The year is 2553. The Human-Covenant war has been won, but at a great cost to the human race, and though Truth is dead and a great number of its ships and troops were destroyed at the Ark, I think we all agree that the Covenant, and especially the Jiralhanae, are still out there, hating humanity and the Sangheili for destroying their leaders, High Charity, and several of their holy relics. Even though the UNSC has an alliance with the Swords of Sanghelios, we have no idea how stable that alliance is, or whether it has the capability to defend its own worlds, such as Sanghelios, as well as Earth and the remaining human colonies. Therefore, even though the war is over, defense will remain one of the Unified Earth Government's top priorities for several decades to come.
In this article I hope to display my theories for some of the technologies that the UNSC could apply to their ships for the continued fight against the Covenant Remnant. It's going to take them a while to refit all their ships with plasma weapons, or even multiple-shot MACs like the Pillar of Autumn's. So, for the moment, they're going to have to focus on improving existing technologies.
I actually foresee a ship's Magnetic Accelerator Cannon going the same way as a battleship's main gun battery: Being replaced by longer-ranged and far more accurate missiles. MAC rounds are powerful, but scoring a hit with an unguided projectile on a moving target at the kind of ranges we're talking about in space is going to be incredibly difficult even with an AI. Furthermore, you only get one shot, and then you'll have to charge up the MAC again, which is going to take time, assuming the enemy hasn't destroyed you first. A MAC shell can't maneuvre if the target attempts to dodge, but a missile can.
You're going to tell me that Archer Missiles are useless against Covenant ships, given their shields, but bring the shields down, and Archers are incredibly effective. However, the question remains; How do we get through the shield?
I was inspired by Specops' article on Halo Fanon regarding a modified missile that used an electromagnetic pulse to open a hole in the shields while at the same time guiding a clutch of conventional Archer Missiles in to strike the hull. The theory is, if Covenant shields are the magnetically-contained shells of plasma we imagine them to be, the EMP will interact with the field containing the plasma and force it to collapse, while at the same time disabling sensors, weapon systems, and life support. The EMP could be created by detonating a high-explosive charge in an armature. The problem is the range of an EMP in vacuum is in the order of a few hundred metres, so the EMP missile is going to have to get close before it can activate, which is a problem since Point Defense Lasers are incredibly accurate, but if dozens of EMP missiles were fired at the target, at least some would get through, and the missile could be coated with anti-radar materials, or perhaps utilise plasma stealth to defeat enemy radar, lidar, and other sensors.
Perhaps in time, the EMP generator could be miniturised enough to fit on all Archer Missiles, but this would raise the problem of the missile being totally disabled when the EMP goes off. However, I read another article on Halo Fanon by an author who I salute for his inventiveness: He suggested using an EMP to get through the shields, and as far as I could gather, the warhead is in fact a series of tungsten rods propelled by an explosive charge out of the missile and straight into the target. Perhaps when the EMP goes off, an electromagnet holding a spring-loaded pin in place deactivates, send the pin flying into a block of percussion-detonated explosive, blasting the tungsten rod into space.
Nuclear shaped charges
I LOVE these things. They could be mounted as either missile warheads or as turrets bolted onto ship hulls. The idea is, a nuclear device is encased in an shell of x-ray opaque material, such as Uranium, with a hole in the top. This forces the x-rays created by the explosion of the nuke to exit from the hole, where they run straight into a large mass of Beryllium Oxide. The Beryllium transforms the nuclear fury of x-rays into a nuclear fury of heat. Perched on top of the Beryllium is a thin plate of a metal with a low atomic number. The blast of heat turns the metal plate into a star-core hot spindle of plasma hurtling towards your target. If you could apply this to missiles, you could use several EMP missiles to bring down the target's shields, and then fire off your nuclear shaped charge missiles, which explode kilometres away from the target, and then skewer it with a burning spear of nuclear fire. If they're turrets on your ship's hull, it's the same principle: Bash the target about with a few EMP and Archer Missiles, then close in and open up with the turrets.
I noticed when reading Halo: The Fall of Reach that Archer Missile pods contain about thirty missiles, and a few more if your ship's a destroyer. I also noticed that once you've fired off the contents of a pod, it can't be refilled again until you reach a shipyard or Refit Station. This limits the number of missiles a ship can actually carry, so I thought, what if you could replace the missile pods you've already fired while still in a fight?
My theory is that you could build a frigate, destroyer, or cruiser with a hollow core, and then pack it full of fully-loaded missile pods. When you've fired a pod mounted on the outside of the hull, shoot it away from the ship (and preferably in a direction away from any friendly ships, as well), and then move a pod from the center of the ship through tunnels to the hull, and move it into the discarded pod's position. These "arsenal ships" could probably carry at least three times the amount of missiles a conventional ship of similar size could carry, and if the missiles it carries mount EMP or nuclear shaped charge warheads, these things would be the absolute terror of Covenant Fleets. A problem with arsenal ships could be a lack of structural integrity, given their hollow centers, and to make room for all the pods they'd probably have to get rid of the MAC gun, which I'd imagine would give some military traditionalists fits.
From Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 296 and 297:
"After a dozen hits, clouds of ionizing metal eveloped the place where the three stations had been.
They had been vaporized.
The last of the Covenant plasma hit the haze - scattered, absorbed, and made the cloud glow a hellish orange."
This short passage tells us that a cloud of vaporized titanium dust can block Plasma Torpedoes, and on the next page, it tells us that the Covenant have to move around the cloud to get a clear shot. So what if this could be applied to warfare?
Imagine this scenario: A UNSC fleet approaches a Covenant Fleet. The Covenant fire their plasma torpedoes, and in response, the UNSC fires off a salvo of countermissiles, groups of which explode in front of the torpedoes, filling space with a thick cloud of titanium dust. The plasma torpedoes hit the cloud, and, in much the same way as above, are absorbed, scattered, and otherwise blocked by the cloud of titanium, and the fleet is safe.
Of course, there will be problems with this system, the most obvious of which will be titanium particles being melted into larger chunks and sent hurtling back towards UNSC ships by the torpedo's momentum. They'll be travelling at hypersonic speeds, and so will do horrible damage to even the most heavily armored hull. But, if some iron were to be added to the titanium, this would make the dust a magnetic material, and so could be repelled by an electromagnet buried under the ship's armor.
All the technology in the world won't prevent deaths on our side, and these will hardly be the God weapons to end all God weapons. In fact, we should know better than to place our faith in superior technology: The Covenant did it, and look what happened to them at the end of the war. However, these will be great equalizers in a fight against a fanatical and still very well-equipped enemy that would do anything to see humanity destroyed.
Thanks to Specops for giving me the idea for EMP missiles. An inspiration to all of us.
Your opinions and input, please.