I dunno…I just started thinking about it and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I had worked it out and written it up. It should fit in any sci-fi campaign. Maybe even mine. I’m considering reworking my Ravnivori campaign as a straight space empire game instead of a magic in space empire game. The different species would be from different planets and then I wouldn’t have to explain how space stuff works. Anyway…enjoy.
The 903rd Armored Cavalry “Space Cowboys” are a prime example of a unit adapting to a piece of technology that was originally designed for the unit. That piece of technology is the KTN-SRN Lightning Storm Halftrack APC.
When the Unified Military decided to retire the venerable Bradford APC, they offered the contract to replace the vehicle to several civilian contractors. A heated competition followed with all the participants vying for the lead. Accusations of industrial espionage and sabotage flew before the final decision was made.
In the end, the newly formed military branch of Perusala Motorworks proved to have the winning design. Detractors of the KTN-SRN “Lightning Storm” called it a perfect storm of compromises. Proponents claim this is its strength. And, in some ways both views are true.
The propulsion system is a perfect example of these compromises. The half track system is faster than a fully tracked drive train but not as capable of negotiating difficult terrain. Likewise, it is able to handle terrain that a fully wheeled system cannot but is not as fast as that would be. A hover system would be most capable of dealing with both difficult terrain and providing a great deal of speed but is both much more expensive and unreliable than either tracked or wheeled systems. All of these other drive trains were produced and offered up by other companies and discarded in favor of the Perusala design because of its combination of speed, durability and terrain capabilities.
The interior and other systems of the Lightning Storm are equally unambitious. Knowing that they were new to the field of military machines, Perusala over-engineered everything without attempting anything too inspired. In fact, the design team was as surprised as anyone when they won the contract.
The only really interesting system was the photovoltaic shell. The Lightning Storm is entirely electric and the energy for these batteries is provided by the solar panels that literally cover its surface. These panels can be shifted so that they are non-reflective, though also non-productive, both from a switch inside the cockpit and manually outside should that fail. While sturdy, they often suffer damage quickly in combat, though the armor plating underneath means that the vehicle itself is more durable. They are highly modular and easy to replace in the field and several spares are standard issue with each Lightning Storm. An additional, fold out solar pad can be used to augment energy intake should too many cells be destroyed.
The panels also have batteries but the internal batteries have a 72 hour charge off the assembly line. With a normal day/night cycle, a Lightning Storm can operate indefinitely. Even if it loses 35% of its cells or is in an environment that is 65% dark compared to light cycles, the Lightning Storm can operate indefinitely.
But those very design choices were exactly what the Unified Military was looking for. The Lightning Storm is incredibly reliable, cheap to produce and hard to stop, making it an almost perfect vehicle for the task of carrying troops into battle and moving them around hostile territory.
Nonetheless, the soldiers using the Lightning Storm were unimpressed when it was rolled out, generally comparing it to all the more complex, fancier options that were provided for the contest.
The reliability of the vehicle slowly won them over, though as did the willingness of the engineering team to listen to and utilize suggestions from the soldiers who were using it. Each successive version of the Lightning Storm had small adaptations provided by the soldiers.
But it was the first long campaign run by the 903rd Armored Cavalry that really solidified the status of the Lightning Storm as a beloved combat vehicle. The addition of the Thunder as both a scout vehicle and a squad support exoskeleton and the Zephyr as a small transport vehicle had already taken place. The Rain module had just been rolled out, as well.
The 903rd quickly adapted to these additions and started fielding their augmented squads, with the seats inside the APC’s used by 10 troops and an additional 2 soldiers riding the Thunders.
The fact that each 12 soldier squad plus drivers could operate independently for weeks at a time became invaluable when the 903rd was stranded by an orbital blockade. For months resupplies were few and far between and it was not long before the Lightning Storms were almost the only UM vehicles in operation.
The 903rd’s Standard Operating Procedure was quickly perfected and they made lightning fast strikes on key locations before disappearing again. Because a group of squads could set up camp essentially anywhere and did not need a centralized headquarters, the enemy was incapable of predicting where they would go after each attack. It was almost as easy for these raiders to plunge deeper behind enemy lines or remain in no man’s land as it was for them to retreat back to the “safety” of their own holdings.
The jury rigged prototypes for the Tornado, Whirlwind and Zeus modules were created during this engagement as well. An engineering team from Perusala Motorworks was embedded with the 903rd doing field research on ways to improve the design when the unit was trapped on planet. Though the officers and soldiers of the Space Cowboys tried to keep them out of the fighting, there was really no safe place. Rather than hiding, the engineers went to work, tackling the biggest problem the 903rd was facing, namely that they were outgunned.
While none of the enemy infantry could stand up to the 903rd forces in a one on one fight and the UM forces were often able to strike with the element of surprise, the single laser gun that served as the only integrated defense weapon on the Lightning Storm was no match for armored or air units. Battles quickly became predictable with the UM forces winning any that allowed them to face off against enemy infantry and the enemy winning anything that forced them to face tanks or aircraft.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there was plenty of salvage around. The Perusala crew went to work adapting the weapons and communications systems from other vehicles to the Rain modules. While still no match for a tank or aircraft in a one on one fight, they were able to use wolf pack tactics and ambushes to even up the odds.
In addition to the three modules that were eventually adapted from the Rain a fourth was created. The Cyclone mounted one of the pieces of heavy artillery used for long range bombardments. This configuration was abandoned after the engagement because the weight and cumbersome nature of the weapon had a unacceptable impact on the mobility of the APC.
It was during this extended engagement that the weapons systems were added to the Zephyrs, as well. Though not designed for combat, the Zephyrs were able to take the augmented squads from 12 members to 13 with 3 heavy weapons involved.
The guerilla actions of the 903rd were instrumental in ending the conflict as the enemy command eventually gave up the blockade because it was relatively ineffective and the resources could be better used elsewhere.
After seeing how effective the unit configuration was, several other divisions of the UM adopted it. The augmented squad is now the standard unit in most UM Infantry, Mobile Infantry and Armored Calvary divisions.
A standard compliment is 5 Lightning Storms. This generally includes a Zeus, a Rain and the remaining 3 modules being divided between Tornados and Whirlwind in whatever combination best suites their mission role. These are often augmented by a pair of B6P Wraith hover tanks for additional firepower. The Rain is generally in cargo configuration with all space taken up with supplies and no troops. This translates to 4 augmented squads equaling 48 troops plus the drivers and gunners of each APC plus the 2 man command unit for a total of 60 soldiers. Each Lightning Storm also has a pair of Thunders assigned for a total of 10 and a Zephyr each for a total of 5. The extra Thunders and Zephyr from the cargo configured Lightning Storm are generally split between three of the squads from the other transports, though, rarely, they form their own small squad that is used as support for the others as needed. This puts an augmented troop at 65 total fighting men with 10 exoskeletons. Depending on the combination of Tornados and Whirlwinds in the unit and how many spare missiles are required in combat operations this allows the unit to operate independently in the field for between a month and 6 weeks.
Although not used by the 903rd, this compliment is often used by other units as a way to deploy their commandos. One or two of the augmented squads is a special forces unit while the others play more of a support and resupply role. These supporting units serve as a sort of mobile base for the commandos, often deploying near or behind enemy lines, allowing the special forces team to strike deeper into enemy territory, either on reconnaissance or sabotage missions.
KTN-SRN Lightning Storm Halftrack APC
Solar/battery powered, reliable and relatively tough, the Lightning Storm is an all terrain armored personnel carrier that has become the workhorse of the Unified Military. Though somewhat Spartan in its amenities, the Lightning Storm has a well deserved reputation for being easy to repair in the field. It can continue to operate after losing a wheel (or two or even a track if a module is attached.) The appearance of the solar panels can be digitally altered for a variety of camouflage effects.
ACC/TS: 15/30 Toughness: 45/40/35(25/20/15) Crew: 2+10 Notes: 4WD, Heavy Armor, Improved Stabilizer, Sloped Armor
20MGW Pulse Laser in hull Range: 75/150/300 Damage: 3d6+2 RoF 3 AP 10 Heavy Weapon, LBT
KTN-SRN-A Rain Supply Module
As useful and durable as the Lightning Storm was on its own, its capacity for independent operations was somewhat limited by the fact that it was limited in the amount of supplies it could carry for the squad using it. To address this issue, the Perusala Motorworks team created the Rain Supply Module.
Little more than a simple cargo container on two wheels, the Rain nonetheless attaches directly to the Lightning Storm and, thanks to the connection systems integrates fully with the Lightning Storm. The wheels turn in conjunction with the forward wheels, keeping the turn radius of the vehicle almost the same. Gyroscopes in the system allow it to balance in place so that it can be swapped between Lightning Storms.
A Rain module generally contains 4 weeks of supplies for a standard squad and a Zephyr squad support robot.
KTN-ZFY Zephyr Squad Support Robot
Originally nothing more than a simple 4 legged platform with a crude humanoid torso attached, the Zephyr looks a bit like a robotic centaur.
Agility: d6 Smarts: d4 Spirit: d6 Strength: d12+2 Vigor: d10
Skills: Fighting: d6, Notice: d6, Shooting d6
Pace: 6 Parry: 5 Toughness: 13(3)
Armor Plating: Armor +3
Brawny: Zephyrs are designed as pack machines and can carry twice the weight their strength would normally indicate.
Integrated Weapon: Repeating LaserRange: 50/100/200 Damage: 2d10 RoF 3 Notes: AP4 HW
KTN-SRN-B Tornado Dual-Laser Turret Module
Originally created during the famous engagement where the 903rd established modern military doctrine involving the Tornado began as nothing more than a primitive turret added to a rain module with all the extra power supply and cabling included. The first versions were far from standardized and were made up of whatever guns the Perusala engineers could cannibalize from their surroundings.
They realized just how effective the design was, though and after the conflict, continued to develop the system. A number of prototypes were developed but in the end, it proved most cost effective and efficient to utilize the same gun that was already mounted in the hull of the Lightning Storm. They linked a pair of these guns together in the turret along with an advanced targeting system. This combination allows it to lay down a withering storm of fire with impressive accuracy. Though not very effective against most armored vehicles, the Tornado can be devastating against troops and troop support exoskeletons and vehicles.
Though the cabling and augmented power supply necessary to keep the guns functioning properly take up a significant portion of space in the Rain module, there remains enough room for a fortnight’s worth of supplies for the squad utilizing the vehicle.
Range: 75/150/300 Damage: 3d6+2 RoF: 5 AP: 10 Notes: +1 Shooting, Heavy Weapon, 2 weeks of supplies for standard squad and a Zephyr squad Support robot in storage compartment.
KTN-SRN-C Whirlwind Missile Launcher Module
Developed alongside and at the same time and for the same reasons as the Tornado, the Whirlwind module system was created because the Perusala engineers found themselves with a surplus of missile launcher systems with no functioning vehicles to transport them. In some ways better than the Tornado because they packed more of a punch against armor the Whirlwind was, in other ways worse. After all, while there were plenty of launchers, there were not plenty of missiles. They were thus less useful than the limitless supply of ammunition available to the laser system of the Tornado.
That became less of an issue as the Perusala Motorworks team continued its development after the conflict. They settled on a medium sized missile system that gives the weapon the ability to take out all but the most heavily armored vehicles. While Unified Military forces are able to supply themselves with an abundance of ordinance, many units prefer the Tornado to the Whirlwind for the simple fact that the number of missiles that must be carried to engage in any long term engagement take up the space normally allocated to other supplies. This means that they can either only go on short deployments or must travel with at least one other Lightning Storm carrying extra supplies.
For all that, Whirlwinds are invaluable in any exchanges involving enemy aircraft or armor, especially if no Unified Military forces of those types are available as support.
Range: 100/200/400 Damage: 4d6 RoF 3 Shots: 30 Notes: AP100 MBT HW 60, additional missiles and a Zephyr squad support robot in storage compartment.
After developing the modules that would go on to be the Whirlwind and Tornados, the Perusala Motorworks team realized that the space provided by the Rain module could be put to a number of different uses. One of the most useful is a Lightning Storm that has been gutted and the entirety of the interior fitted out with a mobile field hospital. Perhaps the most unique was turning it into a small kitchen to serve as a mobile mess hall. There were several iterations that had various sensor and communications suites and while a few of these still see use, the standardized form became the Zeus module.
Consisting of a radar and communications array coupled with an advanced tactical computer system, the Zeus allows a 5 man command squad provide leadership for dozens of units over hundreds of miles while maintaining contact with central command, whether on planet or off.
Much like the Whirlwind, the Zeus configuration leaves little room for supplies. This is rarely a problem as Lightning Storm in Zeus configuration usually either has a short squad consisting only of the command group and the space normally taken up by the other five men is used for supplies, or, more commonly, it is part of a troop that includes one or more Rain modules. This has lead to any number of jokes by the enlisted men about the need of their officers to be spoiled and to leave the real work to the soldiers.
Though it has little in the way of supplies, the Zeus still has a bay for a Zephyr and these are almost always requisitioned and used for guard/defense purposes.
KTN-KRD Thunder Transformable Track Trike
The Thunder was the second project Perusala Motorworks created under their military division. Having seen some success with the half track design, they set out to utilize the same propulsion system for a smaller, faster, scouting vehicle. The first design was a two man vehicle that was little more than a shrunk down version of the Lightning Storm.
This continued to evolve and shrink until they settled on a one man vehicle. Even with the small size and high mobility intrinsic in the design, there were places that the Thunder could not go. Attempts to make it even smaller so that it could accompany the units it was supporting proved to be a dead end as it invariably sacrificed speed or durability.
They took a side path, though, delving into research into exoskeleton designs. They had the power supply and weapons in place, already so they tried something fairly radical, incorporating the servos and gyros necessary as well as the shifting design to make it possible to transform the trike into an exoskeleton.
The design was not without its flaws, though and the UM rejected the first few offerings. Eventually, the worst of the kinks were worked out, though and the adoption of the Thunder was facilitated by the fact that Perusala Motorworks threw in a pair for each Lightning Storm for an entire shipment of 20.
Though dubious, the UM officials could not reject free technology so gave them a try. Perusala’s reputation continued to rise as the Thunder proved as reliable and durable as the Lightning Storm did. They were even more popular as Perusala ensured they were fully integrated with the APC’s, complete with storage compartments in later versions for the scout trikes.
Although most associated with the Lightning Storms, the Thunders have proved so popular that they are used even independently of them. Most military police units include them for patrol purposes, for example and many airborne units include some as they are small and light enough to be dropped with the troops and serve as heavy support.
ACC/TS: 15/32 Toughness: 9(3) Crew: 1+1 Notes: 4WD, Stabilizer, Transformable
15MGW Repeating LaserRange: 50/100/200 Damage: 2d10 RoF 3 Notes: AP4 HW
Missile LauncherRange: 100/200/400 Damage: 4d6 RoF 1 Shots: 6 Notes: AP100 MBT HW
Exoskeleton ModeStr increases by 2 die, adds 2 to Pace, +2 to Shooting Rolls, Armor +10
Targeting Laser: The Thunder has a targeting laser that can be used to call in air, orbital or artillery strikes.