To answer Luis
AKA Cuban Commissar's
"I was just wondering what people envision: a separate type of space and aircraft or craft capable of operating in either environment (space or atmosphere)?"
I write the following in reply:
First of all, atmospheric craft and deep space craft have very different mission requirements.
Atmospheric craft have three primary roles:
- Air Superiority
- Ground Strikes
- Specialized Roles
Space craft also have three primary roles:
- Space Superiority
- Capital Ship Strikes
- Specialized Roles
DIFFERENT EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS:
Each type of craft also has specialized equipment needs:
Atmospheric craft require:
- Control Surfaces
- Landing Gear
Space Craft require:
- Maneauver engines (Vernier jets or the like)
- Carrier docking gear (Not necessarily landing gear per se)
A craft that does both requires:
- Reentry shielding in the form of armor or power shields
- Enough thrust to break out of an atmosphere (Often requiring booster rockets or engines)
So to build a craft that can perform in space or an atmosphere adds a tremendous amount of complication and expense to a design. It makes more sense to have specialized craft. Amphibians have their roles, but few are ever purchased by any military due to their expenses. A specialized craft will either equal or trump an amphibian and do so with less expense. Expense is a key consideration of attritional warfare, which is likely to be one of the modes of warfare (attrition) for the rest of time.
In an intergalactic or multiplanetary empire/nation/force, there is an additional consideration of different types of atmospheres. Not all atmospheres were created equal if you get my drift. Some are able to provide more or less lift to a control surface. This means that atmospheric craft will probably require "tuning" or specialized adaptation kits to work in different atmospheres.
So, the real question whether we have specialized atmosperic and space craft in a science fiction background is what technology they possess. Backgrounds that have technologies capable of economically brooching the differences between the primary two flyer environments will have "amphibians" (craft capable of operating in atmosphere or space) where backgrounds without such mitigating technology will not.
I see "amphibious" craft in a univere without "wonder technology" to be very specialized craft used by marines or specialized forces with the planetary assault role. Otherwise, it would be simply easier to use a dropship to broach an atmosphere and then release loads of atmospheric fighters rather than have a few more expensive amphibians.
Antigravity technolgy is one of the "wonder technologies" that would make dual-environment fighters possible. Gravity is not dependent upon an atmopsphere so craft with antigravity engines (called repulsorlift in Star Wars) could easily function in either atmosphere.
The other needed technology is heat shielding. A craft that enters an atmosphere has to shed or deflect heat somehow. Current 20th and now 21rst century spacecraft use ablative panelling that is good for one use. One of the most common hypothesized ways of dealing with rentry heat is through the use of power fields (force fields) that can be formed into a cone or any other shape capable of best dealing with reentry heat.
Specialized small craft missions are the ones that have the most radical equipment requirements.
Naval scouts or pickets would never have a need for atmospheric equipments. These are specialized craft like today's P-3 Orion that have along endurance and act like AWACs sitting on station with sensors going. They need to have both endurance (extended crew life support, fuel supplies, etc.) capable of staying on stations for weeks or more. And yet, small craft can probably perform this mission more economically than light capital ships in most backgrounds.
Atmospheric ground strike craft a would also never have a requirement for space capabilities. They also have no need of endurance. They perform a strike mission, deliver ordinance and return to base.
The most likely craft to need a dual-environment capability would be air or space superiority craft.
The next most lilely would be high-end strike craft like F-111s or Su-24s... craft with specialized attack missions.
It would make very little sense otherwise to equip craft with dual-environment capability unless they were supporting a specialized marine task force.
AIR / SPACE DEFENCE CAPABILITIES:
Another variable to throw into the mixture is how capable are ground (planetary) defences. It's a heck of a lot harder to hit a spacecraft than an aircraft. Missiles require more fuel. Direct fire weaponry requires incredible ranges. Even the realtively simple ground-based laser would require extremely high power to penetrate even the thinnest atmpshere (...and Earth does not have a thin atmosphere).
Reagan's "Star Wars" SDI (Strategic Defence Initiative) was examining mass drivers, particle weapons and missiles. And at that, the proposed plans intended to mount these weapons in satellites to brooch the atmosphere issue.
The most likely air / space defence weapon is the SAM. Add enough boosters and you can go spacebourne. It also requires a much simpler science / technology / industrial base than more sophisticated beam weapons might require.
Of course, this is all specualtionsince science fiction is by definition FICTION!
40k FIGHTER TECHNOLOGY:
Eldar have all sorts of advanced technology so dual-environment craft seem plausible for them.
For most of the Empire, I owuld say "no"... they do not have the technology or funding for dual-environment craft. However, the Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus have access to resources beyond the Imperial Guard and Navy so for them, I would think it would be both possible and plausible. As it stands, the Space Marine Thunderhawk gunship is a dual-environment craft. And per my hypothesis, it is also a specialized craft meant to support planetary assaults. Most human spacecraft do not seem to have this dual-environment capability though. The human empire use dropships and other sort of landers to get from space to shore.
The Necrons have no fighters the last I checked so the issue is moot. However, as described in cannon, they certainly have the technology to build dual-environment fighter craft. Further so, the Necrons have some sort of teleportation technology which would seem to make the issue futher moot. Why bother to use landing shuttles if you have "beam me up, Scotty?" One could guess that one would use landing shuttles if there is technology to block teleportation, but in the 40k universe, noone seems to have the technology to block Necron teleportation.
I can see Orkz either way. On one hand, Orkz are brutally simple in their use of technology, but on the other hand, Orkz use and control other technolgies that noone else understands such as the vaunted Traktor Beamz. An extrapolation of Traktor Beam might make dual-environment craft possible, but with their current shape and form, they certainly wouldn't work under conventional means. The Orkz need a "wonder technology" to make dual-environment craft plausible for them.
Squats create mechanical marvels, but I don't see them bothering with dual-environment craft. They would probably take the more efficient method (...in the backwards technology of human space) of using specialize craft. Not only that, but Squats live in some pretty harsh environments so the variety of atmospheres on Squat-held worlds would almost preclude that specialized atmospheric craft would have to be built. The Squats could probably build dual-environment craft, but I don't see them bothering... inefficient in the Squat view, which is based on advanced scientific and engineering understandings.
The Tau are highly advanced although less so than the Eldar. They also operate specialized space forces and already have dual-environment fighter craft according to canon so it's very easy to say "yes" that they have this technology. Now, I can't see their allies having it though. The Kroot would certainly not seem to have the capability of building dual-environment craft.
Tyranids are all about efficiencies of mass production. I can't see them bothering to build dual-environment craft when they can just as easily recycle specialized craft from one form to another. I don't see Tyranids using dual-environment craft unless there was a real need for it. Mycetic Spore Pods would seem to support this hypothesis. Why bother with dual-environment craft when you plan to have space superiority before you begin bombarding a planet?
Labels: 6mm, Aeronautica Imperialis, Cuban Commissar, Sci-fi, Sci-fi musing