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What are Active Countermeasures?

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SwordOfJustice

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What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 2:51 am

I'd like to canvass your thoughts on what ACM actually is. It's actually a really important part of the game background, as it justifies the limited ranges on the tabletop.

For me, the "plausible, near future" science fiction style of Drop Zone Commander is part of what drew me to the game. That near future science fiction is very appealing, having seen movies like Aliens and Avatar.

I like that David thinks about how the models are meant to work and tries to model true scale, where a pilot can really fit inside the tank lying down, and the models match each other in size. It would weaken the game background if the models were just totally abstract. That attention to detail certainly pleases me as a wargamer.

So I'd like to know how everyone sees active counter measures for each race. It's actually not modelled, which I find surprising. After talking about the missile halo and countermeasures shooting down incoming rounds, I'm not seeing any of that on any of the DZC models.

Which is a real shame, actually. It would bring the game background to life and give an opportunity to add details to the models. I'd rather see a chaff launcher on a PHR walker than have to paint those three and five dot holes added to add visual interest to the smooth PHR surfaces. Which I always struggle with due to shaky hands and undercoat filling up the holes. ;) :D

Anyway, having a discussion about it will help people who write short stories for the game. It'd be nice if story writers could lean on some known details of how stuff works in the DZC universe. Like: what is a Scourge plasma rifle actually meant to be firing? And in a way that justifies that it can combine fire to take out a tank.

I personally believe that Dan Abnett really did a lot for 40K in his novels. He described Imperial Guard weapons and the many small details of battles that absolutely brought that game world of 40K to life in an exciting way. For an imaginative player like myself, the background is just as important as the game mechanics when I play a wargame and it's part of what I enjoy in DZC.

By the way, IMHO Games Workshop grew to a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars selling niche games across the world mostly based off the fun science fiction background with strong imagery, captivating art, and a game model of points and army lists, rather than having a tight and well balanced set of game rules.

Food for thought... I'd love it if Dave or Simon could chip in some answers on this thread.

UCM
I see them having an advanced chaff. Maybe the launcher pops out to keep the armour flush and that's why we can't see it on the models. Plus electronic jamming. I have a nice scene in mind which I'll write into a story soon on that.

Maybe some computer controlled anti-munition fire from the so called "machine guns" (the stats on some of these mean they must actually be high calibre autocannons).

I picture all UCM units have good stealth technology, much better than 21st century stuff already being developed.

PHR
Powerful ECM plus maybe secondary munitions fired from their rail cannons to shoot down incoming munitions and missiles, all controlled with either AI or powerful computer systems. Plus fire from the miniguns.

I imagine all PHR would have light bending camouflage fields that they could activate when desired and better than UCM stealth features.

Shaltari
I imagine the energy shield might be able to be focussed on an area. So with enough warning time, it can block incoming ordnance reliably, explaining why you have to get close with your weapons. It would also explain the highly unreliable 5+ nature of the passive save: if the save is made you happen to hit where the shield energy is focussed.

If the shield was uniformly strong everywhere then you would either be able to pierce it or not at all. So it makes more sense for it to be inconsistent with many weaker areas.

I'd also imagine Shaltari have great ECM and stealth features.

They could also have pop out lasers or maybe secondary functions on their weapons suites.

Scourge
Again, we could imagine a secondary function of the plasma cannon. Maybe it sprays a broad beam of plasma to shoot down incoming projectiles if it has time to calculate a firing solution?

ECM, pop out weapons and chaff would be possible, but we don't want all the races to be the same so it'd be nice to imagine some kind of alien technology for Scourge to keep with their creative theme.


Cheers,
Sword
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PullsyJr

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 4:42 am

I have a mate who gets confused between Active and Passive. To him, they're the wrong way around - active should be an "always on" forcefield type thing and passive should be "as required". I can see his point, but I can also see how Hawk has defined them too.

Because I'm annoying and pedantic, I'm going to talk about reality for a while...

At 10mm scale a table 6' x 4' would be minuscule: a tiny bit shy of 200m wide by 300m long. A current technology railgun fires projectiles at a minimum of 4,500 miles per hour, or 2 kilometres per second. Firing such a weapon down a clear street running the length of the table would mean that the projectile would cover that distance in less than 1/4 of a second. In that amount of time a scanning device would need to identify the attack, calculate the trajectory to check for the target and whether it will hit, and then fire off countermeasures.

A current technology laser defence system can clock out a drone in about 30 seconds. The only other way of stopping a railgun projectile is to disrupt its path of flight. The closest equivalent to that in use is the chaff/flare dispenser. Now I don't have any links to the science behind this, but an educated guess is that these dispensers take take at least half a second to deploy (though I'm happy to be corrected on that). Note that modern dispensers are gravity fed (not explosively launched) so these times can only be used as a guide.

Given the limitations of physics, there are no countermeasures that would be effective against a railgun at such close range. Unless you add on predictive qualities (ie, premonitions and psychic powers) nothing would be able to deploy quick enough, let alone destroy an incoming attack.

HOWEVER!

From a gameplay perspective, Active Countermeasures are there for a reason and I don't actually have that much of a problem with them. If every weapon (even infantry bases) could fire the entire length of the table without inhibitions then the game would be realistic but boring. You'd need something like 1mm scale to get a battlefield with any meaningful distances.

Now for my response to the actual question.
Here is a modern day chaff/flare dispenser. It sits flush on the aircraft to reduce aerodynamic phenomenon, and there'd be no reason to think that they'd be built differently in the future (though they may use propellant to "fire" them off, rather than letting gravity pull them down). From the PHR perspective, it is conceivable that those little dots along the body of the walkers that you so hate, would be launchers.

How to stop the more esoteric ordnance is another thing. What exactly is a plasma cannon firing? Is it superheated gas? What about the gauss weapons? By definition they should deliver EMP effects only and thus not actually destroy a target, but shut down any non-hardened electronics.

Without knowing how Hawk envisions these weapons to function, it is hard to come up with a reasonable way to counter them. Speculatively we could look at this:
Plasma weapon countermeasures 1 - Inert gas discharges that deprives the plasma of fuel. The shot would need to be slow enough, and the "fired" gas dense enough to actually do this. Given that most weapons shoot at (near) supersonic velocities it would require a suspension of reality for it to work.
Plasma weapon countermeasures 2 - Deflection systems. Magnetic fields, if the plasma shot has a ferrous core. Extremely high density air cushions if the shot is just gas.
Gauss weapons countermeasures 1 - Providing the attack is an EMP, then some sort of Faraday cage would be required. If this is the case then that would be a Passive countermeasure against that type of weapon however.

It's all speculative, but the game is fun! Also, I need to be less focused on realism sometimes... ;)
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Nightwolf

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 5:42 am

Gauss weapons are said to be a more efficient version of a standard railgun. The in-game effect is that it can be fired by a skimmer with less recoil so that it does not cause the vehicle to flip over. Thus being more advanced than both UCM and PHR designs, but in a different way and on a far faster platform.
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SwordOfJustice

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 7:02 am

Thanks Pullsey. I found that interesting. Pedantic nerds rock!

Of course, those damned holes aren't decorative, they're chaff launchers. :)

I'm only asking because I want to write some fiction in the game universe and I like that semi plausible aspect.
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Abrusio

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 7:41 am

PullsyJr wrote:Without knowing how Hawk envisions these weapons to function, it is hard to come up with a reasonable way to counter them. Speculatively we could look at this:
Plasma weapon countermeasures 1 - Inert gas discharges that deprives the plasma of fuel. The shot would need to be slow enough, and the "fired" gas dense enough to actually do this. Given that most weapons shoot at (near) supersonic velocities it would require a suspension of reality for it to work.
Plasma weapon countermeasures 2 - Deflection systems. Magnetic fields, if the plasma shot has a ferrous core. Extremely high density air cushions if the shot is just gas.


Maybe there is no active countermeasures against plasma because (afaik) their range full and range countered seems to be the same. We can speculate that plasma weapons just loose very quickly their efficiency on larger range.

That one reason I like DZC more than any other SF mini game out there, it all makes sense !
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Ljevid

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 8:34 am

I think modern day possibilities are a little underestimated.

Here you see a live fire test of the Rheinmetall Active Defense Sytem test early in 2012:

Image

Image


The reaction time in between detection and nullification is actually milliseconds.

During the test , an RPG7 rocket propelled grenade was fired from a distance of 18m at an ADS-equipped Fuchs 1A8 armored personnel carrier (APC) being towed at 20 km/h.

The RPG7 travels at 110 m/s before its rocket motor fires. The ADS thus had only a tenth of a second from launch to recognize the threat, confirm it as a real threat, decide on a response, and activate the appropriate countermeasure.

The AMAP-ADS protects a complete hemisphere with a reaction time of roughly 500 microseconds, allowing it to react not only to RPGs, but to virtually any close-in threat (anti-tank guided missiles, kinetic energy projectiles, explosively formed penetrators, IEDs, etc.).

An AMAP-ADS system can also counter multiple threats, as demonstrated in an earlier Swedish test against a pair of RPG7 rounds fired simultaneously at the same point on the target.

PullsyJr wrote:At 10mm scale a table 6' x 4' would be minuscule: a tiny bit shy of 200m wide by 300m long. A current technology railgun fires projectiles at a minimum of 4,500 miles per hour, or 2 kilometres per second. Firing such a weapon down a clear street running the length of the table would mean that the projectile would cover that distance in less than 1/4 of a second. In that amount of time a scanning device would need to identify the attack, calculate the trajectory to check for the target and whether it will hit, and then fire off countermeasures.


That is already possible ( but truth be told it still has enough kinks that I wouldn't bet my life on it). The sensor-countermeasure modules today are fast and accurate enough to intercept 120 mm kinetic energy penetrators (such as the M829 APFSDS sabot rounds, moving at ~1700 m/s).

If you see modern technology it is rather unrealistic that hundreds of years into the future a point blank railgun shot wouldn't be stopped.

Other Systems:

Quick Kill for example is an active protection system (APS) that fires small rockets (normally) from the top of the vehicle.

Iron Fist is the Israeli version of the former and is a hard-kill APS that has already seen a lot of action (especially in urban combat)

Trophy is also Israeli in origin and destroys incoming missiles and shells with a shotgun like blast. In case of a shell - the speed of the shell alone will rip it apart as sonn as it encounters the blast.

Image

All these systems are already "old" and much more futuristic stuff is worked on.

@ SwordOfJustice
All of these systems are virtually hidden and difficult to make out + they become smaller and lighter each year. In case of the Trophy you only see the radar + dummy launcher and that was 2-4 years ago. The new version looks like a small armor slab.

One of the systems the Israelis work on is a robotic system that identifies gunmen in crowds and engages them with precision munition against soft targets without damage to bystanders. All of that autonomous without the crew ever noticing.
I think that is F***ing scary :cry:
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SwordOfJustice

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 9:18 am

W-O-W. Thanks for that. Yep, scary.

This really fuels the plausibility of the DZC background, doesn't it? I bet you Dave did some research as he designed the game.

I'd still like to get some community feedback on the ACM for each faction from this rich source material from real world military systems.

Cheers,
Sword
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Ljevid

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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 9:40 am

Now to the fictional part.

The speed of an incoming round is usually high enough that it rips apart as soon as its path is blocked. You don’t even need to be overly precise as long as you fill the space between yourself and the incoming round with enough stuff / fragments.

With the UCM you could stick to the ideas projected by modern technology. You could even include a problem with APS – most of them are quite deadly to lightly armored personnel walking near the protective blast.
The graphic description of a couple of (green) soldiers getting ripped to shreds by the fully automated APS engaging an incoming round should be very colorful (mostly red).

- Other possibilities (if you stick to the stuff HW have already described) would be laser systems, smoke and jamming technology, as well as flares.

-----------

In case of the PHR instead of a shotgun blast there could be nano/micro machines that are on the surface of their walkers (which probably spend most of their time polishing the surface) and that move into the flight path of incoming rounds. You could describe barely visible shrouds / moving clouds that become visible milliseconds before the shell explodes in mid-air. That could also describe why these systems become ineffectual at close range, since the bots can’t move fast enough in sufficient numbers into the path of the object.

Another awesome effect could be that these nanobots change the appearance of the walkers – like you see a battlegroup of highly polished ivory colored walkers approaching a town and suddenly the white polished surface changes into an urban camouflage that blends with the background.

Other PHR possibilities could be small energy shields that need some time to be activated and that are barely able to deflect a round, need tons of energy. They could also have all systems the UCM can have.

-----------

The most obvious APS for the Scourge would be some plasma technology. I don’t know, but there could be some shielding the plasma needs to be shot – the same plasma shielding could be used like an energy shield.
I would personally like to see something more creative and far creepier, like sound wave emitters that emit some scary screeching noise/acoustic waves (that not only destroy eardrums and give headaches) that explode ordnance.
Or how about a semi-living armor that forms to deflect projectiles, but that needs some time to adjust perfectly to the flight path of the incoming round.

----------------

With Shaltari all is possible. Shield–like technologies would be most obvious, but how about tiny gates that build up in the flight path of the incoming round. Would be fun to see a shell disappear in midair and maybe even reappear behind the Shaltari vehicle…

Another thing could be a microwave based APS

They could be warping space around the vehicles

Create miniature black holes (okay that becomes weird now).


That is only the stuff I came up in my break – The possibilities are endless – looking forward to more stories from you Sword. :D

Regards.
Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man ON fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life...
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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 11:15 am

I like the idea of PHR walker hulls crawling with micro-machines that act as a dual purpose ACM and camouflage system - perhaps thats what those holes in the hull are for? they dispense the micro-machines?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzpVkhm-Otk#t=27
This is the ADAPTIV thermal camouflage system from BAE - a nice real world example of the sort of camo technology we are talking about the PHR having. (although theirs would be more advanced, of course. :D )


Also, I've always figured that the vast majority of PHR active counter-measures are designed around electronic warfare - preventing the shot from even being fired in the first place.
PHR command cards show they really like their electronic warfare - Weapon Hack, Drive Hack, Countermeasure Hack etc. So I'm thinking the PHR might make heavy use of of Stealth and jamming technologies - the enemy has to get in close for the simple reason that their targeting computers simply cant lock on from further away!
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Re: What are Active Countermeasures?

PostFri Oct 31, 2014 11:27 am

I kinda imagined that Shaltari ACM were like the pinpoint defense system from Macross/Robotech.

It'd be controlled by an AI instead of a Shaltari spinning a trackball. Though the latter image is amusing to visualize.

Could also work as a variant for PHR.
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