Debate #2: Lord Edam
March 4, 2002 (Edam's first post):
Hi Mike, I hope you're feeling better this week. Here's the opening volley for our debate
Star Trek shielding. I will begin by providing the link to my original critique http://www.trek-wars.info/STshield.html [Mirrored here]
The Base Delta Zero Operation.
- Before begining I should explain a few of my assumptions - a TL bolt can be treated as a high-energy (nuclear) explosion. TL flak bursts in the atmosphere can be treated similar to a nuclear bomb exploding at that altitiude, and TLs that impact the surface can be considered surface explosions. However we should not consider the radiation effects of the turbolasers because (even though tibanna is typically described as poisonous radioactive gas) we have no way of quantifying the radioactive effects. Only thermal and blast effects are considered here, though we should remember the possibility of radioactivity as well.
- An ISD has 120 Light Turbolasers, rated at 1MT each (just over the various asteroid calcs), each capable of firing once every two seconds. It also has an undisclosed number of medium turbolasers and heavy turbolasers (different ISD variations have different numbers of heavier weapons. These heavier weapons are considered a "bonus", as we shall see below)
- The majority of Star Wars structures are not significantly different from modern structures in terms of the resistance to blast loading & thermal effects
A BDZ is a multi-stage operation involving three main stages. Initial bombardment, sweeps to ensure the primary & any special goals have been achieved, and finally the over-kill at the end. Typically, a BDZ is not a simple "destroy the planet to an arbitrary level" operation - it has specific goals, normally stated to be "...destroy all population centres and resources, including industry, natural resources and cities" (Star Wars Adventure Journal) "the decimation of a world--all life, all vessels, all systems--even droids were to be captured or destroyed" (The Hutt Gambit)
The initial phase of a BDZ will be the mass bombardment of a planet. This event will probably happen as follows ISD exit hyperspace. If the planet is shielded the shield will be sabotaged as or immediately before the ISD exits hyperspace(SotP/VotF). ISD immediately launches all TIE wings. The very first shots from the ISD and fighters will concentrate on the communications and sensor infrastructures (including satellites) to cut off the planet(ref: Cronus' attack of Khomm in Darksaber). Tie Bombers will be sent to the major spaceports , dropping large numbers of air-burst explosives to prevent any ships on the ground taking off. Only those ships in the air or immediately capable of lift off will survive, and these will be taken out by the fighters and some of the ISD's weaponry (if they are in range)
Within two minutes of the ISD leaving hyperspace the planet is unable to communicate and there will be no (or very few) ships able to escape. The ISD, if part of a larger fleet (unknown if it could do it solo) also launches a communication jamming net (Pellaeon's attack of Yavin in Darksaber) to prevent any ships still capable of transmitting getting word out. Once they are happy the planet is unable to communicate with the galaxy at large the ISD begins attacking the planet below, starting with major cities & any remaining spaceports and moving on to towns and larger industrial complexes. Tie bombers concentrate on smaller targets, such as smaller industrial complexes or deep-sea bombing if there are known fisheries or underwater facilities.
The ISD's bombardment consists primarily of atmospheric flak bursts at an altitude of 2000m. Treating these as a 1MT nuclear explosion at the same altitude the typical effects from each shot will be vitrification of natural material within 1km radius. Complete destruction of all life and buildings within a radius of 7km fatal blast/burn injuries to all life within 16km ignition of all combustable material within 16km, resulting in massive firestorms (figures taken from O'hanian Physics, 2nd Edition)
Firing one shot from each of its guns every two seconds, after one hour this will result in (assuming earth-typical planet, 50% inhabited - 250 million square km)
216,000 square km vitrified
33 million square km leveled
173 million square km heavily damaged & burning
this is just over 50% of the inhabted surface area of the planet either totally destroyed or burning
This initial bombardment will result in the almost complete destruction of all assests of production - agriculture and indutry will be destroyed, mines will be unusable due to the instability of the entrances following attack.
Following the initial attack, whilst the ISD continues with the "overkill" phase of the BDZ, stormtrooper squads are sent down to the planet to search for survivors and complete any additional goals (ref The Hutt Gambit). This "overkill" phase may also include direct surface bombardment rather than atmospheric bursts, resulting in large craters (a 1MT surface explosion will result in craters between 120 and 500m radius, and up to 80m deep - ref. The Effects of Nuclear Weapons).
Once the operation is complete there will be large amounts of dust kicked up into the atmosphere causing a sudden short term cooling by blocking out much of the sunlight, and the high number of energetic atmospheric explosions will result in widescale destruction of the ozone layer as a result of the NO2 created by the fireballs. Anything capable of surviving the initial attack will be faced with a short period with very little heat or light, followed by a prolonged period of intense UV pollution which will last for over 20 years(ref: The Effects of Nuclear Weapons). The planet will be entirely uninhabitable without very major terraforming & reconstruction.
This interpretation of a BDZ uses a minor increase on existing firepower estimates for an ISD.
This interpretation of a BDZ fits the Nar Shadda (The Hutt Gambit) & Star Wars Adventure Journal direct definitions of a BDZ
This interpretation of a BDZ fits the Star Wars Technical Journal description of ISD firepower (a single ISD can reduce a planet's surface to smoking rubble in a matter of hours)
There have been no specific BDZ examples which require slagging a surface of a planet (contrary to your claims on the Star Wars beam weapons page, the Star Wars Technical journal makes no specific reference to BDZ)
Based on my interpretation of a BDZ assault the other examples of ISD firepower - the common "turn a world to molten slag" refer either to the thin layer of slag that results from all nuclear explosions, or is based on larger groupings of ISDs, possibly as part of the "Bombardment fleets" - collections of over 400 ships typically used in large scale planetary bombardments.
Basically, what it comes down to is this - there is no justification for the "1 ISD, 1 m, 1 hour" classical BDZ. No description of BDZ requires melting of the surface to an arbitrary depth, and several examples directly contradict this by having mop-up crews sent down as one phase of the operation. The example above uses known firepower to arrive at a perfectly suitable conclusion for BDZ, actual examples of which (the Hutt Gambit, Spectre of the Past / Visions of the Future) consist of three or more ISDs or larger numbers of lesser ships.
The only possible reason to believe the "1 ISD, 1 m, 1 hour" figure is the WEG:ISB & SWTJ claims "an ISD can turn a planet into molten slag" - yes, it can slag a planet, but the actual method and extent to which a single ISD can slag a planet is unknown & unknowable.
back near the top I mentioned the heavier weaponry on an ISD are a mere bonus. Using reasonable but purely arbitrary numbers here's why... The break down of the heavier weaponry(using the third power rule, ref The Effects of Nuclear Weapons) would be MTLs; an arbitrary 10x increase in firepower(10MT), arbitrary 20 guns per shot:
total vitrification 2:70,000km²
HTL; arbitrary 100x increase in firepower(100MT - possibly supported by the BTM firepower charts which give some form of TL roughly 5e17J firepower), 12 guns (ISD I) per shot:
total vitrification 9:45,000km²
As you can see, the heavier weaponry is merely a "bonus" - it has very little effect on the outcome of the initial bombardment. It is unlikely TIE bombers would be able to cause more than token damage with their limited number of bombs(following the initial disruption of spaceports) - infact, these would be of much greater use against deep-sea objects & fisheries if required..
O'Hanian Physics, 2nd Edition Expanded, Hans C. Ohanian, WW Norton & Co (ISBN 0-393-95825-6) - a general text book for physics undergraduates.
The Effects of nuclear Weapons, Samuel Glasston & Philip J. Dolan, US Department of Defense & Energy Research and Development Administration (1977) - a great reference for anyone interested in high energy explosions.