From an email posted to Baen's Bar BuShips dated June 7, 2005:

FTL fire control

    The Flies are discussing the possible benefits of FTL control of missiles. I happen to know how you're going to handle that, but you haven't authorized me to tell anyone. So, the debate seems to be between those who want to use the existing Ghost Rider recon drones to provide the firing ships with updated targeting information, and those who want to fit grav-pulse receivers/transmitters into individual missiles. Do you want to comment on this at all?


    I don't really want to get into a lot of details about this particular aspect of the Honorverse's military hardware. You know why, Richard; I'd just as soon not be more specific than that at this point, since certain steps in this direction form a significant part of At All Costs' action. I would point out, however, that there are three fundamental problems with using recon platforms in the way you seem to be saying has been suggested:

    (a) A recon drone won't see exactly what a missile sees. It may see the general tactical situation, it may see what's going on in the EW environment, it may see roughly where a missile is headed, but it won't be able to tell the ship which launched the missile what the missile's seekers actually see, which would significantly degrade the fire control value of its reports.

    (b) The question of exactly what tactical window the drone is going to send you becomes significant. Are you going to have these things on continuous transmission, or are you going to task them to report back at specified intervals? In either case, if the bad guys can get recon platforms between your platforms and your ships, they'll be able to the triangulate on the directional transmissions between your platforms and your ships well enough to tell roughly where the recon platforms are. At which point a nice saturation pattern of missiles is likely to arrive in their neighborhood and ruin their whole day.

    (c) A recon drone is much, much slower (in terms of acceleration, at least) than a missile. This means that to use them in the fashion you're describing would require you to deploy them well ahead of time. The maximum acceleration rate for a drone which doesn't break stealth is on the order of 4,000 gravities -- maybe 5,000 under ideal conditions and against an opponent whose sensor capabilities are pretty substandard. Missiles routinely accelerate at up to 98,000-100,000 gravities, or at half that rate for long-range shots. So, if your shipkiller is fired at maximum range, at, say, 45,000 gravities for its entire "half-power" endurance of nine minutes, it will travel nine times as far over those nine minutes as your recon drone. That's not a problem if you know ahead of time that you're going to need the drones out there and get them deployed; in a situation in which the bad guys suddenly appear -- out of stealth, from behind a convenient system body, or simply because they were playing "hole in space" under total emissions-control -- you won't have time to get the drones out to establish your control link. Not for at least the first couple of salvos, and in an ambush scenario like this one, the opening salvos are very likely to be decisive.