VSM-FS "Baton" Fire Support Skymoth
The VSM-FS Fire Support Skymoth, codenamed the "Baton," is the Grand Army of Voxelia's implementation of an orbital fire support platform that can be moved from theater to theater as required by Voxelian ground and air forces. The vessel is designed to loiter within a commissure or inflection layer for an extended period of time, raining death and destruction on targets at the RadNet command of forces located within the adjacent cube layers. Named for it's dumbell-like appearance when stowed for transport, the Baton is as deadly to the enemy as it is doomed if improperly utilised.
As a skymoth, the Baton relies upon a set of oversized and efficient, if not particularly powerful counter-rotating propellers to reposition within a micro-gravity environment or to resist the thrust generated by firing its powerful weapons (see below). Power for these propellers is provided by two dieseltech powerplants. Attitude control is provided by a combination of linkages within the rotors and two sets of alierons. The control cabin lies at the center of the vessel The fore and aft sections of the Baton are fitted with clusters of lifting gas envelopes just behind the artillery turrets (see Weapons & Armament) for maximum redundancy, but these are merely enough to help the station maintain altitude homeostasis; to traverse commissures and reposition for strikes in different theaters in the War of Reunification, the Baton needs the assistance of other airships. Two escort airships dock with mooring structures along either side of the Baton, nestling between the fore and aft envelope clusters and in the corner formed by the gunnery trusses (see Weapons & Armament). The rotors must be locked in alignment with the weapons trusses to provide sufficient space for this docking proceedure. The engines of the escorts may then be used in careful coordination to de-orbit the skystation, and, with the aid of a Navigator's Guild N3 "Honeyguide" Air Cog, guide it through a commissure or skystation to its next posting.
Weapons & Armament
Four truss masts project orthogonally from the control center along the central support truss, each tipped with a ball turret. These turrets are each equipped with dual 20mm machine guns for attacking enemy aircraft, especially micro-gravity capabale vessels like airships. At each end of the central support truss, just outboard of the envelope clusters, lie larger turrets fitted with 8cm artillery pieces. These larger turrets are crewed with three gunners each, who use grid instructions from the skymoth's encrypted RadNet uplink (see Communications Tools & Systems) to target enemy ground forces for bombardment. These artillery turrets cannot orient themselves to fire directly in line with the support truss, as the unusual geometries of the Manifold Sky mean that shots in these directions could eventually loop around to hit the Baton itself. Shots off this axis, however, present problems in terms of structural stability and, more immediately, the thrust imparted by the recoil. These factors limit the artillery fire rate for the Baton, as the pilot must work to restore attitude for maximum precision as well as to prevent de-orbiting or uncontrolled spins. A Baton in an inflection layer occupies the highest possible ground in a cube, almost completely obviating vertical cover. As when autogyros and early hot air ballons diminished the utility of traditional walls in ground defense, commanders expecting to face Batons have had to become creative with how they defend their ground forces. Camouflage netting, dense forest cover, subterranean tunnels, and more have been employed to frustrate the fire solutions of airborne assets of all types, including Batons. The Baton is unique in that, if it has detailed information on where the enemy's bunkers or tunnels are, it can still penetrate them with sustained fire; in effect, the Baton is the only true 'bunker buster' weapon currently known to warfare in the Manifold Sky setting other than secret projects like the Rostran Archipelago Confederacy's Project: Millenial Rain.
Armor and defense
Though devastating as an offensive weapon, the Baton is somewhat fragile; most of vessel's dry weight went into attitude control (see Propulsion) and payload (see Weapons & Armament) in lieu of armor. The Baton does carry up to two auto-armor operators for service in repelling boarders or, more often, performing extra-vehiclular repairs. As a skymoth, the Baton does have a degree of ability to evade that skystations lack, and the multiple redundancy of systems like lifting gas envelopes and power plants do allow the vehicle to survive longer than it otherwise would. The operators do enjoy an additional degree of concealment - if little in the way of cover - as a result of an outer airtight membrane stretched over the crew compartments and structure; this membrane may be painted to match the sky color of whatever cube is to be attacked, providing limited camouflage from spotters at lower altitude.
Communication Tools & Systems
The central support truss of the Baton is strung with a RadNet antenna, and the vessel's twin powerplants produce prodigious power for the communications systems in particular. This is used to coordinate with field commanders, headquarters, and distant observers so that the skymoth's great firepower can be concentrated on to enemy positions. A dieseltech computer module just aft of the command center provides full encryption and decryption services in addition to fire control calculations (see Sensors). The comparative dearth of armor (see Armor and Defenses) on the vehicle prevent it from becoming more popular as a mobile command post, but the Baton has a strong enough presence in the radio-spectrum sky that it could easily fulfill this role with the right modifications.
Both gunnery stations and the command center are equipped with optical scopes which, in coordination with the dieseltech computer module (see Communications Tools & Systems) via a shipboard autonet, serve to give the artillery pieces the best possible chance to strike their targets. Altimeters, air speed sensors, gravity sensors, and inertial guidance gyroscopes all feed information into the computer which, in turn, provides corrected firing solutions to the gunners by way of special grilles overlaid on their scopes.
Military Formation Usage
Complement / Crew
16 (6 artillerists, 4 gunners, 1 pilot, 1 copilot, 1 engineer, 1 medic, 2 airborne)