Turning Swords Into Needles

Sometimes overall strategy requires that designers include things that make no tactical sense for the object being designed. This was very true in the case of submarines during the Cold War. People have always had an interest in adding unusual items to sub designs. The British M.1 featured an enormous gun as one would find on surface warships. The German "Deutschland" was a modified design of U-Boat with enormous cargo space, used for trade with the U.S. before the latter's entry into WW1. And, of course, there was the very popular idea of using subs as aircraft carriers (which everyone tried from time to time in the early 1900s).

(Most of these were simply mobile seaplane garages (such as the French Surcouf), whereas others were full-fledged carriers with direct onboard launch capability. Carriers included the British M.2 and various Japanese efforts, such as the I-15 Class (aka the B1-type), though these always featured single planes. (However, the B1-type I-25's single plane conducted the only known aerial bombing of the continental U.S.)

There was also the huge I-400 class capable of carrying and launching three planes. However, I discount the I-400 since it was not so much an aircraft carrier as it was a kamikaze-guided-missile carrier, intended for use in a suicide attack against the Panama Canal.)

However, only the addition of nuclear weapons really took off.

Whereas the other additions might still be useful, however, the nukes aren't considered to be in the modern climate. And so some have wondered what to do with a large number of perfectly operable submarines that just happen to be excessively long so as to contain a number of upright tubes.

Well, The Skunk Works has figured something out. A small UAV is ejected from the sub's tubes and allowed to float to the surface, where it launches. After performing recon or attacks, it returns and somehow executes a non-destructive water landing, at which point it is recovered.

This is amusing on several levels. First, that thing looks like an F-86 Sabre and an F4U Corsair made babies. Second, the idea of a sub-launched airplane just has a note of irony that can't be ignored. Third, there's the fact that the dream of a proper submarine aircraft carrier could be realized, with a small fleet of aircraft able to be launched while the sub remains cloaked underwater. And finally, of course, there's the fact that weapons capable of destroying a city are being replaced with weapons intended to blow up trucks and buildings.

Advancements, after all, come in many forms, and sometimes in directions opposite what one might expect.

In any case, it's interesting that none of the major cloaking races of Trek make use of similar ideas. "Balance of Terror"[TOS1] was a sub-hunter analog, after all, and given that we've seen fighters in Trek (albeit usually in the form of "miniature" starships of almost a hundred feet long) we know the two could be mixed.

If we continue the sub/cloak analogy, it seems to me that the Klingon emphasis on individual glory could easily have resulted in the use of cloaked fighter-carriers instead of their reliance on small independent cloaking warships such as the Bird of Prey. However, apparently the ease of adding cloaking devices to BoP designs made that the more attractive option . . . not to mention that all the warriors would want to be pilots instead of manning the cowardly "hiding" carrier.

This leaves us with the Romulans. Surely they would man a hiding carrier, and given their weapons technology they could probably have created a devastating fighter in the 2260's. Presumably the technology simply never advanced to a point where they felt they could get away with it.

After all, radar pretty much killed the sub advantage during WW2. It wasn't until sub reactor advances allowed for constant submergence that subs could realistically be hidden again . . . but then there was sonar. The point, though, is that if a sub surfaced to launch a plane . . . a plane that would probably be small and short-range in the first place . . . then as soon as the plane was high enough to be seen on radar the location of the sub would be known.

Similarly, the early Romulan holo-cloaks of the 2150's made the ships difficult to spot, but still easy to track. 100 years later, they were still detectable as a 'motion blip' via unclear means. So, if you were a cloaked Romulan carrier, you'd have had to have cruised to a location without being detected, launched from outside detection range, and then pick up whatever fighters returned (and hope they didn't bring company).

In short, the idea seems neat, but may be problematic. Sure, something similar is the basis of the Yorktown/Minotaur combo at the Starfleet Museum, but we're talking about the use of such tactics in a different sort of 'reality' altogether.

More thought would be required to make this workable, assuming it could even be practical.


Quick Notes + Spacedock and Starbase Dependency

Just a couple of quick notes until I can do some catch-up this weekend (hopefully).

1. The comments field seems to have become a de facto debate arena in the recent post on extremism, but for that purpose it's pretty clunky.

2. Yet another new face has been added. Expect even more cool posts here soon.

3. I was watching "Homefront"[DSN4] a few weeks ago and, as always, wondered where Spacedock had gone, since it was never mentioned while Earth's power systems were knocked out. Everyone was making use of the Lakota as if it was the only Starfleet item in orbit. This sort of thing . . . plus the fact that we generally never heard of or saw Spacedock at all throughout the TNG era . . . has led people (myself included) to wonder if Spacedock was even there anymore.

Of course, while Spacedock is almost certainly the biggest example of objects in Earth orbit, it isn't the only one. Earth orbit was a hub of activity in TMP, with orbital offices and drydocks galore. We've also heard of orbital habitats built by Sisko before DS9, and we've seen another drydock in Earth orbit as of Nemesis. That last bit kills the notion that all the Starfleet orbital stuff had been moved to Mars, where various large stations and drydock facilities have been seen.

Unless we're supposed to believe that Earth orbit has been cleared since the TMP era save for a drydock and some orbiting apartment buildings, then we can't simply assume that Spacedock isn't there simply because of a lack of mention.

. . . Or so I was thinking. It then occurred to me that there actually had been a mention of Earth Spacedock. In "Non Sequitur"[VOY2], Kim is trapped in a timeline that diverged from the "real" one starting several months before the episode (which was a Season 1 holdover set in 2371). He and the alternate-Paris steal a ship Kim designed from Spacedock.

So, at least as of a week or so before Voyager's departure in mid-2371 (which is when Kim signed on for the ship's mission per Pathways), Spacedock did exist. Unless something freaky happened in the intervening year, Spacedock was still there during the "Homefront" events.

Why it wasn't mentioned or used at all is another question altogether.

4. For some reason I was thinking that there was a shot of one of the huge Federation mushroom starbases like Starbase 74 (the upscaled Spacedock-style bases), one which did not have the planetary disc behind it as was seen in the original ST3 shot, and that further this base might've been "merely" of Spacedock size.

Evidently I'm either senile or have been hitting the crack pipe again, since a quick check of DITL and TrekCore.com's episode screenshots confirms that the shots of Starbase 133 and Lya Station Alpha used the TNG-modified ST3 shots as seen in the original Starbase 74 ep, "11001001"[TNG1]. Those all have the remarkably-Earth-like planet behind them.

This means, though, that every time we've seen one of those large-scale bases it has been in orbit of a Class M planet. The various "freestanding" bases have all been of the Regula-looking type (either Regula-size or of the larger 173/375 configurations).

I don't know about you, but if I've built a structure weighing in the neighborhood of 40-140 billion tonnes, I'd rather not put it anywhere where (a) it is subjected to the slightest gravity shear across its bulk or (b) it is remotely possible that it will go crashing down onto a populated planet. I mean, these things aren't in LEO, skirting the atmosphere and needing frequent boosts . . . but they aren't exactly out in stable L4 or L5 Trojan-style LaGrange positions either.

Assuming there are no such bases in open space, this implies that that type of base is dependent on the planet in some manner. Either (a) they aren't sufficiently self-sustaining in regards to basic supplies, crew support, materiel, et cetera, (b) they are specialized bases requiring certain supplies or manufacturing from below (kind of like Terok Nor's original purpose as an ore processing station before becoming DS9), or (c) other. Further pondering seems prudent.


Darwin Defeats the Jedi Order?

So what brought the Jedi down to the point where their "foggy" sensibilities could get them wiped out by a couple of Sith?

  1. Force talent seems to run in families.
  2. In fact, every child of a Jedi that we've seen - in the movies, and in at least most of the EU, for that matter - is force sensitive to a degree.
  3. Jedi aren't allowed to marry. They are a celibate order. (See #2 for why we don't have more evidence from the movies on whether or not force sensitivity runs in families.)
  4. For the past thousand years prior to the prequels, the Jedi order has been dying out slowly.
Anyone else get the feeling that the Jedi Knights drained their order by imposing celibacy on its members? Whether it's midichlorion transmission through bodily fluids, like a disease, or genetic, or what-have-you... the celibacy rule selects against force sensitivity.

Darwin 1, Jedi Order 0.


Moderation and Extremism

Opponents from StarDestroyer.Net generally try to color ST-v-SW.net as the location for extremist "OMG Evil Tr3kkieZ!!!!1" arguments. While I freely admit that I stand against the attempts of a small group of fanboys to inflate Star Wars tech with the stated goal of "mak[ing] it a better comparison to Trek" tech, the fact remains that ST-v-SW.Net is a moderate site.

Let's take a moment to ponder how ST-v-SW.Net would be if it were called, say, "GalaxyClassStarship.Net" and featured the same sort of shameless slant as ST-v-SW.Net's wannabe-competitor:

- Star Trek V's journey to the center of the galaxy? Oh, that'd be standard starship top speed in case of emergencies. Sure, we've seen ships seem to top out at lower speeds, but they were just having trouble or dialling down the velocity or whatever. It doesn't matter . . . any analysis of instances of lower speeds would be evil and wrong.
Warp Drive = 20,000,000c in Kirk's era
(SD.Net and its board denizens calc SW velocities by mixing up various non-canon sources to reach millions of c speeds. GCS.Net would at least use a single self-consistent example.)

- "Parallax"[VOY1]'s trip inside a black hole? Baseline hull resiliency calculation, here we come! And it wasn't just Voyager that should've been squished in there . . . a shuttle was inside it too. Sure, we've seen shuttles break when smacking into the ground, but that's different due to some flimsy excuse we'll come up with and all repeat like a mantra. God, don't you know anything?
Starship and Shuttle hulls = roxorz
Starship and Shuttle Acceleration = millions upon millions of g

(SD.Net and its board denizens calc SW ship hull resilience based on an example of the Falcon passing close to a neutron star in one of the books. Speaking of which, if GCS.Net used Trek books then we'd have multiple examples of starships entering black holes.)

- Star Trek III and Sulu's scanning of the planet's core with the tricorder? Baseline tricorder range.
Tricorder = "Sir, my tricorder detects Imperials!" "On which planet?"
(SD.Net and its board denizens calculate Imperial sensor tech off of various outlier EU data, ignoring things like TESB's "Is that a Millennium Falcon on your hull or are you just happy to see me?")

- "Obsession"[TOS] antimatter calcs? Standard for antimatter reactors. After all, the talk of a dilithium matrix actually may serve as the explanation for the extra juice the core puts out over and above what it probably should per real antimatter, not to mention the weird radiation the Malon dealt with in VOY.
Antimatter = about 28.6 million gigatons / gram, give or take
(SD.Net and its board denizens calculate SW reactor tech by way of making false assumptions about the Death Star and then scaling down. IIRC someone once pointed out that this should result in something like 1 gigaton hand weapons, but they drop it down a bit in practice. Isn't that nice of them?)

- "The Die is Cast"[DSN3] planetary attack calcs? Standard weapons yields. Sure we've seen 'em fire with less effect, but these are precision weapons.
Torpedoes = millions of megatons per shot, or better
(SD.Net and its board denizens calculate vessel firepower via the aforementioned false assumptions regarding the Death Star, and again scale downward. They've also taken some EU data and diddled with it until they could inflate it beyond the original EU statements. And, they explicitly ignore the movie yields in favor of comic book versions of weapons shots. I'm sure GCS.Net can jack up the Trek yields even further with effort.)

. . . and so on. Oh, yeah, and while we'd give the appearance of using evidence, we'd really just be trying to persuade readers by any means necessary that Trek could beat Wars, and wouldn't be afraid to say so every once in awhile.

Only then would GCS.Net be equal and opposite.

As it stands, I'm happy to keep ST-v-SW.Net straddling the proverbial fence.


Probe Droid Objections

Just a little quickie . . . here is a work-in-progress version of the Probe Droid objections page. Unfortunately that's all the time the weekend has allowed. More to come.