Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Future Combat

This looks like one of those pie-in-the-sky "what the future might look like, but won't" articles that Popular Science thrives on. The basic idea is cool: using suborbital space transports to deliver Marines quickly anywhere on the globe. It's freakin' step one to a Starship Troopers dropship.

But if you read the article, you start to see two big flaws. One is dealt with at some length: the transport gets the troops in, but then how do you get them back out? The other is barely mentioned at all: the transport as envisioned will only hold 13 troops.

Keep in mind that the event that inspired the whole idea, according to the article, was a planned insertion of 500 Marines. In order to carry out that mission, they would need 39 of these things dropping out of space, which is doable, but would be insanely expensive. Then you'd have 39 small groups trying to link up across hostile terrain. Then, unless the landers had some sort of conventional propulsion to fly out with, they would have to either destroy them in place or guard them until the U.S. government could come to retrieve them.

I think that until you have a design that can somehow carry enough fuel to get up to its desired altitude twice without refueling, or use some sort of mass-driver launch device to get it up to suborbital altitude without using any fuel at all, allowing it to carry only the fuel it needs for its return trip (plus attitude adjustments for the initial landing), this won't be a practical alternative.


Anonymous said...

Good analysis. We have many ways to insert troops quickly with conventional aircraft. Then there's the big but ... which is ...

But, the Republican big spenders will see space troops as a way to spend money we don't have and collect millions in defense re-election funds for themselves. Game over, man.

Anonymous said...

Analysis: Writer's blogger gets political. Writer's political spin gets slammed. Writer deletes comments that make him look bad. Conclusion: Writer's thinking pretty flimsy. Choices: 1) Protect oneself from reality-based criticism, 2) let the people speak.
Result from 1: Writer's blog plods on in obscurity; from 2: Writer's blog actually gets interesting.

TheyStoleFrazier'sBrain said...


1. You obviously didn't read the link, which said why the Marines want this instead of conventional aircraft: not only is it faster, but we don't have to negotiate use of airspace from other countries we'd have to overfly.

2. My "political spin" was that it sounds cool but won't work, so I'm not sure which part of that you think you "slammed.". But if you want to think that, then way to go, you.

3. I didn't delete your comment, so quit whining, anonymous dork.