faethor wrote: ↑
Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:05 am
What defences do you think a Starport should have?
Defenses are created to counter a threat (what you're afraid of) but are constrained by economics (what you can pay). The starport would have defenses according to that. When I use the word "starport" I am talking about a commercial starport - one that is intended to turn a profit
off of fees and services provided to passing starships, the majority of which would be civilian merchant traffic. This means the defense budget has to come out of the facility's operating profits. I'm going to flog this profit idea like a dead horse because it's critical to this discussion and many Traveller players have this gleeful militaristic side where they imagine war-girded rings of steel and forget about this idea of budgets.
In an ideal world, most starports won't have much in the the way of fixed defenses around the starport. Defenses cost money and are likely to do nothing at all for their life, and "deterrence" is hard to quantify economically. Instead, they'll depend on the planetary or solar system's defense strategy (and theoretically larger budgets that the starport will pay into). If the starport IS the the planet/system's defense strategy they'll likely have defenses that fulfill the criteria of low cost, multiple mission, and long range. Having a handful of system defense boats (though they might have names like "customs cutters" or whatever) are the most likely solution, as SDBs:
* Lack jump drives, saving the cost of the Jump Drive and the associated systems and maintenance.
* Designed with "short legs" (short duration missions, perhaps two weeks at most), because they're never far from bases for resupply and maintenance. This again lowers costs as components don't have to be overbuilt as spares and aid for breaksdowns is never far.
* Have good firepower for their mass.
* Can be used for customs inspection and space rescue as well. This day-to-day utility makes the voters/accountants happy as they have purpose outside of war; a cruiser or a destroyer could do this as well but they're not very cost-efficient for it. Fighters do f*ck-all except look cool on the tarmac or buzzing by during Fleet Week. Adding to the drain of fighters is that beyond the purchase cost, they cost money for the constant training of the pilots and maintenance on the fighters. All that and they only do something useful during conflict (in contrast, a SDB designed with a customs/rescue role, the crew gets some actual experience in the course of their duties, duties which provide a day-to-day benefit - though their abilities to actually use their weapons might be limited to due to budgetary constraints).
So the SDB is the most likely choice of starport defenses - it's in an ideal spot for trade-offs.
Now let's look at starport defenses beyond this middle ground:
First, the economically less well-off starport in a "frontier" area. These are not going to have more defenses, they're going to have less, even though they're under greater threat. Remember, we're back to money again. A frontier / less well-off starport is that way because it gets less traffic. Less traffic means lower economic activity - fewer ships coming through means less fees and sales of services. You can only raise your prices so much to compensate - the civilian ship operators who visit aren't making as much money (or else it wouldn't be a frontier) so they simply can't pay that much in berthing fees and for services. This is the place you're going to see things like some repurposed starship laser and missile turrets as ground side defenses. Perhaps a "monitor" in geostationary orbit above the groundport -- basically an old merchantman hull with lots of extra armor slapped on but maneuver drives only enough to station-keep on or a hollowed out nickel-iron planetoid towed into orbit that does the same thing. Weapons are likely limited to civilian-grade guns and missiles. Yes, they'd love to have SDBs, fighters, and potentially even something like some Meson Gun. The killer for these places is not actually obtaining these items but the maintenance and training of the personnel necessary to operate them - I'm sure it's possible for most starport operators to get a hold of some old meson gun from "somewhere" (you know, it fell off of an old Zhodani wreck from the 3rd Frontier War) but getting people who can operate the gun and the spare parts to keep it working would be expensive, especially for something that's going to only be a deterrent. In addition, attacks on the starport have another issue; persistent attacks on the starport will drive its customers away. Merchantmen are pretty wary of hazard to themselves, for whatever reason they shy away from risk to their ships and their lives or else they stop being ship operators at some point when the odds catch up to them. Regardless, if the starport gets attacked, it won't take many attacks for commercial traffic to stop coming in. A persistent pattern of them, even low intensity, over the course of years and the starport will go out of business as even desperate free traders are going to risk new markets and routes rather than gamble on the potential destruction of their ship and loss of their lives every trip. A starport under this kind of threat is likely to come to some accommodation with their attackers; either surrendering to them, co-opting them as proteciton (space technicals basically), or most likely paying them "protection money" (bribe / "tribute") after showing them their books and explaining that killing the goose is no good.
The other end is the economically very well-off starport. Again these are going to have less defenses, not more. Being economically well-off means that the area they're in is wealthy as well. There'll be the wealthy world government(s) who will have a space or system navy for local defense and the starport can pay into that and get the benefit of collective defense as the starport brings trade that benefits the world so the world has an interest in keeping it defended. Even if the starport is on some barren world (for whatever reason), the starport is wealthy because there's a lot of trade going through it, which means it is in the interests of those upstream and downstream of the starport to keep the starport operating; it won't be hard to get a "planetary union" or "trade union" help pony up for the defense of the station in the form of regular naval presence or helping pay for a SDB force. In addition, trade thrives in conditions of stability without conflict; the very fact the starport is very well off means that the area is not under threat, again discouraging any kind of standing defense force as an unnecessary expense. A very well-off starport is akin to the global trade situation on 21st century Earth. Yes, we hear about disruptions to oil flow during the Straits of Hormuz crisis during the late 20th century, the Somali pirate problem ~2010, or Strait of Malacca problems now, the actual ships affected are a very small number compared to the actual traffic going through; your chances of being affected are less than 1%, but even then, the naval response was massive, often disproportionate to the threat due to the need for haulers to feel secure.