|ARMOUR AND DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY|
In the beginning of the Earth expansion in the space, just
after the First contact with the Centauri, on April 07,2156, and
thanks to the information provided by the Centauri it selves, and
later by the other Alien cultures which came in contact with us,
took place the acceptance of the fact that the universe was a
place all but pacific or friendly (In this period, BTW, on April
01,2159, was founded the E.F.N.I.).
Small paces were attempted to organize a space-capable combat force, but the kick-off episode that really started the activities in the field of defence equipments and organization, was the Koulani Directorate raid at the EA outpost OF 61 Cygni A II, in 2169.
The Earth Alliance, through his military branch, Earthforce, accelerated the AEGIS program started in 2168, a formidable effort to offer a credible military instrument for the defence of Earth Alliance interests in the space. The Firsts outcomes of the Aegis program were heavily influenced by the naval military concepts of XX, XXI, and early XXII century, and materialized themselves in these main milestones: the carrier task force concept, with the Avenger Class Carriers and the relative offensive arm, the Aries Starfury, an escort vessel for the carriers, the Olympus Alpha, and a point defence system, well able to reduce the vulnerability of the ships, in the form of the Interceptor/Energy Web system (developed with the contribution of the E.F.N.I).
This first step had consequences that are still alive today; the choice operated was all but nonsense: for the Earth Alliance technology, in those early days, was impossible to build engines powerful enough to build fast attack vessels, while the artillery systems(even if sufficiently powerful), were limited to lasers, plasma guns and railguns, and the only long range weapons were the nuclear and conventional warhead missiles, susceptible to electronic countermeasures: A gunship or an artillery cruiser were out of discussion, for the moment, but, given the informations about the alien technologies, and some strongholds of the Earth abilities and technology (Mainly, the conceptual experience in building combat aircrafts and small star crafts, and the good technological level in the field of materials) drove to the structure of the force, and to the design concepts still alive today: Combat ships with a large fighter complement, very well protected, either in terms of point defence (Energy Web included), and passive armour, high quality fighters, and speed and manoeuvrability in the last places of the priority list. Must be considered that the second hostile confrontation between Earth Force and an Alien power, in this case the Ch'Lonas attack of Ross 128 IV in 2170, was a clear victory for the Earth Alliance, and a proof of the correctness of that choice.
|EARTH ALLIANCE DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY|
The main weapon systems known by the Earth alliance, and widely used among the space fairing races, were lasers, plasma based weapons, particle accelerators and nuclear warheads. The E.A. mastered the railgun technology, but this last type of weapon was never used by other races.
The first generation of armours was a direct heir of the concepts and technologies used by the Earth armies in the heavy tanks* and was structured to counter kinetic attacks, to sustain the ablative effects of the lasers, of the particle accelerators, and to dissipate the ablative/thermal effect of the plasma based weapons. Great care was used to counter the effects of close-in nuclear explosions. The first generation of multi-layered spaced armours of the E.A. was a success, particularly if combined with the active protection of interceptors/energy web. Even More advanced races, in that period, weren't able to obtain, given a mass of armour, a so high level of protection: the LONAW forces had a tendency to enhance firepower, speed and manoeuvrability over the protection. The Brakiri were an exception, with fairly but not heavily protected warships.
The Vree and the Centauri, with their high technological level, utilized crystalline technology protection, lightweight and effective against direct energy weapons, but with limited thickness and simple (Non-multilayered) schemes, having their strength in the speed and manoeuvrability of their units obtained thanks to the gravitic propulsion, in a superior technology and in the power of the weapons. But, even if effective, the crystalline armours are weak and fragile against the kinetic attacks. This is also true for the Minbari crystalline armours**.
The Narns are still today limited to a double hull structure, with an external ceramic ablative layer, an intermediate honeycomb layer and the main armour made of ceramic composite in metal matrix for the external hull, and an internal hull made of titanium alloy.
(see note * of paragraph 1)
(*The tank is a weapon not very used among the alien races, and it is intended mainly as a support weapon, without the antitank weapons and the specialized protection of the Earth designs: most part of the few known alien tanks are something similar to AIFV's)
**The Minbari, and in a lesser measure, the Centauri crystalline armours are designed to refract the energy, spreading it on large volumes: this effect is significative against Lasers and other pure energy weapons, but offers little improvement against the ablative-sublimative effects of the Heavy Particles Beams and of the Plasma Weapons.
|1 - From the beginning to the Earth-Minbari War - The Multi-Layer "AEGIS" First Generation Armors|
In the early days of his space military build-up, the materials and armour sector was, comparatively, the most advanced in the Earth technology, given the experience maturated in the area during centuries of internal wars, and the traditional Earth strength in the field of the materials science and engineering. The first generation protection scheme was a proportionally very thick multi-layer spaced armour, illustrated in fig. 1-2.
The outer layer is an homogeneous plate of beryllium-copper-nickel alloy, with an extremely hard ceramic (amorphous silicon nitride) ablative covering, effective against either kinetic impact and high energy neutrons of fusion warhead explosions (the beryllium is a powerful neutron reflector). The second layer is a metal matrix composite of boron fibres (Single crystal fibres) in a titanium alloy matrix, strong, elastic and relatively lightweight. The whole external layer is effective against the hard ray radiations (X and gamma rays) of the nuclear explosions. The boron, being a neutron absorber, enhances the anti neutron protection. This outer double layer is followed by a multicellular metal (Titanium) foam, that acts either as an "energy distributor" on the inner layer of protection, and as a room space to allow the expansion of plasma bolts eventually able to pierce the outer armour, weakening their terminal effect. The inner layer is a sandwich of titanium alloy bonded with three intermediate layers, the first made of corindon crystals in a ceramic matrix, the mid one of boron single crystal fibres in an organic matrix, and the last of polymeric fibres composite. This inner armour is extremely effective, due to his combination of outer hardness and stiffness and inner strength and elasticity, against the kinetic and explosive secondary effects of plasma weapons and outer layers ablation.
SECTION OF THE MULTILAYER E.A. "AEGIS" ARMOUR
|Multicellular metal foam|
This basic scheme allowed the E.A. warships to become
extremely effective: while having limitated acceleration and
manoeuvrability, and with limited weapon range (even the lasers,
that are intrinsically high range weapons, were limited by the
sensors), the "Earth bricks", with their powerful
fighter force, and the combination of interceptors, energy web
and heavy armour, became formidable weapons even against more
advanced races. Impervious to the enemy weapons, able to take
hard punishment without losing operative capability, and with a
devastating short range firepower, thanks to the powerful plasma
cannons and railguns, the warships of the first generation
(Avenger carriers, Olympus corvettes, Oracle missile destroyers,
and later the Artemis frigates and the Hyperion cruisers were
well able to hold their own in the combat situations experimented
in that era, and gained the respect and consideration of the
other races which came in contact with the E.A., either as
friends or as adversaries.
The real act of force of the Earth Alliance was the intervention in the Dilgar war, when the Earthforce confronted a fierce enemy with a technological level close to the one of the Centauri. The fast, well armed and sophisticated Dilgar warships crashed against the Earth warships like birds of prey against a wall, thanks to the formidable combination of the armours and interceptors/web, and were unable to inflict damages quickly enough to prevent a devastating short range confrontation with our units, and unable to escape the deadly pursuit of the superiors Tiger and Nova Starfuries. It was a conflict where the tactical and strategic capabilities and the training of the Earthforce were well able to exploit the strongholds of our technology, and the weaknesses of a more advanced, but tactically less able enemy. ( for more details see "Dilgar War: The Earth Alliance Involvement")
The later bitter chapter of these
first generation units, with their armours, was the Earth-Minbari
As stated above, in the multi-layer structure of the Earth warships, there is a strong percentage of two particular elements: beryllium and boron. These materials are respectively a neutron reflector and a neutron absorber, and were vastly used because allowed to combine high mechanical characteristics with a very high neutron protection. This last thing means that both the elements have a strong interaction with the neutrons. The main anti ship weapon of the Minbari arsenal is the "neutron laser", that in fact is an extremely powerful beam of antimatter and free antineutrons. This technology was devastating against the Earth warships: outmanoeuvred, outnumbered, made to fight with sensors that were all but almost blind against the cloaked Minbari units, they had, for bad fortune, an adversary using weapons uninterceptable by the interceptors and scarcely affected by the Energy Web Mk1 (*)(that works only against charged particles or plasma weapons), and with a passive armour that was conceived to interact strongly with the neutrons. It did the same with the antineutrons of the Minbari beams, enhancing, instead of reducing, their terminal effect, because of the annihilation energy release generated by the collisions of antimatter particles with the matter of the armour, a phenomenon localized and enhanced by the armour materials.
The slaughter suffered by the Earthforce (that lose in combat more than the 80% of his forces during the E.M. War), teached many hard lessons, and, beyond the heavy and sad legacy of fear and tension, whose legacy is not totally cleaned until today, drove the development of the second generation of armours.
(*)The Interceptor Mk2 and later, and the E-Web Mk2 and later are much more effective even against the neutron and antineutron carrier beams, thanks to the use of an internal cold plasma defensive layer.
|2 - From the end of the Earth-Minbari War to the Civil War and later - CARBONAT Armors|
In the last weeks of the Earth Minbari war, appeared the ancestors of the next generation of systems of the Earthforce: the eight pre-production Omega Destroyers (6 of 8 Lost in combat), the anti fighter particle/pulse turrets (Walther-Raytheon WR1000), the heavy particle/pulse weapons (Raytheon OMEGA), and, used on the Nova Dreadnoughts and (Mk2) on the Omegas rushed in service during the war, a new protection system: The Carbonat series armour.
This type of armour, even if still too weak to sustain the fire of the Minbari Neutron beams at full power, was far more impervious to the energy weapons, improved his kinetic resistance, and wasn't as vulnerable to the anti-neutron interaction effect as were the old armours (but, as seen today, there is not an absolute defence against this weapon among the younger races: even the Minbari armours are unable to oppose their own main antimatter beams).
SECTION OF THE CARBONAT ARMOUR
|Advanced dissipative multicellulular metal foam|
The outer armour is a composition of regular plates of
standard dimensions (30*20 meters), with the outer ablative
covering that is made by a lamination of low thickness (28mm)
layers of amorphous Silicon nitride , saturated with boron
whiskers, and layers of multicellular metal (Titanium) foam
(50mm): this external layer is followed by a coryndon crystals
metal matrix composite and by a third, thick layer of a 3-D mesh
of carbon nanotubes in a Beryllium-Titanium alloy matrix
(Commercial denomination: Plasteel).
This stratification is more effective than the old one against the conventional energy/kinetic attacks, but his interaction with the antineutron beams is conceived, as possible, to destroy mainly the external laminate through an ablative process, in the attempt to sacrifice as much as possible of the outer armour, preserving the inner hull. The intermediate layer is similar in concept to the former scheme, but with a more sophisticated design, with collapsible cylinders (Pugliese sacrifical structures) contained in the metal foam layer, more effectives than the old homogeneous foam regards the energy dissipation ability. The inner armour is again a sandwich of titanium alloy bonded with three intermediate layers, with the first made of corindon crystals in a ceramic matrix, the second made of carbon nanotubes in a metallic/resin hybrid matrix, and the third of organic, high strength fibres in an organic matrix. All this is bonded to the structure of the hull, that in the Novas and Omegas is a series of beams, plates and bulkheads of carbon nanotubes in a resin matrix, with large use of sandwich structures, molecularly bonded together to build the sturdiest hulls ever seen on a combat spaceship.
This scheme enhances the internal elasticity and kinetic resistance***, without sacrificate the energy weapon resistance.
The external layer, being modular, allows easier repair and, in case of a close thermonuclear explosions, reduces the thermal stress on the structure, due to the dilatation room in the joints of the modules. The Boron based ceramics are highly refractory, and the beryllium is very likely the best heath sink and ablation resistant conventional material known. This type of protection is a vast advancement respect to the old scheme, being more resistant against the "conventional" attacks and improving the behaviour against the antimatter/anti-neutron beams. The large percentage of carbon nanotubes, an excellent material from the structural point of view, and a good "energy dissipator", was the origin of the name of this series of armours, employed, in different evolutions in a vast majority of the Earth warships, alone or in combination with other types of armour protection.
The Carbonat modules of the series IV and later have improvements in the materials ( nanomachine manufacturing of the fibres, introduced in all the variants actually produced and a rhombus design of the modules (series VI and later), that is more elastic, giving an higher degree of mechanical resistance, and with safer and more reliable thermal dilatation joints.
CARBONAT VI ARMOR
CARBONAT VIII armour
Carbonat II: Omegas of the first series and the last Nova Beta series
Carbonat IV: Omegas, from series 5 to actual production
Carbonat V: Nova Delta
Carbonat VI: Warlock (VI-A*), Nike(VI-A*), Lupo, Vigilante, Nova II (VI-A*)
Carbonat VIII: Some batches of Nike and Lupo, Styx (Prototype - VIII-A*),Gladium(**),Centurion(**)
VI-A and VIII-A has an intermediate layer of Nanotechnological
**These units have an outer layer of Nanotechnologycal armor.
***The mechanical strength and the sturdiness of the Earth ships and of their armours respect to the crystalline protections had some proofs during the Minbari conflict: during the defensive battles of the inner rim, in the last months of the war, four Sharlins and one Shargoti cruiser were rammed and destroyed by Earthforce ships (Five Nova Dreadnoughts). While four Novas were destroyed immediately in the following explosions, one of the ships survived the collision, after demolishing and passing from side to side of the main hull of the Minbari Cruiser. The Nova was destroyed a few seconds later by the fire of another Sharlin, but in fact was able to survive and retain structural integrity after the kinetic collision that barely left broken relics of the Minbari cruiser.
|3 - From the end of the Civil War to the actual developments: the Ganymede dig and the Nanotechnologycal Armour|
The Shadow Armour
in 2253, was found on Mars, localized in Syria Planum an ancient relic, a spaceship of unknown origin and extremely advanced technology: it was a Shadow Battlecrab, hidden about 1000 years ago, and this discovery was the first contact (?) of the human race with the Shadows.
When the ship was digged out, and after an accident that killed one of Psi-Corps' scientists working in the dig (He died immediately after touching the surface of the ship)*, the ship reactivated, sent a signal, and after few hours was salvaged by two identical vehicles, that suddenly disappeared with the Ship of Syria Planum.
A second ship, apparently equal to the one found and lost on Mars, was discovered, encased in the ice on the Jupiters moon of Ganymede. In this occasion, the Earthforce was aware, and the first stage of the dig and inquiry on the relic went on well, allowing Earthforce, with the contribution of the technical division and of the Investigation Office of the E.F.N.I., to gather high quality informations about this alien artefact.
The technologies employed were so advanced, that many of the working principles of the ship, able to enter the hyperspace without generating a jump point and probably to extract energy from the Zero Point Fields, were barely understood. The main informations gathered were:
1-This type of ship works like a living entity, and has a rudimental conscience of itself.
2-The technologies involved are partially biological,partially nanomechanical; most part of the ship systems are made by a nanomachine technology extremely advanced and barely comprehensible.
3-The gravitic field control, used either for propulsion and for hyperspace enter/exit, are extremely more advanced than the ones known until that moment.
4-The ship was at least an half million years old.
The E.F.R&D and the E.F.N.I. technical division had not time enough to extract the key informations regarding the Hyperspace, energy, and propulsion technologies, but gathered good data about the armour, the computers and data transmission, and the weapon systems. The ongoing inquiry was blocked by the intervention of the Government, that gave the responsibility of the studies to the civil research section and to the Psi Corps, that, as usual, was able to quickly turn the operation into a disaster, with the lose of the ship, of the installations and facilities and of more than one hundred human lives.
The working principle of the Shadow armour is brilliant: it is a lattice structure of organic fibres that are able to act as a thermal superconductor, merged in a matrix that is entirely made of nanites. These nanites act in two ways: first, when subject to an energy discharge, part of the nanites immediately sublimates, subtracting heath by local ablation, while the bulk of the energy load is adsorbed and distributed on the whole surface of the ship by the fibre lattice; then, the nanites it selves act to repair and rebuild the damaged area of the fibre lattice. the extreme thermal conductivity of the lattice is the secret of the shadow armour, because the fibres are able to transmit heath by a mechanism similar to a wave guide, with a speed and an efficiency of many orders of magnitude higher than the one of a conventional material. The reconstructive action of the nanites is so quick that the repair of the local damage take place at a speed of the same magnitude order of the armour destruction speed allowed by the great majority of the continuous beam weapons.**
|Microphotography of the Shadow armor: the lattice structure|
The shadow armour, in a form equal or very close to the original one, but with limited thickness, was applied on the hulls of the Omega Epsilon Advanced Destroyers under the Clark's Regime, with the intervention of alien powers (Drakhs?), whose motivations were at least ambiguous. The whole technology was managed by Clark's entourage and by His Psi-Corps puppet masters, and, after the defeat of the Regime by the Earth Alliance Liberation Forces, was definitively lost.
The shadow armor concepts and some informations and technologies survived, and were used to drive the research and the development of new technologies thanks to the efforts of the E.F.R&D and of the technicl section of the E.F.N.I, with an high level success, whose first materialization was the armour of the Warlock destroyers.
The Nanotechnologycal Armour.
The first fundamental step to build a Shadow-like armour is the availability of a material, shaped in fibres of sufficient length, able to manage heath like a superconductor: this first milestones was obtained thanks to a nanomechanical building of nanotubes with an outer layer of carbon and a crystalline inner layer (classified materials and technology) that duplicated the "Thermal Waveguide" ability of the Shadow lattice. The second step was the achievement of a system able to adsorb the energy of a weapon and to convert it in heath: this wasn't possible to obtain with a nanomachine-based material with our actual knowledge, but a liquid crystals matrix surrounding the nanofibres lattice was able to reach good efficiency, even if inferior (50-60%) to the original shadow nanites. The liquid crystal matrix, controlled with an electromagnetic system directly derivate from the Energy Web, worked fairly well, and an autreconstruction capability of the armour was obtained thanks to the merging of an high percentage of specifically designed nanomachines in the liquid crystals matrix. It was impossible to replicate the energy dissipation function of the "spines", typical of the Shadow armour, so the whole liquid crystal matrix and the mass of the standard armour acts like an heath sink.
|Nanotubes mesh in the liquid crystal matrix|
|Nanites in the liquid crystal matrix|
The Earth Alliance Nanotechnologycal armour has the same
effectiveness of a shadow armour layer of a third of his
thickness and weight, and this, taking account of the enormous
technologycal and historical disparity between Humans and
Shadows, is an exceptional outcome.
The Nanotechnologycal Armour is a formidable defence against the energy weapons, but has limited structural strength (This is a common trait with the original Shadow armour***), and gives his best when used in union with another different type of protection: the combination of the Nanotechnologycal armour with a carbonat type protection has shown an exceptional effectiveness since his operational debut in the first Drakh attack of 2266, when the Warlock Heavy Destroyers, even if hit by the Drakh fire, were able to easily sustain the punishment and endure in combat without important reductions of operative and combat efficiency. Can be affirmed that the original advantage in terms of protection shown by the Earthforce units until the Dilgar war is vastly restored.
The Nanotechnologycal armor is the second defence layer on the Warlocks, the Nikes, and the Nova II used in combination with the Carbonat armours (Carbonat VI-A, ), and in many new projects,like the Nova II, and it is the first protective layer in some units, like the Nova Delta of the E.F.N.I., the Centurion Class Dreadnoughts and the Gladium heavy assault ships.
* The Nanites of the shadow armour, when touched by the skin of a living being, reacts disrupting the electrical signal transmission of the neural system: this means the instantaneous interruption of all the nervous activities of the being, and the consequent death.
**The main energy beams of the OMEGA cannons are not able to destroy the armour of a standard battlecrab at a rate high enough to penetrate the armour, but the concentrated fire of four turrets at emergency power (120%) would be enough, if maintained for at least 1,5-2 seconds on the same nominal area, to pierce the armour: this is more easy to say than to do; highly focalised energy/matter pulse weapons, like a Centauri Ion cannon of class 4 or superior (Octurion heavy battleships) or an Earthforce Q-spoiling heavy laser or gravitic fusion pulse cannon could be able to penetrate the protection of a battlecrab of small or medium dimensions. The discharge of a Narn Mag Gun (Bin'Tak heavy battleships) is sufficient to destroy a battlecrab, and so, being more powerful, the fire of a Centauri Heavy Ion Discharge Cannon or of an Eartforce G.O.D. cannon are enough to obtain a kill.
***A shadow battlecrab, incapacitated by the fire of some Vorlon "Lighning" class fighters and of a Vorlon gunship during a fighting in the beginning of the Shadow War, was rammed and destroyed by the gunship, that didn't suffer apparent damage.