Data File Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ground Forces

Really large-scale battles between ground forces don't usually happen in Outsider, because in order to land troops, the invader must have space superiority, and if you have space superiority, you can annihilate a large portion of the defender's forces safely from orbit before you land. There have been planetary invasions in the Loroi-Umiak war by both sides, but in pretty much all cases (at least between the major combatants) these were mopping-up exercises in which the defender had already retreated most of their forces and evacuated as many civilians as possible, or else the planet had already been treated to a bombardment that destroyed most of the defenders. To leave a large conventional ground force on a planet that your star fleet can't hold is to basically throw them away.

The exception that I can think of would be a Guadalcanal type of scenario where the space battle for the system is still contested (your fleet might have to retreat but could conceivably be back within a few weeks, or maybe the enemy fleet's hold on the system is tenuous and you can Tokyo Express reinforcements in), and there's something on the planet that both sides want intact that is worth risking a large land force to try to secure from the enemy. I don't think that scenario has happened in the war to this point.

In some of the asymmetrical invasions, such as the recent Umiak invasion of Orgus worlds, the goal was to take the population and infrastructure intact, and so large numbers of Umiak ground forces would have been involved. This kind of action could have been opposed by large scale Orgus ground forces, but doing so risks having the Umiak change their mind about wanting to take you alive (as they did when the Loroi resisted effectively on Seren and the other Steppes colonies), so unless you're willing to commit mass suicide, once you've lost space control of the system you're probably better off just surrendering and hoping that your side eventually retakes the system.

What are the ground armies, aircraft, marine, armor, sea ships (if they have them), or troops of the races' ground war capabilities like in Outsider?

All of the major combatants will have some version of:

  • Armored infantry armed with the high-tech equivalent of assault rifles. Very heavy weapons will mostly be self-propelled.
    • Loroi infantry units will often be led by Unsheathed officers with dangerous psi abilities.
    • Umiak have elite heavy infantry units called Hardtroops that have extensive cyborg modifications.
    • Barsam, as you may imagine, make fearsome infantry soldiers.
  • Armored Fighting Vehicles can fly, and can serve as armored personnel carriers, close air support, artillery, anti-armor, limited air to air and in some cases orbital dropships. Though there will also always be dedicated variants for each of these roles, I think flexible multirole AFV's will have a lot of appeal. Some AFV's may have multiple components (similar to the dropship/APC combo in Aliens).
  • Dedicated atmospheric combat aircraft used for air-to-air and close air support will often have trans-atmospheric capability, both so they can be used against orbital targets and so that they can be deployed from orbit. Many of these will be unmanned (especially among the Umiak, whose pilots do not tolerate G-stresses well).
  • Orbital warships play an important role in ground combat, being able to provide on-demand bombardment capability. The side that wins the space battle for orbital superiority will have an immense advantage in ground combat over the side that lost.

Naval combat vessels are primarily useful against an opponent on the same planet that also has naval vessels. They don't have much specific use against off-planet attackers, and naval units (including submarines) are vulnerable to airborne and orbital threats, so most armed naval vessels will be for internal patrol and security.

What you're describing seems to be intended for fast strike missions. Wouldn't there also be heavier main battle tanks?

"Armored Fighting Vehicle" is a broad classification that includes main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, tank destroyers, self-propelled artillery, armored anti-aircraft, etc. There will be specialized designs for particular roles (as well as more general multirole craft), so your main battle tank can be as big or as small as you like. Just be aware that in a world of hovercars, your tank can fly.

What kind of personal weapons and equipment do Loroi Marines, army, and security forces use?

The three security officers in pages (98-101) are outfitted in typical Marine gear: medium armor and a blaster assault rifle (a particle beam weapon). Shipboard marines will prefer beam weapons to slugthrowers because marines operate in a delicate environment and need to be precise in their application of firepower, and beam weapons can be more easily "dialed" up or down as the situation demands, and the recoil is more manageable in low gravity. Marines will also typically carry anti-personnel grenades, breaching charges, and other tools for operating in and around spacecraft.

Surface army units will equipped in a similar manner, though with a greater variety of weapons. The standard army assault rifle will probably be a slugthrower with armor-piercing and incendiary ammunition. Some units will use heavier armor. Since Loroi are not known for their great physical strength, I think most squad heavy weapons will be self-propelled.

Would it be possible for you to elaborate on the rank structure(s) of Loroi ground forces?

Loroi infantry units are organized into teams (topom) of 8 warriors led by a Tonzadi (a junior officer analogous to an NCO). A combat infantry team typically includes 2 robots (in addition to the 8 warriors): essentially a pack mule and a self-propelled squad heavy weapon. Most of the warriors will be Soroin Pideir, but there are also a variety of specialist titles of similar rank.

A company (seillit) is a group of 8 teams (~70 warriors) led by a company commander (Sezon or Pallan), assisted by a "Chosen" officer (Ragan). Either or both of these officers may commonly be Teidar instead of Soroin. A company will also have a number of support personnel such as medics, supply officers, etc.

A cohort (mirrima) is a battalion-sized (~500 warriors) unit of 8 companies, led by a Pallan who is also the First Company commander. The mirrima is usually the smallest unit capable of independent deployment. The Pallan is usually a Teidar and may have a variety of staff officers depending on whether the unit is operating independently or as part of a legion.

A legion (manzis) is a brigade-sized (~5,000 warriors) unit of 8-10 cohorts and support units, commanded by a Rozerrei and 6-8 staff officers. This is the primary high-level organization of Loroi infantry.

Larger units consisting of multiple legions, sometimes called tipala or just "armies" (letai), are commanded by various flavors of Torrai flag-level officers.

Since we are talking a science fiction setting here... and since the military is working on them: do the Loroi make use of powered armor or humanoid combat vehicles/robots in their forces?

A few ground-based Loroi army units use armor that's heavy enough to require hydraulic/power assist in the legs to ease movement, but there are no examples of "powered armor" in the sense of Starship Troopers style battlesuits. The Loroi do use combat robots, primarily as self-propelled squad heavy weapons, but I don't see any advantage to these robots being humanoid.

What's wrong with powered armor? How much money will the grunt of the future be worth to keep alive?

It's not even a question of cost; the purpose of armor is to protect the soldier. When the armor gets heavy or cumbersome enough that it starts to impair the soldier's movement, it's probably doing more harm than good. Once you get to the point where the armor is so heavy that it needs to be a powered exoskeleton that can walk and move on its own, then at that point not only have you eliminated the need for a human to be inside it, but the biggest engineering challenge in designing it has become how to make this thing work without tearing apart the human body it's supposed to be protecting. Even if you do feel it necessary to have human-shaped death machines, you're much better off from an engineering, economic and soldier safety point of view to leave the human being out of it.

If powered armor is not useful, how are Umiak Hardtroops practical? Why is powered armor bad and cybernetics good?

It's difficult to build an armored exoskeleton that can move effectively without crushing the limbs and joints of the living body inside. However, if you were willing to amputate all the problematic body parts, then a combat cyborg could be made practical. The problem is that many societies, including our own, would blanch at the concept of this sort of self-mutilation. The Umiak are not so squeamish, and moreover, their bodies are already exoskeletal, and so they are a natural fit for this sort of augmentation.

How about Black Ops or Loroi Commandos? Or how about Mizol?

Traditional commando operations require access to enemy territory, which you won't have most of the time in a total war. But any such forces would probably be outfitted the same way as army or marine troops (including any Mizol, who are typically geared and uniformed the same as the rest of the unit, to avoid drawing the enemy's attention).

Is heavy armor just bolting on a larger chest & neck plate to the medium armor, la the X-Com reboot heavy class?

I imagine true "heavy" armor as being bulkier and giving 100% coverage (without the gaps at the joints that lighter armor has). The sort of thing you might need for Explosive Ordnance Disposal or toxic environments, or a role where you need to be moving around where shells are going off around you (perhaps artillery spotting, or some combat engineering jobs).

I wonder if the Umiak use suicide bombers and if not what they would think of that tactic.

Suicide bombs are usually either terror weapons used against civilians, or guerrilla weapons used by insurgents against government or occupation forces, when the insurgents don't have the strength to oppose their enemy in a stand-up fight. And in general, the bomber has to be able to pass as some kind of civilian or harmless entity to be able to get close enough to the target to trigger the bomb. An Umiak approaching a Loroi checkpoint would almost certainly be shot on sight, so even if the Umiak found themselves in some asymmetrical ground conflict with the Loroi (which seems unlikely), it's hard to imagine this kind of tactic being effective.

At this tech level, there's not much need for kamikaze-style sacrifice; missiles don't need a pilot on board to be effective.

Are submarines vulnerable to airborne and orbital threats? I'm not sure... During the Cold War, part of the appeal of nuclear submarines was their immunity to detection and their ability to launch a devastating strike even after one's home country had been completely wiped out by a surprise nuclear attack.

Submarines have never been "immune" to detection, and in particular aircraft have always been their most dangerous opponents. Submarines can avoid detection when very deep, but any submarine that comes close enough to the surface to engage in combat can be detected from the air (and, presumably, from orbit). Submarines can launch missiles without surfacing, but not from depth; ballistic missile submarines must come very near the surface (<50m) to launch their missiles. It's perhaps possible to design missiles that might be launched from depth, but then there's no way to know what you're shooting at; if they can't see you, you can't see them either. If what you want is a guerrilla weapon to ride out the initial orbital assault and then launch popup raids against the invaders, it seems to me that there are land-based alternatives that are much cheaper and much more effective.

Ground Bases

I would expect inhabited planets to have ground-based weapon systems around population centers for catching stray missiles from a nearby space battle, or discouraging cheap raids by small starships, but it's hard to imagine such weapons being able to repel a major bombardment. Ground bases have a fixed field of fire, can't dodge, are detectable the moment they fire, and have no protection except armor (defensive screens don't work in atmosphere and are of limited use against kinetic attacks anyway).

Even if you have a supergun and a defensive shield powerful enough to protect it from orbital bombardment (the "Hoth" scenario), there has to be a compelling reason for the enemy to attack it rather than just avoid it. It would be relatively easy for space forces to stay out of the supergun's limited arc of fire while they glass the rest of the planet, and wait for the fires to consume everything.

I expect that lasers would be reasonably effective through atmosphere, especially if they have an appropriate frequency. Particle beams might have some use, though they would probably have to be specifically designed for atmospheric use. Plasma weapons would be mostly useless. Nuclear weapons obviously do a lot of damage, but can be intercepted. Mass drivers would be very effective against targets that can't dodge, so they would be mostly useful by space forces against ground targets, and by ground bases against space targets in very close orbit.

But the real killer on the side of the space forces is bombs or missiles containing matter-annihilation fuel (such as antimatter). This fuel is readily available to any starship, and the delivery mechanism doesn't have to be very sophisticated at all... a minimally-guided bomb will do just fine. Because intercepting an antimatter weapon doesn't do the planetary defender much good -- the payload will still go off, and/or spray antimatter over the target. There is almost no defense against such a weapon, except to prevent it from being launched in the first place.

Of which distance do you speak? I mean the interception/kaboom distance?

I was referring to orbit (the lower the better, obviously); from LEO such a weapon would, I believe, be virtually unstoppable. Even if intercepted almost immediately, the antimatter would still spill into the upper atmosphere, causing a pretty devastating air burst. Maximum viable range of a bomb will be a function of speed, and what kind of defenses you're attempting to penetrate. Ground based-defenses that can fire through atmosphere (missiles, laser batteries, mass drivers) have very limited range; perhaps really big lasers might have a range of 40,000 km at which they could be a threat to a launching starship (mass driver range would be much less). A typical starship system transit velocity is 3,000 km/s; at that velocity, even a free-fall bomb will cross that distance in under 14 seconds. That's not much time to intercept the bombs from the ground, and even if you do, the explosion might dissipate or diffuse some of the antimatter, but you're still going to get hit. There are also other ways to deliver such a warhead: missile, torpedo, fighters, etc., but bombs are going to be the cheapest, meaning you can potentially use them in large numbers to saturate defenses.

If you are trying to penetrate space-based defenses, that's a whole different kettle of fish. You have to win the space battle before you can consider how to deal with the planet. Trying to attack a planet's surface while it still has space-based defenders is not likely to be fruitful (just as the Nazis could not attempt to invade England while the RAF was still operational). But ground-based weapons are not likely to play a major role in this space battle because of their limited range and field of fire.

It's no worse than relativistic weapons, and probably easier to intercept before it ever gets close to the planet. If they can stop an asteroid going at 90% the speed of light, they can certainly stop an antimatter weapon well before it reaches the atmosphere.

There aren't any relativistic weapons of this sort available; there's no practical way with Outsider tech to accelerate an asteroid to 90% lightspeed within the confines of a solar system (at 30G, it would take 255 hours and you'd have to start 827 AU from the target). If there were, I don't know how you'd stop it, but let's not get sidetracked with capabilities that we don't have.

Space forces can't come very close (no closer than the moon, at least) to a fortified planet without being vulnerable to formidable planetary defenses. Anything coming towards the planet from that distance can be intercepted by point defenses same as if they were coming towards any other large ship.

I'm not sure which "formidable planetary defenses" you're referring to; if you mean defensive fleets or orbital battle stations and weapons platforms, I'd agree that these need to be dealt with first before one can consider attacking the planet's surface. But if you're talking about ground-based defenses (which is what we've been discussing), I don't see that they have the range to threaten space forces at sufficient distance to prevent the successful launch of planet-killing weapons, as mentioned above.

Anything you can put on a battle station or weapons platform, you can put on the planet itself. Ground based weapons can be much bigger and more numerous which means much longer range and more penetration, due to the lower cost for support systems (energy, heat sinks, etc).

Lasers in this milieu are considered outdated, short-ranged weapons that are mainly useful for point defense. The long-ranged plasma weaponry that is the main weapon used in ship-to-ship combat won't work through atmosphere. Lasers and mass drivers will also have to contend with atmosphere, and so won't be as effective as weapons of the same size in space (or on airless moons). Mass drivers in particular will have a cap on maximum muzzle velocity when fired from within atmosphere (or the rounds will explode due to air friction). Ground-based weapons will also be without defensive screens.

Mass driver range would be more than lasers, and missile range can be even longer still.

The "range" of a mass driver is unlimited in terms of how far it can go, but it's very limited in terms of being able to get there in a manner timely enough to hit a maneuvering target. Even an ultra high-velocity (10% lightspeed) mass driver round takes 10 seconds to cross maximum beam range of 300,000 km, during which time a target accelerating at 30G can displace 14 km off it's current course. Mass drivers aren't very useful against maneuvering targets in space, except at very close range.

You didn't mention missiles. Missiles have stupendous range. If your spacecraft can cross the solar system, so can your missiles. Unless it runs out of propellant or is scragged by hostile point defense, missiles will Always Hit.

As with mass drivers, the issue is not maximum range (which is practically unlimited in space) but rather whether you can cross the large distances required in a timely manner to catch a fast-accelerating target, with the added problem of potentially being disabled by the target's point defense weapons. One way to go is to have a smaller missile with a very high acceleration, but these burn their fuel very quickly (the Sprint and HiBEX ABM's accelerated at hundreds of G's but depleted their fuel in less than 5 seconds). The Outsider equivalent would be the Loroi AMM, which might have a full-burn endurance of as much as a minute, but would still have an effective range against maneuvering targets of not much more than 10,000km, making it primarily a point-defense weapon.

The other way to is to make the missile larger and more expensive and give it the same kind of drive that the starships have, and that result is a torpedo. Torpedo warfare is a larger subject, but suffice it to say that ground bases are not ideal launch platforms for torpedoes, as their exhausts spew radioactive materials and are not safe to operate in atmosphere or near the ground. You'd need some kind of a booster that was safe to operate in atmosphere, adding to cost and response time.

Any ground-based missile will have the disadvantage of having to climb out of the planet's gravity well before it can attack targets in orbit. You're better off putting such things on defensive platforms that are already in orbit.

The atmosphere has the same effect on lasers and mass drivers both ways.

Not really. Atmosphere will disperse a beam the same amount going in either direction, but there's a big difference in the impact on range if this dispersion happens at the point of firing or near the destination (after the beam has already traveled a great distance through vacuum). A laser powerful enough hit the ground from GEO can't hit GEO from the ground. In the case of mass drivers, if the atmosphere causes a projectile to explode near the target, the firer may not care. If it causes a projectile to explode as it leaves the barrel of the gun, the firer is definitely going to care.

Current scramjet record is mach 9.6, or 3266 m/s so a well designed mass driver round could probably go at least as fast. That's faster than what you said was typical starship system transit velocity of 3,000 m/s.

That record was achieved at an altitude of 33,528 meters, in the stratosphere where the air is 1/1000 the pressure at sea level; we can't fly Mach 9.6 at sea level without burning up. System transit speed is 3,000 km/s, not 3,000 m/s, three orders of magnitude faster. As mentioned in the xkcd article referred to earlier, a projectile at 3,000 km/s would heat the atmosphere to fusion temperatures and trigger a Tunguska-style explosion.

If defensive screens are electromagnetic (like it says in the Insider), why wouldn't they work on the ground?

This is kind of a "because I say so" answer, but I figure the fields would generate a nasty current in the atmosphere and short the whole thing out. I don't know a great deal about magnetic fields, but I do know that Earth's magnetosphere traps charged particles (the Van Allen belt) that can be quite dangerous to passing devices and organisms. But I'm mainly just following the traditional model that "shields don't work in the nebula" or the atmosphere.

Who says a mass driver round can't have a guidance system?

I assume that it does, otherwise it wouldn't be able to hit anything at all. But that doesn't change the basic problem of taking too long to reach a target at long ranges. Such things could be used for short-range weapons, but not much else.

You should also note that anything in orbit is as easy to hit as a ground installation: it's orbital parameters are easy to work out and so it's location is known and predictable. Orbital battle stations are there to avoid having to lift your warshots out of the gravity well, which takes time and leaves an obvious trail. But they need to be very heavily defended, or to be sacrificed after shooting all their ammunition off. Objects in orbit are sitting ducks.

Even the most basic satellites must have maneuvering thrusters, and any orbital craft that claims to be a "battle" station must have significant ability to dodge kinetic attacks and change orbits as the situation demands. It will need a starship-type powerplant to power its weapons anyway, so it's no significant problem to give it a few small drives. Less than 5G acceleration should be sufficient to avoid sucker-punches. You don't need a mass driver to launch a dangerous kinetic attack, just a ship with an open airlock.

Larger civilian orbital platforms will have less-impressive ability to maneuver, but even they will be able to avoid a long range kinetic attack if given sufficient advance warning.

See also: System Defenses