First of all the following point must be clear. A weapon is the item that achieves the aim on a target. A bullet is a weapon. The gun that fired it is not a weapon. A projectile that hits and destroys it,s designated target is the weapon. The device that fired the projectile is the delivery system, not the weapon.
A weapon system is the sum of all the components that gets the weapon to the target and can comprise of:
A weapon can be:
A additional point to note is that inert projectiles are fired by a gun while an explosive projectile or one that delivers a payload is fired by a canon.
A important factor in weapon design is the target it is designed to neutralize or destroy. The weapon must achieve the purpose for which it is designed, or achieve a result within the zone of the weapon. The zone being the acceptable parameters of the weapons capabilities.
Examining each type of weapon with the designs of XPlore.
I am assuming that our purpose is to neutralize or destroy an opposing space craft designed for combat.
It needs to be fast in response. No waiting time for recovery of energy.
Speed is also an essential part of a projectile or missile as it needs to be able to “catch” its target.
Energy weapons have the speed built in as most would include a concentrated light source which therefore would travel at light speed. Sound producing energy weapons have so far proved too slow and only effective against the human component of a target and not the machine he sits in.
A high cyclic rate. The ability of the projector to reload the next projectile and release it.
The propellant should not reveal or compromise the position or location of the weapon system.
Have an effecting and accurate target acquisition and aiming ability.
Finally in adding our design requirements we can be assured that most of the forces that act against the trajectory of a weapon in Earths atmosphere are irrelevant as they do not exist in space. These include, Air density, gravity and non rigidity.
Attributes and Failures.
- 1. Sound Weapons: Useless in space as sound does travel in a vacuum.
- 2. Energy Weapons: Light Amplification by Simulated Radiation (Laser)
For:Excellent range, Fast, Accurate, powerful.
Against: High power requires high energy (for us possible). Energy weapons are easily deflected by energy or even mirrors. A laser burst has to remain illuminated until it hits the target. Turn it off and the beam stops. However this also means that if a target is illuminated the laser continues to cause damage.
Photon Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation (Phaser) (Not the star trek version)
For: Very powerful, Fast,
Against: Limited Range. Sound can be included as the source but not in our case. Energy requirements not as high as Laser. Again energy weapons can be deflected by energy.
3. Inert Projectile Weapons (Gun)
For: Limited Propellant required as there is no effect on the projectile once fired. High rate of fire can be achieved resulting multiple impact on target.
Against: Logistics in the amount of space required to carry a high quantity. Modern and even futuristic metals could stop inert projectiles.
4. Explosive Projectile Weapon (Canon)
For: As for inert projectiles. Dependant upon fuzing can detonate on impact, in proximity or once penetrated target.
Against: Again logistic but not as bad as for inert projectiles as the result per hit is greater.
Note: The type of explosive projectile would be a big question. Today the most effective explosive projectile against any armour or type of metal or composite material is diffused uranium. On impact it generates an incredible amount of heat instantly and combined with the impact pressure punctures any current known surface sending a molten stream of plasma into the target which in turn ricochets inside the target. (Very Nasty)
Logistic factor in both inert and explosive projectiles:
The amount of propellant needed would be far less than on earth due to absence of those factors mentioned. Today a projectile can also house the propellant eliminating the need for any form of cartridge case or propellant carrier which makes logistics easier. Such weapons also need an obturation device (a method of prevent any propellant gases from escaping.) This is not a problem. A bigger problem would be recoil as any action creates an opposite and equal reaction. This means that sustained fire would push our space craft backwards or slow it down. We dont have to design this but make it an acknowledge factor.
My favourite would be rapid fire canons firing titanium projectiles fitted with diffused uranium heads. 40mm with integral propellant fired from a multi barrel canon.
Example: Currently 4200 rounds per minute from a single Vulcan canon.
In my view a must. Aim, fire and forget so no subsequent tracking required.
First variant for small targets. Missile must travel at mach 3 with a multiple (3) warhead. Each Titanium tipped to puncture the target before detonation 5 kilo warhead.
Second variant for large targets. Mach 2 with a single warhead of 25 kilos. Device can be self sensor guided after aiming and firing.
Third variant as a flak weapon. As above but mach 1 with a multiple (10) proximity warhead each of 2.5 kilos. This is an area weapon with limited range.
A heavy slow device of mach 1 but an intelligent weapon. Once target has been selected and acquired the torpedo does not cease until it has hit its target. Even if lost the torpedo searches, reacquires and homes in on target until successful or the torpedo has run out of fuel when it self destructs. Payload 100 Kilos.
Currently a dream as Plasma is a gas, well the next matter state of a gas, very hot, will burn through anything, very short range and slow plus it uses an exceptional amount of energy.
Combining these the question is, how do you contain it? how do you contain it when fire over distance as it disperses quickly? how do you produce enough energy to create it?
Putting these challenges aside it would make an exceptional weapon and if such a device was possible today then the military would be using it.
One last challenge in space is that it consumes oxygen so once fired how could you sustain it long enough to do the job?
In the realms of XPlore and tomorrows world, is this possible?