Friday, December 31, 2010

The "Smaller" Departments

The smaller departments may seem unnecessary on a ship some days but large naval ships run so well today because every department works together to get the job done and make everyone as happy as possible. If one of the departments isn't on a ship then the other departments will need to step in or the mission will fail and/or moral will go down drastically. Here's a review of the smaller departments on ship:
Air Department
Deck Department
Administration Department and its rooms

Here's to hoping all of you have an amazing New Year's celebration and the best of luck throughout the new year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Administration Rooms

As far as rooms needed by the Admin Department, the obvious one is a single office with many computers. Most departments have their own administration offices, often with a member of the Admin Department there to actually do the inputs of smaller awards and general secretary duties for the higher officers. The commanding officer has his or her own yeoman, or person from the Admin Department, to type up ship wide rules they wish to create, to keep the captain up to date on Navy wide rules, and to do things like input all the leave chits into the system that accounts for everyone on ship. A few of the officers may have their own offices, like the training officer who is in charge of helping people go to civilian colleges as well as military training and may want to discuss college planning with people in private.
Another part of the Admin Department is the public affairs people. The most visible part of this division are the photographers. Any official ship business done off ship has a photographer. Often photographers are present at any ship function such as drills, parties, morale boosters, and sometimes just everyday things. Their jobs are to take great pictures and tell the stories of those pictures in the way that will show those in them, the ship, and the Navy as a whole in the best light. They also stay up to date on events in coming ports, news articles that may pertain to the ship or its mission, and any possible stories from the personnel on ship that could be interesting enough to write articles on. As part of their job they also maintain any social media the ship deems wise to use, make sure nothing negative is put out about the ship, and write articles for Navy-wide publications.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Administration on Ship

We’ve looked at Engineering, Operations, Air, and Deck Department spaces, now let’s talk about your Administration Department. Before you can get into placing your rooms for this department you need to decide how paperwork will be handled on your ship. Modern Navy ships still use printed paper for most request forms on a ship. Things like trouble tickets that need to be monitored by more than just a single division are submitted by the local intranet on ship and many big Navy things, like service records, are now computerized. You may wonder what administration is needed on ship and my answer would be everything. Most shops on a ship, or the shops on shore that help maintain ships in a more specialized way than ship’s force should be expected to know, keep manuals on all their systems, many times having duplicate manuals or they forget to throw out the old manuals when their systems get updated. That can take a lot of paper in a time when Hollywood predicts paper will be scarce. Also, almost everything that is done on ship needs written request forms to start. Whenever a system needs to have all power removed, it needs to have the breaker turned off and that requires a request form and maybe permission from other shops if they share a breaker. Doing painting inside the ship you need approval that the space is ventilated correctly as well a request sheet to take paint from the paint locker. Borrowing tools from various shops on ship that keep extra tools or supplies occasionally needed by many shops, such as test equipment or protection gear for high voltages, requires written proof as to when it was checked out and by whom. When an award is given or someone is punished, it needs to be added to the person’s service record so everyone can see it. When someone wants any kind of schooling they need to route a “chit” up their chain of command, to the training officer for approval and back down the chain of command so everyone knows the decision. I believe a few of the Star Trek people mention “putting in for leave.” Have you ever wondered how that’s done? A person fills out a chit saying when they want to go, where they’ll be staying, and how they can be gotten a hold of for the requested period of time. That piece of paper is then handed and approved all the way up the chain of command to the commanding officer who must approve every leave chit. If approved it then goes to Admin Department to be put in the system and the person picks the chit up from the Quarterdeck to sign out on leave. If that person gets in trouble while on leave and doesn’t have a copy of the signed chit on them, they can be considered UA, unexplainably absent, and get in a lot of trouble.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Engineering Rooms on a Ship

Now that we're about halfway through the departments on a ship it seems like a good time to review the rooms we've thought about so far. Let's start with the rooms of Engineering Department:

Main Engineering
The Engine Room
The Log Room
Waste Management On Ship
Electrician's Shop
Emergancy Repair Shop
Other Specailty Shops

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deck in Space.

The next department on a ship to talk about is Deck. Deck Department is rather the odd-jobs area of responsibility. In the modern navy Deck Department makes sure the hull of the ship is rust-free, both what’s visible above the waterline and any deck (floor) visible outside the ship as well as directing extra personnel needed from other departments in huge jobs such as mooring the ship or underway replenishments where supplies and fuel is transferred from a cargo ship to a working ship in the middle of the ocean. Deck Department is also responsible for the rails and lifelines that circle the ship to keep personnel on ship and most of the watches outside the hull of the ship underway. Deck members are the ones on rotating shifts watching for people that fall overboard or for ships or planes that are visible. Anything the lookouts see gets radioed up to the bridge and they react accordingly.
In the future Deck Department may disappear but if they don’t than Deck could be responsible for any repairs or upgrades needed on the hull as well as replacing deck plates inside the ship, maybe even doing any maintenance needed on the exits from the ship to space or other ships
(airlocks) and escape pods.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Attack Fighters: A Wing, Just a Few, or None Needed?

Another thing to think about when considering weapons on ship is if you have smaller attack ships onboard. Large ships could work as a modern aircraft carrier which is designed as a staging point for air attacks. Smaller ships that can’t carry as much fuel for long trips can be carried in larger ships and be deployed closer to the target with full fuel tanks so they can still maneuver without worrying about having fuel to get back to the planet or station they left. If you don’t have a huge ship but need a lot of protection, it may be smart to have small defense ships designed to go for short times out in space and deliver a powerful punch before returning to refuel and recharge. Such boats (vessels unable to support themselves long without assistance) would have to be single person cockpits, like an escape pod, or be remotely operated drones, which would save lives and could be expendable if a ramming was needed.
If you have a fighter wing or just a small group of pilots, they would probably fit under a different department. The Air Department, or whatever you want to call them, would be responsible for navigation on any vessel designed to leave the ship, making sure any weapons on the vessels are always ready, and any maintenance needed is always done on time. This department could also work on the escape pods, simply checking each month that they are perfectly useable, but that would likely continue as a Deck Department job, which will be discussed in the next post.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weapons Training

Now you know what weapons your ship has and what weapons your crew uses, now you need to familiarize your crew with those weapons and make them proficient. Some of the big things in military life are the drills. When not working on maintaining the tools and systems people use or learning more about their jobs and systems, military members are drilled on what to do if disaster strikes. As far as ship weapons are concerned, that means running scenarios to prepare for any possible attack. Anything from an unnamed airplane flying too close to everything needed to keep the ship afloat after a torpedo is aimed at the ship and fired. Drill, review, maintain, train, and drill, that is what lower level military personnel do during the work day unless their job is purely to gather information to run up the chain of command. That schedule includes weapons. The military says that at a minimum military personnel need to test and qualify annually in able to carry a weapon on the job. Those that don’t qualify get sent continuously to test until they do qualify. To qualify they need to be on a military gun range supervised by specially trained military personnel. Even while deployed most people are sent to a place near where they can test and qualify. Even underway the US Navy has gunshots on the main deck of most ships to be sure all its personnel can defend the ship if something happens on the pier or if someone onboard gets a gun and tries to kill everyone. You will want to set up a training schedule for the ship wide drills and training as well as a recommended schedule for individual or divisional practice. Using energy weapons allows you to set up a fake system on ship where nondeadly lasers are used to practice and improve aim rather than the normal deadly ones. While ignoring holodecks as a lovely training environment, I can remember at least two scenes where Star Trek: The Next Generation practiced for close combat. In one scene Woorf and Guinan are practicing aim in a circular chamber with little dots that counted how many times a color of dots got hit, the other was Woorf training the crew in Klingon martial arts, rather similar to our Tai Kwon Do. In another scene in Enterprise, set closer to the current date, the crew was teaching some people how to aim and fire the weapons by aiming at floating balls in the cargo bay. As you can imagine there are hundreds of ideas on what the future can hold.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Armory

In my last post I spoke of how large weaponry will have spaces near the weapon to safely store the ammunition needed to reload the weapon. Now I’d like to talk about smaller weaponry, namely hand weapons. Does the crew of your ship prefer hand to hand combat, as many violent species do (think of the Klingons on Star Trek) or do they prefer long range weapons, as most do even nowadays, such as a pistol, phaser, or rifle. Once you know that you need to decide where those weapons are kept. If your crew always wears their weapons there is no reason to have a lot of extra weapons around, although having reload stations for energy or projectile weapons or safe rooms to protect your crew from any enemy boarding parties.
However, if your crew doesn’t carry their weapons at all times, or many of them don’t, then you need an armory. An armory is where weapons are kept ready so they are ready to stop any hostile threat able to board your ship. Someone is always nearby to help arm people in less than five minutes time and make sure none of the crew goes crazy and arm themselves for a murderous trip through the halls of the ship. The special thing about an armory is that it’s designed to be easy to defend: one or two doors and thick walls. It usually has only one door but if you use energy weapons that don’t require more than picking up the weapon and checking the safety is on after getting on the body armor it may be smarter to have an exit and entrance door near each other or easily defended to speed the arming. Another thing to remember is that bigger ships often have more than one armory. A ship of nearly a thousand crewmembers and officers probably has two armories and storage rooms called magazines. For every armory, there should probably be at least a small magazine of ammunition for the weapons in that armory. Most ships should carry enough backup supplies for five or six gun fights, just in case, especially for the space battles.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ammunitions Storage

Let’s see, you now know what weapons your ship has and where those weapons are fired from. By now I hope you have also decided where those weapons are located on your ship. Next comes storage. If your weapons are energy based, such as lasers, they will need a lot of energy. There is a scene in Star Wars where the Death Star fires its massive laser. The laser goes through a tunnel where it grows in power, likely from little energy packs or such that add more power and focus to the deadly laser. If you have a laser on your ship, I’d recommend a separate power source, or at least battery packs stored near the weapon so it doesn’t interfere too much with your main power while in battle. As convenient as it would be to have one power source on the ship, it wouldn’t be smart to have life support, engine power, and weapons all hooked up to one system. A single feed back pulse from the enemy and you’re dead in space or too much demand on energy and your captain may need to choose between taking life support off line for a short time, shutting down the engine, or not returning fire. None of those are very good choices so at least have rechargeable battery packs stored nearby for your energy weapons if you don’t want a whole other power source on your ship.
If you plan to do like the timeline of Firefly does and have large weapons that shoot bullets or similar things, you also need to plan where backup ammunitions will be kept. That space will need to be near the weapons to allow easy reload but in a place on the ship that a direct or indirect hit could explode the room and stuff around without losing things like engines, life support, or a lot of people.
Another thing to keep in mind when thinking about weapons are missiles. If you plan to keep missiles on board, which it’s always smart to have them when energy weapons don’t seem to work or your projectiles can’t pierce the hull of the enemy ships. Missiles are bombs that lock onto a target and don’t let go, unless confused by good defenses of course. Mines could be released to block an escape route or protect a find to be explored more at a future time. Either way, missiles and mines are explosives and will need to be sheltered from radiation or vibrations that could set them off on ship as well as radio waves. If you watch various science fiction shows or movies you’ll notice some have missiles and bombs carefully stacked together in a specific cargo hold designed to store weapons, but most have individual tubes where they stay ready to be loaded and protected from exploding unexpectedly.
Now that I’ve given you some ideas, where will your ammunitions storage be and how is it protected?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Weapons Control

Now that you’ve decided on what weapons your fictional ship is equipped with you need to figure out how they are fired. Many larger guns now a days are fired from a panel somewhere nearby or on the bridge. Smaller guns, such as hand guns and 50 cals, are aimed by hand just as they are fired. If you’ve ever watched a science fiction movie with a war in it you’re likely familiar with the firing system that has an individual sitting in a room with a large window manually aiming and firing the smaller space guns or sitting in a seat with a visor on and joysticks to work the guns. In theory weapons could be created to target themselves on a verbal command from someone or many someones. How do your weapons fire and where are those stations put on your ship design?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Space Weapons

Another major part of the Operations Department on a ship is the control of all weaponry, from small arms, like pistols or rifles, to large caliber weapons that need a few people working together to work smoothly to missile systems to defensive systems designed to distract or confuse the guidance systems of missiles.
Modern weaponry can generally be divided into three descriptions: deadly missiles which are often far range weapons, projectile weapons that are shorter range, and defenses that are radio waves sent to screw with computers on missiles. Future weaponry in space could have projectiles (in the movie Serenity they put a high caliber gun on the outside of their ship, obviously not equipped with lasers) but more than likely will consist of energy based weapons such as lasers or kinetic energy weapons which collide into objects at great speed to destroy. I read an article in that stated humans are already capable of kinetic energy weapons that could be shot from satellites to destroy something on Earth. At least the plans are theoretically there, treaties were created to prevent weapons of mass destruction in space so the systems have never officially gone operational or been tested.
The theory of space weapons and defenses has never been truly tested and thus leaves so much room for the artistic license of the fiction writer. Will your ship shoot missiles or mines or huge caliber bullets? Will they have their own propulsion systems or merely travel by momentum? Does your ship fire energy weapons that disable the computers to ease boarding or do your energy weapons blow enemy ships up somehow, an overload perhaps or a deep cut? Can your weapon shift space or does the debris in your universe just stay put to screw with other ships coming through? Are there garbage crawlers that salvage destroyed ships for scrap metal or to create new ships? What storage space is needed for your weapons and who takes charge of them and does maintenance to be sure they are always ready? These are all things to think about when dealing with weapons, a few of which I’ll go into in the next few posts.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Space Ship Navigator

The chart room is a room near the bridge that holds all the maps of the waterways, or charts as the navy calls them. From here the path is drawn and redrawn many times as currents change, harbors are changed by climate or humans, and designated ports are changed for political reasons or due to climate. The path of a ship is rarely what is planned as it leaves port and is a constant pain for those tasked to update the course.
Granted, on a space ship it may make more sense for a computer to plan the course and navigate the ship. After all, technology will advance a great deal and already we can put our cars in cruise control and not work so hard on the road. Why then has every show or movie I’ve seen show a pilot always at its station? Why does it seem like the ship barely moves without someone at the wheel, so to say? Even in space the ships would be pulled by different gravitational streams, it needs a conscious sentient hand to make it stay the course and not wind up hitting something or destroying the ship. Besides, even an AI would be unable to adjust the ship’s direction fast enough to avoid hitting things at the speed it would need to travel to make space travel in a single lifetime feasible. As to a computer setting the path and choosing the route a ship will take, I highly doubt we will ever reach the level of technology for me to trust a path laid in without any input given by the pilot other than the destination. At the very least I would hope the computer gave the pilot or captain a few paths to choose from and the sentient being made the final decision.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Quarterdeck

When the ship is underway, the brain of it is the bridge, when it is stopped in a port the brain is called the Quarterdeck. Ask any sailor and they will tell you that the Quarterdeck is a necessary evil. When the ship is in port there are one or two Quarterdecks, one for officers and maybe a separate one for the enlisted. To cross a Quarterdeck you need to ask permission at least once, show your identification card, and do a version of a salute, depending on if you are in uniform or in civilian wear. People also have to salute the flag at some time, depending on if they are leaving or returning and if it is light out. All this tradition is based around reminding sailors of the rich history in the navy but the Quarterdeck serves a purpose as well. With only one or two exit and entrance points to the ship, it makes the ship easier to protect. If the attackers get in the gate, they still have to climb the uncovered stairs and cross the open brow to get on the ship, giving people on ship (there are always a few people armed at all times in port) time to stop the attackers.
I don’t recall seeing a space ship with a Quarterdeck in any movies or television shows and I would imagine that a ship would have a few safeguards against attacks, such as that they can fire at any shuttle getting too close to them or shoot any attacker accidentally beamed up. (I seem to remember a number of times on Star Trek episodes that the transporter operator was armed.) However, if space travel takes its traditions from the Navy, I find it hard to believe that the Quarterdeck will be forgotten, though traditions may change. If space travel takes its traditions from the Air Force, the Quarterdeck will likely be forgotten as it is mainly a Navy tradition.

Friday, December 3, 2010

THe Pilot House

With the Engineering Department roughly described, let’s look at the argumentably next most important department on ship. (Every department thinks that they are the most important department on ship.) Operations Department keeps the ship going where it’s supposed to go while staying out of harm’s way and defending the ship if needed. The brain of this department would have to be the Bridge, otherwise known as the Pilot House. Here is where the navigator stands to control the rudder and change the speed of the ship. Here is where the captain stands in times of trouble and where there is always an officer on duty to make quick decisions if problems arise while the captain isn’t in the room. This is where reports are made of nearby ships or aircraft and where the captain’s official radio channel is plugged into the ship. This is also where all the intercom announcements are made to the whole ship while underway. It is the main setting for many science fiction television shows and movies as well. How often do you see people (usually the screen is filled with officers) in engineering discussing problems or in the halls or mess decks? Now compare it to how often conversations are made in the captain’s office, someone’s quarters, or the bridge. Most often writers tend to focus on the bridge and as a result there are many ideas to adapt to your own setting.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Specailty Shops

Other specialty shops you may want to know about are things like the welding shop, the small electronics shop, and the boat shop. The welding shop comes up with all sorts of small metal parts needed while underway that can’t be ordered. They also do any welding needed to secure things to walls or floors so they don’t move while underway and hurt anyone or obstruct movement. The small electronics shop does a lot of soldering to fix things like drills whose wires may not be fully connected anymore or if computer cards come apart or need to be adjusted minutely. The boat shop makes sure the captain’s boat has a fully working engine and possibly does the painting and any adjustments on any small boats on ship. If you have shuttles onboard, this is the shop that would take care of them.