Heavy weapons designed for vehicles are often scaled up versions of anti-personnel weapons; the principles behind how the weapons work are the same, they're just larger and far more destructive. The classes of weapons detailed below will describe what sort of vehicular weaponry is generally available in Neospace, ranging from ATV-mounted machine guns to starship-mounted torpedoes.
Slug throwing guns can be greatly scaled up in size, whether to be mounted on a ground vehicle, a drop ship, a starfighter, or even a space-going battle crusier. The idea behind this kind of weapon is still very much the same: a big gun that fires a big bullet, farther and faster than the small arms that people can carry around. The ammunition is relatively inexpensive and plentiful, and the amount of damage that such weapons can cause is impressive, even if the range is more limited. Of course, in space the range of a bullet is unlimited.....once fired a bullet will keep on traveling on a given trajectory until it hits something. It's possible to shoot at a target that is a million kilometers away, and eventually the bullet will hit and cause damage...provided that the bullet is aimed correctly and the target doesn't move. That is the tricky thing with bullets, they are stuck at a fixed speed as soon as they leave the barrel and they can't correct their course. This makes them only useful for targets at extreme close range, within tens of kilometers, unless the target is especially large and lacking in maneuverability. Another problem with bullets is that even if they don't hit their target, they may still hit something else eventually. Sometimes an unintended target that crosses their flight path, even centuries later. This is why sites in space where battles occured are always well marked on navigational charts, so that ships can steer clear of those areas and avoid getting hit by stray fire.
Machine guns fire a rapid stream of solid slugs. They are common vehicle-mounted guns in the military, and they are frequently found among mercenary companies as well as smugglers and pirates. What they lack in accuracy, the compensate in the sheer quantity of bullets that they can spray out. They are very well suited on the ground as suppressive fire, as well as a way to decimate large numbers of opponents. From the air they can assault targets on the ground or shred apart other aircraft.
In space, machine guns are useful mainly as a means of repelling enemy missiles or starfighters. They are of limited usefulness against larger ships, given the heavier armor of such targets. Machine guns also have a fairly limited effective range in space, being that the bullets are too slow to reliably hit an evasive target that is at a range of tens of kilometers or greater.
The autocannon is similar to the machine gun in that it fires out a rapid spray of bullets. The difference is in the bullets....while machine guns fire solid slugs, autocannons fire explosive shells. A stream of miniature grenades that can blast holes even in armored targets, making them more effective weapons against larger spacecraft (though still of little concern to a capital ship). Autocannons in space are primarily used in starfighters, giving a significant punch to a little vessel. They are also used on larger ships as anti-fighter/anti missile guns.
Larger autocannons can fire flak shells that release clouds of fast-moving metal pellets that can shred apart incoming missiles and starfighters alike. Flak guns are a primary means of point defense for larger starships.
The largest ballistic cannons that one will find, artillery guns are capable of firing large shells across great distances while on the ground. In space they are the heaviest cannons available, usually found only on larger ships. Artillery shells are large and heavy, and are fired at enormous speed, making them a deadly threat even to the largest capships. Artillery shells are usually explosive, tearing large holes through the armor of enemy ships. Their larger size means a slower rate of fire, and there is the added limitation of their range. Though fast, artillery shells are still slow enough that they can easily be evaded by a target that is tens of kilometers away or more.
- Gauss Cannon
- A ballistic gun that uses magnetic propulsion to fire its slugs. Similar in many ways to the above mentioned ballistic weapons, they can serve as machine guns, autocannons, or artillery (although rail guns are mostly only useful for artillery). The difference is in the lack of chemical propellant, and the overall speed of the slugs. Gauss cannons tend to propell their shells faster than chemically propelled shells, though they do require an external source of power to operate.
- Coil Cannon
- A ballistic weapon that uses a high energy magnetic coil to accelerate slugs or shells to high speeds. Largely comperable to equivalent slug throwers in muzzle velocity, but having an advantage in using more compact ammunition and not having any build up of chemical residue after heavy use. Coil cannons are more compact than rail guns, and reload faster.
- Rail Cannon
- A high energy ballistic weapon that fires a sabot or a shell in between a pair of electromagnetic rails. Rail guns have a slower rate of fire than coil guns, but a much higher muzzle velocity, producing a much bigger punch per shot. Rail guns tend to be bulkier than coilguns, meaning that they are usually restricted to the role of artillery, but in that role they are unrivaled among ballistic weapons in their destructive power.
A specialized gun that fires a harpoon of hardened metal, either by chemical or magnetic propulsion, depending on the design of the gun. The harpoon has a metal cable connected to it, which links it to a winch that can be used to reel in the harpoon. Harpoon guns are very useful for capturing and grappling with other ships, preventing them from escaping and making it easier to send over a boarding crew. A very popular weapon among security forces and pirates alike.
The idea of using rockets as weapons goes back to the discovery of gunpowder, and while the basic principals of missile weaponry have changed little, their power and versatility have made substantial advancements over the centuries. Missiles can vary greatly in size, range, power, and types of warheads. They take up more room than ammunition for ballistic weapons, and certainly much more room than the power cells needed for energy weapons, but they have undeniable advantages in their power and range. Described below are the three major categories of missile weapons: Rocket, Missile, and Torpedo; each category of missile simply describes the carrying vehicle for the warhead. The types of warheads that are described below can be carried on any category of missile.
A rocket is a self-propelled unguided projectile which uses a quick burning chemical propellant to reach a high speed. Rockets are typically used to attack large, slow or unmoving targets such as freighters, space stations, and ground installations. They may be fired against smaller, faster-moving targets at short range, but they stand a high chance of missing.
Though they come in many shapes and sizes, a missile is generally accepted to be a self-propelled guided projectile designed for attacking targets of non-capital size. As a warhead delivery system, most missiles can be classified into one of three types. Chemical propulsion methods are used almost exclusively for each, the high impulse and compact size ideal for smaller launch platforms.
- Atmospheric Missiles
- Characterized by their heavy and in some cases exclusive reliance upon control surfaces, these missiles use fins or conformal flaps to steer by altering airflow over their surface.
- Space Missiles
- Space based missile weaponry makes use of vectored thrust and thruster vents, control surfaces relegated to channeling internally generated thrust. With the lack of air to use in changing direction, anti-space missiles are reliant upon their thrust-to-weight ratio to close on and kill a target.
- Hybrid Missiles
- Standard issue for vessels which travel in both atmosphere and space, hybrid missiles combine thrust vectoring, thruster vents, and conformal control surfaces in a single package. Despite having lesser performance compared to a specialized missile, the hybrid is an excellent choice for those unsure where they will be when engaging an enemy.
Whereas missiles are generally intended for use on craft smaller than capital size, torpedoes are designed for doing away with capital ships, installations, and any smaller target that strays into its kill zone. Notably larger than the average missile, discrete thrusters and a miniaturized plasma drive allow it to stalk warships with a heavy payload onboard. Frigates and smaller vessels are generally capable of outrunning and outmaneuvering torpedoes, and are often employed in their detection and destruction. One tactic used to circumvent such defensive sweeps is to drop them like mines or program an initial boost before the torpedo goes ballistic, minimizing sensor signature and waiting for a target to come within probable kill range before initiating terminal approach. Torpedoes can also have their payload bays filled with enhanced sensor packages, making them into probes. Their versatility makes them very popular weapons to include on any spacecraft with the room to support their not-insignificant storage and launching requirements.
Rockets, missiles, and torpedoes of all varieties can include a number of different kinds of warheads. Warheads are designed to be easily interchangable so that the missile propulsion system can be used to carry any one of them.
- A solid dense warhead that does not explode, but relies entirely upon momentum to cause damage. When impacting a hardened target at high speed, the kinetic warhead punches through armor and atomizes, the pieces expanding rapidly to shred the interior of the target, igniting fires where oxygen is available. Most missiles fired in space use kinetic warheads, focusing the maximum amount of damage on a small area.
- A warhead that features an explosive charge wrapped inside of a casing of dense metal. The warhead is usually detonated shortly before impact, maximizing the damage caused by the shrapnel. An especially deadly weapon when used against lightly armored spacecraft, it tends to tear large gaping holes in a ship. Also very useful for firing in the midst of starfighters.
- An Electromagnetic Pulse warhead generates a very powerful burst of microwaves when it detonates, imbuing any objects nearby with a strong electrical charge. This weapon is very destructive against poorly shielded electrical equipment, though most spacecraft have sufficient shielding to protect against such an attack. EMP warheads often have a hardened tip, designed to punch through a ship's armor before detonating, releasing their energies where there is little armor to protect delicate electronics. A good way to disable a ship while minimizing casualties.
- Nuclear warheads are most often fission devices, though fusion may be used as well. While nuclear weapons are not as effective in space as they are in an atmosphere, they can still be extremely destructive if detonated very close to a ship's hull, the intense release of radiation vaporizing part of the hull and creating internal shockwaves that can shake a ship apart. If a nuclear warhead pierces a hull before detonating, then it can superheat the pressurized atmosphere inside of a ship, causing catastrophic damage. Usually reserved for attacking capships, nuclear warheads usually have specially designed warheads that shape the explosion to direct most of its energy forward, right into the hull, to maximize the damage.
- Exclusively used by the Talesians at this point, antimatter warheads are similar in function to a nuclear warhead except that they generate an explosion by means of combining a small quantity of antimatter with a small quantity of matter within the warhead. The annihilation of the matter and antimatter produces a burst of gamma radiation that is absorbed by surrounding matter, superheating and vaporizing it. Very devastating in the damage they cause.
Ranging from the venerable lasers and primitive plasma guns to modern pulse cannons and particle beams, energy weapons represent the cutting edge of weapons technology. While demanding great quanities of energy to operate, these weapons have a significant advantage in their lack of bulky ammunition. They tend to have greater ranges and speeds than ballistic and missile weapons, and they leave no spent rounds floating in space. No hazards that may become someone else's problem months, maybe years down the road.
Ship-mounted lasers offer a considerable advantage in their speed and range, though they do consume a lot of power and are easily diffused by clouds of dust, debris, or flak. Military starships have hull plating that is very good at absorbing or deflecting lasers, so this sort of weapon is usually treated as more of a back up rather than a primary weapon. Lower-powered lasers (usually in the UV band of the EM spectrum) are very effective at intercepting incoming missiles, including starfighters, and are most often used in this application. Anti-capship lasers tend to be in the x-ray or gamma ray bands, producing short bursts on intense (and invisible) energy that can melt holes in a ship's hull.
Maser Cannon Another kind of laser, the Maser operates in the microwave band of the electromagnetic spectrum. While not as capable in damaging the hulls of starships, they are very good at creating a strong static electrical charge in any metal object that they strike, creating the effects of a focused electromagnetic pulse. This effect can disable the electronics of a weakly shielded ship, though is not very useful against a ship with heavy hull plating. Most often this weapon is used by military ships to disable lightly armored civilian ship prior to boarding.
A high energy particle accelerator adapted into a weapon, these devices function similarly to a laser, but pack a more potent punch. They have actual mass in their beams, producing a stronger physical impact to the target. The focused beams of ionizing radiation are also more effective against some varieties of armor that is designed to defeat lasers. Ship grade particle cannons produce beams that are of near-relativistic speed, nearly matching the speed and range of lasers; the power needed to accelerate particles to this speed requires enormous energies, making them costly weapons to use.
An upscaled version of the Phased Plasma Gun, the pulse cannon takes a quanity of gas, excites it into a high energy plasma, then runs the plasma through a phasing coil that causes the atoms in the plasma to behave as waves rather than particles, achieving cohesion like a laser, and then accelerated to a high speed. The coherent plasma is fired as high energy pulses, nearly as fast as the beams from a particle cannon, capable of causing piercing damage like a ballistic slug or explosive damage like an autocannon shell. Pulse cannons can also be fired in a continuous beam, cutting like a knife through lightly armored targets. Pulse cannons can come in a variety of sizes and energy levels, their versatility making other kinds of weapons seem outdated. Like the smaller versions, pulse canons are very exotic weapons to humans and only the few Terran ships who can afford to buy the imported weapons off the black market are able to implement them. They are standard armaments on most Selven and Talesian Naval vessels.
Autonomous Combat Vehicle (ACV)Edit
ACVs are an extension of missile technology, a fully automated drone that is capable of serving as a scout, a decoy, or a weapon. They are essentially compact starfighters, lacking a cockpit or any life support equipment, reying instead on remote control or an integrated AI to guide them. ACVs are highly maneuverable, being capable of surviving forces of inertia that would kill any organic pilot. ACVs are easily adaptable to a variety of functions, able to either carry sophisticated sensor equipment or a variety of weaponry. ACVs can carry any weapons that a starfighter can carry, ranging from guns to missiles. They can also be adapted to serve as heavy torpedoes, using their exceptional acceleration and range to make them deadly across a range of many AU. Even a capital ship being struck by an ACV that has accelerated to thousands of kilometers per second would suffer severe damage.
Many military captial ships carry ACVs that either work alongside or in place of conventional starfighters; the ACVs serving as scouts as well as fighters. Science ships often carry them as well, though mostly in the role of scouts. ACVs are also used in inter-system surveillance and defense, controlled remotedly from military bases on planets or space stations.