents the most simple and reliable unit and should be used if a contact burst is acceptable. If an air burst is required the mechanical timer is probably better from a temperature standpoint even though it introduces a human error problem in setting, which the proximity fuze does not. Other types of fuzing which could be used include more elaborate radar techniques, optical methods and infra red methods but all these require an unwarranted degree of sophistication and also utilize components of such sensitivity that their successful design would present a difficult problem in consideration of the temperatures involved.
The fact that the propellant charges will be expected to perform over a wide range of temperature will produce considerable variation in the muzzle or burn out velocity of the weapon, A temperature variation from 160° to -40°F produces a change of about 10% in the muzzle velocity of a gun. Since burning rates are expected to change more rapidly above or below those temperatures, the lunar temperature variation may produce a velocity variation of 50% or more. Comprehensive studies toward preventing these extreme variations will be required.
a. Exterior and Therminal Ballistics
The gravitational acceleration on the moon is about 1/6 that of the earth value. It may be readily shown that the (flat terrain) range of any projectile in a vacuum is inversely proportional to the gravitational constant. The lunar ranges of all earth weapons are therefore approximately 6 times that of their vacuum ranges on earth. As illustrations of the typical ranges attainable under lunar conditions, Figure III-C-2 shows the trajectory for the DAVY CROCKETT weapon. These large increases in range make the various weapons take on an entirely different complexion insofar as possible missions.
The lower gravitational field also increases terminal effects by increasing the range of fragments prior to final impact with the ground. Normally, the earth ranges for effective fragmentation are short due to air drag, so that gravity effects are negligible. However, with the lack of drag, gravity would come into consideration in determining the maximum effective radius of fragmentation. A high gravitational field, such as found on a very massive heavenly body, might very well negate the gain in effectiveness afforded by a vacuum. Fortuitously, the lunar low gravity and vacuum environments complement one another in maximizing fragment effective range.
The low gravitational field allows for lower elevations and for much less propellant for comparable ranges. Flat fire, over relatively long ranges, if desired, would present very little problem. Also, the use of propulsion means other than conventional propellants (e.g., compressed gas, springs, etc. ), appears entirely feasible, for the shorter range weapons.
The lower gravity on the moon presents a problem in absorbing recoil in both ground emplaced and handheld weapons. The lower weight for the same mass of weapon results in a much greater tendency toward overturning and lower frictional retardation under recoil forces (which in themselves are comparable to that on earth for equivalent projectiles and velocities). In addition, with lighter structure required for strength under lunar conditions, this problem will be compounded. In view of this, the recoilless type weapons, which need no parasitic recoil weight, appear quite attractive for lunar application.
Since structures are normally designed to support their own weight and since the weight will be only about 1/6 of their earth weight, they may be considered as being inherently stronger. This effect will not be as pronounced with small structures as it will be with large structures. It is unlikely that any of the ammunition items themselves will be large enough to benefit appreciably from this effect. Such things as protective canopies for the shielding of ammunition items from the direct rays of the sun, however, could be made from extremely light structural members.
4. Human Factors
One of the limiting considerations involved with planning the defense of an outpost on the moon revolves about the ability of the human elements to use their senses. We have previously discussed the lack of atmosphere, the extremes of heat and cold, the reduced gravity, and the effect of these on the performance of the munitions required. In some cases, as noted, these effects were beneficial in that the weapons' performance was actually enhanced. In the case of the human element, the effect is almost always detrimental.
The mobility and ability will be severely limited since at all times man must wear the lunar suit. Weapons that do not require precise adjustment and arming will be required. Special provisions must be made for those weapons which require precise arming so this can be accomplished from within the suit (special gun-sights will be needed to accommodate space helmets). Present arctic clothing designs do not permit accurate aiming. The ammunition must be designed to be handled and operated with claws rather than the fingers and hands (it was later discovered that actual claws were not required. But the Apollo space suits give you very fat fingers. Over-sized trigger guards will be needed.). Under the gravitational conditions on. the moon, humans, firing weapons that recoil will find it more difficult to withstand overturning and translation due to imparted momentum (recoil will flip the gunman or shove them backward unless they brace for it).
C. DEFENSE REQUIREMENTS
1. Personnel in Space Suits and Vehicles
The space suit which must be worn at all times when outside a pressure chamber, whether it be a vehicle or the outpost facility, provides a fair degree of protection from all types of kill mechanisms. The outer shell of the double wall suit protecting the stomach and chest is expected to be 40 ounces per square foot of titanium. The inner shell is expected to be a composite metal structure for attenuation of cosmic radiation. The head-piece of the suit will probably be more vulnerable since provision must be made for the man to see (transparent materials tend to be fragile). Other provisions such as oxygen supply, heating and/or air conditioning gear may be vulnerable. The vehicle will probably not provide any better armor defense than the space suit itself. It appears probable that the vehicle will be pressurized.When a threat exists to the man it will be necessary that he not only defend himself but must defend the outpost and supplies or he may soon die. The proposed facilities of the outpost are presented in other portions of the Project HORIZON Report and it immediately becomes essential to consider some type of perimeter defense for the site. The kill mechanism for the perimeter defense must possess the killing capabilities to defeat either man or vehicle. It is desirable that the weapon be fired from within the outpost facilities. This may be accomplished by emplacing the weapon outside the facilities and firing remotely from within.
It appears necessary to review the possible kill mechanisms which could be used to defeat a human or vehicular target in the unique lunar environment. Among the types of kill mechanisms considered are beamed electromagnetic radiation, fire, blast, fragments, radiant energy, target impact, and nuclear kill mechanisms. For initial defense of the outpost, the weight of the weapons required should possibly not exceed l,000 lbs. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of each kill mechanism are discussed below.
a. Beamed Electromagnetic Radiation
One of the most promising schemes for weaponization of a device capable of projecting a focused bean of adequate doses of neutron or gamma radiation is by use of an electron accelerator. Such a device requires considerable power and, even through a built-in vacuum is available on the moon, it does not appear to be feasible to build such a weapon within acceptable weight limits in the time period of 1965 1966.
The possibilities of using fire from a weapon such as flame thrower as an efficient kill mechanism under lunar conditions appear rather remote. Any weapon of this nature which requires oxygen from the air to burn a fuel obviously would not function in a vacuum. Oxygen and fuel could be combined in a weapon; however, the personnel and vehicles are expected to be insulated to some degree from heat.
As discussed earlier under "Environment", there is a rapid drop of pressure from a charge detonated in a vacuum. Since it has been estimated that peak over-pressures on the order of 100 to 300 psi are required to seriously injure or cause death to personnel by blast, and peak over-pressures greater than 10 psi are required to rupture eardrums, it is obvious that blast is not a good kill mechanism for the lunar application.
It must be considered that once a fragment has entered the body, its wounding potential will not be significantly different on the moon than it is on earth. Soft material targets on earth are quite vulnerable to fragments of the order of 10 to 15 grains travelling at several thousand feet per second. Lunar materiel may be softer due to the necessity of lighter structure. With respect to the penetration of the space suit, it is believed that the maximum armor protection which could be afforded would be on the order of 100 oz/sq ft and the suit proposed in another volume of the report is on the order of 40 oz/sq ft. This maximum target can be penetrated with 6 grain fragments at a velocity of approximately 3,800 fps or with 17 grain fragments travelling at 2,400 fps. As was mentioned under "Environment", the fragment striking velocity is essentially the same as the muzzle or initial velocity (since Luna has no air, there is no atmospheric drag to slow down the fragments).
e. Radiant Energy
Under lunar conditions, radiation weapons are conceptionally feasible because of the lack of atmospheric attenuation. The actual kill mechanism would depend on either damage to the space suit by heating or direct radiation effects, or by penetration of the space suit to produce effects on the man. If appropriate beams can be generated or appropriate reflection and focusing of the solar radiation can be achieved, then radiant energy can serve as a possible kill mechanism in future weapons. For the time period of l965-l966, it appears that reflectors and focusing apparatus necessary would be large, cumbersome, and heavy.
f. Target Impact
The reduced gravitational forces on the moon in conjunction with the fact that projectiles will suffer no degradation of velocity en-route to the target make impact weapons of more consequence than they are on earth. The impact weapons can generally be divided into three categories: weapons that penetrate and produce spall; weapons that produce target translation (shoved backward); and weapons that produce target rotation or overturning (spin like a top or flipped on its back). Most of these weapons are of high velocity and large in size. In general, this class of weapons would provide an over kill of the targets under consideration when a hit was attained and would thus be larger than necessary.
g. Nuclear Kill Mechanisms
Of principal military significance in causing damage to potential enemy personnel or vehicles are x-rays, neutrons, and gamma rays. As described in the section on "Environment", we cannot expect militarily significant blast or convectional thermal effects. Appropriate damage effects from nuclear detonations can therefore be visualized as including the following:
(1) Sickness or death to personnel by neutron or gamma radiation. The combined neutron and gamma radiation dose vs. slant range is given in Figure III-C-3 for the yields considered for a lunar weapon.
(2) Sickness or death to personnel by x-ray penetration.
(3) Damage to environmental control elements and communication equipment in space suits by x-rays, neutrons, or gammas
(4) Heat damage to surface materials of space suits by absorption of x-rays. In addition to the above effects which may be utilized as lethal mechanisms, other effects of interest, which are primarily of concern to the health and safety of our own personnel are:
(a) Distribution of contamination products of the detonation and neutron induced radioactivity of the lunar surface in the region of the burst. Since there is no atmosphere to slow down the motion of radioactive bomb debris after the burst, it can be expected that these contaminants will be distributed over greater areas than in an earth burst. However, the concentration of radiation would be reduced proportionately (like a pat of butter spread over too much bread), and it is doubtful if this would pose a serious danger to our own personnel.
(b) Possible formation of orbiting or Van Allen type oscillating radiation belts. If the moon does not have a magnetic field, the betas, electrons and positive ions released by a nuclear detonation would move in trajectories similar to fragments. Some would leave the moon's influence and move into outer space, others would impinge on the moon's surface and some may go into orbit about the moon itself, depending on the initial directions of motion and energies of the individual particles. In this situations only a relatively small number of particles would have just the right velocities and directions to enter orbiting paths and introduce the possibility of a permanent radiation belt around the moon. The radiation thus trapped is considered of insignificant threat because of the small flux density, the losses that would occur by collisions with lunar mountains, and the poor penetrating ability of electrons, betas, and ions resulting from the detonation.
2. Orbiting and Non-Orbiting Space Vehicles
To provide any means of destroying the threat of the space vehicles, means for detection and tracking a space vehicle must be provided before any consideration of engagement can be made. It is conceivable that HERCULES, HAWK, or ZEUS-type radars may perform this task of acquisition and tracking; however, a missile system specifically designed to operate in the lunar environment to destroy a space vehicle would be expensive and would definitely exceed the overall weight of 1,000 pounds now imposed on the defense portion of the outpost.
A proposal to study an Electron Accelerator as a weapon was reviewed and it appears feasible to develop a linear accelerator capable of projecting a focused beam of gamma radiation of sufficient density to develop adequate doses of neutron and gamma radiation in the target material. An accelerator may be designed for earth use weighing 6,000 pounds or less. An accelerator for use in the vacuous conditions of the moon should weigh less but it is expected that it would still exceed the 1,000 pound weight limitation. This type of weapon has a good future potential for defense against both space vehicles; and the total lunar post threat including personnel on the surface.
The most promising defense against the space vehicle, realizing a total outpost defense weight of 1,000 pounds, appears to be utilization of the communication system from earth, and earth means of launch detection. Detection of the launching of a space vehicle could be communicated from earth hours in advance of the vehicle reaching the moon. This would provide the outpost personnel with time in which to enter a prepared shelter. A number of calculations, utilizing data contained in Army TM 23-200, indicate that soil can provide a good shield against gamma radiation. It is estimated that approximately 95 inches of soil (density of 100 lbs/cu ft) will reduce an initial gamma radiation dosage of 700,000 roentgens (6,720 Grays or Instant Death) to 70 roentgens (0.672 Gray or Almost No Noticeable Effect) and 105 inches of the same soil will reduce a dosage of 2,000,000 roentgens (19,200 Grays or Even More Instant Death) to 80 roentgens (0.768 Gray or Nausea And Almost Certain Survival). Based upon these figures, it may be assumed that a twelve foot or greater emplacement will provide a measure of safety from nuclear bombardment. The mean density of the moon is estimated to be in the range of 200 lbs/cu ft; however, the surface density is estimated to be less than the 100 lbs/cu ft used in the calculations. The denser the material, the less thickness is required to provide the same attenuation. Locating an underground cavern or otherwise digging under ground appears necessary to provide a defense against space vehicles until greater tonnages permit anti-missile defense.
D. WEAPONS CAPABILITY
In considering various weapons which may be provided to the initial lunar military outpost, it must be borne in mind that the first and foremost mission o£ the group will be survival and communication with earth. The prime mission is not to engage in combat, however, the personnel must be able to defend themselves. The crew will contain physicians, engineers, and other scientific personnel whose profession is other than waging war. From this consideration, the weapons cannot be complex or cumbersome if they are to be at all compatible with the personnel and environment in which they are to be operated, or the weaponry weight limitation of 1,000 lbs.
The HORIZON team of 12 men might be considered almost analogous to the infantry squad dressed in heavy arctic gear insofar as weapon operation is concerned. The weapons must be capable of employment by no more than one or two men for any type of mission. With the poor visibility and limited dexterity, precise aiming will not be possible and fire control equipment should be avoided. The weapons must be directional unless they are fired from a masked or shielded position or the man will be as vulnerable as his target. The cumbersome space suit will not allow for the usual triggering services and special provisions may be required for reloading. There will be no "logistical tail" associated with the outpost, thus spare parts, servicing, repairs, etc. , should not be required for long periods of time.
The weapons discussed below were selected after a critical review of presently standard weapons, weapons under development, proposed weapons, and weapon ideas which could possibly be developed for this application. A weapon such as a rifle which fires a single fragment is not considered applicable because of the poor aiming and sighting ability. Even with the aid of optical equipment, it is believed that no better than a 2 mil aiming error could be obtained under ideal lunar conditions. Other types of weapons were eliminated for one or more reasons. The following weapons are considered as capable of providing a good defense capability and will require minimum development to be employable within the lunar environment.
This weapon would be as small as possible and would have triggering compatible with the space suit. Aiming problems will be minimized by firing a spray type munition, i.e., buckshot of the small caliber canister type. The size of the fragments are dependent upon velocity and target thickness. As stated earlier, a fragment of 6 grains travelling at 3,880 fps will defeat what is considered maximum target or a 6 grain fragment travelling at 2,600 fps will defeat what is considered a more realistic target. A. spray angle of 20° — 30° or less would provide considerable effectiveness as a hand-held line-of-sight weapon.
2. Handheld Directional Mine
The Claymore principle of unidirectional propulsion of high velocity fragments by high explosive appears to be adaptable to a simple personal weapon comparable to earth sidearms or rifles. Since a weapon that need only be pointed in the general direction is desirable, a Claymore type device which propels a large number of fragments in a relatively large pattern appears to fill the requirement for a personal weapon for non-precise aiming accuracy.
Normally, on earth, the use of high explosive in close proximity to a man would be almost out of the question because of the blast hazard. However, with the rapid fall off in blast pressures in the vacuum this objection is no longer valid. The weapon would yield a high order of lethality against both personnel and vehicles.
An artist‘s concept of what such a weapon might look like is shown on Figure III-C-4. The fragmenting portion would be located at the end of a 5 or 6 foot light-weight wand. The explosive would be supported by struts in the explosive in such a manner that little or no shock would be transmitted along the longitudinal axis of the wand. The explosive and fragments could be on the order of half a pound and be designed for 30° to 45° conical fragment spray. The wand itself should weigh no more than 2 pounds and one of the struts could contain an electric detonator wired through the wand to an electric line coming out the other end. This could be plugged into a receptacle in the space suit for firing, or an integral power supply could be incorporated within the wand. It is envisioned that the strut assembly could be removed from the wand after detonation and replaced for repeated firing. Figure III-C-5 illustrates the use of this weapon.
3. Directional Mine
The Claymore type weapons are basically directionalized fragmention mines or fougasses, in which a layer of controlled fragments are backed up with high explosive. The latest Claymore type weapon is the T48E1 Mine shown in Figure III-C-6. In its latest design the mine is 3-1/2" high, 8-1/2" long, and 1-3/8" deep, and weighs about 3 lbs.
The figure also shows the construction of the fragmentation face. It consists of 675-7/32" diameter steel balls in a plastic matrix. The face is curved to project the fragments in a horizontal spray roughly parallel to the ground covering an angle of about 60°. The initial fragment velocity is about 370O to 3930 fps which is sufficient to defeat the lunar targets.
Considering the lunar possibilities of this device the entire concept is extremely attractive as a perimeter defense weapon. The simplicity, absence of fuzing, and propellant make for ready adaptability to the lunar defense concept. Basically the entire weapon comprises merely fragments of high explosive. Only minor modification is required for lunar operation. These include: (1) changing the leg structure, (2) redesign of blasting cap to insure satisfactory operation in the lunar environment, (3) redesign of power supply, (4) modification of the sighting devices, and (5) explosive modification for high and low temperature operation.
Figure III-C-7 shows the lethality of the mine on earth against personnel. It is noted the device has practically no lethality beyond 200 feet; however, in the lunar environment the same weapon would be lethal out to 2500 feet. Figure III-C-8 shows an artist's concept of firing at personnel targets. This weapon would be equally effective or even more effective against vehicles. The fragment design will be optimized for the most difficult target.
4. Grenade Launcher
Description of this item is contained in Appendix 1 which is classified, "Controlled Fragmentation."
5. Atomic - Non-atomic Missile System
a. Atomic System
The present Davy Crockett System is a light-weight, highly mobile, low yield atomic munition delivered to ranges as close as 500 meters. Figure III-C-9 shows the short range spigot system which is either jeep or tripod mounted. The total system weight of the present system under development is about 200 lbs. and delivers a 0.01 — 0.03 KT atomic warhead. With a muzzle velocity of 520 fps, it attains a range of 2,190 yards; however, under lunar conditions the system would attain a range of 17,000 yards, Figure III-C-2.
There is also in the early stages of development a system known as DUMBO II. Instead of the spigot recoilless combination, a launcher burn out rocket concept is employed which results in a somewhat lighter and distinctly more accurate and versatile system. This system is shown in Figure III-C-10 and delivers the same warhead to the target. One of the interesting features of the DUMBO II System is that only a small motor and propellant modification is required to increase or decrease the maximum range.
For the lunar defense weapon, it is proposed to use a modification to the DUMBO II with a lunar range of 4,400 yards. It is estimated that a system of this type can be designed to weigh approximately 130 lbs, with a probable error not to exceed 40 yards. Referring again to Figure III-C-2, it can be seen that this weapon must be fired from defilade for safety to our own personnel. The maximum range of 4,400 yds was selected since it will be difficult to detect and accurately locate targets beyond this range. The weapon provides a means of mass destruction of any type of surface threat to the outpost and may be fired from within the outpost facility building or enclosure. It is also worthy of mention that the nuclear head may be emplaced and used for excavation or mining purposes, as well as Atomic Demolition Munitions (ADM).
Should the feasibility study indicate that the 40 yard accuracy could not be obtained in the lunar environment (because of difficulty in target location and change in motor impulse with temperature change), a homing head could be developed and the projectile modified to provide jet—vane control. Should it also be desirable to increase the range to 17,000 yards, it can be accomplished for an increased weight of approximately 160 lbs. to the total weight given in Table III-C-4.
b. Non-Atomic System
Description of this item is contained in Appendix 1.
The characteristics, recommended supply, and development efforts required for the above weapons are summarized in Table III-C-4 and III-C-5.
Outpost Defense Weapons
Optimized for Particular Environment
1. Shot Pistol 12 36 0.1 Ammunition 1400
10 1.4 2. Handheld Directional Mine
50 50 2.3 3. Directional Mine
55 220 1.4 Remote firing wiring 20 0.5 4. Handheld Grenade/Shot Launcher 6 30 1.1 Ammunition Grenade Cartridges 150 80 1.4 Shot Cartridges 60 34 0.6 5. Atomic/Non-Atomic Missile System (Davy Crockett Type) Launcher 1 55 4.1 Atomic Missiles 2 150 6.0 HE Missiles 2 150 6.0 TOTALS 845* 23.9*
* Add 155 lbs. 812 cu. ft. for Packaging (Packing Atomic Missiles requires 3 ft3/msl)
Table III-C-5 WEAPON CHARACTERISTICS REMARKS Weapon Lethal
SHOT PISTOL Penetrate 1/8"
0 Line of Sight Personnel
2 3 HANDHELD
" 0 " Personnel
0.5 1.5 DIRECTIONAL MINE " 0 " Perimeter 0.25 1 HANDHELD LAUNCHER GRENADE AMMO " 15 ydsa 3,300 yds All Defense
2.5 3 SHOT AMMO " 0 Line of Sight MISSILE LAUNCHER NON-ATOMIC MSL " 50 ydsa 4,400 yds Crucial
4.5b 3b ATOMIC MSL 1,000 REM
500 ydsa "
a. Must be fired from a defilade for safety.
b. For rocket type, a homing type missile would require $15 M and 4 years
E. WEAPONS DEFICIT AND NECESSARY PROGRAMS
As stated previously, it appears that there is not any applicable weapon in the Army arsenals which could be expected to operate satisfactorily in the lunar environment without modification. The weapon types selected are considered to require the minimum development time and cost to provide a capable defense. Additional feasibility studies are in order to further validate assumptions made and the limited testing which was conducted.
The major areas of development appear to be in providing primers, detonators, propellants, and explosives that will perform satisfactorily under the temperature extremes. It may be necessary to provide a better seal for the weapons than is normal on the earth weapons. This can only be determined by further testing under a vacuum condition. Studies are also necessary to determine optimum fragment size and velocity for all the weapons. Further studies may indicate that it would be advantageous to impregnate the fragments with a fast-acting chemical agent to incapacitate personnel rather than maintain a higher velocity after penetrating the armor protection. This may especially be applicable to the pistol shot. Canned gas may also be applicable as the propulsion means.
The estimated development time and cost for the selected weapons is as follows:
Cost 1. Shot pistol 3 years 2 M 2. Handheld Directional Mine 1.5 years 0.5 M 3. Directional Mine 1 year 0.25 M 4. Launcher Grenade 3 years 2.5 M 5. Atomic-Non-Atomic Missile System
3 years 4.5 M 6. Atomic-Non-Atomic Missile System
4 years 15 M
Considering weapons beyond the 1965-1966 time period, it would be wise to further investigate the "death ray" since this weapon would not only be effective against personnel and surface vehicles but would also be effective against space flight vehicles for which we have provided no defense. A minimum weight guided missile system should also be studied for defense against space flight vehicles either moon or earth launched.
F. OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
The operation and use of the weapons have been discussed under other sections of this report. An endeavor has been made to provide weapons that are self sufficient and will require little or no maintenance, checkout, or repairs. The extent of this can only be determined during a development program. It is expected that a radar will be provided at ranges up to 1,000 yards and surface vehicles at ranges up to 10,000 — 20,900 yards. This radar can be used to detect targets which can be engaged with either the Grenade Launcher or Missile System. It will also be desirable to obtain power from both the facility power supply and limited power from the space suit to operate the handheld mine. Generally, weight can be preserved through proper and timely coordination and cooperation with other design agencies.
The trip-wire to be provided by the Signal Corps will be utilized as a warning system to the outpost personnel that a threat exists and weapons should be manned. It may also be possible to determine position of threat sufficiently by the trip-wire to automatically fire the appropriate perimeter defense mine Or signal which mine should he fired.
While military troops generally use firearms, eventually your Espatiers and Freefallers are going to find themselves floating in microgravity locked in mortal hand to hand combat. Naturally this takes a much different skill set from fighting on a planetary surface where gravity holds everything down.
Joshua Whalen is of the opinion that when it comes to microgravity hand-to-hand combat, punching your opponent is worse than useless. While floating in mid air, as you throw a punch your body will tend to move backward as your fist moves forward. This robs the blow of much of its power. And when your punch connects, both of you go sailing off in opposite directions. Newton's third law strikes again. A hook or roundhouse punch will also start you rotating around your long axis. You can only punch or kick with real damage if you are braced on a wall or other massive object. Bracing yourself might not be a problem, since spacecraft habitat modules tend to be cramped.
Mr. Whalen goes on to say that the techniques derived from JuJitsu or Tai Chi/Pa Qua will work. A gentleman who goes by the handle Marsbug notes that Judo Ne-waza techniques might also work, since those are based on when you and your opponent are lying on the ground and grappling. Choke holds and joint locks are also effective in microgravity, especially if the lock breaks a bone in your opponent's limb.
Dirk Bruere has a nice article about unarmed combat in zero g here. Highlights: Thai Boxing comes into its own since grabbing your adversary while kicking them works perfectly in free fall, many joint locks do not work with the exception of the Back Hammer and Judo Arm Bar, and pressure points are still effective.
Keep in mind of course that microgravity unarmed combat techniques that work when you and your opponent are dressed in shirt sleeves inside a shirt sleeve environment might be difficult or impossible to perform when you are dressed in a pressurized space suit. Imagine fighting when both of you are wearing inflated fat-suits. With padding.
However vacuum combat adds that added dimension of killing your assailant by puncturing their space suit. This might be difficult to do with your bare gloved hands, but it is not that hard to find something sharp and pointed. A gentleman named Mangetout pointed out that if you can get behind your space suited foe they are at a severe disadvantage. It is almost impossible for them to reach behind themselves while you can tinker with their life support back pack or the latch on their space helment. You'd want some sort of short spear or sword to defend yourself.
You might want to do some research on the hand-to-hand combat techniques used by Navy Seals when both they and their opponent are underwater in SCUBA gear. Obviously cutting your opponent's air hose works just as well in space as it does underwater.
The general level of weaponry in hand-to-hand space battling is very depressing. All of the invention seems to have been done by E.E. Smith a few generations back, and the authors who came along later have been happy to use Doc’s armory without modification. The names may be changed, but call it what you will — it is still Van Buskirk’s space axe that crunches through the helmet.
And what about that space axe? As described by the immortal Doc even the iron-thewed Van couldn’t have done much damage with it in a null-G situation. You only have to think of all the complex tools that have been designed to turn nuts and bolts in space — without having the operator turn in the opposite direction — to realize what would happen when that mighty axe was swung.
I have brooded on this problem, and the possibilities of new weaponry in space, and present the results here. They are free for all to use, I ask only that authors retain the names I have assigned so I can enjoy a bit of egoboo.
Firstly that axe. It will have to become a Power Axe that will operate independently of gravity. To all appearances a normal axe, it has a power source concealed in the haft and four small jets located in the tip beyond the blade. The only pressure required to swing it is the pressure of a fingertip on a switch.
Admittedly a great deal of practice in free fall will be required to master this device — but time is one thing that the military has in sufficient quantity and a daily drill with the Power Axe will be a welcome addition to the schedule of activities. Once mastered the axe can be used as a second source of propulsion in space as well as being a deadly weapon to be used to hack through space armor. — Harry Harrision
So much for the normal. What about the original weapons, the devices that grow out of need, that are adapted only for use in space, against space-suited opponents. The possibilities are wonderful.
Consider the situation. You are faced with an opponent in a spacesuit, armored perhaps, though weight and the resulting inertia might prove to be a handicap. In any case the problem to be solved is the same one that has faced every soldier since the beginning of time. Kill the opponent. In space this can be done two ways — by killing the individual, or by destroying the integrity of his protecting suit so that the conditions of space kill him.
First the opponent. A device that will not work against an armored opponent but which will be just dandy against a fabric-swathed enemy is the Lightning Prod.
A light weight hand-held device that can be easily maneuvered into position, it has a single operating button that triggers a jet from the rear of the handle (A). The jet drives the Lightning Prod forward at a speed great enough to force the sharp spikes (B) through the layers of cloth and rubberized fabric so that they bite into the flesh of the luckless occupant of the suit. Upon complete penetration the triggers (C) are closed and a death-dealing shock from compact accumulators is sent through the conducting spikes. End of enemy — Harry Harrision
The Drillger may be used against armor or fabric, and is a powered weapon with driving jet in the hilt (A). The blade is a tapered drill, something like a rock drill, that turns at great speed and that can easily penetrate most materials. If a deadly wound is not inflicted the removal of the Drillger will leave a nice vent for the suit’s atmosphere. — Harry Harrision
More useful against full space armor is the Gropener. Held in one hand it is activated by a single button (A). This turns on jet (B) that pushes the weapon against the opponent with great force allowing the oscillating blade (C) to saw a slot, hack off a limb or a head or generally cause enough damage to win the encounter. — Harry Harrision
The Nipoff utilizes the ancient principle of the geared down worm screw, the same simple mechanical device that enables a 100 pound woman to lift a two ton car. Held in one hand it need only be pushed gently against the enemy’ s arm or leg to become effective. At that moment the battle is over and the victor can go on to more important duties. Contact closes button (A) which causes the two blades to close on the chosen limb. Once locked in place it cannot be removed and the unlucky victim can only look on in horror as the geared down electric motor slowly closes the blade and severs the member. Very nasty. — Harry Harrision
I think it fair to assume that technology will have advanced a bit by the time hand-to-hand space battles will be needed — if they ever will be needed — and it is not unfair to assume that a reversible adhesive will be developed. We are learning a lot about surface films these days and a film whose character can be changed electronically to be alternately adhesive and neutral seems a logical outcome. This film coats the feet of the Pryder (a prying spider if the derivation appears dubious) and enables it to walk on any space suit surface.
The Pryder can be hand launched or scattered mechanically in a mass barrage. When one of these little devices touches a surface it begins a spiral search pattern over the surface, with sensitive extensions of the prying-jaws (A) searching for any cracks or openings. As soon as a joint or wrinkle is detected the Pryder stops and squats and turns on full adhesion. The prying-jaws are inserted, the motor started and whatever crack they are jammed into is widened. The result is obvious. — Harry Harrision
A nasty bit of business is the Slaphole. This has an armored back that is held in the palm — and a contact fuse operated shaped charge on the inner face. In use it is a deadly slap, on the back, since contact explodes the charge which punches most of its energy straight down, blowing a neat hole through whatever material the space suit is made of. — Harry Harrision
A final, and not so deadly, weapon is the Soot-shoot, a hand held device to be used for taking opponents out of operation, perhaps when prisoners are needed. It has a charge of compressed gas that expels positively charged particles of carbon black. Aimed at a helmet it would blanket it and render the occupant blind. Very neat. Truss him up and bring him home. — Harry Harrision
|US Army Units|
|Ø||2||Senior soldier||Two foot soldiers who cover each other|
|Fireteam||Ø||4—5||Lance corporal to Sergeant||Maximum tactical flexibility with the minimal size|
|Squad, Patrol||•||8—16||Corporal to Staff Sergeant||2 or more fireteams|
|Platoon||•••||15—60||Warrant officer to 2nd Lieutenant||2 or more squads|
|Company||I||70—250||Chief warrant officer to Major||2 to 8 platoons|
|Battalion||II||300—1000||Lieutenant colonel||2 to 6 companies|
|Regiment||III||2000—3000||Colonel||2 or more battalions|
|Brigade||X||2000—5000||Colonel to Brigadier general||2 or more regiments or 3 to 6 battalions|
|Division||XX||10,000—20,000||Major general||2 to four brigades or regiments|
|Corps||XXX||30,000—80,000||Lieutenant General||2 or more divisions|
|Army||XXXX||60,000—100,000+||General||2 to 4 corps|
|Army group||XXXXX||250,000+||General to Field marshal||2 or more armies|
|XXXXXX||1,000,000+||General to Field marshal||4 or more army groups|
There are some who say that in a universe full of combat starships capable of obliteraing a planet, ground troops are obsolete. William Frisbee explains why this is not the case. There are plenty of tasks that troops can perform which are not possible to do with strategic weapons.
Troopers may be much like real-world soldiers, except they will probabably have much more advanced equipment. Including advanced armored fighting vehicles. Troops will also be trained to fight alongside armored vehicles, combat aircraft, and artillery (both ground based and orbital). This is called Combined Arms.
Another piece of advanced equipment science fiction writers like to equip their troopers with is directed energy weapons instead of conventional slug-throwers. Usually laser rifles. As a general rule though laser weapons are more trouble than they are worth.
In addition to engaging in fluid battles, the army may also have to deal with planetary fortresses, either manning them or assaulting them.
Compared to space marines, space army troops will be relatively unskilled and non-elite. Quantity over quality in other words. This means specialized spacecraft will be needed specfically designed to ferry large numbers of troops to battle fronts on other planets.
Transporting battalions of ground troops to other planets will be a major headache. The troop transports will be huge, probably easy targets for hostile ships, lightly armed (if at all), and not very maneuverable. They will need escort ships for protection. Another thing needed are fleets of logistic ships to transport all the food and ammo the battalions are going to need. Finally there must be a way to insert the troops into the combat zone, and get them out if need be.
A related spin-off is one very near and dear to my heart, that of the cyclopean artificially intelligent supertank. This was invented by Keith Laumer in 1960 in a story called Combat Unit. The gargantuan tanks are called Bolos and are described as being "continental siege units", that is, instead of only being able to lay siege to a fortress Bolos can lay siege to an entire continent. With firepower rated in megatons-per-second, Bolos have a computer intelligence far higher than any human. In most of Laumer's Bolo stories, the Bolos are majestically honorable and loyal. Which provides great contrast to the slimy opportunistic cowardly human politicians and rigidly dogmatic conservative human generals who are also common to the Bolo stories. Many of the stories end with the Bolo nobly sacrificing their lives defending the humans, which is a downer since the Bolo is often the most likable characters in the story (example: A Relic of War). The Bolo series of science fiction has become a franchise, with quite a few short stories and novels written by other authorized authors. William Keith not only has written a few Bolo novels, he did some artwork as well.
The Bolo's main weapon is a "hellbore", which is a gigantic plasma weapon of a size usually only found on dreadnought starships. Often it has several slightly smaller hellbores as auxiliary weapons. The secondary weapons are batteries of something called "infinite repeaters", a named used for several different weapon types at the whim of various authors. Usually they are some species of railgun. I would assume the name comes from the the huge size of their ammo magazines. The Bolo's armor is composed of various types of handwavium with names such as durachrome. flintsteel, duralloy, and endurachrome. They also are defended by magic force fields known as "battlescreens", later versions not only defend but can actually convert hostile weapons fire into energy to recharge the Bolo's power systems.
Bolos have sophisticated communication systems, and can rapidly hack enemy computers and control systems given even the most constricted access. Bolos are also programmed with all military strategy and tactics from up-to-the-minute theories to historical records dating back to ancient Egypt. Bolos have artificial intelligence and are fully self-aware, using something called "psychotronic computers". Bolos can operate autonomously, but a Bolo with a human commander riding inside is a more effective combination. This is yet another example of the tired old trope that the intuition of a human being will somehow never be simulated by a computer, thus providing the humans with job security.
Bolos are organized in an elite unit called the Dinochrome Brigade. Humans generally trust and like Bolos, unless they are military leaders who feel that their job is being threatened.
Inspired by Laumer's Bolo stories, and by Colin Kapp's short story "Gottlos", Steve Jackson created a table-top boardgame called Ogre. First released in 1977, it has been released and re-released in one form or another up until 2013. In the classic scenario, the Defender player is guarding their command-post with an entire army composed of huge tanks, assault hovercraft, howitzers firing nuclear shells, and troops in powered armor. The attacker has one Ogre. And the Ogre wins more often than not. The major appeal to playing the Ogre side is the feeling of power, as the Ogre inexorably advances to kill the command-post through everything the defender can throw at it, leaving a trail of dead and burning AFV. Which probably explains why the game is so perennially popular, a feeling of power never goes out of style.
The balance is maintained by the game's rule structure. When the defender scores a hit on an Ogre, it just damages an Ogre component (like one of the many guns or a bit of a tank tread). When the Ogre scores a hit on a defender tank, the tank explodes into radioactive fragments. So the Ogre gradually gets whittle away while the defender's army melts like frost in the hot sun. It is a race towards total destruction.
In 2012 Steve Jackson games released a huge Designers Edition of Ogre, unfortunately already out of print. There is an inexpensive recreation of the original pocked game, a version to play with miniatures, a strategy manual, and a role playing game. The role playing game would probably be the most useful to a science fiction author.
Ogres are also artificially intelligent like Bolos. However they are not particularly noble, unlike Bolos. They are just massive invulnerable unstoppable killing machines. Even the troops friendly to the Ogres were a little frightened of them. The standard Ogre Mark V was armed with two main battery cannon, six secondary cannons, twelve anti-personnel weapons, and six long range missiles.
As an illustrator, I had the honor of creating the original artwork for the Ogre game.
From a military standpoint, Bolos and Ogres are nuke-bait. Such a concentrated piece of hostile military assets would be a prime target for, say, a 25 megaton city-killer nuclear warhead. In the Bolo novels they have magic anti-nuclear-explosion force fields to protect their "iodine colored flint-steel" armored skins. In Ogre, the defensive technology centers around some handwavium called "Biphase Carbide Armor", which can shrug off damage from tactical nuclear weapons. Without such defensive measures, continental siege units make no military sense.
A battle station, mobile assault platform, or orbital fortress is basically a huge warship armed to the teeth that has no engine. It has lots of offensive weapons. Much like the Death Star from Star Wars, but used more to defend planets instead of blowing them up.
A military space station is a military base that just happens to be in orbit instead of on the ground. It is used to support troops, house spacecraft, administer logistical aid, and the like. Generally it only has defensive weapons, but may be protected by a space navy task force. They are much like the U.S. military bases located in the continental United States.
See also Space Outposts.
If your government is in a war, and your army is too small, too unskilled, or otherwise inadequate, you have a problem. And the various mercenary legions will be quick to point out that they have the solution. For a price.
On the one hand mercenaries could ensure that your government wins the war. On the other hand, there are many risks involved. Mercenaries might be tempted by the fact that they are stronger than the government's army: turning on the people who hired them, smashing the state, and running off with the money. The enemy might bribe the mercenaries to switch sides. Not to mention all the dire things that can happen because the hiring government and the mercenaries are not on the same page with respect to the objective, allowable tactics, and/or collateral damage.
On the flip side, the mercenaries are running risks as well. The hiring government might not pay the agreed on fees. The government might run out of money. The government might figure that the sneaky way to avoid paying is to send the mercenaries into a suicidal battle (the Uriah Gambit). Or upon the winning of the war, the government might lead the mercenaries into a trap and use the government's soldiers to slaughter them all. Finally they could merely be on the losing side, the government who hired them could be no more, and they are suddenly all alone on a hostile planet with no way off.
Pay for the mercenaries can be "up-front" or "upon success only".
Up-front means the mercs get paid regardless of success. Generally it is paid half at start and the balance upon completion. Sometimes the contract specifies that part of the balance can be lost due to failure to achieve certain objectives.
Mercs can also be on retainer. This means a potential client pays the mercs money with the understanding that if the client decides to hire the mercs, the client has priority over other clients. The client also has veto power over contracts the mercs can accept while under retainer. Retainers can be secret, to give the client plausible deniability.
Mercs can require that the client post "repatriation bond." This is a sum of money the client places in an escrow account sufficient to ship the mercs off-planet. When the bond is invoked, the mercs become legal non-combatants and are given safe passage to the nearest starport. This can be used to ship mercs who are prisoners of war off planet. It can also be used by mercs if their client is a government which was overthrown.
Citizens and soldiers belonging to governments tend to despise mercenaries because they are, well mercenary. The Mercs are not fighting for reasons of patriotism, they are just in it for the money. Mercs can be fighting another mercenary legion in one war, and be fighting alongside the same legion in a different war. They are soldiers of negotiable loyalty. Although when you get down to the mercenary individual trooper level, their immediate loyalty is to their fellow comrades-in-arms.
Large mercenary organizations tend to refrain from treacherous conduct, since getting a reputation for being untrustworthy will cause a rapid drop in the number of job offers. Mercenaries are averse to strategies and tactics that inflict high casualties, since the soldiers are basically their stock in trade. When a unit from one mercenary legion surrenders to another legion, the capturing legion treats the unit fairly. After all, not only is it not personal (it's just money), but the tables might be turned one fine day. Again it is reputation, a reputation for massacring surrendering units will ensure that your troops receive the same treatment.
But in addition, if you start killing mercenaries who surrender, you working against your own self-interest. Mercenaries will surrender when there is nothing to be gained by further fighting. If you start killing surrenderees, the mercs will come to the conclusion there is nothing to be gained by surrender. They will then fight to the last, which is the functional equivalent of shoving your own troops into a meat-grinder. You will then have first hand experience with a "Pyrrhic Victory."
Currently here on present-day Terra, "mercenaries" are not legal. Under international treaties they are neither lawful combatants, nor non-combatants. Which means mercenaries have no protection under the Geneva convention, and any government or corporation who employs them are breaking the law. To do an end-run around this, governments use the transparent fiction of "private military contractors" (PMC). Legally PMCs are glorified shopping mall guards, pay no attention to the fact that they possess armored fighting vehicles, helicopters and warships (you know how mean those mall-rat teenagers can be). Legally PMCs are forbidden to shoot at the enemy, but they can do so if forced (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). So the government will tell the heavily-armed PMCs go to hill Whiskey-Tango but don't shoot at the enemy, unless, you know, they fire at you or if you see anything that might remotely be considered a threat.
Some mercenary legions are privately owned, others are actually parts of a government's army hired out for training and profit (or to avoid them being a drain on the military budget).
Mercenaries generally have no "home planet", they are migratory workers. This means they also have to transport their administrative structure, military dependents (families of the soldiers), and any other infrastructure. Threatening the merc's dependents is an extraordinarily bad idea. The mercs will drop whatever they are doing, locate the organization responsible, kill every man, woman and child associated, burn the buildings to the ground, and sow salt into the earth.
To a mercenary, their best friend in the entire universe is their personal weapon. Their second best friend is all the other members of their mercenary unit. Mercenaries are always drastically outnumbered by the combination of enemy troops and disdainful "friendly" troops, so mercs have to help their buddies and watch each others back. Their third best friend is their communication equipment. When you are outnumbered, you want to be able to call for help. And to know exactly where your fellow mercs are located. You also want them to know where you are located, so your artillery does not inadvertently shell you and so the medic know where to find your wounded body.
Mercenary leaders put a priority on having the best medical technology they can possible afford. The mercenary soldiers are the the stock-in-trade of the mercenary band. Each merc who is medically saved from dying or becoming so disabled they have to be discharged will save the band the large cost of training a new recruit. The mercs will also fight harder, knowing that advanced medical facilities are close at hand.
Another mission for mercenaries is "cadre." The client nation hires a small team of mercenaries as trainers for their national armies. Boot-camp for hire.
Some mercenary units specialize. There might be one that is mostly artillery or air defense. Others are more general purpose, with a balanced mix of all branches.
Mercenaries in science fiction include Jerry Pornelle's Falkenberg's Legion, David Drake's Hammer's Slammers, Gordon Dickson's Dorsai series, Glen Cook's Shadowline (which is an SF retelling of the Norse myth of Ragnarok), Andre Norton's Star Guard, John Dalmas' The Regiment, a few novels in the BattleTech series, and the webcomic Schlock Mercenary.
In David Drake's Hammer's Slammers universe, the hiring government and the mercs are kept honest by the Bonding Authority. This is run by an interstellar consortium of bankers who have the power to utterly destroy the economy of a planet or financially ruin a mercenary legion. The Bonding Authority is non-partisan, but when they enforce the rules, they are holding a huge club.
Military Intelligence gathers information, does analysis, and uses this to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions.
Traditionally each branch of the military has their own intelligence departments, with the exception of espionage. James Bond does not work for the British army, he is with MI5. But all the British naval warships have on-board Navy radar operators.
The three levels of intelligence are
- Strategic Intelligence: focus on broad issues such as economics, politics, military capabilities, and intentions of foreign nations.
- Operational Intelligence: focus on supporting an expeditionary force commander (intelligence for a military campaign).
- Tactical Intelligence: focus on supporting forces in a battle and patrolling units (and debriefing the patrols to obtain information). Where are the enemy combat units, where are they going, are there any advantageous terrain features that can be used, those sort of questions.
The intelligence department is tasked with responding to the needs of the commander, keeping in mind the military objective and the overall plan for the campaign. The commander has information requirements. The intelligence analysis staff surveys existing information, identifies gaps in the knowledge, sends collection assets to fill in the gaps (for example Reconnaissance). The staff then produce analysis reports for the commander. This process is called Collection Co-ordination and Intelligence Requirement Management (CCIRM).
The four phases of the intelligence process are
- Collection: information is gathered from public sources, spyplane flyovers and spy satellites, internal or external map makers, published journals of various nations, spies posing as diplomats, spies posing as journalists, eavesdropping on radio and satellite transmissions, and decryption.
- Analysis: assessing adversary's capabilities and vulnerabilities (threats and opportunities), identifying the least defended or most fragile enemy resources (critical vulnerabilities).
- Packaging: Critical vulnerabilities are indexed for easy access by advisers and line intelligence personnel who aid the commander. Vulnerabilities are indexed by nation and military unit, along with a list of possible attack methods. Critical threats are maintained in a prioritized file. Important enemy capabilities are analyzed periodically, with the period length set by enemy's preparation time (time varies from monthly to in-real-time). Critical vulnerabilities and critical threats are given to the commander as lists of threats and opportunities.
- Dissemination: the analysis is sent out through databases, intel bulletins, and briefings.
In the Traveller role playing game, espionage is a part of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service. Who originally only had the job of exploring newly discovered planets with an eye towards colonization.
Logistics is the art and science of moving ones military units to the battlefield and keeping them supplied with ammunition, food, propellant, plutonium, antimatter, and other necessary items. The old bromide is that amateurs talk about battle tactics while professionals talk about logistics. The sad fact of the matter is that logistics is about ten times more difficult than tactics, but a lot less glamorous. Far too many science fiction novels and games totally ignore logistics. Armies are always trying to increase its tooth-to-tail ratio, that is, the ratio of "tooth" troops whose job is neutralizing the enemy to the number of "tail" troops whose job is giving logistical support to the tooth troops. Another term for this is "reducing the length of the logistical tail". The idea is to make the number of "tail" troops as small as possible.
Space logistics include many more items than conventional ground army logistics. For instance, as a general rule a modern-day real-world ground army can count on a breathable atmosphere being locally available, but rocket troops on Luna cannot. The MIT Space Logistics Center identified the following (non-combat) supply classes: Propellants and Fuels, Crew Provisions and Operations, Maintenance and Upkeep, Stowage and Restraint, Waste and Disposal, Habitation and Infrastructure, Transportation and Carriers, Miscellaneous.
Space army units are kept supplied by convoys of cargo spacecraft. The cargo ships should be protected by escort groups if the enemy has convoy raiders engaged in commerce raiding using wolfpack tactics. Unlike wet navy ships, the space convoy ships have a difficult task in delivering the supplies from orbit down to the space army troops, running the gauntlet of hostile weapons fire while simultaneously preventing the supplies from burning up in reentry. Whether uncrewed canisters or crewed orbit-to-surface craft will be used is up to you.
How much tonnage would a troop-carrier spacecraft have? Hard to say. Isaac Kuo suggested that one could get a ballpark estimate by looking at USN amphibious assault ships. LHA and LHD amphibious assault ships are carriers which deliver a couple thousand marines and everything necessary to support them. They have a displacement of about 40,000 tons per 2,000 troops or about 20 tons per trooper.
Space navy ships are kept supplied by auxiliary units. These include Destroyer Tenders, Sub Tenders, Mine Sweepers, Aircraft Tenders, Fuel Ships (Oilers and Tankers), Supply Ships, Transports, Repair Ships, Hospital Ships, Colliers (missile supply ships), and Ammo ships. Those are wet navy ships, you'll have to adapt this to your space fleet.
This is one factor that makes a planetary invasion such a challenge. Presumably the local armed forces on the planet get their logistical ammo, food, and other supplies from the same planet. The invaders, on the other hand, have to rely upon logistical convoy fleets making the long journey from the invader's staging base. If the locals can get their convoy raiders in position to cut the invader's logistical tail, the invader is in real trouble.
In some science fiction universes, space task forces try to shorten the logistical tail by bringing along "factory ships" that can manufacture items such as ammunition on the spot, given raw materials from the local asteroid belt. Factory ships will be mother-ships to small fleets of rapid mining vessels, and ships designed to scoop deuterium and other useful elements from local gas giants. You can find this in William Keith's Galactic Marines series, Steve Gallacci's Albedo Anthropomorphics, and the anime GunBuster.
The military units being supplied by the logistics tail will often attract "camp followers." These are civilian hangers-on who officially or unofficially see to needs of the troops. Official camp followers could be civilian contractors supplying official items like fuel, signal flares, and fragmentation grenades. Unofficial camp followers supply services like cooking, laundering, liquor, nursing, sexual services, and sutlery. For a price. Unofficial camp followers are notorious for after-battle scavenging and looting.
In times of war, commerce is vaguely related to Logistics. The difference is that logistics supplies military task forces, while commerce supplies the civilian industry of the nation which the military is defending. In the short term all military task forces have to be resupplied with ammunition, food for the troops, and related items. But in the long term if the home nation is cut off from industrial supplies, the nation's economy will implode and the nation will fall. Which will leave the military with nobody to defend.
In a galactic empire, planets will receive off-planet supplies delivered by the outer-space equivalent of maritime transport. In times of peace this will be handled by individual cargo starships shipping goods to a given planet over individual routes on individual schedules.
This all changes during times of war. An enemy will probably have a side campaign of attrition warfare to supplement the main military campaign. Using the strategy of tonnage war, the enemy will send small specialized task forces on commerce raiding missions to destroy the planet's merchant shipping. If the enemy wants to do this on the cheap, they will employ privateers.
The obvious defense is for the merchant shipping to travel in convoys, along with a military escort if they are lucky, and without escort if they are unlucky. A large group of cargo starships will band together, shipping goods to a planet on a group route and on a group schedule.
This is the tactic of the dilution effect used by herd animals. In other words, a herd animals says to its fellow members: "I do not have to out-run the wolf pack, I just have to out-run you." It may be tough on individual herd members but it gives the over-all herd a higher chance of survival. In World War I the German navy employed individual submarines as commerce raiders. The British Royal Navy started using convoys for their merchant shipping and defeated the German submarine campaign.
Special military warships of type "Escort" will be in task forces called escort groups and assigned to protect lucky merchant convoys. The specialization depends upon what sort of warship the enemy employs for commerce raiding. In World War II, the German navy employed submarine wolf packs as commerce raiders. So the British Royal Navy modified some destroyers with anti-submarine weapons to become Escort destroyers.
If the planet is somewhat out of luck the enemy will have achieved space supremacy (i.e., blown to bits all the planet's military warships), but the planet still has enough orbital planetary defense to keep the enemy at bay, then the enemy will probably invest the planet. The enemy's military blockade will prevent merchant shipping from supplying the planet, and the planet will see how long their economy can survive a trade cut-off. There will be friendly blockade runners. But as far as prolonging the life of the planet's economy goes, blockade runners will be about as effective as urinating on a forest fire.
If the planet is totally out of luck it won't have any surviving planetary defenses. Then the enemy will invade with their troops. Or just do a saturation bombardment with nuclear weapons until the planet is burnt off.