As with ground weaponry, starship weaponry is as diverse as the ships that wield them, but most have fallen to several proven categories, though may have different methods of execution. Most nations and organizations choose to follow only one path of munitions, though most do delve into all mounting types on each and every ship, and most do diversify enough to include at least some missiles, if not have them in the majority of their offensive power.
Most weapons use exotic forms of dealing damage, such as gravitic charges, and nuclear warheads are occasionally used, though are typically ineffective in space combat – or, at least, they are less effective than if used in atmosphere.
Table of Contents
- 1 MOUNTING TYPES
- 2 MUNITION TYPES
- 3 TYPES OF MISSILES
- 4 TYPES OF MISSILE WARHEADS
Usually only mounted on frigates and larger, the axial cannon gives a warship the ability to take on larger vessels. Next to torpedoes, axial cannons are by far the longest range of all weapons. Those of larger ships, such as battleships and dreadnoughts, tend to be ineffective at their extremes for ship-to-ship warfare, and lean towards being effective siege weapons. Both laser and kinetic rifle axials are often so devastating, on the order of megatons and higher, that their use on inhabited planets is widely prohibited, and often their trajectories must be calculated by AI to ensure they will not endanger anyone should they miss their intended target.
Axials must be aimed by maneuvering the ship wielding the weapon, making them inappropriate for close-range battles, though ship-of-the-lance battles may readily turn into dogfights as they attempt to use their axial weapons against one another.
Turreted weapons, for mass constraints, are much smaller than their axial variants and are sometimes suitable for orbital bombardment, though their greatest use is in “knife-fight” range of other ships. Unlike the larger axials, turrets may be mounted most anywhere on a ship that can support the recoil and mass. Turrets are the shortest range of any type of offensive weapon a ship can possess, but pack a fair punch.
As the name suggest, point defense weapons are not suitable for most offensive duties, and are incredibly short ranged but have blindingly quick tracking capability. Due to rate-of-fire requirements, most nations choose to use lasers for point defense systems. These weapons made fightercraft obsolete for a time until shield technology was miniaturized enough to make it viable to mount sufficient defenses on the craft.
BEAM AND PULSE LASERS
Particle lasers are weakest but longest range turreted and axial weapon type. Super accelerating streams or bolts of ionized particles, these weapons enjoy nearly unlimited ammunition and extensive range but suffer against modern shields and even the thick, poloarized composite armors of modern warships. Made up for by their near luminal speeds, near impossibility to dodge at closer ranges, and high firing rate, particle lasers are deadly, surgical weapons. Modern ships rely on ECM and E-Warfare to fake the lasers targeting systems at max engagement ranges, and kinetic rifle armed ships rely on speed to close within the engagement range of a particle laser equipped ships to start the battle.
Kinetic weapons utilize their mass and velocity to deliver heavy blows to their enemies. They have the significant advantage over lasers of having a variety of rounds available to them, allowing for each kinetic weapon to be multipurpose, though they lack the range of lasers. Most kinetic rounds are flung to relativistic speeds, usually no more 0.01c, but size and mass constraints of the ships firing them often mean that they cannot be made so fast as to be unavoidable over sufficient distances; maximum range flight time of larger weapons is often approximately 16 seconds at the extremities of their effective ranges, more than enough time for a human, let alone an AI, to execute and emergency maneuver. Kinetic rifles are usually propelled either by gravitic-launchers or electromagnetic, and sometimes both. Most are unguided, due to stresses placed upon the weapon being more than most complicated tracking-electronic systems can readily handle.
Due to the nature of the kinetic round, Kinetic Weapons often have many sub-sets of ammunition.
SHELLS OR SLUGS
HIGH EXPLOSIVE ROUNDS
BURST AND FLAK ROUNDS
Plasma weapons are the shortest range and highest damage weapon of any of the turreted weapons. Firing everything from energetic, highly compressed gas streams to molten energetic metals, plasma weapons deal brutal damage to their targets at close ranges. Favored by isolationist nations, these weapons are ideal for defenders. As enemies close to force an engagement, plasma weapon equipped ships can close to their desired engagement range and unleash fury on the enemy. Even modern shields struggle with the huge amount of energy delivered on target in the form of both kinetic, thermal, and ionized energy forms. Furthermore, even modern ECM/E-warfare systems struggle to fake the enemy out at the typical engagement range of plasma weapons. Some nations have toyed with light weight, fast ships equipped with plasma weapons; and while some have enjoyed success, these ships are limited to smaller weight classes due to the ferocity of combat at short ranges and the reliance on shields and armor at these short ranges.
TYPES OF MISSILES
Missiles, differing widely from munition based counterparts, fall into their own category of weaponry. A missile is typically considered any self-propelled guided munition system, either active (self-guided), semi-active (launcher-guided), or passive (guided by emissions from a target). These missiles vary in size from human-sized countermissiles to torpedoes which are comparable to small starships. Missiles may be used for ship-to-ship combat, orbital bombardment, and ship-to-emplacement combat. Due to their ability to maneuver, most missiles are mounted in fixed launching units rather than turrets, though turreted missile-launchers are not uncommon, especially for point-defense.
Countermissiles are the point-defense answer to other missiles. Longer-ranged than point-defense turrets, countermissiles focus on a high-burn and high-maneuverability, making them unsuitable for offense, but wonderful for defense. Countermissiles usually usually range between 1 and 3 meters in length.
Ultralight missiles are usually carried by fighter and bomber craft, gunships, and corvettes for use against craft as small as fighters to as large as frigates. They are longer-ranged, but have a slower acceleration than countermissiles, but also pack a heavier payload. Ultralight missiles usually range between 1 and 4 meters in length.
Light missiles, usually 2 to 5 meters in length, are the kings of ship-of-the-lance combat and may be used against heavy cruisers effectively if swarmed, but are often unsuitable against small spacecraft. They are usually carried by craft as small as bombers and as large as cruisers.
Standard missiles are the lightest of those designed purely for combat on the scale of ship-to-ship, as most small-craft can outmaneuver them, though with difficulty in the case of gunships. These are suitable for use against most vessels, though they may be ineffective against capital ships unless swarmed, and may be overkill against small corvettes and gunships if used in any reasonable numbers. Standard missiles may be mounted on frigates, though are usually not seen on ships smaller than destroyers.
Heavy missiles are the largest missiles that can be mounted at will about a ship; they are the most prevalent in capital-ship mid-range exchanges or against large stations or bases. They are rarely mounted on ships-of-the-lance, save for the largest of cruisers.
Cruise missiles are an intermediary between heavy missiles and torpedoes. Favored by smaller ships and fleet ships, these weapons don’t enjoy the sheer engagement range of torpedoes (nor their self-reliance) but deliver a heavier punch than heavy missiles. More prevelant in fleet ships or on stations, these powerful weapons can make short work of lighter ships and punch holes in capital ships and even fleet ships.
Torpedoes, which most often must be mounted like axial-weapons, serve the same purpose as their axial counterparts, though are rarely mounted on any ship smaller than a cruiser due to their size; most torpedoes dwarf small ships. They are the longest range of any weapon and pack a hefty punch, able to cripple most capital ships. In trade for range and power, few ships can carry more than a handful of torpedoes and resupply is difficult if not in or near a major military port.
TYPES OF MISSILE WARHEADS