- Prehistory (1)
- Stone (2)
- Copper (3)
- Bronze (4)
- Dark (5)
- Middle (6)
- Renaissance (7)
- Imperial (8)
- Industrial (9)
- Atomic: WWI (10)
- Atomic : WWII (11)
- Atomic: Modern (12)
- Digital (13)
- Nano (14)
Prehistory (500,000 – 50,000 BC)
Little is known for sure about the time before recorded history. Learning the secret of fire, however, was certainly a tremendous leap forward for early humans. Fire provided light and heat, cooked food, and kept predators at bay. Later, fire was used to clear land for agriculture, make pottery, and forge metal. Though dependable techniques for making fire were not available until around 7,000 BC, the unearthed remains of simple hearths provide unquestionable evidence that controlled fire was in use at least 500,000 years ago.
Primitive town centers were little more than the fire pits where members of a nomadic tribe would gather socially, perhaps to celebrate a successful hunt. Food meant survival, so when hunters returned with a kill it was cause for rejoicing.
Given the immense importance of obtaining food, tribes must have come into conflict with one another for control over fertile hunting grounds and foraging areas, especially in times of overall scarcity. These early struggles for survival were the likely precursors of the large-scale battles and wars that have dogged our species throughout recorded history.
Stone Age (50,000 – 5,000 BC)
Many advances in stone working and tool making took place during the Stone Age. One particularly important innovation was “hafting” – the attachment of a handle to an existing tool, such as a stone blade. The first hafted implements were spears. Tipped with a fine stone point or “microlith” the resulting weapon was sharp, durable, and deadly. It was used primarily for fishing and bringing down large game, but spearmen surely employed them against human enemies as well.
Religious practices also evolved during this epoch, becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated. People’s awareness of their own mortality – humans in the Stone Age lived, on average, less than 30 years – brought about the practices of ancestor worship and ritual burial. Early holy men known as shamans were believed to have the power to commune with spirits. Rock and cave paintings from this period suggest that these religious figures may have practiced rituals akin to magic, helping to ensure a successful hunt or favorable weather.
The presence of such individuals implies that human societies were diversifying, with different people filling different roles. As societies grew in complexity, the need for organized leadership increased. By the close of the Stone Age hierarchical social structures were leading to centralized authority and the origination of government. Evidence of this trend has been inferred from ancient settlement patterns found in Greece and on the Iberian peninsula.
Copper Age (5,000 – 2,000 BC)
Copper was one of the first metals widely used by humans, owing to its malleability and durability. Like gold and silver, copper could be easily fashioned into many shapes, but it proved to have greater strength. Consequently, copper was prized by early metalworkers for making tools and weapons. Copper-headed maces were first cast in Mesopotamia in the 3rd Millennium BC. Iron also began to find limited use around this time, due mainly to its great abundance, though many centuries passed before it claimed its place as the preferred material for tools. Yet, despite the availability of these materials, not all weapons made an immediate transition from stone to metal. Bowmen, for example, continued to use stone arrowheads throughout the Copper Age because they were sufficiently lethal and much easier to produce.
By the start of the Copper Age the Egyptians were already constructing warships out of bundles of reeds. Such vessels were essentially rafts, suited for duty only on the relatively calm waters of the Nile. By 2,000 BC, both Egypt and Crete had wooden ships capable of navigating the choppy, wind-swept waters of the Mediterranean. For propulsion, these warships used a combination of a square sail (for speed) and oars (for maneuverability).
Another defining phenomenon of this epoch was the explosion of agriculture. The ability to farm enabled people to settle in one area – a necessary condition for the emergence of civilization. The earliest known civilization arose in Sumer, in southern Mesopotamia, during the 5th Millennium BC. In addition to growing crops like barley, wheat, and grapes, the Sumerians domesticated animals for meat and other materials, as well as to provide power for plows and carts. Lists of commodities, including the lineages of horses, were recorded on clay tablets using cuneiform, the first system of writing. By the end of the Copper Age, agriculture had spread from the Middle East through all of Europe.
Bronze Age (2,000 – 0 AD)
The production of bronze commenced when separate ores containing copper and tin were first smelted together. This innovation may have been accidental, but the value of the stronger metal was not lost on ancient armorers. In time, the best proportion of tin to copper was found (about 1 part in 10). This discovery was an early triumph in metallurgy.
The Bronze Age marked the appearance of both the sword – the first weapon not to have a secondary use as a tool – and the phalanx. The phalanx was a block formation of armored infantrymen who each carried a long, bronze-tipped spear called a sarissa. Both Phillip II of Macedon and his son and successor, Alexander the Great, used the phalanx to devastating effect in their campaigns.
In an effort to protect their cities, fortification methods were improved during the Bronze Age. Siege equipment therefore evolved as well. The Assyrians pioneered the use of covered rams and the Greeks made use of stone throwers and siege towers. During an attack on Rhodes, the Macedonians made a siege tower so large that more than 3,000 men were required to move it up to the city walls.
Medicine, as well, made considerable progress in the Bronze Age. The Code of Hammurabi, which encapsulated the legal system of ancient Babylon, included laws that dealt with the practice of medicine. Egyptian papyri describing folk remedies and surgical techniques also date from this period. Later, in Greece, the role of the supernatural in medicine was downplayed until, by the time of Hippocrates in the 5th Century BC, disease was being regarded as a bodily affliction with natural causes. Around 300 BC, the Greeks established a medical school in Alexandria, which continued to be a center of learning throughout the Roman era.
Formal education of the young can trace its roots back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, but it was the Greeks who standardized and expanded its role. Whereas earlier schools were devoted to training scribes or teaching religion, schools in Greece taught physical education, literacy, good conduct, and other subjects. Higher education also developed in Greece, open to all who had both spare time and money. The most famous example of the day was the Academy, founded by Plato circa 387 BC.
Dark Age (0 – 900 AD)
Not long after iron superseded bronze, early civilisation reached its peak with the incomparable Roman Empire. When the Empire finally collapsed, it brought about what has been called the Dark Ages. There are numerous reasons for the decline and fall of Rome, chief among them military defeats at the hands of the so-called barbarian tribes. In 378 AD Gothic horsemen trounced the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople, foreshadowing the dominance of cavalry that was to come. The city of Rome itself was sacked in 410 AD by the Visigoths.
After Rome’s collapse, pockets of civilisation continued to exist, most notably in the Byzantine or “Eastern Roman” Empire. Its capital at Constantinople was established in 330 AD by Roman Emperor Constantine, who also legitimized Christianity in the Roman world.
The Eastern Roman Empire continued on for some 1,000 years after the fall of its Western counterpart, becoming a power in its own right. Byzantine warships were formidable vessels that made use of the latest rigging and armament technologies, such as the lateen sail and ballistae capable of hurling missiles hundreds of yards. On land, the core of the Byzantine army after the 8th Century was the cataphract, a heavily armed and armored cavalryman.
Emperors in Constantinople wanted – and even tried – to regain full control of the splintered Western Empire. But widening religious differences led the Roman Catholic church to resist reunification. In 800 AD, after Charlemagne, the Frankish King, had taken over Western Europe, Pope Leo III crowned him the new Roman Emperor mainly to protect Rome from the Byzantines. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches remain separate to this day.
Middle Ages (900 – 1300 AD)
The Middle Ages saw the steady reemergence of centralized authority and technological progress. The rising feudal system reestablished a semblance of governmental authority in Europe, albeit at a localized level. A local lord ruled over his own property, often from a central castle outside of which was a village protected by walls. Serfs farmed the surrounding land. Mounted knights commonly made up the lord’s armed retinue, riding out to defend the town when necessary.
For a time, castles were the ultimate defensive structures on Earth. But siege weaponry slowly advanced in response to them. The definitive siege engine prior to gunpowder was the trebuchet. Trebuchets used a counterweight to generate a force that could hurl a 300 pound projectile over 300 yards. Some of these machines were enormous, with counterweights in excess of 10 tons. Once properly aimed they could make short work of any target.
The longbow – the preeminent weapon of this time – was used extensively in siege warfare on both sides of the castle wall, especially in Britain. Longbow men were selected and trained from childhood, and the investment was worth while. Men skilled in its use could fell even heavily armored knights from a distance of up to 300 yards.
Castles were not the only large buildings being constructed at this time. Advances in architecture, such as the invention of the flying buttress, allowed huge cathedrals with vaulted ceilings and magnificent stained glass windows to be built. Christianity was spreading, as was the power of the Roman Catholic Church. Eight major Crusades were organized and launched from Europe in an effort to regain Muslim-controlled territory in the Holy Land. Though the Crusaders managed to retake a few Holy sites, including the city of Jerusalem, they were eventually driven out again. At home, meanwhile, the first papal Inquisitions were instituted to deal with suspected heretics.
Renaissance (1300 – 1500 AD)
The gradual recovery of ancient knowledge in Europe culminated in the Renaissance – a word that literally means “rebirth.” The Renaissance originated in Italy and gradually spread to the rest of the continent, stimulating technological innovation and new ways of thinking. The invention of moveable type and the printing press made the mass production of books possible. Literacy rates went up, which set the stage for the accelerated pace of change that was to come.
In response to the Black Death of the mid-1300’s – which killed a quarter or more of the European population – cities attempted to improve sanitation by instituting measures to dispose of garbage and sewage. Such efforts had not been undertaken in Europe on a large scale since Roman times. Another idea that followed the plague was the establishment of quarantines as a means of controlling the spread of disease.
Gunpowder, though invented earlier, saw its use spread rapidly during this period. Early artillery pieces and firearms, such as the culverin and matchlock arquebus, began to appear on the battlefield. Castles were easily breached by the new artillery and eventually became obsolete. But early gunpowder weapons were unreliable, slow to load, and dangerous to operate. Thus, their superiority over more traditional forms of weaponry, such as the longbow, was not to be fully demonstrated until the 16th Century.
Gunpowder also found use at sea. The galleon was one of the first ship designs to have broadside guns as opposed to forward and rear-facing guns mounted on the deck. This allowed galleons to carry more weapons, resulting in greater fire power. Galleons also employed full-rigging, which made them faster and more maneuverable than ships of earlier design.
Imperial Age (1500 – 1700 AD)
The appearance of ships capable of circumnavigating the Earth heralded the beginning of the Imperial Age. Muzzle-loading cannons cast in bronze – and later iron – were introduced as seafaring nations battled for access to new resource-rich lands. Massive warships such as the Henry Grâce à Dieu, commissioned by and named after Henry VIII, carried a total of more than 150 large iron cannons and smaller guns.
Small arms continued to advance as well. The flintlock musket was quicker to load and cheaper to produce than the earlier matchlock. As firearms got more accurate and reliable, the era of the archer slowly came to an end. But it wasn’t until the introduction of the bayonet – especially the under-the-barrel design adopted by the French army in 1688 – that hand-to-hand weapons like the sword and halberd began finally to disappear. With that development, the fundamental shift from medieval to modern warfare was at hand.
Major changes were also taking place in science. The Scientific Revolution was underway and its crowning achievement would be the establishment of the scientific method, which emphasized empirically-collected data and reproducible experiments. Galileo, an early proponent of the method’s principles, used the newly-invented telescope to provide the first evidence that the Earth was not the center of the universe. An important achievement in the 17th Century was the invention of calculus, with which Sir Isaac Newton was able to describe his laws of motion.
The Catholic Church, meanwhile, was coming to grips with the Protestant Reformation. In addition to setting up a Roman Inquisition, which put Galileo himself under house arrest, the Church sent missionaries all over the world to convert populations in new lands as well as to reclaim those who had become Protestant.
Industrial Age (1700 – 1900 AD)
An important consequence of the Scientific Revolution was the effect it had on people’s attitudes towards science and technology. There was a growing confidence that science could accomplish anything. This belief, more than actual scientific inquiry, helped to bring about the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Age was principally powered by steam. The steam engine found use in many places, from factories to underground mines to ships. In factories, the concept of standardized products with interchangeable parts allowed manufacturing to become cheaper and more efficient. Firearms were among the first products to benefit from such mass production methods. Various design modifications further improved the quality of guns: breach-loading, rifled barrels, and percussion-fired bullets all became standard during this period.
Several scientific breakthroughs made major impacts on civilization. In medicine, the germ theory of disease was highly influential. Pasteurization and antiseptics, which kill microorganisms, contributed to the near doubling of life expectancies over the next 150 years. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, coupled with Gregor Mendel’s work on heredity and genetics, made possible a deeper understanding of the diversity life on Earth.
Electricity, previously a scientific curiosity, found its first practical applications in the Industrial Age. Once the first electric batteries and generators were invented, electric power became available to perform all sorts of feats. The electric motor was developed to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. The telegraph, followed closely by the telephone, revolutionized communications. And incandescent light bulbs eventually replaced gas lamps to light up the night.
Atomic Age (1900 – 2000 AD)
World War I was the first truly global conflict. Nations entered the war in 1914 believing that it would be over in a matter of months, with their side proving victorious. Before the fighting finally ended in 1918, over 8 million soldiers were dead and warfare itself had fundamentally changed.
New warships made of steel and weighing thousands of tons patrolled the world’s oceans, exchanging fire while still miles apart. Under water, stealthy U-boats wreaked havoc on surface ships. Meanwhile in the skies, the airplane made its debut. Thanks to an interrupter gear, mounted machine guns were able to fire between the rotating blades of an airplane’s propeller. This allowed aviators to aim their aircraft directly at a target, increasing their accuracy. Skilled fighter pilots kept track of the number of planes they shot down and the concept of the flying ace was born. Of all the aces in the war, Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron, topped the list with 80 kills.
Combat on land had degenerated into trench warfare as early as 1915, with artillery and machine guns serving only to strengthen the stalemate. On the Western Front in 1915 alone, hundreds of thousands of lives were sacrificed by both sides for only minor gains. To break the impasse, military leaders developed novel strategies and tactics. One such idea with implications for the future was the development of the tank. In November 1917, 474 British tanks achieved a spectacular – if short-lived – breakthrough against the Germans at the Battle of Cambrai. But such successes ultimately did little to bring the war to a close. It was the entry of the United States into the war, both economically and later militarily, that tipped the balance and brought about the 1918 Armistice.
Atomic Age (1900 – 2000 AD)
The tanks and aircraft of the Second World War were vastly superior to those of WWI. The German Blitzkrieg, which relied heavily on the use of modern weapons, rolled quickly over much of Europe in 1939-40, in stark contrast to the morass that had developed in 1915.
The Battle of Britain (1940-41), fought entirely in the air, showcased how much air power had changed between the two wars. The heavy bombing of Germany that followed was made more feasible by the advent of long-range escort fighters, such as the P-38. Eventually, entirely new propulsion systems resulted in the first jet aircraft and long range rockets.
Warships played a greater role in WWII than they had in the previous World War. Battleships and submarines of improved design were joined by aircraft carriers, which demonstrated their striking power at Pearl Harbor, Midway, and other battles. Sophisticated anti-submarine warships actively patrolled the waters around these larger, more-vulnerable vessels.
Military research also produced the defining – if frightening – scientific achievement of the Atomic Age: the splitting of the atom. The atomic bomb closed the horrific story of the Second World War. But no individual technology or weapon was responsible for bringing the war to an end. Rather, it was technology as a whole – both on and off the battlefield – that decided the outcome of WWII. In that respect, it foreshadowed the future of combat.
Atomic Age (1900 – 2000 AD)
In the latter half of the 20th Century, the Cold War dominated the international policies of many countries. Localized conflicts in Korea and Vietnam grew to involve world powers. Nuclear weapons were available, but never used. Instead, conventional weapons were modernized and new weapons, such as attack and transport helicopters, were deployed.
With the invention of microcomputers, military hardware went high-tech, resulting in advanced weapons systems such as the M1 tank, the F-15 fighter, the Apache helicopter, and the B-2 “Stealth” bomber. Heavy long-range bombers – such as the B-2 and the earlier B-52 Stratofortress – were built all through the Cold War. The world powers also developed stealthy nuclear-powered submarines, which could remain hidden beneath the waves for months at a time. When the Cold War ended in the early 1990’s, nations struggled to redefine how best to use the vast arsenals they had amassed. The Gulf War and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia became de facto showcases for some of the world’s latest weapons.
Advances in computers and communications were not limited to military uses however. These technologies revolutionized business and industry, as well as the private lives of millions of people. Soon, they defined a new Epoch of human development.
Information Age (2000 – 2100 AD)
The proliferation of microchips and the advent of the Internet ushered in the Digital Age. Global communications brought parts of the world closer together, but tensions elsewhere were not easily assuaged. In the New World Order that immediately followed the Cold War, warfare reverted to localized conflicts involving regional powers – with the occasional intervention of first-world nations. To fight these limited wars, military hardware needed to be highly mobile, versatile, and reliable. And, of course, it had to pack a punch.
High-energy laser and particle beam weapons had been prototyped by the start of the Digital Age. But their large size and immense consumption of energy made them impractical for field use. High-density power cells, developed in the early 2020’s, were used in the first practical energy weapon designs, but they were large, cumbersome, and prone to running dry during heavy combat. The real breakthrough came with advanced fusion technology, which by 2031 allowed HD power cells to be replaced with smaller, lighter fusion batteries. Body armor was also updated to deflect energy beams while still providing decent protection against bullets and shrapnel. Early designs were of marginal benefit, but more-sophisticated materials were soon invented that absorbed incoming beams, capturing and distributing the energy throughout the armor.
The single most important development in military hardware during the Digital Age was the advent of mechanized combat units known as Mechs. These advanced military robots, at first remotely operated, were eventually given a rudimentary intelligence which allowed them to carry out simple operations unassisted. By the 2050s, neural networks implemented on optical chip architectures were so far advanced that they exceeded the capacity of the human brain. When the hardware was imbued with “bottom-up” algorithms and “top-down” commonsense, the mechanical giants gained the ability to think and attained true consciousness. As a result, Mechs became the staple of all modern armies. Powered by fusion batteries and outfitted with the latest weaponry, these marvels of modern warfare were employed heavily by Grigor Stoyanovich, founder of Novaya Russia, during his country’s wars of expansion.
In pure science, two breakthroughs had tremendous consequences. The first was the completion of the human genome project at the beginning of the 21st Century. The genetic revolution in medicine that followed increased the average life expectancy of people to 125 by the turn of the 22nd Century. The second breakthrough was finding the “Theory of Everything,” considered to be the “holy grail” of physics. Discovered in bits and pieces, the Theory of Everything finally came together towards the end of the 21st Century. In time, it opened a whole new world.
Nano Age (2100 – 2200 AD)
The ongoing technological process of miniaturization attained its ultimate objective in the Nano Age. Nanotechnology had its first successes in the early 21st Century in medical applications. But subsequent improvements in imaging and manipulation techniques allowed for the creation of “nanomachines”, with sizes measured in billionths of a meter. Working in concert, these amazing machines could theoretically build anything, atom-by-atom, including copies of themselves.
Programming the trillions of nanomachines needed to make a sizable object in a reasonable amount of time was a major hurdle to overcome. The solution involved developing a simple coding system – not unlike DNA – that provided the instructions on how to make any type of compound. Larger structures were then assembled from the compounds. Quantum computers – the smallest and most powerful computers yet devised – handled the astronomical amount of data involved.
Nanomachines were soon being used to build a wide variety of things. Biological structures were merged with mechanical structures, creating cyborgs and other hybrids. The designs for Mechs – already highly successful – received a host of internal refinements that made them even more effective. And researchers developed artificial viruses that could be used for everything from medical treatments to mind control. The only restriction was that objects first had to be described on an atomic level, which was often a time-consuming process.
The other major development of the period was learning to synthesize “negative matter,” an exotic substance with extraordinary physical properties. First hypothesized in the 20th Century, the formulation of the Theory of Everything in the 21st Century brought negative matter into clear focus. Applying the theory allowed humans to do something previously considered impossible: travel through time. Nanotechnology provided the means to magnify a phenomenon known as the Casimir effect to open a wormhole – a tunnel through the fabric of space-time. Once enough negative matter was synthesized to enlarge and stabilize the wormhole, objects were able to pass through. As soon as other technological barriers were overcome – such as minimizing the extreme forces involved and controlling where he “far end” of the wormhole appeared – time travel and teleportation both became a reality. The technology was even installed on a Mech, codenamed Hades.
In the Nano Age, humankind gradually gained mastery over matter and energy, time and space. Yet despite these achievements and the virtually limitless possibilities they presented, life on Earth continued much the way it had over the previous 500,000 years. Though a mere speck in the cosmos, Earth remained the cradle of human civilization.
– Epochs 2-14
To protect their expansive territories, civilizations often stationed troops in outlying areas to maintain a stabilizing military presence. Fortified shelters or fortresses were built to house these garrisons. The presence of a fortress served to remind the locals who was boss as well as protect the land on which it was built from enemy incursions. Along Hadrian’s wall, constructed in Northern Britain during the 2nd Century AD, the Romans built small forts at regular intervals to garrison the legions who were guarding the frontier from the “barbarians” to the north. In Medieval times, castles were the most advanced fortresses. So durably built were these castles that many still dot the landscape of Europe and elsewhere today. Military strongholds continued to play important roles in modern times. At the Battle of Verdun during the First World War, the Germans launched an offensive to capture several French Forts that controlled the region around the town of Verdun. Though the Germans were initially successful, the Allies eventually retook all the forts over a period of several months, resulting in a combined total of more than 600,000 casualties.
– Epochs 3-14
A leading cause of the sustained advance of civilization has been education. In Sparta in the 8th Century BC, the education of children included a large artistic component for both sexes. In succeeding years, however, emphasis on military concerns grew, shifting the goal of education into turning girls into good mothers and boys into good warriors. Boys were grouped into small, age-dependent classes to learn discipline, obedience, and loyalty to Sparta. Meanwhile, in Athens, artistic and moral concerns formed the majority of the curriculum. Different disciplines, such as writing, poetry, and physical education, were taught in different classrooms by different masters. Higher education took place in institutions such as Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum.
What we today call a university did not evolve until the Middle Ages. The University of Bologna was founded in the 11th Century to teach law. The University of Paris, followed by the University of Oxford, came into being in the 12th Century. These institutions were made up of colleges and even maintained residence halls for their students. The University of Paris had a two-semester system, final examinations, and courses that consisted of lectures, reading texts, and discussions – a model many universities still follow today.
Both lower and higher education were steeped in religious tradition through both the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. It was not until the late 17th Century that scientific methods and inquiries began to replace religious traditions at the University level. Today, universities are well known for carrying out scientific research as well as being hotbeds of social change.
– Epoch: Middle Ages
The use of the bow goes back at least 30,000 years, as evidenced by cave paintings of bow-wielding hunters. Bows evolved into several distinct varieties, including the composite bow, the crossbow and the longbow, all of which had their advantages and disadvantages in battle. Crossbows were better at close range and required less skill to use, while the longbow, though a difficult weapon to master, could fire light arrows 500 yards. Some archers – the Mongols of the 13th century, for instance – took to horse back, sacrificing accuracy for greater speed.
Perhaps more than any other early soldiers, archers needed training and practice to be effective. Some archers, such as English longbowmen, trained from early age to become proficient. Target shooting and drilling at an archery range helped to get archers into battle-ready condition. Archery ranges also provided a convenient storage facility for arrows and other equipment.
– Epoch: Renaissance
Early medicine concerned the powers of spiritual leaders and sacred sites. The first hospitals were essentially places to receive divine help. In Greece and elsewhere, for example, illness was treated by “incubation,” or sleeping in a holy place. Bathing in certain waters was also thought to be curative, and this belief may have been the origin of modern health spas. In later times, Greek doctors – Hippocrates being the most famous – were instrumental in pushing the science of medicine forward. Roman hospitals based largely on Greek medicine were first established around 100 BC to treat injured and ill soldiers.
The rise of Christianity helped to transform hospitals into the care facilities we know today. In the 6th century AD, the Hôtel-Dieu of Lyon opened. It had a large hall lined with beds and emphasized treating the patient, not just the ailment. Monastic infirmaries in Europe and elsewhere cared for monks and outsiders alike. At the end of the Middle Ages, civil authorities increasingly assumed responsibility for healthcare. By the turn of the 16th century, England alone had more than 200 secular hospitals.
– Epoch: Nano Age
Automated mechanized weapons (or Mechs) were introduced in the late 21st Century primarily to keep human beings out of harms way. For many years, few but the most devoted Tech Sergeants much cared if a Mech came back from a dangerous mission or not.
The precursors to Mechs were small robots – remotely operated – which were used for reconnaissance and disposing of unexploded ordnance. Later, larger machines were lightly armed and sent into hostile areas to gather intelligence for their operators. The first truly autonomous Mechs appeared in the second half of the 21st Century once neural nets and processing power became sufficiently advanced to provide machines with rudimentary intelligence.
In succeeding decades, continued advances in computers, materials, propulsion, and weapon systems lead to an explosion of Mech designs. Anti-infantry Mechs were created specifically to kill human soldiers. Airborne Mechs provided air support and recon. A small, stealthy Mech codenamed “Poseidon” was invented to capture other Mechs by introducing an invasive program into the target. As a result, later Mech designs incorporated anti-virus countermeasures in an effort to fend off such attacks.
By the turn of the 22nd Century Mechs were standard equipment in all modern armies and Mech production facilities were common around the world. In addition to research & development and the actual production of Mechs, these facilities literally trained Mechs to fight using techniques not unlike those used to train humans. Over time, many people came to think of Mechs as sentient entities rather than disposable military hardware.
– Epochs 2-14
Amphibious landings have long been a part of warfare. At the onset of the Trojan War, the Greeks sailed an army across the Aegean Sea to attack Troy. According to legend, they wanted to recover the king of Sparta’s wife, Helen: “the face that launched a thousand ships.” One of the most famous amphibious assaults was the D-Day invasion in June 1944, in which the Allies transported more than 150,000 troops plus tanks and other vehicles from Great Britain across the English Channel to Normandy, France.
– Epoch: Copper Age
Operated: 5th Century BC
Displacement: Approx. 40 tons
Max Speed: 7+ knots
Length: 120 feet or more
Complement: Approx 200, plus a contingent of foot soldiers
Light yet sturdy and highly maneuverable, triremes ruled the Mediterranean for most of the 5th Century BC. The navies of Persia, Phoenicia and the Greek city-states used them extensively. Triremes had a square sail on a single mast, but the sail and mast were stowed during battle in favor of the oars. Three rows of oars on each side of the ship were manned by many as 170 oarsmen, depending on the size of the vessel.
At the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, the Greek commander Themistocles lured King Xerxes’ much larger Persian fleet into the straits near the island of Salamis. The outnumbered Greek triremes proved much more maneuverable than the Persian galleys in the narrow straits. Through ramming and boarding tactics, the Greeks managed to sink about 300 Persian ships while losing only about 40 triremes. The remainder of the Persian fleet dispersed, delaying Xerxes’ planned invasion and giving the Greeks time to prepare their defenses. This victory signaled the beginning of the dominance of triremes, which lasted until the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC.
Henry Grâce à Dieu
– Epoch: Imperial Age
Launched: June 1514
Displacement: Approx. 1,000 tons
Armament: Over 150 bronze and iron guns
Complement: 600-800 sailors and soldiers
Commissioned by and named after Henry VIII, the Henry Grâce à Dieu launched as the world’s largest warship in 1514. According to the few spotty records about her, she survived several skirmishes with the French. In 1553, she accidentally caught fire and sank while mooring at Woolwich.
– Epoch: Industrial Age
Displacement: 10,800 tons (fully loaded)
Max Speed: 14.8 knots
Length: 407 feet
The steam-powered Agincourt battleship was among the last warships built with sails, which were used to supplement the engines on long voyages. Her four nine-inch and 24 seven-inch rifled guns were arranged in a long, armored battery – one of the last times such a gun configuration was used, as rotating gun turrets came into widespread use shortly thereafter. Originally fitted with muzzle-loading guns, she was converted to breech-loading weapons later in the 1860s. The Agincourt survived well into the 20th century, and was finally broken up in 1960.
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Launched: February 1939
Displacement: Approx. 51,000 tons (fully loaded)
Max Speed: 30 knots
Length: 823′ 6″
The sinking of the German battleship Bismarck is one of the best-known WWII naval stories. Sent by the Germans to harass allied shipping in the North Atlantic, the Bismarck was spotted off the coast of Norway by a British plane on May 18, 1941. The British immediately dispatched ships to intercept it, including the H.M.S. Prince of Wales and, the pride of the Royal Navy, the H.M.S. Hood. The British force caught up to the battleship near Iceland on May 24. In the ensuing battle, the Prince of Wales sustained heavy damage and the Hood was sunk with a loss of 1,416 men – all but three of her entire complement. The Bismarck escaped with only light damage.
More British ships arrived, including the aircraft carrier Victorious. After another skirmish, in which British torpedo bombers scored one hit that killed a crewmember but did minimal damage, the Bismarck again slipped away. The British lost contact with the German battleship on May 25.
The Bismarck was not spotted again until the next day. Naval groups from the West and North set off in pursuit while more British warships approached from the South. Late on May 26, repeated attacks by torpedo bombers finally scored two hits on the Bismarck, one in the rear, which jammed the rudder. As a result, the Bismarck lost maneuverability and drifted toward the British fleet. The next morning, the British closed in.
The battleships Rodney and King George V opened fire at 0847 hours. The Bismarck fired back but, unable to steer, proved an easy target. Within half an hour, the Bismarck suffered multiple direct hits that destroyed several turrets, took out the fire-control center and killed most of the senior officers. The British warships continued to pound the Bismarck, which fired its last ineffective salvo at 0931. With the once-mighty battleship now little more than a floating hulk, the surviving crew set scuttling charges. The British cruiser Dorsetshire moved in and fired several torpedoes, which exploded at about 1030. The Bismarck finally capsized and sank at about 1040 hours on May 27, 1941. Only 115 sailors of a crew of over 2,000 survived.
In June, 1989, an expedition discovered the wreck of the Bismarck 600 miles off the coast of France in 15,000 feet of water.
U.S.S. Enterprise (the Big E) CVN-65
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Launched: September 1960
Displacement: Approx. 93,000 tons (fully loaded)
Max Speed: 30+ knots
Length: Over 1,100 feet
Area of Flight Deck: 4.4+ Acres
Complement: Navy: Over 3,300; Air Wing: Over 2,500; Total: Over 5,800
Many ships have proudly carried the Enterprise name, which can be traced back to a British supply sloop that was captured during the American Revolution. The seventh Enterprise (CV-6) was the first aircraft carrier to bear the name and is famous for its role at the Battle of Midway and other naval engagements in the World War II Pacific Theater.
The eighth U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65) was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Like its predecessor, it has had a distinguished career. In February 1962, the carrier acted as a tracking station for the Friendship 7, the United States’ first orbital spacecraft, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn. In October 1962, the Enterprise participated in the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Big E made six deployments to Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1972, becoming the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat. She was also the first carrier to deploy the F-14A “Tomcat” and assisted with the 1975 evacuation of Saigon.
The Enterprise has undergone several refits, the most extensive of which concluded in 1994. She is expected to remain in service well into the 21st century.
U-Boat (Type VIIB)
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Displacement: 753 tons (surface), 857 tons (submerged)
Max Speed: 17.9 knots (surface), 8 knots (submerged)
Length: 220 feet
Max Depth: Approx. 720 feet
German submarines, or “U-boats,” took a heavy toll on Allied shipping in both World War I and World War II. A number of designs were put into production to fill various roles.
The Type VIIB U-boat was a very successful attack-sub during World War II. The VIIB carried more fuel and was a bit faster than its predecessor, the Type VIIA, and also had a second rudder for better maneuverability. Like the VIIA, the VIIB was armed with four torpedo tubes in the bow and one aft, but it carried three additional torpedoes, for a total of 14. Twenty-four VIIB U-boats were built from 1936 to 1940, when the slightly larger VIIC went into production.
U-48, the most successful U-boat of the war, was a Type VIIB. Commissioned in April 1939, she sank 52 ships and damaged four more, for total loss of more than 300,000 tons of shipping. U-48 was scuttled in May 1945, as part of Operation Regenbogen, to keep the German fleet from falling into the hands of the Allies at the end of the war.
U.S.S Warrington DD-843
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Launched: September 1945
Displacement: Approx. 3,500 tons (fully loaded)
Max Speed: Approx. 35 knots
Length: 390′ 6″
Complement: 22 Officers, 345 Enlisted
The Warrington (DD-843) was a Gearing-class Destroyer, commissioned just after the end of WWII. It was the third U.S. warship given the name Warrington. Outfitted with surface guns, anti-aircraft guns, torpedoes and depth charges, the Warrington was a versatile and formidable vessel capable of taking on many assignments.
She went through an extensive refit in 1961-62 and became a guided-missile destroyer used primarily in an anti-submarine role. The Warrington was deployed during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where it fired a warning shot to stop a Russian ship heading for Cuba. She was also on hand after the atomic sub USS Thresher was tragically lost with all hands in 1963. When on duty during the Vietnam War in 1972, the Warrington struck a mine in the Tonkin Gulf under somewhat suspicious circumstances. The ship was decommissioned and sold to Taiwan for scrapping in 1973.
Nematocyst Class Destroyer
– Epoch: Digital Age
Displacement: Approx. 8,500 tons (fully loaded)
Max Speed: Approx. 37 knots
Length: 464′ 6″
By the third decade of 21st Century, the nature of warfare was changing. The development of high-energy weaponry was in full swing and deployment of the first combat-ready lasers was close at hand. At sea, fleet modernization was badly needed to both prepare for and take advantage of this new class of weapons.
The expanded NATO alliance began programs to redesign all the major categories of naval warships, starting with the destroyer. Every charter member contributed parts and/or systems to the project, with final assembly of the prototype vessel taking place in the UK. In April 2039, the first Nematocyst Class Destroyer was launched with great fanfare. The name referred to its ability to deliver a lethal sting to its targets. The Nematocyst’s sea trials were nearly flawless and full production of the destroyer began soon thereafter in both Great Britain and the US.
The Nematocyst borrowed many proven design concepts from the DD 21 Zumwalt Class Destroyer, developed by the US 30 years earlier. Communications, navigation, and the automation of basic shipboard functions were adapted from the previous design with some significant enhancements. Numerous stealth features were also incorporated, including minimized radar, acoustic, heat, and magnetic signatures. The biggest changes were made to the weapons, armor, and power system. High-energy lasers replaced surface projectile and missile armaments. A first-generation miniaturized fusion reactor provided the power needed to charge the weapons and run the ship. The reactor also allowed the Nematocyst to remain at sea indefinitely, coming into port only to replenish supplies and exchange crew members. Continuing the 21st Century trend of minimizing the complements of naval warships, the Nematocyst carried a crew of only 78 men and women. Ample living and work space helped to maximize quality of life while the vessel was at sea.
Like its predecessors, the Nematocyst Destroyer played a multi-mission role: protecting larger ships and battle groups, supporting troop landings and deployments, and patrolling for hostile submarines. Over 350 Nematocyst Class Destroyers were produced from 2039 to 2057. Almost all of the ships performed beyond expectations, with service lives in excess of 35 years.
Leviathan Class Battleship
– Epoch: Digital Age
Displacement: Approx. 40,000 tons (normal)
Max Speed: 37 knots (cruising), 41 knots (short burst)
Length: 656′ 2″
Rounding out the mid-21st Century redesign of NATO’s naval forces was the reincarnation of one of the previous century’s greatest warships: the battleship. Use of the battleship had declined following WWII as aircraft carriers became the weapon of choice for the world’s navies. Despite a brief resurgence in the use of battleships by the US at the end of the 20th Century, no new battleship designs had been produced for 100 years until NATO’s “Leviathan” program began in 2041.
Destroyers had filled multiple offshore roles for over 40 years, while aircraft carriers and long-range aircraft had provided the means for aerial bombardment. NATO wanted to compliment these existing sea-based combat capabilities with a well-protected and highly mobile vessel armed with the latest high-energy weaponry, which would give it both fantastic range and unprecedented firepower. The Leviathan Class Battleship was the result. Its main guns were capable of firing a contained plasma charge a distance of over 100 km (more than 60 miles).
The Leviathan’s powerful laser canons consumed colossal amounts of energy. Each of its four turrets had a dedicated fusion reactor, in addition to the main reactor needed to run the ship. The reactors were cross-connected to provide redundancy, allowing the guns to operate at lower power should one of the reactors go offline. Additionally, the reactors could be chained together to produce bursts of varying intensity. Though theoretically capable of producing a single energy burst of essentially unlimited power (given enough charging time), care had to be taken to keep charges below a certain safety threshold. If containment of a massive charge ever broke down it would cause a devastating onboard explosion, possibly resulting in the loss of the ship and its crew.
One of the most remarkable achievements of the Leviathan program was the reduction of the crew size compared to earlier battleships. World War II era battleships routinely went to sea with well over 2,000 crewmen. The Leviathan, with its automated systems and low maintenance requirements, needed fewer than 500. The reduction in necessary crew space, in addition to the miniaturization that many standard shipboard systems and components had undergone over the previous half-century, resulted in a vessel only 200 meters in length displacing 36,000 metric tons. (Battleships this size had been at sea as far back as WWI.) This gave the Leviathan a huge power-to-weight ratio and therefore exceptional speed for a ship of its stature. It also provided the extra benefit of presenting a smaller target to enemies.
The Leviathan was first used in combat in 2051 supporting a NATO action to eliminate a clandestine terrorist installation discovered in northern Africa.
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: 1917
Max Speed: 116 mph
Wingspan: 29 ft. 8 in.
Max Range: about 1,000 miles
Basic Armament: 2 Spandau light machine guns
Weight: 2060 lbs
Crew: 1 pilot
The Albatros D-series was a WWI German fighter named after the company that produced them. The first Albatros, the D.I, used plywood to cover the fuselage at a time when many airplanes were covered with stretched fabric. Plywood greatly increased the rigidity of the Albatros as compared to other contemporary aircraft. The D.I also put the propeller in front of the plane rather than behind. This “tractor” design proved more efficient than the “pusher” designs being used by Britain and was instrumental in reestablishing German air superiority in 1917. The pusher design was soon thereafter abandoned by all aircraft-producing nations.
Design changes on subsequent models of the Albatros improved stability, armament, and visibility. However, the wings on all models before the D.Va variant were prone to crack in flight, especially under the stresses of a steep dive. This design defect caused numerous fatal crashes. Even Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous Red Baron, had the lower wing of his D.III crack in flight, though he managed to land safely. The D.V and D.Va variant were the last versions of the Albatros produced during the war. Overall, Germany produced more than 3,000 of the D-series fighters.
Heinkel He 111
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: 1935
Max Speed: About 250 mph, depending on model.
Wingspan: 74′ 2″
Max Range: About 1,200 miles, depending on model
Weight: About 30,000 lbs max takeoff weight.
Basic Armament: One 20 mm cannon; five to seven 7.9 mm machine guns; over 6,000 lbs of bombs.
Germany developed the Heinkel He 111 in the mid-1930s with two purposes in mind. It was ostensibly to be used as a civil airliner and mail carrier, thus circumventing the limitations placed on Germany’s rearmament after WWI. But it was always meant to function as a medium bomber as well. In addition to bombs, some He 111s were armed with torpedoes and late models were even converted to launch V-1 “Buzz Bombs” after the V-1 launch facilities in Germany had been either destroyed or captured.
The He 111 was first used in combat in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Heinkel bombers became part of the infamous “Condor Legion,” a special part of the Luftwaffe sent by Germany to aid General Franco’s Nationalist forces. The bomber performed well, able to carry a large payload while remaining fast enough to evade most enemy fighters of the time. In fact, early in its career, the He 111 was often flown without a fighter escort. During the Battle of Britain (1940) in WWII, however, the He 111 began to show signs of deficiency. The British Spitfire and Hurricane fighters took their toll on the lightly armed bombers, especially during daytime raids. The Luftwaffe quickly realized that fighter escorts for the He 111 had become necessary.
Germany continued to produce the He 111 until 1944, due mostly to the fact that it had no new bomber designs to replace it. By then, the He 111’s two-engine design, comparatively small payload and low speed, and light armaments and armor had rendered it all but obsolete. The Germans built a total of over 7,300 He 111s, some of which were used by Spain (with new engines) until the 1960’s. Spain even built its own version of the bomber called the CASA 2111.
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: Jan., 1939
Max Speed: 414 mph at 25,000 ft., approaching speed of sound in a dive
Wingspan: 52 feet
Max Range: 2,600 miles
Basic Armament: One 20-mm cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns (most models)
Weight: 21,600 lbs., max. take-off weight
Crew: 1 pilot
The first truly modern aircraft for the US Army Air Force in WWII, the P-38 “Lightning” saw action in both the European and Pacific theaters. The P-38 was noteworthy for many reasons. Its two-engine, twin-tailboom design was a departure from the traditional single-prop fighters of the time. It was the first modern fighter to be made largely from stainless steel and to use a tricycle-style landing gear. It was also the first fighter to exceed speeds of 400 mph. Historically, the P-38 was the first USAAF fighter to shoot down a German aircraft, the first fighter to escort bombers all the way to Berlin, and it destroyed more Japanese aircraft than any other American fighter. It was also the only US fighter to be produced throughout America’s involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day – though it only appeared in numbers after 1942. In total, just over 10,000 P-38’s were built.
The P-38 was such an advanced aircraft for its time that it could approach the speed of sound in terminal velocity dives. Unfortunately, the designers and pilots of the Lightning were not yet experienced with the stresses such speeds could put on a plane… or a person. As a result, there were several fatal crashes early in the P-38’s career when pilots tried and failed to pull out of such dives. This fact earned the P-38 the reputation of being dangerous to fly. Only later, when the so-called sound barrier was studied in more detail, did scientists realize that all aircraft had difficulties at such speeds. For the P-38, the problem was traced to a shock wave that formed over the wings and prevented the plane’s control surfaces from operating properly. The addition of a small electric motor, which could alter the wings’ shape and, thus, the flow of air over them, mostly corrected the problem in later models.
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: May, 1940
Max Speed: Over 400 mph
Wingspan: 41 feet (17 feet, wings folded)
Max Range: about 1,000 miles
Basic Armament: Six .50 cal. machine guns, two 500 lb. or two 1,000 lb. bombs
Weight: 10,000 lbs. max. and up, depending on model
Crew: 1 pilot
The F4U Corsair was used extensively by the US Navy and the US Marines in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Though designed to be a carrier-based fighter/bomber, in practice the Corsair proved to be difficult to land on a carrier due to its poor forward visibility, common low-speed stalls, and tendency to bounce on the runway. Early production models were all restricted to land-based use until these problems were addressed.
The most distinctive feature of the F4U were its “inverted gull wings,” which resemble a “W” when seen head-on. The wing design was adopted to accommodate the plane’s powerful Pratt & Whitney engine, which required a large propeller to convert all of the engine’s more than 2,000 horse power into forward thrust. The landing gear attached to the lowest portion of each wing, thus providing the ground clearance needed for the propeller while avoiding the need for long, more-fragile landing gear. Additional benefits to the wing design included reduced air drag and a lower clearance when the wings were folded up, which made the Corsair easier to store on a carrier.
The Corsair was known to the Japanese as “Whistling Death”” due to the sound it made in a dive. Overall, the Corsair is credited with downing more than 2,000 enemy aircraft while only about 500 Corsairs were lost to enemy fire. The plane also saw service during the Korean War. By 1952, when production of the Corsair was finally halted, more than 12,500 planes had been built. Some remained in active use in South American armed forces into the early 1960’s.
-Epoch: Atomic Age
The Boeing CH-47 “Chinook” is a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor transport helicopter approximately 100 feet long from rotor tip to rotor tip. It has a maximum payload of about 25,000 pounds and can accommodate over three-dozen troops. Since its development in the late 1950s, it has undergone several updates and is expected to remain in use well into the 21st century.
SH-3 Sea King
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: 1959
Max Speed: 166 mph
Rotor Length: 62 feet
Body Length: 73 feet
Max Range: About 600 miles
Basic Armament: two torpedoes, two depth charges
Weight: 21,000 lbs max
In the 1950’s, the US Navy was looking to add to its ranks an all-weather Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter that was versatile enough to be used in other roles. They contracted with Sikorsky Aircraft and the result, in 1959, was the SH-3 Sea King. Production models became available in 1961.
The Sea King’s crew consists of two pilots and two sonar operators, and it carries torpedoes and depth charges. It can operate from land or the deck of a support ship, ready to search out and destroy enemy submarines. Some production models were outfitted for mine-countermeasures, logistical operations, search and rescue missions, or even the emergency evacuation and transportation of VIPs in Washington, including the President of the US.
During the 1990’s, the Sea King was gradually replaced in ASW operations by the SH-60 Sea Hawk. The remaining Sea Kings were reconfigured into search and rescue helicopters and many are still in use in the US, Canada, and other countries.
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: 1975
Max Speed: 176 mph (level flight)
Rotor Diameter: 48 ft
Overall Length: 58 ft
Max Range: about 400 miles (w/o external fuel tanks)
Basic Armament: 30 mm cannon; 16 Hellfire missiles or 76 70 mm rockets or a combination of both
Gross Weight: 15,000 lbs
Near the end of the Vietnam War, the US Army was in need of a new attack helicopter to replace the AH-1G HueyCobra. McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) produced a prototype – the YAH-64 – in 1975 and was awarded the development contract in 1976. Production of the AH-64A Apache began in 1983. Over 900 AH-64A Apaches were delivered to both the US and international customers by 1997 before production switched over to the updated AH-64D and the Apache Longbow.
Sophisticated weapons, navigation and target acquisition systems, and night vision technology made the Apache the most advanced, combat-tested attack helicopter of the 1990’s. It was primarily designed for anti-tank operations, but was effective against other ground vehicles and troop formations as well. The AH-64A flew its first combat missions in 1989 during the US action in Panama. In 1991, Apache helicopters played a major role in Operation Desert Storm, where they are credited with destroying or disabling more than 500 tanks plus hundreds of other vehicles. With updated equipment, including the addition of the Longbow fire control radar, the Apache will remain the most advanced attack helicopter well into the new millennium.
F-117A “Nighthawk” Stealth Fighter
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: June, 1981
Max Speed: High subsonic (about Mach 0.9)
Wingspan: 43 feet, 4 inches
Max Range: 1,100 nautical miles; unlimited with air refueling
Basic Armament: Various air-to-ground weapons; no fixed weapons
Weight: 52,500 lbs (max)
Crew: 1 pilot
After tests in the 1970’s demonstrated the feasibility of stealth technology, Lockheed’s famed “Skunk Works” division was awarded the contract to produce stealth fighters in 1978. The result was the F-117A “Nighthawk,” which was first flown in 1981 and achieved operational readiness in 1983.
The F-177A was the first combat-ready aircraft built with so-called “stealth” technology. In addition to its use of radar-absorbing materials, the unique shape of the F-117A – with its many carefully-angled flat surfaces – reflects incoming radar energy in harmless directions. Additionally, all armaments are housed internally to further reduce the fighter’s radar signature. So as to lessen its vulnerability to heat-seeking missiles, the F-117A is not equipped with afterburner engines. Although this limits the Nighthawk to subsonic speeds, the plane’s stealthy characteristics more than make up for the trade-off.
The F-117A made its combat debut in Panama in 1989, and went on to perform spectacularly during the Gulf War. The roughly 40 Nighthawks that took part in Operation Desert Storm flew more than 1,200 combat sorties and delivered 2,000 tons of ordnance. Not a single F-117A was lost in the war – in fact, not one was even fired upon. Stealth Fighters also took part in the NATO-led air campaign over Yugoslavia in 1999. One F-117A was lost during the campaign, but the pilot was rescued unharmed.
B-2 Stealth Bomber “Spirit”
-Epoch: Atomic Age
First Flight: July, 1989
Max Speed: High subsonic
Wingspan: 172 feet
Max Range: Over 6,000 nautical miles; 10,000 nm with one mid-air refueling
Gross Weight: 336,000 lbs., normal take-off weight
Payload: 40,000 lbs.
Crew: 2 pilots
The B-2 “Spirit” is a strategic, long-range heavy bomber that was unveiled to the public in 1988. Its primary – though by no means only – role is to penetrate deep into enemy territory to strike specific targets with a variety of air-to-surface weapons.
The B-2 is best known for it low-observability or “stealth” characteristics. To achieve its tiny radar signature, which is roughly the size of a bird’s signature, the B-2 was designed with no right angles. All its exposed surfaces are curved and covered with special paint to help scatter radar signals. The plane is also constructed of graphite instead of metal to help absorb radar emissions. Additionally, the B-2 cools its exhaust to reduce the threat presented by heat-seeking missiles and the bomber’s overall design allows it to operate more quietly than conventional aircraft.
For navigation and targeting, the stealth bomber relies on the Global Positioning System (GPS), a network of a dozen orbiting satellites that can pinpoint a location anywhere on the earth in any kind of weather. Using the GPS, the B-2 “Spirit” can strike to within 20 feet of its assigned target. Moreover, the Spirit’s refueled range allows it to travel any place on earth.
The B-2 program began in the late 1970’s, but the ideas for both stealth aircraft and so-called “flying wings” had been around for more than 35 years prior to that. The YB-49 bomber, designed by Jack Northrop in the 1940’s, had a flying wing design, but though a working prototype was built, the plane never went into production. With the advent of computer “fly-by-wire” technology and new construction materials, the B-2 became a reality. Originally, 132 aircraft were ordered from the contractor, Northrop Grumman. But factors such as cost (each plane costs about 1.3 billion US dollars) and the end of the Cold War led the US Government to reduce the order to 21.
Today, all operational B-2 bombers are stationed at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 made its combat debut over Yugoslavia in the March, 1999, NATO-led air campaign. Afterwards, Pentagon officials and military experts testified to Congress that the plane performed extremely well.
F-96 “Talon” Joint Strike Fighter
-Epoch: Digital Age
First Flight: 2031
Max Speed: Mach 2.65 (at high altitude)
Wingspan: 35 feet
Max Range: 2,000 nautical miles; unlimited with air refueling
Basic Armamen: Various interchangeable air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons; no fixed weapons
Weight: 35,800 lbs (max take-off)
Crew: 1 pilot
The F-96 “Talon” was the first generation of new joint strike fighters designed to meet the special needs of air combat in the 21st Century. Development of the F-96 began in 2024 as it became clear to the US Air Force that proven Post-Cold War air combat methods and weaponry were beginning to change. To maintain supremacy in this new era, a fighter with a powerful, versatile, and yet simple pilot/aircraft interface was needed. After several design revisions, the first prototype Talon took off in 2031. Full production began two years later.
As soon as the F-96 was battle-ready, it was superior to anything else then in the air. Constructed of advanced composite materials, the strongest and lightest yet developed, the F-96 weighed in at just under 20,000 pounds when empty. The powerful yet fuel efficient Pratt &’ Whitney engine provided enough thrust to push the plane to Mach 2.65 at altitudes greater then 40,000 feet. The materials and the plane’s curved surfaces also made the F-96 virtually invisible to radar, through new tracking technologies intended to replace radar were already well into development at that time. To counter these anticipated threats, the Talon sported a suite of state-of-the-art electronics packages.
A next-generation avionics system went into the F-96. With it, the Talon could track 100 separate targets, evaluate the threat posed by each, and feed the information to the pilot by both voice and an advanced heads-up display (HUD). The plane could also take many defensive actions by itself, such as dispensing chaff and transmitting a variety of electronic counter measures (ECM) to confuse incoming missiles and jam ground tracking systems.
Most noteworthy was the inclusion of a technologically advanced pilot/aircraft interface, which had been developed over the previous 30+ years. Pilots underwent an intensive 3-month special training program, in addition to traditional instruction, to learn to control many of the plane’s systems and functions via biofeedback. Once trained, pilots could literally “think” to the plane what they wanted it to do. For redundancy purposes, these functions were also accessible via controls on the stick in the original production model. But the system proved sound and later versions removed the unnecessary stick controls. The F-96 Talon was a highly successful aircraft and, with updates, remained in active service for over 40 years.
– Epoch: Bronze Age
– Type: Warrior Hero
The great Carthaginian general, Hamilcar Barca, brought his son, Hannibal, with him to Spain around 237 BC. In the wake of Carthage’s loss to Rome in the First Punic War, young Hannibal learned to hate the Romans. Hamilcar died in battle in 228 BC and his successor, Hasdrubal, gave Hannibal his first command. Hannibal performed brilliantly and assumed leadership of the army when Hasdrubal was assassinated in 221 BC. During Hannibal’s subsequent consolidation of Carthaginian holdings in Spain, he sacked the city of Saguntum. Rome, an ally of Saguntum, formally protested to Carthage and demanded the surrender of Hannibal. Carthage refused and the Second Punic War began.
In the Spring of 218 BC, Hannibal began his famous march through Gaul and over the Alps, finally crossing into Italy some 5 months later. Hannibal’s army achieved numerous victories in Italy, securing local allies and approaching to within several miles of Rome itself. But the Romans adopted a strategy of harassing Hannibal’s forces without committing to an all-out battle. Instead, they sent legions to Spain and Northern Africa. Eventually Hannibal’s numbers waned and, in 203 BC, he left Italy with the remnants of his army to help defend Carthage.
Hannibal launched a last-ditch attack, which ended in his only defeat at the Battle of Zama. Carthage lost the Second Punic War, and Hannibal later committed suicide rather than be captured by the Romans.
Alexander the Great
– Epoch: Bronze Age
– Type: Strategist Hero
Alexander was born in 356 BC to King Phillip II of Macedon. As a teenager he was tutored by none other then Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher and scientist. Alexander displayed military prowess at a young age and, upon his father’s assassination, took the throne with the full support of the army. He immediately put his father’s alleged murders to death and proceeded to shore up his control over the Balkans.
Alexander went on to become one of the greatest generals even known, famous for his leadership and use of combined arms including phalanxes, cavalry, and siege weapons. He conquered Persia and marched his army all the way to India, achieving many victories along the way. He also conquered Egypt and founded numerous cities – which he invariably named Alexandria – in many parts of his short-lived empire.
While consolidating his conquests in Babylon, Alexander died of an illness at the age of 33. His empire, lacking strong leadership, soon splintered into smaller kingdoms. Nevertheless, Alexander had succeeded in spreading Greek culture around the ancient world, and his legacy influenced all of Western Civilization that was to come.
– Epoch: Renaissance
– Type: Warrior Hero
During the nine years of his reign, Henry V took a weak England and turned it into a major power. As a young man he fought against rebels in Wales, taking command of the English forces after 1403. When his father, Henry IV, died in 1413, he ascended to the throne. Henry successfully thwarted two early plots against him and, soon thereafter, embarked on the campaign for which he is best known: the planned conquest of France near the end of the Hundred Years’ War.
Henry’s superlative leadership and military skills led to important victories at Harfleur (Sept., 1415) and, a month later, at the Battle of Agincourt. At Agincourt, Henry used archers and superior tactics to overcome overwhelming odds, inflicting some 6,000 French casualties at a cost of fewer than 500 English soldiers. Henry secured a treaty with the French in 1420 which provided that he would become King of France, but he fell ill and died in 1422 mere months before it would have come to pass.
– Epoch: Renaissance
– Type: Strategist Hero
Against the wishes of her older brother, King Henry IV of Castile, Isabella married Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469. Isabella had been named Henry’s heiress, but the marriage caused problems. When Henry died in 1474, civil war broke out in the Kingdom of Castile. Isabella’s opponents, backed by king Alfonso V of Portugal, were finally defeated in 1479. That same year, Isabella’s husband became King of Aragon and the two kingdoms were effectively joined, forming the foundation of modern Spain.
Both rulers were interested in the reconquest of Granada, still controlled by the Moors. Isabella’s role in handling the campaign was significant, and included the setting up of a hospital to treat wounded soldiers. While in Santa Fe conducting the war, Isabella had the meeting for which she is perhaps best remembered: she agreed to let Columbus undertake his now-famous expedition and even partly funded it. This action was to have numerous long-term consequences and eventually helped turn Spain into a major European power. Isabella, to her tremendous credit, stood by her religious convictions; accounts indicate that she was far more concerned for the welfare and rights of the natives living in the New World than many of her contemporaries, including Columbus.
– Epochs 1-2
Standing armies did not always exist. Early armed forces consisted of tribal members who would sporadically come together to protect or obtain fertile hunting grounds from rival tribes. Once humans began living in permanent locations, the concept of selective service emerged. Community leaders would conscript a group of villagers to conduct raids in the months between sowing and harvest. As agriculture improved and food acquisition became more reliable, a specialized warrior class arose. And none were more numerous than the foot soldiers – the infantry. These soldiers were initially employed for the purpose of defending the community, but they came to be used for attaining territory in organized military campaigns. The first weapon used by infantry was probably a large club made of wood or bone.
– Epochs: All
The importance of spiritual leaders to both past and present civilizations cannot be overemphasized. People have traditionally seen them as intermediaries between the Earth and the heavens, between humanity and the spiritual realm. In some cultures, it was normal to assume that such holy men and women had special powers and abilities.
But one civilization’s gospel was sometimes another’s heresy. Spreading religious ideas to outsiders was a potentially dangerous activity. Early Christians in the Roman Empire were sporadically persecuted for their “mysterious” beliefs and practices. In the late 1st Century AD, Christianity was even made a capital crime – confessed Christians who did not renounce their faith in favor of the accepted Roman gods were put to death. BC.
– Epoch: Bronze Age
Siege warfare, as a practice, usually consisted of surrounding a fortification and starving out the defenders, which could be a very time consuming process. When an assault was necessary, the attackers constructed a variety of siege engines to help them do the job. One such apparatus was the ingenious siege tower.
Siege towers were large wooden structures designed to deliver troops over an enemy’s walls. Soldiers wheeled the siege tower into place and then stormed the battlements, usually over a hinged drawbridge that opened from the topmost story of the tower right on to the wall. During the approach, these early personnel carriers protected the soldiers inside from enemy arrows, rocks, and other forms of harassment. To guard against fire, siege towers were sometimes covered with wet animal hides. Siege towers often carried archers in addition to melee troops to clear the ramparts where the assault would take place.
Some ancient siege towers were enormous. During an attack on Rhodes in the Bronze Age, the Macedonians made a siege tower so large that more than 3,000 men were needed to move it. The Romans also built huge siege towers – Caesar recorded one such tower being 150 feet high. The need for siege towers dwindled after the invention of more effective siege weapons, such as the trebuchet, and then disappeared once the advent of cannon made castles all but obsolete.
– Epoch: Middle Ages
The ultimate siege engine of the Middle Ages was the trebuchet. Trebuchets used a counterweight to generate a force that could hurl a 300 pound projectile over 300 hundred yards. Some of these machines were enormous, with counterweights in excess of 10 tons. Once properly aimed they could make short work of any wall. There is evidence that some trebuchets were fitted with wheels for mobility. But modern experiments have shown that the wheels also provided an extra benefit – they helped to control the tremendous recoil of the weapon.
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Weight: 30 tons
Max Speed: 15 kph road; 8 kph cross-country
Max Range: 80 km (road)
Armament: One 5.7 cm cannon, six machine guns
Armor: 10-30 mm
On November, 1917, 474 British tanks achieved a major breakthrough against the Germans at the Battle of Cambrai. Though the Germans eventually drove the British back, tanks had demonstrated their potential in battle.
Following this British victory, the Germans recognized there was a growing gap on the battlefield. Though the German War Ministry continued to express confidence in their troops’ ability to deal with the new English weapon, they secretly gave the go ahead to contractors to develop a tank for Germany. The result, in late 1917, was the A7V Sturmpanzerwagen. The A7V designation was used to maintain secrecy; in German, it stood for “War Department General Division 7 Traffic Section.” It was well armored and outfitted with one forward-facing 5.7 cm cannon and six Maxim MG08 machine guns, which covered the sides and rear of the tank. Only about 20 A7Vs were built due to material shortages during the war, not to mention the overall low priority given to the project.
The new German tanks saw their first action at St. Quentin in March, 1918. Five A7Vs were set to take part in the offensive, but three had mechanical problems before the battle. The two remaining A7Vs, along with a few captured British Mark IV tanks, carried the day. A month later, the first tank versus tank battle took place at Villers-Bretonneux. The A7Vs fought well against the British Mark IV’s, but this was largely due the their much thicker armor. Overall, the Mark IV was a better tank and the British crews had more combat experience. Several Mark IVs were destroyed or incapacitated during the battle, but many more A7Vs broke down or were captured.
The A7V was prone to breakdowns and suffered from a number of other problem s, including: low ground clearance, poor trench-crossing ability, poor climbing ability, and underpowered engines. Between the front cannon and the first side-mounted machine guns was a gap in the A7V’s field of fire. Drivers of the A7V would drive in a zigzag pattern to keep enemies from exploiting this weakness.
M16 Antiaircraft Half-Track
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Weight: 19,800 lbs
Max Speed: 45 mph
Max Range: 215 miles (road)
Armament: Four .50 caliber machine guns
Armor: 12.7 mm upper-front, 6 mm elsewhere
The M16 half-track was a lightly armored antiaircraft vehicle that could fire more than 400 rounds per minute from its quad-mounted .50 caliber machine guns. Its fire rate, along with the guns’ 360-degree turn radius, quick turn rate, and 7200 yard range, made the M16 a formidable antiaircraft weapon. The M16 was built on the chassis of the M3 personnel carrier and performed well both on and off road. M16s were used primarily for protecting infantry and tank columns from strafing enemy fighters. They saw action in both the Pacific and European theaters during WWII and in the Korean War.
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Weight: 30 tons
Max Speed: 38 kph
Max Range: 160 km
Armament: 75 mm cannon, two .30 caliber and one .50 caliber machine gun
Armor: 75 mm
The M4 “Sherman” medium-tank was the main American battle tank of World War II. It was also used by Britain, Russia, and other Allies. The M4 began production in 1941 and they were still in use at the end of the war. While in command of the 3rd Army, General George Patton used Sherman tanks to great effect during his 1944 dash across Europe.
Although the Sherman was less powerful than its German counterparts (though later versions were faster and equipped with a larger cannon), it made up for its shortcomings by being available in great numbers. By converting automobile factories to manufacture tanks, the US pushed the production of Shermans up to 2,000 per month. Over 49,000 Sherman tanks were built during the war — more than all the tanks produced by Germany over the same time period. The Sherman was also a very reliable tank and rarely broke down in combat.
Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank
– Epoch: Atomic Age
Weight: 60 tons
Max Speed: 45 kph
Max Range: about 350 km
Armament: 120 mm main gun, two 7.62 mm machine guns
The Leopard 2 program began back in the 1960s. The US and West Germany were jointly developing a new main battle tank, known as the MBT/KPz-70 project. The agreement between the two countries stipulated that no separate national tank program would exist in either country during the joint project, though Germany was already developing the Leopard 1. When the Leopard 1 entered service in 1965, a contract was awarded in Germany to experiment with bringing the Leopard 1 up to the standard drafted for the MBT/KPz-70. When the US-German program was ended in the late 60s without a prototype, the Germans decided to continue with their own upgrade project. (The Americans went on to build the M1.)
A new main gun, engine, multi-layer armor, and many other improvements went into the design of the Leopard 2. An improved fire control system and gun stabilizers allowed the main gun to fire while the tank was in motion. Water-tight construction let the Leopard 2 wade to a depth of 1.2 meters (about 4 feet) without any special preparation, but with snorkels and other gear added the tank could be fully submerged. Maintenance needs were kept to a minimum – even a complete engine replacement would take only 30 minutes. The first Leopard 2 tanks were delivered in 1979, and many other countries, including Canada, Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands, purchased the Leopard 2. Modernized models are still being produced today.
– Epoch: Digital Age
Weight: 8,800 lbs
Max Speed: 50 mph (level ground)
Max Range: 325 miles
Armament: Three missile tubes; STARK guided missiles
The self-propelled AA-17, known in the field as the “SkyWatcher,” was among the last anti-air missile defense systems to be built before the advent of high-energy weapons. Armed with long-range STARK (Surface-To-Air Retribution rocKet) guided missiles, the AA-17 was highly effective in its anti-air role. The STARK guided missile was originally designed for anti-aircraft cruisers, but was successfully adapted for use with the AA-17. The STARK’s acronymic name was adopted in honor of the USS Stark, which had been tragically attacked by Iraqi aircraft in 1987, resulting in the deaths of 37 US sailors.
The SkyWatcher’s three-tracked design gave it remarkable stability and allowed it to cross rough terrain with ease. Its superior off-road performance and operational radius meant the SkyWatcher could be deployed to forward installations, field bases, and other remote strategic locations. State-of-the-art active and passive target acquisition systems allowed the AA-17 to find and track multiple targets simultaneously while keeping its own emitted signals to a minimum. The AA-17 was constructed from radar-absorbing composite materials, borrowed from the aerospace industry, which further reduced its vulnerability. These stealthy features, coupled with its mobility, made the AA-17 highly effective at evading air-to-ground retaliation. The SkyWatcher also featured an innovative modular design, allowing outdated components to be easily replaced with newer ones and making field improvements to the system a simple matter.
– Epoch: Nano Age
Mech designs began to diversify in the last decades of the 21st Century. Regular combat Mechs were supplemented by more specialized Mechs. One such Mech was the Apollo. Hovering behind the lines, the Apollo used its array of high-tech accessories to provide the main battle group with both offensive and defensive support.
Diffraction Shield – The Diffraction Shield is a protective shield that can be projected around a nearby unit. The shield partially disrupts incoming fire.
Mech Repair – One of the first uses of nano machines was making repairs to damaged systems. Since repairs could be undertaken at the atomic level, objects could be fixed as good as new. When deployed in the field, the nano machines hitch a ride on a low-energy particle beam, which delivers the tiny mechanics right to where they are needed.
Ion Pulse – The Apollo can fire a highly-charged ball of contained energy, which temporarily ionizes the area around the point of impact. Targets caught in this strong electric field have their electrical properties (nervous systems or electronics) altered, which makes them more vulnerable to incoming fire.
Bison Main Battle Tank
– Epoch: Nano Age
Weight: 54 Tons
Max Speed: 62 mph (level ground)
Operating Radius: Unlimited
Armament: 2 laser canons (primary), two 7.62 mm machine guns (secondary)
Armor: Focused Energy Dissipaters (FEDs) over conventional armor
Crew: 2 or 3
By the dawn of the 22nd Century, unmanned weapon systems were getting increasingly smarter and more sophisticated. But the cost of developing and deploying an army of intelligent machines was beyond the budgets of many nations. Additionally, some military circles still put their confidence in the adaptability, if not outright superiority, of humans on the battlefield. There was therefore a market for cheap yet effective modern weapons that were designed to be operated by human soldiers.
One of the most successful human-operated weapons of this time period was the Bison Main Battle Tank. The Bison, developed by Armaments International, Inc. to appeal this specific arms market, traced its roots all the way back to the American M1A1. After the US had discontinued production of its last version of the M1 in 2032, Armaments International, just recently formed at that time, purchased the outdated tanks and began their own modification program. The Bison was actually designed around the modified chassis of the M1’s last production model.
The Bison, like most weapon systems of the era, was powered by inexpensive yet powerful fusion batteries – tiny self-contained fusion power plants that could survive in tact even if the tank itself were utterly destroyed. The batteries allowed the tank to run almost indefinitely without refueling. Separate reactors powered the tanks two main guns. Due to significant recharge times between shots, the designers adopted the dual main gun configuration to provide an acceptable rate of fire.
Modernization of the weapons and other key systems allowed the crew of the Bison to be reduced to two: a driver and a gunner. A tank commander could ride in the tank if necessary, but he or she usually directed the tank via a secure aud/vid link from a centralized tactical command center, which accommodated all the tank commanders in a battalion. This configuration put one less person per tank at risk while simultaneously increasing battle effectiveness through improved coordination of forces.