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Author Topic: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle  (Read 1517 times)

Weirdo

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Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« on: 27 April 2021, 15:42:23 »
Small Craft of the WHAAAAA?!

K-1/K-1C DropShuttle



That's right, it's time for a new(ish) Small Craft of the *cough*! While actually reviewed before, that article has been lost to the mists of time and forum crashes, so we're going to take a look at one of the more ubiquitous series of small spacecraft found across human space, the K1 series DropShuttle.

K-1s are long-range shuttlecraft, essentially miniature DropShips that carry goods and passengers from jump points to a system's habitable worlds, just like their larger brethren. Some lore even gives them the ability to dock at JumpShip Docking Collars like DropShips, but that is currently unsupported by any rules, so should be ignored. These craft are a common sight throught human space, used wherever something/one needs to be moved across a star system, but a DropShip is either too expensive or unavailable. They're found just about everywhere JumpShips are(even the Clans have their own version), and this universal presence makes them very useful to the militaries of the human sphere despite being a civilian design. After all, they may not be delivering any BattleMech armies to conquer a world, but if all you need is a K-1 and a forged flight plan to deliver a squad of commandos and their equipment to a world pre-invasion, the K-1's utility as a pathfinder prior to an invasion is evident.

Looking at the craft itself, the K-1 weighs in at the top of the Small Craft scale at 200 tons. The 4/6 thrust rating is described as slow, but actually matches or exceeds most other shuttles aside from dedicated combat units or boarding pods. Notably, this allows it to outpace(or catch up to) many military or civilian transport DropShips. Aspiring pirates(or those worried about the same) take note. A 30-ton fuel reserve allows for a full 16 days of constant 1G acceleration. You might want to top of your tanks more often than a DropShip would need to, but your in-system range is functionally identical to one. I suspect that JumpShips with little to no DropShip capacity(like the Explorer) rely on these for in-system operations.

The reason for the K-1's existence is its cargo bay. 16.5 tons of bulk cargo and 6 passengers isn't much compared to the kilotons of haulage you get with a Buccaneer or Mule, but is more than enough for a few VIPs or a light load of cargo. On much shorter flights from orbit to surface or for cross-planetary hops, it can also fit a large company of jump infantry or a few squads of battle armor(hint, hint).

The BattleTech setting is an inherently dangerous one, especially in the battles that are players' main point of interest within it, and the K-1 is surprisingly well-equipped to survive in it. Twenty-one tons of armor protects this craft laid out 140/60/100, with the bulk of it being focused on the nose or aft, presumably to protect against mishaps during docking or landing. This armor won't last quite as long as it looks like it should in a combat situation, but it'll let you absorb some hits while escorts scrape attacking fighters off of you. Your thresholds are high enough that it takes very heavy guns to put crits into your engines or control systems, giving you pretty decent odds of survivng the approach to a landing zone.

K-1s aren't gunboats by any stretch, but they are armed to try and fend off light attackers. Four medium lasers spread around the hull isn't much, but light ASFs and conventional fighters still have to show you some respect, reinforced a tiny bit by an additonal small laser covering the aft. The TRO actually marks the side lasers as being wing-mounted, but given the spheroid nature of this ship, I feel safe in assuming they're actually meant for the Front Side arcs. Of particular interest is the nose-mounted LRM-5 with 48(!) salvos, allowing a K-1 to get the first hit or two against an interceptor, and making a passable AA weapon when grounded. This weapons array isn't going to deter anything bigger than a Bug Mech or similarly-sized fighter, but at least you're not totally helpless provided you don't get any illusions of combat viability. Ten single heat sinks can't quite dissipate everything this gun load generates, but given the spread out nature of the lasers, if you're wanting to fire them all at once anyway, you're already in such deep trouble that a few heat points is hardly going to make things worse.

Only one real variant of the K-1 exists, the K-1C that upgrades the vessel to Clan standards. The already-impressive armor is further boosted to a layout of 180/80/104 and the cargo bay expanded a bit to a full 17 tons. The most notable change is a complete revamp of the weapons load. Five medium pulse lasers(2 forward, one each on the sides and aft) replace all of the older model's weapons, boosting the range, damage and accuracy of the defense grid, making it a geniune threat to light fighters, and the heat sinks are upgraded to Double technology, allowing it to fire all of those guns simultaneously.

So how does this craft fit into the battles that are why we're playing in this universe? It can actually fill a great many roles, but I'll start with one thing it very much is NOT: A fighter. The K-1 and K-1C may have guns and armor, but their movement curve is far too slow, any true fighter will literally fly circles around them with impunity, and the guns are far too weak to actually deter anything more than a tenth of its size. If you do find yourself in a firefight, you're best advised to just power through it. Your armor is your greatest asset. Use it to last as long as you can while your escorting fighters(a DropShuttle in a combat zone must be escorted) do the actual job of eliminating attackers. Maneuvers need to be focused on either spreading incoming fire across fresh armor facings, or getting to your destination(or at least off the battle map). These directives apply doubly to atmospheric fights. Spheroid small craft may be far more stable under fire than their DropShip cousins, but they're still largely incapable of meaningfully maneuvering in an air fight, so just get down to ground or up to space as quickly as possible.

With that behind us, there are several jobs the K-1 is well-suited to, or at least can perform in a pinch. The first is that of a landing craft. As mentioned earlier, K-1s can carry a fairly decent infantry contingent(conventional or armored) over short distances, suitable for a surprise attack on a small objective while the main fight rages elsewhere or a surprise reinforcement at a critical location. Heavy aft armor means you can actually survive a surprising amount of anti-air fire, provided you can make your lawn-dart rolls, and don't get cocky. Airdropping troops is also a viable option that minimizes your exposure to AA fire, but I really only recommend it if hostile air assets are absent.

A landed K-1 is hardly a deployable strong point in the way many folks use DropShips(most DropShips are also really bad at this job, but that's a discussion for elsewhere) unless you're only gaming out a small infantry fight, though it does have other uses inherent to all small craft. 3 tons of communications equipment and a field kitchen for free means that K-1s make for pretty decent mobile HQs, making up for less computing power compared to the classic wheeled van with vastly improved durability.

In space, K-1s have plenty of jobs they can perform. They make decent customs boats due to their light armament, infantry capacity, and DropShip-catching speed. Just hail an arriving ship, and if it doesn't comply, then launch some LRMs across the bow as a warning shot, run it down, and board it. Their endurance makes them good pickets and patrol boats as well, either flying to and from likely pirate point areas and scanning for IR jump signatures or radar returns, or in the fleet picket role, you'd do the same scanning, just doing so while flying parallel to your main fleet and 100,000km or so out in the direction your commander feels is most useful. If you spot something, call it in, and either continue shadowing those contacts and feeding data, or run for your life back to friendly buddies.

K-1s can perform boarding pod work, but I'd stick to going after effectively immobile targets like JumpShips or space stations. Leave things that can perform actual evasive maneuvers to faster shuttles like Battle Taxis.

It's not much, but a K-1C has the accuracy and firepower to perform limited anti-missile duty, trying to shoot down capital missiles going after friendly large ships, though the base K-1 is unlikely to accomplish much in that role.

How do you kill a K-1? Honestly, just shoot the thing. You probably won't cripple one through threshold crits because the armor facings covering the really juicy crits are so thick, but trying for the sides reveals a much thinner shell, making it easier to just chew through and kill it the hard way. Just be sure to actually send enough gun, otherwise you might find enemy K-1s bulling past you through sheer stubborn durability.

According to the MUL, the K-1 is available in one flavor or another to quite literally every faction on the site. Detailed info is not there due to a lack of a current record sheet, but my calculations give a BV of 1146 for the K-1, and 1681 for the K-1C.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #1 on: 27 April 2021, 15:58:05 »
Good review of my favorite little sphere that can. Love these things, they are so useful and criminally under utilized in BT's fiction and game

Elmoth

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #2 on: 28 April 2021, 01:03:48 »
I like dropshuttles. It is a pity they are not used more. Very good review. I like the suggested role s. "mini dropship" command centre.

Frabby

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #3 on: 28 April 2021, 02:49:01 »
The lore part about K-1 being able to be carried on a DropShip hardpoint is the craft's most interesting feature for me. It does add something to our understanding of the wonderfully wonky KF physics.
Shame that there are no rules and nothing more can be said that isn't conjecture or speculation.
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Wrangler

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #4 on: 28 April 2021, 06:19:36 »
Thank You for your insightful article, Weirdo.
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glitterboy2098

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #5 on: 28 April 2021, 08:47:47 »
The lore part about K-1 being able to be carried on a DropShip hardpoint is the craft's most interesting feature for me. It does add something to our understanding of the wonderfully wonky KF physics.
Shame that there are no rules and nothing more can be said that isn't conjecture or speculation.
Personally I would just assume it is small enough that it doesn't need a field extender KF-boom to stay within the safe zone of a KF drive field, and that its airlock has the right configuration to be able to dock with the airlock parts of a docking collar.(which presumably would be larger than a standard airlock, since you can transfer cargo between ships through a docking collar)

Actually riding a docking collar through a jump would probably be discouraged since it would be a risk, but being able to take advantage of the collar's better connections (especially for stuff like fuel transfer) would be a useful feature.
« Last Edit: 28 April 2021, 09:19:17 by glitterboy2098 »

nerd

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #6 on: 28 April 2021, 09:00:20 »
Phelan Kell used a K-1C to travel to Arc Royal in Natural Selection. It's the first appearance for one in fiction.

Another use would be a Traveller style Free Trader. A small party of PC's, traveling from world to world, in a small spacecraft. You can have a few passengers and space for speculative cargo.
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Weirdo

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #7 on: 28 April 2021, 11:12:21 »
It wouldn't surprise me if there were plenty of such shuttle merchants, traveling between systems by chartering space in the hangar bays of JumpShips or DropShips.
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idea weenie

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #8 on: 28 April 2021, 14:39:24 »
Phelan Kell used a K-1C to travel to Arc Royal in Natural Selection. It's the first appearance for one in fiction.

Another use would be a Traveller style Free Trader. A small party of PC's, traveling from world to world, in a small spacecraft. You can have a few passengers and space for speculative cargo.

The problem is that each Dropship Docking Collar used in this manner will still cost money, as the Jumpship could have a Dropship there instead.  Are the PCs willing to pay 50,000 C-B per Jump for their Dropshuttle?  Or would they talk to a Mule Dropship and try to get their little Dropshuttle on board the Mule as cargo?

The other option is the Dropshuttle can attach to a cargo bay door, and the KF field can be extended around the Dropshuttle?  That could be an interesting set of rules, where Jumpships can have extra cargo bay doors for carrying Dropshuttles.  So a Jumpship might have 2 Dropship docking collars, 6 cargo bay doors, and 2 Small Craft Bays.  The Dropships pay for their Collar usage, while the Jumpship can carry up to 8 Dropshuttles (2 internally, 6 externally).

But Jumpships would still charge a small fee, if two Dropshuttles had the same priority.  I.e. the Jumpship has a choice of which two Dropshuttles to bring along, but one of them is willing to pay a 200 C-B 'fee'.  The other one is just wanting a free ride.  The Jumpship will take the one willing to pay the fee.

Weirdo

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #9 on: 28 April 2021, 15:04:51 »
The other option is the Dropshuttle can attach to a cargo bay door, and the KF field can be extended around the Dropshuttle?

Rules very specifically do NOT allow this. Right now the only legal ways for a K-1 to travel through hyperspace and still be a single intact object afterwards are either in a Small Craft Bay, or shut down and shipped as bulk cargo.
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Elmoth

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #10 on: 28 April 2021, 15:31:24 »
I think in the free trader escenario he was referring to traders renting those underused bays in your DANAIS or other dropship to make the jump, not taking over a collar. I like this idea a lot.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #11 on: 28 April 2021, 16:22:20 »
Agreed the K-1 makes a decent little transport although I expect many are used intrastellar and typically as a moon-planet shuttle or from a space station to dropship. They make very good general purpose craft akin to helicopters and oil rigs carrying new crews and replacement parts from elsewhere so the big ship doesn't need to move.

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #12 on: 28 April 2021, 17:06:41 »
I think in the free trader escenario he was referring to traders renting those underused bays in your DANAIS or other dropship to make the jump, not taking over a collar. I like this idea a lot.

Me too. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a chicken vs egg element to this potential economy. For shuttle traders to really be viable, there needs to be a pattern of large ships keeping shuttlebays open for renting. But without an existing fleet of shuttle traders to rent to, there's very little reason for any but the most desperate large craft captains to keep any shuttlebays open for renting. They both need to exist largely simultaneously from the very beginning.
"Thanks to Megamek, I can finally play BattleTech the way it was meant to be played--pantsless!"   -Neko Bijin
"It's just that the Hegemony had one answer to every naval problem. 'I kills it with my battleships.'" - Liam's Ghost
"...finally, giant space panties don't seem so strange." - Whistler
"Damn you, Weirdo... Damn you for being right!" - Paul
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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #13 on: 28 April 2021, 19:38:40 »
Me too. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a chicken vs egg element to this potential economy. For shuttle traders to really be viable, there needs to be a pattern of large ships keeping shuttlebays open for renting. But without an existing fleet of shuttle traders to rent to, there's very little reason for any but the most desperate large craft captains to keep any shuttlebays open for renting. They both need to exist largely simultaneously from the very beginning.

You'd basically have to make a 'carrier' style Dropship that is nothing but Small Craft Bays, and then hope that all those Small Craft exist to make it worthwhile.

The question then becomes what purpose would that solve.  Where would having dozens/hundreds of Dropshuttles be better for cargo delivery than a single Dropship?  For a military that uses all those Small Craft it would make sense as they would all be assigned to the carrier Dropship, but for multiple independent Dropshuttles it would be much more difficult.

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #14 on: 28 April 2021, 20:01:18 »

The most common JS is the Invader, it has two SC bays, keep one reserved for the crew and rent out the other one for traders/liners that use SC.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #15 on: 28 April 2021, 20:43:51 »
There is already a small craft carrier, The Behemoth. It has them cause it cannot land on a normal planet and I expect it serves as a mother ship for more distributed mining or survey operations.

I expect K1s serve as express shipping or bush planes for smaller worlds with spread out mostly self-sufficient settlements. I always think of Alaska with most BT worlds due to their low population. So many people know how to drive them and they are pretty cheap most worlds likely have an abundance before they really need interstellar transport for exports

Elmoth

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #16 on: 29 April 2021, 00:58:49 »
So the FedEx vans of the future?

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #17 on: 29 April 2021, 01:02:18 »
So the FedEx vans of the future?
More like Greyhound of the future.
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glitterboy2098

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #18 on: 29 April 2021, 15:48:48 »

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #19 on: 29 April 2021, 17:06:56 »
I think the biggest use of the guns for these is making boarding risky for pirates. Sure you probably won't blow fighters up, but making the choice of maybe getting their shuttle damaged and definitely blowing up the prize their trying for makes you a less profitable target. Why risk that for 16 tons of cargo when there's the unarmed Manatees to grab, or the 200 insanely rich passengers on Princess liners to ransom? Not every system will have those targets, and not every pirate will be smart enough to stick to low hanging fruit, but being inconvenient has been a historically strong defense against opportunistic crime.

On a side note, a fast dropshuttle does serve to explain how Jumpships are able to restock without requiring complex contracts  involving cargo exchange with every Dropship they take on. Just transmit a shopping list to the port when you enter system and accept delivery about the time your Dropships have hit dirt. Its the sort of thing that makes space travel economics rational in the civilized parts of space, while explaining why the Periphery is a less popular area for merchants and relies more on tramp freighters.
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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #20 on: 30 April 2021, 21:36:23 »
You'd basically have to make a 'carrier' style Dropship that is nothing but Small Craft Bays, and then hope that all those Small Craft exist to make it worthwhile.

The question then becomes what purpose would that solve.  Where would having dozens/hundreds of Dropshuttles be better for cargo delivery than a single Dropship?  For a military that uses all those Small Craft it would make sense as they would all be assigned to the carrier Dropship, but for multiple independent Dropshuttles it would be much more difficult.

I'd think it would be someone taking a military surplus shuttle carrier and repurposing it.  The big military roles for small craft that justify a carrier are pre-ASF fighter, which is also pre drop collar, putting tank eggs in as many baskets as possible before the invention of the mech drop cocoon (two light vehicle bays can fit on a spheroid if you don't try to arm it), and air mobile Long Toms invoking the Fortress precedent.  The escort role that all the canonical military small craft I can think of are supposed to be designed for justifies putting a few small craft bays on your large craft, but doesn't justify a dedicated small craft carrier. 

A non-landing dropship designed to spam as many small craft with two light vehicle bays as possible seems like it would have made sense long ago and more importantly stopped making sense long ago so people could have bought them cheap and if you have the cargo shuttles they don't need conversion to work as civilian transports like other obsolete military dropships would. 

They might make more commercial sense if you think belters exist in systems other than Sol but are ignored.  One or two shuttles each going to dozens of different space habitats in different parts of the belt is easier than one big dropship making a circuit of all of them. 

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Re: Small Craft of the Week K-1/K-1C DropShuttle
« Reply #21 on: 13 October 2021, 14:21:03 »
Repost of the old (15 years old) SCotW on this one