Campaign of the Month: June 2014
Battletech : The Farscape Campaign
* Targeting & Tracking Systems
Advanced Rules for Sensor Suites
Sensors and Targeting Systems
In its entirety, a BattleMech’s targeting and tracking (T&T) system includes a sophisticated set of sensors and computers to process data. These systems are getting ever more sophisticated as technology is recovered and researched in centers such as NAIS, something which explains the various national intelligence services’ interests in electronics manufacturers around the Inner Sphere.
Thermal imaging, light amplification, radar and magnetic anomaly sensors are all among the primary sensors used by BattleMechs, supplemented by seismic sensors, motion detectors, chemical analyzers and a multitude of others. Despite this broad range of sensor types, MechWarriors are not deluged with raw data. Sophisticated computers streamline, interpret and prioritize this information, so that by the time a warrior gets the info, it appears as simple visual cues on the usual cockpit displays or the warrior’s own neurohelmet heads-up display (HUD).
The powers of a BattleMech’s sensory processors stand out most strongly in their ability to recognize other units and classify them by type and as friend or foe. Any T&T suite today can inform a MechWarrior of the type of unit it detects (by weight class) including any particular variant it might detect, depending on the sophistication of a given system. The ability to tell friend from foe – another key ability of the T&T suite – eases the burden of target identification for MechWarriors in the heat of battle, particularly under poor visibility conditions.
BattleMechs are not islands unto themselves. They can share sensor data to a limited extent, allowing greater sensory performance than a single BattleMech and its pilot can normally achieve. The specialized equipment of the rare C3 system takes this to even higher levels of sophistication, with direct battlefield applications, but all basic T&T systems can share at least basic sensory data between themselves.
And data is always recorded. BattleMechs employ extensive “black box” systems, the so-called BattleROM that stores hundreds of hours of sensory data from a Mech, from its internal and external sensors and communications. The armored BattleROM recorder is located in the cockpit and will survive virtually any catastrophe, from ammo explosion to failed orbital drop. The information from the BattleROM is often the only trusted witness in mercenary trials over salvage rights and fulfilling assigned contracts.
Standard Package Features
The basic description for scanning sensors in BattleTech limits the information a pilot can gain about their opponent in combat. Basically, only three things are known from a “standard” system; Speed, Weapons and Damage. Practically anything else is outside the ability of most scanners, including; unit’s gyro, sensor suites, ammunition reserves, armor type, jump jet capability and engine size. In other words, you rarely know more than basic “Warbook” information, until your target starts to fire and move.
In “old school” BattleTech, there are 85 basic targeting and tracking systems, and each is referenced as having special abilities as bonuses or penalties in standard usage. In organizing and delineating the different systems available in BattleTech, the article by David Waters in “Battletechnology : The Lost Issues”, succeeds in bringing some meat to the bones of various BattleMech failures and strengths through its sensor systems. It makes the inclusion of some tactically less capable Mechs (such as the OTT-7J Ostscout) into a unit as valuable for the information they can grant a force on the strategic battlefield.
Each targeting system has thirteen (13) “Standard Package Features”. These items are listed below, and are noted on the final line of every BattleMech’s description in a series of numbers separated by slashes as noted in the example below. What follows is list of each item and a description given for its category, allowing players to suffer or benefit from the system they possess on their BattleMech.
1 : 2a/2b : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8 : 9 : 10 : 11 : 12 : 13
1 – Target Acquisition Modifier (TAM) : The modification a pilot gains or loses from their Gunnery rolls.
2 – Multi-Targeting System : The first number #/ is the amount of primary targets allowed by the system. The second number /# is the number of secondary targets acquired by any system. Primary targets have no modifier to their die roll, while secondary targets have a +1 penalty.
3 – Target ID : Informs the pilot, with a 90% accuracy, the type of unit being targeted.
4 – Damage ID : Scans target and displays an image on the HUD of all damage to opposing Mech.
5 – Lock-On Indicator : Warns pilot of an impending missile strike.
6 – Scanning Arc : 45, 90, 180 or 360 degree arcs.
7 – Type of Scanning System : 1 – IR Only. 2 – EL Only. 3 – Motion Only. 4 – IR & EL. 5 – EL & Motion. 6 – IR & Motion. 7 – IR, EL & Motion. IR = Infra Red (Heat Sources). EL = Electromagnetic (Power Sources).
8 – Lock-On Range : Generally, this is the maximum range of the farthest reaching weapon plus 300 meters (or 30-meter hexes plus ten). Lock-On for most systems is 930 meters (31 hexes).
9 – Expansion Ports : The number of spaces available to upgrade and add-on to the tracking system.
10 – Heat : The listed number is the system’s sensitivity to heat. When heat in combat reaches this number or higher, the system could suffer a breakdown. Example : The ALLET-T11 (Heat 8) could breakdown in increments of 8, 16, 24 and 30 (moot point at 30), while the Sync Tracker (Heat 5) suffers heat at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30.
11 – Repair : This is the modifier to the Tech rolls to repair a damaged system, or replace the system. The higher the number, the more complex and “integral” the system is considered.
12 – Reset : This switch allows a pilot to attempt to overcome the heat shut-down of his targeting system. (Generates a re-roll on the heat sensitivity roll, for targeting and tracking purposes only). If the reset works, the pilot may may fire at a secondary target, at the standard penalties for such a target.
13 – Override : This switch will prevent the firing of all weapons , or fire them if the Battle Computer denies the target. Example : The target a Mech pilot was going to shoot is suddenly destroyed, he can override and switch to a secondary target with the appropriate penalties.
RCA Instatrac Mark X – (Employed by the TDR-5S Thunderbolt)
- : 1/3 : n : n : n : 45 : 6 : 31 : 5 : 8 : – : n : y
“The RCA Instatrac Mark X has no special target acquisition features, can isolate one enemy target, and hold up to three other targets as a secondary priority. It has no built-in target identifier; therefore, it cannot inform the pilot of any non-visible damage. Nor can it inform its pilot of an incoming missile attack. This system comes standard with a 45 degree forward scan. It will detect heat sources and motion only. The maximum scanning range is only 930 meters. It can be upgraded with its 5 expansion ports. This system is not overly sensitive to heat build-up maintains decent data/time relay ratios, is fairly easy to repair, and contains no integral reset switch. It does, however, contain an override device.”
All tracking systems are assumed to have a “motion” tracking ability of triple its base range in hexes, though correct identity of the target(s) is only possible with an INT Attribute Check (at a penalty of +4) to determine type (Vehicle, BattleMech or Aircraft).
The modification of weapons systems to an existing Mech’s targeting system can hamper its long range tracking abilities. Example : MechWarrior Pool installs a LosTech Gauss Rifle on his Panther as a support Mech by (perhaps foolishly) dropping his PPC, SRM-4, Jump Jets, three extra Heat Sinks and a ton of armor. The original ammo bays for the SRM are retained to give a ton of Gauss Rifle ammo. Originally having a lock-on scanning range of 19 hexes; the Gauss Rifle has a maximum target range of 22 hexes. The weapon therefore loses three hexes of range since the Mech’s T&T System cannot compensate for the change.
There are 23 modules that can be added to any given targeting system to improve its “standard package”. Among them are a number of LosTech modules from the SLDF era (Artemis, Anti-Missile, Beagle, NARC, TAG, Streak), but most are retrofits for basic features that might be missing from the standard systems. Some items conclude with personal thoughts on the module in question.
Access to these modules is limited to rare electronics components and skilled specialist technicians capable of assembling these items. In some cases, LosTech must also be acquired to allow inclusion of the module into the targeting and tracking system expansion ports, before they can become active.
Each module includes a number after the title, detailing the specifications required for its inclusion on a standard package targeting system (1/2). 1 – Required Ports : The number of "Port’ slots the module occupies. 2 – On/Off Toggle : Whether or not the module can be disengaged.
AeroSpace Targeting : (2/y) : Mech unit is allowed to utilize its weapon systems in anti-air mode, provided AeroSpace target is in range of given weapon systems.
Anti-Missile : (1/y) : Allows automatic targeting of incoming missiles by interfacing them with special anti-missile volley systems.
Artemis IV FCS : (2/y) : Links the tracking system with a specialized form of artillery system.
Auto Fire : (1/y) : When tied directly int the fire control panel, the system will automatically fire one, several or all weapon systems, under specific conditions. Example : MechWarrior Pool toggles his Auto Fire Module to react upon the identification of a Marauder by firing his LRM-15. He ties into the Target Identifier Module to help him in identifying the Mech. This accomplished, MechWarrior Pool can now enjoy the countryside while on patrol. Traditionally, this is best used to tie into rear-firing weapons systems to defend against an ambush.
Auto Mapping : (1/y) : Allows a Recon Mech to generate satellite-quality topographical maps of the area within its scanning range. Mech is required to have 360 degree scanning, IR, EL and Motion Sensor options. This system enhances the spectographic capabilities inherent in all scanning systems. Highly useful to scout and recon units.
Battle Computer/Analyzer : (3/y) : Analyzes data input from the following modules : Target Identifier, Target Damage Identifier, Lock-On Indicator, and Scanning System. It utilizes the Target Priority Module to inform the pilot of the best possible target and response. In combat, the BC/A can give the MechWarrior a combat edge of 33% (bonus to Gunnery rolls at -4) and can tie into the Auto Fire Module. (However, each time the BC is used for its modifier, a roll of 6+ must be made to avert a faulty computation, or a penalty of +5 is made to the rolls). This system is nothing more than a prototype at this time, but represents chance at its finest.
Beagle Active Probe : (2/y) : In addition to enhanced scanning at the 120 meter radius, the Beagle adds another 300 meters to the systems scanning range. Originally designed to defeat the “Guardian ECM” at close range.
Fire Support (Indirect Artillery) : (2/y) : Allows a pilot to use plotting to call for fire from any indirect artillery/missile unit. The pilot must have Navigation/Ground and Gunnery/Ground Vehicle skills to interpret the data.
“Garret Mole” Target Acquisition System : (4/y) : Provides pilot with integral Fire Support (Ind), Multi-Targeting, and TAG systems. Requires an additional ton of space for appropriate (and vanishingly rare) equipment.
Lock-On Indicator : (1/n) : Warns of an incoming missile attack.
Multi-Targeting : (2/n) : Allows a targeting system to acquire additional secondary targets. One additional target per module.
NARC Support : (2/y) : Ties the rare NARC Support Missile Beacon (NARC) to a NARC missile support system.
Override : (1/y) : Adds override capability to the system.
Reset : (1/n) : Allows a pilot to overcome heat shutdown on the targeting system.
Target Acquisition Gear (TAG) : (1/y) : Allows Arrow IV missile targeting. This is a redundant module if the C3 Computer System is presently installed.
Target Acquisition Modifier : (1/n) : Provides fine-tuning of the targeting system. Grants the pilot a bonus of -1 to Gunnery rolls with the given weapon, but a single module can control only a single weapon system. Just plain shiny.
Target Damage Display : (1/y) : Allows the pilot a chance to identify all damaged locations on target.
Target Identifier : (3/y) : Silhouette identifier scans its mini data bank to match the target with all known information. 90% accurate on standard Inner Sphere “Warbook” BattleMech and vehicle designs.
Target Lock-On Indicator : (1/y) : Prevents weapons fire unless target has been “splashed” by a modified TAG that assures a (near) perfect strike.
Target Prioritizing : (2/y) : Only functions when tied into Target Identifier, Target Damage Indicator, and Lock-On Indicator Modules. This module informs the pilot of the best target likely to be a hazard to the their Mech. Beyond the basic numbers, this module can provide information to the pilot directly from the GM, as to dangerous (Elite vs. Veteran) opponents.
Visual Modes : (1/y each) : Each of the possible visual modes (Motion, IR and EL) can be installed to improve its inherent scanning abilities.
Visual Scanner Width Enhancement (1/y each) : Allows the pilot to add 90, 180, and 360 degree scanning capabilities to their Mech. Each package requires the existence of the next smaller scanning arc. (ie – 90 degree module or integral scanning must exist before 180 can be installed).
Volley Fire : (1/y) : This module allows all weapons to fire as a single salvo (using a penalty of +2 to the roll, but all hit or miss the same target as one volley). The practical use of this module is limited, but it does exist.