Author Archives: Ron

About Ron

Long time Battletech fan, Arts and literature dabbler. As comfortable in the 31st century as the 21st. I don’t care for sports, but I’d make a big exception on Solaris.

TALON Precision-Guided Rocket- Turning Dumbfire Hydra Rocket Pods into Streak SRM Launchers

Historically, rocket munitions have always been more effective when fired in swarms. From the 15th century Korean Hwatcha rocket propelled arrow launcher to the MLRS or Grad rockets of today to the Itano Circus prevalent in ’80s Sci-Fi anime- and by extension, BattleTech. Rocket swarms can be brutally effective- if a not very efficient means of hitting your target. But those are artillery type weapons. Equipment covered in BattleTech by Arrow IV Missiles. What about something closer in?

The mainstay of western rocket direct-fire weapons for the past 60 years has been the Hydra 70 2.75″ (70mm) rocket pod. The Hydra rocket series weighs in at a hair over 6 kg, has an effective range of 8,000 meters and has an absolutely ridiculous selection of warheads to choose from (19 from the Wikipedia list). White Phosphorus, Flechette, cluster munition, HE, smoke, you name it.

M261 Hydra 70 launch pod with two different munition payloads.

M261 Hydra 70 launch pod with two different munition payloads.

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Real World Lasers are getting Smaller, and MEANER

Ever since Jules Verne and H.G. Wells enticed citizens and warmongers alike with talk of energy-based beam weapons, mankind has been struggling to catch up to its own imagination. And naturally, BattleTech is chock full of it – mainly in the form of lasers, and mainly seen from the view of a 1980s-era war game designer as a futuristic weapon.

Which it is… considering that compared to projectile, missile, and even flame weapons, lasers (especially weaponized ones) are to quote Val Kilmer in Real Genius “a young science.”

If only Jordan Weisman and team FASA could have seen the advance of real laser weapons in the past ten years from the ’80s. Israel is probably the most advanced so far, with several types in operation, mainly for air defense. Didn’t think the laser AMS got its start in the 21st century did you? The Iron Beam, as it’s called, is the close-in part of a multi-tiered air defense system called the Iron Dome. Iron Beam is reported to have an 80-90% success rate, and can engage even artillery and mortar shells in mid-flight with “into the hundreds” of kilowatts of energy. It’s essentially a land based version of a laser/projectile defense system like those used on the USS Ponce – which can also engage surface targets. But these are massive units the size of inter-modal shipping trailers. Next up, laser weapons that can be mounted on a light vehicle.

ATHENA: Looks like something you'd fight in MechWarrior IV.

ATHENA: Looks like something you’d fight in MechWarrior IV.

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Russia’s Inferno LRM Carrier

I follow world geopolitics pretty intensely. I credit epic, political space opera settings like Dune and, of course, BattleTech for my many years of interest. I was browsing some of the latest Russian shenanigans in Ukraine and Syria when I saw a Russian armored vehicle that made me wonder if they’ve been buying from Quickscell.

The TOS-1 Buratino really is a mobile warcrime waiting to happen, as it uses only incendiary and thermobaric 220mm munitions in the 30-tube launch system. The rockets have a minimum range of 400 meters and a maximum effective range of 3.5km. Short enough of a range that the system and crew are quite protected by the armored chassis of a T-72 MBT. Well armored by artillery standards anyway. This video shows that they can expend their loadout very quickly:

Be afraid, mechwarrior. Be VERY afraid.

Be afraid, mechwarrior. Be VERY afraid.

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Alpha Strike mod for Table Top Simulator

A chance interception on Reddit alerted me to this new work-in-progress game mod for TableTop Simulator on the Steam Network. TTS is kind of a virtual reality environment for playing tabletop games. You manually move the pieces, dice and sheets interactively – just using a mouse instead of your hand.

I was told by one of the users that the BattleTech mod uses map tiles and differing altitude levels, which suggests a measure of customizability to the environment. Though they and the assorted models and preset record sheets are fairly limited in number at the moment. There are nineteen ‘spheroid ‘mechs in the first mech pack. Turduckens has a number of these terrains to choose from, including River Map, Open Terrain, etc. Traditional rule sets for BattleTech have also proven to be  too clunky to be used in TTS, but Alpha Strike works very well. Even when fighting with a company or more on each side. It almost reminds me of a less-flashy prototype of what MechWarrior Tactics was trying for.

It’s certainly no MegaMek – but perhaps that’s a good thing. With a simple rule set and richer graphical experience, not to mention Steam Network’s voice chat system, ‘River map’ might develop into quite a compliment to MegaMek.

Thanks to Tipsymahn260 for the image.

Thanks to Tipsymahn260 for the image.

If you’re on Steam and feel like a game of Alpha Strike, or just want to check out the virtual models, it might be worth a look.

Trese Brothers Interview – Templar Battleforce now out for Steam

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About two years ago I reviewed a bunch of sci-fi themed mobile games that I thought might appeal to the discerning BattleTech fan. Among them was a neat little turn-based sandbox-style strategy game called Templar Assault that reminded me of a grid-based MegaMek if it were dropped into the Warhammer 40K universe. The pay version of the game included an ungodly number of missions and campaigns (100 levels at last count) where you could fight an array of aliens, robots, and other humans. Fighting in Leviathan Battlesuits- essentially Wanzer or Gear-size mecha sporting an array of autocannon, flamers, sword and axes, the Templar is an extremely efficient death machine. But not unstoppable. There is cursing aplenty as you start to lose your troops- a reason for a six-tier difficulty rating.

It was only the Trese Brothers‘ second game, and since then they’ve learned quite a bit about their craft and the business of making games. Templar Battleforce is now out for Steam, and soon for Android and IOS- their old stomping grounds. I also managed to get a few questions answered from the team- Cory, Andrew, and Martin Trese.

[Ron] Thanks for taking some time out of your schedule. By your standards, Templar Assault is a very dated game now. What has changed in the years since?

[Andrew] Templar Assault is coming up on its fourth anniversary.  It has been one of our most loved games.  In between, we’ve made 4 other games and gone through 2 KickStarters and a major game engine update.  Everything is new, and you’ll see that front and center in the tactical game play of Templar Battleforce, rich soundscape and visceral combat.

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Man Fitted with Cybernetic Hand Wired Directly into his Brain can ‘Feel’ Again

BattleTech has a lot of amputee characters. Morgan Kell, Justin Allard, Kael Pershaw, Anastasius Focht/ Frederick Steiner, and Grayson Carlyle for instance; driving ‘Mechs is a dangerous business. But in the novels, most of the prosthetics were fairly advanced from a modern viewpoint. The characters could typically receive biofeedback and simulated nerve induction similar to the original limb. Some even had weapons built into them in a manner similar to cyberpunk settings like Neuromancer or Shadowrun.

By contrast, in real life, most prosthetic limbs seem more ornamental than functional. The can be cheaper and useful in the age of 3D printing, but they are still mainly wire and pulley affairs. The few electronic prosthetic limbs out there are usually specially-made affairs so expensive only the super-rich could afford — and are still clumsy and slow.

Hands are more than simple bone and meat clamps to hold things with. The motor cortex of the brain dedicates a full quarter of itself just to hand control- most of which is for fine motor control. The skin of the hands; particularly the fingertips and palms have some of the highest concentrations of nerve endings in the body. Simulating that in a prosthesis has been pretty much impossible. Until now.

Perhaps more refreshing than the water is the sense of accomplishment.

Perhaps more refreshing than the water is the sense of accomplishment in regaining control and a sense of touch.

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Chameleon LPS for Modern Combat Vehicles?

Did you know that powered active camouflage has been around since World War 2? Perhaps inspiring such things as the Star trek cloaking device, shift suit from Predator, and of course the Chameleon Light Polarization field from BattleTech, clever military planners used what was later called Diffused Lighting Camouflage to reduce the visual signature of naval vessels and aircraft at range.

The system consisted of a series of installed light fixtures with carefully calibrated light bulbs that mimicked the ambient brightness of a sunlit sky. The ship or aircraft didn’t need to be completely covered. In the case of the Yehudi lighting used in U boat hunting aircraft, just the leading edges of the aircraft were rigged, to make it less likely to be spotted by German crewmen during an attack run.

PL-01, Poland's new mini stealth tank looks the part of a science fiction battlefield.

PL-01, Poland’s new mini stealth tank looks the part of a science fiction battlefield.

 

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MAXFAS Exoskeleton: Human Fire Control Supports against Fatigue

Remember Drake and Vasquez’ smart guns from Aliens, or the surgically invasive exoskeletal hardware from Elysium? As opposed to ghost ringsreflex sights or lasers, they provided a passive targeting system to increase the accuracy of their operators, and decreased their battle weariness. In case of the Smart Gun, the fluff said that it had a guided mode – making it an ambulatory equivalent to the Remote Sentries from the Special Edition that were completely unmanned. And the harness and gyro-stabilized mount for the gun (and the camera it was designed for) made for a stable firing platform.

Seems we’re ‘aiming’ at active auto targeting for the warfighters of the future. Based on the same type of strap-on physical therapy devices used to treat stroke victims and sufferers of Traumatic brain Injury, the MAXFAS is less exoskeletal suit and more of an automatic traction system that stabilizes and prevents the muscular tremors in tired hands and arms from throwing off the operator’s aim.

MAXFAS exoskeleton: making Duck Hunt way too easy a game.

MAXFAS exoskeleton: making Duck Hunt way too easy a game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MegaBots vs. Kuratas Fight Kickstarter

MetaBotsWith both the challenge and acceptance videos from the MegaBots crew and team Suidobashi numbering nearly ten million views in little more than a month, it looks like this good-natured rivalry is turning more heads than just those belonging to us big stompy bot fans. Especially with BattleBots back on the air… which, of course, brings me to some of the heavy-hitters getting involved. It’s no longer just a team of spirited ‘mecha-nauts’ anymore.

I mentioned in my first article about the challenge that the co-founders of MegaBots were no strangers to the media. But the crew they’ve managed to put together for this undertaking honestly reminds me of a 21st century Team Bonzai. And going by the new concept artwork for the redesign, the new Mk.II looks like a mashup between Robot Jox and Rocky IV- just dripping with ostentatious patriotism.

All this concept art needs is Captain America's shield and Hasbro would be all over this.

All this concept art needs is Captain America’s shield and Hasbro would be all over this.

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Renowned Scientists Warn Against Killer Robots

“Military Artificial Intelligence Arms Race Could Soon Develop if Preventative Measures are not Taken.”

Many people don’t realize that (as far as we know) the current generation of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) are in fact, flown by rated pilots; only by a (hopefully) secure data link from several hundred miles away. Flesh and blood hands still pickle the bombs and missiles off those drones. Interruption of that data link or some other sort of fault triggers a return to base order; some of the only real automation on the current series of UCAVs.

MQ-9 Reaper armed with AGM-114 Hellfires and Small Diameter Bombs

MQ-9 Reaper armed with AGM-114 Hellfires and Small Diameter Bombs

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