THE M9 "LEE" CLOSE COMBAT HOVERTANK
New Teeth for the US Military's "Old Dog"
Acknowledgements and Authorship
Thanks to Dan Hebditch, Bryn Monnery, Adam Smith, and Jason Weiser for input and review of the revised M9 as this article evolved from rough stats.
Special thanks to Dan, who authored the Narrative Section below; to Bryn for designing the M201 MDC (using FF&S), review of other pieces of ordnance, and general input on the nuts and bolts side of the write up; and, finally, to Adam for providing ideas on specific features needed by the wayward users of the "Nine-Bravo" series of vehicles.
The M9 Lee Hovertank, the "Old Dog" of the American military, is a venerable design that has been the mainstay of the American hovertank fleet for three decades. The design is also in service with the Canadian Land Forces, the Republic of Texas Army, and a number of minor nations and colonial defense forces. Though inferior to more modern designs such as the AC-12 and Luftkissenpanzer-IX, the M9 has been subject to progressive upgrading and, though finally being replaced in American and Texan service, the M9 can be expected to soldier on in the American military and elsewhere well into the 24th century.
1st Lieutenant John R Miyamoto was bone tired, with the disappearance of his Captain three days ago he was now the commander of the last force of American armor on Kimanjano. The 2nd Tank Battalion had started out with over 40 M9 Bravo 4's but six weeks of combat had reduced them to a mere 5 functioning vehicles. Indeed most of these survivors had taken hits and been recovered and returned to service by the hard working maintenance crews. Miyamoto's own M9 was blackened with soot and they had to travel with the hatches open to lessen the lingering stench of burnt flesh.
Miyamoto had managed to get the remnants of Bravo Company out of the debacle east of Fromme where they'd lost contact with the rest of the Battalion. A colonel from la Coloniale had told them their fellow marines had been cut off protecting the retreat and overwhelmed. Bravo had pulled back to the last defensive perimeter in the mountains where they discovered that a rescue mission was on its way from Beowulf and they would be evacuated. Now, with safety so close, they'd been pushed back to the perimeter to counter an approaching Kafer column.
The worst news was that the column included three of the dreaded 'Behemoths'. The Behemoths were a terrible foe, their crews must have been hand-picked and showed none of the stupidity the Bugs were renowned for. A unit of Cuirassiers had tried to ambush a pair of Behemoths early in the fighting and had come out very much second best. The Cuirassiers were equipped with the excellent AC-12 as well, the Marines had only their obsolete and battle damaged M9's. The last time M9s had taken on Behemoths at Armstrong's Mountain they'd only just been able to pin them down long enough for close air support to finish them. They'd lost four of their own in the process.
In theory the M9 had two ways of killing a Behemoth. The safest was to hit it at long range with a volley of Strikers and try and overwhelm the point defences. However Miyamoto's small detachment had only a handful of Strikers, so that was no longer an option. The other was to get in close and hit it in the flanks with the mass driver where the armor was thinnest. Although if the Behemoth was built like every other Bug AFV it would be as survivable as hell and they'd have to turn it into Swiss cheese before it gave up the ghost.
Miyamoto had no option - a small chance was better than no chance at all and they couldn't allow the Kafers to get to the Landing Zones. He finished making his plans with the flamboyant commander of a company of hard-bitten French Marine Paras who were to provide the 'bait' and walked back to where his tanks were concealed to brief his men. As he did so another wave of landers began accelerating up to the constellation of starships over head, laden with soldiers and civilians. Miyamoto offered up a quick prayer that he would survive the next hour and live to join those escaping from Kimanjano.
The M9 Lee hovertank began development in 2261 as a successor to the M43 Woodfin light hovertank which was scheduled to leave American service in 2268.1 The Lee was envisioned as the first American "close combat hovertank" which would be able to move from the "cavalry" mission of earlier (light) hovertanks (screening, economy of force, etc.) into frontline service as a partial replacement for the tracked main battle tank. As such, it would require a level of armor protection and firepower heretofore unknown on American hovercraft, coupled with traditionally excellent American fire control and sensor technology. The Lee would also incorporate improved ergonomics, allowing crews to make greater use of the speed and agility of the hover-mobile platform.2
From the start, two distinct versions of the M9 were envisioned, a baseline version for the Army and a seperate version for the USMC which incorporated "Marine peculiar" features geared towards amphibious and littoral warfare. Prototype testing of each version began in 2263, with the first M9s entering Army and Marine service in 2267.
After seeing the Lee in action during the joint American-Texan SOUTHERN STAR exercises in 2272, the Republic of Texas Army placed a large order for the vehicle, to replace light hovertanks and, later, tracked MBTs. Export to Canada followed some years later, in 2281, under the provisions of the Johnson-McKenna Technology Transfer Act, which provided Canada a "package deal" on a number of major American weapons systems (the Act provided for licensed production of distinctly Canadian versions of various American systems, and was part of the government of the era's attempts to wean the Canadian military from dependence on foreign imports from Britain and Manchuria). The M9 has also been exported to a number of other nations, most notably Brazil, whose Marines took delivery of M9B-series vehicles in the 2270s.
Periodic improvements since its introduction have kept the design relatively current. There have been, to date, two Enhanced Lethality Programs (ELP) and two Enhanced Survivability Programs (ESP) for the M9. ELP1 resulted in the M9A2, which completely reconfigured secondary armarment (removing the obsolete M3A3 heavy machinegun in favor of an automatic grenade launcher and standardizing the caliber of the commander's machinegun with the M2 service rifle) and adding missile racks. ELP2 resulted in improvements to fire-control components of the latest version of the M9, the -A5 and -B4, which have produced the (arguably) best direct fire targetting system in the world. ESP1 (jointly carried out with the Canadian military) bolstered survivability with a modest improvement to hull armor and, much more importantly, incorporation of an active close defense system and a point-defense anti-missile system. ESP2 increased armor again, and added reconfigured missile racks to reduce radar signature. The USMC, which has made less frequent upgrades to the 'B' series, has consolidated these upgrades into "ESLP" programs.
One interesting departure from European design trends was the American preference for external missile racks (properly termed "modular external weapons stations" or "MEWS"). A perceived weakness of the early M9 versus comparable vehicles (including those operated by Mexico) was the lack of an ATGM system to increase range and lethality. During the ELP1 program a complete turret redesign was considered, but rejected due to cost. Instead, the decision was made to mount two external hardpoints on the M9 turret, one on either side, which could mount ATGM missile pods. Though conceived as a cheap solution to a pressing problem, MEWS has proved to be a highly versatile weapons system, allowing both easy upgrades as new weapons are developed (such as the incorporation of the new Striker missile in the 2290s, replacing the older Hammer ATGM), as well as mission-specific armarments packages which can be rapidly reconfigured. The downside is smaller ammunition loads than competing designs may carry, but the Americans built the M9 to fight (and win) in the American Southwest, at the end of a rather short supply tether.
Besides the standard Army and USMC versions of the M9, there was also a joint program to develop the "C" series of vehicles, which were specially optimized for hostile environment operations. Though initially planned as a vehicle which could operate on King, the M9C proved only marginally capable of this mission (both due to automotive/mechanical difficulty and a failure prone life-support system) and, following the indigenous development of the M15 armored gun system on King, this tasking was dropped. The development of the design lingered in defense budgets for some time in the 2280s, primarily justified now as a "necessary" item for expeditionary forces. The M9C1s never worked terribly well (crews had to wear pressure suits to guard against the frequent depressurization and life support failures, which they could do just as easily, and more cheaply, in M9As or Bs) and, in the end, only about twenty were purchased before Congress killed the program.3
Though it has not, to date, been referred to as an ELP3 program, the onset of the Kafer War has prompted a number of improvements and modifications to the M9A5s and B4s deployed to the French Arm. First, the fighting has revealed a pressing need for improved anti-personnel munitions, which has lead to the emergency development of high explosive and flechette ammunition for the M201 70mm mass driver cannon. Second, supporting large American forces in French space has proven difficult in some instances, even without hostile enemy action to contend with. To help deal with this, the military has begun fielding the "M600" series of MEWS ordnance pods, which allow M9s to fire foreign anti-vehicle missiles (though with some degradation of performance) in an emergency.
Oddly, the first M9s to see significant combat were not crewed by Americans, but by the Brazillian marines of 1o and 2o Regimentos de Cavalaria Navais from 1o Divisăo Fuzileiros Navais, Brazilian Marine Corps (Corpo de Fuzileiros Navais), who took their Ar-Carros de Combate Modelo 19 "Ye Manja" hovertanks (the Brazilian designation of the M9B2) to war against Argentina during the Third Rio Plata War. The initial phases of that war were mostly infantry fights in Amazonia and the Andes and in this restrictive terrain the TCN-19s saw only limited use in a support role, where they did not particularly distinguish themselves.
Later in the war, during the Argentinian invasion of Uruguay and southern Brazil, there were a number of large armored battles on the Pampas and South Atlantic Littoral area. In these battles, the Brazilian ACC-19s and a battalion of USMC M9B2s held the "littoral flank" in the South Atlantic and coastal areas of southern Brazil and Uruguay. Fighting in an environment for which they had been expressly built (and their crews expressly trained), the gun and missile armed M9s proved to be deadly foes against obsolescent Argentinian AL-55 light hovertanks, whose crews came to refer to the "haze grey" M9s operated by the Cavalaria Navais and American Marines as "Los Asesinos Gris" for their deadly long range missile fire and "Los Galgos Diabólico Gris" (the latter probably a garbling of the USMC's traditional "Devil Dogs" appelation) for their tough armor and powerful mass drivers.4 The M9 also generally proved capable of defeating the limited number of Lukis-VIIIs available to Argentina as well as Argentinian fast patrol boats and other littoral-oriented naval assets.
Unfortunately, what the Brazilian and American M9s (and the Brazilian military in general) could not do was halt the main Argentinian thrust towards Porto Alegre and Curitiba, which rapidly encircled those cities and threatened the Rio de Janeiro urban zone. Late in the war, the Cavalaria Navais was nearly annihilated, along with the rest of the Brazilian Marine Corps, during the desperate close-quarters fighting to hold the outskirts of Santos and Sao Paulo, which rapidly degenerated into what one American Marine officer sardonically termed "Hue City, without all the civility and politeness."
With the Brazillian government hastily suing for peace, the role of the M9 in the Third Rio Plata War became something of a forgotten footnote (they made up less than 5% of the total Brazillian armored force), essentially just a relatively minor highlight on the losing side of a war, but it vindicated the design in the eyes of the American military and some international analysts (including the Argentinians and Mexicans, who began development of the Estoque missile partly to counter the threat posed by American and Brazillian M9s firing the Hammer missile and its replacement, the Striker). Analysis of the fighting in the urban areas of southern Brazil prompted much doctrinal thought and modification to the M9, including the adoption of specialized anti-personnel rounds for the M1 Close Defense System (originally intended purely as an anti-missile system), as well as the beginnings of the Republic of Texas Army's "Project Blockbuster" aimed at increasing the firepower of M9s in urban environments.
During the Central Asian War, a limited number of M9s saw service with the American Volunteer Brigade which served alongside French forces after Manchurian violations of the neutrality of American shipping in the French Arm.5 The M9A3s and B3s deployed found themselves up against Manchurian forces with much more modern, and generally better, equipment than the Argentinian military had fielded five years earlier, and results on the battlefield were much more mixed. The design again proved itself to be very well suited for mobile warfare and sweeping manuever, particularly when stacked up against the "short-legged" AC-8. However, Manchurian armor, utilizing the excellent long-range Type 80 ATGM, matched or surpassed the armor protection and gun-power of the M9.6 In tank-on-tank combat, the M9 held its own, but this was more to the credit of the American crews themselves than their vehicles, and the battlefields of Central Asia proved to be a far cry from the "happy hunting ground" on the South American Pampas.
By the time of the Kafer War, many felt the design had been taken as far as possible, and that the "Old Dog" was long overdue for replacement. The addition of the Whisperdrone UAV gave the M9 an unprecedented sensor capability, and the latest versions of the Striker allowed seamless massing of tremendous anti-armor firepower against targets. At the same time, the gun power of the M201 70mm mass driver cannon was increasingly insufficient against more modern designs, and only the Mexican government's protracted (and as yet unresolved) search for a replacement for their LkPz-VIIIs kept the M9 from facing immediate obselescence against the enemy it had been designed to counter. Likewise, the M9's armor, though upgraded from the earliest models, was inadequate to deal with the direct fire threat posed by modern mass drivers.
Kafer AFV design strategies and technologies, however, have given the M9 a new lease on life, or at least a temporary stay of execution. While the "Old Dog" might not be able to hold its own against an AC-12 or a LkPz-IX, it has proven more than adequate against Deathsleds and Crawlers.7 In addition, the longer range of the M9 compared to "European designs" (especially drop tank equipped M9-Bravos) has proved to be a very useful on low-density colonial battlefields. During the fighting on Kimanjano, USMC tankers wreaked havoc on slow, relatively immobile Kafer columns until their supplies of missiles were exhausted, at which time the limitations of the M201 mass driver became unfortunately apparent. Elsewhere, the same lesson has been clear: so long as M9s have a manuever space and a steady supply of Strikers, the design can defeat Kafer armor under almost any circumstances. If the Deathsleds can pin M9s and bring their heavy mass drivers to bear, however, the advantage definitely shifts to the aliens (a general problem for human hovertanks, and not exclusive to the M9).
One final, and somewhat bleak, strength of the M9 versus more modern designs during the Kafer War is simply that there is a massive quantity of them available on Earth (the existing US fleet runs to several thousand, by itself). As of 2300, the M9 was still in limited production in the United States (to fill an order from Brazil for new M9B4s), and by 2302 large scale production had been resumed. In the meantime, hundreds of M9s from war-reserves had been upgraded to A5 and B4 standards and either dispatched to the French Arm or shipped out of the Earth's gravity well to storage at L-4 for rapid transfer to the French Arm.
The tanks were not just intended for American forces. Under the provisions of the so-called "Kimanjano Acts" the American government established streamlined procedures and reduced costs for the transfer of Americans weapons systems to any nation involved in the Kafer War (the so-called "Arsenal of Humanity" program). As a consequence, the M9 (and a dizzying array of derivatives based on the M9 chassis) have begun appearing in the French Arm in the hands of colonial and other "second line" forces.
M9A Close Combat
Hovertank: Initial production vehicle for the
US Army. No longer in service. M9A lacks
missile racks or the Whisperdone. [Note: This
vehicle is generally identical to the M9 in the GVG
with the exception of the increased armor values]
M9B Close Combat
Hovertank: USMC version, with smaller, dual
powerplants for over-water redundancy and other features
for amphibious/littoral warfare.
M9C1 Close Combat Hovertank: Hostile environment version, based on M9B3 (later upgraded to -B4 standards). Only 20 in US service; not exported.
Fighting and Reconnaissance Vehicle: The US
Army has begun a program to remanufacture surplus M9A,
-A1, and -A2 chassis into dedicated reconnaissance
vehicles. The first M920s entered service in 2295.
Combat Hovertank: Initial version procured by
the Republic of Texas Army (corresponding to the
M9A3). Now found only in Texan reserve units.
CHT-3 Hover Battle Tank: Canadian designation of M9. Various versions in service.
Manja" Amphibious Hovertank:
Brazillian version of the M9B2, with locally-produced
Whisperdrone clone and other indigenous
improvements. In use with the Brazillian Marines.
Note that information is provided herein only for American weapons systems mounted on the M9.
M201A1E3 70mm Mass Driver Cannon
The M201A1E3 is the most modern version of the M201 70mm Mass Driver Cannon first fielded on the now-obsolete M30 Franks tracked MBT in the 2250s. Progessive improvements in super-conducting technology have allowed the M201 design to be upgraded and remain a viable battlefield weapons system into the 2290s, though it (like most components of the M9) is now reaching the point where more modern designs outperform it and additional improvements are not deemed economically feasible.
The M201A1E3 was initially designed to fire two ammunition types, depleted uranium sabots and chemical-energy antitank (HEAT) rounds. The American preference for coaxial 30mm automatic grenade launchers was felt to reduce the need for anti-personnel ammunition for the M201A1E3. Experiences during the Kafer War, particularly the fighting on Kimanjano and Beta Canum 4, indicated a substantial and pressing need for better "soft target" attack munitions. As a result, both high explosive and flechette rounds were developed for service in the French Arm and have been fielded as fast as Earth and Tirania-based producers can deliver them.
Ammunition stowage on the M9A-series is 120 rounds, loaded into two ready boxes, one of which holds 80 rounds of APDSDU and one holding 40 rounds of HEAT ammunition (the B series only carries 100 rounds, in 60 and 40 round ready boxes). It is possible to reverse these ammunition loads, and go "HEAT heavy," a tactic which has proven popular in the Kafer War.
Type: 70mm Mass Driver
The M99D is the point-defense machinegun fitted to the commander's cupola on the later versions of the M9. The design itself is an adaptation of the US military's standard issue general purpose machinegun, the M99. The M99D is fitted with an active cooling sleeve to support an extremely high rate of fire (necessary for effective point-defense). It is not suitable for use by dismounted personnel without modification to M99A1 standards (essentially fitting the weapon with a buttstock, pistol grip, and forward handle, and removing the active cooling apparatus).
Typical of point-defense weapons systems, the M99D may also be placed under manual control of the commander or gunner and used to engage personnel and other targets. Anti-missile defense is automated.
Type: 9mm conventional point
M2271 30mm Grenade Machinegun
The M2271 is an update of the venerable American M901 AGL (used on the M17 armored personnel carrier and elsewhere). Primary improvements include incorporation of a reinforced carbon fiber barrel sleeve for better heat dissipation during sustained fire, and a new breach and bolt design to increase reliability (particularly when exposed to dust and grit) and allow a higher rate of fire.
The M2271 is a dual feed weapon system, equipped (on the M9) with a pair of 150 round ready boxes, with 200 additional rounds carried on the vehicle. Typical ammunition load is an even mix of proximity fused high explosive and flechette grenades, but other rounds (standard HE, HEAP or Smoke) may be carried alternately. Ballistic performance of various 30mm grenades is identical, so that crews sometimes mix ammunition types in the ready boxes (a 50-50 mix of standard HE and HEAP or HE and Smoke are fairly common in American military circles), though this can be time consuming to prepare. Note that proximity fused HE rounds cannot be mixed in this manner unless the M9's ballistic computer is set to fire them in "dumb" mode.
Type: 30mm vehicle-mounted
automatic grenade launcher
M1 Close Defense System
The M1 Close Defense System is an active defense system firing 60mm grenades designed to engage near threats to the vehicle, be they personnel or missiles which penetrate past the M99D point defense system. The system is also designed to immediately deploy smoke to conceal the vehicle as necessary. The M1 CDS, as deployed on the M9 hovertank, consists of four banks of six 60mm ordnance launchers, one located at each corner of the turret (front and back), to provide 360o protection to the vehicle. Typical load-out is two anti-missile rounds, two anti-personnel rounds, and two smoke rounds per discharger, though other options may be loaded as necessary.
When activated, the M1 system fires one or more 60mm grenades at the incoming target, or to place smoke. Grenades may be fired at targets up to 100 meters away from the vehicle.
Type: 60mm close defense
The M9 is fitted with two external hardpoints, known as Modular External Weapons Stations, or MEWS, on which a wide variety of ordnance may be mounted. Standard American armarment options include the Striker anti-tank guided missile, short and medium range air defense missiles, Demo-Striker and Bronco Buster anti-materiel missiles, and guided rockets. In addition, the American military has developed a variety of Foreign Ordnance Pods to allow foreign users to tailor export M9s to national armarments preferences; many of these pods have been issued on a limited basis to American forces in the French Arm during the Kafer War to offset sometimes tenuous lines of supply (these pods are not without their problems, see Special Rules below).
Pods vary in weight between 25-65kg, exclusive of any ordnance carried, and may be reloaded. They are lightly armored against small arms fire and incidental damage (AV 7) and constructed so that, in the event of an explosion, the force will be vented out and away from the vehicle. Reloading a pod is a rapid process requiring no special tools, while changing out a pod with basic hand tools takes roughly fifteen minutes (which can be reduced to five minutes with the use of a powered impact wrench).
The following pods are available (those shown in parentheses are obsolete and no longer in US service, but may be encountered in the arsenals of minor forces using older versions of the M9):
BGM-50A2 Striker Anti-Tank Guided Missile
For most of the 2270s and 2280s, the American Congress was reluctant to fund the wholesale development of new armored fighting vehicles for various reasons, and, instead, pressured the US military to focus research and development funds on upgrades and ordnance improvements to keep aging vehicles viable on modern battlefields. Though this course of action has produced mixed results, the BGM-50A2 Striker ATGM is certainly one of its success stories.
The Striker reflects the American insistence on accurate, long-range munitions to meet the anticipated Mexican threat in a desert battle. As a result, the design handily outranges its European counterparts, and is the equal of the most modern European ATGMs in terms of target acquisition and tracking. Lethality is slightly subpar for missiles like the Luchs and Manta-1, though more than adequate to defeat the overhead armor of current generation AFVs.
The -A2 version of the missile, which began entering service in 2290, is designed to allow the missile to take targetting information from external sources, which allows a launcher vehicle to remain undercover and fire in support of friendly forces with identified targets. Earlier versions lacked this capability, and could only fire on targets acquired by the launcher vehicle. In addition, the new version incorporates a "terminal sprint" feature, which accelerates the missile from its Mach 0.95 cruise speed to Mach 2.7 during the final two kilometers of its flight profile to reduce vulnerability to anti-missile systems.
An -A3 version of the missile, scheduled to enter service in late 2303 will incorporate fully automated missile guidance.
Besides being mounted on the M9 hovertank and M24A3 HIFV, the BGM-50A2 may also be fired from the M31A1 missile launcher (the "Launcher Weight" and "Launcher Price" stats listed below are for the M31A1), which may be fitted to a variety of mounts, allowing its use on, for instance, range trucks or light unarmored hovercraft.
Type: Vehicle-mounted ATGM
BGM-50T2 "Demo-Striker" Anti-Materiel Missile
The US Army and Marine Corps have recently begun acquisitions of the Texan-designed BGM-50T2 "Demo-Striker," a specially modified Striker ATGM fitted with a thermobaric warhead for anti-personnel and demolition applications. The Republic of Texas Army developed the Demo-Striker in an attempt to give armored and mechanized infantry forces an organic support weapon able to engage non-AFV targets within the same battlespace the unit occupied, and supplement the 120mm mortar section in the company.
The BGM-50T2 is identical to the original Striker in many ways, and may be fired interchangeably from Striker launchers (though this does require a software upgrade and, on the M9, involves a different ordnance pod). Like the basic BGM-50A2, the Demo-Striker can take targetting cues from external sources.
Thermobaric Warhead Missile
FIM-94A "Diamondback" Medium Range Air Defense Missile (MEDRADM)11
The FIM-94A Diamondback is a modern, medium range air defense missile that began entering American service in 2294. The missile incorporates state of the art multi-spectral sensor systems and "near-brilliant AI" technology to provide high probability of hit against modern high-performance aircraft. The onboard computer also incorporates high level target recognition and analysis capability, which allows for reliable targetting of cockpits, increasing lethality of the missile dramatically.
Operationally, tactical ground vehicles equipped with the Diamondback typically lack the sensor capabilities to make full use of the missile. This is offset by incorporation of equipped units into the Brigade Forward Air Defense network (part of standard American C4I systems) which allows feeding of firing information from dedicated air defense nodes to manuever units equipped with Diamondback launchers.
During the Kafer War, the Diamondback has only been used in limited numbers, though on Kimanjano the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion managed to down several Kafer assault shuttles with the missile during the defense of that planet .
Type: Medium Range Air
FIM-100 "Cottonmouth" Short Range Air Defense Missile (SHORADM)11
The FIM-100 Cottonmouth is a modern American short range air defense missile entering service at the same time as the Diamondback as a replacement for the venerable M722 Stiletto. Though not as "brilliant" as the Diamondback, the Cottonmouth is sufficiently fast and agile to intercept a wide range of threats, including some guided and unguided ordnance as well as enemy aircraft (see Special Rules below). The Cottonmouth lacks the "pilot killer" cockpit-targetting capability of the Diamondback.
Due to its usefulness against guided missiles and unguided heavy rockets, the Cottonmouth has been more widely deployed than the heavier Diamondback during the Kafer War, where it has proved capable of intercepting Kafer "Bug-Bombs" and, under favorable conditions, the heavier Kafer anti-vehicle missiles. On at least one occasion during the fighting on Kimanjano, however, several shoulder-fired Cottonmouths struck a Kafer assault lander to no apparent effect.
There is also a man-portable version of the Cottonmouth, known, by longstanding tradition in American service, as the Cottonmouth MANPADS (man-portable air defense system).
Type: Short Range Air
T20 "Bronco Buster" and T20A2 "Super Bronco Buster" 220mm Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAM)
The Republic of Texas Military has invested a great deal of time and energy into weapons systems geared towards fighting in urban areas (the wholesale conversion of Texan cities into killing fields for an invader being a central tenet of the Republic's military strategy), and the T20 "Bronco Buster" and T20A1 "Super Bronco Buster" are examples of that emphasis. Both weapons are, essentially, the warheads from heavy 220mm MRL rockets wedded to short-range direct attack rocket motors and outfitted with rudimentary guidance systems. Though not particularly accurate (particularly against moving and evading targets), both warheads are quite sizeable and very effective "bunker-busters" (particularly the "Super Bronco Buster").
It is rumored that after Texan forces encountered the Kafer Behemoth heavy tank on Kimanjano work was started on an anti-tank version of the SRAM, dubbed the "Behemoth Buster" which, it was hoped, would be able to "go through the front of a Behemoth, out the back, and turn everything in between into pulp and ash, or go through the roof and leave a smoking crater" (according to one unnamed source in the RTA military research division). To date this weapon has not been fielded, and it is unclear on whether Texan research has produced a successful "Behemoth Buster."
The T20 and T20A2 are fired from the T20 SRAM Ordnance Pod (called the M20 in American service), which carries a single T20 or T20A2 missile.
heavy HE warhead missile (T20) or Thermobaric warhead
70mm Guided Folding Fin (GFF) Rockets
The M9 may be fitted with an M357 rocket pod in lieu of guided ordnance. The M357 holds fifteen 70mm Guided Folding Fin (GFF) Rockets, which may be fired singly, or in volleys (size selectable by gunner, up to 15 rockets). The pod may be loaded with a variety of different rockets, which are described below. Though American aircraft use a different rocket pod, the 70mm GFF rockets are standard on a variety of American weapons systems, and may be used interchangeably.
Type: Vehicle-mounted GFF
There are a variety of 70mm rockets available for the M357 pod, all of which use a standard motor unit (M80), and vary only by warhead type. These are outlined below:
"Nine Bravos" (USMC M9B Series Hovertanks)
The M9B series of vehicles have been fitted with a number of features to make them suitable for extended amphibious operations and littoral warfare. Some of these features are too minor to model in 2300AD, while others require some special consideration by referees and players. I have outlined some key features below:
Cottonmouth Air Defense Missile
The Cottonmouth SHORADM can be used as a counter-missile missile against multiple-rocket launcher ordnance and certain obsolete anti-vehicle missiles. The latter category includes the Guiscard Aero-12, and any other obsolete human-built missile with a range in excess of 5 kilometers, as well as all Kafer missiles with ranges in excess of 5 kilometers (Cottonmouths may not intercept Snapfire and Quickfire missiles). Note that a missile to be intercepted must travel at least five kilometers to intercept, unless the intercepting Cottonmouth launcher is already pointed in the general direction of an enemy missile as that enemy missile is launched (this last issue is basically left up to the referee's discretion).
Barring the development of more detailed combat rules, assume MRL rockets have an Evasion Value of 17 (they travel relatively slowly along predictable ballistic trajectories), and ATGMs have an Evasion Value of 20 (being small, fast moving targets, some of which may, by 2300, incorporate limited evasive manuever capability). Resolve the intercept normally, with a hit destroying the incoming enemy weapon.
M1 Close Defense System Anti-Missile Grenades
If a missile penetrates past the M99D point defense machinegun, the M1 CDS will attempt to engage it if there are any Anti-Missile Grenades loaded into the system in the arc the missile is attacking from. (In addition, the vehicle's powerplant must be running, and, if a B-series tank, may not be running on a single powerplant).
Assume the M1 CDS has a flat 20% chance of intercepting an incoming missile (except hypervelocity missiles), and a 10% chance of intercepting HVMs. Assume the anti-missile grenades have a primary burst radius of 15 meters and a secondary radius of 30 meters (for simplicity's sake, assume the vehicle is at the center of the burst), should there be any personnel (friendly or enemy) nearby.
Striker and Diamondback Missiles
The Striker and Diamondback missiles can take aiming and targetting information from other vehicles and personnel linked to the carrying vehicle via standard battlefield C4I systems. At the company level, this process is typically seamless and with only minimal delay; for battalion or higher transfers of information more time may be involved.
To simulate this, the referee will have
to specify who is keyed into different command networks
and where -- typically, a company will incorporate all
attachments into their organic command net, while
neighboring friendly units may be on battalion nets, or
(if from a different battalion) brigade nets, etc.
Reconfiguring networks is not time intensive, requiring
approximately 15 minutes of conversion and the use of
hand-carried secure encryption keys. Transfer of
targetting information will be delayed, depending on how
many different levels of C4I systems the data has to move
through, shown on the chart as follows:
There is no penalty for firing missiles using other sources for targetting information.
Thermobaric weapons rely on aerosolized or granulated explosive and incendiary material to create massive blast/overpressure effects. As such, they differ from more conventional explosives in a number of ways. The following rules attempt to model this type of ordnance in 2300AD terms:
M600-Series Foreign Ordnance Pod
The early M600 series ordnance pods developed and fielded during the Kafer War were developed in haste, and the interfaces between American and foreign systems is not the best. For M600 pods issued during the "Invasion" period of the Kafer War (late 2301 to mid 2303) subtract two from the Homing Value of any missile fired from an M600-series pod to reflect the sometimes poor transfer of targetting information from gunner to the missiles. In addition, the missiles are always "Automatic following gunner lock on" whatever their original targetting system was, and may not take remote targetting cues like the Striker and Diamondback missiles.
The problem with reduced accuracy was corrected by
mid-2303 (though some of the older pods remained in the
inventory until 2304), but the need for gunners to
acquire and designate targets has not yet been corrected.
1.) The M9 Lee is named for General Joshua Park Lee, Medal of Honor recipient (for actions during the Twilight War as a USAF Rescue Officer) and US Army Chief of Staff from 2019-2027. Lee was the first Korean-American Chief of Staff, and the only US Air Force Academy graduate to hold that post. His credentials as an armor and cavalry officer were earned during the Twilight War, when he became attached to the Army's 44th Armored Division in Europe (serving as Scout Platoon Leader, 1/152nd Armor, and in the 44th Cavalry Squadron as a Troop Commander) and later, following repatriation to the US, as squadron commander of 1/397th Cavalry (Horse) in the Wyoming and Montana theater.
2.) The M43 light hovertank was known as "the bull" by American and Texan crews due to the rough ride it inflicted on crews, particularly at high speeds. One DOD study indicated that M43 crewmen were twenty times a likely to suffer serious spinal or neck injuries than other personnel during the course of a typical military career.
3.) Of the twenty M9C1s in service, thirteen are assigned to the USS Iwo Jima (where they are issued to whatever tank company is deployed aboard the ship), four are posted at the tiny Joint Hostile Environment Training Facility on Mars, two are in storage, and one is currently on a hard stand as "gate guard" at Fort Powell, Tirania.
4.) Procurement of the MEWS system was accelerated by the outbreak of the Third Rio Plata War (it was scheduled to enter service in 2277), and conversion kits were shipped to the Brazillians are early as mid-2276. By the time the war entered its "Decisive Manuever" phase all TAB-19s and M9B2s in theater were equipped with MEWS ordnance pods. The Los Galgos Diabólico Gris moniker was wholeheartedly embraced by USMC and Army tankers, eventually evolving into the common "Old Dog" nickname for the M9 (as well as spawning the American tankers' unofficial motto, "GO GREYHOUND," and the use in USMC tank battalions of numerous variations on the "grey, fire breathing bull dog" and "ghost dog" imagery in unit patches).
5.) The name "American Volunteer Brigade" was a misnomer in a number of ways: The "Volunteer" label was a polite fiction necessitated by the intricacies of American politics of the era, and the "Brigade" never represented more than a reinforced battalion worth of troops. During the Central Asian War elements of two Marine Tank Battalions, an Army Armored Battalion, and an Army Armored Cavalry Squadron all served in theater at various points with the brigade. Total M9 strength deployed never exceeded 50 vehicles, which again left the American vehicle's role in the war dwarfed and largely ignored outside of the Western Hemisphere.
6.) "Type 80" would be a fictional nom de guerre for the anti-vehicle missile carried by the Type 27 heavy tank (and, presumably, other Manchurian AFVs as well), since I find it curious that Manchuria would mount the Guiscard Aero-12 and other French missiles on its vehicles, as the GVG claims.
7.) Or, in any event, the M9 has proven no less adequate than more modern designs against Kafer armor. All existing human hovertanks have, thus far in the Kafer War, been forced to rely on missiles to dependably kill Deathsleds at anything beyond point-blank range.
8.) M9A3 vehicles have a signature of 5, unless fitted with M9A4-style low-signature MEWS racks, in which case signature drops to 4.
9.) The DPVs shown are based on Fire, Fusion, and Steel back-engineering of the M9's MDC -- for those who prefer the simpler canon weapons rules (which don't model performance particularly well), DPV = 80.
10.) The -A2 version of the Striker can take aiming cues from sources besides the carrying vehicle provided the vehicle is tied into a standard American or Texan battlefied information distribution system (aiming cues are relayed via company and battalion-level C4I nodes). For more information on how this system works, see Special Rules.
11.) By longstanding tradition dating back at least to the 3rd Mexican American War, American forces refer to enemy aircraft as "vampires." In an extension of this slang, soldiers and marines often refer to their current air defense missiles as "stakes" and "garlic" (for the Diamondback and Cottonmouth missiles respectively)
The Armor Issue: In the Ground Vehicle Guide, both the M9 and the German LkPz-VIII have perplexingly low armor values for any vehicle purporting to be some sort of "tank" (AV 7 and 6, respectively). Besides being hopelessly vulnerable to other "tank-like" vehicles (M9's 70mm MDC, for instance, does DP 80 and the M24A3's plasma gun does 60), it also leaves them critically vulnerable to infantry (the ubiquitous 30mm HEAP grenade, in normal game rules, does DP 16).
There are two plausible explanations:
First, there is the "Missing Zero" theory which holds that the armor values for the M9 and Lukis-VIII are typographical errors, and should each be increased by a factor of ten. This seems to be consistent with the spirit of the GVG, which, in various passages, suggests that the gap between the M9 and/or Lukis-VIII and more modern designs like the AC-12 or Lukis-IX are not nearly as significant as the printed armor values imply. On the down side, this would make both the M9 and Lukis-VIII better armored, overall, than more modern designs.
The other argument is the "hover-light" versus "hover-battle" tank theory, which holds that the M9 and Lukis-VIII are, essentially, light tanks, while designs like the AC-8, AC-12, and Lukis-IX are medium/main battle designs. The main factoid supporting this idea is the fact that both the M9 and Lukis-VIII have rather anemic power plants compared to the AC-8 and the more modern designs (the M9 has a 0.5 MW MHD turbine versus the AC-8's 1.6 MW MHD turbine, for instance), which would be consistent with the idea these vehicles push around less armor than, say, an AC-8 (though it ignores the fact that an M9 only weighs 500 kg less than an AC-8, yet goes faster with 1/3 the power plant . . .). The down side to this argument is, of course, that the "hover-light" tanks are suicidally underarmored -- one would think they would at least have to be impervious to light infantry AT weapons like the 30mm HEAP grenade to be even remotely viable on the battlefield (speed, as an armor, only goes so far . . .).
(There is a third theory as well, which holds that GDW had multiple authors working on the GVG, and they did not bother to communicate too closely while writing, nor compare final results before publication. This theory is supported by the claims in the GVG that the M9 is comparable to either the AC-12 or the AC-12 and Lukis-IX; see for instance pages 18 and 32, as well as the issue of power to weight ratios I referred to above.)
Following Bryn Monnery's suggestion, I have basically split the difference between the first two theories (not seeing any sort of fix if theory 3 is the cause), and roughly tripled the size of the M9's powerplant and increased fuel capacity (though not sufficiently to maintain the GVG's 22 hour endurance) and boosted protection. Armor has been increased by a factor of ten over the front arc, and to a lesser extent on the flanks and rear; the end result is armor somewhat inferior to the AC-8 (assuming the French are state of the art for materials science), while more modern marks of the M9 are armored to AC-8 standards or very slightly superior (with a modest loss of speed and agility as well -- tanstaafl). The end result is a tank that is somewhat thin-skinned compared to "new military tech" designs, but capable of performing as a "tank" on the battlefield (i.e. it can ignore infantry small arms and light support weapons, though it remains vulnerable to man-portable ATGMs).
2.) The Armarments Issue: Personally, I have never been very impressed with the arrangement of the machineguns on the canon M9, which has a coaxial heavy machinegun and a light machinegun at the commander's station. Such an arrangement was considered for the real-world M1 main battle tank and rejected after computer models (one of the first use of such in AFV design) demonstrated that it was inefficient. It also flies in the face of 50-odd years of real world US tank designs, where the venerable and respected M2HB fifty-caliber machinegun is the commander's weapon for anti-aircraft use (plus or minus the M85 .50 cal, for those who wish to be technical), while a rapid-fire 7.62mm weapon serves as the coaxial machinegun for anti-personnel applications. The only real-world nation that dabbles in the armarments arrangement featured on the M9 is France, which employed something along these lines on both the AMX-30 (coaxial 20mm cannon) and Leclerc (coaxial 12.7mm).
In addition, canon, taken as a whole, has the US military using entirely too many ammunition types for small arms. I believe a total count includes: 4.5mm Gauss (M4A1 and M41 gauss rifles), 5.5mm caseless (M103 SAW), 7.5mm caseless (M80 machinegun), 9mm caseless (M2 assault rifle), 9mm binary (M5 assault rifle), 9mm caseless pistol (M57 pistol), 10mm Gauss (FTE-10), and 12mm caseless (M3A3 HMG).
Finally, I am not terribly fond of the specific weapons on the M9, as the "M80 Machinegun" sounds suspiciously like the "M60 machinegun" and the "M3A3 machinegun" sounds a little too related to the "M2HB machinegun" for us to be talking about 300 years in the future when the much beloved Ma Deuce fifty-cal will probably be respected and well thought of in much the manner the British Brown Bess musket is today.
As such, I have included the canon armarments package on the "A0" version of the M9, but have shown all subsequent marks outfitted with a coxial 30mm automatic grenade launcher and a commander's light machinegun firing the same ammunition as M2 assault rifle. The latest versions could be armed with a 9mm binary machinegun, but I opted to retain to caseless ammunition, since the savings in weight from binary are not going to be as important on an AFV as they are for an infantryman.
Technology and Systems: None of the technology or special rules presented herein should be considered proprietary American items. They are envisioned as being fairly typical of AFV and weapons technology, circa 2300, and may be transfered over to other weapons systems as desired. Referees who find the rules too cumbersome, too improbable, or otherwise out of step with their campaign are, of course, invited to ignore any suggestions contained herein.
Some conversion/comparison notes (all of which are "IMO"):