May 18, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 4

Welcome back to my look at Aurora. Picking up from where we left off last time, it's time to look more at colonization, including terraforming, as well as to discuss civilian shipping lines and how they can benefit you.

Now that you've got a colony on Luna, and a geosurvey underway, let it run for a month or two so stuff has time to build. When you have 100 infrastructure on Earth, create a colony on Mars and order your cargo ships to take it there. This will take a couple of weeks, but you'll end up with two extraplanetary populations. At some point in this, you should get a notification that a shipping line has commissioned a ship of some sort. Shipping lines are semi-autonomous civilian ships that automatically move things around for you. The first vessel is almost certainly either a freighter or a colony ship, both of which you should be familiar with, at least in concept.1 Colony ships simply pick up colonists from source worlds (in this case Earth) and drop them off anywhere that's a destination with enough space. Anywhere with 10 million people or less is automatically a destination, while populations with more can be set to be a source, a destination, or stable. Freighters will attempt to carry trade goods from places that have surpluses to places with demand. Particularly when first colonizing, the majority of the demand will be for infrastructure, which populations automatically produce. As your colonies grow, they will produce and demand other trade goods, too, and might set up two-way trade. You get tax revenue from all of this, while the lines get money that lets them buy more ships. Read more...

May 17, 2020


The USN recently announced the winner of the FFG(X) program, the first major new shipbuilding program for the US in over a decade. It was designed to fill the major gap in the USN's order of battle, a ship smaller and cheaper than the Arleigh Burke class destroyers. The previous effort to buy a ship for this role, the Littoral Combat Ship, produced a vessel that failed on several levels, being too expensive, too unreliable, and not capable enough. The hope was that by abandoning the high-speed multi-mission design of the LCS and focusing on a conventional frigate, they could produce a useful ship on a reasonable budget.

The FFG(X) as announced by the Navy

Five entries were submitted, a mix of American and foreign designs, all of which were based on ships already in service. Both LCS models were entered, the LCS-1/Freedom by Lockheed Martin and the LCS-2/Independence by Austal. The last American design was from Huntington Ingalls, who came up with a ship based on the Coast Guard's National Security Cutter. Italian shipbuilder Fincanteiri submitted a version of the Franco-Italian FREMM frigate, to be built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, while Bath Iron Works partnered with Spanish firm Navantia for a version of the F-100 class frigate. Emphasis was placed on commonality with existing designs, which should help to deliver the ships efficiently and cheaply. Read more...

May 15, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 3

Welcome to the third part of my Aurora tutorial. As we built ships last time, it makes sense to start using them, and we'll throw in a look at colonization while we're at it. This is going to mean actually incrementing time in Aurora, instead of just setting stuff up. The game is more or less turn-based, although the length of the turn is variable depending on circumstances. The turn length buttons will each try to advance the game the specified amount, although various events can cause a turn to end sooner.2 The most common is a ship completing its orders, although there are other causes, too.3

Not everything is updated every turn. Specifically, construction and other stuff in the economics window only happens when the time interval has advanced by at least a specific value, which defaults to 5 days. This is also when you get new officers, promote existing ones, and check for maintenance failures on your ships. In the early game, you may not even know these are happening, but as time goes on, you're likely to get interrupts as projects finish, ships are built, and research completes. Note that the interval on these cycles is variable, as it only happens at the end of a turn. So if you hit the 30 days button and no interrupts happen, then you're going to end up with a huge build cycle at the end. This might not be a good thing. If you had a construction project which was on track to finish 3 days after the last cycle, you've delayed getting it and preventing the factories from doing something else for the last 25 days. Read more...

May 15, 2020

Open Thread 52

It's time once again for our open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval/military related.

I apologize for the issues with the captchas recently. There was a software update, and it caused some issues, which I've been in touch with Said Achmiz on. It seems to have been fixed, but I haven't had confirmation of that. As a workaround, I've set up an account named Commenter with password commenter that can comment without captcha. I'll leave it active, at least so long as the spambots don't find it. If anyone wants their own account, email the username and password to battleshipbean at gmail.

Overhauls for 2018 are Main Guns Part 4, my review of Midway, Russian Battleships Part 3, the first part on the Falklands War, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy Part 2 and the Super-Dreadnoughts. 2019 overhauls are my review of Fort Sill, Shells Part 4, Spanish-American War Part 4, Falklands Part 14, Battleship Aviation Part 1, and lastly the first part of Lord Nelson's pictures from Mikasa. I really need to get another set of those up at some point.

May 13, 2020

Nuclear Weapons at Sea - Heavy Attack

The first nuclear weapon to go to sea was arguably Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, about half of whose nuclear material was transported to Tinian aboard the heavy cruiser Indianapolis.4 All of the other nuclear components for both bombs were sent to Tinian via air, and while the Crossroads tests gave vital information about the use of nuclear weapons at sea, operational deployment would have to wait another half-decade. The first serious attempt was in the late 40s, as part of the Navy's desperate and ultimately successful bid to break the Air Force's nuclear monopoly. They planned to use Little Boy-type bombs carried by P2V Neptune patrol bombers, a land-based aircraft that was launched from carriers with rocket boosters and ditched at the end of the mission.

An AJ Savage during the test program

This was obviously a stopgap, and it was never deployed operationally. That honor would fall to the AJ Savage, the result of a competition started days after the existence of the atomic bomb was revealed to the public that called for an aircraft capable of carrying a 10,000 lb bomb off a carrier. The Savage, equipped with two radial engines and a jet buried in the fuselage, was twice the weight of any previous carrier aircraft, but development proceeded fairly quickly, with the first aircraft entering service in 1950. That September, the carrier Coral Sea took the non-nuclear components of several atomic bombs along with her on her deployment to the Mediterranean. Read more...

May 11, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 2

Aurora is an interesting game, and now we'll turn to one of the parts that make it so unique: the ship designer. RTW2 is the only game I've ever seen that comes close to matching it in depth and complexity, and even that is more limited. It's probably best to check out the first installment before you dive into this one. I'm assuming that we're continuing with the game we created last time, although the few changes we made won't actually affect this part.

As our eventual goal is to colonize the universe, we're going to need ships, and the game didn't start us with any. Today, we'll build 3, a survey ship, a cargo ship, and a colony ship. First, we need to turn on Spacemaster mode, the lightbulb on the right of the top bar. This will let us instantly research components for the ship, instead of having to wait for them to be developed normally. Next, open the Class Design window, and hit New Ship Class. If you want to change the name, feel free to do so, although that obviously has no mechanical effect. The block on the right gives all of the important data about your ship, including size, crew, cost, speed, maintenance life, and range. Right now, there's just the default components, but we'll need to change that. Let's do the survey ship first. Open up Geological Survey Sensors in the menu on the left and double-click to add 2. If you add too many and need to take them off, change to Class Components using the radio buttons at the top. Read more...

May 10, 2020

The Navy UFO Incident

A year or so ago, the internet was aflutter about reports that the Navy had set up a program for reporting UFOs, or at least encounters with unidentified aircraft. Why exactly they did this was not and is not clear, with some taking it as semi-official confirmation of the existence of either UFOs or some sort of highly-classified aircraft with performance vastly greater than anything the public knows about.

Nimitz and cruiser Princeton, major participants in the "Tic Tac" incident

I want to focus on this article from The War Zone's Tyler Rogoway. Let me start by saying that Tyler Rogoway is probably the best defense journalist on the internet. He's knowledgeable, writes well, and almost always manages to produce some insight that's worth reading. But in this case, I think that leads him to the wrong conclusion. Read more...

May 09, 2020

Commenter Account

Said Achmiz is looking into the Captcha bug, but I figured out a way around the problem. Commenting is working normally for people with an account, so I've set up a commenting-only account. It's named Commenter and the password is commenter. If you want to log in and comment, do so. I can't promise this will stay active forever, but it should let you avoid filling out the captchas.

May 08, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 1

Aurora is a unique game. It's the hobby of one man, Steve Walmsley, who shares it with the world for free. It's a game where you handle everything from the highest levels of strategy to the finest details of the design of your spacecraft. It has depth unmatched by just about anything else I've ever played, although the learning curve is steep, and there's no official tutorial. Also, no graphics, and no win condition. It's not for everyone, but for the right kind of person, it's about the best game ever.

Let me start by emphasizing that your first game on your own will almost certainly not end well. Either you'll build a fleet that mysteriously becomes floating debris in the face of a much smaller enemy force, all of your ships will run out of fuel and you won't be able to retrieve them, or you'll accidentally bombard your homeworld with high-speed minerals. Or you'll find some new way to have problems.5 To get started, download the game from the Aurora forums. Start with the stickied Full Installation, and then any sticked patches. Instructions should be in those posts.6 Once you've done that, start up the game. It comes with one pre-loaded, but you'll want to make a new game, using the settings icon in the top bar. Leave all of the options for the new game screen at their defaults. On the create new race screen, be sure to check Auto-Assign Tech Points (doing this manually without running out early is very tricky)7 and set the Themes, images and race titles to whatever you want.8 Read more...

May 06, 2020

Merchant Ships - Oil Tankers

Oil fuels the world. Despite the promise of other energy sources, it's vital to the world economy, and that means it needs to be moved around the world. As usual, the best way of doing so is by sea. Oil forms a major part of the global maritime trade, and is responsible for the largest ships ever built.

Whaling ship Charles W. Morgan at Mystic Seaport

Liquid cargo has long been transported by sea, although the usual method was to load it in barrels and transport it as break-bulk cargo. This was inefficient, and not just in the traditional way that break-bulk cargo was. Barrels didn't stack very well, and they had a tendency to leak, usually losing 10% or more of their cargo during a typical voyage. Despite this, they were used exclusively in the first maritime oil trade, that of whale oil. Demand for this product soared in the first half of the 19th century, driven by the development of kerosene lamps, and the collapse of the whale population drove a search for other sources of lighting oil. One of these was petroleum, which began to take off in the 1850s, particularly in Pennsylvania. By the late 1860s, oil was America's second-largest export, and various parties began to experiment with better ways to carry oil across the Atlantic. Read more...