The Glider Bomb
History and Development: During the Dynastic Migrations (Unification Wars, depending on which side you were on) space-to-surface bombardment went through a rapid period of advancement, refinement and innovation. The forces of the second migration originally had no technology and tactics dedicated to space to surface bombardment. Thus the first space-to-surface bomardments actually used in warfare were improvised. The original tactic employed by the second migration forces was the use of dumb warheads fired crudely at the targets from space. While extremely destructive and terrifying, this method proved largely ineffective and counter productive. The early bombardments often missed their targets all together and when they did hit their targets the result was generally a destruction of a desirable settlement or piece of infrastructure but little damage to resisting military forces. These bombardments became more of a psychological weapon than a means of actually eliminating enemy forces. The distribution of atmospheric entry capable precision guided missiles (PGMs) to extra-planetary command ships changed the role of space-to-surface bombardment completely. The newly guided missiles could carry a wide variety of warheads, had a course correctable navigation system and could relay information so that the operators (pilots) could guide the missile based on real time information. The use of PGMs for warhead delivery made space-to-surface bombardment an indispensable part of planet capture.
The glider bomb was actually developed independently by two different groups looking for alternative approaches to effective space-to-surface weapons. The engineers at 6-proton (an Earth Based material construction company) were given the challenge of reducing the price tag of the precision guided missile. It was believed by military scientists that a cheaper casing or cheaper heat shielding would reduce the cost of the missile, but the engineers at 6-protons instead determined that the PGM was simply over designed and overly complicated for the task at hand. First, the PGMs in standard use were designed to operate in numerous types environments with a wide variety of atmospheric densities and specific gravities. The 6-proton engineers realized that to date all space-to-surface bombardments were carried out on planets with similar gravities and similar atmospheric densities, obstensively earth like. The PGM were using a thrust only means of course correction, and much of the thrust potential was largely going unused because gravity was doing most of the work. Additionally the PGMs were being used against small or low-tech targets without effective anti-aircraft or ECM measures. Thus 6-proton introduced an un-powered winged bomb, with a simple transmitter received and simple mechanical method of controlling trajectory using wing flaps. Not including the warhead, the price of the glider-bomb was 1/50th of the traditional PGM without a warhead, and in the hands of a skilled operator they were just as precise. Indeed since the glider bombs did not use fuel, a skilled pilot with good weather could keep glider bomb aloft for hours looking for a target. Furthermore glider bombs are capable of a soft landing, so if a target cannot be found or if the mission is scrubbed the bombs can carefully set down by its operator and collected later. The soft landing also allows spacers to 'mine' an area from space, several first migration settlements have woken up to find the dawn revealing dozens of un-detonated glider bombs parked around and in their community. The call to surrender soon follows.
As often happens in warfare and science, a second group came up with an almost identical system of warhead delivery at the same time. The forces of the first migration were nearly four hundred years behind the forces of the second migration with regard to space side technology. Attempts by the forces of the first migration to launch military satellites, the use of surface-to-space projectiles or armed spacecraft were disasters. With the exception of orbital mine fields, the first migration forces were completely unable to challenge the second migration's space superiority. Aside from intelligence gathering the biggest draw back of this inequality was a sever deficit in artillery fire. The artillery fire the first migration force did have was blunt and ineffective compared to the PGM fire. Thus, the director of the Gilarant Orbital Defense Center (GODc) proposed using rockets to launch surface directed ordinance instead of orbital mines. After several trips to the drawing board it was determined that an unmanned remote control glider was the most efficient system for delivering warheads using low orbital rockets.
The GODc gliders were built light so as many as six could be attached to a rocket at a time, the transmission-reception system was simple to install and the gliders themselves were of so little mass and had such a low energy signature that they were not detected by Second Migration radar. The system was simple; a rocket would be launched into the upper atmosphere containing any number of glider bombs. These would then detach and find their way to their targets. The Second Migration force could detect the rockets easily enough, but the gliders could travel hundred of kilometers in any direction (dependant on the weather). The GODc glider bombs were smaller and more limited in the type of warhead carried but were equally silent and precise when compared to 6-proton's design.
The glider bomb became a staple of artillery for both sides during the peak of the battle for Gilarant and the 6-Proton gliders are still standard issue on all Space Side Artillery platforms. However, the use of glider bombs has not always been popular. Their operation requires special training, in that they do not have the sophisticated AIs of PGMs, and they are easily misdirected by poor weather, sophisticated jamming measures or other deterients. Many commanders see them as a pointless cost cutting measure. When Admiral Utumbe took command of the Glarant front he famously commented on the use 6-proton's glider bombs, 'Next they will be giving us bayonets to save on the cost of bullets.'
Appearance: The 6-proton glider bomb is quite large, and completely black. It is 9 meters from nose to tail, with central compartment that is 1 meter wide and 2 meters high. The wings unfold from compartments at the side of bomb when it enters atmosphere and extend to 10 meters in length each. The wings are very thin, but made of a tough carbon fiber material. High weight filaments run through out the wings and connect the flaps to the servomotors inside the body. The tail of the bomb also contains four tail fins that be retracted, and turned to help direct flight. The bomb has two 'eyes'. The first eye is located in the nose and it has telescoping capabilities, and a laser emitting distance finder. The second eye is located on the belly and uses a wide-angle lens to capture large high-resolution images of the ground over which the bomb is passing.
The GODc bomb is much smaller, only 2 meters in length, and instead of being made out of carbon polymers it is made out of ultralight alloys. When packaged the GODc bomb resembles and silver smoking pipe with a large compartment at the head or bowl which holds the electric motors, battery, transmitters and electronic eye. The GODc also deploys retractable wings, which fan out from 'pipe stem' section once the GODc is released from its rocket. The warhead is attached to the GODc behind the 'bowl' and underneath the 'stem' of the pipe.
Capabilities: The 6-proton glider can deliver almost any warhead and be piloted effetely carrying up to ten tons of ordinance. The glider can also be stripped of ordinance and used to carry other types of cargos. It is extremely maneuverable and experienced operators with fair weather have piloted 6-protons through canyons and dense urban areas successfully. The carbon polymer makes up the 6-proton casing is extremely heat resistant and the glider can endure relatively hard entries into the atmosphere. The standard lithium cells in the glider have a shelf-life upward of 60 years, and they can power the glider for over 100hrs. Gliders launched from high orbit or deep space often have maneuvering thrusters attached to the outside so that operator can direct entry into the planetary atmosphere. Gliders launched from a low orbit are generally just pointed in the right direction.
The GODc glider is not designed for atmospheric re-entry, and thus is not a true space-to-surface weapon. The GODc is also limited to carrying 200 kilograms of ordinance. However unlike the 6-proton, the GODc can drop its ordinance, thus a group of GODcs can theoretically drop their ordinance over a target, then make a soft landing at a safe point to recovered for future use. However, the most effective use of the GODc is a guided bomb.
Game Use: As a bomb the most obvious thing you can have your players do with this thing is disarm it. Because the bomb is quiet and capable of a soft-landing; it is conceivable that players will trip over a parked glider. The 6-proton glider also has a Christmas package type effect in that the players will not know what is in the glider should they come across one. They could of course assume it is a bomb, but what kind? Is the glider still connected to its operator? Of course as GM you could put something else in besides a bomb, a defector, supplies or the plans to a new battle station.
However, I designed this as one-way method for getting player onto the surface of a planet. The conceit is that the engineers strip out the bomb parts and turn the glider into something the PCs can operate. This method gives the players a little more control over were they land, and chance to fly around bit. But they can't get back off the planet. (Perhaps a bit railroadish) Finally one these gliders could be used as an improvised communicator, because the thing is capable of two-way communications the PCs could use it to hack, talk with or threaten the people in charge of the bomb.
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? Responses (13)
Just how big is the 10-ton Glider? Since gliders are generally very slow, aren't they rather vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire?
There is no mention about stealth being used to protect them, and so slow gliders would simply be blown or lased out of the air with little difficulty.
With stealth, they are much more practical, but would need to be used only at night, but then you do not have the thermal updrafts typically used by gliders to stay aloft - without them you will be lucky to have 30 minutes of flight time.
Now, very small, stealthy ones would be useful perhaps as short range precision weapons on unsuspecting targets...
Just am not buying this as a great weapon - perhaps an emergency one, but even in WWII they were adopted for a short interval, and then replaced by missiles. And a 10-ton payload glider is bigger then a Semi.
You make some good points, but nothing that I didn't address. I tried to address it more clearly.
First- a ten ton glider is big and yes it would be vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. Also why do you think a glider would be slower than any other unpowered bomb?
There is no mention of stealth, but the lack of a powerful engine, the use of a carbon shell will make it harder to detect by radar. I think I noted that, but stealth glider could also be employed.
If you launch a glider from space, you may have greater than 30 minutes of flight time, but you are a right bad weather could reduce flight time and reduce the effectiveness of the weapon. How long does it take the space shuttle to land?
I didn't mean to suggest this was great weapon, but was instead a cost effective one. Sometime 40 technologically limited and easy to maintain tanks are better than 1 excellent but difficult to maintain tank. But often I think wars are fought by weapons that could be improved and are not the top the line. The point of this item was give the players something to interact with that was different than the typical bomb or surface lander, but I believe could have a realistic backstory.
As to the payload, the space shuttle weighs more than 10-tons, WW2 gliders carried more than 7-tons.
I had overlooked to comparison to the space shuttle - my own experience with gliders has been with the conventional tow-into-the-air versions. The picture of basically an offensive space-shuttle clarifies the image for me. I had forgotten about that billion-dollar glider :P
Seems more practical from that standpoint.
One thing to bear in mind however is a traditional modern space shuttle is essentially a flying brick upon atmosphere reentry and doesn't so much "glide" as "fall out fo the sky under minimal pilot control" so keeping one in the air for hours would prove rather difficult without altering the main design a fair bit. (To be more reminiscent of the WWII style glider, i.e something with a large wing span and surface area) Additionally one could also attach solar panels and a cheap electric driven prop to the rear (that can be remotely detached if desired) to give it added flight time and distance.
Since the gliders seem to rely on remote operation, aren't they going to be vulnerable to signal jamming or worse for the deployers, signal hacking?
yup-see game use.
Its a reengineering of the laser guided bomb, (the first case) and the MIRV ICBM, which we've been using since Vietnam and 1986, respectively. I suspect this will be used in a similar manner- the main delivery vehicle handles the risk over 99 percent of the flight time, this only flies the 'last mile', and as such, is generally not particularly easy to handle in the chaos and surprise of war.
Not terribly bad, all in all, it's just one more niche filled.
Update: Fixed some typos and word use errors.
Nice to see the sword of techno babble cuts both ways. Well done Valadaar. See it doesn't matter if you address his points or not, or if his points are valid. Gaming is done in an agreed upon reality. If everyone agree glider bombs work, then they work. One question, what do you mean by 'Christmas package type effect'?
Imagine the evening sky, sun setting, the night is almost here... and a host of triangular things slowly floating upon a city. Soon they will be invisible and find their targets.
Surely they have their weaknesses, but they do fill a niche, as said.
A handy low beduget weapon that I can readily see employed by rebels fighting with minimal supplies. It would also fit well in the warzone/mutant chronicles sci-fi rpg setting due to the low tech level of the majority of weaponry there.