1. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    concerning naval battles in space

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sophia_esteed, Aug 16, 2009.

    I'm at a point in my novel in which a large-scale space battle should take place.
    But I have problems visualizing and describing it.
    I don't know anything about naval strategy and tactics, so I don't know where to start describing the movements of the fleets/battleships.
    The idea is to have the enemy's planet assaulted by a combined allied fleet, but I don't know how such an attack is done, which ships should move in first, how the enemy would respond... :confused:
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can go to the library and find some books on basic naval tactics, from ancient to modern times. That will give you an idea about several things:

    Different classes (sizes) of ships with different armaments and missions/duties.
    How different weapon systems can affect a battle.
    How fleets and battlegroups organize and move in concert.

    Reading about naval battles can also give you a good flavor of how things unfold, and now events can alter the course of a naval engagement.

    If you don't like reading, there are always programs on the History Channel and other venues that would provide the similar information in another format. Take notes as you watch.

    Another topic you might want to branch out into is about aircraft engaging in dogfights, both modern and at least back to WW II. Examples of Box Formations of B-17s with P-47 or P-15 escorts fending off FW-190s and Me-109s, as well as enduring AA Artillery could give you some reference to create your story, as well as attack missions during, say, the Vietnam War era with Wild Weasels, spotter/observation aircraft, Rescue Helocopters, enemy fighters, SAMs and AAA...

    Again, there are many books on the subject as well as television/documentary programming available.

    Some may be available online, but I am not sure it would be quite as comprehensive.

    It is going to require time and research on your part, but it is the only way for you to tell the story in a fashion that won't annoy or frustrate the reader and embarass yourself as a writer.

    The one note is to consider the battle in three dimensions, not just two. I know with modern naval battles, submarines and aircraft add additional dimensions to the fight than just the surface of the ocean, but it's not quite the same things as in space.

    Terry
     
  3. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Details are key, yaaa...

    Its your story so it's up to you how you want to describe it, what to show, what not to show, etc.

    If you want to show an epic, detailed space battle I commend you, I am a big SF nerd and love that stuff:p. BUT, it may be very complicated depending on how m uch you show, so I highly recommend you at least do some basic research.

    I highly recommend this site, its has excellent info from basic stats to hard data and formulas for orbital mechanics and stuff. It also has an entire chapter devoted to space warfare.

    http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/index.html


    1)Space is really really really big, and over 90% empty, so the odds of two ships meeting each other are astronomically nil. For this reason (and also because there isn't much to fight over in empty space) most space battles will probably take place near a planet, such as in orbit. Kudos to your decision to show a planetary invasion, it jives with my insides.

    2)The theory of the stealth space fighter is a myth, according to Newton there is no reaction without action, a ship needs some kind of exhaust to move or change it's course.

    "The Space Shuttle's much weaker main engines could be detected past the orbit of Pluto. The Space Shuttle's manoeuvering thrusters could be seen as far as the asteroid belt. And even a puny ship using ion drive to thrust at a measly 1/1000 of a g could be spotted at one astronomical unit (93 million miles).

    This is with current off-the-shelf technology. Presumably future technology would be better." -from the Atomic Rocket website: space warfare chapter

    -If your forces are making a planetary assault ask yourself what kind of weapons/defences they have. Chances are they will see their enemy coming from light yeas away and will have plenty of time to prepare defenses. Do they have ships of their own? If not they will be depending soley on planet based weapons and whatever ground forces they have. Little anti-ship missiles launched from the surface will take so long to reach their targets in orbit that it will be like sending snails with bombs on ther backs. Enter beam weapons.

    -Orbital bombardment of the target (peppering the landing zone) is a must, all invasions are preceded with bombardments to weaken enemy defenses and morale. Don't think you can win the battle from orbit though, all armies will need infantry to seize territory and checkpoints and such. I hope you have alot of shocktroops ready in troop carriers or something. For orbital bombardment, lasers might seem as silly as missiles, one of the weaknesses of Reagan's Star Wars program was that the lasers would have cost billions of dollars and couldn't reach an ICBM below a few thousand feet in the air because the atmosphere has so much water vapor that the beams would have been deflected. Read up on the Star Wars program.

    -Read the first chapter of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, seriously, it's so good it's golden and will remain true for centuries. It's predictions are chillingly accurate.

    -When attacking a planet, your forces will proabably do something similar to what America's 82nd Airborne (paratroopers) does before landing, using a little help from their Air Strike buddies they destroy hard targets that may kill troopers as they land (like anti-aircraft missiles/guns/etc). As the troopers are landing they are very vulnerable to attack until they land, and even then they need a minute to get themselves together before they are ready to fight. Paratroopers are highly trained and valuable assests to any commander, so they are usually deployed to strategically vital areas like airbases/supply depots/etc. After they secure a landing zone, their buddies will come and reinforce them. Sometimes even before Airborne lands they will send in elite commandos like Pathfinders, Rangers, SEALs, or Marine Recon to scope out the area and makes sure its kosher. Almost all countries have armies with paratroopers because they are THAT useful.

    -Regardless of whether your assault teams are coming down in little parachute pods or in shuttles, in re-entry they will burn up and make huge thermal targets, and chances are they will show up on radar pretty good too, so they are big sitting ducks and vulnerable then. They can't even radio out, there will be so much ions and charged particles around it that communication is out of the question.

    -As they approach their landing zone, they will probably do something similar to what 101st Airborne (air assault) does, known as peppering the LZ. Just watch the crew chiefs shooting M-60s at the VCs from the Huey helicopters in "We Were Soldiers" to see what I mean. Those guys were Air Cavalry, they did pretty much what 101st does now. If your assault teams have VSTOL shuttles they can evade anti-air defenses and reach strategic targets.

    -Once on the ground, depending on the resistance, they may be in the fight of their lives or its a piece of cake. The assault teams will be limited by how much they can carry (depending on the amount of gravity on the planet) while the defenders will have whatever they have always had. (armor/artillery/a really big army?)

    As you can see, strategy and tactics can be very complex, but art imitates life, and a planetary invasion will be very much like modern air/naval assault. That's just skimming the bowl, there's lots to play around with.

    Have fun on your project and good luck, hope I could help.
     
  4. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Keep in mind too...

    ....that no matter how well a battle-plan is devised, it never stays together once contact with the enemy is made. Most strategy and moves are created "on the fly" in accordance to what is happening.

    Another good naval history book about a battle to read is: "The last stand of the tin can sailors" about the Battle of Luzon in WW2. It is a fascinating read about history.

    CK
     
  5. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Honestly, I wouldn't focus on the big overall battle. Focus on what your characters are doing within that battle. Granted that might take a little bit more planning behind the scenes.

    In my days gone when I tried to write short stories I ended up focusing on such details, trying to describe the battle as it was happening. Then I realized that was boring. I have read many of the star wars expanded universe novels and big space battles are really not described in any great detail. Rather, you relate what is happening from the perspective of the characters;

    That sort of thing is much more exciting than a bird's eye view of the battle.
     
  6. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    David Weber is the author of the Honor Harrington books.

    These books deal, in part, with space battles and the tactics involved in the actual engagements. Mr Weber has worked out all of the technologies involved in his stories and their limitations. The tactics his characters use are overwhelmingly influenced by their offensive, defensive, and sensory capabilities. Mr Weber does seem overly fixated on the number of missiles being launched though...

    Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that unless you know, at least in basic form, the capabilities of the technologies being used in the conflict describing their use in detail might become a little confusing.

    I'd recommend the Honor Harrington books just to give you a sense of how to do it. Plus, they're great books!
     
  7. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Thank you so much for all of your replies!
    I think I'll start with a little research of my own.
    Well, I'm off to the library!
     
  8. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    Ships travel in straight lines. Spaceships can shift on a 3d plane. How you envision the battle could be entirely up to you.

    And if you want something older. Just remember that ships move in lines and wedges. Combat breakdown in an old naval battle devolves into side volleys or scattered ships taking targets. The “Ship of the Line” was a nearly 300-500 gun galleon that could withstand and deliver broadsides at length. These behemoths would be so large as to “shadow” or deaden a ships sail just by approaching it.

    Those are just a few cool ones.
     
  9. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Also, ships usually have a vulnerable side, almost always the aft. This is because it's difficult to put guns covering your engines, unless of course you are a more modern battleship with guns pointing fore and aft. It should be noted that big naval guns have been all but abandoned in favor of missiles and torpedoes and other guided munitions.

    This is possible due to the limitations of naval warfare, being restricted to the sea surface with plane above and subs below.

    Space combat would be different, since there would be no intrinsic advantage to being in a "line". Rather, you would have different vessels with very different purposes (just guessing) - some would have weapons radiating in all directions, while others would have fewer large weapons primarily looking in one direction.

    If you think about it, the wedge shape of the Imperial Star Destroyer makes the most sense because you have 4 surfaces looking in most directions, except aft of course. The rounder Mon Cal frigates could "see" in all directions, more or less. That only confers an advantage if you are surrounded. Then again, it allows for different strategies as well.

    A group of Mon Cal cruisers can get separated and still maintain their effectiveness because they can fire in all directions. ISD's can pretty much only fire up down, left right, and forward, but not backwards. That means that ISD's have to be in a shield/wall/testudo formation or they become very vulnerable. That requires much more coordination.

    Anyways, the construction of a ship should reflect the values of it's culture. Obviously the Mon Cals have a history of being surrounded while the Imperials are always on the attack. It really represents their core values - pacifism versus conquest.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That also brings something else up. In space, a formation of a squadron would not look like a formation of aircraft. Even if you wish to keep a fixed separation between craft for some reason, it is an unacceptable vulnerability for them all to have the same "up" direction. At the very least, you want full 36o degree visual/instrument coverage perpendicular to the trajectory axis.

    But are fixed separation formations of any value at all in space? Possibly, but more often than not, it makes it easier for your adversary to track you and pick you off. The victor is more likely to be the side whose forces are most difficult to predict, or even to perceive a pattern of deployment.

    Make use of the vastness. The more your forces spread out, the less possibility of a collision between friendly craft. If you have a thousand BBs flying at random in a football stadium, do you think there is any real chance of two of them colliding?

    Compared to a space staging area, combat airspace on Earth is a packed sardine tin.
     
  11. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    In terms of air combat relating to space combat - something that many people don't realize is that gravity plays a huge role. Yes, F-15 Eagles and MiG's are capable of gravity defying feats, but it taxes their engines (and the pilot) a lot!

    In modern air combat, altitude is an advantage because you have more stored energy - you can dive and accelerate toward an attack (or away from an enemy) but there's only so much down you can do! In space, agility and coordination trump all else - unless your forces are pushed up against an asteroid belt, moon, or planet.

    ~~~

    Also, something I realized is that the astronomical speeds of spacecraft (at least smaller ones) would make space dogfights blindingly fast. If you have a 10 meter craft accelerate to just 10,000 mph (relatively slow in terms of spacecraft) then the tightest turn you could execute would be very large, perhaps a hundred miles radius. Of course then there is the idea of inertial compensators. Consider passing another fighter going 10,000 in the other direction! You'd have a millisecond to react, if not less.

    I would like to see someone right about a space battle that would be more "realistic" - big ships being hundreds of thousands of miles apart, since you can "see" a long ways through space" and competing admirals maneuvering and navigating for days before the first volley could be fired.

    Can you imagine the build up of tension? A crew of thousands anticipating a brutal fight while accelerating towards an enemy fleet, trying to read the actions of the enemy commanders based on their positions and trajectories.

    Of course, all that gets trumped by "warp drive" or other such technologies which allow you to cover great distances very quickly. I still like the idea of a week-long "march" at an enemy.
     
  12. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    “....that no matter how well a battle-plan is devised, it never stays together once contact with the enemy is made. Most strategy and moves are created "on the fly" in accordance to what is happening.” - CK

    While I understand what you’re saying I disagree that ‘most’ strategy is created ‘on the fly’. “No plan survives contact with the enemy” is a military maxim, but it’s not a law of science. Usually the army with the better strategy wins, maxims aside. What the saying means is that the enemy can be unpredictable and throw a monkey wrench in your plans by behaving unpredictably. An alternative to poor planning is not last minute planning. Most Generals would probably agree on planning very rigorously before a battle, and the military doctrine for most of recorded history reflects that.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine spaceships lining up to broadside each other with cannons like ships of the line in Colonial eras. Ships in space, much like ships of the sea these days, are partial to making themselves as small as a target as possible and denying the enemy a lock.

    Many ships these days, because they show up on radar like sore thumbs (much as a behemoth class space battleship would), would be something called Electronic warfare (jamming, decoys, etc). All modern armies are doing it, and there will surely be a great deal of it in space, because the first ship to get spotted could get an anti-satellite missile up the butt.

    If it’s a space battle, the ships will probably be big, but not because they need to carry a lot of guns (one missile can cripple a Battleship, that’s why big dreadnaughts are obsolete) but because depending on what drive they use they will need a lot of fuel to navigate space.

    I honestly think that the construction of a spacecraft will depend less on the culture and more on the practicalities of engineering for space travel. Hence, why would a spaceship need a wedge shaped surface? It has no water or wind resistance. Honestly, a ship of space would look something more like the Discovery or Leonov in 2001/2010 Space Odyssey movies with huge fuel tanks and maybe even a habitation ring.

    I would take a ship with good radar/sensors over a big behemoth, and as the Weber fan mentioned, victory may depend on how many missiles you can shoot and how quickly you can spot the enemy. Battle will not be romantic, it will be brutal and cutthroat, Captains will more than likely try to use a planet to mask their movements, and then when their enemy appears on the terminator horizon, blast them with missiles with no mercy.

    My two cents:redface:
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    G-forces apply whenever you change velocity. That includes acceleration/deceleration, AND turns. Unless you have "inertial dampers" as part of your technology base, it will limit maneuverability of your craft. You just don't have a 1G acceleration already set in one fixed direction.
     
  14. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am once again amazed at the wealth of knowledge on this topic people on this forum have.
     
  15. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    We're nerding out Fork! Leave us nerds alone!
     
  16. Forkfoot
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    [Gives Jonathan a wedgie.]
     
  17. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    One of the mistakes I think Hollywood makes when it comes to representing space battles is that all ships involved will have artificial gravity. This shows a remarkable lack of foresight on the part of whoever designs spaceships as gravity would prejudice the pilot/s and strategists to an up/ down, left/ right worldview relative to the directions on board the ship in a battlefield where directions are whatever you want them to be.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not to mention we have no idea yet as to how to artificially simulate a gravity field. :)

    As for Hollywood, thay have the opposite problem. It's very difficult and expensive to show life in free fall convincingly. It's also difficult to act and direct when actors need to be holding conversations at odd angles - the camera chooses to align with one character, while the one he is talking to is at a 120 degree angle, as if standing on an angled ceiling. And the hair ALWAYS looks wrong!

    It's tough on the audience too. We are used to reading body language and facial expressions "right side up." In fact, I suspect a 90 minute movie with all the actors in simulated free fall (aqnd no agreement as to the "up" vector) would send many of the audience to barf bags.
     
  19. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    I think they did it right in one of the spaceships in The Fifth Element.

    The Mondoshawan vessel has three pilots in circle from what I remember and they're all facing out the front of the ship... but don't get me started on windscreens in spaceships. :)
     
  20. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Wow! I'm amazed at how much this little topic has grown.
    But now I think I've at least gotten a rough starting idea on how I want the battle to unfold.
    When I've finished compiling the main battleships' crew roster, I'll get started.
     
  21. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    @artificial gravity

    I think that this concept probably originated simply because it's cheaper to let gravity be a given.

    The original Star Trek "invented" transporters to have a cheap-to-produce method of moving people around. They said that shuttle sequences would have just been too expensive!

    ~~~

    Also, in terms of combatants in space, I would the modern curve towards UAV's would carry over into space. The merits of a UAV would really stand out in space because of the G-force tolerance. You can have nice and comfortable pilots chillin' like villains on the capital ships and whenever a droid fighter goes down you just take control of another one. It really brings to life George Carlin's notion of "nintendo pilots"!
     
  22. jonathan hernandez13
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    (salutes)
    Aye aye Captain!
     

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