Gauss Weapons... Questions

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
I'm a military historian and as such I keep a fair tab on developing weapon systems and procurement. A lot of the time, this has given me some good insight into the technologies of Traveller and other sci-fi properties.
But I have some questions for you physicists /engineers on the board about Gauss weapons.

The US Navy has recently abandoned their rail gun initiative for several reasons, but one of the big ones is the huge amount of energy require to fire a projectile at hyper-ballistic speeds.
I've also seen people on youtube who've built magnetic projectors... 'mag-rail guns'...
One common factor is that these weapons make a HUGE amount of noise for their size. In the case of the 'mag-rail guns', it's almost as much as using combustion propellants.
But the Navy is testing projectiles that are 100mm in diameter and the 'mag-rail' guys are firing ball bearings. These displace a lot of air as they travel, and that obviously contributes to the report of the weapons.

So my question is this:
Would a Gauss weapon, firing an aerodynamic projectile [such as the 4mm flechette of the Traveller Gauss Rifle], actually be a quiet at multiple Traveller rules sets have claimed?

If possible, I'd love to see some kind of proof as to yes or no... even a youtube video or Popular Mechanics article would be helpful.

Thanks all
 

Galadrion

Banded Mongoose
A gauss weapon, stepped down to subsonic velocities, would be essentially noiseless compared to most firearms... and not enormously damaging, especially against anything as heavily armored as, say, biker's leathers.

Gauss weapons at TL12, however, have a muzzle velocity of 3,000 m/s... or approximately Mach 9 (under Terran conditions). This enormous velocity, rather than the mass of the projectile, is what does the spectacular damage. The enormous velocity, however, also creates a pretty spectacular sonic shockwave, causing pretty much all the noise associated with electromagnetically accelerated projectiles. (The electromagnetic induction is silent, unless something catastrophically fails, or the system is somehow poorly designed.) Key takeaway: if you want the high damage potential, you basically have to accept that it comes with a considerable sonic signature - at least, as long as your energy delivery vehicle is material projectile. The closest thing we have to a truly silent high-powered weapon system is something laser-based... and that only holds true as long as the energy level stays below a certain level; once you get too powerful, you'll start ionizing the beam pathway and, once again, causing sonic effects.

Atmospheric environments are a bit of a problem for true stealth weapon systems, I'm afraid.

Edited to add:

Oh, as to my qualifications: back in my late high school and early trade school careers, I was once of those hobbyists who played around with prototyping such systems. I actually had a working model, about carbine-sized, of an EM launcher using sewing needles as ammo, clipped to remove the eye so as to "improve" ballistics. The shots were silent as long as they were powered to subsonic levels, and were... decent for punching holes in paper targets. At up to about 15 meters, anyway. I'm not sure if the limitation was more my gunsmithing or my targeting ability, to be honest. Beyond that, accuracy was... questionable. But anyway, once I increased the power enough to break the sound barrier, the stealth feature was gone, and as the power went up, so did the sound. I don't think there's any realistic way around the problem as long as you're using such a system inside an atmosphere.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
I rather thought that would be the case... that the flechette would have to move supersonic speeds in order to penetrate armors.
Logic told me that anything moving that fast would make noise, but I'd been proven wrong in other 'gearhead' discussions before... I figured the question bore asking.

So do you think that, as a house rule, it's pretty safe to assume that Gauss weapons have the same noise signature as a combustion propellant weapon in the same conditions?

Mind you, the fact that Gauss weapons don't have a muzzle flash or emit propellant smoke is still a HUGE advantage over the ACR. However, the implication is that because a Gauss flechette requires hyper-velocity to penetrate armors, it cannot be effectively 'silenced' or noise-suppressed.
And THAT'S gonna bugger up some Traveller's plans.... :shock: :D :lol:
 

Condottiere

Emperor Mongoose
There are some aircraft manufacturers who are convinced, or at least are marketing, that supersonic commercial travel is viable, simply by improving the aerodynamics and cutting down on air resistance and noise.

I don't recall if it's ever been stated what kind of material the slugs are made of.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Well there's three issues there.

For the magnets in a Gauss Rifle [etc.] to effect the projectile, it would have to be ferrous or magnetic [I can't remember if non-ferrous materials can be magnetic off the top of my head].
No matter how fast its flying, any projectile is going to have to be hard enough to penetrate multiple layers of armor protection.
Lastly is the procurement cost of firing literally trillions of these rounds downrange. Consider:
- The Imperial Army [no matter which structure you use] has a billion troops available to it [give or take].
- In the Golden Age the Imperial Army equipped to TL 13 standards... Combat Armor, Gauss Rifles, Battle Dress w/ Plasma Guns as support weapons. Contrary to popular belief no interstellar government in Charted Space can afford to equip every soldier with BD and fusion guns. Those are the preserve of the Marines
- A Gauss Rifle has 40 rounds per magazine/battery pack. Each soldier carries 6 magazines.
- That's 6 billion rounds before anybody even fires a round at the range during training, much less goes to war.

These facts tend to suggest steel as it is ferrous, hard and comparatively cheap compared to other metals. What's more, it's common enough that lift battalions could conceivably have a fabrication fan dedicated to reducing scrap metal to ammo reloads for the magazines.
 

Galadrion

Banded Mongoose
ottarrus said:
So do you think that, as a house rule, it's pretty safe to assume that Gauss weapons have the same noise signature as a combustion propellant weapon in the same conditions?

That's a fair assessment, I'd say. Just off-hand, I'd say that noticing gauss fire based on sonic signature in any normal environment would be a difficult perception check, determining where the fire was coming from under the same circumstances would be very difficult. Noticing the effects if someone/something in your immediate area gets shot varies, but I'd say the screaming/blood spray/falling down might be a bit of a clue that something's going on.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Galadrion said:
ottarrus said:
So do you think that, as a house rule, it's pretty safe to assume that Gauss weapons have the same noise signature as a combustion propellant weapon in the same conditions?

That's a fair assessment, I'd say. Just off-hand, I'd say that noticing gauss fire based on sonic signature in any normal environment would be a difficult perception check, determining where the fire was coming from under the same circumstances would be very difficult. Noticing the effects if someone/something in your immediate area gets shot varies, but I'd say the screaming/blood spray/falling down might be a bit of a clue that something's going on.

Well, I'll be taking lighting conditions into account, of course, but the lack of a muzzle flash will certainly make detecting Gauss fire harder to detect than propellant fired guns.
I will probably also rule that any TL 12+ armor system with a computer interface rated 1 or better will have some sort of ballistic detection software that allows the troop to focus on the quadrant the fire came from. Just an analytical program that can tell the soldier 'the report came from this direction, the bullet struck that location, the most likely bullet trajectory is at [x] o'clock". And, of course, anybody with Tactics [Military] or Recon 1 or more will know that they have to get clever to spoof such detection systems :shock: :D :lol:
 

Galadrion

Banded Mongoose
ottarrus said:
I will probably also rule that any TL 12+ armor system with a computer interface rated 1 or better will have some sort of ballistic detection software that allows the troop to focus on the quadrant the fire came from. Just an analytical program that can tell the soldier 'the report came from this direction, the bullet struck that location, the most likely bullet trajectory is at [x] o'clock". And, of course, anybody with Tactics [Military] or Recon 1 or more will know that they have to get clever to spoof such detection systems :shock: :D :lol:
Again, fair enough - such gear should probably give a solid boost to the perception check. Which means that it will make backtracking to the shooter much easier... assuming the player thinks to make use of it. (Yes, I've had players miss something that obvious... even after I've dropped some pretty blatant hints on their heads. At that point, I just have to go with the interpretation that some people just ain't cut out for survival.)
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Condottiere said:
1. Direction of the blood spurt.

2. Maybe a compound slug, with a depleted uranium core.

The trick is seeing the blood spurt.... And, honestly, most guys aren't that observant. They know that 'Bob' has just been hit and needs aid, they're scanning rooftops, windows and alleyways looking for the shooter as somebody gets detailed to drag 'Bob' out of harm's way. It should also be noted that a through and through will render a false direction to the Mark 1 Eyeball. The software isn't bothered by fatigue or adrenaline, heat or cold, or any of the other intrusive thoughts and feelings that go through your mind on a patrol, so it can render a dispassionate assessment of where the shoot WAS at [if the shooter has the sense the Uncaring Buddha of War gave a boot lace, he's already bugged out after he fired].
But again, a skilled troop [Tactics Military 1+ or Recon 1+] will have some idea of how to spoof the software, but it's MUCH harder to do than spoofing a human.

As for a DU round, I would think that if you're putting a Gauss Rifle up against a guy in Battle Dress, you'd really REALLY want something that dense to shoot at him. But depleted uranium is damned expensive to be equipping every soldier in a army with it. Even the Third Imperium can't afford to equip 1 billion soldiers with DU rounds as a matter of course. But it's completely plausible that a trained sniper or even a company designated marksman would have a clip or two of them.
 

Condottiere

Emperor Mongoose
Depleted uranium is just a suggestion, since I assume it's more of a waste product being recycled.

I also assume that crystaliron is denser than tungsten, and bonded superdense beats that.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Condottiere said:
Depleted uranium is just a suggestion, since I assume it's more of a waste product being recycled.

I also assume that crystaliron is denser than tungsten, and bonded superdense beats that.

I agree on all points here, but DU, crystaliron, and bonded superdense are all expensive materials to be building bullets out of. I mean, there's a reason why bullets are of copper and lead antimony, right?
Also, as Desert Storm and the OIF/OEF have shown, DU leaves radioactive wreckage all over battlefields when used by tank main gun sabots and GAU ammo.
 

tempest13

Mongoose
ottarrus said:
Condottiere said:
Depleted uranium is just a suggestion, since I assume it's more of a waste product being recycled.

I also assume that crystaliron is denser than tungsten, and bonded superdense beats that.

I agree on all points here, but DU, crystaliron, and bonded superdense are all expensive materials to be building bullets out of. I mean, there's a reason why bullets are of copper and lead antimony, right?
Also, as Desert Storm and the OIF/OEF have shown, DU leaves radioactive wreckage all over battlefields when used by tank main gun sabots and GAU ammo.

Which are cleaned up by use of nuclear dampers. I doubt that a economy that can build 500,000 ton ships with bonded superdense hulls will balk at a few billion rounds made of the same material. You are thinking with a 2000AD mentality NOT a 5700AD one.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
tempest13 said:
ottarrus said:
Condottiere said:
Depleted uranium is just a suggestion, since I assume it's more of a waste product being recycled.

I also assume that crystaliron is denser than tungsten, and bonded superdense beats that.

I agree on all points here, but DU, crystaliron, and bonded superdense are all expensive materials to be building bullets out of. I mean, there's a reason why bullets are of copper and lead antimony, right?
Also, as Desert Storm and the OIF/OEF have shown, DU leaves radioactive wreckage all over battlefields when used by tank main gun sabots and GAU ammo.

Which are cleaned up by use of nuclear dampers. I doubt that a economy that can build 500,000 ton ships with bonded superdense hulls will balk at a few billion rounds made of the same material. You are thinking with a 2000AD mentality NOT a 5700AD one.

Well, YTU will vary and all that.
Your nuclear dampers comment begs a question, however: Do NDs actually disperse radiation ['clean it up'] or does it suppress radiation in the area of effect?
And I don't know the answer to that one.
 

Condottiere

Emperor Mongoose
Ammunition is something I take note of, across the spectrum of weapon systems.

Because there's no chemicals involved, specifically gunpowder, what we have is the equivalent of a sling, where you can have a selection of ammunition types, and could cast your own, as long as it fits within that calibre.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Condottiere said:
Ammunition is something I take note of, across the spectrum of weapon systems.

Because there's no chemicals involved, specifically gunpowder, what we have is the equivalent of a sling, where you can have a selection of ammunition types, and could cast your own, as long as it fits within that calibre.

Certainly true.
In the Keith brothers' 'Fifth Foreign Legion' books, a TL-10 [or thereabouts] unit has fabrication vans that fabricates Gauss flechettes and recharges batteries of the men's rifle magazines. That's a damned fine idea and one that I include IMTU. It doesn't make unlimited ammo forever. I presume that too many recharges will degrade the magazine battery and the fabrication machinery itself is going to have a finite lifespan, but it would drastically reduce the per-weapon firing costs. I'd expect that the rifle ranges get a whole lot more use than they do in modern militaries 8) :D
 

Saladman

Banded Mongoose
A quick googling confirms an impression I had, that a silencer on a gun with a supersonic bullet really does make it harder for an observer to tell where it came from. Yes you get the crack of the bullet traveling so you know someone somewhere is shooting, but it's not as easy as pinpointing an unsilenced gun. Gauss weapons would have the same effect.

Shotspotter tech can defeat that, but current and foreseeable shotspotters relies on multiple microphones to triangulate. That's something major cities can and are doing, and the US Army is deploying, but a single unit shotspotter doesn't exist at our tech levels.

Of course a distributed network of microphone/shotspotters will only get cheaper at higher TLs. I think I'll run with that, it'll be a common add on to trooper loadouts and probably easily put together by a private team, but a single unit shotspotter won't really exist.
 

Condottiere

Emperor Mongoose
Radar and ladar equipment might be too bulky on a personnel level.

Microphones, infra red, and a distributed network, maybe consolidated on the signaller packing a miniserver, amongst other electronic goodies and remote sensing and controllers.
 

Condottiere

Emperor Mongoose
Speaking of ammunition, and specific to Traveller military sidearms, gauss systems rely on energy as propellant, and presumably a magnetizable slug as the sharp, or blunt, end of the stick.

Pure energy weapons only need an electrical plug, unless parts have a limited duration or use.

And presumably in the Sixth Millenium, we're using caseless ammunition for the advanced combat rifle and it's ilk; maybe there's some sort of hardened stabilized paste that can be manufactured at technological level seven for assault rifles.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Condottiere said:
Speaking of ammunition, and specific to Traveller military sidearms, gauss systems rely on energy as propellant, and presumably a magnetizable slug as the sharp, or blunt, end of the stick.

Pure energy weapons only need an electrical plug, unless parts have a limited duration or use.

And presumably in the Sixth Millenium, we're using caseless ammunition for the advanced combat rifle and it's ilk; maybe there's some sort of hardened stabilized paste that can be manufactured at technological level seven for assault rifles.

Caseless ammo still has the problems the H&K G-11 had.... The ejection port of a weapon and the ejection of the cartridge itself disperses a great deal of combustion heat. This heat dispersion is not present in caseless ammunitions, and will somehow have to be accounted for. Preferably, it's accounted for in a way that doesn't vent heat back into the rifleman's face or line of sight under NVG conditions. Remember, between the research costs and Reunification in Germany, this is the project that put H&K out of business.... and nobody ever accused that company of being stupid when it came to gun design. Some pretty smart people worked on that project before it went boink.
I'm not saying that the solution couldn't be a handwave... "Somebody figured it out during the Rule of Man [or whenever] and that solution has been standard for 2000 years"... there's a lot of Traveller technologies that are handled in just that way.
But from a strictly Traveller gear-head point of view, it would be interesting to try and figure out.

As for energy requirements for Gauss weaponry, it's been often stated in multiple rules sets that Gauss weapons are powered by battery components in the weapon's magazine. I would guess that fixed defensive weapons have a constant power supply [fortification turrets for example] and I also presume that a Gauss weapon retains a reserve battery to power weapon's electronic systems for a limited time without a magazine inserted. IMTU, each Lift Infantry Company has a fabrication van that can make Gauss ammo out of metals from the battlefield and recharge the magazine batteries integral to the company support element [under current force structure, it would probably be under control of the specialist NCO's... the First Sergeant, Armorer, Commo, NBC, and Supply NCOs] as part of the company HQ element. [I freely admit that I stole this idea from the 'Fifth Foreign Legion' books by the Keith Brothers. It's just too good an idea to omit]
 
Top