Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 45

The book should be available now so this is the last snippet.

Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 45

The only good thing about the extended range was that it gave them plenty of time to track the incoming shipkillers. A missile’s impeller wedge was hard to miss and impossible to disguise, and that was good, because the Manty missiles’ sheer closing velocity was going to make them copper-plated bitches to stop. There wasn’t going to be time for more than a single counter missile launch against each shipkiller, and anything the CMs missed was going to streak clear across the defensive basket and actually pass its target in only eight seconds. That meant their counter missiles needed the best targeting and tracking data they could possibly provide, because each laser cluster was going to have a maximum of one shot before the shipkillers overflew the squadron…and each battlecruiser could bring only sixteen clusters to bear.

“At least they’re going to be generating a lower Delta Vee for evasions than a Javelin could, Ma’am,” Tucker Kiernan murmured just loud enough for Dubroskaya to hear him. “That should help a little.”

“Something better,” Dubroskaya replied harshly, never looking away from the plot.

* * *

“Coming up on initial EW activation…now,” Abigail announced.

* * *

Three hundred and forty-five seconds after launch, thirty-five million kilometers downrange from HMS Tristram, the electronic warfare platforms seeded throughout DesRon 301’s lead missile salvo came to sudden life. They were carefully sequenced, the Dazzlers blowing holes in the Solarians’ tracking systems, blinding them with furious strobes of interference, one thin sliver of an instant before the Dragon’s Teeth spawned sudden shoals of false targets.

It came at the worst possible moment — just as they crossed the perimeter of Vice Admiral Dubroskaya’s counter missile envelope and half a heartbeat after the battlecruisers fired.

Fire control lost lock, throwing the CMs back onto their rudimentary seeking systems, but those onboard seekers had lost lock, as well. And when the Dazzlers faded, instead of a hundred and twenty incoming missiles, there were over five hundred. BatCruRon 491’s pathetic total of thirty-two counter missiles managed to reacquire and kill exactly one actual shipkiller…and its point defense clusters had barely seven seconds in which to try to find the one hundred real laser heads buried in that blinding confusion before they reached their standoff detonation range of thirty thousand kilometers.

The lasers failed. The computers and human beings behind them were still fighting desperately to find their targets when a tsunami of thermonuclear explosions sent a hurricane of bomb-pumped lasers into SLNS Inexorable.

* * *

Missile fire had always become progressively less accurate as the target got further away from the firing ship and lightspeed lag began degrading the quality of the fire control information feeding the missiles’ onboard computers. That creeping arthritis had thrown an ever greater load onto the missiles’ more limited sensors and less capable computers as the range was extended, and the question of exactly when to cut the telemetry links and let the missiles look after themselves had been more of an art than a science, in many ways. That was the very reason the Royal Manticoran Navy had created Apollo, and the ability to control missiles — and EW platforms — in real time even when they were literally light-minutes downrange explained the deadly lethality of Manticoran multidrive missiles.

Under normal circumstances, DesRon 301 could have anticipated that a significant percentage of its missiles would have lost lock, been lured aside by decoys, fooled by jamming. But the circumstances weren’t normal. First, the Ghost Rider platforms virtually on top of the Solarian battlecruisers did have FTL capability, which cut the effective communications lag between the squadron and its sensors in half. Second, Zavala had known his Dazzlers and Dragons Teeth were going to hammer Dubroskaya’s missile defenses into ineffectuality, so his missiles hadn’t been forced to engage in the last-minute evasion maneuvers normally required to squirm through the close-in fire of their targets’ laser clusters. They’d been able to steady down sooner, maintain lock without losing sensor contact at a critical moment, and deploy their lasing rods further out, with more time to align themselves and stabilize before detonation.

But perhaps even more importantly, the Royal Manticoran Navy had captured well over half of Sandra Crandall’s fleet intact at the Battle of Spindle. They’d examined the Solarian League Navy’s latest electronic warfare systems in detail. They’d analyzed their capabilities, noted their parameters and their weaknesses. Manticoran tactical officers like Abigail Hearns and Alice Gabrowski had pored over copies of the SLN’s technical and tactical manuals like misers gloating over the Philosopher’s Stone. They’d even been able to run captured Solarian simulations from inside the Sollies’ systems, doctrine, and hardware during the two-week voyage from Montana to Saltash.

BatCruRon 491 might as well not have had any ECM. In fact, it would have fared better if it hadn’t, because its EW systems didn’t fool a single incoming missile. Instead, the defenses which were supposed to protect those ships actually became homing beacons, helping their executioners find them, and the effectiveness of his squadron’s fire astounded even Jacob Zavala.

* * *

Shock bleached Oxana Dubroskaya’s face bone-white as hundreds of lasers ripped into Captain Borden McGillicuddy’s ship.

The number of missiles, alone, had already made a mockery of her pre-engagement calculations. Their blinding speed, and the incredible power and effectiveness of the electronic warfare systems the Mark 16’s onboard fusion plant made possible were even worse. She had no way of knowing her entire squadron’s total defensive fire had destroyed only one shipkiller, but she knew it hadn’t stopped many, and the survivors completely ignored the decoys of her deployed Halo platforms. They scorched in on Inexorable, and her stomach clenched in horrified disbelief as CIC’s estimate of the laser heads’ throughput appeared on her tactical plot’s sidebar.

The Mark 16’s original fifteen-megaton warhead had been more destructive than any destroyer or light cruiser missile ever previously deployed, although dealing with battlecruiser armor — as Abigail Hearns had learned aboard HMS Hexapuma in the Monica System — had pushed it to its limits. But Tristram and her sisters were equipped with the Mod G version, with a forty-megaton warhead and improved gravity generators. That increased its effectiveness by a factor of over five…which made it more powerful than the brand-new Trebuchet capital ship missile the Solarian League Navy had just begun to deploy.

Inexorable’s armor had never been designed to face that sort of holocaust, and each of the ninety-nine Mark 16s which reached attack range carried six lasing rods. Five hundred and ninety-four x-ray lasers, each more destructive than anything a Solarian ship-of-the-wall could have thrown, stabbed out at McGillicuddy’s ship. Perhaps a third of them wasted their fury on the impenetrable roof and floor of Inexorable’s impeller wedge, but the others didn’t. They punched through the battlecruiser’s sidewalls with contemptuous ease, and armor shattered as the transfer energy blew into the ship’s hull. The sidewalls and the radiation shielding inside them attenuated the lasers…slightly. Nothing could have stopped them, though, and eight hundred and fifty thousand tons of battlecruiser disintegrated in an incandescent flash like the heart of a star.

The entire attack, from the detonation of the first laser head to the last, took less than a second and a half. It was one terrible, blinding eruption of fury, crashing down upon its target like the fist of God. There was no time for life pods to launch. No time for small craft to escape the catastrophe. SLNS Vanquisher’s CIC couldn’t even differentiate between the individual lasers that ripped the life out of her consort and took Inexorable’s entire ship’s company with them.

* * *

“Tango One destroyed,” Abigail Hearns heard her own voice report as the FTL Ghost Rider platforms updated her plot. “Tracking on Tango Two. Second salvo EW activation in…twenty-one seconds.”

* * *

“Raise Zavala!” Oxana Dubroskaya barked. “Tell him we surrender!”

* * *

“Sir!” Lieutenant Wilson said suddenly. “They want to surrender!”

Jacob Zavala looked at Auerbach, and his nostrils flared.

“Put them on my display!” he snapped. An instant later, Vice Admiral Dubroskaya’s face appeared before him. It was no longer the confident, angry face of a Solarian flag officer. It was ashen, the eyes huge.

“Captain –” she began over the Hermes buoy’s faster-than-light channel, but a wave of his hand chopped her off.

“You’re two light-minutes downrange, this link can’t interface with my telemetry channels, and my birds don’t have FTL links,” he said sharply. “My next salvo’s coming in less than ten seconds. It’s already committed, and there are two more right behind it that I can’t abort before they get there. Abandon immediately!”

Dubroskaya stared at him for one more moment, then wheeled from her own pickup.

“Abandon ship!” she shouted. “All units, abandon ship — now!”

* * *

SLNS Paladin was Tango Four, the last ship on DesRon 301’s targeting queue. She got three quarters of her personnel into life pods before she was destroyed, and SLNS Success managed to get almost half of her people out…but only one hundred and eleven of Vanquisher’s two thousand crewmen escaped.

Vice Admiral Oxana Dubroskaya and her staff were not among them.

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98 Responses to Shadow Of Freedom – Snippet 45

  1. ronzo says:

    Hope to pick the book when my ship calls in Hong Kong next week or sooner if I can find strong internet.
    The next book is probably going to start with the Sollie permanent undersecretaries looking at casualty reports for there raiding squadrons with percentages in high eighties in complete shock. They will throwing around statements like “We couldn’t have known or even imagined they had LAC’s that effective and in that quantity” and “apparently they can carry multiple drive missiles on Capital ships and lighter combatants and the actual system defense variants are even bigger and far reaching than those!” “We hoped to be able to deplete the manties missile supply but the Havenite industrial base is intact and already on a war footing!” While at the same time insurrections are spring up all over the place and even savvy frontier fleet commanders are starting think it might be prudent to defy Chicago than to sail to their deaths at the hands of the grand alliance.

  2. Scott says:

    Based on the tech, and the humans using it about what I’d expected.
    The only surprise was that he couldn’t abort the 3rd or fourth wave.

    • ET1swaw aka Rob says:

      Apollo missile-tech with their FTL links might have been able to be aborted.
      Or even Mk23s by sidestepping through the Ghostriders.
      But AFAIK Mk16s (even with the big-bang mod-G warheads) still update at speed of light and were too far down-range to be aborted (or even destroyed by destruct signal).
      Remember there was less than two minutes from first salvo to last in that four-pack.

      We finally get another SLN personnel with a brain and willing to face reality and she decides to go down with her ship. So much for the SLN actually accepting the Manties technological superiorities. They will be getting horror stories from traumatized survivors, not downloads thay might actually be able to use. But I do wonder how the Mandarins are going to spin this!!

      Hitting the bookstore tomorrow to pick up a copy.

      THANK YOU Drak and THANK YOU David Weber for these snippets.



      • Spectre says:

        The corruption and incompetence is so deeply entrenched in the SLN that it wouldn’t matter if she had survived. (And she did try to surrender at the end, just a bit too late.) The impression I get from the books is essentially that the leadership of the SLN is essentially like the corrupt/incompetent/hidebound/stupid French generals in WW1. They’re going to keep throwing men and ships at the problems in the same old ways expecting the results to be somehow different this time.

        In the current reality facing them, they will be running out of ships in the not terribly distant future. What’s worse is that they’re getting their crews killed for no good reason and no return. Further, both their incompetent and competent commanders are getting slaughtered. The end result is that there won’t be a competent veteran officer core to rebuild around, nor will there be a solid veteran NCO core to get things working.

        They are so screwed in so many ways, it’s not even funny.

        Note: Per the wiki/Weber infodump, the SLN is at least a nominal 50 years behind Haven and Manticore in tech development – imagine someone taking a WW1 Spad up against a Korean War era F-86 to see the kind of tech imbalance that implies. Or a Fw190 versus an F-18 Super Hornet.

        • Mark L says:

          More like the navies of the 1890s fighting a WWII navy. Imagine predreadnoughts fighting a fleet built around Essex-class carriers.

          • Richard H says:

            Save that for the first time they deploy LACs against the SLN… “airplanes show up; ships without AAA (i.e. all of them) get destroyed; airplanes go home” seems like a good description of what would happen.

            For that matter, though, radar gun directors firing TNT shells shooting at purely optically-aimed guns firing black powder shells would be at least as bad, though, I’d think.

        • Stewart says:

          on an earlier snippet noted the better parallel — WWI Dreadnaughts (10″ to 14″ rifled guns) vs a modern DESRON of Spruance or Burke Class; the rifled 10″ to 14″ WILL take out the lightweight aluminum / steel / KEVLAR armor on a current generation destroyer, if it can get it in range; Harpoon Anti-ship missles have 60+ mile range; conventional Tomahawk have 250+ mile range.

          — Stewart / ET1(ret)

  3. dave o says:

    It’s a pity that the snippets have to end here. The rest of the book raises issues which are more interesting than whether the Sollies can ever win a battle against crushing technical superiority. Like how long will it take them to acknowledge their inferiority, whether they can do anything useful about it, whether they can survive long enough to do it.

    Then there’s the questions about MALIGN, which I’m not going to get into because they show up too late in the book. I thought from the beginning that they’ve been too clever to succeed with their endless plots. Once anyone knows that they are plotting, they’re still too weak to resist a direct attack.

    • Greg Noel says:

      Once anyone knows that [the MAlign] are plotting, they’re still too weak to resist a direct attack.

      It’s been my assumption that the MAlign is shaping splinter systems into the Boskone that will act as cannon fodder to protect them until they can become strong enough. They will stay hidden themselves and manipulate these alliances from behind the scenes, forcing the good guys to spend their strength peeling back layer after layer of the onion until the Eddorians are finally identified and destroyed by a Nutcracker. (Ah, oops, wrong series, but you get my point.)

      In the meantime, we have the sideshow of breaking up the Solly empire, Manticore finding and collecting their own alliances among the Solly splinters, building better and better tech, and generally having a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Greg Noel says:

    Hmmm… Weber elected to fire all of the attack birds at a single target. In general, that’s not a good tactic: Even with coordinated defensive fire, you want the targets to be forced to defend as wide an area as possible, so you should spend at least a few on each of the other targets (just to keep their heads down, as it were). In this case, I suppose you could argue that Zavala and his crew had so much intelligence about the Solly ships that they knew that there was no need, but jeez, with this much overkill they could have spread a single salvo over all four targets and still destroyed them all.

    As it is, about fifteen hundred of the eight thousand crew survived, probably to spread the tale in Solly space. That’s a useful result in its own right. Retrieving the life pods will be a bitch; does anybody know how much delta-v they have? Is it enough to return to the planet, or will somebody have to go out and fetch them?

    One interesting point is how much of that communication will be released. In particular, will the bit about not having FTL links to their missiles make the Sollies think that NONE of the Manty missiles have FTL links? If so, that could lead to some interesting encounters in the future.

    And I also want to thank Drak and David Weber for these snippets. The help bridge the gap between my Honorverse fixes.

    • ronzo says:

      The tactic seems sound to me, given the EW advantage and the need to ensure that the BC’s couldn’t close up with the squadron’s DD’s. Zavala’s best option is to punch out individual ships one at a time so that his aggregate fire power increases and the enemy’s decreases. Better to utter smash one with each volley then to marginally damage all four with each successive volley, where the DD’s only have a limited amount of missiles.

      • Greg Noel says:

        Yes, it’s a sound strategy (not tactic) to focus on each target in succession, but if they had enough intelligence to know that they could ignore the other targets in each salvo, then they had enough intelligence to know that 120 missiles would smash the BC flat (meaning that they could have sent fewer missiles, or targeted two BCs in each of two salvos, or whatnot). It’s the inconsistency that bothers me.

        • Greg, as Weber himself is fond of pointing out, Murphy makes his appearances at the most inopportune times. Assuming a certain outcome, no matter how decisive one side’s advantages appear to be, and then basing all planning on that assumption, is a good way to get thoroughly buggered by that wretched Irishman. Weber is pretty good about writing characters who keep that in mind. Someone in Zavala’s position (and with his mindset), if this were real life, would be more concerned at the moment about accomplishing the mission in the shortest possible time rather than logistical issues. He wouldn’t have the benefit of hindsight guiding his decisions (“Think you used enough missiles, there, Butch?”), only the data from the test facilities, which, no matter how thorough, are always to some degree artificial. Zavala erred on the side of caution, going for what he concluded would guarantee hard kills, rather than seeking the elegant solution and using what *in theory* would have been the minimum amount of force to achieve mission and/or hard kills. I keep going back to Admiral John J. Fisher: “The essence of warfare is violence, and moderation in warfare is imbecility.”

          • Greg Noel says:

            Er, Ed Murphy was an American. He’s not the sole source of the aphorism, but he’s the one whose name stuck. Look him up on Wikipedia.

            My copy arrived today. There’s a bit shortly after this last snippet that speaks to my concerns and offers a, um, not unacceptable rationale. I don’t completely agree with it, but I won’t say anything more to avoid spoilers.

            Although tasking 100% of your salvo to a single target is not what’s taught as the best tactic, I do agree that if you’re going to hit something, hit it as hard as you can manage. The quote from Lord Fisher is perhaps a bit erudite for today’s readers; my brother-in-law was a SEAL, and I prefer his version: “There’s no such thing as too much explosive.”

            • More important that his ethnicity, Greg, is the fact that Murphy was an infantryman. Ask any ground-pounder.

              While leaving no target unengaged has always been the standard naval gunnery tactic, a principle that Zavala seems to violate, he does have one advantage that most naval officers did not, and one that would not exist in an energy-weapon engagement: he has a narrow but viable window where he can bring overwhelming firepower on multiple targets in succession, guaranteeing their destruction in detail, without ever having to come into range of the enemy’s weapons. He took advantage of the opportunity. The closest that real naval action has ever come to that was on May 31, 1916, when the 5th BS fell on Hipper’s 1st BC Squadron. Had Scheer not been coming up in support, the Queen Elizabeths would have destroyed the German BCs without having to ever come into 12″ range, let alone 11″ range.

              • Greg Noel says:

                No, Murphy was a pilot in the Army Air Corps, and afterward a safety engineer. He was never a grunt.

                I understand your point about the circumstances (and have all along), but I’m still bothered that nothing was said about it. If DW isn’t going to use a tactic that has been consistent since the beginning of the series, I’d expect a sentence or two pointing it out. Something as simple as “a few EW birds feinted against the other targets to keep the defensive fire dispersed, but all of the attack birds fired at the same target” would show that they they’d thought about it.

    • robert says:

      A single target? I read it as four SLN BCs.

      • Greg Noel says:

        I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make. Four BCs; four targets; he attacked one of them with his first salvo and ignored the rest; a single target.

    • Randomiser says:

      Only 5% of the crew of the admiral’s ship escaped. Seems unlikely any of the bridge crew made it to the lifepods in time. All the BCs are floating debris so no records. Therefore why the last 3 BCs got blown up is only a matter of speculation. ‘Those murdering Manty SoBs …’

  5. Randomiser says:

    I am a bad person. When I read this my first thought was ‘What a waste!’ Not all those Sollie spacers , though, but. ‘All those missiles!’ And that was before I remembered Mk16s are supposed to be in short supply.
    Zephyr was a bad idea, but surely 5 pound hammer, rather than Sledgehammer would have worked fine; blow away one. BC then give the rest the opportunity to surrender before dealing with them. Zavala had the time and range.
    Even on reflection, I still think he fired way too many missiles, given all his carefully explained advantages in this unusual engagement. They all cost money, you know especially at this end of the logistics chain.

    • Spectre says:

      He didn’t think his missiles were going to be *quite* as effective as they ended up being. It was a case of unintentional massive overkill.

    • Willem Meijer says:

      Spoken like a good taxpayer. I agree, especially when the opponent’s EWM is totally cancelled.

    • Mike says:

      Overkill is better then underkill in this situation. Zavala’s primary concern is to minimize loss of life and damage to his own ships. There is no point to carrying around missiles that you are afraid to use because they are costly and in short supply.

      Now, if he ran into *another* set of enemy ships before he gets home, he’ll be in a much more difficult position. But that’s a worry for another day.

      • Stewart says:

        One of the responsibilities of a battlefield commander is, when possible, to bring his OWN people home alive and, to paraphrase G.S.Patton, “to make the other dumb S.O.B. die for his country.”

      • Randomiser says:

        Sure you have to survive today to make a difference tomorrow. But a squadron level commander can’t ignore logistics. It sure would be nice to survive the month as well as today.

    • Admiral Sir John J. Fisher: “The essence of warfare is violence, and moderation in warfare is imbecility.” In other words, if you want it dead, kill it dead. In combat you don’t win on style points.

    • Map-addict says:

      The next chapter will show how Zavala judges his fire plan.
      With all the advantages of hindsight, of course.


  6. Randomiser says:

    PS The rest of the book is well worth reading and the set up for the next book will get your eyes blazing and fangs gleaming in anticipation. (Wolfish grin)

    • Greg Noel says:

      Finished the book. Um, has anybody told you recently that you have a true talent for understatement? Eyes blazing? Check. Fangs gleaming? Pretty much so. Screaming in anguish because the next book isn’t available yet? You bet!

      How long do we have to wait? Does anyone even know if the next book will be at this end of the galaxy and not updating the threads near Torch?

  7. Daryl says:

    To those who will say that this overkill is military porn, I might point out that the actual battle is only a small part of the book and the result helps to build a wider paradigm. The book isn’t building to this battle, the battle is contributing to the book overall.

    • ronzo says:

      This battle is final confirmation that SLN is so drastically out classed that even there massive amount to tonnage isn’t going to win them many victories. Zavala’s Data from this engagement is going to help manticore to recalculate how many missles per kill it will need to flatten anything bellow the ship of the wall size and that there offensive and defensive capabilities are greater than they thought. Given this Data and the level of Sollie hubris, The GA could even justify cutting loose some defensive units to use them against Sollie frontier fleet bases. Given what we just saw think what a small task force of BC(P)s and CLAC’s pouncing on a gathering SLN fleet “at anchor” or interdicting war supplies. A enough incidents like that and Sollies would be on the defensive.

  8. dave o says:

    I suggested a couple of snippets ago that Manticore was so far ahead of the Sollies that destroyers are more than a match for Solly BC’s. It makes sense to me that Zavala launched the salvos he did, because he wasn’t sure they would succeed. That’s why his after action report is important. Future commanders will know better. Even if the Sollies develop better missile ( they won’t do this very soon ) it will be a long time before ships out on the Verge can be supplied with them.

  9. LenS says:

    Getting a bit more bloodthirsty here. Looks like destroying just one of the BCs would have done the job just fine.

    • John Roth says:

      Um, no. You can’t plan for the enemy commander having a sudden attack of sanity, and Zavala’s DDs can’t stand up to the firepower even one surviving BC can put out if it gets into range. He’s got a strictly limited amount of time to either destroy them or force them to abandon ship and scuttle.

      • LenS says:

        Look at the sequence, he had the time.

        • Brakiel says:

          Zavala has no responsibility to protect the Sollies from their own culpability. Everything leading up to opening fire should have demonstrated Zavala’s seriousness – reports of Byng’s and Crandall’s demise, multiple verbal warnings, demonstrating superior stealth reconnaissance capability, and FTL comm capability were all demonstrations and warnings in themselves. Put another way, everything prior to opening fire was Zavala’s “demonstration attack.” The SLN declined to heed those warnings – Dubroskaya has clearly demonstrated hostile intent in her last communication prior to shots being fired. Since Dubroskaya clearly intends to fight, Zavala has no reason to make yet another demonstration of his superiority, especially since he did not know how effective his fire would be.

        • dave490 says:

          This is the classic “armchair admiral” response. After the fact, when everything is known and all the data are available, it is easy to say, “He should have done this or that.”

          Zavala had his orders – to free the merchant ships – and his duty – to protect his ships and crew from any enemies. He knew that within energy range, he was doomed. His ships don’t have any advantage (that we’ve been told about) in energy weapons so Zavala has to assume that BC grasers will rip his little ships apart if he allows them to close with him.

          That consideration – kill the BCs so they can’t close to energy range – was the driving force behind all Zavala’s actions.

          He was forced to consider, “What if my initial salvoes don’t kill the BCs?” and answer, “I have to have time for follow up salvoes so I have to hit hard first, and give myself time to hit again.”

          In EVERY battle that the RMN has lost, the commander has made the mistake of assuming that he knew what was happening… right up to the time his confidence was shattered by an enemy with a new weapon or tactic. The author uses characters’ willingness to consider and plan for outside-the-box, worst-case scenarios as the mark of a good commander.

          Using this trope, Zavala is shown to us as being a good commander because he and his subordinates keep asking, “What could go wrong?” He knows he has only one advantage, his missile capability, and he also knows that he must win decisively enough that the system governor will meekly return the Mantie ships and crews. He gave the Sollie admiral a chance to stand down and she refused. From that point on, he had to assume that she would fight to kill and so he fought as hard as he could. Zavala would rather live with the consequences of overkill on the Sollies rather than the consequences of having the enemy kill his people because he allowed them the opportunity.

          • ET1swaw aka Rob says:

            The SLN didn’t even need to get into energy range, they only had to reach THEIR missile range.

            The Manty ECM/ECCM is very good (though with only 800 CMs each IMO lacking depth) and they can interweave the squadron’s net.
            OTOH DD survivability (even of Rolands) is not on par with their offensive punch.

            And as stated in the snippet: even Zavala was suprised by the comparative technology superiority of the outcome.


  10. Steve says:

    It’s destroyers versus battle cruisers. Even though they know they’ve got a really good punch, they’re still taking on someone that should be out of their weight class. If it was a single Havenite battle cruiser, the whole squadron would have been running for their lives.

  11. hank says:

    wonder how good a read the Sollie tincans, presumably now running like scared bunnies, got on all this.

  12. Knucklrdraggingwino says:

    This passage reveals information that confirms that rolling ship to interpose the wedge should have been an effective tactic. I suggest that people peruse this thread on the David Weber site:

    Relax and KZT are two posters who actually have the professional qualifications to do the math.

    The bottom line is that once a ship rolls over to present it’s wedge then takes evasive action, the incoming missiles simply do not know where the ship is to target it. They need to spot the sip with their on board sensors then detonate as they fly by. Given the geometry of the impeller wedges (Width verses Depth), there is a critical velocity at which an incoming missile simply doesn’t have time to spot the ship and fire before it is blocked by the impeller wedge.

    We also have confirmation that while the recon drones can provide sensor data via FTL comm, they can’t relay orders to Mk-16s. (Horrible Hemphill is no doubt working on this). This means that even if the Recon Drones know where the BCs are, they can’t pass the targeting info to the missiles.

    These points being made, it is obvious that rolling ship would have been anearly perfect defense because the incoming velocity of the Mk-16s was so high. If the SLN BCs had done so, the RMN DDs would have had to fire followup salvosat much lower velocity to defeat the roll ship maneuver and/or wait for the SLN BCs to get closer, perhaps even into their own missile nominal range. Keep in mind that theSLN BCs should be able to increase the powered envelope by reducingntheacclleration setting on thir drives. They will not be able to hit crap, but they will force the DDs to expend counter missiles.

    ONe would think that the ships targeted by the third or fourth waves would have figured this out.

    This could have been a victory for the RMN, but a far more interesting and realistic victory.

    • Spectre says:

      Guess you missed this part:

      “BatCruRon 491 might as well not have had any ECM. In fact, it would have fared better if it hadn’t, because its EW systems didn’t fool a single incoming missile. Instead, the defenses which were supposed to protect those ships actually became homing beacons, helping their executioners find them, and the effectiveness of his squadron’s fire astounded even Jacob Zavala.”

      It wouldn’t have mattered one bit if they had rolled.

      • Mike says:

        Personally, I think the part he missed is the bit at the beginning of the book that says, “This book is a work of fiction.”

        Artificial gravity is impossible. Faster than light travel is impossible. Prolong is impossible. Etc.

        Maybe someday we’ll find a way to make some of these things possible — but it won’t be “Weber tech.” Just look at how Wells or Verne or that ilk did at predicting our world of today. They may have imagined flying machines and submarines, but they didn’t imagine 787s and SSBNs.

    • Spectre says:

      Also: “The bottom line is that once a ship rolls over to present it’s wedge then takes evasive action, the incoming missiles simply do not know where the ship is to target it.”

      Except there are textual examples of the things actually hitting despite last minute rolls. Yes, even at high velocity.

      • Brakiel says:

        Just to pile on here, at no point in the text does it say missiles acquire their target and fire all in that fleeting moment they’re crossing the ship when its rolled over. When a ship is shot at while rolled on its side, it has been described as spray-and-pray snapshots. Any hits are pure luck, but they still happen fairly often.

      • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

        If you do the actual calculations based on wedge geometry, it isn’t even theoretically possible for a laserheads flying by at 0.6 Cee to hit the ship because v/c is less than WedgeDepth / WedgeWidth. Theextreme velocity of MDMs actually makes attacks against rolled ships less successful The only possible vector for a successful attack is down the throat. Assuming a fairly random distribution around a rolled ship, only about one missile in ten will be able to score a hit.

        The problem is that I don’t understand the technology. The problem is that I understand it too well. The characters should also understand the technology.

        • Spectre says:

          Erm, yeah, it’s possible. Deflection and initiate the firing sequence before the missile actually clears the wedge. Same way Terran AAA units do it now when firing at a fast mover they can see on radar but can’t see optically due to cover.

          • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

            Erm, No. The analogy with current day AA units isn’t valid. In current AA, they are dealing with issues of merely having radar but not visual contact. In the Honorverse example, the fundamental physics limit the firing angle. When the velocity of incoming missiles is still a small fraction of Cee, there isn’t a problem. However; as Vee approaches Cee, any laser fired by the missile, even immediately as it clears the impeller wedge, will not transit the distace needed to reach the ship before it hits the far side of the impeller wedge. Look up Weber’s diagrams of impeller wedges. A missile simply cannon hit the ship if Vee/Cee is greeted than Wedge Width / Wedge Depth.

            Think of it as taking a quick shot at a target between two walls as you run past. As long as your traveling velocity is small compared to your projectile velocity, all you need is skill. However; if your travel velocity becomes very large compared to your projectile velocity, you have a problem. If the ratio VT/VP is greater than Distance Between Walls / Distance To Target, the projectile will impact the second wall before it reaches the target.

            I realize that Weber should be forgiven for not understanding the implications of his missiles approaching Cee. It wasn’t until people like me started commenting (pontificating?) on the KE of relativistic missiles being vastly greater than their potential warhead yields that he took note of this in his writings, particularly how one errant missile could be a multi Gigaton yield, EE violating catastrophe. I would happily overlook this if Weber would still provide us with exciting battle scenes that contribute to character development. To be blunt, Abby Hearnes is Honor Harrington’s protege and reincarnation even. Her character can’t develop along these lines if all she does is drown baby chicks or shoot fish in a barrel.

            IMHO, it would not undermine the premise the SLN is screwed if it were somewhat difficult for RMN DDs to defeat an equal number of SLN BCs. It can be argued that the DDs are compromised by not having Mk-23 pods and no FTL com to their Mk-16s via recon drones. TheSEM isn’t building new starships anytime soon,but missile productions being rapidly reconstituted. Thenext batch of Mk-16s will no doubt have receivers that will allow them to be controlled FTL via Recon Drones.

            • Mike says:

              So, if you were writing the story, you would take it in a different direction than Weber decided to do.

              They have a name for this: fanfic.

            • Spectre says:

              No, you’re still thinking the missile has to cross over the gap before detonating. It doesn’t. It can fire before it passes over and still hit the target between the belly and roof of the wedge. If you knew anything about deflection shots you’d know that’s how this sort of thing would work.

              The edge of a regular warship impeller wedge is easily detectable in the Honorverse. Rolling ship does not suddenly make all evidence of the ship disappear from the cosmos – sensors see that the wedge belly or roof is being presented. They can then look for the edge, and the missile can sequence itself accordingly.

              Let’s do this with easy math. Let’s say you have a fixed target dead in space. It is protected by 100 mile deep impenetrable shields except for one 50 yard wide slot on the top and the bottom, basically a ship rolled up on its side with a bow and stern wall up. Let’s say you fire a Mk16 at it so it will pass over the top of the object at a relative altitude of 93000 miles at a velocity of 93000 miles per second (roughly .5c). Through gravitic sensors (which are FTL in the Honorverse), the missile can see the edge of the shield coming up ahead of it. It detonates itself *before* crossing over the edge of the shield – to be specific, just about one half second before it would pass over the edge. The X-Ray laser pulse then has a downwards velocity of 1.0c, but a *forward* velocity of .5c. The pulse will easily clear the shields and hit the target despite the fact that the missile itself never actually cleared the shield/wedge.

              And no, this is exactly what modern AAA crews do – they use sensors to determine where their target is, even behind cover they can’t shoot through and they fire to where the target *will be* in the amount of time it takes their projectiles to fly there, and not where the target is at the time they pull the trigger.

              • Douglas E. Lampert says:

                You’re forgetting relativity, the light’s velocity doesn’t add .5c in one direction and 1.0c in another. It’s ALWAYS 1.000c in SOME direction.

                That said, the conclusion is correct. I can solve in the ship’s frame (so the ship is standing still), and the missile can fire a laser in ANY direction IN THAT FRAME, by shooting in some direction (probably not the same) in it’s own frame.

                You can in fact always hit if you know where to aim.

                (Note: Finished course work and qualifying exam for a Masters of Physics on my way to a Ph.D. in applied math. Weber does lots of physics wrong, but this is fine.)

              • Spectre says:

                Hm. I didn’t mean to imply that, exactly. The X-Ray laser pulse, of course, does not exceed c at any point.

                From the missile’s point of view, it would be firing straight ‘down’ perpendicular to its flight path. From the ship’s frame of reference, the X-ray pulse would be coming down at a slant angle.

                Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the point of impact would continue to move forward at .5c?

              • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

                Thank you Douglas E. Lampert for catching me in a major, major brain cramp regarding relativistic effects.
                The fact remains that it is Weber’s cannon that sensors can’t see accurately through an impeller wedge because the intense gravity bands bend light. Even when using the SLN’s own ECM as a beacon, the missiles can not accurately fix the position of their target through a wedge. If the ship is rolled, they have to wait until they clear the edge of the wedge before they can detect, localize, target and fire. The higher the missil velocity, the less time they have to accomplish these tasks. Even if the missiles predeploy their lasing rods, it will take some time to slew the rods on target, detonate the warhead and generate the laser pulse.
                IIRC, the impeller wedges are hundreds of kilometers wide and tens of kilometers deep. A missile flying past at .6 Cee is going to have may be 200km/200,000km/s or 1/1000 second to perform all of these functions. Just triggering the fusion reaction in the bomb and allowing it to progress to full yield takes a non trivial amount of time.

              • Spectre says:

                KDW: No, they don’t have to detect, localize and fire once they clear the wedge. They just fire at the center (where the ship kind of has to be) in a general ‘shotgun’ style pattern. They don’t actually have to “see” the ship at all, just the wedge. Which, per canon, *everyone* can see both on gravitics and on optics.

                Again, they don’t have to acquire the ship hull itself to fire. The wedge itself points right to where the ship is and they can detonate without ever seeing the hull through the band and still hit it.

              • Knucklrdraggingwino says:


                Trying to bury the hatchet here, but not in your back.
                As per Weber cannon archived at the Fifth Imperium plus appendices in the books, a ship can randomize it’s position within it’s own impeller wedge.

                My point has not been that the SLN should or even could win the engagement simply by rolling ship. My point is that rolling ship is a classic maneuver that the SLN is acutely aware of. Even if they were too stupid and arrogant to understand that their CMs and PDLCs were useless before the first BC was vaporized, you would think that the third or fourth BC to be vaporized would have at least tried it.

                As Weber describes very explicitly in HotQ, rolling ship is done at high Gee so while the DNs and SDs take seconds to roll, the BCs, CAs and DDs can execute roll within seconds. Thomas Tiesman even uses a snap roll to fire essentially a double broadside from his DD. The battle at Blackbird base has ships rolling to interpose their wedge very effectively.

                Contrast the time taken to roll ship to the time it might take an upincomingmissile to react. Even at 50,000 gees, a missile that was on a straight on trajectory is going to need a few seconds to maneuver to pass the wedge.

                Delta X = 1/2aT^2
                Delta X = 1/2 x 5eex5m/s^2 x 2^2
                Delta X = 1,000 Kilometers.

                Can accept Weber’s point that the Mk-16s are so much more lethal and that they have been programed to use SLN ECM as homing beacons making them so accurate that they are hitting with 5 out of 6 lasing rods (unprecedented) in a closing engagement. I think it wouldn’t compromise the perception of Manty tech superiority to have had the third or fourth BCs attempt to roll and suffer perhaps only marginal damage that requires fallow up salvos to finish them off.

                To be blunt, this battle reminds me too much of hunting sage rats. It is good target practice, but I’m not going to taxidermy their little carci and mount them on my wall even if I bag one at 1,000 yards. I speak as someone who has spent an entire day expending a brick of .22 then an ammo can of .223 then several boxes of .270 as the range increases with 90% hit rates. It is fun but it isn’t exciting to watch or read about.

              • Spectre says:

                First, I think the textev (from the snippet above) implies that they did roll ship and it didn’t help:

                “Inexorable’s armor had never been designed to face that sort of holocaust, and each of the ninety-nine Mark 16s which reached attack range carried six lasing rods. Five hundred and ninety-four x-ray lasers, each more destructive than anything a Solarian ship-of-the-wall could have thrown, stabbed out at McGillicuddy’s ship. Perhaps a third of them wasted their fury on the impenetrable roof and floor of Inexorable’s impeller wedge, but the others didn’t. They punched through the battlecruiser’s sidewalls with contemptuous ease, and armor shattered as the transfer energy blew into the ship’s hull. The sidewalls and the radiation shielding inside them attenuated the lasers…slightly. Nothing could have stopped them, though, and eight hundred and fifty thousand tons of battlecruiser disintegrated in an incandescent flash like the heart of a star.”

                If the ship hadn’t rolled, they should have all homed in on the sidewalls instead of wasting themselves on the wedge as that’s where the ECM they were homing in on would be broadcast from.

                Second, you appear to think that the pattern of missiles is coming in all on one plane, i.e., missiles side by side all in a line, kind of like WW2 naval torpedoes all set to attack surface targets at the same depth. They’re not, they’re flying in at different (relative) altitudes in a *pattern* (because coming in on a plane would make them easy to intercept, as the Triple Ripple demonstrated). If you roll ship, some will hit the belly band (and in this example plus Monica, about one third of the total do), but some will come in over and under *because* everyone knows you roll ship as a defense and thus will be ‘above’ and ‘below’ to ruin the day of everyone on board by shooting through the sidewalls. The ones ‘on plane’ with the target vessel are the ones that are going to be shooting into the belly band if they can’t pull up or down, but the ones ‘above’ and ‘below’ can still shoot and hit. Which appears to be what happened.

                Ideally, in the Honorverse at the current time, the pattern should look a lot more like an irregular wall of missiles, not a phalanx-like line. In fact, it’s going to look an awful lot more like this video than old WW2 naval torpedo action:

                Further, yes, a ship can randomize its location within the wedge to some degree per canon, but there’s only so much it can do – and if you fire enough X-ray lasers into that volume, the ship is still going to be having a bad day.

                Fourth, the cites you use – Honor Of The Queen era – is well before the advent of the multidrive missile and all the later tech revolutions that led to the Manticore Missile Massacre. See Operation Buttercup a book or two later to see how much of a difference those tech upgrades made – before then, a squadron was throwing maybe a few dozen missiles, now they’re throwing *hundreds* per salvo. And varying altitude/attitude/spacing, after the advent of the Triple Ripple.

              • Mike says:

                By the way … be prepared for some interestingly diverse results if you google “triple ripple”

              • Knucklrdraggingwino says:


                Thanx for pointing out that 1/3 missiles wasted themselves on the impeller wedge. This suggeststhata roll ship maneuver was attempted.

                I wasn’t thinking two diminutional. I expect that the incoming missiles to bedspread out over a circular plane perpendicular to flight. Think in terms of a pattern of birdshot about 20,000 a 50,000 km in diameter when they reach the target. Spreading out makes them less vulnerable to CM and PDLC fire. However; this spread out some missiles will not get to within attack range until they are abreast of it. Most of these outlying missiles will waste themselves on the impeller wedge.

              • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

                I got curious enough to Google “Tripple Ripple”. Aside from various entries at Honorwikia and TheFifthImperium, I found some disturbing advertisements. I have no doubt that many of the members of the forum are intimatey familiar with the device.

    • Spectre says:

      Specifically, from Mission Of Honor, Chapter 25.

      “SLNS Joseph Buckley lurched indescribably as the Manticoran missiles detonated and x-ray lasers ripped at her massive armor.

      Thick as that armor was, it was no match for the stilettos of focused radiation punching into it like brimstone awls. It shattered under the transfer energy as the lasers ripped deeper and deeper, and the huge ship bucked in agony.

      Jacomina van Heutz clung to the arms of her command chair as her shock frame hammered her. The fleeting instant in which the Manticoran missiles could bring their lasers to bear against her ship’s sidewalls as they penetrated the Solarian formation with a closing velocity which had climbed to seventy-three percent of light-speed was far too brief for any of Joseph Buckley’s damage to register on merely human senses as individual hits. It was all delivered in one stroboscopic lightning bolt of devastation, too sudden and intense for even the ship’s computers to register or sort out.

      Those missile-born talons gouged and tore. Energy mounts and missile tubes, counter-missile launchers, radar arrays, point defense clusters, boat bays, gravitic sensors, impeller nodes—all of them shattered, exploding into tattered ruin in a single catastrophic moment, faster than a man could have blinked. In less time than it would have taken to cough, Sandra Crandall’s flagship was transformed into a broken wreck, a splintered hulk, coasting onward under momentum alone, with three quarters of her crew wiped out of existence.”

      So, missiles actually moving faster, ship already rolled being implied and Solarian EW not being used as a beacon – and it doesn’t help one bit. Mission kills or hard kills on all 23 targeted vessels.

  13. Zavala alas did not have an RHN BC in his formation. The BC would have saved some pointless bloodshed.

    At some point we doubtless get to see some RHN units doing something. And at some point it occurs to the Mandarins that they may have a war with Haven, too. Haven must be even more dangerous than Manticore, because Haven had access to SLN ultratech.

    • Spectre says:

      What makes you think that they’d care about one more neobarb stellar nation joining in? Remember, Haven only got the export versions of their tech, so they couldn’t possibly threaten the SLN, possessing the full versions, right?


      • Stan Leghorn says:

        Haven did not get only the export versions. In the opening stages of the first war, we see stealth platforms that the Sollies are STILL not fielding. The Solly navy is fielding equipment that is 2 generations (at least) behind what they actually could have. Look at the MDM sytems that were employed at Torch. Nothing there outside of the Solly tech base except the imagination to build and use it. The Sollies may not be as far out of this thing as either side thinks, especially as there will be systems banding together against BOTH Manticore and the MAlign crew. Core worlds that choose to hang together and do serious upgrades to fleets that are alrady hinted as being better than the Solly Battle Fleet could be a ral challange.

        • Spectre says:

          Yes, but remember, the non-export stuff Haven got was the stuff that the Solarians rejected. From the Solarians’ point of view, the Havenites were picking up Solarian trash that ‘clearly was no threat to the mighty Solarian Navy.’ The only things vaguely threatening to the Solarians (from the Solly viewpoint) would be export-crippled versions of their own hardware – and to Sollies, that would be a minimal to negligible risk.

          Remember, the Sollies are idiots that can’t accept objective reality about their tech base.

          • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

            The SL tech base is excellent. SL tech is almost equal to Manticore tech prior to Oyster Bay. It is the applied technology ofbthe SLN which is vastly superior. The SL transteller corporations were selling stuff to Haven that was better than the stuff they could get the SLN to buy. Part of the business arrangement was getting samples of captured RMN hardware to reverse engineer.

            There are Transteller salesmen lined up at the doors of the SLN purchasing office with all types of goodies to sell them. Weber has even mentioned rudimentary FTL comm.

    • John Roth says:

      The Mandarins know they’re technologically outclassed. They’re trying to get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves by upping the ante, hoping that the other guy will fold first. My read on it is that they’re far more worried about Beowulf seceding, but I suppose we’ll see their reaction to Haven adding itself to the mix in the next book.

  14. David Y says:

    Nice book, good sequence. The fog of war is alive and well. With Monica and New Tuscany in the back of his mind and finding himself in the midst of another Solly setup Zavala couldn’t take a chance. Remember what happened to the Erewhon crew when they thought they had everything handled at Torch when the mercs showed up?

  15. Margo says:

    Rolling ship only helps, given the missiles’onboard power and programming for end of flight maneuvers. They don’t have to travel in a straight line and known wedge geometry? the Manty missiles have been dodging over and under since early after Thunderbolt and Shannon Foraker’s Triple Ripple. Thank you Drak and David Weber and the interesting points raised. Enjoy the book – getting more interesting and as usuual I want to know (not just speculate) what happens next!

  16. dave o says:

    A note on rolling ships. Another of fire plans

    In this battle, Zavala and the Sollies are approaching each other directly. Under these circumstances, the entire of Zavala’s volley is headed for down the throat hits. Rolling the ship is only effective if two lines of battle are on parallel or near parallel courses.

    If Zavala’s firing plan calls for half the volley to approach the Sollies on a north-south axis, and the other half on an east-west axis, the Sollies will be vulnerable to half the total even if they spin like tops.

    • Randomiser says:

      You can always present your wedge by turning perpendicular to your direction of motion as you roll. You lose your acceleration towards the enemy of course, but can accelerate off at right angles which will at least lengthen the missile’s flight time. But you can’t shoot at them once you have rolled – the wedge blocks your sensors.
      Interesting Q –
      How do you roll ship? Can you direct the acceleration from your wedge or does it only work straight forward (and back)? Interest really is how long does it take to roll ship? A BC not to mention an SD would have enormous angular inertia then momentum.

      • Greg Noel says:

        In a universe where even cargo ships can accelerate at hundreds of gravities, there should be plenty of energy to flip a ship ninety degrees “up” (“down”) to present the lower (upper) band. The limit is probably how much of the acceleration at the tips of the ship can be sunk by the compensator. Somebody can probably calculate how many Gs are generated at the tip of a 750m lever arm (half the length of a SD) being moved ninety degrees in a couple of seconds. The calculation would need to include both the acceleration/deceleration of the tip plus the centripetal force from the rotation to get the total that must be sunk.

    • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

      The SLN admiral was smart enough to turn hus BCs broadside towards the RMN DDs rather than continue accelerating towards them which would leave the open, unprotected throats of his impeller wedges vulnerable. The effective moment of inertia to roll ship to interpose his wedge is then much lower than to pitch or yaw. This is why I was hoping for an interesting battle rather than another slaughter.

  17. ET1swaw aka Rob says:

    CM and PDLC fire only managed a kill on a single shipkiller of the 100 launched.

    With the downloads on theur ECM/ECCM the Dragonsteeth/Dazzlers attracted/removed-target-lock-from a disproportionate amount of CM/PDLC fire. IOW they wasted a great deal on decoys. And after re-reading the snippet, these BCs didn’t really have a great number of CM tubes and due to closing velocity were able to launch only a single salvo of CMs (and it appears did a terrible job of supporting each other’s CM/PDLC defense. IMO SLN design doctrine is extremely vulnerable due to the restricted number of CM tubes and PDLCs!

    NTM the SLN ECM/ECCM acted as homng beacons for Manty targetting.

    Unlike the Mk23s, AFAIK the Mk16s were not originally designed as capitol ship shipkillers. With these new modG warheads that no longer appears to be the case.

    And IIRC the shipkiller grasers in LACs were designed to penetrate SD sidewalls! Can’t wait until some SLN BCs get to deal with them.

    I wonder what kind of sensor/comms readings those SLN DDs got.


  18. Knucklrdraggingwino says:

    Well, I broke down and bought the book yesterday. The next chapters are interesting. Abby Hearnes is in her skin suit which Weber mentions isn’t armored like Mateo’s. No mention of her wearing a coverall over her skinsuit. I prefer to imagine that her skin suit is translucent. No mention of Abby wearing her brass bra or not which could result in interesting, undamped, harmonic oscillations if impending battle damage puts the station in free fall.

    It actually could become an interesting infantry battle where she will destinguish herself as she did at Tiberian.

    • Bewildered says:

      More likely to be high visibility than a Playboy spacesuit right? And yes I have seen the “I like to imagine” bit. I’m just thinking that if the skinsuits fill the role of both uniform and space suit then there should be identification stuff on them, plus the high visibility so that should SLN etc missiles actually hit an RMN ship and salvage\rescue operations be required, it’ll be evident if there are people\bodies in rooms. Actually doesn’t of the books list the Captain’s as red? No wait, think that might Be the 4th Roger book. Pretty sure that was a skinsuit too though so possibly similar design? Hmm wonder if they’re tagged? An RFID chip won’t negate ship ECM but could be useful IF you wanted to be found when boarded.

      • ronzo says:

        A Vaccuum Activated RFID and a high powered strobe would do the trick. Modern life jackets for merchant ships have an equivalent; Salt water activated strobe lights, and while it is too expensive to be included on every life jacket right now Emergency Position indicating Radio Beacons or EPIRBS which are standard emergency equipment modern on merchies are also water activated. EPIRB’s are kept on the bridge and also externally on a float free mount.

      • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

        It amuses me to be obsessed with Weber’s own description of Abby Hearnes and the shower scene in the short story “In The Service of the Sword.”

        Weber’s references to “skin suits” are undoubtedly inspired by an alternative vacuum suit technology developed by NASA. Rather than enclose a human body in a pressurized envelope with a complex cooling system, the suit was an extremely formfitting garment that reinforced the wearer’s skin so that it could withstand vacuum. As described by Jerry Pournelle in an article in his Science Fact collection “A Step Further Out”, they worked extremely well. In order to work properly, the skinsuits had to conform perfectly to the wearer’s contours. The result inevitably looked very much like the cover illustrations from early pulp science fiction magazines.

        Pournelle has one recent reissue of a book that has a ratheramusing cover illustration that accurately portrays what skin suit would have to look like to function.

        Obviously; people might choose to wear some uniform or coverall over a skin suit, especially for warmth. (if you aren’t in sunlight, you radiate heat at about 1,000 Watts per square meter which will give you hypothermia then frost bite very quickly.). However; portrayals of characters in just their skin suits makes great cover art. Theidea of skin suits being transluscent or even transparent is functional as any progressing flaws in the suits’ protection would be revealed by bruising.

        • Drak Bibliophile says:

          Knucklrdraggingwino, I remember that scene and read nothing that deserves this sort of obsession.

          • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

            Weber is describing Abby and Helen taking a shower together and Helen is commenting on how “curvy” Abby is. In context of Weber’s previous descriptions of Abby, this doesn’t inspire your imagination? The implications about you are disturbing. At best, you simply don’t have a sense of humor.

  19. Knucklrdraggingwino says:

    After finishing the book, I have to concede that in the context of advancing an overal plot arc, it is a good book for a Weber fan. If you arent already a Weber fan, reading this book will ensure that you will never read another Weber book.

    I am obviously hung up on this battle scene being a turkey shoot. I understand the overal plot ARC of the SLN being outclassed. I also understand the analogies. The superiority of RMN vs SLN ships is obviously greater than between WW1 vs WW2 ships. IMHO, it is difficult to accept that the difference is as profound as a modern DD vs a WW-2 CA. (modern DD with Harpoons but not Tomohawks would have a difficult time taking out a BB). I guess it would have been more satisfying to me, and certainly to anyone who wasn’t already a Weber fan, if a few of the SLN BCs had survived that first salvo. This is too much like Whitehaven’s Operation Buttercup. The fact that it is DD without missile pods vs BC allows for a more exciting battle without compromising the RMN’s inevitable superiority.

    Acceptingthis crushing defeat, I would remind people that while the SLN is obsolete, the SL technology base is not. Haven was dependent on technology infusions by SL transtellers up until they resumed the war. Haven’s SD(P)s and MDMs were an innovation, but they were built using technology imported from the SL. The transtellers can sell that technology to the SLN.

    • Spectre says:

      Current DD without Tomahawks but with Harpoons can easily mission kill (but not destroy) an Iowa class BB. The next gen one with the railgun WILL be able to kill an Iowa class BB.

      • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

        Agreed about the next generation DD being able to mission kill an Iowa. I would also agree that a modern DD without Tomohaks could mission kill an Iowa with a LOT of Harpoons.

        IIRC, the range of Harpoon is about double the range of an Iowa’s 16″ gun. It would not be a comfortable engagement for the DD.

        Consider the potential upgrades for Iowa that could theoretically equalize the technology advantage.
        The most obvious is the 12″ sub caliber projectile that doubles range. Give that projectile guidance and it will give a modern DD a run for it’s money.
        Replace the barrel liners with smoothbore liners and use sub caliber, fin stabilized discarding sabot rounds. Range > 100 miles.
        Use current rifled guns with 16″ caliber projectiles with ram augmented rocket propulsion and guidance. Range is 400 miles.

        These are all technology upgrades that could be implemented without a massive refit to the ships. All of these tech upgrades are essentially off the shelf as of 30 years ago.

        Keep in mind that it is the SLN that is technologically retarded, not the SL. The Transtellers that armed Haven in violation of sanctions received captured Manty tech as part of their payment. Their industrial tech base is far superior to Havens. Imagine what these Transtellers may have developed but have not been able to sell to the SLN. How many SDFs have bought their advanced weapons? How many SDFs have advanced weapons either deployed or ready for production that they have concealed
        from the SLN as Beawulf has done? How many of them might side with the SL and SLN rather than Manticore?

        It is Weber’s universe, but repeated massacres of SLN forces are becoming tedious.

        • ET1swaw aka Rob says:

          OTOH you have to allow for MAlign’s interference in SL Research and Development (even in the Transtellars) and the ingrained resistance change within the SLN and the SL bureaucracy.

          IF(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) they face the reality of current GA technological superiority, there are assets available to actually upgrade the SLN.

          But IMO ANY upgrade/change will face a rough road to its implementation/completion!!


          • Knucklrdraggingwino says:


            The SLN might be to constrained by bureaucratic intransigence to innovate, but the various SDFs might have covertly innovated and be prepared for massive upgrades just as Beawulf has. In a previous book (A Rising Thunder?”) one of the SLN Admirals contemplates certain SDFs that are considered potential threats! Beawulf has a few dozen SDs. Could they have far more control links than standard SDs? Could they have hard points for missile pods?

            The various SDFs and Transtellers have been observing the SKM vs Haven wars carefully as well as certain individuals within the SLN bureaucracy. They might gave responded by developing radically new technologies.

            One possibility is phased array grassers. When you crunch the numbers for the diffraction limitations of the large aperture, Gamma Ray Lasers that Weber describes, you find that they should be devastating over interplanetary distances. Weber has offered some arm waving commentary on the difficulty of focusing the beam from such a hot emipmission source. If it were feasible, phased array graser technology would eliminate that problem. An SD sized ship with a spinal mount phased array graser with an effective optical aperture of 100 meters would be effective at interstellar distances. Imagine how devastating it would be for deep penetration raids. Drop out of hyper, fire a few hundred Petajoule pulses as unsuspecting orbital infrastructure, orbiting warships, even planetary targets, then go into hyper before the Manty Apollo missiles can reach you. It would be bad news for Manty SD(P)s that raid the wrong system.

        • Spectre says:

          The current production RGM-84L ship launched Harpoon has a range of at least 278km. The Iowa class 16″/50 caliber Mark 7 gun has a range of 38km.

          That’s a nice, comfortable margin for the DD to engage from. No way the Iowa’s guns could engage the DD directly.

          Also, the booster guns/shells you mention would require the Iowa to be completely rebuilt to be able to handle them- so, much like the SLN, it makes more sense to just build another hull than try and retrofit and come up with a suboptimal solution. Not to mention that booster shells never caught on because even to this day they still don’t actually work reliably.

          • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

            The smooth bore sleeves as well as the sub caliber and boosted projectiles have all been tested. Most of the projectiles in question are either the same size or smaller than the conventional shells, so there is no need to significantly modify the ammunition handling system.

            You are correctnthat it is a suboptimal solution. Simply mounting Harpoon or Tomahak launchers on an Iowa as was done during the Reagan administration was also a workable solution.

            Of course even with such upgrades an Iowa remains obsolete. Far better to have a new ship with phased array radars, vertical launch cells
            and the Zumwalts gun system may be upsized to 8″.

            BTW, do you not see any parallels with the PRH getting their butts kicked by the new RMN SD(P)s, MDMs, LACs and CLACs during operation Buttercup only to reconstitute a fleet in only a few years that could nearly defeat the RMN? Weber used only two volumes, “Echos of Honor” and “Ashes of Victory” to describe operation Buttercup. More importantly, Weber’s plot focus was on Honor’s escape from Hades and the assassination of Crometry so that the books were still exciting.

            Reliability is relative. Base bleed and guided projectiles are becoming the standard for 155 mm howitzers.

            • Spectre says:

              Yes, RAP or base-bleed is becoming a standard for 155mm land artillery – but it still has severe problems with real world reliability in naval cannon applications. This is why the Zumwalt system (properly called the Advanced Gun System) was actually *downgraded* to add dumb-fire munitions capability back to the system. It was initially going to be smart-round only but testing has gone so poorly with those at sea trials that the gun is being shipped initially with ‘regular’ 155mm rounds.


              “The original DD-21 was designed around this “vertical gun”, but the project ran into serious technology/cost problems and was radically scaled back to a more conventional 6.1 inch Advanced Gun System (AGS). One advantage of this move was that the gun was no longer restricted to guided munitions.”

              Further, while the AGS is in production, the LRLAP is still stuck in development limbo, as testing is showing many problems. Range is good, accuracy… well.. :P

              An Iowa has another problem – it has an enormous radar and IR silhouette and it cannot ‘see’ anywhere close to as far as it can be ‘seen’ on modern sensor systems. The missile retrofits they received under Reagan were notorious because the parent vessel couldn’t actually detect the targets as well as a Ticonderoga and had to fire based on information from other platforms. Basically, it just carried missiles for other ships to control and fire.

              You might want to look at an Iowa’s storage, loading and firing procedures again. One reason the subcaliber projectile systems were never used was because the ship would have required a major turret and magazine rebuild to take it.

              And I don’t see a parallel between the Havenite Navy rebuilding quickly and the SLN’s current predicament. The Havenites always knew that their opponents had better tech and were already on a war footing with their economy and production base . Don’t forget the Erewhonese defection that handed Haven a nice big chunk of the RMN’s tech base – they didn’t get that from the Sollies! Haven was also already desperately working on improved tech all along and deploying it as it became available.

              The Sollies don’t have the merchant fleet to get their civilian economy and production base back up and running now that Manticore has left, let alone their military one. The SLN is institutionally incapable of realizing that their enemy has immensely better tech than they. They’re also about to have internal conflicts that they will have to devote resources to. These are all things Haven did not have to deal with.

              The SLN is basically the Royal Navy in the Pacific Theater of WW2. As one person put it:

              ” On a historical note, I think that the “passing of the torch” as the leading Navy occurred late in the year 1944. That is when the newly formed British Pacific Fleet left the UK proper for the Pacific Ocean…

              “Probably the biggest ego shock the Brits encountered in WWII occurred in December 1944. Since the Naval combat of the European Theatre had diminished, it was then that Britain was able to put together their most powerful Naval task force of WWII – the newly created British Pacific Fleet. It included four of their largest Fleet carriers, two fast battleships, five cruisers, fifteen destroyers and various support ships. Commanded by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, the newly formed British Pacific Fleet steamed towards it namesake ocean to join the US Navy in action against the Empire of Japan.

              “Admiral Fraser was very proud to command the very cream of the WWII British Royal Navy – but he and his British sailors and aviators quickly got three jolts upon their arrival in the Pacific Theatre. First was that the British Pacific Fleet was lost among the numbers of ships of US Pacific Fleets then in operations against the Imperial Japanese Navy. Second jolt was that the Royal Navy did not have a handle on underway-replenishment – a requirement to maintain the operational tempo in the vast Pacific theatre. The British fleet train was never up to the job, even with US Navy assistance. The third jolt was that the British fleet was not up to US Navy combat standards for the Pacific war against Imperial Japan – it took three months of work in secondary theatres before the British “Task-Force 57” and its Air Groups were ready for action as a first-line force.

              “The Pacific ocean scale of combat and size of the US Navy Pacific Fleets brought home the fact to the British Royal Navy that had lost its centuries old title as the “Ruler of the Waves” – to the new Mistress of the Seas – the United States Navy. ”

              Only they are far worse off. The SLN is about to learn the fact that they really are a second or third rate navy the hard way. And, like the then-disintegrating British Empire, their far-flung nation won’t ever really recover from it.

              • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

                Thanx for the history lesson on the RMN in the Pacific. Obviously; they didn’t learn anything from Prince of Wales getting it’s ass kicked, LOL.

                I don’t comprehend why the USN thought that would need to rebuild ammo handling systems to handle sub caliber projectiles. The projectiles should be packaged with full caliber sabots. Did some Admiral go full fucktard?

                You are correct about Haven always being aware of the RMN tech advantage which made them eager to improve while the SLN suffers from a severe delusion of technological supremacy. Weber has now written three books contemporaneous with the New Tuscany DD massacre, Spindle and Second Manticore. Spindle was still a rumor to the SLN at Saltash and they were unaware of Second Manticore. This is essentially the opposite tactic that Weber took with operation Buttercup which he described in only a few, succinct chapters in Echos of Honor and Ashes of Victory. Those novels were enjoyable because they focused on Honor’s escape, the Cromertry assassination, and a few, hard fought battles that were the prelude to Buttercup.

                Your points about the SL disintegrating before the SLN can aggregate it’s fecal matter are well taken. However; the SL consists of 2,000+ systems, some of which have populations, GDPs and a basic tech base comparable to or greater than Manticore’s. One would think that some of them would aggregate their fecal matter. If Weber has decreed that none of the SL systems will be able to offer significant resistance, fine. However; it is not necessary to waste my time and money with repeated novels describing every massacre of SLN unit in prolonged, excruciating detail while having no other plot action to make it worth my time. Weber could at least reward my patronage by having Abby Hearnes do another shower scene, either with Adm Henke whom I prefer to imagine looks like Pam Grier or with Mateo (the scale differential in their physiologies would make that interesting. It would be comparable to the SLN skit where Barbie admits to Skipper that she is really her daughter from a fling with a Han Solo action figure. “You Slut! He isn’t even our scale!” ).

              • Spectre says:

                The thing about the SL is that each of those 2000 systems is going to be looking at the collapse of the SL. Many might fight the Grand Alliance, true, but more are going to have been completely dependent on the SLN for their defense (for the very latest in thousands of years of examples, see Europe and how they have neglected their militaries under the Pax Americana). They’re going to be faced with some really ugly choices.

                Others, with more powerful system fleets are going to have a choice to make – jump into the apparently unstoppable maw of the Grand Alliance. Or form one of (presumably) many successor states, either alone or in conjunction with other systems. These successor states will then usually war with one another. Or they will try conquering their neighbors.

                Others with military power will try to remain neutral and wait to see how it shakes out – see Switzerland and Sweden in WW2 as one of this sort of example.

                Still others will take advantage of the opportunity and flee the SL. Or even join the Grand Alliance in some capacity.

                But all of that has a couple of very large problems – the fact that ALL of them are going to have wrecked economies. David Drake put it best in Hammer’s Slammers – if you interdict the space commerce of a system (just like if you interdict all commerce with a terrestrial nation), they’re *screwed.*

                ‘An industrial world (as Paley was) is an interlocking whole. Off-planet trade may amount to no more than five percent of its GNP; but when that trade is suddenly cut off, the remainder of the economy looks like a car lacking two cylinders. It may make whirring sounds for a while, but it isn’t going anywhere.’

                The departure of the Manticore civilian fleet leaves the Solarians with a de facto blockade of most of their systems as almost all their trade was on Manticoran hulls. Solarian merchant ship production was a tiny fraction of their needs and now their ship production facilities are to be tasked with building a battlecruiser fleet *and* satisfying the immensely greater need for civilian freighter hulls. And, if memory serves, their actual shipbuilding tech is far inferior to any member of the Grand Alliances.

                Further, the SLN doesn’t seem to understand ‘modern’ logistics very well. (Hence one parallel to the RN in the Pacific.) Later on in the book, an OFS commissioner sends some of their ‘wonderful’ intervention battalions from a sector HQ to a ‘rebellious’ world. They have to borrow some civilian freighters instead of using military transports to move the battalions. That sounds suspiciously like someone that doesn’t have the logistics tail they really need. If a sector HQ that is the standard duty station for intervention battalions doesn’t have organic transport for same, or even transport on ready call…

              • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

                You make good points that are certainly pertinent to the very narrow time frame between New Tuscany through Spindle, Lacoon 1&2, Seconf Manticore and now Saltash. Given how utterly outclassed the SLN has been, the impending battle of Beawulf should be yet another masacre that will leVe me bored shitless. If 4 SLN, BCs can’t even scratch the paint on 5 RMN DDs, a novel that focuses on an attack on , Beawulf which is only one wormhole jump away from Home Fleet and two wormhole jumps away from Eigth fleet is going to be a colossal waste of wood pulp. I grant you that the plot arc might become interesting when the Mesan Dettweilers make an appearance, but I fear I will be dead or senile befor Weber gets around to writing about it. If Weber intends for the SL and SLN to just roll over and die, Okay but get it the hell over within a chapter or two so we can read interesting stories.

                BTW, soon after discovering how outclassed they were in the Pacific, the RMN invented the steam catapult and the angle deck carrier.

                One other point. SL systems shouldn’t be as vulnerable to a blockade causing an economic collapse as Terran nations. Modern industrialized countries are dependent on imports of critical resources, particularly oil. Every habitable star system should have all the resources the need and advanced systems should have flexible, automated manufacturing to build whatever they need. The only caveat is that the SLN core worlds are more like the old PRH then we realized with insolent populations dependent on tribute from the protectorates.

          • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

            This is the state of the art for the Zumwalt DDG gun system.


            The range increases dramarticly when upsized
            to 8″, 12″, or 16″. Base bleed is simpler and acceptable tom the USN. However; ram augmented, rocket assisted projectiles have been tested for larger caliber guns and they DO work. The USN just doesn’t want to build a ship class that is big enough to mount them.

  20. Margo says:

    Dream on KDW! Abigail has her own shower now. Doesn’t have to share one. And BTW, it wasn’t Helen – didn’t meet her till SoS and HMS Hexapuma.

    • Knucklrdraggingwino says:

      Yea, I just realized that Helen wasn’t in In The Service of the Sword. They didn’t meet until Sahadow of Saganami.

      Abby has her own shower now, but she could still share it with Adm Henke or Mateo.

      On a serious note, Lt Hearnes is supposedly Honor Harrington’s protege who will replace her as the primary protagonist. Repeated massacres of defenseless SLN ships isn’t going to progress her career the way the Battle of Monica did. I was hoping that the battle in SoF between the Rolland DDs would evolve into heroic action. Assuming that the SLN Adm has her three surviving BCs roll ship after the first one is vaporized and that this is effective coould have resulted in such a battle. One can easily imagine young Lt Hearnes distinguishing herself yet again. Perhaps battle damage would result in her becoming CO of her ship or even squadron as Harrington did in SVW. I would be so pleased to read such a scene with character development that I would be okay with the lack of a shower scene.

  21. Knucklrdraggingwino says:

    On the subject of rolling ship to interpose the wedge; read Ashes of Victory, Chapter 26.

    Incoming Peep salvo of 13,000 missiles rather that only 120.

    RMN ships thin them out considerably with active defenses and decoys eliminating 10,000, but 3,000 still get through.

    RMN ships then roll ship to interpose their wedges.

    Result: moderate damage to a few of the SDs and a BC, one BC crippled and abandoned.

    One would think that it is plausible for the SLN BCs to be somewhat more effective at coping with a missile salvo two orders of magnitude smaller. The result could have still been a victory for the RMN DDs, but with some heroism and excitement.

  22. Knucklrdraggingwino says:

    In lurking over at, I notice that KNick and John Roth are still flogging the “Physics Question” about missiles hitting targets at relativistic velocity. I will repeat my confession that I made a mistake, experienced brain flatulence, screwed up and otherwise made a phisics boo boo. It is theoretically possible for a missile to take a snap shot at a ship that has rolled to interpose it’s wedge while flying by at 2/3 Cee.

    So shoot me.

    However; the fact remains that it is far more difficult than taking a more deliberate shot directly at a ship’s sidewall while making an attack run. If taking such a snap shot was easy, missiles would be targeting ships bow and vulnerable stern aspects all of the time.

    It is of course Weber’s prerogative to decree that in spite of everything he whrote in the earlier books, Manticoran technology has progressed so far that rolling ship will not mitigated the damage even when being engaged at tens of millions of kilometers away. Just don’t expect me to bother to read books that feature chapter after chapter devoted to inane staff meetings to set the stage for anticlimatic battles.

    • Spectre says:

      “If taking such a snap shot was easy, missiles would be targeting ships bow and vulnerable stern aspects all of the time.”

      Why would you do that? Those are the smallest profile targets with the heaviest armor. Your chances of hitting such a target are immensely reduced over hitting somewhere along the length of the vessel through the sidewalls – which are in turn much larger than the throat and skirt of the impeller wedge.

      It would be like trying to shoot at the thumb of a man’s hand when you’ve got a good shot at his chest instead.

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