Fiction; Torpedo Run

Written by Doug Horton on the old list serv:

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Gron tightened his finger on the firing stud for the Challenger's torpedo launcher.

"Torpedo is away bridge", he reported automatically into his space suit microphone.

Now the hard work begins, he thought. The torpedo was still firing main thrusters, barely 200 kilometers away from the launcher in the bow. It was already swinging around toward the Sathar Frigate Deathstriker. Gron switched his attention to the camera view relayed from the speeding missile. The Sathar ship was centered on the display and maginified by the telescopic cameras in the Torpedo's nose. Gron studied the electromagnetic readout and got a baseline reading. So far, all readings were in the green, and the radio link between the Torpedo and the Challenger was rock steady.

Gron sat and waited as the torpedo closed on the Deathstriker. It had reached the halfway point to the enemy Frigate, almost 15,000 kilometers from each ship. Suddenly, the link to the Torpedo went dead. Gron almost chuckled as he glanced at the electromagnetic readouts. It showed a broadband radio jamming across the wide range of frequencies commonly used for data links between ships. Gron's fingers flew over the console and switched all data links from RF to visual laser datalink. The laser pulses transmitted from the launcher to and from the torpedo would now act like a two way radio. The camera view from the torpedo once again filled his screen. "Child's play", Gron chuckled. Gron made a few course corrections as the range from the torpedo to the target dropped to 12,000 kilometers. That's when the screen, and all telemetry from the torpedo, went out again. Gron sat forward in his chair, his smile melting. He ran diagnostics on the laser communications array and frowned at the news.

The screen read, "results of diagnostic program... Main receiver optics burned out by high powered flash from Sathar Frigate at 12:34:22 hours. Backup array receivers also destroyed.

"Well, I can't hear back from you, but I can still communicate TO you", Gron mused.

He interfaced his console to the Challenger's powerful phased array radar and ordered the computer to aim his laser light transmitting system by using the radar returns and correcting for velocity and distance.

The torpedo appeared to be still on course according to the Tactical display Gron called up on the display screen to his left. The display screen showed the frigate splitting in two equal sized radar returns.

"Sneaky son of a...! Oh this worm is Good!"

Gron typed quickly into the Challenger's computer interface keyboard once more. The display switched to Energy sensors, showing three massive signatures from one target and three much smaller engines burning on the other.

"Gotcha!", Gron exclaimed, and he fed the correct target data into the communications system with his torpedo. "The worm is good, but not good enough. It'll take more than a decoy to fool the Challenger!"

The tactical display now showed three new contacts coming from the Deathstrike. Gron waited impatiently as the computer tried to identify the new contacts, although Gron had an idea of what they were. The computer chirp confirmed his guess. "ICM's. Three of them. Now comes the tricky part"

Gron relayed new commands to the Torpedo, and keyed his throat microphone to talk to the ECM officer on the Bridge.

"Lieutenant Gron to Blackly, I need a radar jamming pulse in twelve seconds, plus a full spectrum light and radio frequency jamming burst, 20 seconds in duration starting on my mark."

"Confirmed Gron, standing by", came the reply from the bridge.

Gron fed in his evasive manuevers to the torpedo, using all but the last fuel reserves in the main stage to radically alter the trajectory and the velocity of his torpedo. for good measure, he commanded the computer onboard the torpedo to switch to the program he was now feeding it as soon as contact with the Challenger was lost. As the range from the Challenger to the Torpedo increased, ECM jamming would become increasingly effective. This meant that very soon, the Torpedo would need to rely on its own internal guidance systems.

Gron watched the tactical display as the range closed. "ECM burst in five... four... three... two... one... Mark!"

Gron watched his ECM display level bars jump nearly off the scale in spite of the attenuation that was automatically added to the detection equipment as the Challenger's massive White Noise Broadcaster began transmitting across just about every usable frequency.

At that moment, contact with the Torpedo was lost, but the torpedo switched to Gron's program. As the Deathstrike's ICMs switched to their own internal guidance, the torpedo began kicking out its own decoys even as the trajectory changed. With the frigate's radar jammed for the moment while it searched for new usable frequencies, the ICMs were left to their own programming as they tried to stop the incoming torpedo. Two of the three ICM's went after torpedo decoys, but the third was heading straight for the torpedo. True to Gron's programing, the main booster stage of the torpedo disengaged and fired full thrusters in a curving arc away from the Deathstrike. The Warhead continued in a parabolic course toward the Deathstrike, but with the booster gone, the warhead had a vastly reduced radar cross section. This was aided by the radar absorbing paints and carefully crafted angled surfaces which deflected the majority of the energy into space instead of allowing it to bounce back to the tranceivers. The third ICM from the Deathstrike locked onto the jettisoned booster, which had higher energy readings, both radar and infrared as the booster burned the last of its fuel.

The ICM detonated within thirty yards of the booster, spraying shrapnel across the entire target. The booster exploded in a bright flash which could even be seen by the naked eye 25,000 kilometers away.

The warhead, with its deadly nuclear cargo, slipped by the ICMs unnoticed.

The ECM operator on the Deathstrike realized that fact in time to plan his next course of action. The Deathstrike turned hard starboard, firing all thrusters and activating a powerful burst of radar jamming frequencies. For good measure, the Captain ordered the launch of several infrared flares to draw off the torpedo if it was using heat seeking guidance. The flares would glow far brighter than the Deathstrike's manuevering thrusters, drawing off the torpedo.

Unfortunately for the Deathstrike, Gron had guessed that this might happen, and the program he had fed into the torpedo before the data link was lost was still in effect. The onboard computer switched guidance from Radar and Infrared, to radio direction finding.

Several pods on the torpedo switched antennas several times per second, establishing miniscule differences in time of arrival to get a precise three dimensional directional line to the transmitter to within twenty feet of acurracy. Even as the Deathstrike desperately tried to evaded it, the torpedo was homing in on the Deathstrike's powerful radar jamming gear.

The captain of the Deathstrike ordered the point defense lasers to be brought on line. The nearest laser battery began firing low energy pulses in the direction the warhead was last sighted. The warhead was traveling thousands of miles per hour at this point, and flew straight into the beams. Before the onboard sensors recorded the first hits, the torpedo was within eight hundred yards of the Deathstrike. As the radar absorbing coating was burned off, it exposed a reflective hull underneath. This deflected some of the damage, even as it was burned away. When the sensors in the armor comunicated to the warhead that there had been an 80% reduction in protection, the warhead exploded.

It had closed another 400 meters during that time, putting the Deathstrike well within the "Kill Zone" for the high yield warhead. The blast blinded crew members on that side of the deathstrike, and the massive shockwave of force and shrapnel smashed into the hull at almost the same moment. The Deathstrike folded in two as the hull took the brunt of the blast.

Gron leaned back in his G-chair post and scratched another notch in his console as he watched the Deathstrike drifting helplessly in space, engines already of their way to going critical, adding to the destruction the warhead had wrought.

The spacesuit faceplate couldn't hide the gloating expression from his fellow crew members. "Am I good, or What?"

END Transmission.

Author's Comments: All the talk about technological advances in weapons brought me to creating this illustration of a "typical" torpedo attack in modern day (post SWII) Knight Hawks combat. I fully agree that the torpedo doesn't strike the hull, thus it's entirely possible that a space age version of the Phalanx system used by our Navy could be in effect already, or at least sufficient countermeasures to keep a torpedo from striking directly.

In my opinion, a LOT goes on in Knight Hawks that the rules simplify or ignore. This example of a torpedo (or missile, if you prefer) was certainly far more advanced than the pre SW1 torpedo. Nevertheless, this world has proven that weapons and wepon countermeasures generally keep pace with each other. Yes, the balance tips one way or the other from time to time, but in general, every new weapon is followed quickly by a system meant to overcome that weapon.

What does this mean in game mechanics? It's simple. Base to hit the Sathar Frigate was 45% + (5% X skill level) 25% in Gron's case. (he is right about being very good)

This was the same base as was used in SWI because the weapons and countermeasures are BOTH more advanced by an equal amount. The GM should feel free to create the Mark XII torpedo which adds 5% to the to hit percentage, or subtract 10% if the torpedo is a pre-Sathar war one torpedo. This can vary by as small or as large of an amount as the GM decides is appropriate, but for the most part, the equipment a corporate ship or pirate force should be able to aquire may be well behind the "state of the art" gear a Spacefleet vessel will have. The exception would be Wartech corporate fleets, although even they would have to keep their equipment from Star Law investigators. (Those Wartech Maxi-Torp model 14 Deltas with Full ECM and defensive arrays are supposed to ALL be going to Strike Force Nova)

Just a few thoughts from the Listserve's leading Knight Hawks Rules apologist. (sorry about the physics deal) Doug Horton ( Back after lurking far too long