Airships have been mentioned many times in Car Wars, but players have never had an opportunity to get one in their sights -- until now. Players may even get an opportunity to fly one, but airships are quite expensive, and balloons have a number of other drawbacks. The difference between balloons and air-ships is significant. A balloon is a large bag of heated air, with a small platform or box suspended below. It has no maneuverability, and a very limited weight capacity. Airships, on the other hand, are very large, capable of carrying quite a bit of weight, and self-propelled.
A few years back, however, someone out in the desert decided they needed a long-range observation platform for their isolated town. Getting ambushed is no fun, and having an extra minute or two to get ready can make a big difference. So the town bought an old balloon, outfitted it with TV cameras and a radar set, and tethered it to a power cable so it would stay up indefinitely. Some were skeptical, but the next time a cycle gang came calling, the balloon provided the early warning needed to beat back the attack. The balloon got shot down, of course -- you can't miss something that big. But when a balloon crashes, it crashes slowly, without burning, and bullet holes are easy to repair.
Today's balloons are much more advanced than those of yesteryear. The air bag is divided into separate cells, greatly increasing the damage it can absorb. The balloons are now made of a metalized plastic, which is lighter and tougher. And armored cables have reduced the chance of a lucky hit sending the whole thing off into oblivion.
Of course, balloons can also carry weapons. Since few duellists expressed interest in sitting in a large, stationary target, the balloons were equipped with targeting computers, and the weapons were controlled from the ground by fiber-optic cable. The gunners could fight from the relative safety of an armored bunker, looking out over vast expanses of paper-thin top armor. Needless to say, this tactic came as a big surprise to the first few folks to run into it. Since then, balloons have continued to grow in popularity, and a number of commercial firms have started providing balloons and balloon kits to the general public.
A balloon of up to 4 cells is represented by a counter 1" per side. A balloon of 5 to 9 cells uses a counter 2" per side, and larger balloons use a counter 3" per side.
Non-burst-effect weapons only do 1 point (round down) per die of damage to balloons; for example, an MG would do 1 point, and a laser would do 3. An SMG would do 1 point also, but rifles and pistols would have no effect. Burst-effect weapons do full damage, as do flamethrowers.
1-cell balloon: + 1Remember that when tethered, the balloon and gondola are stationary. The tether, swaying in the breeze, is not.
2- to 4-cell balloon: +2
5- to 9-cell balloon: + 3
10-cell balloon or larger: +4
The rules for lines of sight and arcs of fire are the same as for helicopter combat. When determining altitude, the gondola is 1" lower than the balloon, and the balloon itself is as tall as it is wide.
If the lift capacity of the balloon ever falls below the weight of the payload, the balloon will begin falling. The rate of descent is 5 mph for every 100 pounds of lift (round up) the balloon is short. If a balloon was 75 lbs. short, it would drop at 5 mph; if it was 250 lbs. short, it would drop at 15 mph. (Note that once a balloon begins falling, it is no longer a stationary target.) As the balloon descends, some amount of its tether will lay on the ground -- this is weight that the balloon no longer has to support, so a balloon that loses just 1 cell may only descend a few inches and then regain equillibrium. When a balloon hits the ground, assess crash damage normally.
Damaged cells cannot be repaired, but must be replaced for any DP to be regained. Repairs on the gondola and its payload follow standard rules. The tether may be spliced if severed, which is a Hard job for a mechanic.
Heavy Observation -- 8-cell balloon, Reg. gondola, 15" tether, Radar, Infrared, Sound Enhancement. Armor: F10, R10, L10, B10, U15, Tl. 999 lbs., $16,410.
Heavy Combat -- 15-cell balloon, Lg. gondola, 8" tether, RL with AP rockets in turret under, 3 HRs (one each F, R, L), all rockets laser-guidance linked to targeting laser in turret. Armor: F10, RIO, L10, B5, U24, TO. 1,874 lbs., $12,810.
There are three types of airships. Rigid airships, such as those used in the early 20th Century, are probably the safest. The gas envelope is stretched on a rigid frame, and this allows for greater structural integrity, and the ability to partition the envelope so that one breach does not doom the airship. The table given below is for rigid airships.
A semi-rigid airship uses a single strut along the spine of the envelope for support. Semi-rigids cost 25% less and can carry 50% more weight, but they only have % the DP of the rigid airships, and the maximum speed is only 75% of the listed value. A semi-rigid airship is limited in size to Standard and smaller.
The non-rigid airship (sometimes called a "blimp") was made famous in the late 20th century as an advertising gimmick. A non-rigid airship costs 50% of the listed value, and has only 50% of the maximum speed. The envelope has 3 DP, regardless of size. It has an advantage that it can be deflated and stored. Inflation takes 20 seconds from compressed gas cylinders, which can be carried on the gondola or kept at a ground facility (see New Equipment, below). No non-rigid airship may be larger than a medium.
|Size||Weight||Max Weight||Spaces||Armor $/Wt||Prop DP||Env DP||HC||Env||Gon|
"Env" is the counter size for the envelope, in inches. "Gon" is the counter size for the gondola, which will usually be the only counter you need on the map.
Airship acceleration is calculated the same way as for cars and motorcycles. But if an airship accelerates 15 mph in a turn, it can't accelerate more than 10 mph the next turn, as the envelope holds it back. An unpowered airship will decelerate 10 mph/turn, or 15 if it accelerated the turn before.
Airships are powered by a set of four ducted-fan propellers, which can be rotated to provide thrust in any direction. These are damaged in the same way was as helicopter rotors, except they are a -4 to hit. Propeller DP is given on the table above. Each propeller lost drops the HC of the airship by 1. If two propellers are lost, the effective power factors of the plant are cut in half.
Airship power plants can be recharged for $400 at any facility that can accommodate helicopters. A fully-charged airship plant can keep an airship going at 55 mph for 800 miles. Range penalties for faster travel are figured in the usual manner.
The envelope is fairly vulnerable, although the compartment system ensures that one hit won't depressurize the entire ship (except for non-rigids, of course). Like balloons, non-burst-effect weapons do only one point of damage per die, while flamethrowers and burst-effect weapons do full damage.
When the envelope loses 25% of its DP, the airship will start to sink, descending at 5 mph. When 50% of the envelope's DP are taken, the descent is at 10 mph, and the descent is at 15 mph when 75% of the DP are taken. If the envelope is destroyed, the entire airship will fall freely.
These airships are filled with helium. In case anyone would be so foolish as to fill one with hydrogen, the would save 5% of the basic cost and gain a 10% bonus in weight capacity. However, the envelope will take full damage from any weapon capable of starting a fire (including lasers and incediary ammo), and has a fire modifier of +6. If the airship is on fire at the end of a turn, roll one die. On a 1-3, the airship explodes, killing all occupants and doing considerable burst effect to the neighborhood (exact burst radius and amount of damage depends on the size of the airship and other factors, and should be up to the referee -- just make it big). A portable fire extinguisher is not effective against this type of fire, but other fire extinguisher systems are.
High-Speed Compressor Pack -- $4,000, 800 lbs., 5 spaces, 4 DP. A heavy-duty compressor used to fill gas cylinders. Up to 10 cylinders can be filled at a time. Filling a cylinder takes 20 minutes.
Gas Cylinder -- $100, 200 lbs., '/~ space, 2 DP. A single cylinder will hold the gas required to fill one square inch of the airship's envelope counter. For example, a Standard airship has an envelope size of 29" x 6", so it would take 174 gas cylinders to fill it.
Airships maneuver in the same way as helicopters, except they cannot use the Rotate maneuver. They also cannot turn more than 30 degrees at one time voluntarily. Airships climb and dive in the same manner as helicopters. If an airship loses control, consult the table below:
-1, 0, 1: Involuntary Drift. Airship drifts 1/2" to one side (determine logically based on maneuver or hazard, or roll randomly). No altitude is lost. Weapons fire is at -3 for the remainder of the turn.
Airship Crash Table
2, 3: Involuntary Veer. Ship veers 30 degrees to one side (again, determine logically or roll randomly). No altitude is lost. Weapons fire is at -3 for the remainder of the turn.
4, 5: Violent Veer. As Involuntary Veer, but airship loses 1/2" altitude, weapons fire is at -6 for remainder of turn, and at -3 for the turn thereafter.
6, 7: Veer/Drift. Combine an Involuntary Drift with an Involuntary Veer, and lose 1" of altitude. No furtherr weapons fire is permitted this turn, and weapons fire is at -6 next turn.
8, 9: Spin. Ship turns 45 degrees to one side (determine direction logically or randomly), and drops 2" in altitude. No weapons fire is permitted for the remainder of the turn. Next turn, the airship must execute a Veer/Drift in the same direction as the Spin.
10+: Disaster. Gondola separates from envelope and drops like a stone. Bon Voyage.
When firing at an airship, you must designate whether you are targeting the envelope or the gondola. The targeting modifiers are as follows:
Micro -- Envelope +4/Gondola + 1All modifiers are cumulative.
Small -- Envelope +5/Gondola +1
Medium -- Envelope +6/Gondola +2
Standard -- Envelope +8/Gondola +3
Large -- Envelope +9/Gondola +3
Transport -- Envelope + 10/Gondola + 3
Front/Back -- -1
Propellers -- -4
Envelopes cannot be armored. Gondolas for the Micro and Small airship are armored in 6 locations, like a car. The other four gondolas are armored in 10 locations, like an oversized vehicle. Use the helicopter rules to determine arcs of fire and lines of sight for weapons. In flight, the gondola is considered to be 1" below the bottom of the envelope, and the envelope is as tall as it is wide.
Glenn Superliner -- Large rigid airship, Large airship power plant, 2 pilots, 3 gunners, 4 crew, 40 passengers, 5 first-class passengers, 2 linked lasers in universal turret front under, 21inked VMGs with HD ammo in universal turret back under, 2 linked RRs back, Heavy laser front, Improved fire extinguisher. Armor: F35, B30, FR40, BR40, FL40, BIAO, FU45, BU45, FTS, BT5. Accel. 10, HC 1, Top speed 90, 69,950 lbs., $295,650.
EconoFloat -- Transport non-rigid airship, Large airship power plant, 2 pilots, 4 crew, 2 linked RGMs front, 2 linked RGMs back, 4 pairs of linked MGs (one each FR, FL, BR, and BL), 2 four-space universal turrets under, each with 2 linked VMGs. Armor: F20, B20, FR20, BR20, FL20, BL20, FU35, BU35, FT15, BT15. Cargo capacity: 122 spaces, 29,700 lbs. Accel. 5, HC 0, Top speed 45, 70,300 lbs., $233,500.