The history of war is a race between the ability to inflict damage, and the ability to stop it. In the most simple terms it is the endless contest between weapon and armor, but this is the most concrete example. Things became more pliable as military strategies were forced to deal with larger and larger conflicts over larger and larger amounts of space. When conflict entered the ballistic and atomic ages, bunkers and fortresses were built, but so were anti-ballistic missile systems, and ship and plane mounted lasers to destroy those incoming missiles. This bookended with mutually assured destruction held the threat of thermonuclear war at bay. As the arms race advanced, the planetary governments started falling behind the multi-planetary corporations and conglomerates. While the planet-siders were struggling to deal with the precepts of interplanetary warfare and interstellar fleet actions, the corporations were well accustomed to fighting each other, maintaining logistical operations between worlds and coordinating fleets across multiple star systems.
The end of the race was declared with the creation and deployment of Mid-orbital Active Defense Deployment System or the MADDS. The worlds that deployed these systems were declared practically impregnable. While this is a grandiose claim, it is not one made lightly. The overlapping layers of control, fast responsive controls, and absolute expendable nature of the system's pieces make breaking a MADDS staggeringly difficult. It isn't impossible, but the fleet required to lay siege to a MADDS is going to be on the very large size, and it's going to incur serious losses when engaging and destroying the defensive elements of the system. The alternative is going to be using exotic or over the top tactics that are likely to just ruin the target planet, and are not ensured to destroy the defensive system, such as long range bombardment with asteroids, or swarming the defenders with a veritable hailstorm of nuclear weapons.
The ClearSight Initiative
The strongest box can be opened with a proper key, and the ClearSight project was designed to find the key to MADDS. This was a tall order, as the system in question was very solidly built, and not prone to such obvious tactics as computer viruses, or other thinking outside the box non-violent methods. Extensive research went into the project. The weapon system had to be easily portable, non-restrictive in cost to produce, and had to leave the planet in question still habitable. ClearSight explored a great number of potential systems, ranging from the exotic to the ridiculous, from particle cannons, graviton flux disruptions, dimensional stress depth charges, and more things that still remain classified, then they found the magic bullet they were looking for. X-Rays.
Project Callandor is the codename given to the design initiative to create and x-ray based weapon. The final weapon is a self guided fusion powered torpedo. The core of the torpedo is a Linear type MCX-119C fusion induction reactor. This compact and potent powerplant is more commonly found as an auxilliary power source for naval grade particle cannons, and modular power boosters for small and medium sized military vehicles. The propulsion comes from a variable geometry ion driver system, that can be boosted to staggering velocity for final runs at targets. The torpedo is controlled by a fairly basic integrated droid brain. the combination of long duration power source, high efficiency drive system and synthetic intelligence controller, the torpedo can be fired at a great distance from a target and it will home in on its destination. This sort of smart torpedo design isn't particularly new, nor particularly innovative. The real wonder is in the warhead system.
The destructive power of the weapon come from a bus carrying six hybrid nuclear weapons configured to detonate producing a very large percentage of x-rays. The droid brains controlling the Callandor torpedo are usually jacketed in a lead sheath, so that x-ray and gamma ray wash from front wave missiles doesnt disable second and third wave strikers. Objects that are caught in the cones of x-rays generated by the blasts are far less lucky. Organic material fares poorly unless heavily protected by x-ray proof materials, such as a solid lead lining. The x-rays also have a charming effect of drastically heating whatever they illuminate, often cooking things that would have otherwise survived irradiation. Whilea horrific weapon in its own right, Callandor proved quite effective at flash frying the cryo-cyborg brains used by the MADDS.
The typical mission using Callandor is obviously a sticky situation. The attacking enemy fleet enters the hostile planetary system on the opposite side of the star from the MADDS defended planet, using the star to hide as much of their emissions as possible. The primary strike group enters a low observability mode, while the diversionary force begins a typical long range missile barrage. This barrage of conventional explosives does little more than occupy the attention of the MADDS controllers while the secondary group or groups move into position. These ships deploy the Callandor torpedoes and then make their escape while their torpedoes follow parabolic meandering courses to their targets.
The Callandor torpedoes get as close as they can using what sneaking and stealth tactics as they can. Once stealth is discarded, the torpedoes start their highspeed runs at their targets. Often a lead torpedo will draw defensive units to cluster so that while it may not reach its target, the torpedoes behind it can make a steeper butchers bill on the defenders. The torpedoes seek out the orbital platforms and other command and control centers. A successful Callandor strike ideally decimates the sky-bases, and drone controllers over half of a defensive sphere. While a large number of drones might remain active, they are acting independently, causing them to lose their greatest advantage, massive coordination. Once this hole is blasted in the defensive perimeter it is much easier for an attacking fleet to move in and exploit the lapses in coverage. The central transfer hub is capable of readjusting its surviving skybases and drone controllers to close up the gap left by Callandor, but this does take time to move the stations into position, and it draws the defensive capability of the system thinner.
An Imperfect Weapon
Callandor isn't a perfect system. It is used in tandem with other elements of an attack. Without a follow up fleet attack to exploit the damage done to MADDS, the damage is mitigated by MADDS redeployment of resources. If it is just thrown at a target, most anti-missile and anti-torpedo systems are capable of eliminating even a torpedo as sophisticated as Callandor.
Additional Ideas (2)
Callandor Torpedo, Lucient Series;
The Callandor Torpedo has seen heavy usage in assaulting planets with MADDS, utilizing X-Ray waves to effectively fry the organic cryo-brains that control the cohesive and multilayered defense systems both in orbit and on the ground.
However, the Callandor weapon system has floundered in the past when assaulting heavily defended skybases. While the initial approach and tactic of using the planet's star as a shadow has been effective, once the torpedo becomes tracked and locked, it's simply a matter of speed and luck that determines whether or not the torpedo reaches the Skybase.
The makers of the original ClearSight project saw that the Callandor weapon system was typically able to breach Skybases with smart manouevers that would tilt the success in favor of a well planned offense. However, these options came rarely, especially when dealing with a defense system that was veritably omnipresent and all seeing.
From this, came the Lucient Series Callandor Torpedo, equipped with a host of onboard defenses that gave it's already surgical precision, an even sharper edge.
Firstly, the Lucient Series Torpedos were equipped with two rotary flare generators, which launch over a hundred flares per bandolier. Combined with it's already formidable manouverability, and powerful engine the torpedo can rocket past point defense drones with little fear. At six bandoliers total, these flares are instrumental in creating a smokescreen of light and heat so thick, that heat-seeking cluster missiles are rendered virtually ineffective.
On the same tangent, the rear mounted engine has been reformulated to a pulse engine and with a cold-core reactor. Should there ever come a time when the flares malfunction or run out, the droid brain can enable a "Stealth mode" at reduced speeds, running off the pulse engine while keeping internal temperatures low.
Lastly, the Lucient Series Callandor Torpedo, boasts a new function from which it recieves it's title. If the Torpedo is in imminent danger of being interrupted, the droid engages a last ditch "hail Mary" attempt. A nuclear "Shaped Charge" in the body detonates a controlled but powerful explosion, creating a massive, halo shaped blast which catapults the warhead foreward. The light is blinding, but is more bluster than blast. This brilliant, halo explosion is often mistaken for the decimation of the torpedo, when in actuality it the warhead is still plummeting in the direction of it's target. Reaction to the blast by MADDS can be varied - Skybases determine immediate threat by determining a series of complex algorithms, including last known projectile velocity and angle, as well as distance from the closest skybase, and whether or not nearby cryo-brains were affected by the cast-off radiation from the halo blast.
This addition has increased the to-hit rate of the Callandor Torpedo by 25%, though the entire suite of these innovations has skyrocketed it's price well over 250% making it a worthwhile, but expensive gamble.
(freely adapted from Weber's Honor Harrington series)
Space is cold, and any active engine stands out, free for all detection systems to see.
The Ghost Rider project is another approach to breach a MADDS, one requiring prolonged preparation ahead of each assault though.
The basic premise is simple: the Calandor torpedoes have to reach excessive speeds to be able to assault a MADDS, yet an active engine is a beacon, a target painted on the warhead. Hence, ideally you'd want a cold engine until the very last moment, and the highest possible speed. Impossible? No.
A Ghost Rider carrier will venture far outside a system to be assaulted, and launch Callandor torpedoes with another engine step, a huge detachable fuel depot in fact, nothing too fancy. Far outside, in the dead reaches of space, the torpedo will begin accelerating, careful calculations made to carry it towards the target at some point later.
The warhead will have accelerated to near light speed before it reaches the system, and then discard the add-on engine. It simply becomes a miniature piece of junk hurtling totowards its target in dead silence.
Only in closest proximity will it jump-start its engine, giving the defense system a fraction of a second to realize something is there before it detonates.
A swarm of classic Callandors launched this way is only slightly more expensive than the close-deployment version, and often is in fact deployed in concert with such: calculations are made to determine when the distantly deployed torpedoes will reach the planet allow the fleet from behind the sun to coordinate the attack, getting the MADDS between hammer and anvil. Truth be said, amongst the flares and explosions of the proximally deployed torpedoes, a few sleeping ones are really easy to miss.