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Old 10-08-2020, 12:40 PM
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Default Drones and UAVs in T2K

When T2K was first released, UAVs were still nascent tech. I don't recall every seeing mention of drones/UAVs in any published T2k adventure modules or source-books.

AFAIK, the Israelis were pioneers (pun intended) in UAV tech and operational application. Their use of drones as decoys c. 1982 to trick Syrian SAM crews in the Bekaa Valley into targeting themselves for HARM strikes by turning on their radars was brilliant.

The USN used drones launched from their Wisconsin class battleships to act as unmanned artillery spotters during Desert Storm in '91.

So drones exist in the various T2k timelines, and would have seen battlefield use therein, but to what extent? Would any UAVs be left by mid-2000?

Today, all manner of UAVs- from Hellfire-carrying Predators to off-the-shelf quadcopters, have become a prominent feature of pretty much every conflict zone on the planet. The tech is not limited to national militaries. In fact, insurgent and terrorist groups have pioneering drone tactics on various third world battlefields for the last few years.

On a side note, it seems to me that drone detection and countermeasures are lagging behind drone tech and tactics.

In a brief T2030 campaign that I ran, small drones came into play. The PCs had a couple fixed wing UAVs, which they used to great effect for reconnaissance and battlefield surveillance. They are huge force multiplier when used against an adversary lacking the same capability. Unfortunately, the campaign ended before the player party encountered an enemy with drones of their own (plans for such an encounter were afoot).

Have drones/UAVs featured in your campaign? Tell us about it.

This is the place for drone discussion so have at it.

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Old 10-08-2020, 01:22 PM
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I reckon they would be attached to artillery units and possibly brigade or higher HQs especially after you start to lose the reconnaissance data from satellites.
Also depending on spare parts and maintenance I see them only used when really necessary and only when the data is worth the risk of losing them.
As for arming them probably not but you might see the odd field modification.
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Old 10-08-2020, 02:45 PM
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Definitely would still be drones around by mid-2000. There probably would have been a huge surge of production of them in 96-97, especially after attacks started on satellite recon systems and recon plane losses started to mount. Even the much less capable systems of the 90's would have been invaluable for artillery spotting and recon. And with all the planes and helos sitting around at various airfields that are down for lack of parts or fuel you could see drones being kept going using salvaged parts.
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Old 10-08-2020, 04:23 PM
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Default Recon "Bots" In My MERC Game

The following three types of recon drones are used by my players.

Parrot Jumping Drone: This 2-wheeled ground bot is capable of jumping up to 0.6m vertically and is controlled by an AP downloaded to a smartphone. It can move up to 50m from its controller and is controlled by a BlueTooth connection which can be jammed. It has a runtime of 20 minutes per charge and a maximum speed of 3m per second. Its digital camera has a 4GB storage and LEDs for lighting in dark environments. This commercially made toy is made of plastic and not very durable.
Cost: $99 vehicle, $99 AP (which works for multiple devices). Availability: C/C. Wt: 0.2kg. Bulk: 0.75

https://youtu.be/-_8MtJ6WujI

Recon ThrowBot: A much better tactical device than the Parrot, the ThrowBot is used by SWAT teams everywhere and would be available during the Twilight War. It is very quiet (20DcBl) and has a run-time of 1 hour. The hand-held controller has 3 channels (allowing for the use of 3 bots) and can connect digitally to most laptops or command stations. The robot has a built-in IR camera and will switch automatically based on the light available. The device can be thrown 36m horizontally, and 9m vertically and moves at up to 10m per second. It can clear a 4"/10cm obstacle on its own. It is also resistant to jamming (light ECM).
Cost: $5K bot, $2k Controller. Availability S/S (both bot and controller).
Weight: 0.54kg (bot), 0.4kg (controller). Bulk: 1.1 (bot), 2 (controller).


https://youtu.be/U9DR4OpSKvY

FQM-151 Raven man-portable UAV: This man-portable UAV is thrown into the air to get it flying and can be caught or just allowed to crash to land. It can be disassembled and placed into a backpack. The first generation (listed here) has a fixed camera while later versions had a camera in a rotating mount. It can be flown from a lap-top controller or preprogrammed to fly a GPS-waypoints path. It is resistant to moderate ECM and possesses both IR and daylight digital imaging to X25 power. The UAV has a flight endurance of 1 hour, a 300m maximum altitude, and a flight speed of 20m per second.
Cost: UAV $40K, Controller $6K. Avaliabiliy: R/R (both). Weight: 4kg (UAV), 1kg (Controller). Bulk (stored): 12 (uav & controller).

https://youtu.be/8RMB9WMdG6g

As always, use what you want and ignore the rest...

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Last edited by swaghauler; 10-13-2020 at 08:46 PM. Reason: added a comment
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Old 10-08-2020, 04:35 PM
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Boeing's ScanEagle would also be available as the prototypes were flying in the mid-'90s even though the Navy didn't officially adopt it until the year 2002.
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Old 10-08-2020, 05:10 PM
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I think the biggest issue is not whether drone technology was available (it was, for example, the Ryan Firebee target drone was in service in 1952) but if the military recognizes the potential that drone tech represents.
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Old 10-08-2020, 05:39 PM
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Lightning Bugs would probably return to use. Ryan Firebees were modified and used in the 60s and 70s with cameras to provide aerial recon, with Lightning Bug being their designation. In the late 90s, Teledyne Ryan converted a pair of Firebees to an updated Lightning Bug standard providing real-time imagery for Green Flag exercises in Nevada. Firebees are still in use today, so they'd be available for conversion.

Predator entered service in 1995, so the early RQ (unarmed) versions of it would likely exist in small numbers in the Twilight era. The CIA would have its predecessor, the GNAT 750.

The RQ-2 Pioneer drones launched from Iowa-class battleships during the Gulf War remained in service until 2007, so they'd still be around.

The FQM-151 Pointer is the "first generation Raven" that swaghauler mentioned in his Raven entry. They were first acquired in 1990 and still in use in the early 2000s (not sure if they're all retired yet). It's a 9 pound drone with an hour of flight time and a fixed-forward camera.

Slightly larger is the BQM-147 Exdrone (Expendable Drone). It served in Desert Storm and is still in use. It's around 90 pounds with 2.5 hours of endurance.

S-TEC (now DRS Unmanned Systems) started building their Sentry in the mid-80s. It's a 240 pound drone with 8 hours of endurance and a 60 pound payload.
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Old 10-08-2020, 09:10 PM
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Would drones be in use in a parallel/alternate world such as T2k?
Possibly.
Would they have seen widespread use?
Very doubtful given the technical limitations of the mid 90's.
Would many/any have survived nearly half a decade of warfare without adequate replacement parts, servicing, fuel/battery replacements, etc, etc, etc?
Almost certainly not.

UAVs/drones typically operate at relatively low altitudes (except for the big hellfire carrying ones of course, but they're more like unmanned aircraft). Given those fairly low altitudes, it's almost a certainty they're going to attract small arms fire, or even get caught in explosions (grenades, mortars, etc) for the more tactical level ones.

The larger ones operating at higher altitudes are sure to be targets for SAMS, AAA guns and other aircraft too, and to my knowledge, generally lack the ability to effectively fight back (yes, I know some have defensive systems which is why I said "effectively").

So, to make things really simple, there's no need to include them in a normal T2k game EXCEPT on very rare occasions as a macguffin or in the hands of the opposition. Their frequency of appearance should be about the same as just about any other type of aircraft and for more or less the exact same reasons.
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Old 10-08-2020, 10:22 PM
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Sorry Leg but drones will be around and not as rare as you think - if you can build ultralights you can build drones - and there will be a hell of a lot of junked airplanes and other places for parts for drones - hell just find a good model airplane shop and you have parts you can use to build a drone - they may be lower tech but they will be around.
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Old 10-09-2020, 01:20 AM
Fallenkezef Fallenkezef is offline
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Drones where recce platforms in the late 90's right? When where the first armed UAVs deployed?
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Old 10-09-2020, 06:46 AM
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I suspect any that would be armed would be more like kamikazes than launching platforms - especially later in the war when they got more jury rigged for replacement parts
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Old 10-09-2020, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olefin View Post
Sorry Leg but drones will be around and not as rare as you think - if you can build ultralights you can build drones - and there will be a hell of a lot of junked airplanes and other places for parts for drones - hell just find a good model airplane shop and you have parts you can use to build a drone - they may be lower tech but they will be around.
That's your opinion and you're entitled to it.
However, drones require electronics to run them, radio receivers and transmitters, and all sorts of other electrically powered actuators, whereas an ultralight, with it's pilot sitting right there in the vehicle, avoids the need for all those near impossible to find, let alone produce, components.

If drones were so easy to produce in the later stages of the war, why aren't cruise missiles and other guided munitions more common then? Your argument does not stand up to scrutiny.
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Old 10-09-2020, 09:48 AM
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Default Hard to Kill?

I tend to agree that drones/UAVs would be quite rare c. 2000.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legbreaker View Post
UAVs/drones typically operate at relatively low altitudes (except for the big hellfire carrying ones of course, but they're more like unmanned aircraft). Given those fairly low altitudes, it's almost a certainty they're going to attract small arms fire, or even get caught in explosions (grenades, mortars, etc) for the more tactical level ones.
I don't know about this. There's tons of footage out there of small drones loitering over OPFOR positions at relatively low altitude. Apparently, small, moving aerial targets are extremely difficult to hit with small arms fire. As a result, modern armies are developing all sorts of anti-drone weaponry, from lasers to microwave transmitters, to try to combat small drones.

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The larger ones operating at higher altitudes are sure to be targets for SAMS, AAA guns and other aircraft too, and to my knowledge, generally lack the ability to effectively fight back (yes, I know some have defensive systems which is why I said "effectively").
True, the air over central Europe during the Twilight War would be fraught with dangers. I think tactical implementation is key here. If drones are used selectively, they might survive longer than one might think. Is a SAM crew going to risk painting itself for lurking Wild Weasels in order to target a lone drone (especially given the established tactic of using drones as decoys to unmask AA networks)?

That said, if SAMs and AAA don't get them, time likely will. As you pointed out, drone/UAV electronic components and power systems will likely fail without proper maintenance and/or the availability of spares, so non-combat attrition is almost inevitable.

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So, to make things really simple, there's no need to include them in a normal T2k game EXCEPT on very rare occasions as a macguffin or in the hands of the opposition. Their frequency of appearance should be about the same as just about any other type of aircraft and for more or less the exact same reasons.
Agreed. The appearance of a drone in a campaign c.2000 should, IMHO, should be a really unique, special event.

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Old 10-09-2020, 11:28 AM
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Overview of UAVS from the 50's up to present day https://sites.google.com/site/uavuni/1990s-onwards (but the "peanut" is missing https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/row/cl-327.htm)
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Old 10-09-2020, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Fallenkezef View Post
Drones where recce platforms in the late 90's right? When where the first armed UAVs deployed?
Iran used armed UAVs in the Iran-Iraq War, so no later than that.
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Old 10-10-2020, 03:01 PM
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It comes down to what kind of drone you are talking about - we arent talking about Predators here controlled remotely from hundreds of miles away - you can also make a drone using simple radio control technology that you can find at any model rocket/airplane store. Its not as capable for sure - but it can be done. And I agree - a fully functional pre-war or early war drone would be rare by mid-2000 except possibly in places like France or Japan (V1 Japan at least) that avoided being part of the war.

I am an aeronautical engineer - it can be and could be done guys. But they would be jury rigs and a lot less capable than the high tech drones you are probably thinking of. Best comparison would be they would be like Wojo Mines and Mortars compared to what was being made pre-war.
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Old 10-10-2020, 03:13 PM
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Default Yeah, it can fly, but what else can it do?

I don't think it would be too difficult to build a simple UAV c.2000, but while it's one thing to construct a functional flying platform, it's entirely another to effectively militarize it. To give it recce/surveillance/spotting capability, you'd need to include live video feeds, imaging devices, and/or recording devices, etc.). Those sorts of electronics would be harder to find in the later years of the Twilight War than small engines and RC equipment, I would imagine. Without a proper bird's-eye view, it would be very difficult to turn an ad hoc drone into a weapons platform. You'd need LOS to target it effectively, and if you can see the target, it can probably see you too.
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Old 10-10-2020, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
I don't think it would be too difficult to build a simple UAV c.2000, but while it's one thing to construct a functional flying platform, it's entirely another to effectively militarize it. To give it recce/surveillance/spotting capability, you'd need to include live video feeds, imaging devices, and/or recording devices, etc.). Those sorts of electronics would be harder to find in the later years of the Twilight War than small engines and RC equipment, I would imagine. Without a proper bird's-eye view, it would be very difficult to turn an ad hoc drone into a weapons platform. You'd need LOS to target it effectively, and if you can see the target, it can probably see you too.
Keep in mind I am not talking about a weapons platform (unless you want to put an explosive on it and make it a kamikaze - thats easy to do) - I am talking about a simple drone with a video system or camera that you can trigger remotely and then retreive and get back the information by having it fly home. And there was a lot of home video equipment available in that in that time frame - again we are talking about jury rigs here vs fully functional military eqiupment.

Also keep in mind that the tech to make a functional cruise missile has been around since the 1940's - i.e. the V1. And they didnt need a lot of high tech to make it a very deadly weapon. Not an accurate one - i.e. they aimed it a London and a lot of them missed - but if you even have 1940's level tech still working you can make one.
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Old 10-10-2020, 07:34 PM
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In regards to trying to construct a drone, some problems I can see with it are: -
1. finding electronics that haven't been damaged by the war (fire, EMP, etc. etc.)
2. finding people with the skills to put put those electronics together to make the control system - it's not just a case of having the electronics skill, you would need someone who has at least minimal knowledge of how aircraft work.
3. finding people who have the knowledge to construct the drone to allow it to carry something like a camera etc. etc. - cameras and particularly video cameras of that era were typically bulky and heavy in comparison to what we're used to today, any drone would have to have the motor power to lift that and also fly with it, then you have to consider the power source...

It's not as simple as throwing a motor onto a frame, adding some axles and wheels, adding a driver's position and saying you can make ATVs
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Old 10-10-2020, 07:40 PM
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Default Skills v. Parts

Those are all valid points. I don't know about other parts of the world, but the RC aircraft hobby was pretty big here in the US in the '80s and '90s, so some of the skills you mentioned wouldn't be too hard to find.
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Old 10-10-2020, 08:23 PM
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Quote:
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Those are all valid points. I don't know about other parts of the world, but the RC aircraft hobby was pretty big here in the US in the '80s and '90s, so some of the skills you mentioned wouldn't be too hard to find.
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No disagreement from me in that regard and with the size of the hobby in North America, the potential to find undamaged components is similarly increased.
However I am one of those people who sees this as a good opportunity to create an adventure rather than have them easy to acquire and thus reduce the potential impact in a game.

I regard the setting as being "technology deficient", tech is there but demand far outstrips supply, even to the point that there may not even be any supply. I have no problem with drones being in the game or even the ability to make drones but I hesitate to have them become part of the everyday experience - they should not be the norm, they should be something unusual, just like encountering a 100% fully functional MBT should be unusual.
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Old 10-10-2020, 08:41 PM
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No disagreement from me in that regard and with the size of the hobby in North America, the potential to find undamaged components is similarly increased.
However I am one of those people who sees this as a good opportunity to create an adventure rather than have them easy to acquire and thus reduce the potential impact in a game.

I regard the setting as being "technology deficient", tech is there but demand far outstrips supply, even to the point that there may not even be any supply. I have no problem with drones being in the game or even the ability to make drones but I hesitate to have them become part of the everyday experience - they should not be the norm, they should be something unusual, just like encountering a 100% fully functional MBT should be unusual.
I agree wholeheartedly.

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Old 10-10-2020, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legbreaker View Post
That's your opinion and you're entitled to it.
However, drones require electronics to run them, radio receivers and transmitters, and all sorts of other electrically powered actuators, whereas an ultralight, with it's pilot sitting right there in the vehicle, avoids the need for all those near impossible to find, let alone produce, components.
Yes, drones are essentially fly-by-wire aircraft tech plus RC gear. Running a drone stored in perfect condition with all the required gear? You just need the setup and maintenance know-how and hopefully a competent operator. Keeping one running with some amount of available compatible spares? Not too hard, again particularly if you have personnel with the right skills sets. Trying to keep one operating with makeshift components? Bloody difficult by 2000 I reckon. Any unit with multiple drones would very quickly be cannibalising some to provide parts for a small number of best-condition drones.

Any suggestion that operational military drones would be anything other than very rare by 2000 is kind of farcical. But a great hook for an adventure, due to that rarity.
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Old 10-10-2020, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olefin View Post
Keep in mind I am not talking about a weapons platform (unless you want to put an explosive on it and make it a kamikaze - thats easy to do) - I am talking about a simple drone with a video system or camera that you can trigger remotely and then retreive and get back the information by having it fly home. And there was a lot of home video equipment available in that in that time frame - again we are talking about jury rigs here vs fully functional military eqiupment.

Also keep in mind that the tech to make a functional cruise missile has been around since the 1940's - i.e. the V1. And they didnt need a lot of high tech to make it a very deadly weapon. Not an accurate one - i.e. they aimed it a London and a lot of them missed - but if you even have 1940's level tech still working you can make one.
You can make a functional cruise missile with earlier tech as long as you have enough resources to throw into testing. The United States produced 45 Kettering Aerial Torpedoes between 1918 and 1920, but they didn't see use because officials were (understandably) concerned about their reliability when launching over friendly troops. There was also the UK's Larynx in the 1920s and the USSR's GIRD-06 in the 1930s. None of them were successful in their era, but that was because of a lack of technical knowledge and development - aerodynamics were never fully worked out for the Aerial Torpedo, while the Larynx succeeded in tests in England but failed in Egypt because of vapor lock in the engine.

Even when the V-1 came around, of the first 19 launches at London, only 4 hit England, and only 1 of those in London. It took time to work the kinks out of the system. Once those kinks were worked out, 20% were immediate failures (detonating on the rail, crashing shortly after takeoff, or wandering randomly), while only 31.4% hit within 30 kilometers of the aiming point at 225 kilometer range or 15 km at 100 km range, which was the Luftwaffe's definition of success for the weapon.

With World War 2 tech, you can also get a drone with a TV camera controlled by the backseater in a multi-person aircraft, like the TDR drone torpedo bomber controlled by Avenger bombardiers. They were used against Japanese shipping with moderate success (about 2/3 success rate, with most of the failures being mechanical or TV failures, only around 6% being shot down).
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Old 10-10-2020, 10:36 PM
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I believe these direct quotes from 1st and 2nd ed are very relevant to this topic:

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If it moves, shoot it, if not push it, if it still doesn't move, use explosives.

Nothing happens in isolation - it's called "the butterfly effect"

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Old 10-11-2020, 01:45 AM
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If drones are all destroyed by magic T2K EMPs then so is everything else electronic. No vehicle built after the 70s is going to be functional because those magic EMPs have fused every ECM in all engines. The only rocket launchers that work are blank ignited types. There's no working NVG anywhere.

So either the Heavy Weapons and Vehicle guides are pointless or the magic EMP isn't quite so powerful as it's described. This doesn't means drones or other high tech gear has to be common but the EMP as described in the books is vastly overstated.
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Old 10-11-2020, 04:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bash View Post
If drones are all destroyed by magic T2K EMPs then so is everything else electronic.
You did actually read the section I posted right?
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If it moves, shoot it, if not push it, if it still doesn't move, use explosives.

Nothing happens in isolation - it's called "the butterfly effect"

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  #28  
Old 10-11-2020, 10:54 AM
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Yes and the fact remains the magic T2K EMPs either worked as written or don't. If they work as written the logical conclusion is that everything electronic is toast. If control systems in factories (essentially giant Faraday cages) are fried then there's no way the ECMs in every HMMWV and M1 aren't also fried. So if you run the magic T2K EMP as written there's no need to ever crack open any of the Vehicle guides, the Last Sub adventure is pointless, half of the Heavy Weapons guide is useless, and the RDF guide is a waste of paper.

If instead you run the game where an EMP acts more like a real life EMP there's damage to power grids and some totally unshielded electronics but plenty of electronics survive. In that case there's no problem at all talking about drones and UAVs that existed in the timeline of the game and how they might be used at the table or in the co text of adventures.

I've never run games with the magic T2K EMPs because they don't make sense. I can concede magic Diesel engines that can run on alcohol but not the magic EMPs. That does not mean high tech devices are over abundant. In my games technology exists but is highly prized and often ends up the focus of adventures.
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Old 10-12-2020, 07:42 AM
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Kind of reminds me of the car I had in college: "C'mon, start up...c'mon, radio work...c'mon, radiator don't have leaked too much fluid..."
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Entirely too much T2K stuff here: www.pmulcahy.com
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Old 10-12-2020, 11:42 AM
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The most likely unit to have organic, fully integrated UAV support available in the Twilight 2000 timeline IMHO is...

...wait for it...

...The 9th Infantry Division (Motorized) in the RDF Theater... (you knew it would involve the RDF Sourcebook, didn't you?).

MERCURY GREEN

When the 9th ID became the High Technology Test Bed Division, it experiment with a lot of kewl stuff like FAVs, AGS, Pedestal-mount Stinger AA, Hellfire armed HMMWVs, and they really wanted UAVs.

But the technology didn't exist yet. So they used a stand-in manned system, called MERCURY GREEN. Which, from what I've found, was a Cessna, lol.

Had the 9th ID HTTD project continued past the fall of the USSR, it's highly likely they would have moved past using surrogate aircraft and would have had a mil-spec UAV platform available for combat operations.

It's all outlined here, especially Appendix D.

https://web.archive.org/web/20191026...u2/a370233.pdf
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