Exploring the habitable but dangerous planetary bodies of Fringe Space, necessitates the use of specialized, armed and armored vehicles. Be they heavily-modified civilian wheeled or grav trucks, old and no longer used by the military armored personnel carriers, even light tanks – planetary surveillance teams are always in desperate need for more and reliable hardware. Said planets are often wrought with danger; hostile flora and fauna, cannibalistic mutants, left-overs from some dead civilization and even rusted, cybernetic horrors might lurk about, ready to murder those naïve enough to settle without sending a proper scouting expedition first.
By far, the largest groups of people who use scout vehicles are would-be settlers. These intrepid colonists, mostly use specially modified wheeled all-terrain vehicles. The lightly armored, by welding sheets of megasteel to reinforce its chassis, those vehicles are more often than not, armed with one rapid firing railgun or anti-material laser. Said weapon is not turreted but mounted atop the car or pickup truck, to be operated by its scout goggle wearing spotter. These are called “grasshoppers” and Terrans deploy them in areas where environment is not that hostile. Nevertheless, there were and still are cases in which, said vehicles were pressed into combat by necessity. Grasshoppers are quick and their armor plating very thin, which makes them more of a lightly armed transport, than a true combat vehicle. Their crews often carry hand scanners and scout goggles, to complement their vehicle’s lack of such systems. Crews and driver are also lightly armed – laser or railgun carbines, sidearms, perhaps a long rifle or two. They are not expected to fight off an army, or defend their base camp from an onslaught of dangerous fauna. That is what the colonial militia (CM) is for and often, said reconnaissance teams are backed up by proper soldiers who have their backs. In case when the colony which sent this expedition is not that strong, Terrans rely on mercs or groups of adventurers to provide them with more firepower. Colonists who send their scout teams somewhere expect said scouts to determine if this planet is safe enough for ordinary civvies to settle. If there is a danger, easily handled by mercs, adventurers or even one small force of CM troops, they are willing to invest more resources.
Speaking about the CM, they have their own dedicated scout vehicles, better armed and armored than their civilian counterparts. In most cases the soldiers of the colonial militia indeed use captured or salvaged from some distant battlefield, alien machines. If hard pressed to deploy something and, without any means of supply, CM scout trooper commanders will use everything they can get their hands on. APCs (armored personnel carriers), AFVs (armored fighting vehicles) and if possible – light tanks. In most militaries, light tanks are deployed to provide rearguard security or bolster the flanks of larger, equipped with heavier machines armored units. Terrans, however, have chosen to delegate these tanks with a much different duty – force reconnaissance. CM’s best scout units are equipped with light tanks; better armored than other light vehicles and mostly tracked, these equipped with laser cannon machines are tasked with wiping the enemy’s own reconnaissance forces. More about the light tanks in Tank blog number 2! The simple truth is – one cannot always rely on scanners or intelligence provided by orbital means – sometimes the eyes and ears of your soldiers can gather much more and accurate data. In true Terran tradition, each scout vehicle, be it an APC, a tank or an AFV is jerry-rigged with the best optics available to this CM unit. The field operation manual advises Terran scout troopers to first use their head mounted intelligence gathering devices and then the optics. Scanner rays can be detected and, if your enemy ops specialists are good, they can then pinpoint your position. Otherwise, all CM scout vehicles are expected to do some fighting and, if possible will first go for their enemy’s equivalent. Then, the highly mobile units are to use their low-silhouette, stealth and guile to set up ambushes, harass the enemy forces supply lines and their rearguard. The CM more often than not, outfits its APCs with anti-air missile launchers and the AFVs with long-range, armor piercing railguns. Although light, the standard railgun is only 40mm, these rapid firing cannons can easily take out unsuspecting enemies. CM commanders mostly task AFVs with sniping lone or small groups of TAs, whose armor their shells can pierce. The APCs anti-air turret is also fitted with a quad 12.7mm auto-railgun mount, which is best used against infantry or low-flying enemy craft. This is best used and, to a devastating result during ambushes; the “Whacker” as CM troopers call it, can turn enemy soldiers into plant or animal food in a jiff. Otherwise, the colonial militia can depend on their more heavily armed, and well-concealed scout troopers to support the vehicles. Most, if not all have good chameleo-cloaks, carry long rifles, smgs, and all have plenty of grenades.
This is the first part of my new Starshatter series of blogs – this time devoted to the vehicles Terrans and other aliens use. If you like to support my work, you can do so on Patreon, where I post one new sci-fi story monthly, or on Subscribestar. You can find all the books I have so far published here on Amazon.