The new features of Chains Of War: Lasers, railguns and tactical EMPs
Published on May 05, 2017
Ray of light: High-Energy Lasers
Combat lasers have been on the drawing board and test lab ever since the days of SDI, but advances in materials and engineering are finally enabling their long-awaited breakout in the field. Command has featured two major representative systems from its initial release (the YAL-1 COIL laser and the AN/SEQ-3 LaWS), but for the needs of Chains Of War and the v1.12 update we have undertaken a thorough revamp of the mechanics.
Command now models four distinct types of laser systems, each with its own peculiarities:
As an example of the practical differences, COIL and DF are so-called "chemical" lasers and use magazines of chemical materials to shoot, which need to be replenished just like gun rounds. CO2 and SSL lasers on the other hand replenish their ready-to-fire "magazine" by drawing power directly from their parent platform’s powerplant (no UNREP necessary!). Of course this also means that if the powerplant is not working for any reason, the magazine will be depleted.
This would appear to put chemical systems at a severe disadvantage; however, chemicals generally dissipate their thermal waste more easily (heat management is a major issue in solid-state lasers). This allows them to enjoy both a superior rate of fire and usually achieve greater power output per shot – thus greater absolute range and damage-at-range than CO2 & SSL lasers. (Solids typically counter this by ganging up lots of small-power emitters and converging their beams at the target point. Fibers make this easier, but aiming is obviously more complicated.)
Taste the rainbow.
Each laser type uses different operating wavelengths and this affects both their atmospheric losses and their actual absorption factor by the target surface.
HELs bring unique strengths and challenges to the combat environment. For instance, aircraft under attack by HELs do not get any evasion ability at all, since there is no practical delay between shot and impact; the pilots can only pray that the aim itself is defective. Laser mounts are susceptible to the same accuracy modifiers as unguided weapons like guns and rockets (for example, in a rocky sea a small ship will be a significantly less stable firing platform than a large one), but to a lesser extent thanks to their instant transmission.
HELs offer an instant attack on a target at significant range, but their actual on-target delivered power reduces dramatically with distance, even in "ideal" atmospheric conditions (this is part of why the AL-1 ABL was meant to cruise over the clouds). Under bad weather conditions their range shrinks even more, even down to almost nothing. They also need a clear line of sight to work.
Despite their tremendous future potential, HELs currently are generally not powerful enough to bring down anything larger than a small drone with one shot. Against aircraft, they somewhat resemble WW2 flak guns: They can shoot down an aircraft, but it usually takes a while to do so. This, incidentally, necessitated the introduction of the improved aircraft damage model. For this reason, scenario authors are encouraged to activate the aircraft damage feature when building a scenario that features AAW-capable HELs; otherwise, these systems may be too overpowered, swatting aircraft out of the sky like flies with single bursts.
Speed kills: Railguns and HVPs
Railguns are a frequently misunderstood subject with a lot of urban legends and myths floating around. This most excellent primer on Reddit is a good starting point for a quick refresher at the fundamentals.
Railguns conceptually are similar to conventional gun rounds. What makes them special are the very high muzzle velocities they can achieve (which directly translate to large absolute range and tremendous impact energy-at-range), and the fact that they use electric rather than chemical/propellant power for the projectile acceleration; combined with the typically smaller projectile weight & volume this allows vast improvements in magazine capacities.
A most interesting spinoff of railgun development has been the realization that the high-velocity projectiles (HVPs) that have been developed for railguns can in fact be also adapted/scaled to be fired from current conventional gun systems.
This allows spreading the benefits of the new technology on fleet platforms before the proper “full capability” rail mounts reach operational maturity.
The latest version of the DB3000 database shipping with the v1.12 update includes the 155mm/52 AGS HVP (used by a new 2018 variant of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt) and the 127mm/62 HVP, fired by a modified Mk45 Mod 4 gun (Mount #3016) suitable for placing on any modern surface combatant. More types will be added as additional systems are introduced into service.
Did we mention that these projectiles are pretty fast, and they can punch through some serious armor?
“Instead of Hiroshima, you get the 17th century”: Tactical EMPs
Already since the release of v1.09 and Northern Inferno, Command has made it possible to generate a massive electromagnetic pulse through a high-altitude nuclear detonation, with frequently catastrophic effects on exposed platforms and their component sensors and comm systems.
Command models both major variants of tactical EMP warheads; the v1.12 update includes omni-directional systems a.k.a “EMP grenade” types (Directional systems like the USAF-developed CHAMP are available on the Professional Edition).
Tactical EMP systems can act as an “trump card” by disrupting a carefully-constructed adversary network; their effect is most profound when they are combined with coordinated electronic attack and communications disruption to completely dislodge the enemy’s plan.
They can also be used alone literally as “grenades”, temporarily punching an electronic hole through an otherwise inaccessible strong enemy screen.
On the receiving end of a tactical-EMP strike. It hurts.
Tactical EMPs provide even more flexible solutions to existing tactical problems and we are quite curious to see how experienced players will put them to use.