Military powers on PandoraEdit
|Description||The largest single non-governmental organization in the human universe|
|Function||Massive corporation involved in interests ranging from mining, transportation, medicines, weapons and communications.|
|Notes||More powerful than most Earth governments The Resources Development Administration (RDA) has monopoly rights to all products shipped, derived or developed from Pandora and any other off-Earth location. These rights were granted to RDA in perpetuity by the Interplanetary Commerce Administration (ICA), with the stipulation that they abide by a treaty that prohibits weapons of mass destruction and limits military power in space.|
With millions of shareholders, RDA is the oldest and largest of the quasi-governmental administrative entities (QGAEs). But its origins are far more modest. The entity that would become RDA was little more than a Silicon Valley garage startup in the early 21st century, when its two founders borrowed money from family members to begin the company.
Within a few decades, the company had the stature to propose the construction of a world-spanning rapid transit system that would allow entire population groups to conveniently commute hundreds or even thousands of miles to perform work where it was needed, without impinging on the cultural values of host populations. This led to the current global network of maglev trains that require the superconductor unobtanium for their continued operation.
The company's early expeditions to Pandora were seen as a colossal risk; the construction of the first interstellar vehicle alone put an enormous strain on capital resources. But with exclusive mining rights to unobtanium (which, at time of publication is valued at $20 million per kilo), and potential profits from countervirals, biofuels, and cosmetics, the enormous capital investment has paid off.
Illegal Practice / Violations
Recent Interplanetary Commerce Administration (ICA) investigations suggest that the RDA may have violated ICA and United Nations (UN) sanctions on multiple separate occasions, specifically those relating to certain high-powered projectiles authorized only for use in self defense or emergency situations.
Many environmental organizations and leading scientists have protested the RDA's unrestricted mining of unobtanium, calling it reckless and irreversibly damaging to Pandora's ecosystem. Countless appeals made to the Interplanetary Commerce Administration (ICA) to revoke the RDA's exclusive licenses have been dismissed.
In 2148, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ran a $1.2 million ad campaign showing images of a dying and starving Na'vi woman, with strong slogans blaming the RDA. These had great impact on the general population of the world; it was images of the humanoid Na'vi that captured the world's attention and convinced the ICA to authorize RDA expeditions. It was later discovered that PETA's images were faked; this triggered an international outcry. The so-called “Catwoman” incident, referring the woman in the ads who was made-up with prosthetics, led to the first of many new national advertising bills. The Truthful Advertising Bill of 2149 (in the United States) extensively covered and revisited the parameters of 'false advertising.' This is well known in the political world as one of the only bills to which there has not yet been found any loophole or uncovered area. These people control the military on Pandora.
|Description||RDA compound on Pandora|
|Function||Base of operations and housing for all human activities on Pandora|
|Notes||Properly, “Resources Development Administration Extra-Solar Colony 01,” but universally known as Hell’s Gate. In constant state of siege because of toxic environment and dangerous animals.|
A pentagonal perimeter fence encloses the large human complex on Pandora. Major weapons towers at each apex provide heavy munitions defense against surface and air intrusions by large hostile Pandoran wildlife, while four smaller towers spaced along each side handle intrusions by smaller life forms, including burrowing attacks. A cleared thirty-meter strip wide surrounds the base, regularly patrolled by automatic plant-clearing machinery that keeps the jungle at bay through regular administration of acidic mining by-products.
Slightly more than a third of the site is taken up by the shuttle runway, VTOL pads and associated support facilities; a similar area is occupied by vehicle storage, the armor vault and light industrial plant mainly used for fabricating parts for mining equipment and ammunition for base defense.
Administrative structures, a barracks for SecOps staff, studio-style apartments for technicians and mine workers, and an airtight condominium for senior staff occupy the remainder of Hell's Gate.
Recreational facilities such as the base commissary (popularly known as Hell's Kitchen) are shared, except for an unpressurised section between the research labs and the landing zone mainly used by members of the avatar program for athletic training and field sports.
|Function||Ambulatory weapons platform for military and civilian operations in hostile and toxic environments. Used on Pandora for construction, field and mining security, perimeter defense at Hell's Gate.|
|Official Name||MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform|
|Size and Weight||4.205 meters high, 2.83 meters wide. Weighs roughly 1,700 kilos, depending on options.|
|Navigation and Communications||GPS. FLIR, radar, and NV, for nav and targeting. Cockpit commands are voice actuated, coded to driver's voiceprint pattern.|
|Weaponry||Shoulder-slung and detachable GAU-90 thirty millimeter cannon. Linked ammo belt runs through flexible feed chute. Optional flamethrower, ceramic knife.|
|Notes||Not designed specifically for Pandora, but this class of hard-suits is effective protection from toxic plants, swarms of aggressive stinging insects, and other biting creatures. Highly agile and swift in the hands of a skilled driver.|
The Amplified Mobility Platform (or “AMP” Suit) is a distant descendant of the first military exoskeletons used on Earth in the mid 21st century. It was improved during military service in a myriad of combat theaters– from arctic to jungle to desert– over the decades. Sealed and pressurized models for toxic environments were developed as well. The suit is used extensively on the Moon and Mars colonies (where they are powered by fuel cells and/or monopropellant ceramic turbines). Its well-tested capabilities have proved invaluable in the deadly environment of Pandora.
The human-operated walking machine magnifies the strength and mobility of a soldier or civilian worker while providing protection from military and environmental threats. Unlike fanciful designs in which weapons were integrated into limbs, the AMP suit is a multi-purpose machine, able to duplicate all functions of the infantry soldier. Since soldiers spend much of their time loading and unloading, and performing other tasks besides operating weapons, it was determined that the AMP suit needed the same functionality as a human: two legs, two arms, and highly dexterous hands. This allows not only a wide range of functions, but allows the suit to operate a variety of weapons systems.
The servo-actuated limbs instantly respond to the driver's hand and leg movements inside the sealed cab, greatly magnifying the driver's strength.
The operator’s arms move servo armatures and the suit’s arms follow in perfect synchronization. Because of limited space inside the cockpit, the servo armatures move in a 1:2 ratio relative to the suit’s arms. It requires many hours of training for an AMP suit driver to become agile and dexterous, with the biggest difficulty being this scaled ratio of movement. The legs are actuated by foot-pedals which amplify on an even larger ratio. In fact the leg sensors work slightly differently than the arms. Due to the confining spatial envelope around the feet and legs of the operator, the pedals cannot move in long strides, even on a scaled relationship. Instead, they sense the force and direction of the input and the onboard computer triggers a corresponding programmed movement of the legs. So the operator creates pressure and direction “cues” which trigger leg movements. The suit executes the “intention” of the pilot, calculating terrain factors and momentum to perform balanced movement.
The arms on the other hand, operate in a directly scaled relationship to the operator’s arms, which allows better spatial positioning of the hands. The fingers and thumb are in direct 1:1 ratio. The servo armature has force feedback, and resists the movement of the operator’s arms when the suit’s limbs meet an obstacle. The operator can “feel” what the suit is doing. It is said that the suit can be operated in full darkness, by a skilled driver, by “feel” alone.
Using the suit, a driver is able to punch through a tree trunk, lift a half ton cargo crate, or rapidly build prefab units without a construction crew. Its cannon obliterates anything in its targeting sights with a rain of armor-piercing rounds, at a 250 round per minute cyclic rate of fire.
Mission Profile and Specifications
The AMP Suit is an agile, powerful all-terrain ground combat unit. With its firepower, it can defeat most opponents and cut a swathe through difficult landscape and strong enemy positions. Although not as heavily armed, armored, or fast over open ground as traditional tracked or wheeled fighting vehicles, the AMP's high mobility allows it to excel in mountainous, heavily forested, or urban terrain that are no-go zones for main battle tanks. The suit, which is made of composites and ceramics, is lightweight for its size, and operates well in high EMF conditions.
The suit is effective against swarms of stinging, aggressive insects on Pandora. Its enclosed cab and “Built-In Breathing System” (BIBS) also allows RDA personnel to perform civilian and military duties in the toxic atmosphere of Pandora and other off-Earth locations. The cockpit is run at a 0.3 psi overpressure, to prevent leak-in of toxic gases. There is an emergency canopy ejection system, in case a driver is trapped in a burning AMP suit.
Although a driver can learn to adequately manipulate the unit in combat conditions with less than two months of training, it takes months longer to master such actions as fall recovery from face-up supine position (the “turtle” problem.)
However, with the solid state gyro sensors and the DBS (Dynamic Balance System) very few AMP suits topple. Its dynamic balancing system automatically compensates for shifts in the suit’s center of gravity whether standing, walking, or lifting heavy loads. The suit instantly adjusts to radical shifts in body movements on uneven terrain; it is very difficult to trip and it would take a direct hit from a missile (or a thanator) to knock one over.
The force feedback in the arm and hand servo armatures is both powerful and sensitive. It can create pressure against the operator which stops his hand in mid air if the suit’s arm encounters an obstacle it cannot move. The pressure on the fingertips is proportional to the pressure exerted by the suit’s fingers. An experienced driver can pick up an egg without breaking it.
If the driver has been injured or killed, the AMP Suit has “walk-back” capability of up to the range of its onboard fuel and reserve fuel-cells. This feature was designed to protect the significant capital investment in each suit. This function can be triggered by the driver, or from SecOps headquarters at Hell’s Gate, if the driver’s biotelemetry indicate unconsciousness or death. Only SecOps AMP suits are allowed beyond the perimeter at Hell’s Gate or at the mine complex. Suits operated by non-SecOps base or mine personnel are not equipped with a weapons system interface, nor do they have rack-space for ammo canisters.
The unit's torso features an impact-resistant glass-polymer laminate canopy. The lower legs and bottom of the feet are reinforced to protect against shrapnel and mines.
The power source is a 6849-RLF gas turbine engine. The ceramic miniturbine is a standard power supply for all military systems and is highly robust in environments of snow, sand, dust, and mud. The suit can operate at medium power for up to eight hours on a full fuel load. A high energy-density fuel cell provides a back-up energy source for up to two hours of use.
The controls for operating the system are inside the sealed cab. The turbine runs a servo-motor system that moves the limbs by magnifying the driver's waist, leg, feet, hand, arm, and finger movements through an electromechanical forced feedback system. This increases the driver's physical strength by an average factor of fifteen times. The hands can exert a grip of roughly 150 kilograms per square centimeter– enough pressure to crush a metal pipe or smash through a brick wall. Each suit must be custom calibrated to the driver for ease of use and to avoid hyperextension injuries.
The suit's weapons are more lethal than its raw strength. The hip-fired GAU-90 thirty millimeter machine gun can fire 250 explosive rounds per minute. Ammo is disintegrating-link belt fed from an ammo canister mounted on the unit's back through a flex chute over the shoulder to the weapon. The gun can be slung using an over-shoulder rifle-sling to free the hands for other tasks. The other (non-standard) weapon is a combat knife of self-sharpening diamond-hard ceramic. To match the scale of the suit, the blade is over one meter long and can cut through many metals. (Although lethal, the blade is not as utilitarian as some cutting devices and is considered to be something of an affectation, used mostly by SecOps troopers with a “Special Forces” mentality.)
The utility version features the same technology and dimensions, but without the weapons. Both models have proved extremely effective on Earth and Pandora.
The driver's HUD (head-up display) projects radar, active IR (infrared) and passive thermal targeting data on an impact-resistant visor on top of the center console. When the unit's blast shield is lowered over the cab canopy, the suit can be operated using only visual instruments. In Pandora's EMF fields and high humidity, these systems are notorious for failing. Because of their complex Earth-manufactured electronics, they are difficult to repair.
When the driver’s hands are within the servo armatures, the driver uses voice actuation to control suit systems. External sound can be monitored and amplified, and is reproduced inside the cockpit with full directionality. The driver can “hear” another AMP suit or ground trooper operating nearby, and know their position by the direction of the sound. The driver’s voice can be projected outside the suit via external speakers.
When the Master Servo Arm switch is activated by thumb control (on the left hand armature) the suit’s servos move the limbs from rest position to the current position of the driver’s arms and legs in one second. When the driver “switches out,” hitting the MSA switch again (indicator goes from green to red) the suit will relax from the current position of the operator to its standing rest position in one second.
|Function||Stable, lightly-armored, heavily-defended weapons platform and troop transport for combat missions, including transport of AMP Suits, with massive array of weaponry for battle theater domination.|
|Official Name||C-21 Dragon Assault Ship|
|Na'vi Name||Kunsip apxa or “large gunship”|
|Weaponry||Variety of medium automatic guns, ATG and ATA missiles, plus dual and quad chain-gun systems. All gun and missile systems constrained by friendly fire avoidance codes (IFF Lockout).|
|Size||41.5 meters long, 31.7 meters wide, 9.22 meters high|
|Speed||105 knots in Pandoran atmos|
|Range||1100 kilometers fully loaded|
|Notes||Enough non-nuclear firepower to devastate several city blocks in seconds. Despite armor and multiple defensive guns, susceptible to enemy missile strike. Believed to be invulnerable to Na'vi weapons and Pandoran animals.|
The Dragon was originally developed for troop insertion, close air support and battle theater coordination roles. But over the years, in several wars on Earth, the Dragon earned a reputation as an aerial weapon platform capable of inflicting heavy casualties in forward strike operations. It has been hardened for use in Pandora's fierce electromagnetic fields.
The assembled firepower makes the Dragon a near-perfect killing machine, especially on Pandora, where the enemy uses such crude weapons. The sentry guns were adapted from automated perimeter defense stations to lock onto oncoming enemy missiles/rockets, or any other object not coded and recognized as friendly, and then the targeting computer punches them out of the sky.
The unit's four massive prop rotor systems produce lift sufficient for the Dragon to climb and maneuver rapidly, despite its blunt airframe. This climb performance is even more impressive in Pandora’s dense air and low gravity. Each of the four ducts contains two co-axial counter-rotating prop-rotors, with three blades each. Each of these prop-rotors can vary pitch collectively, but does not have cyclic pitch control. Flight maneuvers are performed by angling the ducts independently and by controlling the collective pitch of each coaxial rotor system independently of the others. These complex coordinated rotations and pitch changes are controlled by the flight computer based on inputs from the pilot’s conventional flight controls: “cyclic” stick, collective stick, and yaw pedals, in the traditional layout used in rotorcraft since the mid-20th century. The flight deck is laid out simply and classically, allowing single pilot operation.
Aft and to starboard of the pilot’s position is the Nav Station. The navigator can receive input from all the Dragon’s imaging devices and instruments, and can display imaging feeds from other aerial and ground units. The role of the so-called “navigator” is really battle theater coordination, and he will typically act as Forward Air Controller in operations with multiple aircraft, and may coordinate ground operations as well.
The Dragon’s role is typically command and control, with its weapons being used defensively. The Dragon can provide close air support for ground operations, and can coordinate aerial attack as well as aerial defense. Its weapons systems are controlled by a single central gunnery station. The “Gunner” is the human part of a team consisting also of multiple targeting computers. The gunner will designate targets and assign tasks to different gun and missile systems, then those systems will execute the order autonomously. The gunner may also take direct manual control of any single weapon system aboard, via joystick controls at his gunnery station. The gunner has excellent visibility of the battle theater from his separate cockpit to port of the pilot’s cockpit, though some gunners complain about the lack of visibility to starboard. In any case, the weapons systems are controlled by imaging instruments on board and in the weapons themselves, and do not rely much on the pilot’s vision (except in instances of high EMF interference, such as occur within the fluxcons of Pandora).
The composite triple-blade rotors have an 11.58 meter diameter and are stacked in a co-axial configuration within each of the four ducts. The ducts are arranged in a four-poster lift configuration at the corners of the wide, flat main fuselage. Between the four and aft rotor systems on each side, are the mid-fuselage weapons pods, which carry a large number and variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.
The power plant has two D5-“Jimmy” turbines, rated at 15,000 shp 725 kW. The turbines serve power to a master bus, from which power is distributed to the dual coaxial ceramic motors in each of the four rotor hubs. Loss of a single turbine does not produce asymmetric lift, merely a reduction of overall power. In a turbine-out scenario, the remaining turbine can be operated at 150% to provide enough lift for forward flight and hover, although the climb rate is significantly impacted, and operation in this mode is restricted to twenty minutes maximum.
In the event of a failed prop-rotor (due to mechanical failure or enemy fire), the diagonally opposed rotor system must be ‘feathered’ to zero pitch within forty milliseconds to prevent asymmetric thrust from inducing a catastrophic coupled pitch-roll effect. This is performed automatically by the flight computer. Such a failure will require an immediate emergency landing. Lift for a controlled landing is provided by pitching the remaining two rotor systems to 150% of normal operating pitch and by throttling up to the Contingency RPM setting (at which point the rotor blade tips are barely subsonic). This condition can only be maintained for two minutes without causing permanent damage to the rotors and rotor-hub gear boxes.
On Pandora Dragon’s best rate of climb is 427 meters per minute. The unit's service ceiling is 2,750 meters (in Pandoran atmos).
Like all aircraft operated by the RDA on Pandora, the Dragon required modification to fly in the local atmosphere. The turbines required a four degree repitch of the blade tips at the time of manufacture. The turbines are manufactured on Earth and installed in the airframe on Pandora. The airframe and rotor systems are manufactured at the in situ stereolithography plant at Hell’s Gate. Missile tracking and guidance electronics are imported from Earth, but missile airframes are manufactured in situ.
In situ manufacturing is necessary because of the extremely high cost of transporting mass from Earth to Pandora. Only exotic electronics and other specialty items are manifested as ‘upmass’ from Earth. The rest is made locally, including all ground vehicles, bulldozers, mine equipment, weapons, clothing, modular building elements, etc.
The construction of the Dragon was controversial, because it was a ‘one-off’ which did not, in the opinion of the in situ plant managers, justify the tooling necessary to build it. However, Colonel Miles Quarich lobbied strongly for the vehicle, saying it was necessary to accomplish his mission of security for all on-world RDA assets. Given his sterling record as SecOps commander on Pandora, his will prevailed and the Dragon was built. A second Dragon airframe was fabricated, but the turbines and other components necessary to make it operational have not, at the date of this writing, arrived from Earth.
|Function||Twin-turbine VTOL rotorcraft used on Pandora for close air support and escort roles. The Scorpion is a fast response, highly maneuverable, single seat, short-range weapon platform. They escort orbital shuttles on approach and fly close-air-support (CAS) missions at Hell’s Gate base and the adjacent pit mine, and during surveying and clear cutting operations. Highly effective against ground and aerial predators and attacks by the indigenous Na’vi.|
|Official Name||AT-99 Gunship|
|Size||11.17 meters long, 8.72 meters wide, 3.51 meters high|
|Speed||100 knot cruise, 140 knot VNE (in Pandoran atmos)|
|Range||800 kilometers with full fuel and ordnance load|
|Propulsion||Dual co-axial ducted-fan rotor systems with a total of four 3-bladed prop-rotors. Twin Magnussen KE-76 turbine generators driving counter-rotating annular ceramic motors.|
|Navigation and Imaging||FLIR, radar, IFF, no active flux shielding.|
|Weaponry||Four gimbal-mounted .50 caliber guns with 700 rounds per minute cyclic rate of fire The Scorpion has two pair of stub-wing pylons to carry its armament. Scorpion carries 150 TK-411 WAFAR (Wrap-Around Fin Aerial Rocket) in ten 15-tube rocket launchers. The use of the rocket varies according to the warhead that can range from tactical applications to impact-based sensor systems. Eight Hawkeye HELLFIRE (Helicopter Launched Fire-and-forget) are used to engage air-to-air targets in conjunction with the nose-mounted sensor suite.|
The AT-99 “Scorpion” Gunship is a highly maneuverable Mosquito-class missile platform. It is a late twenty first century airframe, developed in a period when UCAV’s were being phased out due to EMP ground-to-air weaponry falling into the hands of insurgents and terrorists, which required human pilots to be re-instated into combat aircraft after eight decades of Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles. Because all vehicles used on Pandora are manufactured in situ using stereolithography production techniques, it was necessary to choose vehicles from amongst 21st century designs that did not require the exotic materials technology of the mid-22nd century warfighting airframes.
The AT-99 “Scorpion” Gunship is a twin turbine, tiltrotor VTOL vehicle. It carries some light ballistic composite armor around the cockpit, and has a canopy formed of a ballistic laminate of optically clear aluminum oxynitride and polycarbonate. Weapons are controlled by a standard on-board targeting computer with pilot override for Manual Flight Mode in high EMF conditions. The pilot’s display is a wrap-around Immersive HUD.
Weapons fire is constrained by an IFF (Identification Friend/Foe) Lockout system, which prevents friendly fire incidents in complex engagements with multiple aircraft and targets. Essentially the gun refuses to fire if the projected probability cone of a friendly vehicle’s flight path will put it in the trajectory of the bullet downrange. All air vehicles in Pandoran service can track each other in a battle theater in real time, using IFF beacons, and this data is integrated into the weapons systems via IFF Lockout.
The Scorpion cockpit is fully sealed and runs at a slight positive pressure to prevent leak-in of the highly toxic Pandoran atmosphere. The corrosive effects of the hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere requires very short maintenance cycles on all vehicles in Pandoran service, although the Scorpions with their ceramic turbines and drive motors are more resistant than their predecessors, even though those were actually more advanced and recent designs.
There is no ejection seat, as inertial auto-rotation is the preferred method of surviving a power-out scenario. These aircraft, as with all late 21st century rotorcraft, have one serious flaw. If the rotor system is damaged enough to cause eccentric failure at the rotor hub, or blade ejection, the aircraft will have serious structural damage as a result of centrifugal forces sending debris into the airframe. This is followed instantly by asymmetric lift which induces an uncontrolled axial roll, followed by total loss of the vehicle.
This tendency is mitigated by the use of ballistic ceramics and carbon-nanotube composites in the rotor duct-rings that protect the rotors. These ducts are quite robust, and can withstand significant impacts. They also prevent the rotor blade tips from contacting obstacles when the aircraft is operating in complex environments. This makes the aircraft ideal for flight ops amongst the dangling vines of the Pandoran rainforest and amongst the floating mountains. Special “vine-strike” cutters have been added to the leading edges of the airframe and the rotor ducts. These guide any impacting vines into a cutting notch, much like the wire-strike kits which have been employed on rotorcraft on Earth for two centuries.
General Specifications and Flight Dynamics
The Scorpion was designed to fly in Earth atmosphere, but is easily adapted to operate in Pandoran air, due to its high oxygen content. The Scorpion’s twin vertical lift tiltrotors operate much like any standard rotorcraft from mid-21st century to present. The top speed of the Scorpion is 190 knots on Earth, but on Pandora it is just under 140 knots, (and this can only be achieved in a dive) because of the higher drag of the dense Pandoran air. Its rotor system is rated for 3 Gs positive and 2 Gs negative, with a 200% engineering factor. Maximum rate of climb is 545 meters per minute, with full fuel and ordnance load.
Like the 20th century Bell AH-1 Aircobra Gunship, the Scorpion is a light, maneuverable and adaptable platform. Standard configuration comprises two front-mounted guns, missile racks on the main stub wing pods mid-fuselage, and rocket pods on the lower pylons forward. On Pandora the Scorpion is typically loaded with eight air-to-air Hawkeye missiles and ten air-to-ground TK-411 rockets.
The composite triple-blade rotors are 5.49 meters in diameter, and are stacked over each other in a coaxial configuration. There are two coaxial rotor systems mounted one on either side, mid-fuselage, on rotor pylons which are fixed at an eight-degree upward angle (the standard dihedral for stability in dual ducted-rotor aircraft.)
Lift is increased or decreased by collective pitch of the rotor system, which is actuated by servos mounted in the annular ring at the outboard ends of each of the six rotor blades. Collective pitch is controlled by a traditional-style collective stick, operated by the pilot’s left hand pushing up or down. The rotors turn at constant RPM, with collective pitch controlling total power delivered to the lifting columns of air. Rotor RPM is maintained automatically by the flight CPU. Throttles are used by the pilot only in Manual Flight Mode, and are generally locked in the cruise detent. In combat or emergency flight conditions, throttles may be positioned at 120% for extra power, but this puts the blade tips near sonic speed in the Pandoran atmosphere, which shortens the life of the rotor system due to vibration.
In hover and at low flight speeds, overall vehicle pitch is induced through cyclic pitch of the rotors, which is actuated by the same servos as the collective pitch, through a muxing algorithm. Pitch attitude is controlled by a joystick in the pilot’s right hand, mounted on the right arm-rest. It higher flight speeds, the horizontal tail planes have enough control authority to induce pitch.
Roll is induced by differential collective pitch in the left and right rotor systems, actuated by the same annular ring servos which induce vehicle pitch and lift. Roll is controlled by leaning the cyclic joystick left or right.
Vehicle yaw is induced through opposed angling of the starboard and port rotor systems around the axes of their respective pylons. This is controlled with foot pedals, a tradition from the earliest rotorcraft.
Fore-aft movement of the aircraft is controlled by angling the port and starboard rotor systems together. This is actuated by servos at the base of each rotor pylon. To accelerate forward, the port and starboard rotorducts are both angled to direct their lifting air columns aft. They are angled the opposite way for deceleration. Each counter-rotating rotor system is torque-neutral, so there is no precession effect when the ducts are angled for yaw, or for forward accel and decel. Fore/aft control is done with the cyclic joystick in the pilot’s right hand, by tilting it forward and back.
There is a slight pendular moment in the lift system, for stability in hover, which causes a characteristic nose-down pitch to the vehicle when it accelerates forward rapidly from a hover, but this characteristic is not seen at higher flight speeds, because of the stabilizing effect of the tail planes.
The power plant consists of two turbine generators rated at 1,970 shp, 1469 kW, feeding to a common distribution bus. From the main bus power is divided to the two annular motors in the ring-ducts, which drive the rotors from their outer ends, rather than the hub. There is an ultracapacitor backup system which can sustain rotor RPM for two minutes, in the event of a full engine failure.
Selection Criteria and Mission:
The mission of the Scorpion is the defense of RDA assets against the various hostile forces of Pandora, which include ground predators, large ground herbivores in territorial attacks, aerial predators, and indigenous Na’vi forces attacking by ground and air. Miners, geologists, survey teams, ground patrols and other base personnel operating outside the perimeter are grateful to have Scorpions flying air-cover. Even Hell’s Gate itself would be vulnerable if not for the 26- hour vigilance of the Scorpion patrol missions.
The Scorpion is a proven “retro” design which functions well in the harsh Pandoran environment. Its ceramic bladed turbines are easily retuned to run in the denser Pandoran atmosphere. Its climb and hover performance are of course higher in the thicker air and lower gravity of Pandora, but its top speed is reduced significantly because of greater drag.
Scorpion gunships can be flown in Pandora’s fluxcons (concentrations of intense magnetic fields), and even into the most intense fluxcon on record, the Flux Vortex of the Hallelujah Mountains. However, it is not recommended because Visual Flight Rules (VFR) must be followed, due to the effects of the flux on instruments. Flying VFR in the floating mountains is hazardous because of prevalent clouds and fog, and floating unobtanium-rich rocks which are constantly moving slowly around the vortex, and therefore cannot be accurately mapped. Weapons systems are also compromised by the flux, requiring line-of-sight targeting, which makes the Scorpions vulnerable to large aerial predators.
Scorpion pilots have many stories of fatal and near-miss attacks by Pandoran aerial predators, including the large mountain banshees, the Medusa aerocoelenterates, and even rare but extremely dangerous encounters with the king predator of the air, the Great Leonopteryx. The occasional attacks by banshee-mounted Na’vi are sporadic and uncoordinated, and pose little threat to Scorpions flying in small formations of two or three aircraft. The Scorpion’s light armor and canopy can withstand the impact of a Na’vi arrow, despite its formidable mass and speed. However, it is rumored that a Na’vi firing in a vertical attack dive can generate enough combined velocity (between the 40-meter-per-second release-velocity of the arrow from the bow, and the 120 knot dive speed) that the two-meter -ong arrow can hit with sufficient kinetic energy to penetrate the Scorpion canopy if fired at close range. There are no pilots who have survived such an attack to directly confirm this, and the RDA does not, as a policy, invest time and resources in crash site investigations, so there is no forensic data available.
The Scorpion, like all the aircraft used by the RDA on Pandora, looks like an antique by mid-22nd century standards, although ironically it operates far better than more recent gunship designs which were tried in the early years of the RDA presence on Pandora.
Though long retired from service on Earth, the Scorpion is a reliable and valuable asset in the dangerous environment of Pandora. Its robustness, and ease of service in the field make it the right choice, as opposed to the newer generations of robotic and piloted combat aircraft used on Earth, which employ exotic materials in their construction (self-healing variable geometry nanocomposites), and rely on quantum electronics that cannot be serviced in situ and are sensitive to the EMF effects of the fluxcons. Also, the Scorpion is a product of an era of warfare in which EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weaponry was employed extensively, so its EMP-hardened fly-by-light flight controls and shielded propulsion system are ideal for use in the powerful magnetic fields of Pandora. Because of its small size, it does however lack AES (Active EMF Shielding), which makes it vulnerable in powerful fluxcons like the Hallelujah Flux Vortex.
Pandora attracts pilots who long for the romantic past of flying “seat of the pants”, and for the kind of aerial combat not seen since World War Two. After almost two centuries of killing over-the-horizon with advanced missile targeting and “smart” weapons, the conditions on Pandora appeal to a certain type of pilot who wants to “see the whites of their eyes” in an old school dogfight, despite the added risk to themselves.
Pilot Comments (from an interview with Colonel James “Asia” Ardmore, RDA Secops, formerly Captain USN, conducted by Freemedia Officer Marcia De Los Santos, January 4, 2149):
“Flying gunship sorties on Pandora, you’ve gotta have eyes in the back of your head. Those banshees are big bastards and they’re batshit squirrelly. They can hit speeds over 140 knots in full delta attack dive, which is usually coming out of the sun or overhead cloud cover. And they don’t know what a rotor system is, so they’ll get their damn wings sucked right through your blades if they get on top of you, then you lose the rotor and you’re going in. Of course the banshee doesn’t do too well in that deal either, but it’s cold comfort to the pilot.
“You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel if you want to live out your tour. Also, whoever spec’ed this Fang-7 gun system should be taken out and horsewhipped. They’re a close-air-support weapon, not an air-to-air weapon, so they’re set up for shooting at the ground. They’re the wrong tool for the job. They angle down and traverse great, but they only elevate about fifteen degrees. When you’re turning in on an aerial target, it’s hard to get the angle if you’re steeply banked. The banshees can turn inside us, which makes them hard to hit in a close fight. Obviously we’ve got the speed over them, except in a dive, because our VNE (Velocity Not-to Exceed) in this soup they call air here is only about 140. We’ll pull our rotors off if we try to match them in a dive. Also… never, ever, take on a Leo. Those big sons of bitches come out of the sun, and I’ve seen them tear apart a Samson and eat the crew like peanuts. Best choice is to outrun them straight and level. They can’t catch us at full boost, but they’ll sure catch you in a dive. Usually they hit from above, out of the sun, like those old German Stukas. If you feel that shadow on you, you’ve got about two seconds to react or you’re lunch. And there’s no warning screech. They screech after they’ve hit you, and it’s the last sound you’re gonna hear.”
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