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Scouts as Mercenary Assault Craft?

Ran Targas

SOC-14 1K
Peer of the Realm
Had a discussion with my group about mercenary/covert ops units, specifically if instead of buying a merc cruiser, a merc unit could strip or gut a bunch of 100t scouts and rebuild them to perform specific ground assault functions (think air cavalry).

The advantages:
- 8 scouts cost 200MCr less than 1 cruiser, leaving plenty of bucks for alterations
- scouts are easier to come by
- forces are split up vice in one easy target
- scouts provide smaller targets
- a bunch of scouts in an area gathers much less attention than a merc cruiser
- assault groups could split up until the appointed rendevous time adding to surprise
- not all scouts carry troops, some are C&C, close air support, medivac, heavy lift, etc.
- scouts should have greater capacity than small craft
- full payload could be dropped simultaneously vice ferrying units from cruiser with cutters

- scouts not as fast or manueverable as assault craft carried by merc cruiser or than merc cruiser in space

1. Does this make any sense at all? If so, has someone already thought this through?
2. What is the max tonnage available if you strip a scout down to bare minimums?
3. Are there rules for bomb racks? Are they bay weapons? Could you install internal bomb racks on a 100t scout?
4. Could the standard scout sensor package be used to illuminate targets for smart bombs?
Another negative is the loss of unit integrity. Instead of a single company, you've got eight small sections of troops. They can't train together as easily, can't discuss plans during jump, and won't even come out of jump together.

The delivery issue can be resolved just as easily by switching to a streamlined hull for the Merc Cruiser.
The economics of space usage are against using 8 Scout/Couriers. With 8 Scout/Couriers, you end up with more space total allocated to "overhead" than functional space (from a troopship perspective). For example, you have 8 bridges rather than 1 central bridge.

You'll also need to have 8 pilots & 8 engineers vs. 1 main pilot, (2?) engineers, and 2 cutter pilots.

The main problem probably will still be that it's much harder to train/coordinate a group split across 8 ships rather than all in 1 ship.

I respectfully disagree,

Communications - most military planning is not done enroute to the objective, its done before departing, otherwise you don't what to bring or how to train for it. Otherwise, you have to bring everything and you need a battlegroup to accomplish the job of a single ship. Plus you'd have plenty of time to communicate and conspire if you don't go immediately from the jump point to the objective. This also provides time to conduct surveillance of the target area in a less than conspicuous ship; even a lone cutter would definitely bring the question, "Where's its mother ship?".

Training - if you've waited to train while in transit, you deserve to get your ass shot off. Most training would be done in a similar environment well before an operation is undertaken. Intelligence on the objective would be analyzed and the battle plan in place before lift off.

Simultaneous N-space transition - what tactical advantage does this provide? They would still have to transit 100 diameters before even orbiting an objective; still plenty of time to regroup. Even so, they could still appear near simultaneously if they don't target the exact same coordinates when they jump.

Appreciate the rapid response and constructive criticism though, thanks Tom! Please educate me if I'm way off center.
Tom Said:

...won't even come out of jump together...
IIRC, fleets of ships use "Fleet Jump" data to minimise the scatter in time and space of the emerging attack force, so the problem of disjointed emergence points is probably superable...
Jump-transition: T20 rules specify that groups of vessels can Jump simultaneously and arrive days apart, unless they all Jump using the same calculation

Jump your 8 scouts in simultaneously using one master astrogater to do all the work. Encircle your foes upon arrival!

Sure, you've got a tech crew of 16 now, instead of 8, but you've probably more than doubled your tactical versatility
Yes, you can fleet jump. that still spreads you out over a couple of hours. Whether this matters depends on how you sue the ship.

I enisage a merc crusier as basically a special operations platfrom. The nuber of troops carried is too small for it to be used any other way.

Timing is going to be very significant on such missions, and even an hour or two of difference could screw up a plan.

As for the need for training and planning during jump, a real operation should be rehearsed as often as possible, and as close to the actual event as possible. A week in jump space will take the fine honed edge off an elite unit unless they can practice as a complete unit.

And there are always refinements you can add to a plan. In that last week, the unit's tacticians will come up with various improvements to the plan, few of which can be used unless the rest of the unit is aware of them.
Tom Said:
...even an hour or two of difference could screw up a plan...
In which condition the incoming vessel has to begin their jump early enough that a "2 standard deviation" variance in jump duration won't make them late. Naturally, arriving early increases the probability of premature detection, but any Jump-then-fight operation carries the risk of arriving early.

In circumstances where the absolute timing is umnimportant but the window of detection between arrival in-system and hitting the target must be minimised, the single ship option is better.

I take your point about training up to the moment of launch, but wonder how much more useful training on a Merc cruiser could be than training in simulators on Scouties. If the team isn't doing an "emerge-rush" there'd be time to net up the simulators on each ship and practice on the run in from out-system.

The big problem I see with Merc Cruisers is they are too conspicuous to be good special operations platforms. After all, who uses Merc Cruisers?

The real world example is a submarine. Operating on the surface it is very conspicuous, but under the cover of 50' of water, it becomes the ideal Spec War platform. Why, because they don't advertise their presence. If a 800t Merc Cruiser all of a sudden popped into my system, I'd be asking him a lot of questions while I powered up my weapons and deployed my defenses.

Now, a bunch of scouts hanging out on the edge of the system? I might be curious but not defensive. Even better would be one of Tanuki's RQ's! Full of troops and armored vehicles, she could put one hell a hurting on you before you even knew to be worried.

Lastly, SEALS and Marines spend months deployed on ships, unable to maintain the same level of training as when they were home. Although this affects their combat effectiveness, the real training occured in work ups and exercises before they deployed. A week in jump isn't going to reduce a trooper's mental and physical agility more than his average night on the town would.
All of this is fine, but your problem is easily solved by mounting your assault force in two Type A2(a) Fast Traders, the type with J2/2G performance. Put two squads (half a platoon) in each, and there is plenty of room left over for PT, holo-simulators, and so on to train with. The Passenger Deck could be modified as a wardroom/Tac Center.

And the most inncuous vessel in Charted Space is.... a free trader class merchie.

Might I mention that that I am prepared to offer the services of the Wastrel's Bride at a very reasonable rate?
^ I agree, I'm only looking at the cheapest way to move a merc unit without getting caught in the act or leaving them without support.

IMHO, merc units wouldn't get involved in large scale warfare (you could get killed doing that stuff) unless the odds were heavily in their favor. That means bush wars, covert ops, or armed recon. Limited scale warfare means less fog and greater chance for detection and therefore retaliation. Slip in, do the job, and slip out; only mercs with a death wish would opt for frontal assault (let Imp Marines die for their Emperor).

So how do you move merc units without exposing your movements to scrutiny? Traders and scouts seem to be the answer. Modern amphib ships are not much more than armed freighters. But what is the best investment (tactically, economically, etc.)?
That would be easy Ron.

You're balancing three factors here:
  • Troop Payload,</font>
  • Combat usefullness of the transport and,</font>
  • "Stealth" of the transport</font>
Now none of these are gonna make money for you on the trade routes, but you're in a different market. :D

A Type S scout could transport up to 8 individuals roughly, in VERY cramped conditions. Assuming that two of those individuals are ship crew, that's between half and three-quarters of a squad depending on your doctrine. You would need 6 to 8 to move and support our theoretical platoon. Six to eight triple-turrets and six to eight air/rafts there. At MCr 22 or so used. :rolleyes:

A Type A2 Far Trader could transport two squads (of 8 to 12 men each) with a crew of 5 (including the surely-gonna-be-needed medic), in not quite spacious conditions. You also gain space to train your unit and four triple turrets. You also get 2 air/rafts to use for getting around. You would need two of these at MCr 37 new.

If you want lots of transport for short legs, you could transport a short platoon, say 30 or so troops, in one Type R Subsidized Trader with all the above advantages in the A2 for MCr 101 new.

All this data is using CT stats by the way, but each version would produce roughly the same economic ratios for you.

So, balancing all your criteria, I would go the Type A2 route. :cool:

Hope that helps.
Originally posted by Ran Targas:
The advantages:
- 8 scouts cost 200MCr less than 1 cruiser, leaving plenty of bucks for alterations
One S-9 fat trader will only set you back 100MCr new. Drop your cargo tonnage to 40 tons and you could transport 3 squads of mercs.

I would propose a custom-designed life support module which allows triple occupancy and can be grafted into the cargo deck and you could conceivably get away with say 100t remaining cargo. I'd allow this on the stipulation that the LSM could not be used for more than 1.5 weeks duration and I'd beef up the energy point useage (if HG stats).

A fat trader could then have its IFF transponder swapped out for a fully programmable military grade one, which allows false flag operations. I'd guess that on most high-traffic routes, a subsidized merchie with all the correct IFF squawks, would attract even less attention than an A2 Far Trader. Add some illegal nuke missles (in for a penny...) and an 8 ton armed GCarrier and you are a whole bundle of bad news.

I can just see the Starport Administrator bursting in to Traffic Control: "Who cleared that Oberlindes Fatty for landing?"

Watch Officer: "I did. Her IFF sqawks all matched. What's the problem?" (loud noise as a 400T ship goes streaking over the starport).

SA: "Well, an armed party just knocked over Hortalez's main branch two minutes ago!"

Watch Officer: "[expletive deleted] I'll get the Navy on the comm..."


If you want the HG stats (sorry, I don't do T20 yet), let me know.
T20 allows a "squadron jump" where all ships use the same calculations and synchronize their jumps. They reappear at the destination simultaneously and in the same relative positions as when they jumped.

I really like the Type-S battlesquad idea! You have some duplication of forces, and your ships' batteries are not going to be as effective. But you now have the option of committing only part of your forces to any one location, as well as attacking multiple locations and/or from multiple locations.

If it were me, I'd set up the ships as follows:

1: Tactical Controller Command Post

2: Medevac & Secondary Tactical Controller

3: Assault Lander (Troops & Triple Laser Turret)

4: Assault Lander (Troops & Triple Laser Turret)

5: Assault Lander (Troops & Triple Laser Turret)

6: Assault Lander (Troops & Triple Laser Turret)

7: Top Cover (Upgraded Avionics & Maneuver,
Missile Armed)

8: Logistics & Supply Transport

Good Luck!