Author Topic: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)  (Read 86011 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline DefCynodont119

  • 29
  • I should put something witty here- but not this. .
    • Steam
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
The Shivans are, over the course of WiH, engaging in a whole lot of manipulation literally behind the scenes. Canonically, when Laporte defies them at Capella, they consider this particular experiment a failure and go back to more straightforward omnicidal tactics again.
I know this was a while ago, but I'm very confused by this. Firstly, when the heck did Laporte defy the Shivans at Capella? She only talked to Ken, and she doesn't so much defy him as doubt her own sanity--and only briefly (hell, in real time, only seconds had passed)--before accepting Ken's mission and the reasons behind it. And Ken would be able to tell the Shivans that she ultimately did accept the mission.

It's referring to something that happens in an unfinished future act. There should be a short story about it somewhere in this thread.
My gift from Freespace to Cities Skylines:  http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=639891299

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
In terms of strategic analysis, is there AI in the setting? Freespace never mentions the topic due to its WWII fighter roots, but is there a compelling reason why drone technology and logistical planning isn't used more often?

 

Offline Iain Baker

  • 29
  • 'Sup?
    • Steam
    • Twitter
    • NOMAD's Reviews
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
The Shivans are, over the course of WiH, engaging in a whole lot of manipulation literally behind the scenes. Canonically, when Laporte defies them at Capella, they consider this particular experiment a failure and go back to more straightforward omnicidal tactics again.
I know this was a while ago, but I'm very confused by this. Firstly, when the heck did Laporte defy the Shivans at Capella? She only talked to Ken, and she doesn't so much defy him as doubt her own sanity--and only briefly (hell, in real time, only seconds had passed)--before accepting Ken's mission and the reasons behind it. And Ken would be able to tell the Shivans that she ultimately did accept the mission.

It's referring to something that happens in an unfinished future act. There should be a short story about it somewhere in this thread.




This :-) http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/dickinson_12_15/  (Text)
 
https://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/6/7/b/67b3ca4a705dea70/clarkesworld_12_15_dickinson.mp3?c_id=10484264&cs_id=10484264&expiration=1596647617&hwt=fe3593217982eead12988650bc3f525a  (Audio)
Wanna check out my video games, technology and media website? If so, visit; https://www.nomadsreviews.co.uk/

Interested in hiring my freelance writing, proof-reading, editing, SEO, TTSO, Web Development or Social Media Management services? If so, please visit; https://iainbakerfreelance.co.uk or https://www.fiverr.com/ibfreelance

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
In terms of strategic analysis, is there AI in the setting? Freespace never mentions the topic due to its WWII fighter roots, but is there a compelling reason why drone technology and logistical planning isn't used more often?

This question has gnawed at me forever. But where the core canon lacks any satisfying resolution, the BP lore seems to go a long way toward solving it. The answer, I think (though lots of this is interpolating/BSing from extremely limited data), is BP’s dual emphasis on computing and the “constant arms race” of ECM/ECCM.

Today, many people regard the “optimal” space combat strategy as unleashing swarms of drone fighters or, better yet, AI guided missiles, precluding the need for manned starfighters at all. But in a universe where all sides have their own shiny Laplace daemon, and are obsessed with the statistical computation of optimal strategies, maybe our collective ability to preclude that optimum is so great that we all need to settle on something less: i.e., human pilots flying cool ships around.

We can start to see why from the way BP portrays capital ships (especially the most authoritative source of all: the BP card game :P). FS1 and 2 state that warship crews are both relatively expansive and expensive (the GTD Orion tech room compares the cost of the ship to paying the crew for 3 years; that crew cost is an order of magnitude more than modern aircraft carriers). Though some of that increase is due to the sheer scale of the ships, and broader changes in the general labor market (inflation is a *****), BP implicates that big parts of the crew expenses go to programmers, hackers, and other technical specialists. Think Kyle Netreba before he made it big in the admiralty. Their job is to jam enemy comms/sensors/weapons, and to cause whatever electromagnetic havoc they can while undoing whatever the enemy is doing to you. BP would have us believe that in the background of any shoot-em-up space battle is an extremely contested EM spectrum. Capital ships from cruiser-size on up train directional sensors and counter-sensors and counter-counter-sensors on each other in the same way they blast away with weapons. That is presumably why in FS1, capital ship missile weapons are relatively limited and appear mostly as direct line of sight (more ballistic gun than anything). That is also why the ships lack significant numbers of kinetic point-defense systems in that era. The GTA and PVN in FS1 are highly confident that, provided it loiters long enough, any fully autonomous weapons system (drone, missile, sentry gun, etc.) can be blinded, nullified, subverted, or electronically defeated.

So what we need is a way to minimize the amount of time ordinance spends homing onto a target—in other words, the period of vulnerability where it can be defeated. Enter the strike craft. If capital ships cannot deliver missiles from range, have small, nimble, and numerous platforms try to do it up close. We know from the base games that fighters have some onboard AIs (see the GTS Hygeia tech room; also, the fact that something fixes your subsystems slowly over time). Each fighter is a man-machine team. The benefits of the machine are so obvious that we must wonder why combatants keep the man at all.

But here BP’s lore comes to the rescue again. You cannot have a fully autonomous fighter, which in practice is just a particularly long-loitering missile (one that is very dangerous if subverted thanks to the other ordnance it is hauling). As an aside, today we tend to think “jamming” fully-autonomous systems is nonsense, but in FS they seem to have figured out how to do this quite early (think about all the sentry guns you hack). Even without that magic tech, the tactical flexibility you lose from relying on an AI severed entirely from the battlenet (to say nothing of its expense) has tradeoffs of its own (see the terrible performance of the GTDr Amazon, when it was apparently a real spaceframe in FS1). It is more efficient just to stick a pilot in. Other forms of drone fighters are also out. You cannot control drone fighters from the local capital ships, as those are by and large extremely jammed in any combat setting. Last, you cannot control drones over-the-horizon with subspace communications, which for the most part are not steady/powerful enough to direct munitions reliably (as they apparently struggle to project video into your comms system beyond grainy two-tone images).

The way to recover tactical flexibility given highly degraded comms, and increase strikecraft reliability and survivability given the ease of subverting autonomous systems, is to dumb-down the most important subroutines (flight control, weapons release, etc.) by putting a human in the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, the AI busies itself with wholly-internal tasks (repairing subsystems) or maybe stochastically varying your ordnances’ targeting matrices to let it cut through the evolving jamming situation and reach a target. And the man and machine keep each other in check. Just as cockpits can (well, according to the Morrigan stories anyway) autonomously polarize to blot out very bright objects (say a dazzling laser trying to blind a pilot), so too could having a human onboard help keep the AI from going on the fritz or being subverted, as there is someone to press the proverbial reset button. The AI and the human make up for each other’s weaknesses, and complement the strengths (massive capability!) and weakness (big slow target!) of the capital ships.

With this framework from BP, we can (maybe? IDK I'm just some guy) dispatch with a lot of open-ended, in-universe strategic questions:

•   Why did the UEF also forego drones and develop flak guns? From their shared GTA heritage, the Tevs and the UEF reach many similar conclusions after the First Incursion. Engaging in a cyber arms race with the comparably-equipped Vasudans or human rebels is one thing, but after encountering the utterly-superior Shivans it is clear there is no out-computing them (chiefly as they don't compute in the sense we do). So the importance of a man-in-the-loop grows even stronger, spelling the end of drone fighters. And you need more conventional kinetic point defense if your fancy electronic tricks are less likely to work.

•   Why is the UEF suddenly using missiles, which we would expect to be everyone’s weapon of choice as early as the Terran-Vasudan War? First, there is the obvious “brown v. blue water” doctrinal differences discussed in the tech room. The UEF can heft missiles as they are always close to supply sources, while the GTVA must look to energy weapons due to its expeditionary nature. But there is more to it than that. The UEF moves toward the expected optimum—missile-heavy loadouts—because of the massive computing advantage that assets like CASSANDRA or the processors underpinning Ubuntu market simulations offer their fleet against would-be Terran opponents in Sol. Of course, the Gefs can do ECM to some degree, but the UEF Fleet can expect to always have the computational upper hand, and thus feel comfortable reintroducing missiles. And if the Shivans return with even superior computers, there are plenty of mass drivers and strikecraft to fight the delaying action they plan for.

•   What about the GTVA? Don’t they have drones/SSMs now? Shouldn’t those not work? As mentioned, after the Great War, the GTVA reached some analogous conclusions to the UEF: kinetic point defense is needed, and drone fighters are evolutionary dead ends (you’d prefer missiles, which are cheaper, if you could get them). Boxed in with the Vasudans and wracked by internal revolt, they cannot share the UEF’s confidence in computational superiority over any local foes: i.e., they cannot safely fall back on missiles. So the primary weapon shifts to beams. During the Second Incursion, when it is revealed that beams can be jammed or disrupted, the Alliance responds with jury-rigged AWACS ships and TAG (perhaps based on research into Shivan exofauna to develop a sensor that can adhere to a hostile hull and survive long enough to serve its purpose). Then during TEI after Capella, we see tactical adjustments to minimize the danger of jamming by operating capital ships more like strike craft via the shock jump. Get in, fire first and quickly before you get jammed, and end the fight there. Like UEF missiles, their two big new weapons (SSM missiles and, in future BP, drone bombers) are not ideas straight off the drawing board, but rather old concepts made new through technological breakthroughs allowing the GTVA to shift closer to the optimal strategy. For the SSM missiles, the breakthrough is a leg up over the UEF regarding subspace comms, perhaps gleaned from the Knossos or Sathanas system that opened the Capella black hole. For the GTB Gorgon operating its drone bombers, the key to commanding the drones must be combining the relative mobility of a strike craft (compared to a capital ship) with some radical increase in processing power. Considering the class’s rarity, its emphasis on survivability, the Gorgon’s “full AWACS capacity,” and the boarding seen in the deuterocanonical Vassago’s Dirge, maybe BACKBREAKER is a CASSANDRA-analog, and each Gorgon mounts a dead Shivan to pull this off?

•   Why are AWACs/ISR/etc platforms ubiquitous in 2020, totally absent in FS1, and only reappear as extremely weak in FS2? Because according to BP, every fighter and capital ship in this universe takes on some aspect of network warfare as we understand it today. The dedicated AWACS platforms first appearing in FS2 are rush jobs to get particularly new/unoptimized/bulky capabilities into the field faster than it would take to overhaul existing warships with these capabilities. That is why many of the FS2 AWACS capabilities are integrated into line capital ships by the time of BP (see the long-range jamming used in The Things that Bind Us) and yet the AWACS are still around, demonstrating even newer technologies developed in response to the current war. On the UEF side, this understanding also lines up nicely with the Oculus tech room description, which says it was jury-rigged to meet unforeseen combat exigencies. AWACS are stopgap vessels used to get cutting-edge technologies into the field quickly and cheaply, without needing to take a destroyer into drydock to mount the latest and greatest tech.
 
•   Why are engagement ranges close enough to use guns? Because jamming of long-range sensors is so extreme that you need to close the gap to have any realistic chance of keeping a weapon on target without it being jammed, as having a human in the loop is so critical.

•   Why do fighters have to run ahead and scan things? Like the above, and capital ships are too systematically jammed to do it.

•   Why does it take longer to lock a Cyclops than a Harpoon? Having more space, crew, and processing power, the capital ship will always have the computational upper hand over the onboard AI of a fighter, and gain a corresponding electromagnetic edge. Overcoming that relative disadvantage is hard work!

•   Why are sentry guns such a bad idea? Because they are like a drone fighter or a missile: just a machine without people keeping it in check. It can thus apparently be hacked, which we see happen all the time in game, in one of the ultimate demonstrations that even autonomous AIs with little external direction are still liable to interference or subversion. Instead, sentry guns get used only when there is little risk of enemy capital ship presence, and thus minimal risk of encountering the heaviest forms of jamming: i.e., at supply depots (where most raids are by fighters), in-atmosphere (Eyes in the Storm), and to cover retreats (where they are just a distraction).

•   Why does it look the same (and very grainy) when you are talking to your wingman right next to you, or command on the other side of a node? Due to the extreme tactical jamming, EMCON could dictate that practically all military comms be conducted using subspace radio, no matter the realspace distance, to avoid disruption in the more classic EM spectrum.

TLDR: in this universe, it seems sometimes the smartest tactic is the one that looks suboptimal on the surface. The Shivans fall into this trope—the comparative lack of drones and AI missiles is another, distinct example.

« Last Edit: August 05, 2020, 01:36:43 pm by captain austin »

 

Offline Iain Baker

  • 29
  • 'Sup?
    • Steam
    • Twitter
    • NOMAD's Reviews
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
Well reasoned, well thought out and well explained  :) :yes:
Wanna check out my video games, technology and media website? If so, visit; https://www.nomadsreviews.co.uk/

Interested in hiring my freelance writing, proof-reading, editing, SEO, TTSO, Web Development or Social Media Management services? If so, please visit; https://iainbakerfreelance.co.uk or https://www.fiverr.com/ibfreelance

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
The UEF's tech is a consequence of the environment in Sol. Their military planning was based around the assumption that expeditions through the node network are generally a thing of the past; the UEF Navy is essentially designed for peacekeeping ops in Sol and the (assumed low probability) event of a shivan incursion through the node network. Its ships and their armaments are essentially "coastal" (as opposed to the GTVA's "blue water" approach); it is assumed that they're always able to retreat to a safe position for repair and rearm, which is why their weapons are heavily projectile-based and more maintenance-intensive than their GTVA equivalents.
This being the case, why is it always the GTVA ships that jump out and deny you the kill when they hit critical, and UEF ships almost never do and when they do are super bad at it (see jumping into the sun), if doing that was their design intention? 
"Courage is the complement of fear.  A fearless man cannot be courageous.  He is also a fool." -- Robert Heinlein

 

Offline QuakeIV

  • 28
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
My general understanding had been that GTVA ships have much better jump drive tech in general, and usually the UEF ships tend to die before they are ready to leave (or they try to leave early with horrible consequences) whereas the GTVA stuff is much more likely to be ready when it is needed.

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
A very good read. I never worry too much about line of sight engagements in fighter games though. Something something Minosfsky particles. ;)

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
Minosfsky particles

Huh, today I learned. Thanks for that!

If we're still doing questions...in Her Finest Hour, when you're mopping up the last of the Carthage Air Wing, one of the GTVA squadrons is called "Neptune Provisional." Though they were probably just a cobbled-together composite wing of Tev pilots in for R&R/maintenance/reassignment at Neptune HQ, the reference was just vague enough that I always wondered if they were something else: local UEF collaborators being trained to fly the Kulas for the GTVA.

Are there any significant UEF ships, squadrons or assets (not just individuals like Elder Henrikkson) that defected during the war to the GTVA, like a 14th Battlegroup in reverse? Does that situation change after Steele capitulates Earth, or does the whole UEF fleet immediately go to space-Scapa Flow to await decommissioning/Laporte's mutiny? Is that mutiny met with hostility from some elements of the UEF fleet that would rather cooperate? I guess in general, will a theme of Acts 4/5 or BP3 be division within the former UEF about how to handle their defeat?

I always though that if an Elder in the center of the council was willing to defect, there must be some Jovians or Martians ready to call it quits and abandon Ubuntu, or cast their lot with the GTVA much sooner than the rest of the fleet.

 

Offline Damage

  • 26
  • I'm a Major.
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
Off-hand I don't remember ever seeing a reference to any UEF defectors to the GTVA before Tenebra.

From a story perspective, LaPorte might not be in a position to know about them during her early role in the campaign, unless they were high-profile, in which case we might have at least a passing mention.  As a comparative example, McCarthy was a widely known traitor to the the GTVA, presumably because he was bringing technology to the Vasudans during an ongoing war.

Our hypothetical defectors wouldn't need anything more than information to take to the GTVA, and if such a defection was successful, the UEF would have every reason to keep that quiet from both the public and the military lower ranks.  Having said all that, I find it hard to believe there haven't been at least a few defectors, probably motivated as you suggest.

Wondering if there have been UEF defectors to the GTVA invites further questions regarding Ubuntu party's active and passive "social programming" (for lack of a better phrase)
I didn't feel like putting anything here.  Then I did it anyway just to be contrary.

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
In terms of strategic analysis, is there AI in the setting? Freespace never mentions the topic due to its WWII fighter roots, but is there a compelling reason why drone technology and logistical planning isn't used more often?

This question has gnawed at me forever. But where the core canon lacks any satisfying resolution, the BP lore seems to go a long way toward solving it. The answer, I think (though lots of this is interpolating/BSing from extremely limited data), is BP’s dual emphasis on computing and the “constant arms race” of ECM/ECCM.

Today, many people regard the “optimal” space combat strategy as unleashing swarms of drone fighters or, better yet, AI guided missiles, precluding the need for manned starfighters at all. But in a universe where all sides have their own shiny Laplace daemon, and are obsessed with the statistical computation of optimal strategies, maybe our collective ability to preclude that optimum is so great that we all need to settle on something less: i.e., human pilots flying cool ships around.

We can start to see why from the way BP portrays capital ships (especially the most authoritative source of all: the BP card game :P). FS1 and 2 state that warship crews are both relatively expansive and expensive (the GTD Orion tech room compares the cost of the ship to paying the crew for 3 years; that crew cost is an order of magnitude more than modern aircraft carriers). Though some of that increase is due to the sheer scale of the ships, and broader changes in the general labor market (inflation is a *****), BP implicates that big parts of the crew expenses go to programmers, hackers, and other technical specialists. Think Kyle Netreba before he made it big in the admiralty. Their job is to jam enemy comms/sensors/weapons, and to cause whatever electromagnetic havoc they can while undoing whatever the enemy is doing to you. BP would have us believe that in the background of any shoot-em-up space battle is an extremely contested EM spectrum. Capital ships from cruiser-size on up train directional sensors and counter-sensors and counter-counter-sensors on each other in the same way they blast away with weapons. That is presumably why in FS1, capital ship missile weapons are relatively limited and appear mostly as direct line of sight (more ballistic gun than anything). That is also why the ships lack significant numbers of kinetic point-defense systems in that era. The GTA and PVN in FS1 are highly confident that, provided it loiters long enough, any fully autonomous weapons system (drone, missile, sentry gun, etc.) can be blinded, nullified, subverted, or electronically defeated.

So what we need is a way to minimize the amount of time ordinance spends homing onto a target—in other words, the period of vulnerability where it can be defeated. Enter the strike craft. If capital ships cannot deliver missiles from range, have small, nimble, and numerous platforms try to do it up close. We know from the base games that fighters have some onboard AIs (see the GTS Hygeia tech room; also, the fact that something fixes your subsystems slowly over time). Each fighter is a man-machine team. The benefits of the machine are so obvious that we must wonder why combatants keep the man at all.

But here BP’s lore comes to the rescue again. You cannot have a fully autonomous fighter, which in practice is just a particularly long-loitering missile (one that is very dangerous if subverted thanks to the other ordnance it is hauling). As an aside, today we tend to think “jamming” fully-autonomous systems is nonsense, but in FS they seem to have figured out how to do this quite early (think about all the sentry guns you hack). Even without that magic tech, the tactical flexibility you lose from relying on an AI severed entirely from the battlenet (to say nothing of its expense) has tradeoffs of its own (see the terrible performance of the GTDr Amazon, when it was apparently a real spaceframe in FS1). It is more efficient just to stick a pilot in. Other forms of drone fighters are also out. You cannot control drone fighters from the local capital ships, as those are by and large extremely jammed in any combat setting. Last, you cannot control drones over-the-horizon with subspace communications, which for the most part are not steady/powerful enough to direct munitions reliably (as they apparently struggle to project video into your comms system beyond grainy two-tone images).

The way to recover tactical flexibility given highly degraded comms, and increase strikecraft reliability and survivability given the ease of subverting autonomous systems, is to dumb-down the most important subroutines (flight control, weapons release, etc.) by putting a human in the driver’s seat. Meanwhile, the AI busies itself with wholly-internal tasks (repairing subsystems) or maybe stochastically varying your ordnances’ targeting matrices to let it cut through the evolving jamming situation and reach a target. And the man and machine keep each other in check. Just as cockpits can (well, according to the Morrigan stories anyway) autonomously polarize to blot out very bright objects (say a dazzling laser trying to blind a pilot), so too could having a human onboard help keep the AI from going on the fritz or being subverted, as there is someone to press the proverbial reset button. The AI and the human make up for each other’s weaknesses, and complement the strengths (massive capability!) and weakness (big slow target!) of the capital ships.

With this framework from BP, we can (maybe? IDK I'm just some guy) dispatch with a lot of open-ended, in-universe strategic questions:

•   Why did the UEF also forego drones and develop flak guns? From their shared GTA heritage, the Tevs and the UEF reach many similar conclusions after the First Incursion. Engaging in a cyber arms race with the comparably-equipped Vasudans or human rebels is one thing, but after encountering the utterly-superior Shivans it is clear there is no out-computing them (chiefly as they don't compute in the sense we do). So the importance of a man-in-the-loop grows even stronger, spelling the end of drone fighters. And you need more conventional kinetic point defense if your fancy electronic tricks are less likely to work.

•   Why is the UEF suddenly using missiles, which we would expect to be everyone’s weapon of choice as early as the Terran-Vasudan War? First, there is the obvious “brown v. blue water” doctrinal differences discussed in the tech room. The UEF can heft missiles as they are always close to supply sources, while the GTVA must look to energy weapons due to its expeditionary nature. But there is more to it than that. The UEF moves toward the expected optimum—missile-heavy loadouts—because of the massive computing advantage that assets like CASSANDRA or the processors underpinning Ubuntu market simulations offer their fleet against would-be Terran opponents in Sol. Of course, the Gefs can do ECM to some degree, but the UEF Fleet can expect to always have the computational upper hand, and thus feel comfortable reintroducing missiles. And if the Shivans return with even superior computers, there are plenty of mass drivers and strikecraft to fight the delaying action they plan for.

•   What about the GTVA? Don’t they have drones/SSMs now? Shouldn’t those not work? As mentioned, after the Great War, the GTVA reached some analogous conclusions to the UEF: kinetic point defense is needed, and drone fighters are evolutionary dead ends (you’d prefer missiles, which are cheaper, if you could get them). Boxed in with the Vasudans and wracked by internal revolt, they cannot share the UEF’s confidence in computational superiority over any local foes: i.e., they cannot safely fall back on missiles. So the primary weapon shifts to beams. During the Second Incursion, when it is revealed that beams can be jammed or disrupted, the Alliance responds with jury-rigged AWACS ships and TAG (perhaps based on research into Shivan exofauna to develop a sensor that can adhere to a hostile hull and survive long enough to serve its purpose). Then during TEI after Capella, we see tactical adjustments to minimize the danger of jamming by operating capital ships more like strike craft via the shock jump. Get in, fire first and quickly before you get jammed, and end the fight there. Like UEF missiles, their two big new weapons (SSM missiles and, in future BP, drone bombers) are not ideas straight off the drawing board, but rather old concepts made new through technological breakthroughs allowing the GTVA to shift closer to the optimal strategy. For the SSM missiles, the breakthrough is a leg up over the UEF regarding subspace comms, perhaps gleaned from the Knossos or Sathanas system that opened the Capella black hole. For the GTB Gorgon operating its drone bombers, the key to commanding the drones must be combining the relative mobility of a strike craft (compared to a capital ship) with some radical increase in processing power. Considering the class’s rarity, its emphasis on survivability, the Gorgon’s “full AWACS capacity,” and the boarding seen in the deuterocanonical Vassago’s Dirge, maybe BACKBREAKER is a CASSANDRA-analog, and each Gorgon mounts a dead Shivan to pull this off?

•   Why are AWACs/ISR/etc platforms ubiquitous in 2020, totally absent in FS1, and only reappear as extremely weak in FS2? Because according to BP, every fighter and capital ship in this universe takes on some aspect of network warfare as we understand it today. The dedicated AWACS platforms first appearing in FS2 are rush jobs to get particularly new/unoptimized/bulky capabilities into the field faster than it would take to overhaul existing warships with these capabilities. That is why many of the FS2 AWACS capabilities are integrated into line capital ships by the time of BP (see the long-range jamming used in The Things that Bind Us) and yet the AWACS are still around, demonstrating even newer technologies developed in response to the current war. On the UEF side, this understanding also lines up nicely with the Oculus tech room description, which says it was jury-rigged to meet unforeseen combat exigencies. AWACS are stopgap vessels used to get cutting-edge technologies into the field quickly and cheaply, without needing to take a destroyer into drydock to mount the latest and greatest tech.
 
•   Why are engagement ranges close enough to use guns? Because jamming of long-range sensors is so extreme that you need to close the gap to have any realistic chance of keeping a weapon on target without it being jammed, as having a human in the loop is so critical.

•   Why do fighters have to run ahead and scan things? Like the above, and capital ships are too systematically jammed to do it.

•   Why does it take longer to lock a Cyclops than a Harpoon? Having more space, crew, and processing power, the capital ship will always have the computational upper hand over the onboard AI of a fighter, and gain a corresponding electromagnetic edge. Overcoming that relative disadvantage is hard work!

•   Why are sentry guns such a bad idea? Because they are like a drone fighter or a missile: just a machine without people keeping it in check. It can thus apparently be hacked, which we see happen all the time in game, in one of the ultimate demonstrations that even autonomous AIs with little external direction are still liable to interference or subversion. Instead, sentry guns get used only when there is little risk of enemy capital ship presence, and thus minimal risk of encountering the heaviest forms of jamming: i.e., at supply depots (where most raids are by fighters), in-atmosphere (Eyes in the Storm), and to cover retreats (where they are just a distraction).

•   Why does it look the same (and very grainy) when you are talking to your wingman right next to you, or command on the other side of a node? Due to the extreme tactical jamming, EMCON could dictate that practically all military comms be conducted using subspace radio, no matter the realspace distance, to avoid disruption in the more classic EM spectrum.

TLDR: in this universe, it seems sometimes the smartest tactic is the one that looks suboptimal on the surface. The Shivans fall into this trope—the comparative lack of drones and AI missiles is another, distinct example.
A great post! A couple of things, though:

1. As we saw in Her Finest Hour, sentry guns do indeed have a very relevant and pretty potent use even against warships and their ECM--when backed by warships and ECCM of their own, they can provide substantial support for point defense and a bit of extra firepower against attacking warships. Granted, that only really works for purely defensive applications, but still--imagine a bunch of sentry guns helping to protect an installation like Artemis or an Arcadia; the station's own ECM/ECCM could protect the sentry guns from subversion. I imagine the reason we're seeing this now and not before is due to an advancement in ECM/ECCM, particularly in a networked and integrated manner (see BACKBREAKER), not merely in warships but in fighters and even sentry platforms.

2. We are seeing a greater emphasis on strike craft with their own serious ECM/ECCM capability, both with the Aurora and with the Gorgon. The idea is sound--basically, you add/integrate a serious EWAR package into a strike craft, which is coupled with the strike craft's above-average powerplant. Given that we don't see warships bristling with fighter-type guns for point-defense (which is important, because imagine if UEF warships were bristling with Rapier turrets instead of the PD guns or blob turrets--they'd slaughter warheads and bombers alike; likewise, imagine if Tev warships replaced all of their Terran Turret 2s with Balor turrets or Prometheus S turrets), the powerplants used for strike craft are too expensive or impractical to stuff into warships in the numbers required. The ROLE of these strikecraft, however, is typically not to use active ECM capabilities, but to provide targeting, navigational, sensor, and communications support to warships or other strike craft. In other words, they don't jam things, they support other assets in more passive ways. This is why we see a pair of AWACS ships in HFH; they're countering the UEF's EWAR actively, while the Auroras are providing targeting support.

3. The UEF hasn't introduced an AWACS fighter/strike craft of its own because that kind of capability requires too much work in advance to develop in an integrated manner. The Aurora was many years in the making, and most of its capabilities are only possible thanks to universal integration of BACKBREAKER and such. While the UEF could put AWACS-like capabilities in a strike craft, integrating the ability to properly take advantage of it into all other strike craft would be a lot harder (because none of the current craft were designed for that capability). Plus, it conflicts with UEF doctrine--that its strike craft would be closely supported by friendly warships whenever going up against anything larger than a fighter, that it had these powerful heavy bombers (or gunships) to use whenever going up against a warship without serious friendly warship support, and that the warships provided significant EWAR capabilities of their own anyway. This is why we see the UEF upgrading the EWAR capabilities of its existing warships (sometimes heavily so, like with the Custos-class and Eris) and modifying an existing ship for dedicated AWACS capabilities (like the Oculus).

4. Bombs and torpedoes are dramatically less effective than they used to be because they have not improved at all while point defenses and fighters have quite a lot. Bombs are still painfully slow, easily shot down, slow to fire, and not dealing a ton of damage even when they DO hit. Solaris (a fantastic total conversion mod for FS2) fixes this by making bombs faster firing, significantly faster-moving, doing ****loads of damage when they hit, and having weaker point defenses overall--thus, a pair of heavy bombers closing in on a frigate-equivalent is practically (very quick!) death sentence for the frigate, whereas a pair of Ursas closing in on a Karuna would usually result in a pair of dead Ursas with significant but not substantial damage on the Karuna. In Blue Planet, the only way for torpedoes to shine is by taking out point defenses on the target ship ahead of time or by overwhelming enemy point defenses with sheer numbers (typically by multiple warships) over time, and even then, it takes a while to actually finish off a warship in this manner. Tev warships have significant but relatively anemic torpedo firepower, but that's okay because they're designed to whittle down Shivan cruisers (which typically don't have that much in the way of point defenses) or to take out Shivan warships after Tev fighters have taken out some or all of the point defenses--and even then, torpedoes very much a tertiary armament for Tev warships that are their more for their all-aspect, good range capability than for firepower). The UEF alleviates this somewhat by having its bombers also carry powerful anti-ship cannons that the GTVA has no equivalent for at all, and these cannons obviously cannot be intercepted by point defenses or fighters. It is these, more than anything, that makes UEF bombers so dangerous; a pair of UEF bombers backed up by a wing of Uriel gunships is a quick death sentence to anything below a destroyer, and a major threat to even destroyers themselves.

Delenda Est delenda est.

(Yay gratuitous Latin.)

 
Re: The Blue Planet Oracle (full BP2/3 spoilers within!)
Right, I just replayed BP and Battuta's posting again so you better answer my questions you mother****er.

What's the grand Vishnan plan? They're doing something the Shivans are suspicious about, something outside the prior status quo, but I'm not quite sure what it is. What do they think it will accomplish? Why does forcing isolation of Sol and then ****ing around with it for 50 years play into that? What would be the ~objectively likely~ outcome of this and would it involve the Great Darkness eating everyone's brains?
The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.