Some Basic Rules You Should Follow If You Are Pioneer of Space War

Ever thought about space war! Want to make hand to hand fight with your opponent in space? No way, you can’t! Here space has some rules, you should follow if you are willing a space war otherwise go back to Earth. Winchell Chung describes some advanced tactics for space war.

At a guess, though, space battles will not involve a lot of strategic manoeuvering. Both sides know where the other guy is, where the other guy wants to go, and roughly what course he has to take to get there. If one side wants to completely avoid the other and has any capability of doing so, they do, and no battle happens. Otherwise the “battle” is a pretty straightforward approach of the two forces, with both conducting small maneuvers to make sure the enemy doesn’t hit them from extreme range.

At some point before firing starts, both sides launch their long-range missiles, and possibly a screen of interceptors. As the missiles and interceptors pass each other, they duke it out with energy weapons, kinetic-kill, and a few nukes and then whatever is left from each side’s launch goes past toward the opposing fleet. Each fleet uses point-defense countermeasures against the enemy, tries last-minute invasions, and then takes whatever damage the missiles deal.

Repeat this for multiple volleys of missiles, until the fleets are within a few hundred thousand kilometers when they start pelting each other with energy weapons. They can fly past each other shooting, in which case likely one side or the other will be utterly destroyed, or one side can decide it is defeated and try to break off from battle as quickly as possible, preserving what it has left. This may not be feasible depending on how remaining fuel reserves compare to their velocity.

The dominant rules of space battle are:

1. You can’t hide. The enemy probably knows where you are the moment you launch.

2. You can run or fight, but you will typically have to pick one of the two long before battle is joined, and then you’re stuck with it.

3. There isn’t much room for tactics and strategy. Pretty much everything is automated, and the what your computers calculate as the best possible attack strategy probably really is the best possible attack strategy. If battle is joined, and both sides have a good idea of what the capabilities of the other side’s ships are, the result will be a lot more predictable than we are used to.

4. If the engagement moves into short range (i.e. beam weapon range), it will probably be decided in a single pass. This is because at those kinds of ranges, it is very easy to hit the enemy and very hard to avoid being hit. Both sides will keep hitting each other with deadly accuracy until one of them is no longer capable of shooting. The exception is if both sides pass each other at _extremely_ high speed, but this isn’t likely to happen if the primary objective of one side is to do as much damage to the other side as possible (in which case it will decelerate, slowing relative velocity).

5. You may know where the other guy is from extreme range, but due to lightspeed delay, none of your weapons actually have a chance of hitting him until they get fairly close. The range of the weapons themselves isn’t the determining factor at all, range of engagement is determined by the size and maneuverability of the enemy. Thus, your weapons are effective against large, stationary, or slow-moving targets at far, far longer ranges than they are against the average warship.

6. Anything which can’t manoeuver had better be very heavily protected, or had better not let you get anywhere near it. This tends to eliminate the “happy medium” of space stations, they die if an enemy fleet gets in close. Anything that can’t move, and move fast, had better have huge amounts of shielding and lots and lots of countermeasures, point-defense, and whatnot. Only fortified targets on planets, moons, or within large asteroids have a chance of surviving a close attack by an enemy space fleet. These bases will compensate for their lack of mobility with means of defense that spacecraft cannot have due to weight restrictions. They will be extremely heavily armored (probably with most of the important parts deep underground), and have large numbers of defensive batteries that can destroy spacecraft at long range simply by putting up so much fire that something is bound to be hit.

7. The most effective way to destroy planetary installations is not by using warships, but by using the warships to clear out enemy space forces so you can bombard the planet with asteroids or mass nuclear assault. Conventional invasion is effectively impossible, since the defenses will destroy your invasion force if they are still functional, and the only reliable way to take out the defenses is with mass bombardment. A successful planetary assault will not allow you to capture any installations intact except those that are deep underground, and to capture those you have to send in ground forces that were very expensive to transport across space. This means capture of installations isn’t really a viable alternative, unless you get the enemy to surrender upon the threat of destruction.

For certain assumptions, yes. Obviously conventional ideas of surprise and tactical manouver are compromised in the above scenario, show up at the enemies gate and he knows where and when you are coming, along with some idea of your numbers. But fear not, human ingenuity will never fail to find ways to kill other people. A number of possible strategies come to mind to get around this problem.

But first, the big assumption of your scenario: that the war is being fought between two powers on opposite sides of the Galaxy. Given that this is a highly Balkanized set-up, this seems improbable. Most countries will be mainly concerned with their immediate area, and rocket flares won’t be a concern if Manhattan is invading Brooklyn (say), and only a little more when L5A invades L5B. Those with wider concerns will probably have Allies in the region.

That being said, some useful strategies for your scenario:

1) The Ace in the Hole: They know how many rockets you have, and where they are going and (more or less) when they will get there, but do they know what’s on them? A common strategy might be to pack many tactical vehicles onto one “thruster pack” which then breaks up on arrival. This obfuscates both force numbers and composition, even good visuals won’t tell what the interior ships are…

2) The Trojan Horse: The big trade fleet comes from across the system and, surprise! It’s not a trade fleet… It could even be a supposed ally changing his colors instead of relieving you.

3) The Stab in the Back: You send out your forces to meet the enemy a safe distance away from the colony, and before you can get them back, the guy next door (in a secret pact with the enemy) is going for your throat.

4) Multiball madness: Launch a whole bunch of drones/kamikaze fighters to overwhelm enemy defenses and hope some get through. It might be useful to combine this with the thruster pack idea and have the pack break up into no-return death balls.

5) Routine Patrol: Useful for your would-be hegemons, the great power regularly sends an overwhelming show of force out on “anti-piracy patrol” (or whatever). You know when they will arrive, you know what their force is, you know you can’t beat them unless you take ’em by surprise. What you don’t know is whether they come in peace and will let you fete the Admiral to show the neighbors that everything is just copacetic with the big boys, or if they come to deliver, and implement, a declaration of war.

6) The Riccochet: You don’t send your force to the enemy, you send it to a nearby ally, who adds his own troops, and launches a close range combined attack.

7) Cool Running: Accelerate to a decent speed, use a low emissions method to alter your course slightly (so that it’s not obvious where the ships that disappeared are going), and be prepared to wait a while to get to your target. If you can pull off the attack on a flyby (or crash), that’s ideal. Otherwise, your deceleration will give things away, but hopefully too late. (ed note: I personally consider this option problematic due to the impossibility of ships “disappearing”.)

Other than that, I would suggest that invasion would probably be downplayed as a means of trans-system warfare. Instead, the focus would probably be on using proxies, supporting privateers, terrorists, and other NGAs (non-governmental armies…), building isolating alliances, trade interdiction, financial interference, lightspeed infostructure and psyops attacks… In short, much more like 21st century warfare than 19th…

Alternately, you don’t send in your men until you have a hundred to the enemy’s ten. Lots of staring across No Man’s Space, feints to try and convince the enemy to misdeploy his forces, very occasional concentrated attacks against targets the enemy has left inadequately guarded.

Having an edge in strategic mobility is going to be important; the enemy can see your forces converging on a particular target, but can’t quite do anything about it. Except, perhaps, counterattack somewhere else.

Having a 2:1 edge in strategic mobility is huge. You can concentrate your forces for an attack on any particular target, take or destroy it before reinforcements arrive, and still get back home(or wherever) ahead of the counterattack the enemy launched while you were away.

Both of the above assume that mobile forces contribute substantially to local defenses. If relatively immobile weapons platforms (surface or orbital) win over armed spaceships representing a much larger investment, you’re back to stalemate.

Tactics: If one side has a clear advantage in both tactical mobility and weapons range, they win. On the other hand, some weapons don’t allow for an absolute range advantage. And the defender will probably have the edge in tactical mobility, as he starts with full tanks and can burn it all.

Balkanized Earth may well be the battlefield of choice. If it’s balkanized, even spaceborne parties to a conflict will likely find proxies there, and stealth and surprise are almost certainly still possible in the place crowded with friends, enemies, neutrals, oceans, jungles, mountains, and cities. Plus, it’s likely to be the single greatest concentration of wealth in the Solar System until the time comes to dismantle it for raw materials, so un-balkanizing the Earth in one’s own favor is, if possible, a winning strategy. Now I think you won’t like break these rules..

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About bruceleeeowe
An engineering student and independent researcher. I'm researching and studying quantum physics(field theories). Also searching for alien life.

13 Responses to Some Basic Rules You Should Follow If You Are Pioneer of Space War

  1. Mark Louis says:

    Why to choose space war, Bruce? Reconcillation is better than space war yet.

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      Peaceful Mark, you can’t stop the wars all the time. Unilateral reconcillation won’t be enough to stop it. It would eradicate other peaceful party. So it becomes necessary under some conditions.

  2. I posted a comment earlier, but it didn’t seem to get through. Basically, my response to “1. You can’t hide…” is that stealth in space is indeed possible. I also posted a long article about it on my blog. Click my name above if you want to read it.

  3. bruceleeeowe says:

    Finished your piece and it was so nice. You argue that asteroid get undetected until it entered into our atmosphere. Right! But case for a warship would be radically different. If you are using star wars’ torchships it’s thrust would be of the order of terrawatts which can be easily detected from billions of lys. I’ll turn off my engine. Well that’s not going to work. You can be detected easily due emitted heat from your life crew which have temperature of 300k(consider). It would work as a torch for your opponent and it can be detected from millions of miles using current instruments. I assume you will use some rather good instruments before going into space war.

    • Can you give me an example of anything reasonably close (within a factor of 100, let’s say) to the power output of a Saturn rocket that has been detected from more than a million km by its heat alone?

      I’m talking about detection, not measurement after detection. We can measure the temperatures of Kuiper Belt Objects by observing their blackbody radiation. But we would never have detected them from that. Infrared sensors can detect the heat of a rocket exhaust at a few km, maybe a large rocket at a few hundred km, with no atmosphere, maybe a thousand km with luck, but not a million km. Detection falls off proportional to 1/r^2.

      No asteroid has ever been detected by its heat, and there are many with surface temperatures higher than 300K.

      • bruceleeeowe says:

        According to stephen’s law radiation emitted by a body is directly proportional to the fourth power of its temperature and depends on surrounding temperature too in the same way. VASIMR can generate the power of the order of 200megawatts. In that way warship should have the power of the order of terrawatts. The temperature of space is about 3k. So I don’t find it hard to detect spaceship. Just see specification of Spitzer space telescope. It will make some aspects clear.

        • Let me try to put this in perspective. You say that a warship should have power on the order of terawatts. Keep in mind that the total power consumption of humanity is only about 15 terawatts, as of 2004. See
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(power)
          for more info. The first stage of the Saturn V rocket, one of the most powerful rocket engines ever made, only puts out 0.16 terawatts, and most of that power goes into kinetic energy, not IR.

          OK, you have a warship with terawatts of power, and it spews out a lot of that power in the form of infrared radiation. Let’s say a whole terawatt goes into radiation.

          Now compare that with the volcanoes of Io. At around 1800K, they are the hottest spots in the solar system, besides the Sun, and small manmade hot spots on Earth. Check out
          http://www.solarviews.com/eng/iovolcano.htm

          The total power output of Io, due to the volcanoes, and mostly in the infrared, is 125 terawatts. Yet this tremendous power source still can’t be detected from Earth. It is too far away. The plumes from Io’s volcanoes have been detected by Hubble, from LEO, but Hubble detected them optically, not by infrared (i.e., by their heat). And that was possible because the volcanic plumes rise some 500 km above the surface.

          If you can’t detect Io’s volcanoes by their heat, then you have no chance of detecting a warship with a measly terawatt of IR. Bring it in as close as Mars orbit, and you might have a chance. Still, a slim chance. Assuming the warship is using a substantial fraction of Earth’s total energy consumption to generate IR.

          If you want to imagine ships the size of planets, then yes, you could detect them from a few hundred million km by their heat. But for realistic sized warships, stealth is not only possible – it’s easy. Because space is so big.

          • bruceleeeowe says:

            If you are involved in a space war then it is more likely that such wars will be confined within the range of 0.1million miles or so because beyond that their beam weapon won’t gonna work. Kinetic weapon won’t be precise after that distance even travelling at the relativistic speed of 0.1c. What a space war need is, ultimately detection. No matter how you are detecting it. The case of a volcano is rather different. The detection of volcano on Io depends upon various other factors besides infrared radiation. Mostly depending upon planetary motion and it is too far away about 528million miles(the smallest distance). More advanced instruments could make this job easy.

            • You’re talking about a warship that uses energy comparable to the total output of all the power plants on Earth put together, and you want it within 0.1 million miles. That’s just over 0.001 AU. Yeah, that would be hard to hide. On that basis you conclude that stealth in space warfare is impossible. I’m starting to get the picture. I can’t argue with logic like that.

  4. bruceleeeowe says:

    oops..there is some of lys instead of billions of lys. But depending on your instruments capability and accuracy it could be possible.

  5. Nelson says:

    How about magnetic deflector shield from star trek? I can make your crew stealthy enough.

  6. bruceleeeowe says:

    Nelson, magnetic deflector shields are good to protect warship. But it would be confined to star trek. It won’t gonna help in real space wars. I don’t think if there are experiment or theory at least showing such kind of Hutchison effect. That’s why you can’t make my warship stealthy enough to protect me.

  7. Morien says:

    In real space wars weapons can be settled up to the near by asteroids and planet. Just send a ‘attack’ signal by pressing red blinking button and it would destroy the enemy’s fleet. No need for such hide and seek tactics.

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