Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Verne cannon.

By 1968, quite a few nations had joined what was sarcastically refereed to as the "fat man club".  While fusion boosted weapons were still a monopoly of the big two (USA/USSR, despite what they say about their allies and fellow countries), it had proven fairly easy to obtain the informtion and infrastructure to jumpstart a basic Fat-man plutonium bomb, or, if refining was the issue, a uranium little-boy or a Debner tactical nuke. In many cases, they were purchased whole on the black arms market, or even successfully salvaged from battlefields or wrecks.

Some minor unaligned clashes had already involved battlefield atomics and in three cases, larger fat-man size weapons used on cities, generally against non-armed neighbors to terminate conflicts (Montevideo, Kampala and  and Falan).  It was clear that for the smaller or non-aligned countries, an A-bomb, any A-bomb, was vital to ensure national sovereignty, much as a dreadnaught was in 1910.

As a result, no-one was suprized when Brazil and India announced that they would be holding a series of collaborative underground nuclear tests in both countries.  many regarded this as a propaganda ploy, showing the collaboration of the two major non-aligned nations. Additionally, adding UN observers was seen as little more than a publicity ploy, as was the insistence on the testing being underground; both countries and the UN had been pushing for a moratorium on above ground tests due to the already major biosphere damage from the nuclear conflicts of the past twenty years.

The suprise came when the test shots, six of them, occurred early, and almost simultaneously; more surprising was the realization that they were in fact, massive cannons using 150kt nuclear charges to loft over 15,000 tons of equipment and self deploying structures into orbit.  Three major Orbital command stations were quickly manned and finished off by crews waiting in orbit under cover of the UN orbital clearance forces which had been clearing wreckage and debris in orbit since 1963.  Within twenty four hours, the heavily armored and armed stations were weapons operational, and with the existing clearance craft had captured and deactivated or destroyed all non-UN orbital assets.  While the crews were small and initially had to live in their spacesuits (crew quarters were a lower priority than weapons) , they were invulnerable.

As the blindsided superpower alliances attempted to respond, conventional/kinetic weapons impacted in the near vicinity of all the NATO/PACT nearside lunar bases, and within uninhabited areas of the superpower homelands. With minimal casualties, and near total surprise, the UN and Non-aligned nations had seized the high ground.

The UN peacekeeping directorate, aka PAX, took command and declared all cislunar space and lunar nearside to be a demilitarized disarmed area under its jurisdiction, backed by an estimated 200 orbital nuclear weapons, some claimed to be as large as the 1953 Moscow busters.  Both superpowers blustered, and both learned that the threat was real when military groundside assets were hit by nuclear weapons; a brief attempt to destroy the stations failed partly due to lack of cooperation, and partly due to the fact that a 5000 ton armored and heavily defended station was a much tougher nut to crack than the earlier platforms proven so vulnerable in the previous wars.  Finally, too, when station two was critically damaged by one of the few joint strikes, the Nuclear Cannons (aka Verne Guns) lofted a cloud of simple but deadly unmanned ageis hunter killers (aka killer crowbars); soon after, a fourth station was also was lofted and deployed.  East and West were forced to the negotiating table, much as Burma and Urugay had been, and with equal humiliation and desire for revenge.

The terms PAX imposed by the  treaty of the Azores were simple.  Cislunar space was declared a demilitarized exclusion; military craft and platforms were forbidden, and all other assets in orbit were open to inspection at any time.  Military craft were similarly forbidden, except for transit through the exclusion zone.  Use of nuclear weapons Earthside were forbidden on pain of massive reprisal, initially nuclear, but later from the lunar mass cannons that PAX constructed.   It was also noted that the Verne cannons did not have to deliver their payloads to orbit.

By 1970, kicking an screaming, the superpowers had been dragged into a cold, conventional standoff Earthside and in orbit, although arsenals for deterrence began growing at a prodigious rate.  While far from safe, the immediate threat of nuclear holocaust was at least delayed, and local space made free for all.  Unfortunately, the solar system would be the next area of conflict. 

Next: Yes, at last we come to one of the two eras for an RPG campaign !

Sunday, December 11, 2011

One very small, secretive step......

it will probably never be clearly know who the first successful lunar explorers were, nor for which side they served.  In a more peaceful world, perhaps, the moon landing would have been a public display of national will, or technology- essentially a piece of dramatic propaganda to humiliate the opposition.   In reality, the moon landings were  military missions to gain and map  the new high ground, and as such, as secret as possible.

It is known that across 1965 and 66 both east and west used nuclear propelled heavy lifters to orbit and then land materials on the moon to build the national bases, redoubts and missile silos.  What is also clear is that crews were already present on the moon, and had been for some time. 

While theoretically at peace, or at least ceasefire, both sides actively attempted to sabotage or impede the other sides construction once on the moon.  While only partly successful (both sides successfully installed military bases by 1967), this set the tone for the constant low level skirmishing on the Lunar surface.

While only a few missiles were installed by either side, they were uniformly armed with the massive new fusion boosted warheads that had been developed by the end of the orbit wars, making them potent final strike weapons.   Initially intended as deterrence weapons, their potential as first strike weapons had the actual effect of drastically destabilizing the shaky ceasefire between East and West.

By 1968, tensions were rising once again, and the lunar skirmishing was spreading once again to earth's orbitals.  Given that both sides had deployed ICBMs earthside with fusion warheads it seemed fated that the next outbreak of war would be conclusive, if not survivable.

However, in October of 1968, everything changed.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

As above, so below.

The second orbital war was carried out both in space and on land.  The large demilitarized zones of Germany and Northern China became battlegrounds once again; but unlike the first conflict, the forces were small, highly mobile, and nuclear capable.  As with the Orbit war, the clashes earth showed that offense had greatly outstripped defense, and both sides rapidly depleted their available first line forces and came to use tactical nuclear bombardment to respond to enemy breakthroughs.  Due to the highly dispersed and small uit organization, the actual military casualties were quite small, but they represented the elite of both sides forces.

While the battlegrounds, still unrecovered from 1953, were much less densely inhabited than beforehand, the civilian casualties were enormous, and the collateral environmental damage was extreme. Both the superpowers homelands were largely safe from direct attack, but the overall damage and radiological contamination began to effect even the safest of homeland havens. By 1963, both sides were forced to institute food rationing, and a second world-wide famine was already spreading.  Most of the Third estate (as the nonaligned powers were known as to the media) were able to feed their populations, but only in the core countries, and even then at similarly rationed levels.  Nonetheless, the growing reliance of the superpowers on food imports from the Non-aligned powers gave the UN and PAX forces the leverage needed to broker a ceasefire.  The second orbital war ended with no political or territorial advantages gained by either side, and a bitter extended winter was to make 1964 one of the bleakest years in history.

Socially, nations that survived the post war years tended to become highly centralized, tightly controlled planned economies and societies.  Despite the vulnerabilities of such, metropolitan areas expanded in population, if not in size, with military installations moving as far as possible from the refugee choked cities.  With all sides populations becoming highly concentrated, and critical climate damage, a tacit understanding between the powers limited strike to military targets wherever possible.  Protracted nuclear war had come to stay.

In space, both sides had little to show that could be considered successful.  The willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons as a standard element proved that offense had again trumped defense. Orbital missle installations were spectacularly unsuccessful after the first hour of the war, and orbit denial strategies insured that no new stations could be deployed.  Use of indiscriminate orbital mines and simple debris fields insured that NEO would likely never again have permanent military stations.

While the rational solution would have been detente, and possibly a final negotiated end to the war, neither side was able to make the political and social sacrifices needed to do so.  As a result, as the war ended,  both sides reached for the moon to gain the high ground and impose a final peace on their enemies.

The attempts to reach the moon were both hasty, and desperate.  Of the four missions from both sides that attempted to establish a foothold, some were initially successful, but none survived to return.  The 1962 moon orbit missions resulted in a twin Soyuz missing return insertion and being lost; the newly deployed Apollo succeeded in achieving a return trajectory but suffered a series of failures culminating in a non-survivable re-entry failure.  The three Gemini landing mission racing the Soviet attempt resulted in one crashed lander, and a mutually destructive combat in lunar orbit between the orbital elements.  The single surviving two man USAF lander and the two single man soviet landers, as planned, touched down within five miles of each other.  The Lunar Gemini had the potential for earth return, whereas the Soviet LK landers did not.  Once the orbital assets had been mutually destroyed, contact was lost with both teams, and never regained. Limited observation  from earth  (orbital observatories being eliminated) suggested that both engaged in a long range duel with light mortars before a cross-lunar attempt was made by the marooned Soviet team to destroy (or possibly capture) the Gemini lander. At some point, at least one small tactical nuclear weapon was detonated, destroying the site and killing any surviving crew.
 If both sides managed to learn any lesson from the Lunar and Orbital debacles, it was this: Chemical rockets and small, fragile capsule-based craft were no longer viable weapons or long range systems; nor was orbit a viable environment for long term military assets.  Relentlessly, the quest for the high ground now turned to the moon.