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Writing a short story; info about naval rank structure and particle physics?


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Writing a short story; info about naval rank structure and particle physics?
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Kraetos
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2009-06-23, 16:40

I like to write in my free time, and I'm taking creative writing next semester. I'm pretty excited.

My main influences are Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Starship Troopers (the book, not the awful movie), Halo, and The Lost Fleet. My story combines a bunch of concepts from these sources, but incorporates a number of original ideas I've had w/r/t the primary story line.

(If you have even a passing interest in military sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Lost Fleet. It's probably the best military SF I've ever read.)

That said, I've been working on this short story but I'm looking some information about the rank structure onboard naval ships.

Obviously there is a captain and an XO. An XO typically holds the rank of Commander or Lt. Commander, correct? Also, is it unusual for captains of smaller ships (destroyers? frigates?) to be Commanders?

This is where it gets a little fuzzy for me. In Star Trek, the senior bridge officers typically consist of tactical, operations, helm. Communications, and Ops is usually a lieutenant or a lieutenant commander (Sulu or Data), Tactical is usually a lieutenant (Worf, or Sulu again), and helm is usually an ensign (Chekov or W. Crusher). But, I know that Star Trek is by no means an accurate representation of a real-world rank structure. Among other things, there's only been one enlisted crewman seen throughout the entirety of the franchise

So that brings me to BSG, which is closer to replicating a naval ship. The rank structure is more flexible. But in BSG we learn very little about the rest of the bridge crew. There's a Commander and an XO. (Galactica's ranks are differently named than real world naval ranks, the CO is a Commander and the XO is a Major. It's also bigger - Commander is the highest non-flag officer but is an O-8, not an O-6). Past that, the rest of the crewmen on the bridge are enlisted and the only one who we ever really learn about is the comm officer who is is an E-5 (and she's later promoted to an O-2).

The bridge structure is similar in The Lost Fleet. Both main characters hold the rank of Captain. One commands the fleet while the other commands the flagship, which the fleet commander operates on. (He isn't an admiral because the admiral was killed in the opening chapter and he is the most senior captain by date of rank.) The rest of the bridge officers are only ever referred to watch standers. No ranks, no names. Hell, we don't even learn about an XO.

The only reference I have is Star Trek but I know that it can't be particularly accurate. I don't want to have the bridge crew be nameless, though. I'd prefer to have more characters to work with. (One of the few nitpicks I have with The Lost Fleet is that there are only three central characters; two Captains and a civilian. The most prominent secondary characters are the captains of the other ships in the fleet. Like I said earlier there's yet to be any mention of the XO on the flagship.) So, basically, what other officers/crewmen would typically be on the bridge? Is there a weapons officer? A communications officer? Are they enlisted or are they officers? As far as shifts go, how many crewman would there be that fill the same role?

So that covers my questions about rank structure. Next up: physics.

One of the things I really like about The Lost Fleet is that it's the only sci-fi story I've ever read that really takes relativity into account. All distances are measured in light-minutes/hours/days/years, not km, because using lightspeed as a reference point is is far more useful. Also, speeds are measured relative to lightspeed. Ships typically cruise at .05-.1 light. .1 light is attack speed. Ships move at .2 light if they need to really hump it, but attacking at .2 light is rarely done since relativistic distortion makes getting a firing solution very difficult. The other problem with moving faster than .2 light is that time begins to distort. As such, ships rarely move faster than .2 light.

The fact that light has to travel is also taken into account. If a ship is 30 light minutes away, then all the information you have about that ship is 30 minutes old. You have to get real close (a few light seconds) before you can accurately target a ship. Redshift and blueshift are taken into account and let you know how fast/which direction a ship is moving, i.e. if two ships are moving away from each other, each ship sees the other one tinted red. Fleet commanders use a holographic display to see what they call the "visibility sphere." When a ship jumps into a system, the light reflected off the ship moves outward in a sphere, and until that sphere hits other ships and planets in the system, they don't know the new ships are there.

Basically, a commanders most potent weapon isn't his actual weapons - it's the intelligent use of the physics of light that wins battles.

One thing that I've been curious about is how that would apply to a weapon that travels at light speed, such a laser or a particle weapon. The four weapons that ships use in The Lost Fleet are missiles, mass drivers (both for ship-to-ship combat and, more commonly, planetary bombardment), null-fields (which break down the atomic bonds of the target and turns them into a sort of particle fog) and hell-lances. As far as I can tell, hell-lances are either particle beams or liquid lasers. (High Energy Liquid Laser? I dunno, they never say if it's a laser or something else). Given that the lance is moving at light speed (a particle beam moves at light speed, right?), the target ship couldn't possibly see the weapon until the exact moment it hit the ships shields/armor, right? Would a ship have any way to detect an incoming laser/particle beam? If a ship could, it could theoretically use point-to-point particle weapons (a defense grid) to disrupt incoming beams or pulses... but only if the ship could see the incoming beam, which I don't think is possible.

Is there anything else I'm missing about a theoretical laser/particle beam weapon?

Sorry about the huge post. I've been pondering these things for a while. There's actually more (ship roles, marine ranks) but these two are the most pressing.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope

Last edited by Kraetos : 2009-06-23 at 16:54.
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Capella
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2009-06-23, 16:49

I'm going off David Weber's Honor Harrington series here. I would highly recommend them as well; first book is free and in fact up through book 11 is free if you know where to look.

In the case of two captains on a ship (a group commander and a ship captain), usually the senior one takes on the temp. rank of Commodore. As for the bridge personnel, I'd make them be officers. You don't wanna trust your bridge crew to just anyone, so they're probably senior-grade officers. Smaller ships are fine to be commanded by Commanders, I'd think.

You'd probably have 3 shifts, maybe 4 depending on how long the day is (i.e. more than 24 hours).I'd say you need a captain, an XO, a com officer, a tac officer, a helmsman, an astrogator (can possibly be same as helms), and possibly assistants of each. At minimum.

ironically enough I am also working on (space opera) mili-skiffy right now.

"A blind, deaf, comatose, lobotomy patient could feel my anger!" - Darth Baras
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Kraetos
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2009-06-23, 17:30

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capella View Post
You'd probably have 3 shifts, maybe 4 depending on how long the day is (i.e. more than 24 hours).I'd say you need a captain, an XO, a com officer, a tac officer, a helmsman, an astrogator (can possibly be same as helms), and possibly assistants of each. At minimum.
Yup. Junior officers for the bridge crew. That's what I want to do but I'm curious how well that reflects an actual rank structure. I'd combine the astrogator and the helm, otherwise we've got too many characters on the bridge. That keeps it to 5. My story shifts the point of view between some of the characters, and there's also a good deal of action on other ships. The number of characters could quickly get overwhelming or too difficult to maintain.

I'd also throw a chief engineer in there. We gotta have someone who tells the captain when he's pushing his ship too hard He might be enlisted. I'm also pondering having a Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMDCM) who is the senior noncom on board. I've never seen any military SF that takes this into account but I think there's a lot of opportunity there. There's an interesting leadership/group dynamics theory that this would give me access to: the concept of a designated leader, emergent leader, and implied leader.

A designated leader is the leader who has definitive/legal authority. This would be the captain. An emergent leader is someone who steps up given the opportunity. This would be the XO. (This also lets me incorporate the "reluctant hero" theme which I like a lot.) Finally, there's the implied leader, who is acknowledged to have the most experience, even if he doesn't have the highest authority. This would be the CMDCM.

Basically, it opens the door for debates between the XO and the CMDCM about what works in a textbook and what works in the field. (Spoiler: the Captain buys the farm pretty early on.) The BSG episode Fragged demonstrates this really well: Crashdown (junior officer) is the designated leader, Tyrol (senior noncom) is the implied leader, and Baltar (civilian) is the emergent leader. It was pretty textbook use of that theme, but in spite of the cliché (because of?) it's a very good episode/arc.

In The Lost Fleet, temp fleet commanders get the rank of Fleet Captain. It's equivalent to Commodore.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope

Last edited by Kraetos : 2009-06-24 at 03:08.
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
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2009-06-23, 17:55

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Given that the lance is moving at light speed (a particle beam moves at light speed, right?), the target ship couldn't possibly see the weapon until the exact moment it hit the ships shields/armor, right?
Right.

Quote:
Would a ship have any way to detect an incoming laser/particle beam?
Not until it hits their sensors, no. No information can move faster than the speed of light.

Quote:
If a ship could, it could theoretically use point-to-point particle weapons (a defense grid) to disrupt incoming beams or pulses... but only if the ship could see the incoming beam, which I don't think is possible.
Right. Works great against anything slower than c though.

Quote:
Is there anything else I'm missing about a theoretical laser/particle beam weapon?
Other than waving your hands in the air and muttering something about "leading space-time distortions" as a warning effect? Not really...

One thing you may want to look into is light-cones. They're a standard way of representing 'possible outcomes' in physics when you're dealing with these things, and would make a nice solid hard sf entry into making this much like a sub battle. "Okay, we know he was *here* x minutes ago, therefore his possible locations are *blorp* this area now, and since it takes our weapons y minutes to get to those points, we can fire on these locations here here and here to generate the most probable flak/mine field for him to hit at full speed, right when he gets there."

It all comes down to probabilities and possibilities at that point, which *could*, if you were really sneaky about it, blend well with quantum mechanics computation in a battle computer.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Capella
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2009-06-23, 17:57

Go with a senior noncom; David Weber makes good use of his nomcoms and enlisted. (Sorry to keep tooting his horn, but he's officially my favorite writer now.) It's also an excellent idea to have actual noncom presence. It also sounds fascinating to me to incorporate that leadership of 3 leaders idea. I'd say you sound like you're on a great track.

'Hopefully one of our real naval folk will step in and talk about whether or not a bridge crew is actually made up of jr. officers.

Wish I could help with the physics stuff but I'm totally clueless. All I know is writing and reading.

"A blind, deaf, comatose, lobotomy patient could feel my anger!" - Darth Baras
twitter ; amateur photographer ; fanfiction writer ; roleplayer and worldbuilder
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709
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2009-06-23, 18:05

One thing I've always wondered about wrt to lasers being used in ship-to-ship sci-fi battles is why every ship just didn't have a mirror coating. Granted, I know ass-all about lasers and particle beams, but is there a reason that wouldn't work? Seems like a kind of simple solution to getting your ship blowed up by laser beams.

So it goes.
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2009-06-23, 18:24

You need sensor ports, or you're blind.

Also, you need to have a coating(s) that will reflect a) all frequencies thrown at you, and b) at sufficient efficiencies as to not let the bleed energy exceed the damage/melting point of the coating.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Anonymous Coward
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2009-06-23, 18:49

From the perspective of a small ship, specifically a submarine, there are not enough officers on board not to utilize junior officers, particularly at battle stations.

Having said that, the junior officers are more likely to stand watch in engineering.

Officers are department or division heads as administrative duties. Their watches are in the command structure, which means that everyone on the bridge except for the officer of the deck is usually an enlisted person. Under normal conditions, you will always have one line officer (to use my previous terminology, one in the command structure) on watch on the deck (the OOD, Officer of the Deck) and one in engineering (EOOW, Engineering Officer of the Watch).

Even in battle stations, your enlisted operators will be the ones operating equipment. The Communications Officer does not automatically assume a radio operator position, nor does the Sonar Officer man a console and set of headphones nor does the Weapons Officer man the fire control panel.

Under most conditions, the captain of a submarine is a Commander (O-5) in rank and the Executive Officer is a Lieutenant Commander (O-4). During an advancement cycle, the captain may have been advanced to Captain (O-6) and the Executive Officer to Commander (O-5), but this situation will not last long.

Feel free to ask specific questions on submarine operation. I have no experience with surface warship operation.
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Kraetos
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2009-06-23, 18:59

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
Other than waving your hands in the air and muttering something about "leading space-time distortions" as a warning effect? Not really...
Yeah, that's pretty much what I expected. I'm already doing enough hand waving with my FTL methods. (combination of wormholes and hyperspace... The Lost Fleet has a really good "there's more than one way to FTL" dynamic that I'm working with) I suppose I could theoretically do some song and dance about hyperspace distortions but... meh.

Balancing hard SF is tricky. You have to abstract the technology enough to get away with bending physics, but if you go too far then you end up in a Star Trek-esque technobabble situation where it starts to lose traction. Still, you have to get a little fantastical physics in, otherwise your options are too limited.

In my defense, FTL is the only way I'm really flaunting physics badly. But it's nearly impossible to write epic-scale military SF without FTL.

Wikipedia mentions that particle beams move "very near" the speed of light. What are we talking here? .9 c? .99 c? Enough where I could use it if the ships were sufficient distance apart?

If all else fails, I think I'm going to set it up where particle weapons do low damage so it's okay to let your shields soak it up. The fundamental tactic for my space battles will be: take down their shields and defense grid with particle weapons, then get close and blow them out of the stars with mass drivers/missiles/nukes. Projectile weapons at anything other than extremely close range are easy targets for weapons that move at light speed.

Quote:
One thing you may want to look into is light-cones. They're a standard way of representing 'possible outcomes' in physics when you're dealing with these things, and would make a nice solid hard sf entry into making this much like a sub battle. "Okay, we know he was *here* x minutes ago, therefore his possible locations are *blorp* this area now, and since it takes our weapons y minutes to get to those points, we can fire on these locations here here and here to generate the most probable flak/mine field for him to hit at full speed, right when he gets there."

It all comes down to probabilities and possibilities at that point, which *could*, if you were really sneaky about it, blend well with quantum mechanics computation in a battle computer.
Good idea. This is touched upon in The Lost Fleet but not in depth. It's how they target their mass drivers.

Of course, it's easy to hit targets that aren't moving. (or, rather, are moving on a 100% predictable path like an object in orbit)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capella View Post
Go with a senior noncom; David Weber makes good use of his nomcoms and enlisted. (Sorry to keep tooting his horn, but he's officially my favorite writer now.) It's also an excellent idea to have actual noncom presence. It also sounds fascinating to me to incorporate that leadership of 3 leaders idea. I'd say you sound like you're on a great track.

'Hopefully one of our real naval folk will step in and talk about whether or not a bridge crew is actually made up of jr. officers.

Wish I could help with the physics stuff but I'm totally clueless. All I know is writing and reading.
Hey, no more than I'm pimping Jack Campbell in this thread

Where should I start with David Weber? His stuff's on the Kindle store, and I'm always down for more military SF.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 709 View Post
One thing I've always wondered about wrt to lasers being used in ship-to-ship sci-fi battles is why every ship just didn't have a mirror coating. Granted, I know ass-all about lasers and particle beams, but is there a reason that wouldn't work? Seems like a kind of simple solution to getting your ship blowed up by laser beams.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
You need sensor ports, or you're blind.

Also, you need to have a coating(s) that will reflect a) all frequencies thrown at you, and b) at sufficient efficiencies as to not let the bleed energy exceed the damage/melting point of the coating.
And shuttle docks, weapon ports, engine ports, etc...

Also, what kick said: repeated weapons fire would melt the mirrors away. They can refract light, but heat is going to get through. See the ablative armor on the USS Defiant for a relatively good implementation of this idea. Basically, the ships hull can refract phaser fire, but the more it gets hit, the less refractive the armor gets. I'm probably going to work this in as well.

This is a really good discussion, guys A lot of good info in here, thanks.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope

Last edited by Kraetos : 2009-06-24 at 03:12.
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Kickaha
Likes his boobies blue.
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Hell
 
2009-06-23, 19:16

One trick that may work if internally consistent with your FTL system... 'warp' a projectile at a ship. Rail gun + warp port = rail gun speeds, but it appears 1m off the enemy's hull. Whammo. Warp torpedo on the 'cheap'... make a warp 'tube' from the rail gun to the exit point, and slam that puppy down it. No internal engine sustaining the effect. More like a wormhole, really.

Speaking of, wormhole + kinetic load/particle beam/laser = FTL weapon.

Hmm. Actually, if you can do micro-wormholes for communication, then...

Disperse a sensor net around your ship, synced to ship movement. Have it some insane distance out, like 100Mm. Little tiny autonomic sensors that use FTL communications (I'm assuming you have that) back to the ship to alert it of incoming energy weapons at light speed, or sub-light weaponry. You could have a secondary grid of defensive weapons at say 1km out that would then react to the data from the sensor net.

And this, folks, is why you want the geeks on *your* side.

My other brain is hung like a horse too.
#IRC isn't old school.
Old school is being able to say 'finger me' with a straight face.
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Enki
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
 
2009-06-23, 19:23

USN surface ships are basically the same as AC's subs, with size and capability driving the seniority of the Captain. A Carrier or nuclear-capable Aegis cruiser will have a Captain (O-6) as the Captain, the carrier with a O-6/O-6 select as the XO, and the Cruiser with a very senior O-4, or a O-5 select as the XO. Destroyers and frigates have O-5s as Captains and O-4s as XOs, although that is in the process of changing and we will see the XOs being O-5 selects and rotating into the Captain job rather than CO/XO being two independently treated billets as they have been since time immemorial.

On a surface ship, very little happens on the bridge combat-wise, all the good stuff happens in the Combat Direction Center. The CO would normally be in CDC with the XO on the bridge. In CDC, one of the department heads (O-3/O-4) will be the Tactical Action Officer orchestrating the CDC team for the CO, there will normally be a couple JO assistants working for the TAO (really wanna-be next tour TAOs learning the ropes) and a cast of senior and junior enlisted working the various combat systems. The TAO makes recommendations to the Captain who gives them the authority to execute. Sometimes the TAO "owns" certain defensive systems and the Captain will maintain control-by-negation, letting the TAO make the initial call and if the Captain disagrees he will negate that particular order.

On the bridge the Officer-Of-the-Deck (OOD) runs the show for the XO, the JOOD (Junior-OOD, essentially OOD in training) assists and keeps a lookout, the Conning Officer (sometimes the JOOD) supervises the helm crew and keeps a lookout. Navigator is not generally required on the bridge for combat operations, they will be wherever their training has them standing watch. In combat the bridge team really drives the ship where they are told to drive and tries not to hit anything on the way there.


In non-combat operations entering and leaving port the bridge is an over crowded cluster fuck of a place with everyone petrified of hitting anything larger than a plastic cup. CO/XO/OOD/JOOD/Conning Officer/gator; a couple senior enlisted navigation specialists (the rating titles keep getting shuffled around); helm team augmented with a couple extra watch watchers; then the cast of fidgeters, nose-pickers and ass-scratchers that are supposedly learning how things are done (these are both officer and enlisted).

Tooling around not in combat or entering leaving port just take away CO/XO, the extra watch watchers and cut the fidgeters, nose-pickers and ass-scratchers down to a couple bodies.

Carriers a bastards as far as all this goes. There the Captain is almost always on the bridge keeping an eye on flight ops. CDC is sort-of run by the XO but really by the CDC Officer (a very senior O-5 that will never make O-6) who has a TAO working for them. Basically the same as small ship CDC after that. CDC will decide to fire weapons unless the Captain has overridden authority to maintain safety for a launch or landing. The bridge is always busy with extra fidgeters, nose-pickers and ass-scratchers that are supposedly learning how things are done (these are both officer and enlisted).

Last edited by Enki : 2009-06-23 at 19:34.
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Kraetos
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2009-06-23, 19:27

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anonymous Coward View Post
From the perspective of a small ship, specifically a submarine, there are not enough officers on board not to utilize junior officers, particularly at battle stations.
Starships are more like submarines than surface ships, so this is good information.

Quote:
Having said that, the junior officers are more likely to stand watch in engineering.
Looks like I got it backwards. Officers in engineering, noncoms on the bridge. That's really good to know, thanks.

That's interesting. Is there a particular reason that engineering gets the junior officers?

Ergh... the Star Trek fan in me wants more officers on the bridge. Tactical and helm, specifically. I'm gonna have to think about this some more.

Quote:
Officers are department or division heads as administrative duties. Their watches are in the command structure, which means that everyone on the bridge except for the officer of the deck is usually an enlisted person. Under normal conditions, you will always have one line officer (to use my previous terminology, one in the command structure) on watch on the deck (the OOD, Officer of the Deck) and one in engineering (EOOW, Engineering Officer of the Watch).
Bah, of course! I totally forgot about the OOD. Unsurprisingly, what you just said is exactly how it works on BSG. Adama, Tigh, and Gaeta were the officers in typically CIC.

Normally an O-2 or an O-3, right?

Quote:
Even in battle stations, your enlisted operators will be the ones operating equipment. The Communications Officer does not automatically assume a radio operator position, nor does the Sonar Officer man a console and set of headphones nor does the Weapons Officer man the fire control panel.
So there are comm/weapons officers? What are they doing if they're not on the bridge?

Quote:
Under most conditions, the captain of a submarine is a Commander (O-5) in rank and the Executive Officer is a Lieutenant Commander (O-4). During an advancement cycle, the captain may have been advanced to Captain (O-6) and the Executive Officer to Commander (O-5), but this situation will not last long.
Good to know. I'm thinking frigates and destroyers get Commanders, but cruisers and battleships get Captains.

Quote:
Feel free to ask specific questions on submarine operation. I have no experience with surface warship operation.
Can you tell me anything else about the rank structure in engineering? Also, what would you estimate the officer/enlisted ratio is?

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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709
¡Damned!
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2009-06-23, 19:45

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enki View Post
In non-combat operations entering and leaving port the bridge is an over crowded cluster fuck of a place with everyone petrified of hitting anything larger than a plastic cup. CO/XO/OOD/JOOD/Conning Officer/gator; a couple senior enlisted navigation specialists (the rating titles keep getting shuffled around); helm team augmented with a couple extra watch watchers; then the cast of fidgeters, nose-pickers and ass-scratchers that are supposedly learning how things are done (these are both officer and enlisted).
I love this paragraph.
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Anonymous Coward
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Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-06-23, 20:37

Quote:
Looks like I got it backwards. Officers in engineering, noncoms on the bridge. That's really good to know, thanks.
That's interesting. Is there a particular reason that engineering gets the junior officers?
Perhaps I said something a little confusing. There is usually one officer in charge of the ship (OOD) and one in charge of the engineering plant (EOOW). Responsibility for the ship takes more training and qualifications than responsibility for the engineering plant.


Quote:
Normally an O-2 or an O-3, right?
Yes the OOD is normally an O-3 or a senior O-2.



Quote:
So there are comm/weapons officers? What are they doing if they're not on the bridge?
The Communications officer is (well, I can't think of any exceptions) a line officer, so he will be OOD or EOOW, or sleeping, or doing administrative duties/attending training sessions or even relaxing (I don't know much about what officers do in their spare time in the ward room ... perhaps watching movies). I'm kind of fuzzy about this, but I believe on one ship I was on, the Weapons Officer came through the enlisted ranks under the Limited Duty Officer program and so was not a Line Officer (that is, he was not in the chain of command and not eligible to be OOD or EOOW). The officer who will not be a line officer will be the Supply Officer. Officers not in the line can stand specialized watches. I'll just name them since I am not creative enough to know how they might apply to a spaceship: Diving Officer (overseeing the operators who control the depth and steering) and Chief of the Watch (responsible for controlling things necessary to maintain control of the ship other than with the control surfaces - diving planes and rudder - , by which I mean he is responsible for the tanks, voids, and compartments and whether they are filled with air or water or both).

I guess that needs a little explanation, but it has been a long time so I might not be accurate. Senior enlisted members can move into the officer ranks through a number of programs. A Warrant Officer is an officer limited to a specialty, such as weapons, and is not in the chain of command. Warrant Officers have their own rank structure (WO-1 through 4). A Limited Duty Officer might have a broader field of expertise, follows the regular officer structure (O-1 through O-9, but can be advanced no further than O-5). Warrant Officers and Limited Duty Officers can apply to be Line Officers through a selection procedure. Officers in the line may have greater responsibilities and accountability, so not everyone aspires to be a Line Officer.


Quote:
Good to know. I'm thinking frigates and destroyers get Commanders, but cruisers and battleships get Captains.
I can't say for certain.

Quote:
Can you tell me anything else about the rank structure in engineering? Also, what would you estimate the officer/enlisted ratio is?
The command structure in engineering is that an officer and a senior enlisted work together. Usually, the officer remains in a "command room" called "Maneuvering". The senior enlisted tours the spaces and supervises the watchstanders outside Maneuvering. The senior enlisted is qualified to exchange places with the officer and generally that is done once per watch so that the officer can perform a supervisory tour of the engineering spaces.

The Maneuvering Room has three enlisted watchstanders who might correspond to watchstanders on your space ship. There is a Reactor Operator who remotely controls equipment associated with producing power (pumps, valves, control rods, etc.). There is an Electrical Operator who remotely controls the electrical generators and has switches to major electrical buses, and there is the Throttleman, who directly controls the speed of the ship. For reliability, the CONN, which is one and the same as the CIC in a BSG situation (but not on a surface ship), only gives speed orders and has no control of the reactor, electrical system, or engines. Outside of Maneuvering, there is one watchstander for each major compartment. On a submarine, there is one compartment with propulsion steam turbines, electrical generators, and emergency steering/diving hydraulics, one compartment with pumps for the steam condenser and air conditioning equipment, one compartment with pumps for the boilers and refrigeration equipment, and one compartment with the major electrical switchgear. (Obviously there is much more in these compartments, but those are major pieces of equipment). Finally, there are roving watches who can tour all engineering compartments. There is senior mechanical watchstander who operates under the senior enlisted person mentioned above (formally known as the Engineering Watch Supervisor, EWS). The senior mechanical watchstander (called the Engineroom Supervisor) is an hands-on supervisor, while the EOOW and EWS are hands-off supervisor. There is a roving electrical operator, since all electrical equipment cannot be confined to the switchgear room.

Since submarines are usually at sea under the water for no more than three months at a time there is no Medical Officer, only an enlisted corpsman. Would the situation be the same on a spaceship? There are only so many medical doctors to go around.

The big picture is that the function of the officers is to fight the ship. They study tactics. They give orders where to go and what to do. They keep the big picture in mind. As collateral duties, they are administrators of divisions and departments. They might have had to learn how to operate equipment for their qualifications but will usually not operate it again. When called on to supervisor specific equipment operation, they usually only know enough to go by written procedures. The exception would be the Engineering Officer who is expected to be an expert in the way things work (but not necessarily with hands-on experience) and to a lesser extent, officers who are the division officers for engineering fields.

Anything hands-on is done by the enlisted ranks.

Enlisted to officers is around or slightly greater than 10 to 1. My whole discussion leaves out Chief Petty Officers (E-7 through E-9) who are the senior enlisted members. E-1 through E-6 are advanced by testing. E-7 through E-9 are advanced both by testing and by a selection board. Officers are advanced by a selection board. Selection boards can get political and are based on records reviews only, not personal interviews.

Last edited by Anonymous Coward : 2009-06-23 at 22:48. Reason: Too much information for an Anonymous Coward to share
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Capella
Dark Cat of the Sith
 
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2009-06-23, 22:42

On Basilisk Station, book 1, is completely free to read. The others can be found here on the left, descending downwards in order. It's semi-ethical to read the rest for free; I read them all for free and then assuaged my ego by buying his two newest, which qualified me to download this CD and legitimised getting the rest free, but of course if you don't like the first book you don't have to feel obligated to buy more

Of course, OBS is free regardless. It's Baen's way of luring in more users: providing books 1 and 2 free means you get more people buying the other titles... free crack always works

"A blind, deaf, comatose, lobotomy patient could feel my anger!" - Darth Baras
twitter ; amateur photographer ; fanfiction writer ; roleplayer and worldbuilder
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Kraetos
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2009-06-23, 23:13

OMG I'm loving this thread. Space physics and military info in one place? Frakkin sweet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post
One trick that may work if internally consistent with your FTL system... 'warp' a projectile at a ship. Rail gun + warp port = rail gun speeds, but it appears 1m off the enemy's hull. Whammo. Warp torpedo on the 'cheap'... make a warp 'tube' from the rail gun to the exit point, and slam that puppy down it. No internal engine sustaining the effect. More like a wormhole, really.
Reminds me of the seventh season DS9 episode with the transporting sniper rifle.

You'd have some serious targeting problems with jumping mass driver projectiles. With my FTL mechanisms it would be theoretically possible to get the projectile in real close, but if you're 10 light mins from the target, you don't have an accurate enough idea of where the target is (assuming you're facing a competent commander who varies his course randomly during combat). You'd have to lead the ship pretty severely and fire in a pretty wide dispersal pattern.

If you're close enough to get a firing solution, you've probably opened a hole in the enemy defense grid, and then there's really no need to warp the projectile, anyway.

Either way, my FTL method requires so much energy that it wouldn't be practical to waste it on a weapon that has a miniscule chance of hitting the target in the first place.

Eh, I may as well go into my FTL mechanisms at this point. (WARNING: long and ridiculous.)

The fundamental unit of FTL travel is a jump drive, just like BSG. The catch is twofold:

- Requires massive energy. To jump, you need to spend a considerable amount of time (an hour or two depending on the size of the ship) spinning up the drive. You need even more time if you're in a combat situation because of shields and weapons. Also, the shipboard computers need a considerable amount of time to run the jump calculations.

While it's theoretically possible to jump into a dense formation of enemy ships and blow them all to hell before they have a chance to react, c rears it's ugly head again: the further you are from the target, the harder it becomes to predict their location. (Indeed, in combat zones, competent commanders alter their course by a few degrees a few times an hour to prevent exactly that from happening.)

- Limited range. Get further out than half a light year and it becomes exponentially more difficult to plot a jump correctly. The further you try, the less accurate it gets. Additionally, the further you are from a star, the harder it is to make accurate jumps. You wouldn't want to move between stars using unassisted jumps; it's strictly for intersystem travel.

Moving a ship across a star system at .1 c takes quite a while. I figure that giving them the ability to jump around the solar system FTL opens up some interesting tactical scenarios, but it also supplies pitfalls for clumsy commanders. That's a recurring theme in the story: few officers fully grok the implications of lightspeed and relativity in combat. Most commanders are competent leaders and understand the theory of relativity, but a few stand out because they break the limitations of physics in creative ways. They truly think in those terms. Think Picard and the Picard Maneuver.

Which brings us to FTL option two: voidspace. Basically, if you're a certain distance from a star, and you jump using a specialized set of calculations, you enter an alternate dimension where gravity affects distance. In other words, the space between stars is compressed relative to the distance from the star. Get too close to a star and space gets expanded to the point where it'll tear the ship to pieces if you jump there. The tipping point is between the outer edge of a system's oort cloud and a few tenths of a lightyear away from the edge.

Average "speed" in voidspace, relative to the real universe, for a ship moving at .1, is 300c. Moving between two stars that are 12ly distant takes roughly 2 weeks. The further away from a star your ship is, the faster you go, because of the way gravity affects distance.

So, to move to another system, you jump to the voidspace jump zone, you spin the drives up again, and you jump into voidspace and go on your physics-defying merry way.

It's pretty off the wall, I know. My rationale for voidspace is that some poor sap accidentally discovered it with bad calculations, so understanding of it is completely limited to practical uses, and the theory behind it is beyond our grasp. Gravity is one of those things we don't really understand the cause of, so I feel like the combination adds the right air of pseudoscience without crossing the suspension of disbelief line.

It's really no more ridiculous than hyperspace in Babylon 5, where JMS states that distance in hyperspace is not linear, and hyperspace was discovered when they found a hyperspace gate abandoned in space - nobody knows who built the first one. Things just move at speed of plot in hyperspace. Plus, coming up with wacky ways to FTL that sound mysterious yet plausible with a little pseudoscience is something all SF authors need to take a crack at

But it opens a number of doors. It gives you a get out of jail free card if you want to make crazy shit happen in hyperspace. It gives my ships a method that's not too fast but not too slow to move between stars.

Which brings us to the third and final FTL method: the assisted jump. It allows instantaneous travel between stars, but there's a catch: you have to build a jumpgate at both ends of the jump. Because the jump distance is so much longer, it requires more energy, which means a matter/antimatter reactor, which are too big/expensive/volatile to be built on ships. Jumpgates are big, powerful, dangerous, and immobile.

With jumpgates, ships can move around their own territory with ease. But if they want to venture into enemy space, they're stuck moving at "only" 300c. It also means that friendly systems can reinforce quickly. Gates rotate their recognition codes on a regular but pseudorandom basis to prevent enemy ships from jumping into a friendly jumpgate. Star systems communicate with teeny probes that get shuffled between gates very frequently.

So, yeah. This is what I think about in my free time My other two unexplained cop-outs are interial dampers and artificial gravity. Pretty standard.

Quote:
Disperse a sensor net around your ship, synced to ship movement. Have it some insane distance out, like 100Mm. Little tiny autonomic sensors that use FTL communications (I'm assuming you have that) back to the ship to alert it of incoming energy weapons at light speed, or sub-light weaponry. You could have a secondary grid of defensive weapons at say 1km out that would then react to the data from the sensor net.

And this, folks, is why you want the geeks on *your* side.
As it stands, I don't give my ships the ability to communicate FTL. I thought about using tachyons and some hand waving and leaving it at that, but I think that the limitation of communicating at lightspeed adds more complexity (read: chaos) to combat.

That's still up for grabs, though, and is easy enough to change later. Tachyons are widely accepted as a pseudoscientifical way to communicate FTL.

Kick, if you haven't looked into The Lost Fleet, you should. I think you'd really like it... the implications of relativity and lightspeed in combat are incredibly fascinating.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enki View Post
USN surface ships are basically the same as AC's subs, with size and capability driving the seniority of the Captain. A Carrier or nuclear-capable Aegis cruiser will have a Captain (O-6) as the Captain, the carrier with a O-6/O-6 select as the XO, and the Cruiser with a very senior O-4, or a O-5 select as the XO. Destroyers and frigates have O-5s as Captains and O-4s as XOs, although that is in the process of changing and we will see the XOs being O-5 selects and rotating into the Captain job rather than CO/XO being two independently treated billets as they have been since time immemorial.

...snip...

Tooling around not in combat or entering leaving port just take away CO/XO, the extra watch watchers and cut the fidgeters, nose-pickers and ass-scratchers down to a couple bodies.
Good stuff. I can't decide if I want a bridge and a CIC/CDC, or just a CIC which serves as both. What's the reasoning behind having them separate to begin with?

The TAO sounds like exactly what I was looking for as a tactical officer, he/she'd make a good main character. Is the navigator an officer or a noncom?

No carriers in space, unfortunately. Fighters are easy pickings for point defenses which are accurate enough to shoot mass driver projectiles out of the stars. If the fighters are fast enough to avoid point defenses, then relativistic distortion would render their targeting systems useless. Vipers and X-Wings look cool but they have zero grounding once you try and mesh physics and tactics. The closest thing to fighters I have are small stealth ships which are designed to deliver marine fireteams to damaged enemy ships.

Also, I agree with 709. I award you lulz for that last paragraph and for painting a good picture of the bridge

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope

Last edited by Kraetos : 2009-06-24 at 09:02.
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Capella
Dark Cat of the Sith
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
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2009-06-23, 23:48

This thread rocks. Also means I have to tinker with my own sci-fi 'verse, but still rocks. Thanks for all the info everyone!
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-06-24, 00:03

Quote:
Is the navigator an officer or a noncom?
On a submarine, the navigator is a senior officer. Usually he is the most senior officer after the Executive Officer and also holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander. The Engineer Officer is also a Lieutenant Commander, but it is because of his position; that is, if he was a Lieutenant when he arrived on the boat, he would be promoted on assuming the position of Engineer Officer. Usually the Navigator has already achieved the Lieutenant Commander rank by the time he arrives.

Here's where I'm a bit fuzzy. I'm not sure if a former Engineer Officer would go to his next sea command as a Navigator or an Executive Officer. I'm thinking they might be parallel paths.

One clarification: an Engineer Officer would not be a Lieutenant already stationed on a ship promoted to a new position. Engineer Officer is an assigned position and, I believe, a candidate must complete specific training / refresher training on shipboard power systems prior to arriving at the duty station. Likewise with the Navigator. He goes to the ship specifically to be the Navigator.

The Navigator is a high responsibility position. If the ship hits bottom, no matter who is actually at fault, the Navigator, at the minimum, is responsible and will be fired. So, the CO, XO, and Navigator all read the charts and can plot a course. So, it was misleading to say that all officers are hands-off and all enlisted are hands-on. But the Navigator would still not "man the watch". A quartermaster would still do the routine plotting but it could be under the direct supervision of the Navigator. (Sometimes there is a Chief Petty Officer Quartermaster assigned to the ship who acts as Assistant Navigator, but I don't believe that is a required billet.)
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hflomberg
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Denver, Colorado
 
2009-06-24, 17:43

I was an Air Force E4 - then called a Sergeant, now called a Senior Airman. Just keep officers away from me and let me do my job was the common attitude.

How do you read 80 column cards on this computer?
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sebatlh
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
 
2009-06-24, 18:20

hell yeah, great thread

I once had aspirations on making a escape velocity in 3d type of game. But the idea fell through due to complete lack of coding skills. Now when I know how to code, I don't have the time. doh!

So, a couple of ideas/random thoughts I got from that:

Shiny metal hulls are good against lasers. Silver, for example, should be pretty good as it is pretty reflective and have good thermal conductivity.

Thick almost transparent materials are also good against lasers. Instead of a 2d-spot for the laser to heat, you get a volume and therefore more mass for the laser need to heat.

While shiny surfaces and the likes works when they are clean, they don't work at all of you put paint on them. So if you have shiny surfaces, then you can use paint as a sort of weapon. (Think mass driver loaded with dust)

If you want to be realistic, then your ships need a cooling-plate. Normal black-body radiation calculation -> pretty big ass cooling plates.
Here you can use the paint weapon again. Coat your opponents radiator with something less black and now he have to go at reduced power or risk overheating.

Lasers can be used as engines = no refueling (of propellant at least)
Better than lasers (as engines) are accelerated ions, i.e. ion engines. There was in fact a satellite that went around the moon a couple of years ago that used an ion engine. Pretty cool stuff http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_1

Oh well, I just wanted to ramble a bit about my great () ideas

Good luck with the story! It's very nice to see that someone cares about this stuff.
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Enki
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
 
2009-06-24, 18:50

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Starships are more like submarines than surface ships, so this is good information.

Looks like I got it backwards. Officers in engineering, noncoms on the bridge. That's really good to know, thanks.

That's interesting. Is there a particular reason that engineering gets the junior officers?
That's a nuclear power thing. On non-nuc ships JOs that aren't assigned to engineering spend enough time to get a qualification in the pit, but not much more. The difference in choices made with a non-nuc and a nuc plant can be huge, and generally very little chance of the bridge causing something catastrophic on a non-nuc power plant unless they run into something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Good stuff. I can't decide if I want a bridge and a CIC/CDC, or just a CIC which serves as both. What's the reasoning behind having them separate to begin with?
You want CDC to be dark so you can see the sensor displays better, so no windows! Captains like windows on bridges.

You can also put it deeper in the ship so blasts topside do less damage to the combat control systems. Generally if CDC blows up you just had a bis-ass explosion inside the hull/superstructure and the ship is screwed. If something takes out the bridge the ship can carry on, although not nearly as well, and it is much less likely that sever structural damage results. Some ships CDC is immediately behind the bridge so the survivability thing is less from missiles, but on those ships they worried more about torpedoes when they were built, so high away from the waterline made sense.

Quote:
Is the navigator an officer or a noncom?
On a cruiser/destroyer/frigate it is a junior JO who works for the Operations O (dept head). On a carrier it is a post-command O-5, as likely to become a carrier Captain as the XO. Carrier 'Gators have to think tactically on positioning not only for the ship but for an entire battlegroup, as well as worry about those plastic cups. Smallboy 'gators worry about sand-bars, chart updates and plastic cups while going where someone else told them to go.

Quote:
No carriers in space, unfortunately. Fighters are easy pickings for point defenses which are accurate enough to shoot mass driver projectiles out of the stars. If the fighters are fast enough to avoid point defenses, then relativistic distortion would render their targeting systems useless. Vipers and X-Wings look cool but they have zero grounding once you try and mesh physics and tactics. The closest thing to fighters I have are small stealth ships which are designed to deliver marine fireteams to damaged enemy ships.
I disagree unless you crank up the fake physics on the sensor and propulsion systems.

You have serious wavelength problems with targeting those mass drivers projectiles. That just ain't gonna work. Scan volumes are too big too, unless you dedicate a ridiculous amount of the ships surface to sensor arrays. So once you get to realistic scan rates fighters start to have holes they can fit into.
Mass driver projectiles are easily deflected with strong magnetic fields unless you are already at spit and knife fight ranges, which only lasts for a millisecond or two.. You can't avoid that since you need the magnetic material to accelerate it in the first place and in space there's no atmosphere to strip off a mag-sabot.

Another big problem is coming up with enough energy to move a ship's mass at relativistic speeds yet be able to dampen inertia to the point that all the little meat sacks inside don't turn to goo on the starboard bulkhead during the first port turn. If you manage all that the only combat you are really left with is intergalactic jousting matches unless you throw away the rest of physics, because the targeting issues you already acknowledge pretty much only let you fight nose-to-nose or nose-to-ass (an that fight's over before it began as the ass-guy just plain gets f___ed from his own propulsion masking).

So if you think about the HUGE energies needed just for FTL and a-grav, there ain't a lot of juice left for go-fast and damping. Making big spaceships relatively slow compared to relativity and now fighters can gain a speed advantage and use the smaller masses to reduce the energies needed for damping the pilot during maneuvering. Fighters also do something no linear weapon can do--expand the threat axis to a sphere. Now you can force the target to spread defensive resources and maybe something gets through. With your c-relative jousting the threat axis is infinitesimally narrow and the winner will always just be the jouster who owns more energy and can over-saturate the other jouster's weapons on the first pass.

Personally I think the possibility of David & Goliath battles are more interesting if David has a chance to win by other than pure dumb luck surprise. c-jousting has no tactics, it's all brute force and crossing your fingers.

Last edited by Enki : 2009-06-24 at 19:34.
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Banana
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Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2009-06-24, 18:58

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enki View Post
That's a nuclear power thing. On non-nuc ships JOs that aren't assigned to engineering spend enough time to get a qualification in the pit, but not much more. The difference in choices made with a non-nuc and a nuc plant can be huge, and generally very little chance of the bridge causing something catastrophic on a non-nuc power plant unless they run into something.
What kind of choices are we referring to? If it's to operating the nuclear reactor, then I have to wonder because I understand that nuclear reactor operator (aboveground) is one of highest paying job that doesn't require a college education (and I then assume that it's because it's simple enough to operate, though potentially nerve-wreaking, like airport traffic controller).
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Anonymous Coward
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Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-06-24, 19:53

I have no civilian nuclear power plant experience, but I doubt whether it is nerve wracking. There just isn't that much going on. Civilian plants are supposed to have many more instruments for every parameter you can imagine and in the past had a greater degree of computerized control. (I'd explain more, but it doesn't seem to be relevant here.)

My assumption is that the operators are paid so well because when something does go wrong, they had better know how to handle the situation.

Otherwise, differences are that shipboard power plants can change power levels rapidly and unpredictably based on operations. Most of the time this is at very low power. Utility power plants try to operate at peak power levels as much as possible. Their demand does not fluctuate much and the fluctuations are probably handled by bringing conventionally powered generation plants on and off line. Due to the higher power operations, more adjustments probably have to be made due to things like fuel depletion and the production of fission products which might "absorb" neutrons which otherwise participate in the fission chain reaction (and then burn off, making available more neutrons than you were expecting while they were still there). But at the relatively constant power levels, these factors are more predictable than on a shipboard power plant.

That's probably too much oversimplified, probably not very accurate information, unless the spaceship is nuclear powered.

Unsubstantiated (at least to me) rumors are that before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cracked down on this type of behavior, it was common for civilian operators to play board games during routine operations. (But then, I started just after TMI and before Chernobyl and things were more relaxed in the early days.)

I guess I'm not really answering any questions here, am I?
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Enki
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
 
2009-06-24, 21:54

I'm not a nuc, but I know a sub driver has a lot more to loose if they go too close to the bottom and clog the main intake compared to a carrier or cru/des ship doing the same. And throttle slams caused by tactical decisions can cause more heartburn on a sub that isn't using a lot of it's reserve capacity to feed the carriers electrical and catapult steam loads.

So a sub guy needs to have a very internalized idea of why they they don't want to do certain things so they can make tactical decisions that "the rest of the boat" can actually carry out. Carrier Skippers go to nuc school too because it would be beyond stupid to put someone in charge of something they know nothing about, but tactically they don't have to think of it much.
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Kraetos
Lovable Bastard
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Boston-ish
 
2009-06-25, 00:12

So I was on a five hour flight today from Chicago to San Fran. After pouring over this thread and reading The Lost Fleet for the first hour or so, I found my muse and just started writing. By the time I landed I had pounded out 3000 words. It's turning out really well (I hope) and actually writing it is causing me to make some interesting adjustments to the story, too.

I've got both a bridge and a CDC. But I can't help but feel that the bridge is redundant on a spaceship. I mean, it's just a big honking target if it's near the outer hull of the ship. Perhaps I can do some song and dance about how it recesses into the hull during combat... but maybe I should just toss it and only keep the CDC around.

Can anyone think of a good reason to have both a bridge and a CDC on a starship?

The characters I've got so far are an Admiral, Captain, XO, OOD, Astrogator, CMDCM, and a TAO. The XO is a commander, the OOD is a lieutenant, the Astrogator is a Lt. Commander, and the TAO is also a Lt. Commander. I've also got a good deal of nameless noncoms and starmen for the sake of, you know, actually running the ship.

I think their roles on the ship are probably a little wonky relative to how it works on a real ship. I'm also having a problem with what the CMDCM actually does on the ship. (How do you refer to the CMDCM typically? Petty Officer?) I'm thinking about posting the first section, if you guys are interested

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anonymous Coward View Post
The big picture is that the function of the officers is to fight the ship. They study tactics. They give orders where to go and what to do. They keep the big picture in mind. As collateral duties, they are administrators of divisions and departments. They might have had to learn how to operate equipment for their qualifications but will usually not operate it again. When called on to supervisor specific equipment operation, they usually only know enough to go by written procedures. The exception would be the Engineering Officer who is expected to be an expert in the way things work (but not necessarily with hands-on experience) and to a lesser extent, officers who are the division officers for engineering fields.

Anything hands-on is done by the enlisted ranks.
This is good info. It paints a clearer picture for me about what the officers do and what the enlisted crew does.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anonymous Coward View Post
On a submarine, the navigator is a senior officer. Usually he is the most senior officer after the Executive Officer and also holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander. The Engineer Officer is also a Lieutenant Commander, but it is because of his position; that is, if he was a Lieutenant when he arrived on the boat, he would be promoted on assuming the position of Engineer Officer. Usually the Navigator has already achieved the Lieutenant Commander rank by the time he arrives.
Also good. After reading this part of your post I firmed up the roles of my main characters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sebatlh View Post
Shiny metal hulls are good against lasers. Silver, for example, should be pretty good as it is pretty reflective and have good thermal conductivity.
Interesting idea, but wouldn't silver hull plating light up the ship like a christmas tree?

My ships have shields (never explained... they're just there ) too which absorb incoming particle fire.

Quote:
If you want to be realistic, then your ships need a cooling-plate. Normal black-body radiation calculation -> pretty big ass cooling plates.
Here you can use the paint weapon again. Coat your opponents radiator with something less black and now he have to go at reduced power or risk overheating.
So, a giant water-cooling system running underneath the hull? That's interesting...

Worth noting: Galactica stores it's water close to the outer hull. I think I remember a line or two about how it's there for cooling purposes.

Quote:
Lasers can be used as engines = no refueling (of propellant at least)
Better than lasers (as engines) are accelerated ions, i.e. ion engines.
The deets of my ships sublight engines are never discussed in depth, but yes, in my mind, they're ion engines.

Quote:
Good luck with the story! It's very nice to see that someone cares about this stuff.
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enki View Post
That's a nuclear power thing. On non-nuc ships JOs that aren't assigned to engineering spend enough time to get a qualification in the pit, but not much more.
Well my ships are powered by huge fusion reactors, so yes, if something goes wrong, big boom. I've yet to get into engineering but it sounds like I want a good deal of officers running around down there on those grounds.

Quote:
You want CDC to be dark so you can see the sensor displays better, so no windows! Captains like windows on bridges.
This brings me back around to the bridge or no bridge debate. I can live with just a CDC but if there's a good rationale for having a bridge, I'd like to have one.

Quote:
I disagree unless you crank up the fake physics on the sensor and propulsion systems.
Yeah. I meant to say missiles, not mass drivers. If you've got a hunk of metal flying at you at 1/4th light speed, you don't try and shoot it down, you GTFO. That's actually become an important point in the opening battle.

Quote:
Another big problem is coming up with enough energy to move a ship's mass at relativistic speeds yet be able to dampen inertia to the point that all the little meat sacks inside don't turn to goo on the starboard bulkhead during the first port turn.
Yeah... my ships have magical intertial dampers as well. It's really the only way to do it if you want to have starships fighting at very high speeds.

I can see how fighters would work real well if the ships were moving much slower, but the problem with that is, space is really frakking big. If ships cant move at significant fractions of lightspeed, battles would literally take months. Even at .1 light, they take hours and sometimes days.

I know it's kind of throwing the physics of inertia out the window in order better adhere to the physics of light, but that's what interial dampers are for

Quote:
c-jousting has no tactics, it's all brute force and crossing your fingers.
What ends up happening is that the ship formations are incredibly important before the battle even begins. Ships end up making strafing runs at each other. Ships rarely fight head on, because like you said, it makes targeting difficult. But if two ships are moving side by side at .1 light, then they're really not moving at all relative to each other, are they?

It's all about getting your ships in positions and moving at speeds where they can hit the target in a way that prevents the target from fighting back.

It's hard to explain succinctly. Sorry to be pimping The Lost Fleet so much, but combat in the book is entirely based on these concepts, and it works really well.

Sadly, being a technology pundit is truly never having to say you’re sorry. You can be wrong for years and never lose your job.—The Macalope
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2009-06-25, 01:11

Quote:
I'm also having a problem with what the CMDCM actually does on the ship. (How do you refer to the CMDCM typically? Petty Officer?)
I'm a sub guy, so can't help much here. I was on two surface ships, but they were repair ships, so the structure was a bit different. (On a repair ship, the repair department is at least half the crew.)

You'd probably refer to the CMDCM (actually, I don't recognize that, maybe because I haven't read much science fiction) as the "Command Master Chief". He is the senior enlisted on the ship and is generally responsible for order and discipline. He might be considered to be a liaison between enlisteds and officers. It seems to me that the traditional role of the Executive Officer was order and discipline, but it seems that it has been delegated. After trying to write this, I'll have to defer to someone else. I never knew what the guy really did except that he was supposed to be powerful but I didn't like him and thought he was a bit of a hypocrite (the last one I knew). (Fraternization is not allowed, but the power that goes with rank, both officer and enlisted, often are a factor when rules are ignored.)

On a submarine, we have the Chief of the Boat. Administrative duties include things like assigning bunks and watchsection manning, scheduling training, and attending to disciplinary matters so that they didn't have to require action by the CO (i.e., non-judicial punishment). Like every other enlisted, the Chief of the Boat holds a rating (job specialty) and so during general quarters or battle stations, he would generally man a watch related to his primary training and qualifications. (Unlike the Command Master Chief, I think, who stands on the bridge with the CO and XO.) The Chief of the Boat is not necessarily a Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9). (Surface ships have no shortage of Master Chief Petty Officers, so I would expect the CMC to actually be a Master Chief Petty Officer.) On a submarine, since we have two enlisted communities (nuclear trained and non-nuclear trained, which in practical terms is generally engineering and non-engineering), there is also a senior enlisted for the nuclear trained personnel. He is also usually, but not necessarily, a Master Chief Petty Officer. His title is the Engineering Assistant, and I would expect that he would defer to the Chief of the Boat in terms of positional authority even if he were senior in rank. Both the Chief of the Boat and Engineering Assistant, from what I remember, are assigned billets, which means that someone is specifically assigned to fill those positions and are not automatically given to the senior person by rank.

Or I could be remembering this completely incorrectly. I guess I must admit that I'm getting old and my memory is failing. Either that or too much exposure to radiation has rotted my brain.
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sebatlh
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Join Date: Jun 2006
 
2009-06-25, 11:55

re shiny hulls and heat plates:

Yeah sure a shiny hull will be pretty easy to spot, but for defensive jobs it might be worth the extra protection.
It all depends on how powerfull the lasers are. Are they more for harassing, shooting at sensor arrays etc or are they powerful enough to act as main weapons.
Example: A ship defending something stationary. You know the ship is there so there isn't much of a point being stealthy. If that ships hull can take the energy of a 1 second laser burst before boiling away completley, the difference in time it stays alive is rather big if you go from 10% reflectivity to 90% (1.1 vs 10 seconds).

But all this might be moot since you have energy shields I guess it's a choice one have to make. choose what's important be it missiles or mass drivers or whatever and then adapt the tech accordingly

Heatplates:
The realistic thing that everybody forgets (or choose to forget ) is, all form of powerplants generate heat. Even assuming 99% efficiency, it's still a lot of energy to get rid of. And in space, big ass radiators are the only way (venting plasma etc is no good as you run out of plasma sooner rather than later ).
So, you need to run at least some parts of the hull pretty hot. That could be used as a tactical element. Destroy those parts and your enemy needs to power down pretty soon. Also, it makes it impossible to be stealthy when running the engines/lasers/particle accelerators as part of the ship is glowing in the infrared or even visible spectra. And after a battle/manoeuvring the ship needs to cool down before it regains its stealth.

Aah, the possibilities of geeky scifi battles
And the best part is that this is just normal physics (I'm including your relativistic stuff here). No startrek modulate the upper EM bands, use the main deflector dish to generate a tachyon pulse bla bla that makes no sense to anyone
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billybobsky
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Join Date: May 2004
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2009-06-25, 12:07

while accurate science helps -- a good story doesn't need it.
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Kickaha
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Join Date: May 2004
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2009-06-25, 12:41

Quote:
Originally Posted by sebatlh View Post
re shiny hulls and heat plates:
Another point: a shiny hull also reflects energy back *in*... ie, it makes bleeding heat even more difficult.
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Enki
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
 
2009-06-25, 12:52

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraetos View Post
Well my ships are powered by huge fusion reactors, so yes, if something goes wrong, big boom. I've yet to get into engineering but it sounds like I want a good deal of officers running around down there on those grounds.
Fusion reactors don't go boom unless they are supporting the weight of a star. Then it's the big inrush causing heavy metal fusion, not the original gaseous fusion that causes the boom. A fusion reactor in a ship would just go pffff... As the fusion looses magnetic containment the plasma looses heat exponentially fast and becomes just regular run-of-the-mill hot gas by the time it gets to containment vessel itself.



Quote:
This brings me back around to the bridge or no bridge debate. I can live with just a CDC but if there's a good rationale for having a bridge, I'd like to have one.
Tradition. Humans love it. Despite whether or not it makes any sense. Also you probably need to see something for things like docking, formation flight or close proximity maneuvering for replenishment.



Quote:
Yeah... my ships have magical intertial dampers as well. It's really the only way to do it if you want to have starships fighting at very high speeds.

I can see how fighters would work real well if the ships were moving much slower, but the problem with that is, space is really frakking big. If ships cant move at significant fractions of lightspeed, battles would literally take months. Even at .1 light, they take hours and sometimes days.

I know it's kind of throwing the physics of inertia out the window in order better adhere to the physics of light, but that's what interial dampers are for

What ends up happening is that the ship formations are incredibly important before the battle even begins. Ships end up making strafing runs at each other. Ships rarely fight head on, because like you said, it makes targeting difficult. But if two ships are moving side by side at .1 light, then they're really not moving at all relative to each other, are they?

It's all about getting your ships in positions and moving at speeds where they can hit the target in a way that prevents the target from fighting back.

It's hard to explain succinctly. Sorry to be pimping The Lost Fleet so much, but combat in the book is entirely based on these concepts, and it works really well.
Accurate FTL jumping with longish spool-up/cycle times and slow physical speeds pretty much solve all of that. I just for the life of me can't see how there can be enough energy on demand to do any tactical maneuvering ever. Accel/decel energies for big ships would be on the order of stellar outputs for short periods. How does anyone contain that? Let alone use it. Or dampen it? Because unless you can, there is no such thing as tactical maneuvering at relativistic speeds.

I guess there's a level of personal believability in how far someone things technology can go. Personally I think there may be a possibility of figuring out how to use higher dimensions to move from 4-space point to 4-space point, but not finding a way to harness a tactically moving power source as dense as an entire star. But it's fiction so use tech however you want, but always remember -- Its the story!
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