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"Smoke Screens" in Space
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2018 3:42 pm    Post subject: "Smoke Screens" in Space Reply with quote

In the game World of Warships, a common trait of destroyers (the smallest ships in the game) is their ability to generate a smoke screen that can obscure any ship within the screen from detection (both sensors and fire control). I've always wondered if something similar should be possible for starships; I've seen similar ideas pop up in other sci-fi settings. The most obvious example to me is from Timothy Zahn's Conqueror series, where ships can be equipped with Static Bombs, which upon detonation generate a persistent field of energy that disrupts all signaling systems, both within the field and for those attempting to scan through it or into it. A lesser example (but also more in line with the historical use of smoke screens) is in the Battlefleet Gothic novel Execution Hour, in which the protagonist's ship makes a sharp turn while venting plasma from its reactor, resulting in a false energy signature that throws off the targeting lock on of an enemy ship.

I could see both being possible options, especially for small ships like corvettes being used in the scout/recon role. I'm chewing on some rule concepts for this, but I'm interested in your thoughts...
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jmanski
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An ionized cloud to obscure both vision and sensors?
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmanski wrote:
An ionized cloud to obscure both vision and sensors?

It could be something as simple as ion flares that throw off both ionization and "sparks" that create a visible effect to defeat visual scanning and EPRs.
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jmanski
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

True dat. I went with ionized cloud because it fit nicely with established naval traditions.

And because I'm a simple kind of guy.

Either would work, though. I think the difference would be mostly cosmetic.
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jmanski wrote:
True dat. I went with ionized cloud because it fit nicely with established naval traditions.

And because I'm a simple kind of guy.

Either would work, though. I think the difference would be mostly cosmetic.

Agreed. In the end, all it would need is a blanket ruling that it provides a certain value of Concealment, including against visual scanning. Why? Star Wars, that's why.

Of the two concepts I posited above, I'm thinking the Static Bomb, which generates a persistent ion cloud upon detonation, is probably the best fit. Not enough ionization to actually affect ship systems (no ionization damage) but enough to generate a -3D or -4D penalty to Sensors and/or Fire Control.
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Kytross
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The gas would disperse quickly without some means of holding it together. Putting a time limit on it would make sense.

You'd only need a few rounds of cover to make your escape, or obfuscate your advance.

You can't target what you can't see, but then, you can always bombard the area.
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Random_Axe
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the concept. IMO it would also affect the ship launching the device, in the same way, preventing it from making any scans through the ion cloud created. Really kind of a last-resort (albeit an effective last resort) tactic, that would certainly attract attention in the area but would drastically increase the chances of the ship making an escape.
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garhkal
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is kind of like a Chaff screen.

But in space would they disperse as quickly as they would in an atmosphere??
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Zarn
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arguably, chaff would disperse faster in space than in an atmosphere - there'd be nothing to slow it down from the initial jet or puff of explosion to get it to disperse. If it was electrostatically charged, it might behave as toner dust - extremely clingy and sticking to stuff it comes into contact with. You'd also get small arcs of lightning between any two particles - or any ship that came to close. Electrostatic charging of space vehicles is one major failure mode of satellites.

On the other hand, if you're calculating space units rather than absolute speed, then it would likely not disperse so fast as to be active in more than one space unit at any rate - the area would be too large at any rate.

Traveller had sandcasters - throwing up a particle cloud in order to create an ablative shield against laser or energy weapon fire. This is similar, but using random discharges in a plasma or ionized cloud in order to generate noise on whatever sensors you're using.

You might get more mileage out of it if it was more akin to an actual net - of filaments or something - and then just pulse electric charge through it to actively pump out sensor noise. The electric charge would also help it to deploy, and to move in random directions.

I hope that if you have an active countermeasure, then any on-board droid to run the system is set as having a basic personality. Otherwise it'd get real lonely real fast.
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MrNexx
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To an extent, how much of this is covered by ECM rules? The kind of active jamming that makes it clear SOMETHING is there, even if you can't tell what it is. It might not impede visuals, but louses up sensors enough to inhibit scanning and reduce fire control dice and so on.
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrNexx wrote:
To an extent, how much of this is covered by ECM rules? The kind of active jamming that makes it clear SOMETHING is there, even if you can't tell what it is. It might not impede visuals, but louses up sensors enough to inhibit scanning and reduce fire control dice and so on.

Somewhat, with the main difference being that the ship doing the “jamming” isn’t required to stay on-site, and can maneuver to avoid being targeted. It would also render home-on-jam weaponry useless because the diffuse nature of the jamming field means there is no focal point to hit. As such, a ship dropping a static bomb can be somewhere else entirely while attention is focused on the static field.
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

garhkal wrote:
This is kind of like a Chaff screen.

But in space would they disperse as quickly as they would in an atmosphere??

Depends how the technobabble is worded. For instance, it could throw off a cloud of thousands and thousands of ion flares that throw off heat, ionization, and bright sparks to disrupt visual tracking. Each individual flare would take a minute or two to burn out, at which point the effect ends, which in turn puts a nice time limit on its use, insofar as a rule write-up.
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MrNexx
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

CRMcNeill wrote:
MrNexx wrote:
To an extent, how much of this is covered by ECM rules? The kind of active jamming that makes it clear SOMETHING is there, even if you can't tell what it is. It might not impede visuals, but louses up sensors enough to inhibit scanning and reduce fire control dice and so on.

Somewhat, with the main difference being that the ship doing the “jamming” isn’t required to stay on-site, and can maneuver to avoid being targeted. It would also render home-on-jam weaponry useless because the diffuse nature of the jamming field means there is no focal point to hit. As such, a ship dropping a static bomb can be somewhere else entirely while attention is focused on the static field.


Could this be simulated with something like a Crybaby? Or even a communications droid? (I'm picturing something like a repurposed exploration droid, that would have good Sensors, both skills and on-board, and thus able to throw up the field).
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CRMcNeill
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2018 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrNexx wrote:
Could this be simulated with something like a Crybaby? Or even a communications droid? (I'm picturing something like a repurposed exploration droid, that would have good Sensors, both skills and on-board, and thus able to throw up the field).

That's more like opposite ends of the high-tech vs. low tech spectrum. I'm looking to preserve the low-tech feel of a cloud of smoke in space, and while there is certainly a place for high-tech, I'd rather reserve that for something like what we saw in the Firefly pilot, where the Crybaby sends out a false distress signal to lure the cruiser away.
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Kytross
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2018 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A crybaby is clearly what the authors had in mind when they wrote the description of the sensors skill in 2E R&E.

A smoke screen to interfere with the sensors would be very effective. Visual scanning is fairly useless with the distances involved in the majority of space combat.
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