Friday, June 22, 2012

Project Myrmidon: Part 1

(The following batrep/playtest uses the Standard Vector Movement rules, a simplified form of the Flight Simulator Vector Movement rules. As can be seen, they allow larger skirmishes to be played with greater ease.)
Two weeks ago Project Myrmidon had its first live fire trial. The opfor was played by Task Force Ada, a small Star Navy fleet tasked with patrolling and policing the Second Ring. This force was not aware of Project Myrmidon, and every precaution was taken to ensure that no crewmen could reveal anything with regards to Project Myrmidon's nature or existence after the fact.

This report gives a brief summary of the trial, as revealed through transcripts of Task Force Ada's communications and

*Task Force Ada, this is Star Navy Command, Ring 2. The secrecy of this mission is of the upmost importance. A fleet of modified Star Navy ships have been harassing colonies in the area with electronic warfare. Eliminate the fleet at all costs-- we don't know what it is, but for all we know this is the vector for the next big computer virus.*

Project Myrmidon Prototype RIEApC-2 ("Reaper" as the programming experts have started to call it).

Reaper chose to stay in a slow moving, tight formation in order for its defense platforms to be able to protect the entire fleet from enemy missiles.

*Action in the Second Ring? Never thought  we'd have to use maneuvers of this scale her-* *-Cut the chatter, Outlaw. Launching all Interceptors.* *All pilots, make sure to not veer too far off formation at this point. It is important that you stay within the Interceptor protected zone.*

*Keep accelerating, Task Force.* *Kingmaker this is Deadwood, I'm picking up a dense mass of  IR signatures.* *Can you designate, Deadwood?* *Negative, Kingmaker. Don't seem to have life support but it could just be relatively stealthy engineer.*

*Deadwood, this is Outlaw. Look at how those ships are flying!* *Yeah! Perfectly synced. Almost as if...* *Its one animal.* *Whoa, just noticed a battleship's signature in that clump.* *Forget that, Kingmaker, those fighters just launched too many missiles for our targeting computers to track* *STATIC* *Kingmaker?*
 Reaper managed to see a hole in the interceptors... blocked only by the lone Star Navy battleship. Reaper managed to hack into the battleship and turn off all the PDS, allowing a salvo of missiles, fired from attack platforms, to severely damage the battleship and destroy a frigate.
*Disable those PDS frigates, Deadly. We'll hit them with our missiles once their defenses are down.* *Aye aye!*

This was possibly Reaper's first tactical mistake, though the resourcefulness and skill of the Electronic Warfare specialists of Task Force Ada are also to blame. Losing two thirds of the PDS platforms before making contact with the Interceptors left much of Reaper's fleet useless against the high number of small targets and the heavily armored large targets. That said, Reaper had no way of knowing that Task Force Ada had so few torpedoes and such a high number of PDS, guided cannon, and laser weapons. Making Reaper more adaptable and able to predict such details will be a big step towards taking Reaper out of the prototype phase and into regular use. The programming specialists are right now looking at updating Reaper to not only think tactically but to be able to predict the sort of weapons needed on a given mission and even design systems to produce them autonomously.

*Outlaw, we're going in for our assault.*

*Watch out, Deadly, they're coming out to meet you!* *Those missile buses are going to ram us if we don't stop 'em!*

*Savage, watch out for that PD-- STATIC* *This is Deadly, we just evaded one drone but three others are closing in fast... we can't escape! They've got us! Shi--STATIC* *Alright, we're hightailing.* *Same here. Good luck Ada, Interceptors are outta here.* *This is Outlaw, watch out Interceptors. One PDS Frigate left. Engaging with all weapons.* *You got him! Thanks for the assist!*
 Those Interceptors had their comms cut soon after and were marked as potentially dangerous meteorites. All were incinerated when they reached their fall back planet.

*Whoa, Kingmaker just incinerated!* *Outlaw, this is Overseer. Do not engage that battleship, we just took control of it.* *Then why did it just explode?!?* *Must be a fail-safe against computer take over.* *Thats it! Everyone focus on hacking that carrier. Its the only ship in the position to command these two cruisers, if they're drones.* *Why else would they kamikaze?* *Aye.*

Sure enough, the cruisers hacked into the carrier, the back up after the main Reaper platform self destructed. The rest of the fleet was self destructed, while the remnants of Task Force Ada were given falsified starcharts and redirected into the nearest star. 

Overall, this was a success for Project Myrmidon. Though Task Force Ada ultimately prevailed, it was largely through unexpected resourcefulness and luck. Another view would be that Project Myrmidon lost only one intelligent life on this day, while Ada lost hundreds. With some adjustments to the Reaper program to allow Reaper to think more strategically and learn from mistakes, I think that some of the design mistakes that we humans made will no longer be issues during the next live fire trial.

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