This is a preliminary document, as the process of optimisation continues.
1. Design Philosophy
I direct your attention to Lt. Hellstrom’s Battlemech Dissertation. Lt Hellstrom’s dissertation deals primarily with light battlemechs, but is an excellent starting point for medium mech design optimisation.
Unlike a light battlemech, it is more difficult to give high manoeuvrability to a medium mech. This in turn makes it more difficult for a medium mech to dictate the combat range. This necessitates planning for contingencies where a light mech could apply more speed as a solution. In practice this points towards the need for a primary and secondary weapon set, which may or may not enjoy compatible ranges. Contrary to the axiom “A weapon that is not fired is a weapon wasted”, lacking the appropriate weapon and firing an inappropriately ranged weapon instead is the waste for a medium or heavier battlemech.
Furthermore medium mechs form the rank and file of many armed forces, being heavy enough to get the job done but fast enough to get to the right place at the right time. Neither scoutmechs not heavier battlemechs have the balance required to be the backbone of a modern military force, though each have their own roles.
Conversely, these factors indicate medium mechs should be used as a lance using coordination, setting up converging fields of firing, and covering one another to compensate for the limited manoeuvrability of the individual medium battlemechs. Battlemech design, and battlemech selection, must also take into account the composition of the entire lance.
2. Weapon Prioritisation
A weapon that is not fired is a weapon wasted. A weapon lacked is an opportunity wasted.
A tactical medium battlemech must be capable of handling varied combat situations. Specialist medium battlemechs, such as the hunchback, must remain focused upon their individual niche and are an exception.
Thus far, a battery of medium lasers has proven effective and efficient as a secondary weapon set, also possibly considered a backup weapon set. For primary weapons, the Dervish uses LRM racks, the Hunchback uses a heavy autocannon, the Hatchetman uses a hatchet, and the Centurion uses a long range autocannon and LRM rack.
2.a) Determine engagement ranges, and responses.
A medium battlemech must be proactive or reactive depending upon its payload and intended role. If properly prepared, and properly positioned, the medium battlemech should engage as intended. If improperly equipped, or out-positioned, the medium battlemech should attempt to evade enemy fire while repositioning.
The Hunchback and Dervish are classic examples. The Hunchback should manoeuvre for close range engagement and evade long range fire. The Dervish should employ its missiles at long range, and use is short range weaponry do deter any opponent who approaches inside the minimum accurate range of the LRM racks.
2.b) Balance heat generation and logistics.
Energy weapons, with enough heat sinks to manage the heat generation, are ideal. Accepting a two weapon set approach, this leads to the possibility of long range energy weapons such as the PPC supported by short range weapons such as the medium laser, with the intention to switch depending upon engagement range.
Ballistic and missile weapons require ammunition which necessitates logistic support. Ammunition dependence does not render such weapons inferior to energy weapons, however, since battlemechs require other logistical support such as replacement parts and especially replacement armour. It is my strong preference that all battlemechs have a battery of laser weaponry as a safeguard against ammunition depletion. Matching weapon systems aids the logistic support requirements.
3. Balance For The Role
In general it is preferable to protect a medium battlemech with the maximum armour the chassis can carry. In general it is also preferable to have as much speed as possible, and jump capability is preferable. Lastly it is preferable to have a heavy payload of weapons, ammunition, and heat sinks. Unfortunately these three factors must be balanced.
A light mech ideally has enough speed to outmaneuver an opponent. A medium mech typically only requires enough speed to optimise its attack options and make use of the available terrain.
The medium battlemech lance must also be balanced. Different battlemechs can attempt to compensate for the weaknesses of the other battlemechs in the lance. Rather than each medium battlemech being a jack of all trades, a team of disparate specialist units operating together can be more effective in each individual role than a lance of generalists.
4. Case File: Centurion SR1 and Centurion SR2
Mass: 50 ton
Role: Command unit and mixed fire support
The Centurion SR1 is an upgrade from the Centurion CN9-D, swapping the LBX Autocannon 10 for a Ultra Autocannon 5 to maintain the same damage potential at greater range, converting to double heat sinks, and adding additional armour. The LRM10 rack and artemis is retained.
The subsequent Centurion SR2 design removes the LRM10 and artemis in favour of three LRM5 launchers. The added launch capacity and ability to target up to three separate opponents was considered advantageous. The elimination of the sophisticated artemis system is an advantage in itself.
5. Case File: Dervish LS1 and Dervish AH2
Mass: 55 ton
Role: Missile support unit
The Dervish LS1 is an minor upgrade from the Dervish, DV-7D.
The subsequent Dervish AH2 follows the design principles outlined above, removing the SRM launchers in favour of doubling the medium laser armament, and upgrading these to the new ER versions. Due in part to the conversion from artemis equipped LRM10 on the Centurion SR2, the two LRM10 racks were replaced with six LRM5 launcher systems. This simplification of the weapons loadout allowed electronic warfare equipment to be installed in the more suitable Dervish AH2, hence the pilot reassignment.
6. Case File: Hunchback AH1 and Hunchback LS2
Mass: 50 ton
Role: AC20 carrier
The Hunchback AH1 saw the upgrade of the AC20 to a new LBX20, and installation of electronic warfare equipment. The primary disadvantages of this design were the incompatible operating range and style of the electronic warfare requirements and an AC20 carrier.
The Hunchback LS2 was no longer required to carry the lance’s electronic warfare equipment (now carried in the Dervish AH2) allowing the upgrade to an Ultra AC20, addition of one medium laser, addition of jump jets for added manoeuvrability, and upgrading of the medium lasers to extended range models.
7. Case File: Hatchetman JL1 and Hatchetman JL2
Mass: 45 ton
Role: Close combat unit
The Hunchback JL1 is a redesign of the Hatchetman HCT-5S, removing the LBX10 in favour of a Ultra AC5 for the same reasons as the Centurion SR1. The ferro fibrous armour is removed to match the logistical requirements of the other medium battlemechs in the lance.
The Hunchback JL2 has 50% greater manoeuvrability than the JL1. Speed was deemed a critical shortcoming of the JL1 and previous Hatchetman designs. The under performing Ultra AC5 was removed in favour of two LRM5 racks.
8. Lance Composition
Each unit in the lance has roles as an individual operator, and duties within the team. Independently the Centurion is a long range combat unit, the Hunchback is a close combat high damage unit, the Hatchetman is a jump capable close combatant, and the Dervish is a missile support unit.
In a lance the Centurion and Dervish provide long range firepower, and covering fire for each other and the close support units. The close support units are to deter opponents from closing, and guard the long range units.
8.a) Fire Teams
Dividing the lance to achieve separate objectives or to conduct operations on different sections of the combat zone is commonly required. Planning for operation with a divided lance is required. In this case one long range unit and one close range unit are paired in each case.
Using Mk1 designs, the Centurion SR1 and Hunchback AH1 lacked jump jets and formed one fire team. The Dervish LS1 and Hatchetman JL1 were both jump capable and formed the second fire team.
Using Mk2 designs, the Centurion SR2 and Hatchetman JL2 form one fire team due to similar speed, despite the Centurion SR2 lacking jump capability. The Dervish AH2 and Hunchback LS2 are slower and form the second fire team.