Title Posted
Grav lance Oct 2002
Missile orientation during flight Oct 2002
Missile pods: where are they tractored? Oct 2002
Missile pods as strap-on weapons? Oct 2002
Missile pod launchers Oct 2002
Missile pods: how well can you fit pods/box launchers on the exterior of a hull? Oct 2002
VLS cells for light units Oct 2002
Missile power systems Oct 2002
What happened to Erewhon's League Membership? Oct 2002
How do the Sollies regard the Havenite War? Oct 2002


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Pearls of Weber

A collection of posts by David Weber containing background information for his stories, collected and generously made available Joe Buckley.

Erewhon and the inertial compensator

  • Series: Honorverse
  • Date: May 22, 2009

I understand there's been some debate about just exactly what level of compensator efficiency the Erewhonese took to Haven with them (assuming, of course, he said innocently, that they took any of it), and that debate has extended to other aspects of the Alliance's bag of technical tricks.

The truth is that the Erewhonese Navy was never anywhere near as interested as Grayson in ensuring that it had "top-of-the-line" technical capabilities in every respect. By the last half or third of the first round of the Havenite Wars (that which ended -- at least in a cease-fire -- in Ashes of Victory), the Erewhonese ships of the wall had been almost entirely relegated to a pure system defense role in their home star system. By the nature of Erewhon's relatively exposed position and closer physical proximity to the warfront, it made perfectly good sense for a strong force of ships of the wall to be deployed there to cover the system. However, if you look at the map, Erewhon wasn't really all that well located for an advanced Manticoran base after Trevor's Star was liberated and became available instead.

The real value of Erewhon to the Manticoran Alliance was to deprive the People's Republic of quick communications to the Solarian League (and, especially, its defense contractors) via the Erewhon Wormhole Junction. The real value of Erewhon to the People's Republic would have been to obtain that access, but the People's Navy understood perfectly well that even if they'd managed to take the system, they would not have been permitted to retain control of it. Hence Erewhon became a secondary objective/consideration, albeit an important secondary objective/consideration, for both sides. Putting in a major fleet base in Erewhon would both have required a major investment in a not terribly convenient location and have made the star system a much more enticing target for the People's Republic. For that reason, the Erewhonese themselves preferred to rely on Manticoran and Grayson shipyards and backup (in the form of a couple of divisions of superdreadnoughts) for their own Navy. While they upgraded their SD's missile tubes and EW, they never even considered building pod designs, and because they did not operate regularly with offensive forces of the Alliance, they were less concerned about refitting with the new compensators. (Which, contrary to what I understand someone has suggested, is a fairly time-consuming operation, by the way.)

This isn't to say that the Erewhonese didn't have service facilities, or naval shipyards of their own. It is not accurate, however, to assume that the Erewhonese ever built their own ships of the wall. The ships which they possessed at the beginning of the Havenite Wars were Solarian-built, purchased by Erewhon when they were still in a state of alliance with the League. One of the reasons that you practically never see Erewhonese capital ships in the novels is that they simply weren't building any more because their shipyards were not scaled to build ships of that size, complexity, and expense and they didn't acquire that capacity during their time with the Alliance. They provided manpower, they provided light and medium combatants, and they provided security against the People's Republic's gaining easy access to the Solarian League. They did not provide any significant number of ships of the wall. Which, by the way, is one reason the Janecek Admiralty had such a tin ear where Erewhon was concerned. Janacek (and, for that matter, the entire High Ridge Government) thought of Erewhon as essentially a lightweight in terms both of its contribution to the fighting power of the Alliance and its strategic importance to the Alliance. Needless to say, that assessment did not allow for the possibility that Erewhon would decide to sign up with the Republic of Haven and transfer to it the latest military technology that Erewhon possessed.

What Erewhon did possess at the time that it decided to transfer its allegiance to the Republic of Haven was considerably in advance of anything the Solarian League Navy was even thinking about developing and deploying. As such, it constitutes a considerably greater strategic asset for Shannon Foraker and her boys and girls at Bolthole than direct communication with the League would. At the same time, it is not the same as access to genuine first-line Manticoran hardware. For example, their ships were never designed to handle the all-up MDM, and because their fleet basically stayed home, they do not have the fusion-powered version of the new missiles (which means the MDMs they have are bigger and less capable than the current Manticoran version), and they didn't upgrade their compensators at the same frantic rate that star nations whose fleets were going to be engaged on frequent operations did. As such, the best technology they can deliver as working models with supporting tech manuals to Haven is probably equivalent to the Alliance's technology as of the end of Echoes of Honor or the very early stages of Ashes of Victory. This is one hell of a lot more than Haven had before Erewhon changed sides, but it falls considerably short of what the Manticoran Alliance's first-line members can deploy as of the end of War of Honor, seven years later.

One of the problems Hamish Alexander and Pat Givens face at the end of War of Honor is that they really aren't sure exactly what technology Erewhon has/had access to. They have to assume the worst, but they are probably being rather more pessimistic than reality justifies. However, it's also probably worthwhile to remember that giving someone like Shannon (and the staff she has been assembling) an established starting point virtually guarantees that they will eventually figure out how to do whatever the Alliance can do, or else to find their own ways to the same thing with technology which still remains at least marginally less capable. I'm not trying to minimize the significance of the blow a complete transfer of all of Erewhon's military technology to Haven would represent, especially in the long term. I'm simply pointing out that some people seem to be assuming (which is largely my fault, since the only real assessment I gave you was through the words and viewpoint of characters in the novel who, as I said, have a responsibility to assume the worst) that the Erewhonese are in a better position to hand working examples of the latest Manticoran hardware over to Shannon. Just to take one example, Erewhonese inertial compensators are at least three generations behind currently deployed Alliance technology as of the events in Crown of Stars [Crown of Slaves - Ed]. (Which still leaves them several generations ahead of anything the Sollies possess.)

One of the rather ironic aspects of the current situation is that Haven's applied military technology is now significantly ahead of the Solarian League's. What was a technology pipeline which had to be kept open in order to provide Haven with the assistance at required to at least stay in shouting distance of the Alliance now flows (or, at least, the League would like for it to flow) in the opposite direction. Only a relatively few people in the League realize this, as yet, but I suppose it could become significantly important to them at some unspecified point in the future if some currently unexpected transformation of interstellar political relationships should lead to… heightened tensions between the League and Haven.