Jun 292015

I’ve been pecking away at various aspects of Pax Orionis lately. Most of my writing has been involved with various aspects of the history leading up to The War. I could have started with the war first, and backfilled the history after, but it seems to me better to start at the beginning, work through the course of events leading to the war, and then staging the war with the world that the history gives.

Since the US fights the war with Orion ships, I figure it’s a good idea to figure out how many ships the US has, of what type, and what their capabilities are. Below is a very preliminary chart of the ships of the USSF and NASA in chronological and to scale. Names and numbers will likely change; the designs are currently in flux. The double vertical line at the right indicates the war, so the two craft introduced after that are post-war designs.

pax orionis-Model

 Posted by at 3:45 pm
  • kbob42

    That is a lot of atmospheric detonations.

    • TheRequimen

      Where would these launched from? Florida? Cali? Out at sea? Or assembled in space perhaps?

      EDIT: Looks like they are launched by chemical lifters in the chart. Probably not that dirty and I wouldn’t imagine too many Americans would really care by this point in the story.

  • drejr

    The names of the War Hammer, Apocalypse, and War God classes seem to be out of character for the American military to me.

    • Scottlowther

      They are indeed. But then, this is a US military in a very different timeline, where something incredibly traumatic has happened.

      • drejr

        Yes, but there’s an odd discontinuity from the very traditional Essex and Independence to the Broadaxe et al and then back to the traditional Houston. It seems more likely to me that a traumatized America would unleash the cleansing fire of the apocalypse from the USSS Liberty (perhaps constructed with symbolic bits of ruined cities) than the USSS Nergal. Then again, perhaps my opinion is overly informed by recent events. It’s your story, and an interesting one.

        • Scottlowther

          The reasoning behind it makes sense to me,, and I hope it’ll make sense once the history is explained. Sometimes a nation will undergo political and cultural changes that lead its PR from “look at us we’re awesome” to “fuck you, Ivan.” As for the nicely bland names like “Houston,” you have to ask why *those* particular cities are so honored… and whether those names might themselves fall along the lines less of “we have great cities” and more like “we haven’t forgotten what you assholes did.”

          • mattm

            Ah. I thought going from names like War Hammer, Apocalypse, and War God to Houston was a little anticlimactic. But that would explain it.

          • Scottlowther

            Note that the War Hammer and War God classes are fundamentally new classes of ships with “belligerence” being clearly obvious, while the “Houston” class is an evolutionary improvement to the Essex, which was an improved Enterprise class which was an improved Columbia class.

          • Herp McDerp

            The USSS Fuck You, Ivan would be an awesome name for a ship!

        • Herp McDerp

          Those names seem a bit odd to me because they’re … well, un-American. I suspect that somewhere along the line it would be more in keeping with our traditions and our temperament to have high-falootin’ names like Justice, Integrity, Liberty, Patriot, Freedom, Minuteman, Righteous, Warrior, Hero, Republic, Eagle, Champion, Knight … the sort of names the old British dreadnoughts had, but with an American accent. (Yes, I’m pretty sure you have some of these already, but I’m too lazy to go back and check.)

          Alas, we’re too stuffy to have Culture-style names like Don’t Make Me Come Over There, Pay Attention Next Time, or This Time It’s Gonna Hurt …

          • Scottlowther

            > they’re … well, un-American.

            Well, there have been three ships named “USS Mars.” So there is precedent for US Navy ships named after gods of war.

  • Adam

    I look forward to reading this. The real world timeline of the cold war is too boring.

  • Herp McDerp

    Possible typo? “XYX” Class Tender, or “XYZ”? Or is that just a placeholder?

    I don’t know about Venture or Star Clipper as NASA ships. Are there any merchant vessels in your scenario, pre- or post-War?

    A suggestion (which you might already have used in your scenarios): Once you have the capability to lift lots of people and materiel to orbit and beyond, the logical place to construct more Orion-type spacecraft would be Luna. No atmosphere, no magnetosphere, low gravity, not much worry about radioactive fallout, lots of easily accessed raw materials for construction (meteoritic nickel-iron particles in the soil, glass; aluminum and titanium ores, too, but not as easily purified as the iron).

    Re: Houston, etc. … You might call this the Avenger class.

    • Herp McDerp

      Oh, and you might consider naming three of the NASA ships the Stanislaw Ulam, the Theodore Taylor, and the Freeman Dyson … Or perhaps these could be merchant ships owned by General Atomics?

    • Scottlowther

      > Or is that just a placeholder?


      • Peter Hanely

        A nuke with no fissionables sounds like it would take some expensive and possibly heavy driver equipment. Maybe a high voltage power supply and large capacitor bank to drive the device implosion. Not so bad if the expensive and heavy parts can be built into the ship and reused.

    • Chris Hopkins

      This was also my first thought. In every previous war, civilian craft at the start of the conflict were on a par technologically if not shear size. For a multi-decade long affair civilian vessels are a requirement unless there are some very very odd things happening with the economy. Assuming the plan is that there will be a free-market caplitalist economy then in the medium to long term for the economy to prosper there needs to be a large merchant navy.
      I wondered if this was going to take a turn like the East India Trading company did where the military was effectively run by a private company.
      I’m sure it will all make sense in the end.

      • Scottlowther

        Without giving away too much about the culture of alternate-1984, about the best I can come up with is to say “read ‘Caliphate’ by Tom Kratman.”

        The timeline I’ve got has people, organizations and government with grand plans. Plans that go to hell when confronted with reality, or when impacted by just how stupid and awful people on *both* sides can be.

        I’d prefer a yarn about how awesome it’d be to have Orion merchant vessels plying the spacelanes. But this, by definition, has Orions involved in Very Bad Things. And very bad things can make a hell of a mess of plans and whole civilizations.

        But then, also consider Star Trek. Yay, starships and green wimmins and engineers and scientists being seen as positive role models. And how did the world of Star Trek come about? Via the Eugenics Wars of the 1990’s, which killed tens of millions, another major war a decade or two later, killing more many millions, and finally World War III, killing presumably hundreds of millions. Or: World War II led to the 1950’s, which for many in the US was a virtual utopia if the nostalgia is to be believed. The dark times of Carter led directly to the golden age of Reagan. And thus… Pax Orionis.

        • Phil

          I’ve read a lot of Tom Kratman’s stuff. He is thought-provoking and politically incorrect.

  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    Don’t want to be too much of a cold water guy, but the numbers of Orion ships is pretty incredible. I’m thinking each ship represents the same sort of resource allocation (financial, industreal, staff and support) that battleships did in the 1930’s or aircraft carriers do today. Eventually there was a large fleet of battleships in many navies, but they were accrued over a long period of time. Today, even with the largest economy on the planet, the USN has a grand total of 13 full sized aircraft carriers and the battlegroups built around them.

    And of course the USSS will be competing with the other armed services for resources; the USAF will want more bomber wings, the USN will want another carrier battle group and the Army will be looking for more divisions.

    Perhaps a more realistic scenario is all these classes and ships were “proposed”, but only about half the classes were actually funded and then only about half the actual ships were laid down (if that is the correct term for an ORION class ship). Since even one ORION class battleship can lay waste to vast swaths of a continent, it will be a bit of a streatch to think the Congress will put out that much money (especially when the Airforce can make a credible case they will “make the rubble bounce” for a fraction of the cost)

    • Scottlowther

      > he numbers of Orion ships is pretty incredible.

      By “our” standards, sure. But note that there is a whole lot of standardization here. And Orions were surprisingly low-tech concepts, using generally unimpressive materials (steel rather than titanium or carbon fiber). And while we’d think of these as gigantic spaceships, they are *small* compared to Navy vessels. Most of the Orions here are based on the 4,000 ton design. The Ohio-class boomer is 16,000+ tons and we’ve built 18 of them; on a simple weight basis, that works out to roughly 72 Orions. The Navy built 62 Los Angeles-class boats at 6,000+ tons each; that’d be 93 Orions.

      • Thucydides_of_Athens

        That is one way to think of this (and it is your universe, after all), but just because the ORION is built out of “ordinary” materials, we are still talking about a spaceship, with complex life support technology that needs to work under variable gravity, and a few pretty “extraordinary” parts like the monster shock absorbers, not to mention the thousands of nuclear pulse units. Although not a great analogy, the “one off” Michael ORION battleship from “Footfall” essentially used the entire remaining industrial capacity of the United States, so I am thinking a similar level of effort might be needed to roll out even 4000 ton space battleships.

        I’m really suggesting that the costs will be far higher than expected, and the competition for resources, even in a war economy (which I am inferring from other things I have read on the blog), will be intense from other services which will have a credible claim to be able to do the same things for much less investment in time, resources and money.

        • Peter Hanely

          The pulse units, with an irreducible minimum of fissile material each, may be the overwhelming cost driver of Orion battleships.

          • Scottlowther

            Yup. Plutonium ain’t cheap. Of course, Ted Taylor had some ideas on how to make Plutonium orders of magnitude cheaper.

        • Scottlowther

          There is a lot of necessary hand-waving and arguable assumptions. But consider that this is a different timeline with *very* different priorities and federal spending. Imagine what NASA alone could have accomplished had the peak spending of the Apollo years *not* been slashed, but simply stayed at about 4% of the budget. Now imagine if the USAF and the USN decided to devote a whole lot of *their* budgets to working on the same projects that NASA was working on.

          The USS Enterprise (nuclear aircraft carrier, about 92,000 tons = 23X Orion) cost about half a billion dollars in 1960 dollars. The US Fedguv budget in 1960 was $92 billion, with a GDP of $519 billion. So that one carrier was about half a percent of the budget. If the 4,000 ton Orions cost as much as the Enterprise (which I would find doubtful), you could buy ten a year with barely a budgetary blip. NASA’s 4%, if half was devoted to Orion, would buy three to four Orions per year.

          Of course there’s more than just building costs… boatloads of R&D. The costs would be vast. But the US has from time to time proven willing to dump vast sums into various programs. The 1960s’s saw several such expenditures that killed Apollo and cost far, far more than Orion would’ve. With a different course of events… perhaps the “Great Society” would have been a program to build colonies on Mars.

          • Uxi

            Even then, the cost of the Enterprise itself doesn’t include all the aircraft and ordinance, and it’s useless without them. A few Orion once deployed all but guarantee aerospace superiority and the need for at least half of the aircraft carriers. Would still need a few to provide the equivalent of CAS but the strike and attack roles get completely taken. In fact, super carrier itself might be killed with more LHD (perhaps modified to be able to launch fixed wing aircraft but in much reduced numbers and capability).

            Similar, the air force bomber budget is going to go away along with many of the escort wings. Interceptors and close range patrol aircraft will be needed but loiter times can probably be much lower…

  • Atomic handgrenade

    So did the Essex,enterprise et al get decommissioned/destroyed or do the navy and space force have overlapping ship names?

    • Scottlowther

      No overlap.

  • Paul451

    IIRC from your short WWIII summary in a previous article, it seems the US has the only Orions. Is there a reason in your alt.history that other nuclear powers don’t adopt the (fairly simple) Orion technology once the cherry is popped by the US? Russia and China, particularly. (Orion seems like the sort of project that 60’s to 80’s Soviets would have loved. Ridiculously big, but technologically crude.)

    • Scottlowther

      > Is there a reason…

      Yep! It’s a tad convoluted, but I’m reasonably pleased with how it came to be that the US gets a monopoly on Orion.