The Future is Here: “Ironman” Spec-Ops Suit

 

ironman3Army researchers have been working for years to incorporate powered armor, exoskeletons, and high-tech weaponry into the arsenal of next-generation soldiers. And this latest development from DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research wing of the US Army – is being hailed as the closest thing there is to a real-life “Iron Man” suit to date.

Its known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) and is designed to deliver “superhuman strength with greater ballistic protection”. Named in honor of the Greek automaton made of bronze that Zeus assigned to protect his lover Europa, this suit incorporates a powered exoskeleton, liquid armor, built-in computers and night vision, and the ability to monitor vital signs and apply wound-sealing foam.

DARPA-Warrior-Web-660x495Put together, the capabilities would make the already elite Special Operation Forces nearly invincible in the field, according to the Army. As Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) science adviser, said in a statement:

[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in.

For the sake of the suit’s design and high-tech features, DARPA reached out to engineers from MIT, who are currently working to produce the liquid body armor that is perhaps the most advanced feature of the suit. Composed of magnetorheological fluids, this armor will “transform from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied.”

TALOS_Future_Army_Soldier_WideThe suit is expected to make a first-generation appearance some time next year. Because of the high number of highly integrated technical challenges with advanced specifications, the Army is also drawing on a broad range of collaborators from multiple fields to complete the design in time. And as Jim Geurts, USSOCOM acquisition executive, in a statement:

USSOCOM is interested in receiving white papers from a wide variety of sources, not just traditional military industry but also from academia, entrepreneurs, and laboratories capable of providing the design, construction, and testing of TALOS related technologies. The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative TALOS capabilities to the SOF operator.

US_Army_powered_armorFor some time now, the concept of advanced powered suits of armor has been a feature of science fiction. Examples abound from literary references, such as E.E. Smith’s Lensman series and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, to RPGs like BattleTech and Warhammer 40k, and to the gaming world with the HALO and Fallout series’. And much like lightsabers, there has scarcely been a geek alive who didn’t want one!

Now it seems that something very close might be realizable within a year’s time. I don’t know about you, but I feel both inspired and more than a little jealous. Damn SOCOM, always getting the coolest gear first! And of course, there’s a video:


Sources:
wired.com, dailytech.com
,

Arcology in Popular Culture

arcologyHello and good evening. Welcome to the third and final installment in my Arcology series, addressing the use of the concept in various popular culture sci-fi franchises. After researching the term and learning all about Paolo Soleri and the concept he created, I’ve come to see that his vision of future cities where the needs of ten of thousands of inhabitants could be met in sustainable ways helped to inspire the a great deal of speculative fiction.

Here are just a few examples that I can recall or have been able to find…

Chi-Town:
Many years ago, some friends of mine came to me with a new RPG by the name of RIFTS. A sort of sci-fi/fantasy crossover, the game was set in a post-apocalyptic world where inter-dimensional gateways, known as “Rifts” had led demons, monsters and mythical creatures into our universe, where they began wreaking havoc. After many years, several new nations emerged, the most powerful of which were the Coalition States, a dictatorship dedicated to fighting the invasion and reestablishing order.

The seat of this government is a large arcological city known as Chi-Town, which was built on the ruins of Old Chicago (hence the name). A self-contained city, the structure is somewhere between a pyramid and a rectangle in terms of shape. And of course, its hierarchical structure mirrors the social divisions at work within. The lower levels are the most densely populated, have the most indigents, and experience the most crime, while the upper levels are more spacious, opulent, and well-maintained.

In addition to being a fortress city and a safe haven for human beings in the ruins of the United States, Chi-Town is also a fitting example of an arcology. Within its walls, all things, including water, air, food and energy, are providing by internal systems and subject to recycling and treatment. Again, the issue of quality is dependent on where someone finds themselves within the structure, but the principle is still the same. In a world that has been devastated and rendered inhospitable, the response was to create a mega-structure that could both shield and provide for its many, many inhabitants.

Coruscant:
coruscantFans of the Star Wars franchise are certainly familiar with this planet-encompassing city, even before it was featured in the prequel trilogy. As the capitol of the Old Republic, Empire and New Republic, respectively, it has a very long history of habitation, and a very sizable population! As a result, its architects and engineers had to get very creative with the use of space on this planet, and several massive buildings were the result.

In truth, Coruscant was not so much a single city as thousands upon thousands of interconnected arcologies that ran across its surface. These various mega structures measured roughly a kilometer in height, dwarfing even the nearby mountain chains, and housed hundreds of thousands of residents each. In addition, the need to feed and provide for the staggering number of inhabitants required that every structure come equipped with a massive network for recycling water, waste and food.

Officially divided into megablocks and levels, every section of the city had its own means for providing food, water, and manufactured goods. This in turn required the presence of internal systems for processing air, drinking water, food waste, human waste, and industrial waste from its manufacturing warrens. In addition, in the sub-city where natural light did not reach, holograms and artificial lights were also built in to the environment to provide its inhabitants with illumination. In addition, it is also indicated in a number of sources that agricultural operations were housed in various sections and relied on recycled water and either artificial or filtered light.

Though food and waste still required a great deal of shipping and processing, which resulted in a staggering amount of transport traffic, much of the cities needs were taken care of by means of these internal measures. This ensured that the roughly three trillion inhabitants of the planet would never become wholly dependent on outside sources of food and goods, as well as ensuring that pollution and harmful waste wouldn’t accumulate to disastrous levels.

Habitats:
In the works of Peter F. Hamilton, particularly the Night’s Dawn Trilogy, much attention is given to the kinds of futuristic living spaces humanity will someday occupy. For starters, there is planet Earth in this future setting, which is so overrun by human beings that all cities have evolved to become self-contained arcologies. On top of that, there are what’s known as “Habitats”, floating megacities which exist out amongst the stars.

One of the most notable of these is Eden, the first ever habitat to be created, and in orbit around Jupiter. As the closest thing to a capitol in the Edenic culture, it was built using Bitek – aka. Biotechnology – which resulted in a living structure that was psychically linked to its inhabitant through a process known as affinity.

Here, as with other Habitats, the structures are massive, measuring several kilometers in length and width. In addition, each is entirely self-supporting, providing food, water, electricity and artificial gravity to its inhabitants. The latter is created through the rotation of the whole structure around its axis, while a central light tube which runs the length of the station provides light. Food and water are produced via biological processes and are recycled to ensure minimal waste, which in turn is also processed and converted for later use. In addition, interstellar material is frequently intercepted by the habitat and converting into any and all goods which its people require.

Ultimately, the only thing a habitat needs is a supply of external matter which it will use to grow and mature during its formative cycle, and an external power supply to maintain its functions. This is last necessity is provided by a series of external conductor cables which grow on the outer hull of the structure where they are positioned to pick up charges. Due to the rotation, these cables then cross the electromagnetic flux of the nearby gas giant and thus produce electrical energy. All is provided and nothing goes to waste. A true future city!

Urban Monads:
The setting of Robert Silverberg’s fictional study in overpopulation, The World Inside occurs almost entirely within the hyperstructure known as Urban Monad 116. As the name implies, this massive, three-kilometer high city tower is but one of many on the planet, which have become necessary now that war, disease and starvation have been eliminated, but people still continue to procreate without restriction. During the telling of the story, which takes place in 2381, the total population has reached 75 billion.

Much attention is given in the novel to how urban monads (or “Urbmons”) are arranged and meet the needs of their 800,000 respective inhabitants. For starters, groups of these skyscrapers are arranged in “constellations” so that one’s shadow does not fall upon another. Each Urbmon is divided into 25 self-contained “cities” with 40 floors each, in ascending order of status, with administrators occupying the highest level with population and production centers sequestered below.

In order to see to the needs of this rapidly expanding population, all arable land not currently occupied by Urbmons is dedicated to agriculture. However, within the Urbmon communities,  resource management still counts for a lot, with all foods and goods being held in common and the people expected to share them. Beyond that, however, sustainability is not exactly the name of the game, as the right to engage in free expressions and sex and reproduction are considered the highest forms of activity.

Hence, Silverberg’s Monads break a few of the basic rules of arcology, but the basic premise is still there. Designed to house a rapidly expanding population that threatens to overpower the Earth, Urbmons take advantage of the concepts of megastructures and 3-D planning to ensure that every living soul is housed and provided for. Now if they could just stop reproducing so much, they’d be in business!

Tyrell Corp Building:
Though not specified as an arcology in the strictest sense, I couldn’t possibly make this list without including the infamous Tyrell Corp building. I mean just look at the thing. Imposing, Gothic, and very, very big! And let’s not forget highly symbolic, as the design, size and scale of the thing was meant to evoke the feeling of awesome power that the corporation held.

Though not much is made clear of what life inside the building is like, it was clear that it was made up of many, many levels and sections, each of which fulfilled a different purpose. At ground level, the building was protected by automated systems which “fried” one of the story’s Nexus 6’s when they tried to break in. Farther up are various industrial areas that are dedicated to the production of the company’s Replicants, as well as office spaces and administrative areas. Another Replicant was detected in one of these sections, right before it shot the man who had detected it – Detective/Blade Runner Holden.

At the apex of the building is the living area for Tyrell and Rachel, the experimental Nexus unit that was modeled on his niece. This level is accessible only by elevator which runs along the outer edge of the building, and can only be accessed by authorized personnel. Here, Tyrell lives amidst opulent surroundings, vast marble floors, stone columns, and even an aviary for his pet owl. Although it is not explicitly said, it appears that Tyrell spends all of his time here, never venturing to the outside city or to another domicile. Hence, we can only assume that all of his needs are seen to here, even if everything he consumes is flown in and all the waste produced is shipped out.

Mega-City One:
judge-dredd-megacity-oneThe setting of the Judge Dredd franchise, Mega-City One is essentially a massive urban sprawl which stretches from the Quebec-Windsor City corridor to the peninsula of Florida in the south, growing out of the Northeast Megalopolis to occupy Southern Ontario the entire Eastern Seaboard. And in addition to stretching so very far and wide, this city is also made up of arcologies in order to see to the needs of its roughly 800 million inhabitants.

These arcologies come in the form of huge apartment blocks which house roughly 50,000 people each. Within each block, citizens are attended to by automated systems which recycle everything, waste, water, and even food. As for manufactured products and consumer goods, these too are largely created in industrial warrens that housed within specific blocks.

This system of every need being handled by automated systems and machines was designed to ensure that the survivors of the nuclear holocaust (aka. The Apocalypse War) would be tended to. However, it had the unwanted side-effect of also leading to rampant unemployment and listlessness amongst the population. This is one of the main reasons why Mega-City One is awash in petty criminals and organized crime syndicates. This, in turn, is what led to the creation of the Judicial System and its army of Street Judges.

Trantor:
Perhaps the first example of a ecumenopolis appearing in fiction, Trantor went on to become a source of inspiration for many science fiction franchises. And according to Asimov, it represented what he believed would be the end result of industrialization and human technology, which was an encapsulated population living in cities that spanned entire planets.

Consisting of buildings that reached deep into the ground and reached several kilometers above sea level, Trantor was home to roughly 45 billion people at the height of the Empire. It’s overall population density was 232 per km², and just about every human being was dedicated to the administration of the Empire or the needs of its population. Though by the time of Foundation, most of the population’s needs were met by importing food and basic necessities from every major planet in the region.

However, according to Prelude to Foundation, Trantor’s basic food needs were once fulfilled by the planet’s vast system of subterranean microorganism farms. Here, yeast and algae were produced as basic nutrients, which were then processed with artificial flavors to create palatable food sources. These farms were tended to entirely by automated robots, but their eventual destruction during an uprising forced the planet to turn to external sources

The Sprawl:
Also known as the Boston-Atlanta-Metropolitan-Axis (or BAMA for short), this mega-city is the setting for the majority of William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy. Encompassing the classic cyberpunk tales of Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive, the concept of arcology is raised on numerous occasions in reference to the massive apartment blocks that make up the city.

On such building is Barrytown, an arcology in the projects which is the setting for much of the second novel. Throughout the novel, it is indicated that the people here generate their own food, such as the catfish farms that exist near the top of the building. Trees are also grown on specific levels to generate oxygen which is then fed into the building’s air recirculation system. And finally, mentions are made that there are air turbines on the roof of many project buildings which generate electricity for the inhabitants.

Being such a massive, futuristic city, the Sprawl features many such structures, all of which are described as giant skyscrapers that house tens of thousands of people within their tall frames. And ultimately these are all contained beneath the a series of geodesic domes which encapsulate the city and generate peculiar weather patterns consistent with micro-climates. In this way, the BAMA itself is one massive structure, containing hundreds of millions of people under a single roof.

Zion:
The last remaining free city that humanity could still call home, Zion was not a megastructure per se, but nevertheless fit the definition of an arcology to a tee. An underground habitat that was home to roughly 250,000 men, women and children, Zion was the picture perfect representation of a self-contained living space that handled all the needs of its inhabitants internally.

As Councilman Hamann intimated in Matrix Reloaded as he and Neo walked along the Life0-Support Level, all of Zion’s needs are attended to by machines. These provide power, heat, water, and are constantly recirculating and recycling them.  Meanwhile, food seems to be either grown in special hydroponic areas, or synthesized in bio facilities dedicated to that purpose.

In terms of its internal layout, Zion is ovoid in structure and consists of many levels, each with its specific purpose. At the apex rests the Dock, where Zion’s army of hovercrafts are stationed and automated defenses protect against intruders. Beneath that are the Gathering Spaces, where new arrivals who have not yet been assigned permanent quarters are temporarily housed.

The middle section is entirely dedicated to habitation, made up of family quarters, and the Council Chambers which houses Zion’s ruling council. The lower levels consist of the Meeting Hall, Life-Support Level, and Geo-Thermal Generation, where the cities power and heat are supplied from. At the very bottom lies the Temple, a large cavern where religious gatherings are held and people gather to hold celebrations and mourn the dead. This area also serves as a last defensive position in the event that the automated defenses were destroyed and the Dock overrun. This of course became the case in Matrix: Revolutions when the machines attacked Zion and nearly destroyed it.

___

What did I tell ya? Clearly, the idea has made the rounds since Soleri’s time. And in all likelihood, we are sure to see the concept popping up more and more as the problems of overpopulation and environmental impact become more acutely felt. There are some who might express disgust and even fear at the idea of living an encapsulated existence, but given the growing need for sustainability and places to put people, will we really have a choice? One can only hope!

More Cool Guns!

This post is a follow-up to one I did awhile back, one which featured weapons from the sci-fi universe. At the time, I really wasn’t planning on doing a follow-up. However, since I began writing about existing weapons that just happen to look like something out of sci-fi, I happened to find some more that really were. So here they are, in alphabetical order!

Auto 9:
Robocop_gunOtherwise known as the Robocop gun, the Auto 9 was fashioned out of attaching a frontal assembly to a standard Berretta 93R. This variant of the 9mm pistol is famous for being the automatic version which can fire full auto or in three round bursts. Special vents at the front made for a cooler dispersal of the flames coming out of the barrel.

One look at the handle will also tell you that this model was fitted with an extra-long magazine to ensure that Peter Weller/Robocop had plenty of ammo to take down his enemies. Rarely, if ever, was he to be seen reloading this cannon in the course of his movies!

C-14 Impaler:
C14Hello Starcraft universe! Here we have the Terran rifle that comes standard with marines serving in the Confederate and Dominion forces. As a Gauss rifle, this weapon is not a gun in the traditional sense, but an electromagnetic gun that hurls 8mm projectiles (known as “spikes”) at hypersonic speeds.

Though it is capable of firing up to 30 rounds a minute, the Impaler comes with a built-in capacitor system which restricts fire to short bursts to conserve ammo and power. It also comes with a variety of ammo, giving the average marine the ability to kick all kinds of ass.

Lasgun (Warhammer 40k):
Warhammer_LasgunsNot to be confused with the Lasguns of the Dune universe, even though the principle is the same. A directed energy weapon, it is used by all the military forces within the Imperium of Man, making it the most common energy weapon in the galaxy.

Though comparatively simple next to many Warhammer weapons, this weapon is still extremely effective. In addition to being capable of severing limbs, it is even able to penetrate the Power Armour of a Space Marine.

M6 Nonlinear Rifle:
Halo_Reach_-_Model_8_SP_LaserAlso known as the Spartan Laser, this portable and vehicle-mounted rifle is the only directed energy weapon in service with the USNC. As part of Project GUNGNIR, a program designed to provide supplemental material to the Spartans, this weapon was designed to be part of the MJOLNIR powered assault armor.

Making its first appearance in Halo: Reach, this weapon is devastating to infantry and most vehicles at any range. Unfortunately, the expense of building and maintaining them makes them somewhat impractical compared to other UNSC weapons.

RBS-80 Pulse Gun
RBS-80This baby comes highly recommended by both sides of the Terminator franchise! Designed by General Dynamics in the 21st century, the RBS-20 is a phased plasma pulse gun used by both Skynet’s Terminators and the Resistance. In the former case, it was used as a portable weapon, usually by infiltration units to take out Resistance bases. However, given the weapon’s size and weight, the Resistance preferred to mount them on their vehicles.

Making its debut appearance in Terminator when a T-800 broke into a Resistance safe house and began using its RBS-80 to kill everyone in sight. These events were recounted by Kyle Reese, who narrowly survived the encounter. It was also mentioned by name when Arny, making a gaffe, asked for one at a gunstore. “Just what you see here, pal,” replied the owner. Little wonder then why Arny chose to blow him away afterwards…

Type 25 Directed Energy Rifle:
PlasmarifleBack to the Halo universe, but this time for a more widely known Covenant weapon. More commonly known as the Plasma Rifle, this directed energy weapon, is the weapon of choice for the Elites and the Brutes, though other member races have been seen using it as well. Like much of the Covenant’s weapons, it was reverse-engineered from Forerunner technology.

Powered by a high-capacity energy cell, the Plasma Rifle is capable of semi-automatic fire at a rate of 360~540 rounds per minute. In the hands of the Elites, both the casing and plasma are colored a light shade of blue, whereas the Brutes prefer their weapons look and fire at the red end of the spectrum.

Between Halo and Halo 2, the weapon evolved somewhat, losing power and range in favor of rate of fire and the ability to duel wield. Personally, I like combining this baby with a submachine gun or a magum pistol. Plasma and bullets baby! Whooooo!

Tesla Rifle:
tesla_gunBy definition, a Tesla Rifle is a weapon that fires of electricity with a limited range and high spread. This particular version comes from District 9 and was a weapon of alien manufacture. Built by the race prejoratively known as the “Prawns”, it was confiscated by the South African government, and then fell into the hands of Wilkus (the film’s protoganist).

Since all “Prawn” weapons are attuned to their DNA, no human was able to use one. However, due to the transformation Wilkus was undergoing, he was able to use one, and did so! Surrounded by mercenaries who were in charge of clearing District 9 and taking him down, he had little choice but to blow them to gory pieces with this thing. And since the whole movie was shot in faux-documentary style, you could bet that chunks of bad guy got splattered on the camera!

The Sol:
Sol1Holy crap! I definitely saved the biggest and baddest for last today! Here is The Sol (yes THE Sol) an attack satellite which comes from the anime movie Akira. Featured towards the end of the film, The Sole was called in when Testuo Matsuo – the psychically altered teenager – began going on a rampage and threatened to destroy Neo-Tokyo.

Built around a central directed-energy weapon, The Sol gave new meaning to the term “Death from above!” Though not much is said about her, The Sol was clearly inspired by the Strategic Defense Initiative, aka. Star Wars Defense, and therefore designed to shoot down ICBM’s from orbit. Given that the story revolves around WWIII, this seems like a pretty safe assumption.

Sol2In the course of the story, she was called in by the Neo-Tokyo authorities and tried to blow the psychotic and psionic Tesuo up. It didn’t take, but the kid was psychic man! What can you do? If nothing else, it did demonstrate just how powerful it was by removing one of his arms. Tetsuo was obviously impressed too, because he commandeered the thing and began using it to wreak even more havoc. Seriously, we’re talking death from above man!

And that is all. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more. Thinking I need to get off this whole guns and robots kick. Everything I write lately seems to revolve around one or the other…

Cool Ships (volume X)

Aerospace Fighter:
Here’s one I found while sifting through info for another post (see Giant Robots). Like the mechas from that list, this too comes from the Battletech universe. And the name pretty much says it all. This futuristic fighter, which is found in the air forces of every Clan, is capable of flight in both air and space.

Typically, these fighters serve in a supporting role for the assault mechs in the Battlemech universe. Once the mechs are deployed in their drop pods, these fighters follow, flying from space directly into atmosphere and engaging enemy forces in the field of battle.

Using much the same technology as assault mechs, aerospace fighters are powered by fusion engines and are constructed from lighter ferro-fibrous materials. They also come equipped with cannons, lasers, missiles and guided munitions. Control is carried out through either touchpads, hands-on controls, and in some cases, machinery which can read the pilots thoughts.

Akira-class:
I’ve been waiting to include this one. Years back when I saw it on DS9, I thought of just how cool it looked. After looking into it some more, the cool factor has been magnified considerably. Known as the Akira-class, this starship was meant for war and designed accordingly.

Akira-class ships first made their appearance in First Contact, where several were used to engage the Borg Cube that was trying to assimilate Earth. This was no coincidence, as these ships were apparently part of Star Fleet’s larger effort to create warships that could deal with the Borg threat. It would also go on to play an important role in the Dominion War.

Much like the Defiant, it was built for speed and firepower. But unlike other ships, it has virtually no secondary hull, placing the majority of its functions up front in the saucer array. It also has multiple phaser banks and torpedo launchers, as well as a powerful shield array. But its greatest asset comes in its shape. Resembling a catamaran with a thin profile, the Akira presents a very difficult target. Combined with its speed, it is able to descend on enemies and deliver an ass-whooping without much fear of retaliation.

Covenant Assault Carrier:
Hello Halo! I was just thinking of how I’ve spent a good deal of page time on ships that belong to the UNSC Navy, but none that belong to the Covenant. That seem fair to you? And since they’ve got some really cool customers, I think it only fair that I throw some in here.

To start, here is the Covenant AC-class, the biggest ship in the Covenant armada and the Halo universe itself (aside from High Charity, of course). These ships serve as the flagships for Covenant assault fleets and boast a wide array of weapons and support craft.

Their massive hulls can not only accommodate multiple wings of Seraph’s, Phantoms, Ghosts, Wraiths, and one or two Scarab walkers. As events in the later series will attest, they can also hold two UNSC Frigates (the Forward Unto Dawn and Aegis Fate). Though designed primarily for planetary combat, their defenses also make them highly effective in ship-to-ship firefights. These include multiple point-defense pulse laser batteries, plasma torpedo launchers and at least two energy beam projectors.

At least two such carriers led the Covenant Fleet of Sacred Consecration to Earth where they engaged the UNSC fleet and Earth’s home defenses in Halo 2. After the Master Chief destroyed one with a commandeered Covenant bomb, the other led an assault on New Mombasa, and then jumped into slipsteam space once its forces were overrun. Interestingly enough, this was the only incidence of such a Carrier being destroyed by UNSC forces. They are just that powerful!

District 9 Mothership:
This ship comes to us from the critically acclaimed if somewhat unoriginal District 9 movie. Yes, despite what some people said about this movie being unique and awesome, it was in fact a collage of ideas Peter Jackson got from other people and franchises. But that didn’t make it uncool.

The same goes for this ship. While the concept of the alien Mothership isn’t exactly new, this vehicle managed to do the concept some justice with its artistry, profile and purpose. For starters, this ship was clearly a “generation ship”, meaning that it was designed to hold an entire population of people and provide for them over the course of many generations as it made its way through space.

When the ship appeared above Johannesburg in 1982, it appeared to be carrying thousands of alien beings who had been designed or engineered for work (echoes of Alien Nation there). Though the ship possessed some very advanced technology, including weapons and medical facilities, it appeared as though none of the workers knew how to operate them. As a result, the aliens had to be resettled and much of their technology began to fall into human hands.

The ship also appeared to have a command module in addition to its vast main hull. As long as this module remains detached from the main vessel, it will hold its last position and remain inert. This was rather crucial to the plot of the movie, since one of the aliens was keeping the module hidden until he could affect repairs. This necessitated that the passengers remain in a camp on Earth until he was finished and they could return back home.

GVD Hatshepsut:
I know what you’re thinking. “This guy must be obsessed with Freespace!” You’ve got some attitude buster! Besides, if you’d played this game much, you’d realize I have only begun to do it justice. Thus far, I’ve included Terran and Shivan ships in these lists, but there’s a wealth of Vasudan ones as well that deserve mention.

To keep it short, the Vasudans were a race of desert-dwelling people who loved history and venerated ancient things. As a result, the Terran forces associated them with the ancient Egyptians and designated their ships accordingly. Likewise, their heaviest ship, the Hatshepsut-class, was named in honor of the most powerful queen in Egypt’s history.

As a cruiser-carrier, the Hastshepsut carried a wide array of weapons. This included multiple laser turrets, point-defense turrets, fusion mortars, anti-ship beams and heavy beam emitters. In its massive carrier bay, which has points of entry on either side of the ship, carries over 30 wings of fighters, bombers and support craft. Other improvements over older models include a heavily reinforced hull and more powerful reactors, which give it the ability to maintain beam fire for longer periods of time.

Independence Day Mothership:
I seem to be in a Mothership kind of mood today. And I seem to recall someone suggesting I include this one some time ago, can’t remember who did, sorry. Just raise your hand and I’ll be sure to give you the credit ;).

Though I’ve pretty much mocked and bashed this movie every chance I could get, I have to admit that Independence Day remains a guilty pleasure for me. And when I saw it, I did think the mothership was pretty cool. And there were things beyond its aesthetics which I now see as praiseworthy.

Much like the District 9 and Alien Nation motherships, this vessel was also a generation ship. As stated in the course of the movie, it housed the better part of the alien race’s people and all of its landing forces. These were all kept within its massive internal bays, which appeared more like an internal city than anything else. These forces were apparently being held in reserve until their attack ships were finished leveling humanity’s cities and destroying it’s defenses.

And as was illustrated at the beginning, it also houses all the attack ships on its exterior. Though not much in the way of technical details are offered in the movie, the ship was very clearly massive and most likely incapable of anything more than sublight speeds.

Liberty Class Cruiser:
Wow, I almost got through an entire list without mentioning Star Wars. But I don’t imagine I’ll be making a list anytime soon with a single mention from that universe. And today, it’s the MC80 Liberty-class Mon Calamari Cruiser.

Like all Mon Calamari cruisers, each design was unique, making classification somewhat difficult in the early days of the Rebellion. Though the Liberty-class was technically of the same make as Home One (also classified MC80), the Liberty was smaller, narrower and had a pair of wing-like appendages attached to its hull.

In addition, it also packs a lighter weapons array and compliment of fighters and bombers. Measuring 1200 meters in length, the ship boasts a total of 48 turbolasers and 20 ion cannons while three squadrons of fighters provide this ship with protection. All this, combined with its smaller size, make the Liberty best suited for support as part of larger assault missions.

Several of these ships took part in the assault on the second Death Star during the Battle of Endor. It was also Liberty-class that was the first to fall when the Death Star began firing its massive laser. However, these ships proved instrumental in attaining victory, their sleek profiles and coordinated weapons making them effective in close quarters against larger Star Destroyers.

Retribution-class Battleship:
At last, Warhammer 40k makes it into the Cool Ship series. And I’ll think you’ll all agree, this particular ship is pretty cool! Built to resemble an old-world Dreadnought, the Retribution-class is a massive ship of the line in the Imperial Navy, the human faction in the expanded universe (otherwise known as the Space Marines).

Featuring the distinctive armored prow of the Imperial Navy, this ship is able to speed headlong into an enemy fleet and deploy fire from both sides. It is also as fast as the main cruisers of the Imperial fleet, which comes in handy during large-scale fleet engagements where it’s support can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

The main armament of the Retribution class are its rows upon rows of laser batteries lining the sides. For close-quarters fighting, it also carries several torpedo launchers that are capable of delivering devestating, armor-peircing blows. To top it off, the ship is equipped with a series of Lance beam turrets along the dorsal of the ship. They are normally used for finishing off an enemy ship that the main weapons have crippled, or providing return fire when the battleship is closing in on its foes.

Warlock-class Destroyer:
And what would the list be without at least one B5 mention? As a final example, I have decided to include the prototype Warlock-class Destroyer that was making its debut just as the original show was ending. It also made several subsequent appearances in the TV movie Call to Arms and the spinoff series Crusade.

Rushed into production during the last days of the Earth Alliance Civil War, the Warlock featured some of the most advanced technology available. This included advanced weaponry, engines, and most importantly, artificial gravity. This, more than anything else, gave it the advantage over the older Omega-class destroyers which relied on rotating sections.

The Warlock’s engines are a hybrid design featuring the standard ionic thrust modules and a gravitic drive, which like the artificial gravity is borrowed from the Minbari. In terms of weapons, this ship carries two particle beam cannons, multiple heavy cannons and point defense turrets, and 28 large and medium missile arrays. In addition, the original concept also involved a Shadow machine which was buried in the ship’s core. These were promptly removed once Clarke was overthrown, for obvious reasons.

Much like its Omega-class predecessor, it also has a launch bay located at the bow of the ship between its sensor arrays and its cannons. And given it’s larger size, it is able to carry additional squadrons of Starfuries, Thunderbolts and support craft. And of course, its jump capable!

Wow, ten installments of cool ships, totalling close to eighty different vessels. I think some kind of celebration is in order to mark this milestone. Too bad I’m sick as a dog, I’d tilt a glass. Maybe those who read these posts can do that for me. Fill a glass with whatever imbibing liquid you like best and toast your favorite franchises for bringing us these inventive, imaginative designs. Some day, they might just be the basis for something real…

GIANT ROBOTS!

Forgive the all caps, but with a name like this, you gotta go big! Thanks to a helpful suggestion from a respected colleague (thanks Rami!), I’ve finally found the latest for my series on conceptual post. And I think my reasons for going with it are clear. Whether we are talking about mechs, mechas, walkers or sentient machines, giant robots are just plain cool! And here’s a list of some memorable ones from various franchises that have come down to us over the years:

AT-AT Walker:
It’s only right to start the list with a classic example from the classic franchise. Though I’m sure this giant needs no intro, I’ve recently come to learn that there are some people who really haven’t seen the original trilogy. Yeah, I can’t believe it either!

Known officially as the All Terrain Armored Transport, this beast was the Empire’s weapon of choice for digging Rebel troops out of fortified emplacements. It’s size alone made it an intimidating sight to behold, which was kind of the point! But in case that wasn’t enough to make people run, it also packed quite a punch.

AT-AT cross-section

Although they were invented by the Republic during the time of the Clone Wars, the AT-AT didn’t emerge as a weapon of terror until the time of the Empire when it was resurrected by General Veers. During the Battle of Hoth, her personally led a force against the Rebel Echo Base and overwhelmed its defenders. Its armor proved too strong for conventional blasters, and its weapons were devastating once they were in range.

Under Luke Skywalker’s command, Rogue Squadron was able to destroy one using their tow cables while Skywalker destroyed another using his lightsaber and a concussion grenade. However, this did not stop Veers from destroying the shield generator and reaching Echo Base in the end. On Endor, an AT-AT would make an appearance guarding the Imperial shield generator.

Broadside Battlesuit:
Finally, I’ve found an excuse to use something from Warhammer 40k! It’s a little hard to incorporate ships when the focus is really on cool battlefield stuff. But hey, the sign says Giant Robots, so we’re all good!

The Broadside Battlesuit is the Tau Army’s heavy hitter, marrying the concept of a tank with that of an infantryman. Armed with two arm-mounted missile launchers and two rail guns on its back, the Broadside is more like a mobile artillery piece than a mechanized suit of armor.

But of course, it also has a thick hide, which is a necessity given the mighty kickback of its weapons. Though they are comparatively slow and have no jetpacks, like other Warhammer mechs, they are able to entrench and kill their enemies from a distance.

Destroid Tomahawk:
Speaking of walking tanks, this next example comes from the Robotech universe and is the mainstay of Earth’s mecha forces. Big, bad, heavily armed and armored, the Tomahawk is essentially a walking version of the main battle tank.

In terms of armaments, the Tomahawk carries just about every weapon under the sun. It’s two heavy beam cannons constitute its arms while two missile launchers make up the shoulders. It also carries two head-mounted machine guns, two gun clusters in the lower chest consisting of an auto-cannon, flame thrower, laser and direct-fire mortar. On top of all that, it also has an outboard missile launcher over its right shoulder.

Measuring almost 13 meters in height and weighing a whopping 31 tons fully loaded, this beast is still capable of running at 88 km/h. It also came equipped with vernier thrusters, making it capable of limited space operations. Unfortunately, its size and weight made it somewhat cumbersome when engaged with Zentraedi Battlepods (see below), which is why the design was eventually abandoned in favor of lighter designs.

Dragoon:
You know, I think this is the first time I’ve mentioned Starcraft in the context of one of these posts. Bout time really! And as a primary example of something cool from this universe, here’s the Dragoon! Much like other examples on this list, this machine requires an organic operator, or at least parts of them…

A quadrupedal attack walker employed by the Protoss, the Dragoon was considered a second chance for templars who had been seriously wounded in the line of duty. These pilots would generally be submerged in a fluid-filled tank in the Dragoon’s interior and operate it through an “essence translator”.

The Dragoon’s main weapon was of a centrally-mounted cannon which fired phases antimatter at targets. Combined with the units speed and maneuverability over unstable terrain, the Dragoon was a highly effective fighting vehicle and played a crucial role in the Brood War. It was due to this success that other factions, such as the Dark Templars and the Confederates, attempted to copy or adapt the designs for their own armies.

Fuchikoma:
Also known as “Tachikoma”, these walker/rollers are essentially tanks that are used by police in the manga series “Ghost In The Shell”. Heavily armored, packing serious weapons and run by a simple artificial-intelligence, these robots can act independently but are generally used for fire support.

Every unit is based on the same quadrupedal configuration with two three-fingered hands which double as machine guns. They carry their sensor equipment in their “heads”, which consists of a large main lens and two sensors mounted on the “mouth” below. Heavier weapons can also be mounted on the underside, which can either be a heavy machine gun or a grenade launcher.

In addition to their firepower, the Fuchikoma is also highly versatile. They can handle many different types of terrain, are able to walk up walls, rappel, walk, extend wheels from their feet and drive, and are also even submersible. After missions, the AI’s also share their experiences with all other units so that they can learn and anticipate different scenarios.

Goliath:
Back to Starcraft for another prime example of supreme robotry. And fans of the Marine campaign will certainly recognize this one. Officially, it is known as a Terran all-terrain combat walker. But to those who fight alongside it, it’s known simply as a Goliath.

Designed to provide support for troops in urban settings, the role of the Goliath expanded to providing infantry assault in all terrains and conditions. Employed by just about all sides during the Guild Wars, the Goliath became the backbone of Confederate forces against the Zerg and Protoss.

Composed of neosteel alloy, the Goliath’s exterior is highly resistance to small arms fire and most munitions. It’s weapons consist of two arm-mounted autocannons, two shoulder-mounted missile launchers. With the arrival of the UED during the Brood War, the Goliath’s design was upgraded with a belly-mounted machinegun and improved missile range. By the time of the Second Great War, the design was retired in favor of updated designs.

Metal Gear Rex:
Seems like a fitting name when you look at that gaping maw doesn’t it? And given its size, shape and terrifying power, the comparison seems even more apt. The focal point of the Metal Gear game series, this behemoth was a prototype weapon developed by DARPA and Arms Tech for the US Armed Forces.

Based on stolen designs from the former Soviet Union, Metal Gear was a revolutionary concept for a “bipedal tank” which would be capable of carrying nuclear weapons. After decades of toying and production, the end result was Rex.

In terms of armaments, the Rex has two 30 mm rotary cannon, a compliment of anti-tank missiles and 100 megawatt free-electron laser. However, its biggest surprise comes in the form of a massive shoulder-mounted rail gun which is capable of deploying stealth nuclear warheads. So in addition to being able to gallop into the field of battle and level everything in its wake, it was also capable of nuking an enemy city from several kilometers away.

Scary! I want one! Several version of Metal Gear would appear in the subsequent games with various modifications. But that’s something for another post (or more) 😉

Timberwolf:
No list of giant robots would be complete without at least one example from the Battletech universe. And here it is! The Timberwolf, otherwise known as the Mad Cat. Fast, heavy and quite formidable, this vehicle puts the “mech” in omnimech!

According to the series, this vehicle was the first omnimech to be encountered by the Inner Sphere Clans invaded. It was here that it earned the name “Mad Cat”, being similar in design to both the Marauder (MAD) and Catapult (CAT). It’s rare combination of speed, heavy armor and armaments also led to this designation. Apparently, this combination is quite rare!

In its primary configuration, the Timberwolf packs a good balance of energy and projectile weapons. It’s main armaments consist of arm lasers and two shoulder-mounted missile pods, both of which are effective at long range. It also carries two medium lasers and a medium pulse laser for close range combat, and a set of cockpit mounted machine guns for point defense against infantry.

Though it has no jump jets, the Timberwolf is capable of running at over 80 km an hour and is capable of some nimble maneuvering. It’s composite ferro-fibrous armor also mean it can withstand several directs hits from enemy fire.

Unicron:
You know, I’m loathe to use the same example twice. But hey, the name says Giant Robots, and Unicron is nothing if not both of these things! Taken from the Transformers movie (circa. 1986), this big bot is the biggest bot in the universe, and an appropriate one to end this first installment on.

Also known as the “Lord of Chaos” and “Planet Eater”, Unicron is essentially a planet-sized transformer who goes about the universe consuming stellar objects. These can include planets, asteroids and even stars.

Powered by an array of massive quantum computers, Unicron is dedicated to being a force of uncreation, traveling across universes and consuming all he can to bring about an end to all existence. In addition, he is apparently able to confer powers on lesser beings, using the impressive technology which powers him to upgrade other machines.

In the end, the only thing that could stop him was the Matrix of Leadership, which contained the essence of his equal and opposite – a being known as Primus. Being a creature of destruction, such a creative power could only be seen as a threat. And it certainly was! In the end, the Matrix was opened inside his hull and unleashed a force which completely consumed him.

Well that’s all I got for now. Hope people enjoyed this little display of oversized automatons, mechanized vehicles and massive war machines. And like the song says:

“You dig giant robots
I dig giant robots
We dig giant robots
Chicks dig giant robots
Nice.”
-theme song from Megas XLR

And it’s true aint it? Except for the part about chicks, I can’t say with any authority that they actually dig giant robots. But I know I do! See ya next time.