Category Archives: All

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Soapbox

See subject. We hope you’ve enjoyed the content we’ve managed to provide for you in 2017, and hope you’ll stick with us into 2018 and beyond. We have at least one project of a humorous nature we’d like to get out early on next year, so keep checking back for that, for the podcast, and for more of the insightful and incisive commentary we always aim to deliver.

M1 CATTB

The Component Advanced Technology Test Bed was another late 80s American test program to investigate new systems for future tanks. As we’ll see, it looked quite a bit different from the TTB, and where the TTB was testing a very specific change (namely the unmanned, low profile turret) the CATTB tested a variety of new technologies in a more conventional layout.

CATTB

CATTB shared an Abrams hull, but the turret was new, and came with a bustle-mounted autoloader. The autoloader was very similar to the one on the Leclerc or K2. A new gun was tested, the XM291, which came in both 120 mm and 140 mm versions. The 120 mm version provided a lower-risk alternative to the 140 mm. The turret had rather large forward armor arrays, plus reasonably thick side arrays and a decent amount of roof protection. And I have no idea why they decided to mount so many smoke grenade launchers on there, but they did. This was before the advent of soft-kill active protection systems, but might not go amiss on a tank today with the right cueing system.

CATTB Rear view

As you can see from this rear view, the CATTB also came with a new engine: the XAP-1000 diesel. The Cummins/Allison XAP-1000 was based on the advanced Cummins XAV-28 V-12 diesel, a low-heat rejection engine. It used only oil coolant and has no water in the cooling system at all. Higher temperature exhaust gasses were tapped to run the APU. I don’t know a ton about this engine, but the US Army has a history of backing highly advanced diesel engines that end up being problematic. I would suspect similar things with the XAP-1000. Again, the project went nowhere. Later in the 90s, the Abrams was going to get a new engine as an offshoot of the Crusader project, but the proposed engine was not the XAP-1000. Instead, a gas turbine was chosen.

CATTB is a lot more of a conventionally designed tank. I do really like its lines. The project which was supposed to lead to the Block III MBT ended up leading nowhere due to changing priorities. Though, it is not at a museum. It is in the long term storage section of the Sierra Army Depot in Hurlong, CA. Make of that what you wish.

On the 140mm Tank Gun

Let’s talk some more about the 140 mm tank gun, that late cold war weapon that never was. Perfect for killing Soviet Supertanks that never were. And making your new tank way cooler than everyone else’s. The fastest way to get more armor penetration is to just build a bigger gun with more muzzle energy. A lot more.

As you might imagine, a 140 mm round is quite a bit bigger than a 120mm round. Let’s take a look, because these numbers are damned hard to find:

First, a typical 120 mm APFSDS round for the era, the American M829A1. The legendary Silver Bullet that slaughtered the tanks of Saddam’s Republican Guard. Some variations in length and weight are to be expected amongst 120 mm rounds. Newer rounds are a little heavier, but the size is constrained by ammunition storage racks and the existing chambers. The M829A1 is also the round that was in service while the 140 mm was under development.

M829A1 120 mm APFSDS
* Length: 984 mm
* Weight: 20.9 kg (46 lbs)

And now, the round to replace it. Producing 23 MJ at the muzzle, more than double that of the 120mm. The mighty 140. Dimensions were fixed by the NATO countries that were all developing their own versions of the round.

140mm tank round

XM962 140 mm APFSDS
* Length: 1,482 mm
* Weight: approximately 40 kg (88 lbs)

The length and weight of the 140 mm stand out. This round would have been a royal pain to handle. It’s also a bit fatter, so autoloaders could handle fewer rounds. This explains why the K2 Black Panther, otherwise similar to the Leclerc, can only hold 17 rounds in its autoloader compared to 22 in the Leclerc. The K2 is ready for 140 mm, needing only a barrel change. Interestingly, the round count in the Black Panther matches those for the M1-CATTB prototype, which had a similar, belt-style autoloader in its bustle. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about the CATTB in a future article.

NATO-standard 120 mm rounds like the M829A1 are unitary rounds. One big piece, like an oversized version of the cartridges you load into your guns at home. Because of the large size of the 140 mm rounds, these were made as two-piece rounds. Unfortunately, while I can find dimensions for the round’s overall length, I don’t have dimensions for the pieces. Until I can find one to measure myself, we’ll have to make do with some pixel counting/scaling, which yields a length of about 1,024 mm for the upper part of the round, and about 461 mm for the lower part. Which is still big and annoying for autoloader development. Length of the upper part of the round is heavily influenced by the length of the APFSDS projectile. This also would affect a design using a carousel autoloader like the TTB, since carousel (and therefore hull) height and turret height are constrained by the requirement to lift and rotate the rounds into position.

Based on the standards of the day, the 140 mm gun made more than twice the energy of the 120 mm at the muzzle. Of those 23 MJ of muzzle energy in the 140 mm, 14 MJ goes to the penetrator. Running the numbers meant that the 140 mm APFSDS could punch through more than 1,000 mm of RHAe at a ‘battle range’ of 2 km. For comparison, we’ll pull some open source estimates for M829A1, which give it a penetration of 700 mm of RHAe1.

Now, those are some really good numbers2. Of course, there’s a price to be paid. Even with the two-piece construction, everyone working with the 140 mm designed with autoloaders. Which meant significantly reworked turrets for the British, the Germans, and the Americans at a minimum. Plus, ammunition capacity would drop.

Upgunning to a 140 mm round was the simplest way to get a lot more armor penetration capability into a tank. At least from a weapon/projectile design standpoint. It would have required some serious reworking of then-extant designs, but such is life. When the Soviet Union imploded, the armored threat of the projected Future Soviet (super)tanks evaporated, and the 140 mm gun projects were quietly shelved. 120 mm rounds are continuing to get more development and the latest are quite a bit more effective than the M829A1. Lower cost, likely lower capabilities, but this decision makes sense given the circumstances.


  1. There’s some variation in this estimation depending on source. Open source disclaimers apply, etc. 
  2. They’re also a trifle disingenuous. Nobody is armoring their tanks with a meter of rolled homogenous steel. Literally nobody. A more advanced penetrator design can exploit effects on the not-steel that people actually armor their tanks with. Similarly, the armor might be designed to radically degrade (read: break up) the penetrator, which can be sort of but not really captured in RHAe estimations. So the RHAe numbers don’t actually tell the whole story on either side of the design puzzle. Oh, and the numbers themselves are the usual open-source estimates3, so they’re probably all wrong. 
  3. If you’d like to try your hand, start running through the Odermatt equation. And then remember that Odermatt wrote for tungsten-based penetrators, and M829A1 is depleted uranium, so you’ll need to tweak it. 

The Crossbox Podcast: Episode 24 – Thanksgiving in December

This is, in fact, our November episode, despite the fact that it is currently December; we recorded it on the 29th, and I’ve been busy, or possibly lazy. Regardless, listen to us talk about engines of three sorts: tank, rocket, and game.

Further reading
Binary Engineering
AVDS-1790
Opposed-piston engines
Rocketry reading
Dawn of the Tiberium Age
Supreme Commander
Guns of Icarus Alliance

Continue reading

M1 TTB

The M1 Tank Test Bed (TTB) was a late-80s prototype to test unmanned turret design concepts and compare them to a modern, manned-turret design: the then-state-of-the-art M1A1. The TTB was not necessarily intended to be what the next MBT would look like, but it was intended to shake out some design concepts and see if they were worth considering in the future. So let’s take a look.

m1 ttb

Some of you may notice a resemblance to the T-14. Both use similar unmanned turret design concepts. Such designs have been kicked around since the 1950s by many different groups of tank designers, and all for similar reasons of being able to reduce protected volume (and hence reduce design weight for a given standard of protection). The M1A1 weighs about 57 tonnes. The TTB, with a similar protective standard and the same 120mm gun (and a similar ammunition capacity) was reckoned to weigh about 15% less, for an approximate TTB weight of 48.45 tonnes. Interestingly, this is very close to the published weight for the T-14.

TTB also, of course, reduced crew to three men and put in an autoloader for ammunition handling. The design was intended to improve crew safety by completely isolating the crew from the ammunition. The autoloader itself was a large carousel, holding all ammunition below the turret ring. Let’s look at some pictures.

ttb autoloader

It’s sort of like the autoloader on the T-80, though NATO 120mm ammunition is one-piece, and is therefore a little more annoying to design an autoloader for. The autoloader built for the TTB held 44 rounds and this could be expanded to 48 or even 60 rounds with minor design changes. All of the ammo was stored in a ready configuration because the crew would be unable to move ammunition from a reserve magazine to the autoloader’s ready magazine (as on the Leclerc for example). The TTB autoloader was extensively tested, and could manage a rate of fire of one round every 12 seconds. Spent case bases or misfired rounds were ejected out a small hatch the back. The autoloader could be supplied through the rear hatch, and also had an unloading mode where it could slowly present rounds for removal. The autoloader weighed about 1,400 lbs. empty.

Some might question the vulnerability of such a design. However, statistically the vast majority of tank hits occur to the turret. Tanks like the T-72, for example, ran into trouble because of the ignition of their unprotected reserve ammunition stowage in the turret, not hits that set off ammunition in their autoloaders. And again, complete isolation from the ammunition should keep the crew relatively safe.

The TTB program was dialed back with the end of the cold war and was finally cancelled in the mid 90s. The autoloader design was used in the M1128 Mobile Gun System version of the Stryker.

As for the TTB prototype, it’s at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum at Fort Benning, and has recently been restored and repainted.

The Opinionated Bastards: Propus Part IV (Nov. 21, 3050)

The Action of November 6, 3050

It’s going to be a brawl, and it’s going to be a brawl almost out of the gate. The map was originally 15×35; that seemed a bit cramped, so I used my reroll to change the map size. Now it’s 15 hexes by 25. Oops.

On the plus side, it’s a very hilly map with a lot of forest, which means, given initiative (which I never have, and which always seems weighted against the force with fewer units in any case), we can use the trees to protect ourselves.

Medium Lance will deploy near the edge and stay close to it, so that they can retreat in case of emergency.

Round 1

Since, once again, it’s a Scout deployment, units deploy by speed; onlyEuchre andHanzoku (in the Trebuchet and the jump-capable Guillotine) arrive in the first round.

round-1
Pictured: basically every mech currently deployed. Happily, almost everyone misses. As usual, the allied Wasp is getting plastered.

Round 2

round-2

Ker-Ker and Double Dog arrive. This is literally the worst kind of fight.

As seems to be tradition, Ker-Ker takes a pounding from the enemy, and fails to keep her mech on its feet.

The melee phase makes things even worse. Three of our four mechs end up on the ground.

Round 3

Everyone manages to get up. Euchre moves to protect the flank, while the heavier mechs take aim at a Vindicator and a Wolverine.

Ker-Ker, still focused by the enemy, loses a leg to weapons fire from a Wasp behind her. Her mech falls and won’t be getting up, but at least she’s not wounded or unconscious. The Lancelot still has both its arms, so she can prop herself up and shoot, too. Euchre plants a solid kick on the Wasp that did it and destroys its leg in return.

Round 4

Ker-Ker takes light damage, which isn’t bad, all things considered. Since, for once, she’s merely prone rather than prone and immobilized, she’s actually a harder target for mechs more than one hex away than she would be were she standing.

Euchre bags the Wasp which knocked Ker-Ker‘s mech down, while Double Dog kicks the Stinger next to him in the torso, knocking it out.

Round 5

The Wolverine jumps next to Ker-Ker, no doubt intending to attempt to kick her downed mech. The rest of Heavy Lance angles to keep that from happening.

round-5

The Lancelot takes heavier damage this time, including a hit or two to the head. The damage knocks Ker-Ker out, so now she’s in serious danger. Again.

Round 6

The good news is that everyone seems to be leaving Ker-Ker alone this round. The bad news is that, in attempting to protect her, we’re pretty poorly positioned. The good news is, Cadre Lance arrives in two rounds. The bad news is, I’m not sure Ker-Ker will survive that long even if nobody’s shooting at her this time.

The brunt of the enemy fire is aimed at Euchre, but catastrophe! It’s the Thunderbolt taking a lucky critical hit through the armor. (Fun fact: through-armor crits should happen a little less than 3% of the time. It’s happened twice in three turns here, though I didn’t mention the first one, since it was less terrible in outcome.)

round-6

The allied Wasp proves its worth for once, destroying its opposite number.

Round 7

This time, we focus on one of the enemy Vindicators. Next round, Cadre Lance arrives; the round after, Heavy Lance takes the field to wrap this one up.

round-7

The FedCom Wasp falls again, after taking heavy damage from the Vindicator facing it. We knock out the nearer Vindicator’s PPC, which renders it more or less harmless. It’s also taken heavy center torso damage, and another round of focus fire should fell it.

Round 8*

Cadre Lance arrives. The better elements thereof take the field to the north of the battle, while Wojtek and Severe deploy to the south. They’ll work as a team, with Severe spotting for Wojtek‘s LRMs.

round-8

Ker-Ker wakes up, somehow still not dead.

Teddy Bear scores his first mech kill, knocking out the Wolverine menacing Ker-Ker with a hit to the ammo reserves. Which is a shame, because other attacks decapitate it; we could have taken the chassis if it hadn’t blown up.

Ker-Ker‘s Frankenstein Lancelot is going to take quite a lot of repairing agin.

Round 9

As Heavy Lance takes the field, the enemy quite wisely begins to retreat. We’ll see what we can do to take them down.

round-9

It’s Hanzoku in the Guillotine who gets the kill on the Vindicator nearest us, his first as an Opinionated Bastard. Rook, hitting a ridiculous cross-map shot on a damaged Wasp, further cements her place atop the killboard.

Rounds 10+

With only two enemy mechs left, we move to cleanup. Rook bags the Wolverine, while Severe notches her first kill on the enemy Firestarter.

Salvage, Repairs, Injuries

The Thunderbolt is a total loss, so thoroughly destroyed by the ammunition explosion that there’s nothing left to salvage. The Frankenstein Lancelot is crippled, but we have enough spare parts to get it back into service. Everything else is undamaged. Ker-Ker is the only pilot to be wounded; she has a concussion again, along with a number of lesser injuries.

We can’t take any actual salvage because we’re still over our percentage.

We receive battle loss compensation to the tune of 600,000 C-bills, then add 70,000 more in ransom payments for enemy prisoners.

Kill Board(s)

Rook‘s lead grows. Notably, all the current Opinionated Bastards now have at least one kill.

Last Mission

(Turns out I forgot to take a picture. Oops.)

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (11, 4 mechs)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (6, 2 mechs)
  3. Private Ngo (5, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (3, 1 mech)
  6. Private “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  7. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  8. Private “Teddy Bear” Jamil (2, 1 mech)
  9. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  10. Private “Woad” Kohler (1, 1 mech)
  11. Private Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)
  12. Private Cathrine “Severe” Payne (1, 1 mech)
  13. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (1)

Status

It is now November 20, 3050.

Contract Status

The Capellan forces are beginning to look worn down as our string of victories takes its toll on them. There’s another mission scheduled for tomorrow, a probe against a medium vehicle lance and a mixed mech-and-vehicle light lance, with a second medium vehicle lance in reserve. Heavy Lance and Cadre Lance are currently detailed to the mission, with Cadre Lance arriving late as reinforcements.

Finances

We currently have 5.856 million C-bills in the bank.

Unit Market

market

There are a few options to replace the lost Thunderbolt, including another Thunderbolt. Action item below for should-we-buy-something.

Organization

Double Dog, left without a mech, takes Woad‘s slot in the Grasshopper for the upcoming mission. (Sorry, Woad. It’s not that you’re a bad pilot, it’s that the other guy’s a better one.)

Repairs

We’re in good shape. Ker-Ker‘s Frankenstein Lancelot is missing a large laser, and the Grasshopper is still down a jump jet.

Spares

We’re out of large lasers, which is a significant blow, especially given Ker-Ker‘s tendency to get our Lancelots blown up. We are, of course, still out of three-ton gyroscopes, but in good shape otherwise.

MechWarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit, Awesome AWS-8Q (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson, Lancelot LNC25-02 (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa, Flashman FLS-7K (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare, Thunderbolt TDR-5S (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1 (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler, Grasshopper GHR-5H (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic, Trebuchet TBT-5S (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne, Locust Custom (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec, Lancelot LNC25-02 “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel, Guillotine GLT-4L (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov, Trebuchet TBT-5N (Blaze)
    • Pvt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T (Knave)
  • The following mechwarriors remain to be claimed. They’re listed with their current mech assignment. To claim a mechwarrior, give me a callsign for one of them. I’ll refer to them by their callsign in most places, and bold it so it’s easier to find them.
    • Pvt. Ngo, Crab CRB-20

Action Items

  • We’re down a mech. Should we buy a new one?
  • For Culise, about Rook:
    • Rook now has enough experience to buy a Weapons Specialist trait for large lasers, which will further improve her enemy-shredding ability in the Flashman, but tie her down to mechs with large lasers. Should she buy that trait, or save for improved piloting/gunnery down the line?
  • Any requests for changes to deployment or strategy for the next battle?

Stage Design Sins

I’ve mentioned really enjoying competitive shooting, but I want to go over some classic screwups. Things that can hinder your enjoyment. Things that stage designers shouldn’t do.

The Sin of Insufficient Time

Par times are necessary parts of stages. Basically, this is a time limit. Par times are good in case one gets in over one’s head, or has significant equipment failure. In general, the RO won’t stop you unless your equipment fails in an unsafe way. If you’re having a bunch of minor issues, you’re going to have a hard time. And par times are necessary to keep things moving and put you out of your misery if everything goes south.

However, par times that are too short lead to large numbers of people timing out. Frankly, if I drove a long way for a match, and some idiot stage designer had misoverestimated the skill level involved, or is trying to compensate for a giant enrollment list with par times, and I time out a lot, and I see a bunch of other people timing out a lot too, than I’m not coming back. Ridiculously short par times promote poor behavior, like giving up. One of the best things one can learn in a match is to not give up if something goes a little sideways. Your plan didn’t work, so you adapt. Too short a par time will encourage you to give up, because you won’t have enough time to try something else. That’s lame.

The Sin of Stupid Hard Targets
In a similar vein, one should avoid targets that are Stupid Hard. Clearly, USPSA Nationals is expected to be harder than your average local club USPSA match, because of the higher average skill of the participants. And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s how is should be. Tailor the match to the crowd.

The problem comes when stages have segments that are so difficult, your score is improved by firing a round in the direction of the target and then moving on. A 50 yard pistol spinner might be one such example, depending on some other stage particulars. In such a case, it would almost certainly be the correct move for best score to fire a round at the spinner, take the failure to neutralize penalty, and move on. That’s lame.

These are things that can go hand in hand.

SOCOM, the USMC, and the Glock 19

The Glock 19 is Glock’s “Compact” pistol. It’s got a barrel length of just over four inches, has a height of about five inches, depending on sights, and holds 15 rounds in a magazine. It’s a great compromise between concealability and fightability, since it’s about as small as a pistol can be and still allow the vast majority of adults to get a full grip on the gun. The Glock 19 is a strong seller in the US civilian market, but it is also popular in SOCOM. They’ve even type-classed the Glock 19 Gen4 MOS. And the USMC has just ordered a large number of Glock 19Ms. And all this despite SIG winning the US Army’s Modular Handgun contract.

SOCOM has been the big user of Glock 19s for years in the DoD, so let’s look at them first. They’ve type-classed the Glock 19 Gen4 MOS with threaded barrel as the Mark 27. Type classing assigns a national stock number and makes it easy to order more in the future. SOCOM is a big user of the Glock 19, and this shows an eye towards the future of pistol sights: micro red dot optics. SOCOM’s current pistol red dot of choice is the Leupold Deltapoint Pro. While they could have selected a custom-milled solution, choosing the MOS model gives them something that can be ordered direct from the factory, and it allows them to easily switch optics in the future if desired.

The choice of Deltapoint Pro may be noteworthy, if only because it’s not the RMR that’s so commonly seen for duty-type applications. The RMR has significantly better battery life, and may be a bit tougher than the Deltapoint Pro. The Deltapoint Pro’s larger window makes it a bit easier for shooters to get used to, since there’s a larger area where they can see the dot. The biggest advantage of the Deltapoint Pro is that one can replace the battery without having to remove (and rezero) the optic. This more than makes up for the less than ideal battery life. Batteries can be easily swapped before missions or training sessions, without having to then verify the zero of the optic.

The Marines have opted for the same Glock 19M that the FBI adopted. Of course, the FBI also adopted the Glock 17M, and the reader may be wondering why not that pistol? Let’s consider the intended users. The Marines may espouse the concept of ‘Every Man a Rifleman’ but there are some jobs where this just doesn’t work. Pilots for example. A pistol also gives the option of carrying concealed, which is great for criminal investigators, and those conducting interviews. Or those that need to be around questionable allies. It allows the soldier to be armed without appearing to be armed. So the Marines are coming at it from the same way so many concealed carriers are: the Glock 19 is just about the perfect size. Smallness helps concealment, especially with respect to the “height” or “length” of the grip. And the Glock 19’s grip is about as small as it can be and still allow the user to get a full grip on it (i.e. no fingers are hanging off to be curled below it). The Glock 19 doesn’t give up much to the Glock 17 as far as shootability goes, but it’s quite a bit more concealable. For those who aren’t needing concealment, the pistol is still a secondary weapon system. A smaller, lighter pistol is easier to fit on their gear in a cockpit with all the other stuff they have to carry. Or on their belt for SOCOM.

The reader may also be wondering “Why not the P320 Compact?” Well, the Marines do have a history of working a lot with both SOCOM and the FBI, and they both like Glocks. Also, the MHS program was not as thorough as the FBI’s tests were as far as high round count reliability tests are concerned. The full-size MHS entrants (P320) went through 12,500 rounds to check reliability and establish an MRBS of 2,000 rounds with a 90% confidence level. The compact entrants (P320C) only had to go through 1,500 rounds of evaluation. The FBI tests included 20,000 rounds for each of the full size and compact entrants. So the Glock 19M has verified reliability in a way that the P320C doesn’t.

The Opinionated Bastards: Two Fights (Nov. 6, 3050)

Last Time’s Action Items

  • We purchased the Guillotine, assigning it to Private Hanzoku Yuksel. After a long moment with his shattered Locust, he gives the techs the okay to start salvage operations.
    001-guillotine
  • The Cadre Lance deploys alongside Heavy Lance.

The Action of October 27, 3050

The Capellan forces arrayed against us are lightweight, as is typical for Capellans. (If I’d known they were such pushovers, I would have recommended tackling them a lot more strongly!)

002-enemies1

The only things on the list to be concerned about are the Hetzer (with its AC/20) and the Vindicator, which mounts a PPC.

The battle commences in heavy fog. That has two effects: movement will be much slower, and accurate shooting will be somewhat harder. The terrain is heavy urban; there are no open areas on the map, and most combat is going to take place along streets.

Round 1

Since Heavy Lance is deployed with the Scout duty, they arrive on the battlefield fastest mechs first. Only Private Ngo’s Crab is fast enough to make it on the first round. Rook and Double Dog will arrive in the second round. Drake and the Awesome will turn up in the third. We deploy on the north edge of the map; the enemy deploys in the center.

003-1round1map

Ngo starts off on a side street, out of view of the enemy; the liaison, in a Wasp, tangles with the /Capellan Phoenix Hawk and takes heavy damage.

004-1round1wasp

Round 2

The Flashman and Thunderbolt show up, deployed somewhat to Ngo’s west. They take an aggressive tack, moving toward the Phoenix Hawk and firing on it.

005-1round2deploy

Rook hits with most of her weapons, while Double Dog does a lot of missing. He hits with one medium laser, though, which is enough to pierce the Phoenix Hawk’s center torso armor.

Ngo exchanges ineffectual fire with the enemies on her side of the map.

Round 3

Drake deploys behind Ngo. As expected, the enemy gets out of his line of sight, except for one poor, unfortunate Hetzer assault gun a full 18 hexes away. He’ll take that shot.

On the other side of the map, Rook and Double Dog continue to hammer the Phoenix Hawk.

Alarms go off in the latter’s cockpit as the two heavies’ shots hit home. It’s very nearly dead.

006-1round3phx

At maximum range, Drake hits with two of his three PPCs. Putting him in the Awesome is basically cheating. If he can see it, he can hit it; if he can hit it, he can kill it.

Round 4

The Phoenix Hawk dodges behind Double Dog, but Rook still has a clear shot. Drake is set to take some fire, as enemy vehicles roll out into the street to engage his mech, but he can handle it.

007-1round4east

Drake and Rook tie for first blood. Drake bags a Packrat patrol vehicle, while Rook gets the Phoenix Hawk. Ngo kicks the Vindicator.

Round 5

Drake, who can’t back up owing to the heavy fog, remains stationary, aiming for the Vindicator. (It’s inside his PPCs’ minimum range, but he’s a good enough gunner to manage the to-hit penalty.)

On the other side of the map, Rook and Double Dog slowly make their way over to the rest of the fighting.

Drake takes moderate damage, but manages to stay vertical. The Vindicator does not. Ngo kicks it again for good measure.

Round 6

Drake moves up, hoping to kick the Vindicator into submission.

No need. The Vindicator pilot, while attempting to stand, falls down, and…

008-1round6vindicator

I’ll take it! Ngo, who did the last damage to the mech, gets credit for the kill.

Drake has a shot on the LRM Scorpion hassling the other members of the Heavy Lance, so he takes it. Rook and Double Dog still can’t shoot at anything. Ngo can, but she’s very unlikely to hit.

Round 7

Cadre Lance takes the field! They’re staying mostly out of the way, though Linebuster leads the way.

009-1round7cadre

Once again, buildings block Drake‘s line of fire. The LRM Scorpion he tagged last round is about to die a brutal death, though. Rook gets credit for the kill. Woad scores a hit, too.

Rounds 8-12

Cleanup at this point. We have a tremendous advantage in firepower and survivability.

Cadre Lance gets to fire its weapons in anger; merely showing up for battle is better for a pilot’s skill than a good bit of training.

Drake finishes off the Hetzer he was shooting at earlier. Ngo bags a Scorpion, and Linebuster gets credit for two vehicles.

Damage

None to speak of; the enemy didn’t make it through anyone’s armor. Nobody was injured, either.

The Action of October 28, 3050

… and before we can do much more than replace damaged armor, there’s another battle.

This one’s objective is hide and seek: kill half the enemy while losing less than a third of the Opinionated Bastards’ deployed force. Or, as I fully expect to do again, destroy the enemy utterly.

The enemy forces this time are a bit heavier than before. Almost everything on the field has something to be cautious of: an AC/10 on the Po tank, PPCs on the Vindicators, AC/20s on the Hetzers, and a large laser on the Grasshopper. Once again, Heavy Lance and Cadre Lance deploy.

011-2enemies

The map is quite small, a 15×25-hex affair with a lot of variation in height. That helps balance out the numbers disadvantage; we can use the terrain to take cover.

Round 1

Again, it’s a scouting deployment, so Ngo deploys first. She’s at the northeast corner of the map. The allied FedCom mech, a Commando, deploys near the center of the eastern map border.

Ngo takes hits from four of the five AC/2s mounted on the AC/2 carrier, and more damage than that from one of the Vindicator’s PPCs. Combined with a few LRMs, that’s enough to knock her mech over, but not before she scores a critical hit on the AC/2 carrier, killing its crew. First blood comes early.

Round 2

Rook and Double Dog deploy on the southeastern corner of the map, and open fire on one of the Vindicators with moderate success. Ngo stumbles, but manages to stand, and moves quickly to join her comrades to her south.

012-2round2deploy

Round 3

Drake takes the field. The entirety of Heavy Lance fires on the enemy Grasshopper; Drake hits with all three PPCs. The enemy mech falls.

Round 4

There’s very little movement going on. The Opinionated Bastards have a good position, screened in part by the hill, and the enemies don’t want to get any closer, either. Everyone focuses on the Grasshopper again; it’s the biggest threat and the easiest to hit. It falls down a second time.

013-2round4grasshopper

Round 5

The Grasshopper stands again and jumps closer, into medium laser range. *Drake and Rook will take another crack at him, while the other units split their fire to start working on the Vindicator next door.

Drake takes a hit to his gyro through the armor, and one of the Hetzers scores on his right arm with an AC/20, damaging one of his PPCs.

The Grasshopper pilot ejects after taking some engine, gyro, and actuator hits. That’s excellent news. We didn’t shoot out its core or destroy its limbs. If we can get it as salvage, we can probably save it.

Round 6

The next most dangerous targets are the Hetzers and the Vindicators, so that’s where we aim next.

Rook takes out the first Hetzer, with assists from Drake and Ngo.

Round 7

Cadre Lance arrives. Most everyone stays behind our protective hilltop, although the whole formation slides slightly southwest. The remaining Hetzer has one of the better gunners left on the Capellan side, so we’ll aim for him first.

014-2round7cadre

Severe, moving to fire on one of the Vindicators, takes severe damage, and loses control of her mech. It falls. That’s no good. On the other hand, it’s also behind a hill, so by falling, it’s now out of the line of fire.

Rook scores another kill, this time on the Hetzer.

Round 8

The enemy is below half strength, which means we win; I’m going to take a bit more time to blow stuff up, because it’s going well and, and the more that’s dead, the more likely we are to get a crack at that Grasshopper.

Drake loses his right arm to enemy fire, but that’s okay. We can patch him up. We have the parts.

Rook notches yet another kill, this time taking down the Locust south of our force. Double Dog gets in on the action, destroying the Po heavy tank with a hit to the ammunition store.

Round 9-11

Cleanup goes well; all we have left are the two Vindicators, which are looking rather worse for the wear. Rook takes a hit to the gyro, but is otherwise okay. Newcomers to the killboard Woad and Euchre each account for one of the Vindicators. Congratulations!

After-Action Reports

Salvage

016-2salvage

We score the Grasshopper! (We also took a Phoenix Hawk in the first battle.) The Grasshopper can be repaired; the Phoenix Hawk is only worth its weight in parts. That puts us at a little north of 40% salvage instead of the negotiated 30%, so we’ll have to tread lightly on the next mission or two.

In terms of income, we make 175,000 C-bills on prisoner ransom and about 50,000 on battle loss compensation.

Damage

015-2damage

Nothing is out of commission. Heavy Lance needs some repairs. The Awesome’s gyro turns out to be a total loss, but one of the spares we have fits. (I’m still not at all sure how to figure out which of the four different kinds of gyro a given mech requires.)

Nothing else to report on the damage front, except that we can’t fully repair the Grasshopper—one of its jump jets was destroyed, and we can’t order a new one on this contract.

Despite the damage to our mechs, none of our pilots were wounded.

Training

017-training

Ngo is now a Veteran, with 4+ piloting/3+ gunnery. Her new trait, Some Like It Hot, allows her to ignore the -1 to-hit penalty for mild overheating, which is useful. The Crab generates a lot of heat.

Ker-Ker also trained to 4+/4+. Woad and Euchre are both 5+/5+ now, which is still technically Green. Next time they raise a mech skill, though, they’ll be Regulars.

Changing Mech Assignments

018-mech-assignments

Mech assignments and organization shift a bit, since I had to throw together an undamaged lance to deploy following the mission above.

Woad steps into the Grasshopper and joins Rook, Drake, and Ngo in Heavy Lance. Medium Lance is now Double Dog in the Thunderbolt, Ker-Ker in the Frankenstein Lancelot, Hanzoku in the Guillotine, and Euchre in the TBT-5S.

Linebuster is still in charge of the rookies in Cadre Lance, whose ranks now include Wojtek, taking Woad‘s previous ride, the TBT-5N.

Kill Board(s)

Rook leaps out to a commanding lead, followed by Drake and the still-unclaimed Private Ngo.

Recon Raid

recon raid killboard

Hide and Seek

hide and seek killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (9, 2 mech)
  2. Captain “Drake” Halit (6, 2 mechs)
  3. Private Ngo (5, 2 mechs)
  4. Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  5. Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (2, 1 mech)
  6. Lieutenant “Double Dog” Dare (2)
  7. Private “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  8. Private “Euchre” Kojic (1, 1 mech)
  9. Private “Woad” Kohler (1, 1 mech)
  10. Sergeant “Milspec” Ortega (1)
  11. Private Jamil (1)

Status

It is now November 5, 3050. I stopped here because there’s yet another battle planned for tomorrow, another Hide and Seek. See below for more information.

Finances

Our current balance is 5.225 million C-bills.

Spares

We’re out of spare large lasers, and we only have gyros in the two-ton size at present. Owing to combat in orbit, no resupply is possible this month.

Next Mission

The next mission sees us facing an interesting force: no vehicles whatsoever, but two full lances of mechs. The expected Capellan force is primarily light mechs, with some Vindicators and a Wolverine expected. Medium Lance was deployed and therefore must face the enemy first. Given the current distribution of pilots, I’m tempted to bring both Cadre Lance and Heavy Lance along for this deployment. Both will take a while to arrive on the field, since none of our lances are what you’d call fast, but I’m uncomfortable leaving Heavy Lance to face twice its number alone.

MechWarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit, Awesome AWS-8Q (Mephansteras)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson, Lancelot LNC25-02 (Hasek10)
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa, Flashman FLS-7K (Culise)
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare, Thunderbolt TDR-5S (a1s)
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1 (milspec)
    • Pvt. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler, Grasshopper GHR-5H (A Thing)
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic, Trebuchet TBT-5S (EuchreJack)
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne, Locust Custom (Burnt Pies)
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec, Lancelot LNC25-02 “Frankenstein” (Kanil)
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel, Guillotine GLT-4L (Hanzoku)
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov, Trebuchet TBT-5N (Blaze)
  • The following mechwarriors remain to be claimed. They’re listed with their current mech assignment. To claim a mechwarrior, give me a callsign for one of them. I’ll refer to them by their callsign in most places, and bold it so it’s easier to find them.
    • Pvt. Jamil, Vulcan VL-2T
    • Pvt. Ngo, Crab CRB-20

Action Items

  • For this next mission, should we deploy everything, or only reinforce Medium Lance with Heavy Lance?

Avenger II SHORADs

As mentioned earlier, the US Army is concerned with short range air defense systems again. And they’re looking at various versions of COTS systems to fill this need. We’ve looked at the new Bradley SHORAD vehicle. Now, let’s take a look at one based on the Stryker, called the Stryker Mobile SHORAD Launcher (MSL).

stryker msl

What GLDS has done is cut off the back portion of the regular Stryker to make something flatbedded. Then, they added the turret off of the M1095 Avenger and then Boeing modified that turret.

The M1095 Avenger is a 1980s vintage SHORAD system that put a pair of quadruple Stinger launchers on a turret, and mounted the turret on the back of a HMMWV. Putting the turret on the back of a Stryker gives the turret better all-terrain capability, as it matches the mobility of the rest of a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Crew protection should also be better. On the other hand, it will be more expensive.

Like on the Bradley SHORAD, the newer Avenger turret is more versatile. Options for each side include the regular quadruple Stinger box, a set of launch rails to accommodate four Hellfire missiles, or a set of launch rails to accommodate three AIM-9X Sidewinders. It also has an improved IR imaging system, which has a laser to guide the Hellfire missiles.

As before, there’s no radar. Both of these launch systems will need some degree of external cueing. A lack of radar does keep the cost down. Depending on expected threats and usage, this may or may not be a severe handicap.

One further usage is on the HMMWV successor, the JLTV. You can still mount this newer, multiuse Avenger turret on light tactical trucks like the JLTV, as seen here at the AUSA expo:

JLTV Avenger

This version has an M230 LF gun instead of one of the missile boxes.