Issue: 25
System: Into the Laserzone/Dirtside 2/Battletech
Publisher: A&A Game Engineering/Ground Zero Games/FASA

A New Way To Fly - Aquaspacecraft
by D.F. Stuckey

Recently I bought a novel by an American writer Bill Keith, called Sharuq. In it was detailed a very new concept in naval warfare: A submarine battlegroup. As surface vessels of any great size were rapidly becoming obsolete in the near-future he posited, the US Navy had commissioned trials of a submarine battle force, headed by ex-Russian Typhoon class submarines, modified to carry tube-launched midget submarines as underwater attack vehicles. The book is a ripping little read, and the author, as an ex-Navy technician, is certainly convincing in its description of hardware and naval protocol.

Now, for some time I've been thinking about the idea of writing rules for naval combat in the near to far future (Oceanside?), and this was an interesting concept as it stood... But, I am sorry to say that years of watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Japanese animation, and a trend to study the loopholes in rules systems and designing a "Worst Nightmare" machine welled up inside me, and I came up with the following... If anyone is as silly as I am, they can read the stats for the three systems it works in.

Aquaspacecraft

For almost the entire history of aviation, humans have theorised about an aircraft that, like the Puffin, the Skua and the Cormorant can not only fly and land on water, but even dive below it and "fly" through the water. From the stand-point of physics, it should not be impossible: Although water is 100 times denser than air, it has many of the same dynamic properties of the lighter medium, and could support a vehicle in much the same way. However, until recently, no vehicle was built to actually "Fly" underwater - every submarine for centuries was more comparable to an airship than an aircraft.

Problems, of course, also existed: The density of water made it difficult to create a vehicle strong enough to withstand the interface of entering the liquid medium, let alone the engines to breathe both water and air. Hybrid fighter-bombers, with jets and aquaturbines, were on the drawing boards in the 1960's but could not solve the problems of drag, power/weight ratios, and numerous other difficulties that seemed near impossible to remedy.

Then came two new developments: Firstly, the synthesising of new materials that rivalled the strengths of organic tissues like bone and sinew, which revolutionised the construction of airframes. Secondly, the increasing sophistication of thermal and electromagnetic power plants, culminating in compact fusion-torus engines and magneto-hydrodynamic jet engines, driving aircraft on columns of superheated air, or even the tenuous stuff of near-orbit, came together on one vehicle. If the aircraft could withstand a dive into water, then the fusion-torus jet of the MHD motor could be geared down to use the hundred-fold richer medium, there is no real reason why theory should not become reality...

Designs of Aquaspacecraft, as they came to be called, had by the nature of the Universe to mimic the shapes of diving birds and certain marine creatures... earlier designs looked like manta rays, and were primarily ground-attack and anti-shipping mission specialists, until they proved themselves useful; then fighters and interceptors resembled winged sharks, flattened swimming creatures and sleek penguins came into production. As with all devices, they had drawbacks; even though they had a high speed of impact when entering the water, the need to reduce speed to do so made then fractionally more vulnerable to AA fire at this time. Their thermal trail when launching or just after entering water was a give-away to IR sensors and the weapons that were pointed by them. Even so, they still maintain a profile in military arsenals, particularly on planets humanity has reached which are even more dominated by ocean than the earth...

 [Thumbnail image of Comorant Aquaspacecraft]

Case Study: The Cormorant Aquaspacecraft

I hope the diagram comes through... The design is modified from a Battletech model, the SL-25 Samurai, by T. Meier. (An example of adaptation - I purchased a couple of these through a mail order firm from Auckland, one of our major cities, and found the two packs had been incorrectly packed, that is without the elaborate cockpit/secondary engines assembly. I kept these, ordered two more from another local company, and wrote a note to Ral Partha in the States about the problem. Imagine my surprise when Ral Partha sent me FREE two complete Samurai as replacements! So I had spares and the fighters ... Well, waste not, want not and I used them for this project.)

Filling the gap between the forward fuselages with automotive body filler, I filed and sanded it to follow the contour of these fuselages. This gave the vehicle an airfoil shape that, in a full-sized craft, would help give lift in atmosphere. Details such as panel lines, weapons bays and intake panels were scribed with a sharp blade then worked with a flattened piece of MIG-welding wire for which fuse wire will substitute nicely. It is also useful for painting details in 6mm, I find.

There is no canopy: it would be useless underwater, the entire surroundings being relayed to the pilot by virtual reality projections in the cockpit. The flared sections in the central body are the cold-air compressor exhausts that give boundary airflow over the wings for more lift in the air, and boost the compression of the intake air to increase thrust. Fully reversible, they then supply the braking thrust for the forward jets during water entrance, and front thrust for vertical landings on land or carrier vessels.

Statistics For Use

Into The Laserzone

Very Large, C(redible) armour, Multi-drive air/und erwa ter.

Weapons: Light Torpedo system with Guidance 1, Heavy Guided Missile with Guidance 2, Fixed Recoilless Rifle 3, Light ADDER, 2 Anti Personnel systems.

260 points (and plenty of space to fit extra weapons - albeit it at extra cost)

Dirtside II

Size Class 4, FGP Power plant, Armour Class 3, A/Space, Amphibious.

Systems: ENHANCED missile guidance, SUPERIOR torpedo guidance, SUPERIOR ECM.

Weapons: Fixed HKP/3, Light Torpedo*, Heavy Guided Missile, 1 H/Point for DFO, APSW
557 points

* Torpedoes are a new item I have included in a list of new Dirtside weapons In another article submitted to the editor...

Basically they are 1.5 times heavier/more expensive than missile classes of a similar grade.

Notes: When entering water, 4 movement points are used (consider a diving Aquaspacecraft to have the same rate as an Attack VIOL). Before diving, an extra turn of LAD/ZAD fire is allowed by all units in range, regardless of previous firing.

Battletech

Movement: Flight/Submersible
Tonnage: 90 tons
Thrust: 7
Overthrust: 9
Structural Integrity: 9
Engine: 300 19
Fuel: 90 6
Cockpit: 4
Armour: 336 21
Heat Sinks: 21 13
Armour
Cockpit: 12
Nose: 60
Wings: 80/80
Fuselage: 54
Engine: 50
Weapons
AC 20 Nose 14
Ammo (AC) Nose
20 4
SRM6 Nose 3
SRM6 Nose 3
Ammo (SRM) Nose
45 3

Notes: Aquaspacecraft use 3 movement points to enter water, but full movement when surfacing to air. Speed under water is 1/3 normal velocity: Overthrust CAN be used submerged.

Further Comments

I'm sure most of those interested will figure out workable designs of their own... basically, it's a matter of smoothing off the hash lines with body putty or Milliput, and adding some marine touches.

Sharuq by Bill Keith, published by Harper, ISBN 0-06-100614-9

Ed Note: Dirtside II is a 6mm (Epic) SF Armour rules system produced by Ground Zero Games and was reviewed in Ragnarok 10. Although currently out of print the rules are available as a download from the GZG web site.

Ed Note: Into the Laserzone is a highly flexible generic set of 6mm SF rules, which along with its campaign supplelent is produced by A & A Game Engineering. For further details on price and availability, send an SSAE to A & A Game Engineering, 83 Douglas Road, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 2UD.