Sunday, 27 December 2015

Grenade Mesh

           Grenade mesh has been a common feature of defensive military positions for several decades. It resembles mosquito net but is made of high-tech composites so is considerably more resistant to cutting. The mesh is in fact two layers bonded together. The outer-facing layer is printed in an appropriate camouflage colour or pattern. The inner layer is black to allow occupants of the interior to see out.

           Grenade mesh has a number of functions. As the name suggests, a grenade mesh can prevent the entry of hand grenades and other low velocity missiles. It also serves to keep out many flying insects including mosquitoes and tsetse fly. It also obstructs a view of the interior of the building and may hinder the use of eavesdropping lasers if it is placed over the glass. One of the most useful features of grenade mesh is it prevents the entry of tinkerbells, bumblebots and most swarmbots. The mesh cannot be cut by the rotors of most helibots and may entangle them or cause them to stall. Grenade mesh can be burnt through with a laser but this creates a strong odour that is likely to be noticed. Damaged mesh is an obvious sign that security has been compromised.


           His suspicion grew. None of the ground sensors had been tripped but something was out there in the long savannah grass. As  casually as he could he stood up, stretched and moved into the guard hut. As soon as he was out of sight he pressed the button and dropped down low. A cloud of tinkerbells took to the air and spread out over the surrounding hectare of grassland. It was only seconds before three began to strobe red and circle above a thick clump of grass. An ancient assault rifle opened fire but the bandit was trying to hit the fleeting tinkerbells that had discovered his position. A foolish mistake! Lars brought the grenade launcher up to his shoulder...

            “Tinkerbell” is a generic term for a variety of very small helibots. Most are quadcopters or use paired contra-rotating rotors. A tinkerbell will fit in your palm and is so light that dozens can be carried by a human virtually unnoticed (SM-10, 30 to a lb). Tinkerbells can be controlled by a program in an individual’s companion AI. Tinkerbells are launched by simply tossing them into the air or instructing them to take off from where they are placed.

           A tinkerbell has a small camera that is sensitive to visible and near-infra red (NIR) light. An infantry unit that encounters an apparently abandoned building will often first deploy a few tinkerbells to fly in and look around. In addition to its camera a tinkerbell is also provided with a number of LEDs that can provide visible or NIR illumination for it cameras.
           It is their light producing capability that gives the tinkerbells their name. A SWAT team advancing into the dark will send a number of tinkerbells ahead to illuminate an area. A glowing tinkerbell can be used to guide someone to safety or through a minefield. Instructed to fly high a tinkerbell can be used for signalling instead of a flare.

           As well as their military applications tinkerbells see numerous other uses. Fire departments and rescue workers use tinkerbells to locate casualties. Off-road vehicles use tinkerbells to scout what is ahead over the next ridge. Inspectors use them to look into places they cannot go. In large buildings tinkerbells may be used to guide visitors to their destination.

           Tinkerbells are too light to carry items such as grenades or limpet mines. They can carry a very light object such as a written message or data-card/ flash-drive. Tinkerbells lack speakers so use their LEDs to draw attention to themselves or convey simple messages in Morse code (The basic language package of most AI companions includes Morse). Tinkerbells are too light do any real damage if used as weapons but may be used as distractions. Being relatively basic, very lightweight systems they are vulnerable to EMP weapons and jamming or signal interception. Grenade mesh is an effective obstacle to them and they are also vulnerable to strong winds.

           The video below will give some idea on how the smaller tinkerbells might behave.

Vehicles: Wolfhound AFV

             Invariably large tracked cybershells get referred to as “cybertanks” irrespective of their actual battlefield role. The modular nature of some designs means that distinguishing between a true tank, a personnel carrier or some other variant can be problematic. A good example of this is the Vickers-Sackett Wolfhound.

             The Wolfhound appears somewhat smaller than earlier designs of fighting vehicle. Basic width is kept to within 2.55m (2 ¾ yards) for easy movement in urban areas and on civilian roadways. (Applique armour or extra-width tracks may increase width.) The small turret, sloped frontal glacis plate and sides increase the impression that the vehicle is smaller than it is.

             Being unmanned the turret can be relatively small. Main armament of the Type One (light) turret module is a 10mm Emag with a point defence laser (PDL) mounted at the apex of the turret. The Type Two (heavy) turret module has a turret with 55mm and 10mm Emags and a PDL. Alternately a 50x330mm autocannon may replace the larger Emag. Both turret types have provision for mounting a variety of launch pods and tubes on their sides. These are usually for 30mm, 40mm, 60mm and 64mm missile systems but other weapons can be accommodated. Additional point defence lasers are mounted on the bow-plate and towards the rear of each side.

             Additional defences are provided by various 40mm DGL mountings loaded with screening or fragmentation grenades. Smoke limpet charges will also be attached to the vehicle exterior. Wolfhounds often have several “desant” hexapod RATS which cling to the outside of the vehicle and effectively serve as additional turreted weapons. A variety of cyberswarms are carried to handle repairs, defence and reconnaissance. A number of larger reconnaissance robots are also carried and can often be seen orbiting a Wolfhound.

             Wolfhounds have self-repairing bandtracks and a hybrid electric drive system. When operating only using stored power they can move very quietly. The hybrid system also provides better acceleration than conventional power systems.

             The baseline vehicle is fully amphibious. If the weight of additional armour or equipment exceeds its buoyancy it can travel along the riverbed or seabed using battery power. (An air supply will be needed for any passengers). The Wolfhound is designed to be easily transportable for expeditionary operations by special forces, marines and airborne. For homeland defence or prolonged deployments additional armour can be fitted.

             The Wolfhound personnel carrier has an armoured module at the rear that can accommodate ten baseline human soldiers. Six to eight occupants is more common, however and allows the carriage of additional equipment, weapons and ammunition. Boarding is usually by armoured double doors at the rear. The roof of the module has a number of hatches, including a cupola for the section leader at the forward right corner. The roof hatches allow the occupants to fire various weapons while still mounted. The Wolfhound usually mounts a dozer-blade which provides additional frontal protection. Seats are provided with four-point harnesses and can be folded up to create additional capacity. The Wolfhound can also be used as a RATS transport, capacity depending on the size of the cybershells carried.

             The Wolfhound missile carrier replaces the personnel module with one having 40 vertical-launch missile tubes. Both surface to surface and surface to air systems can be carried. The ammunition load often includes 200mm Jaguar Anti-Ground Target Missiles. Missile carriers are often fitted with the Type Two (heavy) turret. The few targets a 55mm and 10mm Emag cannot deal with will be attacked with missiles.

             The Wolfhound mortar carrier has a rear module with a turret mounting two 98mm self-loading mortars. A 10mm Emag is also fitted. As well as providing indirect fire the mortar carrier is a useful direct fire system and has sufficient armour and defences to facilitate this role.

             The Wolfhound scout carrier uses a smaller chassis than other variants, having one less roadwheel. It is usually not fitted with a dozer-blade and the turret is kept relatively uncluttered. Its lesser bulk (SM +3) makes it easier to conceal or camouflage. Its lower weight makes it somewhat faster too. The scout carrier can carry six baseline human soldiers but it is more common for a six man scout team to be split between two vehicles, the extra capacity being used for mission specialists and extra equipment. Scout carriers also carry a wide variety of reconnaissance robots. A further distinguishing feature of the scout carrier is that they often have racks for scout e-bicycles on their sides.


Vehicles: Bruja mobile gun

              The 21st century witnessed a number of small scale but bloody conflicts. Expensive modern military hardware was in short supply. As a consequence many of the combatants utilized trucks and SUVs for transportation. These conflicts were to see the resurrection of an older idea. The Russian 76.2mm ZIS-3 light gun was continuing to provide good service in these conflicts even though the design dated back to the Second World War. The gun was to prove even more useful once it was mounted on a light tracked chassis such as an APC. In essence this recreated the Soviet SU-76. Like the original, such vehicles were lightly armoured and had a limited traverse for the main weapon. Also like the original they were simple and cheap to produce and their low weight and low ground pressure made them very useful. The gun was mounted to project over the engine deck, keeping overall length short. This was a useful feature in crowded and ruined urban areas. Such vehicles served as light assault guns, vehicle destroyers and indirect fire platforms. The main gun still had some use against the older, thinner armoured tanks commonly encountered in these conflict. It was more than adequate against the many unarmoured vehicles in common use.
              Such light assault guns acquired the collective name of “bruja” and it was not long before the vehicles began to evolve. Vulnerability of the crew had always been an issue, particularly in the open-topped variants. Cybershell variants of the bruja were created as soon as the technology became available. Improvements in ammunition and fire control increased capabilities, allowing helicopters and other slow or low altitude aircraft to be engaged. A pirated copy of the more modern and higher velocity South African GT4 76mm gun eventually became available. Many bruja used this in preference to the ZIS-3. EM railguns, ETC and directed energy weapons were also utilized in brujas.
             Brujas are still used in many Third Wave and even some Fourth Wave nations. Versions have even been built on Mars and the Moon. While a bruja is no match for a Fifth Wave cybertank in a one to one confrontation they remain a useful system in a combined arms formation where infantry and other vehicles can defend them adequately for them to perform their intended role.