Category Archives: Videos

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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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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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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MK2 Megabot vs Kuratas in Upcoming Solaris-Style Battle

ONE SHALL STAND, ONE SHALL FALL...

ONE SHALL STAND, ONE SHALL FALL…

After their unsuccessful Kickstarter in October of last year, the Oakland California-based MegaBots Inc. seems to have done the best thing they could do to stay active in the public arena. They picked a fight.

In late June via video, Andrew Stroup and Gui Cavalcanti challenged Suidobiashi Heavy Industries to a duel- A batchall, if you will, to fight against Suidobiashi’s current combat mecha- Kuratas. Neither Stoup nor Cavalcanti are unfamiliar with either engineering competitions nor high media exposure. Both appeared in the 2012 Discovery Channel reality show: The Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius.

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BattleTech: First Somerset Strikers and Sourcebook Retrospective

I think the BattleTech cartoon was probably as close the franchise came to making the mainstream of popular culture. I could include the videogames (which I have discussed before) but the cartoon took place during a time where big fighting robots were generally in the mainstream anyway. MechWarrior 2, Robot Jox, and of course blockbusters like Terminator 2. Even Japanese distributors were beginning to test the US market with titles like Patlabor and different flavors of Gundam. Big robots were beginning to become as much a staple of science fiction as the space opera. (Some media, like Gundam and BattleTech combined the two).

So how does one market a mech-centric space opera towards children? As seen with other US franchises like Exosquad, don’t sugar coat it. In space operas, there are big wars going on, and people die. 1st Somerset Strikers doesn’t show death like Exosquad does, but one of the plot developments banks on one of the major characters failing to eject from his devastated BattleMech before it explodes and being thought dead by his compatriots for most of the season. Likewise, though it specifically mentions in the official BattleTech canon that the Jade Falcons evacuated the city of Romulus before glassing it with orbital bombardment, it was never brought up on the show.  So the viewer thinks they just watched an entire city of people get vaporized. Heady stuff. I really wish they had made more of a deal of the destruction of Edo on Turtle Bay later in the season, considering that most of the inhabitants in fact WERE massacred by the Smoke Jaguars (one of the reasons that clan was targeted for termination during Operations Serpent and Bulldog)

 

promotional artwork for the animated series

Promotional artwork for the animated series

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Robot Jox: A Double Take

I recently watched reviews of this film by internet personalities That Sci Fi Guy and Cinema Snob, which prompted me to find and watch this ’90s sci-fi cheesefest. I’d probably rented Robot Jox a hundred times in the early nineties, but a few things stuck out at me that prompted a fresh look after a few decades.

Robot Jox is a 1990 film co-written by science fiction author Joe Haldeman and directed by Stuart Gordon. In a future after a nuclear holocaust, the international community has pulled together enough to form at least two socioeconomic factions. Somehow, war has been left behind, replaced by a kind of Circle of Equals involving giant robots sponsored and built by the factions and piloted by who amounts to a combination sports star and national hero. If you noticed my reference to the Clan Circle of Equals, believe me, I have a few reasons.

I can see this appearing in a TRO.

I can see the Matsumoto 14 appearing in a TRO as a resized heavy or assault ‘mech.

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Anyone Remember Exosquad?

I recently watched the mid-90s cartoon show on Hulu for the first time since it aired on television. And I have to say that it touches me on a level that I don’t think anyone marketing a cartoon to sell toys really has before or since.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s, when cartoons were usually made in such a way as to appeal to the most number of age groups. And they usually stuck to a really clear-cut list of things you can and can’t get away with regarding real life issues like war and politics. Shows like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs got away with well written and subtle jokes aimed at an adult audience, even though any four year old could plop down and watch it and have just as much fun as a teenager, or even their parents.

Exosquad broke all the rules of what cartoons could get away with- in the western hemisphere anyway. Japanese anime had been catering to an adult and mature audience for decades at that point, and even their toy-selling shows like Mobile Suit Gundam, Dougram, Votoms, and a slew of others had very adult themes. I think Universal Studios was aiming at that market here in the US; told exactly like an epic war movie.

J.T. Marsh: the BattleTech universe could use a few of him.

J.T. Marsh: the BattleTech universe could use a few of him.

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