User:LRichardson/Essays/Anti Spalling Buffers
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Anti Spalling Buffer Modules
Anti-Spalling Buffer Modules are high strength packing materials that have been repurposed and redesigned to fill the empty spaces inside sparse Battlemechs to protect important equipment. Essentially being simply a large cushioning mass they provide volume that shrapnel and fragments from hull penetrations can get harmlessly caught in. These buffer modules also have the side effect of making repairing and replacing equipment more difficult and the modules are vulnerable to heat and fire.
When armor is breached in a Battlemech and damage is inflicted on internal structures there is a grave risk of important equipment being damaged. Damage to some kinds of equipment can lead to catastrophic failure and/or loss of the combat effectiveness of the unit, for example ammunition explosions, engine hits or destruction of primary armament. While equipment such as CASE can mitigate the effects of an ammunition explosion, not all catastrophic failures of equipment are aided by these technologies.
The Universal Payload Service (UPS), an ancient interplanetary package delivery service, has long had to deal with issues regarding the destruction of valuable cargo in transit. Cargo can be damaged by rough handling during normal operation as well as by damage to cargo vehicles and the containers that are being used in shipping. In order to deal with the rigors of interplanetary travel in a prolonged time of war, UPS has developed sophisticated, durable packing materials that can snugly fill excess space within cargo holds. These tough yet flexible materials provide cargo protection solutions to a surprising variety of damage types. While these materials are fairly easily destroyed, owing to their sheer bulk quite often the sacrifice of the various foams, braces, nets, cushions and air pillows manage to protect the cargo. The addition of layers of ballistic fabrics and strategically placed deflection panels allows for some protection against penetrating damage to the container such as from micro-meteor or orbital debris strikes.
For making deliveries into war-zones and near lawless regions such as the periphery, armed escorts are often necessary. A fleet of light and medium Battlemechs has been aquired as escorts for UPS shipments once on the surface. Lightly armed, usually with machine guns, SRM launchers and the occasional small autocannon to keep costs down, the fleet is comprised largely of retrofitted obsolete `Mechs along with some custom designed designs at a low technology level. A problem noted by UPS security forces was that since there is so little equipment inside the Mech's internal spaces, once incoming fire penetrates the hull of the Mech there is really only one or two items in the section that are there to be hit. Since energy weapons are typically not employed in these `Mechs, all too often the damage is to ammunition bins or the only weapon the `Mech might have, turning what might have been a survivable lucky hit into a effective loss of the unit.
As the employment of heavier security forces (ie `Mercs) or the use of sophisticated defensive systems (such as CASE) are often not cost effective and/or simply unavailable in the periphery, the tech's at UPS turned to what they had at hand: their packaging materials. Recognizing that much of the internal critical damage is due to fragmentation, spalling and shock, UPS tech's started to fill every available void space inside their escort `Mechs with carefully planned and installed arrays of their packing materials. While these materials do not at all improve the armor protection or structural integrity of the Mech, they may absorb some critical damage that may otherwise be disasterous.
In the periphery, where virtually everything used comes from somewhere else at some point, local Mechwarriors and techs have noted UPS's method of protecting equipment. Having ample, disused packing material to recycle local forces have started to copy this ad-hoc technique. Lacking the training of UPS material handling staff however, the result is not quite as effective. Seeing a market UPS has begun to offer both material and installation support to any interested party. While available to anyone in the Inner Sphere, this practice is somewhat obscure and is seldom encountered among professional armies, instead being seen primarily on owner-modified Mechs such as among smaller mercenary bands, periphery bandits, Solaris IV combatants and the like.
The downside to adding spall buffers is that the packing material is labor intensive to remove and once damaged the material cannot be repaired. This greatly complicates repair efforts on damaged equipment, often preventing equipment encased in semi-melted adhesive filler foam from being repaired at all. Further, many of the materials used are sensitive to heat. At moderately high heat much of the buffering material will substantially shrink or even melt, destroying any effectiveness it had. At very high heat some of the materials are even prone to fire; if protecting ammunition or a tightly sealed compartment an explosion can result.