Debate #2: Lord Edam

March 8, 2002 (Edam's second post, part 3/3):

Base Delta Zero

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)

I don't think you realize just how much it would take to exterminate "all life". Not "most life", or "most civilian life", but all life. This planet was hit by a 100 million megaton (4E23 J) KE bomb 65 million years ago, and the biosystem survived. Animals survived both on land and at sea. Our evolutionary ancestors survived, with no technology whatsoever to aid them (never mind armoured vehicles, bunkers, or bomb shelters to hide in).

Our evolutionary ancestors had not come to rely on technology to the extent we have. So there's a bit more smoke than they are used to - big deal! And please, don't fall into this "the dinokiller didn't kill everything" idiocy - the dino killer was a single impact, not a concerted effort to deny the planet to anybody. Reduced firepower over a larger area will have greater effect.

Fair enough. First objective is to cut off communications and escape routes, although there are limits to how much 72 fighters can accomplish against the entire spacecraft complement of a planet of billions or perhaps hundreds of billions of people, a large number of which could probably afford spacecraft if they really want them (also keep in mind that spacecraft don't necessarily need to be kept at spaceports). That's probably why they need 3 ships when they need to ensure no witnesses. I don't see what this has to do with refuting the 2E24 J figure, though.

you continue to insist "three ships means no witnesses" - why? The whole point of VotF was that the space battle over the planet would disquise the attack. We don't know how many ships they used at Caamas. Dankayo was only a tiny rebel base with nothing else on the planet at all (and not actually a BDZ, anyway), so once you take out the base there wouldn't be any witnesses. Five ships are not enough to prevent ships leaving if you don't stop them whilst they are on the ground - if they truly want "no witnesses" they will have to use the larger bombardment fleets and hope the planet doesn't find out before they get there (in the classic comic In Deadly Pursuit the majority of the ships on the planet left before the imperials arrived because they'd found out what was going to happen thanks to Eifion Davies for the reference).

how often do we see spaceships away from spaceports? never, basically. We've got a few rare occasions - Luke on Dagobah, and that's about it, but the majority of the examples of spacecraft on planets are those in spaceports. Concentrate on the ports and you will get practically every ship before it gets airborne - the only ones you'll miss are those that are just landing or about to take off (or the very fortuitous farmer in the back of beyond who happens to be near his spaceship which just happens to be ready to take off at a moment's notice)

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.

This would be completely inadequate to kill off the planet's entire animal population. You could destroy every major and minor city on Earth with nuclear bombs and there would still be survivors, both human and animal.

And in every first hand example of a BDZ or BDZ-type operation there are still survivors expected - The Hutt Gambit, mop up squads sent to search the rubble for survivors. Dankayo - search the planet for survivors. Khomm - plenty of survivors after half an hour of indiscriminate orbital bombardment (indicating a BDZ cannot wipe everything out in a few hours simply using their guns from orbit)

A BDZ is not simply "attack from orbit and kill everything" - there's far more to it than that. The fact it is more than "attack from orbit with all our guns" means we cannot use calcs based on that assumption and declare them conservative.

And what's this nonsense about "deep-sea bombing" for fisheries? Fisheries aren't little fixed buildings under the water; they can sprawl across the entire ocean!

That refered to the existing infrastrucutre required to exploit the fisheries. The easiest way to get rid of the actual fisheries themselves would be bioweaponry (possibly using the poisonous, radiactive gas that makes up Turbolasers)

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)

I like the way you take a quote from a general physics book and try to use its figures as definitive information on nuclear weapons without bothering to state the background behind those figures.

Background being "this is what a 1MT bomb exploding at 2000m will do to a typical city" in a discussion of nuclear weapons (actually an interlude in the book - interesting things you can do with the physics they've just explained), which is confirmed by the Nuclear Weapons FAQ and The Effects of Nuclear Weapons and practically any reputable source on the effects of nuclear weapons

See the Nuclear Weapons FAQ at MilNet. Did you know that the 7 km blast radius of a nuclear explosion is based on 5 psi atmospheric overpressure? Did you know that 5 psi is sufficient to destroy civilian structures but not military installations, armoured vehicles, or even peoples' backyard bomb shelters?

So, basically, it applies to most buildings not specifically designed to withstand the blast. Are SW buildings designed to withstand a BDZ?

Right off the bat, your entire analysis is based on junk data. You assume that if you blanket an area with a 5 psi overpressure blast radii, you will exterminate all life in that area.

There will always be some survivors - the figures given are an ideal situation. Of course, anyone who does survive will likely be severly injurd by rubble or burns, and finished off in the mop-up operation that follows after the initial bombardment

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 [read: 0.04% of planet's surface sterilized]
33 million square km leveled [read: 6.5% of planet's surface hit hard enough to knock down civilian buildings]
173 million square km heavily damaged & burning [read: 34% of planet's surface will experience no significant structural damage, but fires will be lit in flammable materials]

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

You feel that it constitutes "almost complete destruction" to leave nearly 60% of the planet's surface completely untouched

in one hour. How long does the initial bombardment take? According to Star Wars Technical Journal it takes hours to turn the world into smoking debris. Hours means at least two hours. coincidentally, by my example it takes hours to turn the planet into smoking debris. This is going to be some time before you get to the "slag it to death" level of damage.

Plus, of course, some planets (eg, tattooine) have very little habitation, so it would happen quicker, whilst other planets have far more, so it would take longer. the average will be round about 50% inhabited - on average, over half the actual inhabited area of the planet will be turned to smoking rubble in under an hour.

, light fires in flammables on 34% of its surface,

Average 50% area actually able to burn, 60% of which is burning within the first hour (the rest will probably go up not too long after due to the firestorms raging around the planet)

and hit 6.5% of its surface hard enough to knock down civilian buildings?

and average 60% actual area heavily damaged

What about the fact that a BDZ must eliminate animal life as well, both above and below the water?

a BDZ must eliminate all sentient life & droids. Most of the life on the surface will be completely slaughtered in the first few hours by the bombardment and mop-up. anything actually surviving will have to cope with a rapidly cooling planet, followed by intense UV radiation, hardly conducive to the continuation of life. If you get a forest planet like Caamas nothing on the surface will survive - anything not killed in the initial bombardment will be wipd out by the fires raging through the remaining forest (though, to be fair, killing a mere 18 million inhabitants shouldn't be too hard, assuming the various Star Wars RPG reference sites are correct

What about the fact that a BDZ must take out military targets, not just civilian targets?

Which will happen when they move from indiscriminate bombardment to concentrating on specific goals, and even then they miss some deep planet survival shelters (Dankayo) - of course, these shelters will only be used if they know there's an attack coming. If it's a surprise attack most people would be nowhere near protected areas. If it isn't a surprise attack chances are many people will have left already (though even then it will only be a small percentage of the population - in examples such as the evacuation of Ithor in NJO and Corellia in the Corellian trilogy it was impossible to evacuate more than a few percent of the population with days or weeks of warning and the majority resources of the New Republic to help)

What about the fact that a BDZ may have to be performed on a planet with complete surface coverage?

Which would take longer than the average (though not even Coruscant has complete surface coverage - it still has some oceans etc.)

A BDZ is complete extermination. What you describe is a devastating attack,

What I describe is the early part of a BDZ - the devestating attack.It fits with all descriptions of what a BDZ is. It fits with all first hand accounts of BDZ-like operations (Cronus in Darksaber attacked Khomm with 120 VSDs targetting the city indiscriminately for 30 minutes to cause as much damage as possible - yet many people survived, Dankayo they had to check for survivors. The Hutt Gambit they had to check for survivors. An actual BDZ does not result in the immediate cessation of all life on the planet. The overkill phase - an arbitrary level of extreme damage - will clearly take far longer, and require far more ships.

agriculture and indutry will be destroyed, mines will be unusable due to the instability of the entrances following attack.

You figure that a civilization which mines stellar coronae and planets which are molten on one side is incapable of re-opening a mine after its entrance caves in?

They mine stellar coronae because it's the cheapest way to get what they need. They mine planets molten on one side because it's the cheapest way to get what they need. Why bother re-opening unsafe mines on an inhospitable planet when there's plenty of other planets that has what they need in a place that's far easier to get at? It isn't that they can't do it - it's that it isn't worth them doing it

And what if the mine happens to be on the 94% of the planet's surface which wasn't even hit hard enough to knock down civilian buildings, never mind collapsing a buried mineshaft?

you fogot the "concentrate on specific targets" - it isn't just a general wide-scale bombard everything to the same extent operation. It is planned to achieve speific goals - the destruction of all population centres and resources, including industry, natural resources and cities, in a matter of hours.

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).

You're already jumping to the "overkill" phase? You're getting way ahead of yourself now. The BDZ is a complete extermination operation, remember?

the overkill phase is the complete extermination. The stuff that's extra to the requirements of the BDZ.

Any why do you keep using "The Hutt Gambit" as an example of a BDZ?

Because they ordered a BDZ - it shows what a BDZ is, and how some survivors are acceptable. It is also supported by Cronus' attack on Khomm, and the three ISDs attacking Dankayo, the attack on Emberlene (VotF) - there are some survivors after the initial attack.

Unless my memory fails me, they had no ISDs so they were stuck with light vessels trying to do a large warship's job, and they were obviously trying to take advantage of the unusual nature of the target (a city-world) in order to get a poor man's BDZ by knocking the buildings down (you can achieve 100% fatalities in a skyscraper if you can make it fall down before its inhabitants get out). Unless you've got some quote to the contrary, I don't see how this should be regarded as a full-fledged BDZ operation rather than a poor man's substitute.

It fits all the stated requirements of a BDZ. The only reason it shouldn't be considered is if we think there is more to a BDZ than is actually stated. Obviously, you do (otherwise you wouldn't be lying about the SWTJ description of a BDZ on your imperial weapons page), but we can't simply go round saying "that source isn't right, it's far worse than that" for no reason other than we want to

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.

Irrelevant. These are long-term effects

The long term effects which continue to wipe out any creatures not killed in the initial bombardment and continues to deny the planet to anyone wishing to return.

, and a BDZ reduces a planet to a dead husk in less than a day, with no survivors whatsoever.

But how many ships does that take? 1? 10? 100? By my estimates, it will take a large number of ships most of the day to get anywhere near.

Moreover, there would be billions of survivors and the biosystem would be damaged but still alive, which is not what the BDZ operation is all about

A BDZ operation is about the destruction of all sentient life & droids. Not everything - that's the overkill phase, the bit that takes an unknown number of ships an unknown period of time

. Even the 100 million megaton K-T KE bomb couldn't wipe out all the animals, and you're proposing you can get the job done with less than ¼-million megatons?

If you spread the energy around properly, yes. When you've got ships capable of orbiting the planet you don't need to dump all the energy in one place. You don't need to waste it creating an enormous crater and throwing tons of material out of the atmosphere. You can use it sensible, so that the damage is roughly equal all over the planet, rather than completely obliterated on one side and slightly damaged on the other. A machine gun will kill a lot more people than a canon if you use it properly.

This interpretation of a BDZ uses a minor increase on existing firepower estimates for an ISD.

Actually, it requires many orders of magnitude decrease from existing firepower estimates drawn from other incidents

Other incidents that give us no idea of the number of ships or time frame. The only real examples of ISD firepower we have are the asteroid calcs and Gra Ploven, both of which end up as low MT weapon power.

not to mention simple scaling of the Death Star's superlaser, which is merely a gigantic compound turbolaser, thus using the same basic mechanisms and principles.

model aeroplanes use the same basic principles as full sized areoplanes. Try scaling them up and you'll end up with propeller driven planes that can break the sound barrier by a large margine. Simple scaling is always a bad idea, especially when it contradicts actual first hand accounts.

This interpretation of a BDZ fits the Nar Shadda (The Hutt Gambit) & Star Wars Adventure Journal direct definitions of a BDZ

The "Hutt Gambit" described an attack upon a city-world. Do you seriously propose that your calculations, in which 60% of a planet's surface would be completely untouched, would constitute a BDZ for Nar Shadda?

Nar Shadda was a moon of an inhabitable planet (moon, not sister planet), which means it wasn't particularly large. infact, you'd be lucky if it was Mars sized. If it was half the size of the Earth you'd ahve quarter the surface area. Oh, look, my figures are higher than that. My examples gave the first hour of the attack - it actually takes much longer (a matter of hours, not one single hour)

Moreover, your assumption that SW buildings are identical to modern buildings is ridiculous and indefensible; we could not possibly build the multi-kilometre tall buildings of Star Wars with modern construction techniques.

And the majoriy of buildings in Star Wars are NOT multi-kilometre tall buildings. Those that are will take additional firepower, but an "idealised" BDZ will never happen. Everyone will be different, because everyplanet is different. SW buildings in general don't seem any different to modern buildings. There's no reason for them to be built better, so why assume they are?

Furthermore, you consider a region of planetary surface destroyed if fires are lit in flammable material.

And significant structural damage.

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)

Tell me, when you see the phrase "reduce a planet's surface to smoking rubble", do you interpret that as "94% without structural damage, 60% completely untouched, hardened targets and armoured vehicles undamaged, mines undamaged, fisheries undamaged, billions of survivors, biosystem largely undamaged save for long-term environmental effects?"

Still ignoring the fact that BDZ takes hours, whilst I simply presented the first hour of the operation I see

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)

Nice nitpick there, Edam. The SWTJ says an ISD can slag a planet but it doesn't explicitly say that it's called a BDZ operation, so you've got your escape clause, eh?

The SWTJ says an ISD can slag a planet, but nothing anytime anywhere says a BDZ requires slagging of a planet, so anyone claiming that it does is lying. a BDZ (not requiring the entire slagging of a planet) takes a few hours for an unknown number of ships. Obviously, if you want to slag the planet to an arbitrary depth you'll need more ships and more time.

The fact that it would satisfy the mission requirements of a BDZ

It exagerates the stated requirements of a BDZ

(while the attack on Nar Shadda was not carried out by an ISD and did not leave it an uninhabitable wasteland as per BDZ mission requirements)

The Nar Shadda attack was designed to fulfill every requirement of a BDZ. That it was not completed does not invalidated the stated goals, and the fact they were acceptable as a Base Delta Zero operation

is inconvenient for you, but you've got that loophole and you're going to use it, right?

you mean I'm going to insist you use actual sources and what they really say rather than your own fantasies and mis-quoting? Yep. If you need to lie about your sources to justify your claims you can't have much of a claim in the first place.

But before you break your arm patting yourself on the back, perhaps you could try to remember that it doesn't actually matter whether the planet's surface is literally slagged, as long as the slagging energy estimate is reasonable, given the mission requirements.

Given the mission requirements, the scenario I have given is reasonable.

The idealized melt scenario is merely a means to an end, after all, and it is the 2.2E24 J figure which is in dispute. There are ways to derive that figure besides the melt depth (see my BDZ page [mirrored - original here -LE]), and Dankayo was stripped of its atmosphere and reduced to a cratered wasteland, which might not be literally regarded as "slag", but it's certainly energetic enough to show that my BDZ firepower figures are actually quite conservative.

how large was Dankayo? Did it oiginally have an atmosphere, or was it simply refering to the atmosphere contained within the base when it was ruptured (I'd go for the latter, since the atmosphere in the base would drift away when ruptured)? turning a planet into an evenly cratered surface isn't that hard - my 1MT examples would achieve the exact same thing. Dankayo supports both examples equally, with pretty much identical assumptions required. Of course, we should also ask why it took 3 ISDs to do this, and why they managed to miss their goals (turnthe tiny base to molten slag - they didn't, a lot of the base was still remaining)

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 ...

Only in close proximity to ground-bursts. The air-bursts you use in your calculations would not turn steel and rock on the surface into slag.

Many of the early nucelar bomb tests, where the bombs were placed on high towers (a couple hundred m high) created slag on the ground underneath. using the scaled height of this we deiscover a 1MT nuclear bomb will create slag - specifically vitrification of the surface - as explained above. A single blast won't turn large amounts of rock or steel into a puddle, no, but is this required? Certainly not for a BDZ. An ISD can manage this over a very limited area ( the rebel base in Crimson Empire, the YV base on Yavin 4 in NJO) but even then they will typically expect to find survivors in the slagged area - in NJO, when Booster slagged the YV base on Yavin 4 they there were still survivors in the slagged area shortly afterwards. Hardly indicative of the lava pool required for your assumptions, is it?

... 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.

Enough with the red herrings already.

Not a red herring - explaining the consequences

Obviously, such a large force is required if you want to be able to take down a planetary shield first,

No, if you want to take the shield down first you need a torpedo sphere or saboteurs. Torpedo spheres are part of a bombardment fleet

or if you're short on resources and you're trying to get the job done with small ships rather than ISDs.

Or if you want to prevent any chance of people escaping, or if you want to achieve more than the minimum a BDZ requires, or if your target planet has any other unique problems that require a larger fleet

But if you just want to perform a BDZ on an unshielded planet (or a planet where you can sabotage the shield beforehand), you can do it with just one ISD, or three (from VOTF) if you want to eliminate all witnesses.

Three plus a space battle overhead.

The realistic requirement of a BDZ is far larger than the energy requirement of the idealized scenario, given that substantial portions of the ocean must be vapourized,

you can do just as much damage with biological weapons (or the radioactive gas from TLs) and the long-term effects of any high-energy bombardment.

hardened targets must be destroyed,

specific goals that would take a few minutes to complete with a little effort

and complete extermination of all animal and plant life must be achieved.

sentient life.

Remember that the 2E24 J figure is only 5 times larger than the K-T extinction event which did not reduce the Earth to a dead world

Remember a warship is capable of orbiting a planet and distributing the firepower (and thus the damage), unlike the K-T extinction event.

PS. I like the way you chose to list references which sound cool (one of them is from the DOD, and you couldn't help but repeatedly mention that you were using a DOD source when I first mentioned this challenge last Christmas), but which were nowhere near as easy to get your hands on as the Nuclear Weapons FAQ, which has been quoted all over the newsgroups for years. This kind of exclusivity and name-dropping achieves nothing, Edam.

When you are writing your web page you use sources you have at hand, rather than referencing websites. When I am debating, I use sources I have at hand rather than referencing websites. If you want to know about high energy weapons where better to go than the definitive nucelar weapons effects report of the US Government (which is referenced by most of the online websites anyway)

Continue to my second rebuttal

Return to main debate page

Valid HTML 4.01!Valid CSS!This website is owned and maintained by Michael Wong
This site is not affiliated with Lucasfilm or Paramount
All associated materials are used under "Fair Use" provisions of copyright law.
All original content by Michael Wong is copyrighted © 1998,2004.
Click here to go to the main page