Sebastian had a post which mentioned “naval space warfare”, a topic of passing interest to me. Especially, being a big fan of Babylon 5.
But as much as I revere JMS’ Babylon 5 series, I think ALL of the SF shows pretty much miss the future. In space, what are the defining elements?
1. Air containment
2. Mass movement
These are the factors in space. So for a naval vehicle in space you want the ability to a) contain air and habitable ability and b) to have the ability to drive your mass through space.
What are the effects of combat? First, to destroy habitable space, which usually mean rupturing a containment environ. Which is likely done by explosion, impact, or energy beam of some unknown sort.
Explosions we understand, you fire a missile, drone, or move another vehicle close. Blows a big hole. Impact, hey that’s a gun, railgun, particle accelerator, of mass driver (aka asteroidpult). Makes several smaller deeper holes. Energy beam, we’re not quite there with that but expect there will be ways. That’s essentially a cutter that slices.
How does one defend against that? Namely, by hitting first. I think in space the best best defense is a good offense rings truer than anywhere else. To do that, you need a large perimeter. Here’s the great thing about space. Have a huge 360 spherical degree perimeter in space is not that hard. Once the fleet is in drift it will pretty much stay in relative position.
In other words, you can have units and ships thousands of miles out drifting in unison. These would be able to launch drones, and make kamakaze style attacks hopefully long before your main habitats are approached.
But lets fast forward. The battle has happened. You won, yea!!!! But it wasn’t an easy fight. You got hit pretty bad. Lots of damage. Huge sections are now uninhabitable. And well, you’re not prone to staying in this neck of the woods for a another fight.
Drop the mass… that’s right, why lug huge swaths of now uninhabitable sections of the ship?
And this is the key component of space naval warfare most miss out on. I believe unlike our monolithic carrier units. The future capital ship will be made of segments. Drive units, habitable zones, command units, weapon pods.
After a battle, rather than lingering trying to fix a severely damaged ship. A ship will downgrade. Drop the two damaged drive units. So you have 4 instead of 6. Get rid of the rupture segments that will never be able to be restored to habitation. But first remove any intact weapons modules. Re-attach to hard points.
What was maybe an 8 segment battleship with 6 drive units and 80 weapon pods now becomes a 5 segment ship with 4 drive units and 55 weapons pods. Why waste energy trying to move all that dead weight that’s nothing but scrap now?
And ironically, the new configuration has a higher drive to mass ratio.
I do think J. Michael Strazyncski came closest to imagining a realistic space faring world. But even he failed to account for this concept that the dictates of space life will demand of warships.
(Oh, ironically, this was NOT uncommon in the age of sail where a ship may take significant damage to it’s masts and sails. And would be downgraded in it’s rig.)