The Tides of War
Alsinan Defense League Tech Development Journal
It had been a very, very long time since the designers for the Alsinan Defense Mechanized Force (ADMF) had been granted the ability to design something with meddling from the megacorps kept to a minimum, though unintentionally. None of the megacorps ever had experience in making a smart AI like this, as their dumb robots were all they ever really needed in order to grow the mass industries of the Alsinan Defense League. It was this government issued contract which allowed us, the designers of this new machine, to work.
“The Alsinan Defense Army’s mechanized force requires a new form of troop for high-intensity combat sectors, such as within urban environments, mountains, and shock-troop operations. As such, we require this new unit to be several things. Primarily, it must maintain capability while keeping costs as low as possible. Ranges are expected to be up to 50 meters. The armament of this unit is not to be determined by High Command. Unit must be under 251 cm in height, and capable of being transformed into a transportation mode where its height and outer silhouette are reduced for transport. Unit must also be under 2 tonnes unloaded. Unit must be capable of withstanding some light fire from rifle-caliber ammunition. Unit must be capable of working with other units of the same type for operational coordination.”
This was the issued requirements to us, and it would prove to be quite the challenge to meet and surpass requirements. They didn’t issue us a shape, a form to meet, nothing which would guide our prototypes. The initial models were more like rovers than anything else, with a machine gun strapped to the top alongside a shotgun. When we tested it in our urban moc-up environment, it was completely hopeless, as top-attack weapons easily disabled it. In the mountain moc-up, again, top-attack weapons proved our downfall. It proved about as useless in the shock-trooper role, though we definitely gleaned some useful information about the AI we should use for our next prototype.
Our second major revision of the idea was an Alsinan-shaped combat robot, with four legs opposed to the regular eight of our comrades. The wider area which the legs occupy was useful for mountain units, though it proved to be less ideal in an urban house-clearing environment. Being able to climb walls, as it showed the capability to do, was an unexpected, though useful, boon. The large silhouette was truly the main downfall of this prototype, as it proved nigh impossible to get it in a smaller form for transport. It also proved to be much too heavy. As such, this prototype was rejected, along with being too expensive and heavy to properly protect.
Our third prototype took inspiration from one of the many beetles on the planet of Cunicule. It was a relatively small beetle which had a reputation for being nigh-impossible to kill. As such, we modeled the third prototype after it, and it proved to be much more successful than the last one. It was not as heavy, had six legs, and the armament, a forward-facing submachine gun and shotgun, were very well protected within the armored “carapace.” The real issue with this prototype was the urban sectors where it couldn’t properly deal with top-attack disabling it. Sure, it could take the hits with its armored shell, but it was inevitably disabled and shut down on its lonesome by the legs being struck out.
But, we kept on with the idea of using a robotic unit. We went through a couple on-paper designs, scrapped for one reason or another, till we settled on a mantis-looking design which looked promising. As it was a thinner design making much better use out of the 250 cm of height we were allotted, and using the mantis’ claws to be a bit of an in-built shield for the weapons. In addition, the “abdomen” at the back would contain some ammo for the two weapons, a subsonic submachine gun in common service within the Alsinan Defense Army called the “Fraxis Arms Solutions Model 8,” or FAS-8, and a fully automatic shotgun manufactured by the same company called the FAS-O-22. Fraxis was a shell company for Fusion of Cunicule, so whatever we did, we were feeding the megacorps. In the prothorax region, there was a panel which could fold open and launch grenades. The most appealing part of the design, however, was the arms. Since it didn’t have a forward-facing armament, it could properly deal with the issues of top attack by firing a couple rounds in the direction of suspected fire by simply aiming at it. It was also much more compact than the other designs, and by the mantises' very shape it could be converted into a transport mode very easily.
Within the head, which was oddly large compared to our other designs, but that was due to the datalink and sensor suite built into it. Our other designs had their sensors in areas all over their constructions, which kept the vulnerable areas small, but it had a tendency to confuse the AI. Keeping all of the data being received from one point allows the on-board AI, which is processed and stored within the connection port between the prothorax and thorax of the unit, to take the data and process it all together, giving it a much clearer picture of the battlefield than the dispersed sensors.
It has six legs, all of which have light armor plating on them capable of withstanding rifle-caliber fire for a short while. The main body has heavier plating, which is heaviest around the AI and ammunition storage. The arms have light armor plating while the claws themselves have shrapnel protection. The head is fairly squishy, though that is primarily because of the sensors within it.
The unit without load weighs 260 kilograms, which is mostly due to the height of 225 cm and the density of the armor plating. At full load, the unit would weigh about 285 kilograms. These units, due to their quite thin look and metal construction, not needing to have the body armor of something like an Alsinan or human, are also quite thin in proportions except around the thorax, prothorax, and abdomen.
Initial trials for this mantis-like unit were promising, as it excelled thus far in the mountain and urban environments, having the ability to both climb up walls thanks to the spikes which embed themselves into the ground and the opposable arms which grant them the ability to harass those firing down on them from rooftops or windows. The grenades in the prothorax were less than useful, as the direction of the prothorax opening prevented the grenades from being launched vertically. A redesign of this section of the unit is required, but it’s nowhere near the full redesigns of past prototypes. In the shock-trooper trials, it performed wonderfully, with its weaponry absolutely decimating the “soldiers'' we had it up against. All this capability somehow managed to fit under the ADMF’s requirements as well.
The ADMF trials were much more brutal than ours, once they accepted a few prototypes with the minor improvements we found in our preliminary tests, it was off to the races, as it were. The battery of tests included much more extensive forms of the mountain, shock-troop, and urban test environments that we assembled, endurance tests which involved shooting a wide variety of projectiles at the units and seeing how much damage they sustained and would need to be repaired with, their offensive armaments were pushed to their limits as maintenance trials were undertaken, which were passed by a hair’s width. Finally, when the ADMF saw the price, they were surprised at the level of capability demonstrated for its relatively low price. We had achieved and surpassed our requirements, and all under budget!
The ADMF now has new toys to play with and experiment on, and we’re all the excited to see how they develop it.