#SciFiFriday – Chain of Command by Frank Chadwick (@BaenBooks)

9781481482974-lg
Courtesy Baen.com

Military science fiction is often a hit-or-miss proposition to me, even more so with space combat which is often so “fantastical” that it becomes unbearable. But I am also a longtime fan of Frank Chadwick’s games (see his BoardGameGeek Ludography) and seeing how his latest book, Chain of Command, is being published by @BaenBooks (whose military science fiction I tolerate more so than other publishers) I gave it a try. It also didn’t hurt that I listened to the Bane Free Radio Hour (Episode 2017 09 29) where Mr. Chadwick discussed his book.

What really drew me to this book was Mr. Chadwick’s inspiration. As he writes in the Historical Note at the end of Chain of Command:

The inspiration for this novel grew from James D. Hornfischer’s stirring and detailed account of the naval campaign in the Solomon Islands (including Guadalcanal) in the second half of 1942–Neptune’s Inferno, but I never intended to shift the events of that campaign wholesale into deep space. A few incidents may be familiar to students of the historical battles, but my main interest was in how officers and sailors–as well as the admirals who lead them into battle with varying degrees of success–responded to a war which took them unaware and psychologically unprepared.

Mr. Chadwick goes on to list several books that further influenced the story. I was very happy to see Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny and Nicholas Monsarrat’s The Cruel Sea listed for I had thought nobody actually read these books anymore.

With all that in mind one could be forgiven for worrying that Chain of Command is just another “WW2 in space” story but I am happy to report that the book successfully overcomes that challenge. The science fiction technology tends a bit more towards the “hard science-fi” edge with just enough handwavium to explain away the science fiction. In many ways, the fantastical technology in the book traces its lineage to today’s technology which makes it all the more believable and relatable.

If military science fiction is your thing and you have even a passing interest in World War II naval combat, then Chain of Command could make a good addition to your reading list.

SciFi Friday – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Courtesy unternet.net

I recently reread Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and was struck by the depiction of CYBER WARFARE and ASYMMETRIC PRECISION GLOBAL STRIKE in the book.

– SPOILERS AHEAD –

Like the time Mannie has Mike play with the Warden’s atmosphere control – SCADA attack? Indeed, Mike is in effect a giant SCADA for the moon….

Having Mike control all communications – INTERNET censorship?

Having Mike impersonate others – Identity theft?

Using rocks as WMD placed precisely on target – Asymmetric Weapons and Precision Global Strike?

These are just a few. Go back and read the book yourself and see how – in 1965 and 1966 – Robert Heinlein was already predicting warfare of today (and maybe still tomorrow).

Miniatures Monday – Minicraft Scale Space

Courtesy Airfix

I am working on two models on the weekends that both are space-related. The first is an Airfix Vostok rocket in 1:144 scale. The model commemorates the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight in 1961. The final assembled Vostok 1 measures just under 10 inches high and a little less than 3 inches across at the base. The kit also comes with extra parts to make three different launch configurations (Yuri Gagarin’s Vostok I, the Luna, and the modern Soyuz launch version). In addition to a display base, the model includes a cosmonaut (about 1/2 inch tall) to give the display a sense of scale.

My second space-related kit is the Dragon Models X-15 twin-pack.

Courtesy DragonUSA

This model  allows you to build TWO of the famous X-15 craft. You have our choice of flight or pre/post flight configurations. It is nice to get a small-yet-detailed look at this famous spacecraft. Be sure to also check out NASA ebooks online, to include their one on the X-15.

I have recently switched over to 1:144 scale because I simply don’t have the space for larger models.  The price point is actually real nice too (usually under $20).

Wargame Wednesday – Carriers in Space

Courtesy loomingy1 via Flickr

Michael Peck, writing for Foreign Policy National Security Blog, had a very interesting interview with naval analyst Chris Weuve on the concept of aircraft carriers in space. Basically, Mr. Weuve discusses what is “right” and what is “wrong” about aircraft carriers in science fiction.

After reading this article I think it is easy to say that Chris would probably agree that starship combat games that use vector movement (such as Mayday, Power Projection: Fleet, Full Thrust, etc.) are far more realistic than ones that don’t. The article also explains why it was so easy to base Star Wars: X-Wing off the Wings of War series (WWI and WWII) and make it appear “cinematically correct.”

Good comments for designers of science fiction games to keep in mind.

Threat Tuesday – Countdown Continues….

AP Photo

This March 28, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch Facility on the nation’s northwest coast. The image appears to show preparations beginning for a long-range rocket launch in North Korea despite international objections. An analysis conducted for the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says the image shows trucks and fuel tanks, and work underway on the gantry next to a mobile launch pad. (AP Photo)

Threat Tuesday – NorKs in Spaaaaace!

Those wacky NorKs are going to try again to put a satellite in orbit. Gotta give them credit; they certainly don’t seem to want to give up even after their failure in 2009. They also are apparently trying to be public about this one too. Something to do with “transparency” and being a “respectable” member of the international community. North Korea? Ha!

AP Photo

In this March 20, 2012, satellite image taken and provided by GeoEye, a satellite launch pad in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea, is shown. North Korea last week announced that scientists will send a satellite into space in April on the back of a long-range rocket. (AP Photo)

AP Photo

WIDE VIEW OF TOK101 OF MARCH 23, 2012 – In this March 20, 2012, satellite image taken and provided by GeoEye, a satellite launch pad, a white strip near a junction of three roads seen in the middle, in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea, is shown. North Korea last week announced that scientists will send a satellite into space in April on the back of a long-range rocket. (AP Photo)

NorK 2009 Launch (SatNews)

Press reports are saying this will be a Taepo Dong 2 SLV. This may be the same rocket that the NorKs tried to launch in 2009. The major difference this time is the likely launch trajectory; almost due south according to the NorKs. This trajectory means they don’t have to fly over Japan to get to orbit – a small technicality that has previously upset the Japanese – and is also very useful for an “earth observation” mission like the NorKs have proclaimed.

The problem is that the US and it’s allies don’t see the Taepo Dong 2 as an SLV, but rather as an ICBM. In 2009, the National Aerospace Intelligence Center (NASIC) published their Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Handbook where they made the case the Taepo Dong 2 is an ICBM. In particular, NASIC stated:

North Korea is developing the Taepo Dong 2 (TD-2) ICBM/SLV, which could reach the United States if developed
as an ICBM. Although both launches of the TD-2 ended in failure, the April 2009 flight demonstrated a more
complete performance than the July 2006 launch. North Korea’s continued progress in developing the TD-2 clearly
shows its determination to achieve long-range ballistic missile and space launch capabilities. The Taepo Dong 2
could be exported to other countries in the future.

That “export to other countries” is a worrisome part given the NorKs proclivity to sell arms to shadier nations of the world. The Taepo Dong 2 might be “old tech” but just how much technology do you need to lob a nuclear warhead at a city?

Wargame Wednesday – New First Interstellar War 2114-2118 (Imperium)

The war started out in 2114 with a Terran occupation of Procyon. As the Vilani have a world at Nusku, the Terrans went to the galactic east. The landings were without any opposition and administrative in nature. The 5th Rifles Division settled down for occupation duty. Then an Imperial Task Force arrived in system having used a tanker in the Sirius System to pass through that tertiary star. Later intelligence would reveal that the Imperials appealed to the Emperor for additional funding in an effort to quickly end Terra’s expansionist plans. The invading Vilani quickly destroyed the Terran fleet in system, including two valuable transports, and landed two regular troop divisions and another of Jump Troops. The 5th Rifles put up a valiant fight but was overwhelmed by the Imperial ground forces and surrendered. By the end of 2115, the situation looked bleak for the Terrans seeing as they were being hemmed in by the Vilani.

The defeat at Procyon, coupled with the presence of Vilani at Nusku, led to a unification of effort in the Terran forces. Production of Missile Boats was begun, as well as raising defensive forces. The new Terran Confederation was readying for a defensive war of the homeworlds. That is until the Imperials overstretched themselves.

Intelligence agencies disagree if it was just poor planning or hubris that led to the Imperial invasion of Midway. The planet had no Terran outpost or other forces in system. Maybe the Imperials thought they could seize a forward staging area. Regardless, the Terran Fleet put an end to those plans by pulling together a scratch force and ended the Imperial eastern invasion threat. First, they defeated the Imperial Task Force above Midway, leaving two divisions of Imperial troops stranded on the planets surface. Additionally, a Scout squadron passed through the Procyon system (bypassing a lone Imperial Transport squadron) and jumped to Sirius. There the scouts engaged the Imperial tanker squadron in the system and destroyed it before it could escape. Though a one-way mission (the scout squadron had no way to get home) by controlling the Sirius system, even for just a short time, the Terrans isolated the eastern invasion fleets. Left stranded in Procyon and beyond were two Imperial transport squadrons and three divisions of troops, including the 60th Proxima Centauri Jump Division. By the end of 2117 the transports had been run down and eliminated.

The Vilani Provincial Governor was shocked. In four years of combat on the trailing side of Terran space, the Imperials had lost 2xCL, 4xDD, 2xSC, 3xTR, a tanker, and had three divisions of troops trapped behind enemy lines. Looking over his ledger, the governor was aghast at the 27 RU of losses – as much as the province produced in two years. Production was quickly reorganized with additional transports being built and more troops raised. Acting on intelligence reports the Terrans were building new missile boat attrition units, the governor approved the Navy request to build a carrier with fighters. The Navy also adopted a forward defense posture for Nusku and the spinward side of Terra, gambling the Terrans did not have a tanker in production that would allow them passage through Sirius just yet.