Okay, I don’t like lasers. It stands for “Light Amplification through the Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” Cool acronym but it still leaves me cold. For one thing, the most effective and powerful lasers are x-ray which shows those space battles with slashing beams of light to be completely false. In the real world, they are fun to play with and have a lot of potential applications. I am able to write this posting without glasses because of Lasix and able to drive also. But as a writer, I need to dig a great deal deeper to find interesting and compelling variations.
But as an SF writer I wanted to go in a different direction. Besides laser batteries are boring looking not evoking the things that stir our interest like damn big guns pounding their targets into piles of floating debris.
I have stood on the USS Missouri. I have a picture of her main guns overlooking the USS Arizona memorial. It shook me to my very soul. This thing was huge and was a gunfighter of the highest regard and feared by all who faced her and those of her class. Yet she was an antique the day she left the shipyard due to the rapid changes in naval tactics and strategy. The battleship used to be the “Queen of Battle” now she was there merely in a supporting role to aircraft carriers which could drop bombs and torpedoes from a great deal longer distances.
The battleship was relegated to shore bombardment. Which was performed with outstanding accuracy and overwhelming force. Google how effective they were. Think of the WWI USS Texas flooding compartments so she could get a better angle during D-Day. Thousands of Americans are alive today because of her guns and those of her sister battleships. North Vietnam not coming to the bargaining table if an Iowa class battleship was close by was another example. A flight of F/A-18’s could deliver the equivalent of one broadside and be back in an hour or so to deliver that again whereas an Iowa class battleship could do it again in less than two minutes later. And do it for days and days on end.
Designed to take multiple hits from 18 inch guns and still fight even manually aiming, they put missiles and their capabilities to shame no matter how powerful they were. When the Iowa class battleships were upgraded in the 1980s the best computers were still found to be the original mechanical ones which could be run by a sailor pumping up and down on a pedal to power them. Think of launching a VW Beetle a marathon away and landing it on a tennis court–you pick which side of the tennis court but a “miss” is still damn devastating with 2,200 pounds of explosives falling on your head.
Laser projectors are rather boring, showing aiming mirrors. But I wanted big guns which wouldn’t work for lasers. What to do?
Railguns. And more railguns. The US Navy is experimenting with them even as we speak and they will soon be on ships in a test situation. Recently they have demonstrated being able to launch and load multiple projectiles. Think of a projectile moving a 5 mile a second with a range of over 200 miles. It’s also known as a “Kinetic Kill.” Tanks have been doing it for years including the M-1 Abrams which shoots 4km/s projectiles with an almost flat trajectory. It helped us win Gulf War I with outstanding success often shooting through the best Russian armor and the tank or two behind it killing them all.
So, let us think bigger. Put railguns on a space based battleship and see what they can do. As a hat tip to the Iowa class battleships my railguns are 40 cm and 13 cm. Which is about sixteen and 5 inches respectively–the guns on those types of ships. Think of what a broadside could do against anything even a planet. Figure out where the caldera’s were and you could crack the crust of a planet! Sheer physics shows the enormous power they could deliver to their enemies.
Railguns need a lot of power. But in a battleship with an antimatter power source they had more than enough. Hence the ships I created were born. Meet the UCP Dauntless class of ships…