To: NATO Equipment Standardization Committee
From: Colonel Leon Beckermann, NATO Extraplanetary Force
Date: February 7th, 2025
Subject: Analysis of Extraterrestrial Military Capabilities and Weaponry
Strictly speaking, none of the Autonomous Extraterrestrial Nations (henceforth referred to as AENs) have a standing military, for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is a lack of military conflict; there does not appear to be any large-scale armed conflict in the relevant past, although examples of what humans would call armed robbery, murder, riots, and civil unrest have been well documented. There appear to be enough resources available that AENs have no need to fight over them, and the station seems to be operating well under its carrying capacity. Furthermore, the AENs present on the station have coexisted for an extremely long time, resulting in an extremely strong diplomatic system. It should be noted, however, that every AEN has some form of peacekeeping force, both as a was to enforce laws and, in some cases, to protect the population from feral animals. Explosives, while not officially banned, have not been adopted by any AEN due to the possible danger of breaching the station wall and causing sector-wide explosive decompression. This, as well as the lack of maneuvering space for air and water vehicles, means that AEN military forces consist of solely of motorized, mechanized, and light infantry, although the size of these forces are relatively small due to their intended role.
Extraterrestrial armaments do not use a chemical propellent, due to the need to function in areas with extremely high and/or extremely low oxygen concentration and to produce ammunition in a sustainable manner. For this reason, plasma or Gauss weaponry is used. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but similar results can be achieved with both.
Contrary to their depiction in human media, plasma weaponry does not fire ‘beams’ of plasma but rather uses small cartridges of highly compressed hydrogen gas, which is then ionized to create plasma during firing. The rapidly expanding plasma is used to propel the cartridge, similar to a rocket. The projectile explodes on impact,
causing burns on the surface of the target and a piercing jet of plasma causing internal damage. In organic material, the plasma causes fluids in the tissue to superheat and expand in an explosive manner, resulting in a conical wound. Plasma weaponry has shown to be extremely effective against conventional ballistic nylon, ceramic body armor, and metal armor plating, but AEN forces have been known to use magnetically-charged barricades to deflect incoming Plasma fire.
Plasma weaponry is simpler to manufacture than Gauss weaponry, due to the lack of electronic components. For the same reason, Plasma weapons tend to be lighter than Gauss weapons of a similar size. In addition, Plasma ammunition is lighter than Gauss ammunition due to the nature of its construction; additionally, the decreased weight of each round results in lower recoil. However, the very nature of Plasma ammunition makes it unstable, and a breached cartridge will explode, likely causing a chain reaction. Furthermore, while Plasma weapons are capable of fully automatic fire, they are also susceptible to malfunctions, particularly failures to feed and double feeding. Finally, Plasma weapons require more maintenance, both in terms of field maintenance and replacement of the barrel and blast plate.
Although no human nation has adopted Plasma weaponry as of yet, several governments and manufacturers are attempting to create a functional weapon. Intercepted transmissions shows that Russia, China, and possibly North Korea, are attempting to create Plasma cartridges that function in AK-74-pattern rifles. While no official examples have been secured, reproductions made using intercepted plans show significant problems during testing. The Plasma cartridge is incapable of properly interacting with the barrel’s rifling, resulting in a terribly inaccurate weapon. Additionally, the expanding plasma causes immense damage to the barrel, gas system, and/or receiver of the weapon, likely causing catastrophic failure after sustained use. The adapted cartridges also frequently fail to properly cycle the weapon, causing frequent stoppages.
Gauss weapons, also known as coilguns, use a series of electromagnetic coils to accelerate a projectile, sometimes held in a shot cup or sabot, to incredible speeds.
While Gauss weapons have existed in experimental stages for some time, the discovery of high-capacity battery technologies have such weapons practical. Furthermore, the nature of the weapon allows for different projectile types to be used, just as slugs, shot, flechettes, and more. Ballistic performance of these projectiles is similar to a firearm of similar caliber; while this means Gauss weapons (at least without specialized ammunition) struggles against armor, the projectile cannot be deflected.
As previously mentioned, Gauss weapons can fire a variety of ammunition, adding versatility to the weapon. Additionally, the ballistic nature of such ammunition allows for greater stopping power (although I do recognize that that term is a multifactorial and not easily measured) due to the projectile’s ability to expand and/or tumble in a soft target. Furthermore, Gauss weaponry lacks the roaring report of Plasma weaponry and is therefore better suited to covert operations. Additionally, they are more reliable, due to fewer moving parts and a sealed action which keeps debris out of the mechanism. Gauss weapons also possess a longer effective range than Plasma weaponry, as Plasma projectiles lose the majority of their damage potential once their propellent is spent. Due to the time required to actuate the mechanism and recharge the capacitors, however, Gauss weaponry are restricted to semiautomatic firing except in the case of multibarrel weaponry. Unfortunately, such weapons are best suited for static defense due to their size, weight, and required power. Additionally, due to the required electronics, Gauss weaponry tends to be heavier and larger than similar Plasma counterparts, limiting portability and concealment. Finally, while an individual battery or power pack may be good for thousands if not tens of thousands of firing cycles, replacement and/or charging of an integral battery requires time and is impractical, if not impossible, to do in the field. This can be remedied by the use of a power pack, although this is not a perfect solution as such packs are large and heavy, making them best suited to sniper and heavy weapon roles.
Colonel Leon Beckermann
NATO Extraplanetary Force