Posted on 23-02-2016 09:55
Joined: October 21 2005
The vast majority of space weapons fall into broad types. Autocannons (using chemical propellant or a plasma charge to shoot a projectile), Massdrivers (which use Magnets), Missiles (self-propelled projectiles, guided or otherwise), Energy Bolt weapons (plasma cannons, LPCs, any energy weapon that fires a slower-than-light bolt), and Beam Weapons (Lasers, Ion Cannons, Plasma Beams, etc). Of course these weapons have numerous subtypes but they are what dominates space combat in the HW verse.
However, there are of course other, more unique and exotic weapons technologies floating around there. Various pieces of Progenitor Godtech, lost military prototypes from now-extinct races, the products of various mad scientists, obsolete but potent old technology, one-off research experiments, or highly-improvised contraptions used for ship to ship combat or some other purpose. None of these are practical enough to replace conventional naval arms, and most have major flaws or are based on technology currently impossible to reproduce, but should be listed and hypothesized for convenience.
A few types to note:
Military Nanotech/Gray Goo: Nanoscale Robotics is quite ubiquitous in the PDS'verse, and is used from everything to sophisticated nano-medicine, manufacturing, electronics, and many military applications. However, the Nanotech available to most races (I.E. anyone not the Progenitors, Bentusi, or T-MAT) is somewhat imperfect. While it's certainly theoretically possible to make a matter-devouring gray-goo weapon, it isn't at all practical for ship-to-ship combat, for several reasons. They have more disadvantages than advantages actually.
Teeny tiny size makes them vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse, changes in temperature, and limits their mobility. They would still require a conventional delivery system like a missile to get to the target. The other issue is the state of (Hiigaran) Nanotech is that it can easily work with a small number of homogeneous chemical elements, within a controlled environment, with sufficient processing and transmission power available. However, most spaceships are made of advanced composites, and space itself is such a harsh environment, with huge extremes in temperature (I.e. if you're in sunshine or shadow on a ship's hull), with high radiation that can obliterate a nanoswarm. Therefore, any nanite delivery system wouldn't be delivering ready-to-use eaty-bots. Instead it would have to deliver a nanofactory, feedstock, and portable system that takes into account temperature changes and target materials. In any case, it takes time for the nanites to reach critical mass to do any appreciable damage, where as a simple kinetic round would make a hole in a millisecond going at astronomical-scale velocities.
To make matters worse, most starships have magnetic shielding, a large amount of electrical charge on their hulls, as well as positive-action defensive nanite systems to defend against Beast Infections. In fact, anti-Beast countermeasures are the main military use of Nanotech (the beast being itself a strange form of Bio-Nanotech, with some Archanotech features). Defensive "Blue Goo" is produced in the event of an infection to attack beast nanoprobes and stop or at least slow down the rate of infection until other positive-action defenses kick in. Other military uses of nanotech include intelligent "Fixey Foam" sandwiched in the hull of a ship, to be released if a hull breach is detected and plug the hole, systems designed to rapidly reconfigure sensor systems, and various nanoscale componants in construction and PDA systems.
As an offensive weapon, it's usually simpler to just use conventional weapons, but defensive nanowarfare is a big deal in any case.
Weaponized PDAs: I.E. the Naggarok's ship-eating beam from the final level of Cataclysm. Since the Naggarok was presumably a Progenitor ship of some sort, it is a safe assumption that a disassembler that powerful is safely in the realm of Progenitor godtech. The current tech level of Phased Disassemblers can potentially cause damage to a spaceship, but typically are only used by Resourcer crews as a weapon of last resort. The main problem being you have to fly right up to the target's face and slowly eat through it's armor. A quite suicidal prospect for any ship.
Basically the Naggarok was the exception and not the rule (it was most likely used to eat asteroids to resupply the ship's resource stockpiles anyway). PDA's are strictly a tool, and aren't really practical for weapons.
Relativistic Kinetics: Basically this means accelerating a projectile to a high-fraction of C (50%-75%-90% the speed of light), far higher than the muzzle velocity of any mundane railgun. However, accelerating a massive object to that velocity requires an absurd amount of energy, and a lot of time. A typical RKKV would be a beam-riding (I.E. launched by a battery of lasers on a fixed-station), and gradually accelerated over a few light-weeks. There are a few issues with this.
RKKVs are strictly strategic weapons, meant to hit planet-sized or megalith-sized targets. The reason being, both Faster-than-Light sensors and Hyperspace exist. A fleet can just jump out of the way and hyperspace behind the projectile. Large targets like planets or asteroid bases are easier to hit, but there are a few possible strategies to mitigate an RKKV if detected early enough. For instance, using gravity well generators to pull the (unguided) projectile off course. As well, Planetary-scale shielding systems do exist, and can at least partially defend against a (single) RKKV impact (though this single hit would probably obliterate the shield generators via feedback, and necessitate their replacement).
The Primary reasons RKKVs aren't commonly used are #1: The Galactic Council has imposed several Anti-WMD treaties which prohibit their use against populated worlds (their only practical target really), and #2: Hyperspace Exists. It is usually very simple for a fleet to jump in and raid the (large, vulnerable) launcher before the projectile can reach it's target velocity, generally causing it to miss due to insufficient acceleration to be at the right place at the right time. As well, with time to impact measured in years, a war can have already been won or lost by fleet forces before the RKKV's get to their targets.
That is not to say these weapons don't exist: Most major empires maintain an inventory of them as a deterrent. They can potentially be devastating if used on an unsuspecting target from (relatively) close range, with the element of surprise. Because of this, most empires keep a close eye on the positions of their potential rivals' RKKV launch platforms at all times.
Antimatter Weapons: Antimatter is manufactured industrially using world-scale particle accelerators, and is primarily used as a power source.
Using very small amounts of Antimatter (on the order of 10^11 antihydrogen atoms) to catalyze a nuclear bomb is quite feasible, and is commonly done as an initiator in fusion warheads. This results in somewhat low-fallout 'clean' bombs suitable for planetary use, or as ship-to-ship weapons. The primary limiting factor is that even these tiny amounts of antimatter are expensive to produce, store, and transport. As well, even 'mundane' nukes are still heavily regulated by Galactic Council WMD laws, be they fission-fusion weapons or antimatter catalyzed (though this has gone out the window with the onset of the Vaygr War, more or less). This has meant that development and testing of nukes of any sort has taken a backseat to other technologies.
Pure antimatter is, however, somewhat dangerous and complicated to handle by it's very nature. Any antimatter device is inherently fail-deadly. The simple issues (both practical and political) of transporting, storing, and safely launching large antimatter 'bullets' make them more or less impossible. The exception being the...
Siege Cannon: This is essentially a weapon firing a compressed shell of plasma surrounding a core of high-energy antiprotons. The weapon uses highly-advanced, and hitherto unduplicatable technology to create antiparticles from any sufficiently potent high-energy source (such as the Kuun-Lan's powerful reactors), as well as create a magnetic field powerful to separate and accelerate the projectile, and maintain cohesion over a pre-determined distance. Small-scale reactions between the plasma and anti-plasma occur during firing at the separation point ('leaking' through the separating magnetic field), meaning that it's damage potential at range is dependent on how much the projectile 'fizzles' before it can arrive.
It is entirely unknown how the weapon is able to maintain the cohesion of the magnetic field at range from the device, or selectively collapse it at range. Even in-depth technical analysis of the weapon has revealed nothing which can be understood by modern science. It is assumed the Bentusi have knowledge of the advanced firing principals of the weapon, but they are understandably reluctant to provide any information that can cause the weapon to be reproduced.
The Kuun-Lan's cannon is the only one in Hiigaran possession. Beyond that, other Siege Cannons have been found and refurbished over the years. Several are in possession of the Frrern Aggregate, and at least one was seen in use by the Taiidan Empire (built into a heavily modified Qwaar-Jet class cruiser). A few similar weapons, referred to as "Cherry Bombs", are in possession of the Yomi Empire. These weapons are believed to be related to (possibly created by) the mad goddess Amenouzume, and are thus considered cursed. The YSDF has these weapons stored and protected, but refused to use them operationally. Yet another weapon, possibly of Turanic origin (frighteningly enough), referred to as the "BFG-12000", has been reported. Most likely though, this is not a 'true' siege cannon, but a heavily derived or altogether different weapon, of substantially reduced power.
Those Siege Cannons in service are almost exclusively retained as strategic weapons, and rarely deployed. Their size and bulk necessitates huge ships or platforms to carry, mount, and power them, and without easy access to unbound knowledge and technology, they are very difficult to maintain. The Frrern (the largest known user of these weapons) use them almost exclusively defensively, as system-defense platforms. Still, the power of such weapon, as well as it's (relative) practicality cannot be ignored, and they are considered extremely valuable military assets to anyone who should run across them.
Hyperspace Weapons: The Progenitors did use (or are believed to have used) Strategic-level Hyperspace-based weaponry during their self-destructive civil war. Because these weapons would have been aggressively targeted by opposing sides, few if any would have survived. Atleast none have been recorded. What little info is available on them is based on fragmentary records and poorly understood science.
Referring to this thread here, most hyperspace weapons currently known worked in one of two ways: Destructively and non-Destructively. Non destructive weapons basically pulled ships (or other objects as large as asteroids) into and out of hyperspace, similar to a ship-mounted hyperspace drive, but from a remote location. This was mainly used for hyperjumping enemy ships into the guns of a friendly fleet, or as a delivery system for mines or other weapons.
Destructive hyperspace weapons are far less understood, and potentially far more insidious. Using unstable quantum wavefronts for all manner of nefarious things, such as violently disrupting ships in mid hyperspace transit, or going as far as locally turning realspace 'inside out' in a local area, destroying any matter present. Unrestricted use of these weapons is the main reason for the wide-scale destruction during the progenitor war. (hence why the Taiidan Empire only controlled a grand total of 150 habitable worlds at it's height. This figure is somewhat average distribution across the galaxy. Before the Progenitor civil war, there would have been hundreds of thousands of habitable planets. Most were destroyed).
It is currently believed (thankfully) that the Progenitors expended or destroyed their Hyperspace weapons during their war, and none have survived to the present day.
Repulsors/Gravity Effect Weapons: These weapons featured a brief popularity during the Beast War, and are based on a heavy extrapolation of the large gravity-well generators used by the Taiidani (and copied by the Kushan) during the Homeworld War (which are themselves derived from Hyperspace Technology). The reason for this is more out of desperation than anything else. Repulsors were very much a case of "Lab Equipment bolted onto any available chassis", at least in the Somtaaw case. Once the Beast War passed, and more practical/safe defensive systems became commonplace, repulsors fell out of favor.
The reasons are obvious if one considers that Repulsors are indiscriminate between friend and foe, and cause incredible gravitational stresses both on the target as well as the firing ship (PDS is disregarding the mechanics of Cataclysm for this). Crews of the firing ships are frequently exposed to intense G forces, and injuries and blackouts were commonplace. Still, as dangerous as they are to the ship and crew equipping them, they were useful in fending off overwhelming Beast Attacks as an emergency weapon.
As an offensive weapon, Repulsors are now considered obsolete except in very particular situations. Modern Anti-beast countermeasures and integrated point defenses mean that close-range swarm attacks are somewhat more manageable by properly coordinated fleets, making Repulsors unnecessary. They still see limited use mounted on remote controlled platforms for nonmilitary purposes such as asteroid mitigation, or minesweeping.
Bomb-pumped laser: Essentially using a Nuclear Bomb to create a giant laser beam. In most cases, chemical lasers take second-fiddle to Ion Cannons or Plasma Weapons, due to their lack of Kinetic Energy (they are commonly used for defensive purposes though). For the energy and infrastructure needed for a laser, it is generally worthwhile to take the step up to an Ion Beam.
Nuclear-pumped lasers though have a special niche. Primarily as standoff-attack weapons used to penetrate an enemy's point defense envelope. They can be built relatively compact: small enough to fit into a torpedo or mine casing, and fire a beam powerful enough to melt through even thermal-resistant composites. Obviously, due to the process involving a nuclear detonation, it is impossible to use this principal on an actual starship, so it's use is limited to expendable projectiles.
Archanotechnology: Essentially a formalization of the dictum "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic". Although, in a strict sense, this does not necessarily disprove the existence of Magic. Essentially, any weapons technology unable to be at least hypothesized to function based on modern knowledge is referred to as "Archanotech". The Majority being Progenitor Godtech relics (which are merely based on scientific principals not yet understood by 'younger' races) or the technology used by the T-MAT (which visibly resembles magic, and defies scientific explanation. Admittedly, very few examples have been studied though). The Aikoans (an early Progenitor offshoot) similarly had a 'mystic' aesthetic to their technologies as well.
Because Archanotech is a broad category that is, by definition, poorly understood, it is considered a catch all for any 'wierd' weapons that don't quite appear conform to the laws of physics. Technically Hyperspace itself falls into this category, as much of what happens outside the 'bubbles' of realspace transited on a quantum wavefront is unknown.
That being said, there is a strong belief, among many galactic cultures (even highly advanced ones) in the occult, and while majority of the galaxy's governments are sufficiently rational to explain away any anomalies as 'merely' highly advanced technology, many spiritualist or religious peoples (Traditionalist Vaygr Mystics and the Yomi Imperial cult of Inari for instance) interpret such as a sign of real and present influence from, if not the divine, than dangerous things from the beyond.
The existence of the Beast means that these claims are not entirely disregarded by the governments of the civilized galaxy.
That being said, there are pieces of Archanotech which are certainly very dangerous, regardless of weather they are overtly magical or simply based on not-yet-understood subsets of physics. The T-MAT for instance have appeared to use weapons which cause any matter impacted to become monochromatic (visually drained of color, adopting a gray-scale appearance) and highly brittle. Use on starship scale targets causes them to simply break apart from even modest G-forces. Any organic material struck by this weapon crumbles to dust.
Additionally, the Paraphysic abilities used by the Taiidan Emperor Riesstiu against Karan S'jet would fall into this territory (Paraphysics: I.E. anomalous abilities of the mind capable of physically or mentally affecting objects or individuals). These abilities are extremely rare (1 in a Trillion), but known to modern science and studied. A study on Paraphysics itself requires an entire article of it's own, but is essentially believed to be a case of 'Brainwave Patterns operating in a high R-state' (See: Hyperspace: How it Works). The Emperor's cybernetic integration into his Flagship only further enhanced his power to demigod levels.
Sajuuk and the other Great Progenitors are also believed to have been extremely powerful Paraphysics (superior to the Emperor by an order of magnitude), and there is evidence to suggest that, because of this, they would have been revered as Gods and overtly worshipped even by their contemporary peoples.
Any further ideas or suggestions are welcome. Some things obviously would be difficult to script as an ingame weapon, but it's good to have ideas on the table.
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