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Author Topic: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?  (Read 4217 times)

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Pretty much as the title says. In a medium in which the launching vessel can provide momentum and you don't need to expend fuel in order to travel long distances, along with little need for standing patrols and the fundamental unsuitability of ASF for long distance travel...is there a role for a fuel tanker in ASF operations?

PuppyLikesLaserPointers

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #1 on: 29 June 2021, 12:06:13 »
Well, if you have at least one ASF squadron, it means you have the carrier dropship as well at least.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #2 on: 29 June 2021, 12:23:50 »
Yeah, but if you are using it as a refueling/resupply that usually means it is in range.

What he is talking about is like a real tanker- as seen in WC Prophecy for a few missions, you would meet up with a shuttle that would refuel and change air- even re-arm IIRC.
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #3 on: 29 June 2021, 13:02:19 »
I'm not sure what issue of Battletechnology mag it was, but, there was a design published there called the WildCat Aerospace Tanker or something like that.

It was a Shuttle with Liquid Tanks designed just for this purpose.

I always felt every Vengeance should have 1 as part of the 3 Shuttles it carries.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #4 on: 29 June 2021, 13:02:40 »
I say yes particularly when you start to get into more than a squadron deployed.

Certainly a dropship can go pick up a few aerospace fighters that ran out of fuel but it can only be in one place which is nice if everyone is in the same line. However, they rarely will be so shuttles capable of Search, Rescue, and Refueling operations can be dispatched to reach them before the pilot runs out of air. I would keep rearming on the dropships as moving cargo in zero g using space suits is a very long and tedious ordeal.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #5 on: 29 June 2021, 13:13:12 »
Well, the Wing Commander tanker had a robotic arm extending to replace empty missile hardpoints IIRC.  IF BT ammo is in 1t cassette casings as described in fiction then that is not too hard compared to something like the old WWII photos where you see guys walking up with ammo belts.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #6 on: 29 June 2021, 15:13:16 »
By the rules it will take 20 minutes if the crew is using Zero-G Exoskeletons, otherwise 40 minutes, per ton of ammo or 5 minutes per external store. I would consider 20 minutes per ton to be long and tedious while combat is underway. It can pump 10 tons of fuel per minute with another at least 5 for docking and undocking assuming I read the tables correctly.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #7 on: 29 June 2021, 15:25:00 »
By the rules it will take 20 minutes if the crew is using Zero-G Exoskeletons, otherwise 40 minutes, per ton of ammo or 5 minutes per external store. I would consider 20 minutes per ton to be long and tedious while combat is underway. It can pump 10 tons of fuel per minute with another at least 5 for docking and undocking assuming I read the tables correctly.

You do not really do re-arming while in combat?  The paradigm is different between Wing Commander fighters and BT's ASF . . . your external stores are more appropriate to match the description IIRC.

AFAIK we have no canon method of 'mid-space' refueling akin to the KC-135, rather you are talking about landing in a cubicle.
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #8 on: 29 June 2021, 17:13:12 »
At the very least, some kind of docking roll would seem appropriate...

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #9 on: 29 June 2021, 17:29:55 »
Pretty much as the title says. In a medium in which the launching vessel can provide momentum and you don't need to expend fuel in order to travel long distances, along with little need for standing patrols and the fundamental unsuitability of ASF for long distance travel...is there a role for a fuel tanker in ASF operations?

Nope.

ASF don't have endurance. Well, they can coast forever, but they only have a limited amount of thrust and reaction mass available. It makes them unsuited for long range operations, best suited for short range fleet defence.

In other words, they don't really have any usefulness outside orbit whatsoever.

Adding a tanker really changes nothing. In situations where they need fuel, ASFs would be too busy to do so. If you have the time and resources to refuel, you may as well use a Carrier dropship and carry the fighters instead.

Given the limits of ASFs in BT, tankers aren't really an option.

However, by the same token, ASFs should be near non existent. They shouldn't have much of a role outside ground support and low orbit operations. Interception and engaging any larger craft could really only be achieved through incompetence or by forcing an engagement at a location the larger craft cannot leave.ASFs simply don't have the endurance to engage in naval combat against anything with greater thrust than a JumpShip.

So, if you want an ASF tanker, noone is going to stop you.
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #10 on: 29 June 2021, 17:48:46 »
It is do-able, but...

Who has the small craft attached to a WarShip/DropShip?

Who is going to waste one on a tanker when they have other roles?

A squadron of fighters might need 20 tons of fuel to refuel. How many small craft have that much spare cargo?

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #11 on: 29 June 2021, 20:10:50 »
I'm not sure what issue of Battletechnology mag it was, but, there was a design published there called the WildCat Aerospace Tanker or something like that.

It was a Shuttle with Liquid Tanks designed just for this purpose.

I always felt every Vengeance should have 1 as part of the 3 Shuttles it carries.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #12 on: 29 June 2021, 20:35:52 »
It is do-able, but...

Who has the small craft attached to a WarShip/DropShip?

Who is going to waste one on a tanker when they have other roles?

A squadron of fighters might need 20 tons of fuel to refuel. How many small craft have that much spare cargo?

The S-7 has a 31 ton cargo capacity. That gives you a liquid storage of 28 I believe. It is space only but then again we are only talking about space operations.

Small craft are regularly part of a support dropship complement (Danais 2, Mammoth 4). Most jumpships and warships have a pair that otherwise would be used like a greyhound plane is on an aircraft carrier. Since you have dropships with cargo and for expeditions what would you need a small craft for if not to help out aerospace fighters?

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #13 on: 29 June 2021, 21:38:39 »
The S-7 has a 31 ton cargo capacity. That gives you a liquid storage of 28 I believe. It is space only but then again we are only talking about space operations.

Small craft are regularly part of a support dropship complement (Danais 2, Mammoth 4). Most jumpships and warships have a pair that otherwise would be used like a greyhound plane is on an aircraft carrier. Since you have dropships with cargo and for expeditions what would you need a small craft for if not to help out aerospace fighters?

Why would you use it that way tho? It’s an awful idea. If you are using it in combat that’s asking for it to die. If you are using it while under no pressure, why are you using it at all? It’s too specialized while offering no real use outside of its role.

Go pure cargo for moving around food stuffs from you cargo dropper to your jump ship or as a shuttle for commanders and such.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #14 on: 29 June 2021, 22:25:20 »
As mentioned above it is impossible to actively refuel using a small craft in combat conditions. Possibly in a very long battle an Aerospace force could establish a resupply point but it would be best done with an assault carrier. Small craft refuelers are S&R birds sent out to refuel drifting aerospace fighters that ran out of gas before the battle was done and couldn't get back to their carrier. The carrier can only be in one place at a time and has to adjust velocity and vector to recover each stranded fighter.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #15 on: 29 June 2021, 22:27:47 »
It is not in combat . . . it is to mimic B-2s taking off from Missouri, flying around the world to bomb some place, and then flying home.

Yeah, you are likely to go ballistic for part of the trip, and yes you are probably more worried about the life support . . . but a long range strike like that while my carriers are sitting back a AU or more from the target zone?  Ok . . . I would probably have come in at a pirate point on the plain and use planetary bodies to provide some slingshot . . .
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #16 on: 30 June 2021, 02:06:38 »
I could see such things being used in space during prolonged battles, especially for those fighters with limited fuel tankage, but mainly to free up the warship or assualt dropship which launched them to engage in combat itself.

and then only if there isn't any craft with fighter bays that is uninvolved in the battle, so odds are there isn't much need.

that said, i could see such craft developed to support atmospheric operations, where ASF's burn through fuel much faster. a smallcraft tanker would be easier and quicker to deploy for ASF support in such an environment than something like a Stork, especially in an initial invasion or a major raid, where the attacking force might not have access to a proper airfield from which to launch support vehicles.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #17 on: 30 June 2021, 02:07:08 »
Well, isn't it possible to refuel by return to the dropship? Need for refuel means they are likely to be return to their mothership and sometimes the pilots are already exhausted and need to rest. Unlike conventional fighters ASFs have more fuel as well.

For conventional fighters, I agree that they needs tankers for longer range of operation. But for ASFs? A small spacecraft that is able to escape the gravity of a planet by itself? I don't think that they desperately needs for the backup small craft tanker to run. If they needs something then all they needs is the refueling drogues on the fighters to share the fuel between them.

Also if you had some ASFs then you must be have the dropship to carry them, so you can simply return to your dropship to got refuel and rearm.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #18 on: 30 June 2021, 05:18:55 »
Since you have dropships with cargo and for expeditions what would you need a small craft for if not to help out aerospace fighters?

Are you familiar with ship's boats? Just because a DropShip can dock with another ship or go atmospheric doesn't mean that they should. Eg I don't want to be boarding on a picket mission with my DropShip.

TRO3057 ships are a bit gamey in the way they forgot about day to day operations instead focusing on tabletop combat.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #19 on: 30 June 2021, 06:04:48 »
Strategic Operations page 35 lays out how to use dropships to refuel ASFs in space in mid flight.

Any dropship with a fighter or small craft bay can do it, no special equipment required. Apparently they come equipped with refueling drogues by default.

That to me is the guiding star on this question. Most people are going to use what they have already for this purpose, that doesn't require a specialized platform. Dropships have the fuel and endurance to conduct lengthy searches and enough fuel to refuel many ASFs, making them the best solution for this most of the time.

I'm sure there's an exception somewhere. Somebody who just doesn't have a dropship available but has lots of ground based ASFs that they are launching into orbit to intercept raiders, this party needs a refueler to rescue that one pilot who burned through all their fuel and is now stuck in a decaying orbit and will burn up his precious fighter and die in atmo in 30 hours, that kind of situation. Add drogue to any craft built using support craft rules and your done. I'm genuinely surprised we don't have one for precisely this scenario and this kind of niche. I figure they do exist but it's such a niche design or piece of customized hardware that it hasn't made it into a book yet.

All that being said, I do think the space space search and rescue and refueling niche has been neglected in general. If Battletech was redone today, from scratch, we'd probably see a couple of the more standard non-combat small craft designs get a little specialized hardware that lets them pull double duty as a cargo hauler, passenger vessel, or a search and rescue/refueler, just by adding a Drogue and maybe some fluff about their standard onboard medical equipment, or a robot arm normally used to handle moving cargo that can also serve double duty in the search and rescue role and sometimes does. A couple specialized items that allows the small craft to be a viable fit for the search and rescue/refueler role in an emergency. But it is mostly still just a common cargo/passenger shuttle.

It's easy to imagine, were something like that common in any solar system, after a battle is over, each of the warring sides offers a general bounty on any rescue fighter, pilot, escape pod or life boat that is safely recovered and returned to them. This sends the privately owned shuttles already in the solar system scurrying out to try and grab a payday.
« Last Edit: 30 June 2021, 06:17:03 by Alan Grant »

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #20 on: 30 June 2021, 07:10:58 »
But why they are bothered to use the small craft tanker, for they are able to dock with the dropship and you are expected to have the dropship to carry the ASFs? It's just an additional spent, that is not required nor it is needed. Why you need to not use your dropship and needs an another tanker?

The only situation that I can imagine is when you need to keep some aircraft all the times, but... will the pilots stay all the times? The machins are machines, but the pilot is with flesh and bone.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #21 on: 30 June 2021, 09:32:11 »
I can certainly see the need for a small craft to provide resupply and refuel capabilities to a ground-based ASF squadron, and which can occasionally meet up with the invasion fleet to ferry additional supplies and fuel from that fleet to a forward base.  Basically, the dropships can't be everywhere, particularly if you've landed them, so conducting ASF operations on another part of the planet would necessitate some kind of mobile supply base, but it doesn't require a dropship.

A couple of light cargo-hauling small craft would also make sense for providing resupply and/or reinforcements (via light vehicle bay or squad accommodations) to secondary bases of operations where moving stuff via Flatbed Truck doesn't work.  Battletech has long ignored the logistical side of warfare, except when it's needed as a plot point.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #22 on: 30 June 2021, 12:59:54 »
What sort of travel times are we looking at here?

An ASF can get anywhere on a planet pretty quickly.

Loitering in space doesn't burn fuel.

You need a scenario where an ASF has to be more than an interceptor. The classic 20thC launch then top up before a long trip doesn't really apply.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #23 on: 30 June 2021, 13:07:04 »
What sort of travel times are we looking at here?

An ASF can get anywhere on a planet pretty quickly.

Loitering in space doesn't burn fuel.

You need a scenario where an ASF has to be more than an interceptor. The classic 20thC launch then top up before a long trip doesn't really apply.

That's exactly why I think that the tanker small craft is no in use for ASF. If the ASFs are really need for the refuel, it means that it must be the time to return to the mothership anyways for they already spent too much time and the pilots are must rest.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #24 on: 30 June 2021, 13:13:06 »
I gave one?

Unlike DS it would not be constant boost, and I did suggest that the need would be for life support recharges really rather than fuel.  The main point is to keep the carriers safely out of range while a Alpha Strike (original use of term?) goes in to wipe whatever is in orbit of a target world- or IF you did send fuel, get down in atmo and hunt any other fighters or their airbase- by surprise after arriving at a pirate point.

But we are talking a day or more transit.
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #25 on: 30 June 2021, 13:20:40 »
So, I guess I might have a mission/role where a tanker "could" work.

The traditional role of the Lioness? Small Craft, I think that is the name, the 2 that escort Droppers from JS to Planet.

They mention that in many cases planets use Heavy Fighters for this instead of the dedicated Small Craft.

Now heavy fighters don't have the fuel to keep thrusting at 1G like a Dropper does.

Actually, I'm not sure that they even have the Life Support to pull it off.

But my thought is this.

In a scenario where you have Fighters at a Jump Point Space Station & also on the Planet, you might launch fighters w/ a Small Craft Tanker like the Wild Cat I mentioned above. 

They would refuel them as the Fighters run out of fuel.

The issue is the week long times so my thought is this, you end up with 2 sets at the start & end point both.

A "Planet Based" formation escorts maybe 1/4-1/3 of the way & another group out of the Space Station goes out & picks them up a day or 2 out of the Space station.

This would, in theory, provide coverage from the most common locations where other ships might be based to raid shipping.

I mean, if its a week from Jump Point to Planet,  the "4-day" mark at Turn-Over for the Dropship is going to be well outside the horizonal plane of most orbits I would think.  So anyone raiding you at that point really would have to be just sitting in the middle of space powered down waiting for someone to pass by, maybe, if lucky.

Doesn't seem like a location that would have pirates to me.

Anyway this "hand off" type set up of escort out & escort in is going to be for areas that have fighters & tankers but not the dedicated "escort shuttles" like the Lyoness?




Another option is as someone mentioned, using the tanker in a SAR role to go out & refuel fighters/dropships that went "bingo" in the middle of a battle & drifted out of the combat area & need some juice to get back home.




Finally, maybe in a Strike mission type scenario where you absolutely don't want to have the Dropper anywhere near the combat  (Like a Vengeance),  you sent out a couple wings on a Strike assignment & the Tanker is there to refuel anyone that runs out trying to get back to the dropship.
Coasting in space is "free" but changing direction & any fuel needed for close maneuvering to dock would still be useful if you ran out I'd think.
And better to try to doc 2 fighter sized craft than a Dropship. 
Also, trying to recover a full wing of fighters that are all bingo fuel & coasting is going to be a LOT of maneuvering for a single dropship.

Its not common, but, I can see where the existence of a tanker would be helpful.
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #26 on: 30 June 2021, 13:23:59 »
Well, is the range of operation of ASF really that short enough to even consider refuel on midpoint? I didn't check the exact data but I thought that usually the pilots are exhausted before you want a refuel unless you had spent so much. So simply launch then return to the carrier after the attack seems enough for them.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #27 on: 30 June 2021, 13:45:09 »
again . . . FUEL is not really the problem unless you want to get their faster . . .

LIFE SUPPORT is the range limiter (like less than 24h) on ASF and what makes them different than SC & DS.  While it may SUCK being in a cockpit for 30 hours (oh and it would unless you had the right quirks) it is not life threatening provided you have fresh air.

The Lyonesse and Aquarius were for before ASF Hellraiser.
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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #28 on: 30 June 2021, 14:00:06 »
Perhaps the life support lasts longer, for it is not entirely impossible to add the air refresher for one person consider the function of the life boat/escape pod. But anyway, I don't think that the pilots are really a good shape enough to keep on the mission if they had more than 16 hours confined in the cockpit. It would be possible for the craft with three or more person and at least the small quarter to rest, but not for the fighters that the only place for the pilot is the cockpit.

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Re: Is there a role for small craft Tankers in ASF operations?
« Reply #29 on: 30 June 2021, 14:04:51 »
It is do-able, but...

Who has the small craft attached to a WarShip/DropShip?

Who is going to waste one on a tanker when they have other roles?

A squadron of fighters might need 20 tons of fuel to refuel. How many small craft have that much spare cargo?
Refitting a long-range shuttle with refueling equipment is likely the best compromise.
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