A specialized type of particle beam weapon first postulated in the Traveller RPG universe is the meson gun. Pi neutral mesons (created by the collision of an electron and a positron) are subatomic particles that pass through normal matter with very little interaction, similarly to neutrinos. However, the also have a very short life span, decaying with a burst of gamma rays, which reacts much more substantially with material substances. A meson gun accelerates pi neutral meson particles to near-lightspeed, where time dilation slows their rate of decay. If done with precision, the mesons can be timed to decay at a predetermined spot, and if packed densely enough in the beam they can unleash a tremendous amount of energy, approaching the level of nuclear bombs.
Mesons guns are a technology that requires a very advanced degree of sophistication in all its elements, as the weapon has to accelerate the pi neutral mesons to within the right tiny window of near-lightspeed to delay their decay until they are passing through or near the desired target. They do have a very unique property of being able to be fired through physical objects without harming or even interacting with them in any way. They can bypass defenses such as sandcasters clouds, magnetic fields, and physical armor easily. In fact, a ship equipped with a sufficiently powerful meson gun could theoretically fire completely through a planet to hit a target on the other side.
The great hurdle in producing this technology is the precise three-dimensional targetting needed in order to make a hit. Meson guns would work best against slow moving targets or against targets with predictable paths, such as installations on a planet or an orbitting space station.
Hitting a rapidly moving target such as a spaceship would be considerably more difficult. In order to assure a hit, the distance between target and gun should be as narrow as possible. In space combat, even if its packing a nuclear-bomb-level punch, a meson gun would probably work best if the target is within a light-second at most so the target's predicted paths of movement cannot vary too much for the weapon to get a lock on it.
Like most new weapon systems, the first meson guns are likely to be large and bulky and require tremendous amounts of energy. Their first practical use may be in deep-underground bunkers, where they can have ready access to large, immobile powergrids and the bulky machinery that would be needed to make them work. Since the beam of the weapon can pass through any arbitrary layers of matter, meson gun emplacements can be placed many kilometers underground without affecting weapon performance.
In the Traveller RPG universe where meson guns hail from, deep meson gun emplacements were considered one of the toughest planetary defenses to defeat by attacking forces. Not only were they supremely well protected under miles and miles of rock, but even determining their exact location could be probematic as meson beams leave no tell tale sign of their origin point.
A deep meson gun emplacement could also target locations on the planet's surface as well as anything in nearby space.
A spinal mount is a weapon system that runs the length of an entire spaceship. Often, the ship is literally built around the weapon system. The most famous example of such a weapon can be found in the title vessel of Space Battleship Yamato (called Starblazers in the US) and its 'Wave Motion' Gun.
A spinal-mount meson gun ship would require the best sensors its tech level could provide to better facilitate the three-dimensional targeting that would be needed. It would of course not need any kind of open arperture for its weapon, as the meson gun can easily pass through its hull when fired.
Even though the ship would have to be aimed in the general direction of the target, it probably would not need to be lined up precisely. The barrel of the particle accelerator will likely be built to allow some variance in the angle of the beam, maybe up to as much as ten or fifteen degrees or so.
As meson guns miniaturize, they will eventually be able to be fitted into small bays within a spaceship. These would basically be internal turrets of a sort, completely englobed to allow easy 360-degree targetting. If desired, meson guns could be placed externally onto barebettes and turrets and such, but it would make more sense to keep the weapons within the hull where they would be better protected.
Its possible, that with ever-increasing sophistication in power generation, miniaturization, sensors, and computer power, that meson guns could become small and convenient enough to use on a battlefield. They would of course be far less potent than their larger ship-mounted cousins, but their ability to ignore any type of physical armor would make them very desirable in any type of conflict.
A tactical-level meson gun, whether mounted on a vehicle or carried by an individual soldier, would need a very sophisticated active sensor array and computer core in order to pinpoint precisiely in three-dimensions what the operator is aiming at and adjust the velocity of the mesons in the beam accordingly. The operator would also be able to program the weapon quickly to fire through barriers at a target beyond, perhaps through a neural link.
Fire, Fusion, and Steel: The Traveler Technical Architecture by Frank Chadwick and Dave Nilsen
Traveller RPG, et al
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