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"Dropship Nomenclature..." Topic


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Comments or corrections?

infojunky03 Jan 2013 5:07 p.m. PST

Ok, when some says Dropship now I equate it with a "Space Helo", able to land small force of troops and light vehicles. Generally armed enough to support said troops.

As it kinda stands;

Drop pod: Soft lands a single operational unit Man, Team/squad, vehicle. no tactical movement.

Dropship: Space Helo

Landing ship: Larger Units, Heavy armor etc.. etc… Like the Drop Pod no tactical movement.

Thoughts?

clkeagle Inactive Member03 Jan 2013 5:50 p.m. PST

Sounds about right to me. Maybe emphasize that Drop Pods are either disposable or have to be recovered separately, while dropships and landing ships can move from orbit to surface and back.

-Chris K.

wminsing Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 6:24 p.m. PST

I think a key point of drop pods as well is that I'd view them as one way systems; they can safely bring their payload down from orbit, but can't take off again. Dropships or similar craft should be able return to their orbiting mothership again from a planetary surface.

I agree that it makes sense to that there would be a heavier class of lander/barge /what have you; in my setting I assume that such heavier ships usually require a proper landing site or space port to safely touch down. So the first wave of troops go in with droppods and dropships to secure such a site, with the heavier ships landing as a second wave. This puts a premium on stuff like power armor, etc; they aren't cost effective to put everyone in, but for the initial beachhead the concentration of force they represent is invaluable.

-Will

Personal logo Goober Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2013 8:26 p.m. PST

Personally I don't see Dropships as being used for CAS/tac-air support, not in my universe, anyway. They are designed to get a precious cargo from orbit to dirtside, and avoid or endure on the way down. I personally see them as bricks, get down fast, get the grunts out, get back up for the next load and let some other guys trim the grass in the meantime. I'd see there being a separate set of gunships/fast movers for that. To use a crude analogy, Slicks, Hogs and Skyraiders.

I personally think the Aliens dropship, whilst aesthetically pleasing, is a lousy design – trying to do too many things at once.

G.

Wellspring03 Jan 2013 9:31 p.m. PST

I'd agree in general with the definitions.

Here's a previous thread on the subject… TMP link search down to my post for links to other previous threads and explanations for my preferred nomenclature. Including my charming double entendres. (Sorry, someone doesn't know how to link images and the thread takes forever to load.)

I don't like using the term "dropship" anymore, because it's used to describe so many different things that it's meaningless. In BattleTech, a DropShip is a massive cargo lander. Rebel Minis has several DropShips that are basically space VTOLs. So it's hard to know what you're getting.

My preferences are:

A Combat Shuttle can drop onto a hot LZ and insert troops and maybe a light vehicle. Then it can return to orbit on its own. It most closely resembles what we use Blackhawks, Hinds, and Ospreys for. In a hard sci fi setting, it has to be way bigger than a VTOL, of course. In practice, even hard-ish sci fi minis lines tend to hand-wave the whole problem away. Depending on your combat philosophy / tech base, these may or may not be able to loiter to provide fire support.

A Frigate is a troop transport / tramp steamer / whatever. It is surface to orbit to orbit to surface. No way this could possibly work as hard sci fi, but you see it all the time in fiction.

A cargo transport is like a combat shuttle, but much bigger and requires that you already secured the LZ.

Drop Pods are the generic name for disposable, one-way transports used for orbital insertions.

So the plan is, you want to hit dirtside for an invasion, you deploy a wave of drop pods and/or combat shuttles, supported by dedicated aerospace fighters and ortillery. Once they have a "beachhead" secured, that's when you can deliver your heavy equipment and support units in more economical-but-vulnerable cargo transports.

If your setting permits it, then "frigates" might take on some or all these roles. You're already throwing practicality out the window by having them in the first place, might as well give them as much time on camera as possible.

Inner Sanctum04 Jan 2013 3:35 a.m. PST

I had some thoughts with regards to Khurasan's Vespids. But would work with any other able to fly.

Consider a lander that disgorged its troops fairly high, then proceeded to land on the target with explosive force, thus creating instant cover and mayhem.

Ideal for dropping on an enmy formation or strongpoint.

Astound your enemy's, impress your friends!

freecloud04 Jan 2013 5:09 a.m. PST

I think most dropships may well also be disposable craft, the energy costs of getting back up to space is huge (and fuel caried supplants more useful payload) and gets bigger the bigger the craft.

I also think they will glide/fly down rather than drop like bricks as that takes far less energy (and thus fuel, so other stuff can be carried).

I agree on-planet air assets will probably be landed (assembled?)there, rather than be designed to also fly down from space.

wminsing Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2013 6:31 a.m. PST

I think most dropships may well also be disposable craft, the energy costs of getting back up to space is huge (and fuel caried supplants more useful payload) and gets bigger the bigger the craft.

The only problem with this model is that you probably need some way to retrive troops if things go all pear-shaped. Drop pods already have this problem but a disposable dropship would just make it worse. I agree a orbit->surface->orbit craft is going to be big/complex/mostly fuel though. Maybe the dropships have enough fuel onboard for a one-way trip (orbit->surface) and a tanker drops fuel depots to the surface so the dropships can refuel in the field and make a return trip?

-Will

erraticassassin04 Jan 2013 7:40 a.m. PST

I'd see there being a separate set of gunships/fast movers for that.

Actually, the thought occurred that Rebel's dropships make a good pair in that sense – the Titan dropship is a bit beefier and looks better suited to be a lander, whereas the Sabre looks more like a highly-mobile attack rig.

Personal logo Wyatt the Odd Supporting Member of TMP Fezian04 Jan 2013 8:45 a.m. PST

If you use the precept that a "ship" is something with decent tonnage then a lot of it becomes clearer.

Drop pod: A lander that delivers a unit of troops to the surface from obit on a more-or-less ballistic flight path. May or may not be able to lift off again.

Example: Starship Troopers (book) single-use, single man aeroshell.

Drop ship: A larger vessel, capable of independent flight, usually (but not always) aerodynamically shaped to insert larger units and equipment onto a surface.

Example: Trade Federation landers from Star Wars Episode 1.

Assault Shuttle: Closer to the current use of helicopters. More versatile than a drop pod of the same size in that it has a larger flight envelope. You could land a squad of troops on a building rather than into it. Can do point-to-point flight as well as return to orbit. Purpose designed for landing in contested areas as opposed to using conventional transport shuttles, ship's boats. Some Sci-Fi used the term "cutter" to differentiate between armed and unarmed landers.

Examples: "Squatter Stomper" from Aliens movie.
Assault lander from "Albedo" comic:

picture

LAATc lander used to get Cone AT-TE walkers onto the surface in Star Wars Episode 2. link

Gunship: The one exception to "ship > boat". Can be the same airframe as the shuttle, but cargo capacity exchanged for more firepower.

Example: LAAT (Republic Gunship) From Star Wars Episode 2.

picture

Wyatt

badger2204 Jan 2013 8:54 a.m. PST

I am useing a Banksia nut for a vespid droppod. Didnt do much to it other than flaten the bottum. Looks alien/hive enough as is.

Owen

Adam name not long enough04 Jan 2013 12:52 p.m. PST

Why is it so hard to get back to orbit? In 50 years we've gone from pushing our way up directly against gravity to using it to help, through the medium of lift. Look at what Richard Branson is intending…or Chuck Yeager did! Give us a financial incentive to go orbit-surface-orbit and we'll invest in finding a way. But it will cost energy, money or resources and will not be used willy nilly.

Equally, I find Ortillery a little silly, make your shells big enough to get through atmosphere and stay stable and you only get to fire one or two at a planet for each space-monitor. You could put nukes up front, but on a planetary scale they don't help much…by the time they do there is no point taking the planet!

All in all, applying a bit of hard sci-fi and sci-fact you end up with wars being fought on the ground over resources, difficult interface between in side the atmosphere and outside and a need to build more, grow more, breed more to sustain the war. Doesn't that give us quite a wonderful war?

Lion in the Stars04 Jan 2013 2:04 p.m. PST

You might want to review how much energy is required to actually get into orbit, Adam.

The Rutan ships aren't getting into orbit, they're just leaving the atmosphere. It takes about 7x more energy to get into orbit than to leave the atmosphere.

The SpaceX Dragon is still a 330ton disintegrating totem pole to get ~6.5 tons into orbit.

The Space Shuttle (poor example, mind), has a launch weight of 2000 TONS to get 150 tons into orbit and return 120 tons.

If you want a ship that can drop into the atmosphere, land, and come back up, well, you need to assume near-magitech fuel efficiencies and a mass ratio of 2-3 (that is, between 2 and 3 tons of fuel for every ton of airframe+payload). Under THOSE assumptions, a dropship with the capacity of a C130 (20 tons cargo and 35 tons airframe) is going to have between 110 and 165 tons of fuel, for a total airframe weight of between 165 and 220 tons. That's an bird about the size of a C17 to land a C130's worth of gear.

=======
I use a WW2 analogy for planetary assault craft.

Drop PODS are like paratroopers, no way to recover the troops if something goes wrong.

Drop SHIPS are more like gliders or Higgins boats. Reusable, but you don't expect to be able to re-use many of them, or re-use them quickly. May or may not be able to extract troops if things go wrong.

Shuttles are equivalent to helicopters. Might be a drop shuttle, intended to land troops and go back for more (the Slicks). Might be an Assault shuttle (the Hogs/Snakes).

erraticassassin04 Jan 2013 2:11 p.m. PST

The Rutan ships aren't getting into orbit…

No doubt the Sontarans are chuffed with that bit of news…

The G Dog Fezian04 Jan 2013 4:33 p.m. PST

I'd use a WWII analogy like this

pods = parachute troops

dropboats = higgins boat / LCVP troops and/or light vehicles. Armed support versions exist.

dropships = LCT up to LCI(L). Again, armed support versions exist.

Above that we're talking ships with interface ability that can land heavy equipment or mass quantities of troops.

RTJEBADIA04 Jan 2013 4:50 p.m. PST

Lion--
Thats why in my near future or SF games the helo like dropships have to get refueled to go back up. Essentially they are drop pods with an in atmo VTOL capacity built in. So it can fly in and then fly around a bit or it can just land and then refuel, fly around a bit, and fly up into space.

For wargaming purposes this is good as it means your troops need to fight for resupplies (which can be dropped much more like bricks in "gliders" or similar cheap ways…even old school air drops) or even steal enemy resources to get back home.

Dragon Gunner04 Jan 2013 5:03 p.m. PST

Interesting topic guys!

I am also a fan of the Starship Trooper book version. The drop pod is just a shell to get the trooper through the atmosphere then it breaks apart. The trooper then free falls in a HALO jump.

freecloud04 Jan 2013 6:38 p.m. PST

One posssible difference between "Marines" and "Army" is that Marine Dropships can go back into space without refuelling, so that means Marine gear has to be much lighter/more compact/less of etc.

Another possibility is dropships enter the atmosphere, everyone jumps out in HALO mode, and they fly back into orbit.

Agree that one of the first priorities on planetfall may be to set up fuel processing plant to refuel dropships that can land, so that they don't have to carry return fuel load and thus can carry more stuff down.

Wellspring05 Jan 2013 4:06 a.m. PST

For Adam of the really long name: there's a short answer and a long answer. The long answer is here: link

The short answer is that if you want to use reaction drives, then you're limited by the basic physics of rockets. Which makes it very hard to enter orbit, even if you assume rockets with performance way outside what's currently possible. You can do it, but it's pricey in terms of propellant and so the ratio of the size of the ship (esp propellant) to the amount of payload you can carry is way, way higher than you see on most sci fi minis and in fiction.

Now, of course, you can abandon reaction drives and assume some kind of grav drive. That changes everything. Especially physics, making this a less hard sci fi solution. But it has the happy result of giving us ships that look more like the minis out there and more like the ones we see in movies and on TV. Ships that behave more like helicopters and boats, and so which can follow the historical analogs people tend to use when crafting military sci fi.

freecloud05 Jan 2013 7:40 a.m. PST

"Now, of course, you can abandon reaction drives and assume some kind of grav drive. That changes everything. Especially physics, making this a less hard sci fi solution."

You can have antigrav drives etc in "hard" sci fi, i.e. they still need to deliver the same amount of energy as is required to move the craft. You get to make the assumption that its a helluvalot more efficient than a chemical drive, but you still wind up with a massive energy usage to leave the surface for orbit, so the issues discussed above will still apply.

wminsing Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2013 10:10 a.m. PST

If a dropship mostly 'glides' to the surface and gets refueled to return to orbit some sort of in-situ resource extraction might be needed- cracking water to make hydrogen, etc.

Another wrinkle; planets with a thin (or no) atmosphere. No way to glide down, you have to burn fuel all the way. How would that effect operations?

-Will

wminsing Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2013 10:18 a.m. PST

Equally, I find Ortillery a little silly, make your shells big enough to get through atmosphere and stay stable and you only get to fire one or two at a planet for each space-monitor. You could put nukes up front, but on a planetary scale they don't help much…by the time they do there is no point taking the planet!

Er, not quite…. The proposed orbital bombardment systems use tungsten rods that usually are around 20 ft long and 1 foot in diameter. They mass quite a bit, but if you're already supporting a major space-faring civilization then it's not a insurmontable problem. And you could cram quite a few of those on board an orbiting launch platform.

-Will

freecloud05 Jan 2013 12:15 p.m. PST

"Another wrinkle; planets with a thin (or no) atmosphere. No way to glide down, you have to burn fuel all the way. How would that effect operations?"

Less Air = Lower gravity = less energy needed. And Droptanks :)

RTJEBADIA05 Jan 2013 12:36 p.m. PST

Yeah actually we've already used "there and back again" drop ships in real life:

The lunar lander.

Thats basically no different than what you see in Aliens… an orbital ship drops a vehicle which lands troops and then it can take them back.

The issue is that with bigger mass planets you need more to get back up.

freecloud05 Jan 2013 2:01 p.m. PST

" Yeah actually we've already used "there and back again" drop ships in real life: The lunar lander."

The dropship physics for a low gravity airless moon is totally different (aka much better) vs. a high gravity world with an atmosphere, as you say.

But, to your point, a Lunar lander type design is probably quite sensible for a troop dropship a Big Thing to take a whole lot of expendable heavy gear down with the gruntz, a Small Thing to return with said densely packed gruntz.

(I make fun of others) Inactive Member08 Jan 2013 10:34 a.m. PST

You can have antigrav drives etc in "hard" sci fi,

It actually seems a bit silly not to, especially when you quickly survey all the tech advances that have occurred in just the past, say, seven years. Three hundred years, at the same (or more likely an accelerated) pace … ?

Wellspring15 Jan 2013 9:54 a.m. PST

That depends on your notion of hard sci fi. Grav is suited to a particular brand of science fiction. In that case, by all means make your dropships and shuttlecraft about a third the size that they would be using reaction drives.

Many of us consider grav and other reactionless drive concepts to be a doubletalk drive that isn't quite as hard as a reaction drive. That doesn't make them wrong, just inappropriate in many settings.

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa15 Jan 2013 3:44 p.m. PST

For hard'er sci-fi I'd take the view that you need a 'there' and a 'back'. There a ton of reasons for keeping large, expensive and fuel filled lift vehicles as far a way possible from actual shooting. True aerospace vehicles are likely to be death-spiral expensive and probably quite delicate (Columbia disaster). Certainly for drop pod infantry, especially for raids and what-not, you'd want a Starship Troopers-style retrieval boat.

Gravity manipulation, force fields, reactionless or even highly efficient drive technology would change the above.

freecloud16 Jan 2013 1:07 p.m. PST

"In that case, by all means make your dropships and shuttlecraft about a third the size that they would be using reaction drives"

Not sure they'd be a lot smaller TBH, seems that engines don't reduce in size that much as technologies change – craft seem to pack more in to take advantage of teh extra power.

infojunky16 Jan 2013 4:08 p.m. PST

I don't have a problem of using the navel pattern for naming things. really I started this topic as another normative effort in the the language we share here when describing vehicles.

So Shuttle = personnel orbit capable craft

Drop Boat/Ship various sizes of landing craft may or may not be able of lifting back to orbit.

Drop Pod = infantry, small equipment orbital drop.

Is this what I am seeing?

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