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Author Topic: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?  (Read 7672 times)

Offline aferguson

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Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« on: January 07, 2014, 07:23:56 am »
The orbital dropship concept, as seen in many science fiction stories including Aliens, is a very solid and practical idea that may well be utilized some day.  Has any effort been put into developing them now or is there no perceived need for them yet?

The design of the dropship seen in Aliens is rather implausible, as its shape is not suited for re-entry but the concept is still interesting.   I would envision early orbital drop ships to be shaped somewhat like the Space Shuttle, with no engines  except for lift engines for a vertical landing, with troops and cargo being offloaded from the rear.  It would be a one way machine, with no ability to take off once landed, similar to a WWII assault glider, and with no ability to offer fire support.

Anyone have knowledge of any such craft under development or at least at a concept stage?

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Offline Grey Havoc

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2014, 07:49:15 am »
You may also find SUSTAIN [Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion] and the related Project Hot Eagle of interest:
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,5386.0.html

EDIT: Also briefly mentioned in an old Space Projects short thread (unfortunately the conference link is defunct).
« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 08:01:46 am by Grey Havoc »
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Offline Byeman

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2014, 08:47:20 am »
Has any effort been put into developing them now or is there no perceived need for them yet?

It is still scifi.  No realistic perceived need. 

Offline Byeman

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2014, 08:48:55 am »
It would be a one way machine, with no ability to take off once landed, similar to a WWII assault glider, and with no ability to offer fire support.

And what is the group suppose to do once on the ground with no fire support and no extraction method?   

The idea fails on many levels. The idea is implausible.

Offline aferguson

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2014, 10:12:53 am »
assault gliders which gave no fire support and no means of extraction were used on several occassions in WWII.  So the idea is far from implausible......it's certainly not ideal but not an implausible concept.    The worst part of my idea is that the dropship would probably be quite expensive to make, so having it disposable (or ideally only recovered if victorious) is not great.   But it would be a lot easier to build a craft like that then something that can descend from outer space, land vertically, offload cargo and then take of vertically and offer fire support.  That's implausible......for now and probably for the next 150 years.    The best way of doing it at the moment would probably be to encase an assault helicopter type vehicle inside an aerodynamic shell for entry into the atmosphere.  The shell being discarded once speeds are slow enough and then the vehicle inside would behave like a normal helicopter, dropping troops and giving fire support.

Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2014, 10:26:18 am »

And what is the group suppose to do once on the ground with no fire support ...

Their mission.

Quote
and no extraction method?


Who says there's no extraction method? Some SUSTAIN/Hot Eagle concepts proposed a "drop ship" that had enough  propulsive capability to lurch back into the sky, where it'd be snagged by a C-17 and towed back to the world. Others would have a one-shot expendable  "drop ship" that would get from, say, the US to anywhere in 45 minutes (or a carrier to anywhere in 15), with backup in the form of F-18's, B-1's, B-52, C-17's and such arriving over the next few hours.

There are missions that call for dumping a group of high-tech psychos into enemy territory just as fast as possible, and sending backup and extraction a little bit later. Not enough of a mission to actually develop such craft, but the mission models do exist.
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Offline Byeman

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2014, 11:54:54 am »

Their mission.


And how would they do that since their arrival would not be covert, it would visible and loud.  Additionally, they would be vulnerable during the insertion.

Offline Byeman

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2014, 11:56:34 am »
assault gliders which gave no fire support and no means of extraction were used on several occassions in WWII.

And where are such gliders now?  Because it is implausible.

Offline Byeman

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2014, 11:58:22 am »

Who says there's no extraction method? Some SUSTAIN/Hot Eagle concepts proposed a "drop ship" that had enough  propulsive capability to lurch back into the sky, where it'd be snagged by a C-17 and towed back to the world. Others would have a one-shot expendable  "drop ship" that would get from, say, the US to anywhere in 45 minutes (or a carrier to anywhere in 15), with backup in the form of F-18's, B-1's, B-52, C-17's and such arriving over the next few hours.

There are missions that call for dumping a group of high-tech psychos into enemy territory just as fast as possible, and sending backup and extraction a little bit later. Not enough of a mission to actually develop such craft, but the mission models do exist.

And most of those schemers were laughed out of meetings.   Better off trying to develop a Star Trek Transporter.

Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2014, 12:48:13 pm »

And how would they do that since their arrival would not be covert, it would visible and loud.

For some concepts, sure. But a "drop ship" that dumps out its passengers at, say, 50,000 feet for a HALO jump, then continues on to crash into a hillside 200 miles down range?

And many missions rely less on stealth than speed. Once on-site, the platoon might be busy blowing up buildings and killing every biped for 500 yards in every direction.

The ObL mission is one that *could* have been done via this approach. However, stealth choppers were in range. But what if they weren't, and you had to have actual boots on the ground, and had only and extremely short window? A "drop ship" mission *might* be the only way to pull this off.

Quote
Additionally, they would be vulnerable during the insertion.

For Special Forces, when is this ever *not* the case?
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Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2014, 12:57:53 pm »
And where are such gliders now?

Replaced by helicopters. Imagine suggesting in 1940 that major assaults would be performed with helicopters. You'd be laughed out of meetings. Only zany whackjobs like Otto Skorzeny would even contemplate the notion.
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Offline blackstar

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2014, 01:22:57 pm »
assault gliders which gave no fire support and no means of extraction were used on several occassions in WWII.  So the idea is far from implausible.

Look into the history of them. The gliders had a high fatality rate, and they were often used as part of mass paratroop formations. And they weren't used after WWII.

Indeed, paratroops today are in many ways about as useful as the horse cavalry. You cannot put a large group of lightly armed troops deep inside enemy territory and expect much success. And if your ground army is not rolling up right behind them, they'll be surrounded and get slaughtered.

As for the idea of putting small units deep behind enemy territory (like with a dropship) there's an inherent contradiction in that idea--any mission where they are going to be so deep in enemy territory that conventional deployment methods cannot be used means that conventional deployment methods also cannot be used to extract them. If you can use a V-22 to pull them out, you could use a V-22 to put them in, so why do you need something super exotic and inevitably single-use?

SUSTAIN always got far more attention than it deserved. It was a general's pet project, the kind of thing that disappears as soon as the one general officer who thinks it is neat retires. As with any advanced project, the question of seriousness is answered by the budget: if it has money in the budget for development, it is serious, if it is being pushed with pocket change, it is not serious. See, for example, Space Based Solar Power pushed by the National Security Space Office back in 2007. Vanished without a trace. Or for an example that was discussed on this group, see the Arsenal Ship.

Offline aferguson

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2014, 03:04:00 pm »
hm.....interesting discussion.   The only reason the assault glider disappeared is because a better option, the helicopter, came along.  If not, they would have continued in use after WWII, warts and all, albeit not on nearly as wide a scale as helicopters.

The lack of need for an orbital dropship is another matter.   I hadn't fully considered all the drawbacks of inserting a small number of troops a zillion miles from support; i was more focused on how you'd do it rather than should you do it.

So perhaps the orbital dropship may not be needed until such time there is a rebellion on the Martian Colonies.   ;)

Offline blackstar

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2014, 03:51:13 pm »
1-The only reason the assault glider disappeared is because a better option, the helicopter, came along.  If not, they would have continued in use after WWII, warts and all

2-i was more focused on how you'd do it rather than should you do it.

1-They weren't used in Korea, when the helicopter still was not used for troop insertion. Did the U.S. Army even have gliders in 1946?

2-That's a classic mistake of lots of space stuff--everybody gets caught up in how cool it would be to engineer stuff and doesn't look at minor issues like budget, requirements, usefulness.

Offline Grey Havoc

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2014, 04:18:30 pm »
1-The only reason the assault glider disappeared is because a better option, the helicopter, came along.  If not, they would have continued in use after WWII, warts and all

2-i was more focused on how you'd do it rather than should you do it.

1-They weren't used in Korea, when the helicopter still was not used for troop insertion. Did the U.S. Army even have gliders in 1946?

2-That's a classic mistake of lots of space stuff--everybody gets caught up in how cool it would be to engineer stuff and doesn't look at minor issues like budget, requirements, usefulness.

If I recall correctly, US assault & cargo gliders were by and large scrapped/sold for scrap/otherwise disposed of, and associated formations deactivated, in the post-WWII defense draw down due to the Truman Administration's belief (helped along by the USAF) that large conventional forces were no longer necessary in the age of the Atomic Bomb. Their British counterparts suffered much the same fate due to financial constraints (Labour had to pay for things like the NHS and groundnut schemes somehow). So when it came to Korea, airborne assaults were mostly stillborn quite simply because of a lack of equipment and trained personnel. Incidentally, there were some attempts at using helicopters for troop movements late in the war, though on a small scale. More airmobile than airborne ops, for the most part AFAIK.
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Offline Triton

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2014, 04:51:15 pm »
SUSTAIN (Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion) or Project HOT EAGLE might make sense if you are sending SOF operators to kill or capture drug lord(s), terrorist(s), insurgent(s), or some other high-value target(s) or a hostage rescue when time is the critical element. It doesn't make much sense to me to use it to rapidly insert a squad, or squads, of Marines behind enemy lines like Operation Market.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 04:59:52 pm by Triton »

Offline TomS

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2014, 05:01:28 pm »
Helicopters were used fairly often for troop insertions during the Korean War, especially by the Marines.

Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2014, 05:06:26 pm »
If you can use a V-22 to pull them out, you could use a V-22 to put them in...

Incorrect. There are potential missions where Mobile Infantry falling out of the sky on a (relative) moments notice would be needed and possible, but it'd take hours to get a V-22 on-site. At the same moment that the MI are battling it out in, say, the embassy, the extraction team would be battling it out heading in-country via more conventional means. As an example: as the Tehran embassy is being taken over, a platoon of MI are rocketted in and slaughter the grounds invaders while defending the embassy staff; while they're doing so, the B-52's are loading up in Guam and Diego Garcia, the C-130's are launching from West Germany and the F-14's and F-18's are launching from the carriers in the Gulf. While the MI are making a mess locally, the Navy planes make a mess of the local air defense and helicopters. The C-130's, with air supremacy courtesy the USN, land where they need to and the MI escort the embassy survivors to the extraction planes. As the passenger planes leave the area, the B-52's arrive and convert the nearest 1000 square kilometers into radioactive ruin. Make sure that the MI are caught on television and broadcast live; further, make sure that their uniforms/armor are not recognizable as just uniforms or armor, but are... "theatrical."

Obviously, the technology described here is a bit anachronistic, but what has happened before may happen again. Replace "1979" with "2040," and "Tehran" with, say, Cairo or Islamabad or Paris or wherever.
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Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2014, 05:10:17 pm »
It doesn't make much sense to me to use it to rapidly insert a squad, or squads, of Marines behind enemy lines like Operation Market.

Indeed. It will be a loooooong time before drop-troops are anything beyond the very tip of the spear. But as with a spear, rather a lot follows along after the tip.
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Offline Triton

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2014, 05:38:49 pm »
Incorrect. There are potential missions where Mobile Infantry falling out of the sky on a (relative) moments notice would be needed and possible, but it'd take hours to get a V-22 on-site. At the same moment that the MI are battling it out in, say, the embassy, the extraction team would be battling it out heading in-country via more conventional means. As an example: as the Tehran embassy is being taken over, a platoon of MI are rocketted in and slaughter the grounds invaders while defending the embassy staff; while they're doing so, the B-52's are loading up in Guam and Diego Garcia, the C-130's are launching from West Germany and the F-14's and F-18's are launching from the carriers in the Gulf. While the MI are making a mess locally, the Navy planes make a mess of the local air defense and helicopters. The C-130's, with air supremacy courtesy the USN, land where they need to and the MI escort the embassy survivors to the extraction planes. As the passenger planes leave the area, the B-52's arrive and convert the nearest 1000 square kilometers into radioactive ruin. Make sure that the MI are caught on television and broadcast live; further, make sure that their uniforms/armor are not recognizable as just uniforms or armor, but are... "theatrical."

Obviously, the technology described here is a bit anachronistic, but what has happened before may happen again. Replace "1979" with "2040," and "Tehran" with, say, Cairo or Islamabad or Paris or wherever.

Is that Mobile Infantry a Marine squad or SOF operators like United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group aka SEAL Team 6 or 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta aka Delta Force protecting the embassy?

Offline Bill Walker

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #21 on: January 07, 2014, 06:08:16 pm »
Just a minor point: the US Troop Carrier Command did operate assault gliders up to the late 1940s, including some joint exercises in the Canadian Arctic.  The Canadian Army also used war surplus gliders in these same exercises.  They were employed as back up to paratroops dropped earlier, bringing in things that couldn't be air dropped at the time like vehicles, artillery and long range radios.  From everything I've read, the exercises all showed the gliders were not cost effective, being one way vehicles plus having a high loss on landing rate, even when coming into secured and surveyed landing sites.

What killed the glider was a combination of helicopters, and long range transport fixed wings that could open a big back door in flight.

One big draw back to the drop ship, at the current technology, has to be the obviously one way nature of the mission.  Western countries today have a hard time getting volunteers for out of country missions that don't include cheese burgers (for the Americans) or Timmies (for the Canadians).  I don't think you would get many volunteers for a quick ride to the centre of Russia or China if you told them they would have to walk back.  Now, give them a stealth VTOL transport that will come back in a few hours, or even in day or two and that is very different.  I think we will see that before we see drop ships or even suborbital one way missions, both from a technology viewpoint and a utility viewpoint.

OBB's scenario includes a massive WW3 type follow up to extract the intial small team and a few civilians.  How likely is that type of mission into a nuclear power today?  If the enemy is not a nuclear power, and not the size of a Russia or a China, V-22s and their stealthy followups will do just fine.
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Offline blackstar

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #22 on: January 07, 2014, 06:32:32 pm »
From everything I've read, the exercises all showed the gliders were not cost effective, being one way vehicles plus having a high loss on landing rate, even when coming into secured and surveyed landing sites.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that their loss rate during the D-Day invasion was over 30%. I think there's a scene in "Saving Private Ryan" where they go walking past a crashed glider with the dead troops still inside. The gliders had a bad reputation. Of course, they were going into unprepared strips, and I suspect that they were not flown by the best pilots.

Offline aferguson

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2014, 08:38:32 pm »
assault gliders were used very effectively several times during WWII.  They had high loss rates in the initial waves, but that's true of the initial waves of any asset (paras, troops on the beach etc).   Their best use was for rapidly re-supplying an area that had been temporarily secured (ie waves of gliders flying into an area with fresh trrops, ammo, small artilery pieces, jeeps etc. after the area had been temporarily secured by the initial wave).   Yes gliders were in use in 1945; used during the assault across the Rhine.   In the lack of other more effective modern options, they were still a pretty good option.

Anyway, i suspect there wil be orbital dropships in use one day, many, many years from now.

Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2014, 09:38:27 pm »

One big draw back to the drop ship, at the current technology, has to be the obviously one way nature of the mission.

But as has been pointed out, the *mission* is NOT one-way. It would hardly be novel for a special forces team to extract in a way different from insertion. How do HALO jumpers get out? It hardly seems likely that SOP is to pack their chutes up, refill their oxy tanks, and then jump 35,000 feet straight up in order to be air-snatched by cargo planes.

Quote
I don't think you would get many volunteers for a quick ride to the centre of Russia or China if you told them they would have to walk back.  Now, give them a stealth VTOL transport that will come back in a few hours, or even in day or two and that is very different.

And that's how you'd do it... shoot 'em in because you need them on-site *now,* and at the same moment the rocket vehicle launches, the subsonic stealthy (or perhaps not-so-stealthy) recovery planes also launch, timed to arrive when the troops are looking for pickup.

Quote
OBB's scenario includes a massive WW3 type follow up to extract the intial small team and a few civilians.  How likely is that type of mission into a nuclear power today?

The scenario I described was very nearly what befell Iran. I knew I guy who worked B-52's during the Jimmy Carter Peacetime Fly-In Club, and when the Eagle Talon balloon went up, the B-52's of the Pacific were loaded for bear, everything from iron bombs to citybuster nukes. There was apparently a bit of a communications foulup, and B-52's were prepared for war that weren't supposed to be prepared; the crews were more than ready to lay waste to Tehran upon word of the rescue of the hostages. It would not have taken much for things to have gone radioactive in Iran. And so long as you're going to do that, it'd be best for propaganda purposes to have footage from before the nukes popping off of American monsters falling from the sky, rescuing the American civilians, and then leaving a trail of horrific destruction in their wake... followed by the night sky lighting up kinda bright.

Quote
  If the enemy is not a nuclear power, and not the size of a Russia or a China, V-22s and their stealthy followups will do just fine.

How long did it take the V-22's to get to Benghazi?
« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 09:48:27 pm by Orionblamblam »
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Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2014, 09:45:51 pm »
Is that Mobile Infantry a Marine squad or SOF operators like United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group aka SEAL Team 6 or 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta aka Delta Force protecting the embassy?
http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=19538

At least initially, the MI will probably be their own separate sort of group, sort of the best of the best of the best of the best of the...

Sadly, the US military is unlikely to do the rational thing and build a low Earth orbit space base for several thousand troops anytime soon, so the MI will necessarily be relatively small in number. I would expect that the Navy would be heavily involved... carriers would seem an obvious launch platform, so you might have one Hot Eagle per ship and two crews. This would put a platoon almost anywhere on Earth in a matter of a few minutes.
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Offline Mat Parry

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2014, 01:28:55 am »

Reply #35 in the discussion below is clearly not an orbital dropship and as a result would not offer the rapid response time OBB describes

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,20555.msg201781.html#msg201781


Extraction method might be relevant?

Offline Bill Walker

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2014, 06:17:39 am »

How long did it take the V-22's to get to Benghazi?

At the risk of going off topic:  if your government didn't launch V-22s in a timely way, why would they launch super-duper drop ships?  The problem there was not the technology.
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Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2014, 07:16:27 am »
if your government didn't launch V-22s in a timely way, why would they launch super-duper drop ships?

Because, for one, there might have been perceived no such thing as "timely" with the V-22. How long would it have taken the V-22's to travel hundreds of miles after the decision to send them?

As with the argument against gun control: "when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away."  A factor in decision-making must be "how fast can we get troops to the scene." The *only* real advantage that rocket-troops bring to the table is speed over great distance.
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Offline blackstar

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2014, 08:58:08 am »

How long did it take the V-22's to get to Benghazi?

At the risk of going off topic:  if your government didn't launch V-22s in a timely way, why would they launch super-duper drop ships?  The problem there was not the technology.

I think it's clear by now that we can easily justify drop ships by invoking science fiction.

Offline Orionblamblam

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #30 on: January 08, 2014, 10:15:01 am »
I think it's clear by now that we can easily justify drop ships by invoking science fiction.

Every technology is science fiction until it's fielded.
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Offline bigvlada

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Re: Any Real Orbital Dropships in development?
« Reply #31 on: January 11, 2014, 02:38:50 am »
Operation Rösselsprung (Knight's move), airborne raid on Drvar in 1944 in order to kill Josip Broz Tito should be examined in detail before any orbital dropship concept is put on paper.