NeerajA's picture
Encounter at P3M-F53T
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This blog post is written by Lieutenant Neeraj Anahira based on his experience commanding a hunt/kill mission scenario, describing its first (hunt) phase.

Mission Orders

Intelligence suggests an adversary force has located an artificially constructed outpost on P3M-F53T and has scientific teams on site, protected by a starship patrolling within the star system.

Your orders are to capture any adversary planetside units, secure the outpost site and deploy scientific teams there as soon as is safe. The adversary starship is to be neutralised and must not be allowed to leave the system to report on this action.

The vessel drops out of FTL about 20,000GUs from P3M-F53T, which is the third planet in the star system. The first order of business is getting a track on the starship which will likely be maintaining a search pattern of some kind around the planet.

I take a moment to consider what my opponent will be doing. For a search pattern to be useful it shouldn’t extend more than 5000GUs from the planet, otherwise they run too big a risk that something could slip by on the opposite side of the search area, outside the range of their EMDAR.

Above: The blue line shows Neeraj's course. The green line is the other vessel's (projected) course. Dot/number symbols represent position at that time index. Solid yellow dots are EMDAR contacts (see examples below).A radial course around the planet would be the best fit. A circular course requires constant thrust to maintain but a hexagonal course only requires intermittent heading changes which would minimise their EM profile. A heading change – and therefore EM output from the engines – is only needed at each point of the hexagon.

So my EMDAR team need to spot short but regular bursts of EM in IR and magnetic bands, hopefully guided to look in the right part of the grid by picking up the latent EM coming off the other vessel’s engines.

I decided to take a series of linear runs past the planet. A linear run means that I won’t need to make any course changes until I’m well past the planet, minimising EM output from the engines while I’m in my opponent’s search zone.

On our second run the EMDAR team like the look of an EM burst off the starboard bow and declare a contact. If the other vessel is maintaining a search pattern centred on the planet then the next burst will help us confirm that. So I hold course and wait.

The team note another promising looking EM burst to starboard a few minutes later and declare it as a second contact so that they can compare bearing, range and elapsed time. Based on that, they estimate the next EM burst should be to starboard.

  Above: Waterfall display highlighting the EMDAR bursts detected at (from top) time index 6, 7 and 8. Only the two relevant arrays are shown in each example.About on time (maintaining a radial or hexagonal course requires course changes at regular intervals), EMDAR reports possible contact EM on the port quarter. If our assumptions so far are right, then we’ve picked up on the other ship’s course.

Taking the chance, I have the helm ease us around to port gently. Right on the same interval, EMDAR reports possible contact EM, this time off the port bow, but it isn’t as clear as they’d like.

That means either a transient detection or the range to the other vessel has increased. The other vessel either has greater speed or our courses are diverging. At this range I don’t dare risk adding thrust (which could generate significant EM) to get more speed. To catch them, I’m going to need to cut corners.

Extrapolating their course from the three legs I’ve estimated already and assuming the course is hexagonal (which looks right relative to the planet), I estimate where I think the other vessel will be after two course legs have been completed. I have the helm ease us around to port and head for just short of that spot.

Sure enough, EMDAR doesn’t spot a possible EM contact for the next interval and gets only a dubious contact off the starboard bow for the one after – probably wishful thinking. It’s the next interval after that we’re counting on.

The danger is that we’ll end up coming too close to the other vessel and risk detection ourselves or overshoot, so I decide not to add any speed. We need to be close enough to be able to get a good bearing on the EM burst they’ll generate when they change course. If the bearing is good enough, we’ll be able to achieve a track using narrowband EMDAR.

The EMDAR team counts down the interval and (just a few seconds late) they report a possible contact EM, closer than I expected but strong. We need to get a narrowband array onto that quickly before we lose them. They’re probably looking at elevated EM coming from our engines but it’s only latent and hopefully this is the first time their EMDAR is seeing anything off us. Too early for them to take decisive action.

The EMDAR team punches up a range of locations on either side of the extrapolated course and fires up multiple narrowband arrays at once. The first two track attempts fail but the third attempt gets a track. We’ve got them.

For now, we just keep going. Our track will hold for at least 10000 GUs so long as we don’t let the planet mask them. That will give us enough distance to come around undetected and start a torpedo run.

A hunt/kill scenario provides great practical experience for EMDAR specialists, weapons direction specialists and tactical officers and is available for crew to book and run in the simulator now.


paulm's picture

The map of the courses taken by each vessel is really useful, but which console displays that? Surely AJ didn't keep all that in his head the whole time?

alexp's picture

Good old fashioned graph paper. Using a tablet and pen, sure, but still kinda old school.

NeerajA's picture

Yeah there's a few people using surface tablets on the bridge. But they haven't properly figured out where to put them when they're not in your hand.

mattm's picture

One of the outcomes of running these mission scenarios has been identifying the need for a tactical plot - like the map shown in the blog.

A prototype is under development at the moment. It's envisaged as an overlay to an existing panel (like the conn dashboard or contacts board) that could be centred on a particular spot (like an AO) so that relative movement can be visualised. Current contacts would be shown and the user would have the ability to tap and create new points of interest and join them up with lines to help identify patterns or illustrate a tactical plan to crew. 

If needed the plot could be displayed on the viewscreen (the viewscreen app being designed would incorporate that capability).

The tactical group will have updates on progress with this.

robh's picture

Just those few dots is all you get to work with? How can you even tell that's a ship?