From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 7/3/2011

Admirals Chin and Kusak  and the climax to the Battle of Manticore, part II

    Guys, I said I was going back to my garret!

    Sheesh. All right, Liam, I will address your specific questions just this once in an effort to put a stake through the heart of this particular debate once and for all. Not that I expect everyone to agree with my analysis of what the characters ought to have been doing, for ye are a fractious bunch, the lot of ye, but this be the true and full story of what happened, maties. Arrrgh.

    (1) Why didn't Kuzak bring a whole slew of pre-deployed missile pods through the Junction from Trevor's Star with her, since that's exactly what Honor did when she came through?

    Answer: She had no intention of firing the huge wave of missiles D'Orville and Tourville had fired at one another and chose not to expose pre-deployed pods to destruction in a “use them or lose them” scenario when she wasn't planning on a single massive salvo to begin with. There were three factors in her decision, two of which are expressly noted in the text. (a) She believed (correctly) that Tourville had used the majority of his ammunition and would be unable to repeat his own massive salvo. (This point was expressly discussed with her staff during their approach to 2nd Fleet before she launched on them.) (b) She didn't want to waste missiles on already effectively crippled targets, which was entirely too likely to happen, given their weakened EW defenses, given how likely non-Apollo MDMs were to “swarm” the most visible targets rather than necessarily going after the most valuable ones. (This point was not expressly mentioned in the text but was, I thought, fairly obvious after what had happened to Honor at Solon. My bad.) (c) She thought 2nd Fleet represented all the forces the PRH had committed to the attack. Remember how astonished everyone was at the size of the fleet Theisman had thrown straight into the teeth of the system defenses? No one thought for a minute that Haven had a hundred more fully worked up and trained SD(P)s to commit to an all-or-nothing throw, even to win the war. Honor was worried (initially) about the possibility of an attack on Trevor's Star after Home Fleet and the forces at Trevor's Star had been drawn into Manticore, but she figured it would be relatively light in SD(P)s for two reasons: (1) the Havenites wouldn't need a lot of wallers if they'd managed to suck all of the defending wallers out of Trevor's Star; (2) just like everyone else, she thought they were already looking at virtually all of Haven's available wallers in 2nd Fleet. This point was specifically addressed --- although I admit I didn't preface it with “Hey, everybody! Here's the reason no one guesses Admiral Chin is coming to the party, too! Y'all listen up now!” since I sort of thought people might notice it anyway --- in her conversation with her chief of staff right after Chu turned up. Which said:

    “Oh?” Smithson cocked his head, smiling ironically despite the hurricane of missiles rushing towards them. “And I suppose you were supposed to somehow use clairvoyance to realize they had another hundred wallers in reserve? That they were going to throw three hundred and fifty superdreadnoughts at us? Just you --- not Admiral Caparelli, not ONI, not Admiral D'Orville or Admiral Harrington. Just you. Because, obviously, this is all your fault.”

    I'm not going to argue that it wouldn't have been more Raymond Spruance-ish for her to have deployed a significant number of pods first “just in case,” but she was anticipating engaging in a series of much smaller salvos, not one big, missile-wasting sledgehammer which was likely to expend a lot of its power on the cripples and felt no inclination to possibly lose some of her pods by exposing them to incoming fire when she didn't have to, and she was firmly convinced that she knew exactly where all of her potential enemies were. She was wrong about that, but so were a lot of other people (including Honor, until Chin actually appeared) because just like in peacetime (and real life) it isn't what you don't know that gets you into trouble, it's what you do know that's incorrect.

    (2) Why did Chin wait so long to hyper out once Honor fired at her?

    I've answered this before, but I will answer it one more time. There were two reasons she didn't hyper out in time.

    (a) Honor fired from a range which was much greater than the maximum range at which the PRH's analysts had estimated Apollo could be made to work and in far greater numbers than the PRH believed they could possible have control links for in the first place. Accordingly, Chin expected an old-fashioned “accuracy sucks at this range” result from the missiles coming at her, and she had the numbers and the firepower to more than equalize the odds as long as Apollo couldn't give the Manties a killing advantage in accuracy. She'd come for the express purpose of killing any Manty ships which came through from Trevor's Star and she'd already done basically that to 3rd Fleet. She had the opportunity to take out the rest of the entire Manticoran wall of battle (even though it might cost her crippling damage to or the outright destruction of her own) and she knew Theisman had a lot of new SD(P)s working up behind her. As such, she was initially prepared to engage Honor at that range, despite the weight of Honor's initial salvo, as long as she believed that 8th Fleet wasn't going to have that accuracy advantage. It took a few minutes for her own tactical instincts to overcome the analysis about effective Apollo control range and numbers of control channels she'd been given.

    (b) Once she did realize what was about to happen, she'd left it too late because hyper generators take a while to cycle even from maximum readiness. I know that I've addressed this point online before, and I believe there'd been references to hyper cycling times in the books well before At All Costs. When the text says ”But it had taken Genevieve Chin two minutes too long to realize what was happening” it means that at the point she realized what was actually happening she was already two minutes inside her minimum hyper translation window.

    Unlike the situation with Kuzak, where I thought (and think) the information necessary to realize what was happening in her head was clearly present, I must admit that the information necessary to understand Chin's decisions wasn't adequately presented in the book, for which I apologize. Both points were addressed in the rough draft, but in the final edit process I removed a critical part of the information --- the Havenites' estimate of maximum effective Apollo control range --- from where it was first presented to move to another spot… and forgot to reinsert it. In the original draft, I had Chin actually reflecting on the Manties' range limitations, but I decided that it slowed the action of the scene and that the reader might (legitimately) have wondered just how it happened that I had forgotten to mention it to him until that moment. So I removed two sentences from that passage with the intention of doing a slight rewrite to the scene where Theisman is discussing with Eloise what happened to Giscard when he met Apollo for the first time. At that point, if you will recall, Theisman said that he believed Apollo was so new that the Manties hadn't been able to refit across the board --- that, in effect, it was operational onboard a relatively small number of units. (This was another reason Chin wasn't initially anticipating heavy Apollo-controlled salvos from Honor; she'd already taken McKeon's Apollo fire, didn't realize how few ships it had actually come from --- not too surprisingly, I think, given how effective it was and the fact that it was a completely new departure in tactics --- and destroyed them. (Remember that she was unable to pick the ships with Keyhole-Two out from the rest of 3rd Fleet's SD(P)s; it was simply the luck of the draw that she finally got all of McKeon's ships, and she only knew she had when the Apollo fire stopped arriving.) As such, she figured Honor couldn't have more than a handful, of them left; certainly not enough to control as many missiles as she saw coming towards her.) At any rate, what I meant to do (and didn't; mea culpa) was to add a sentence to Theisman's briefing so that the critical paragraph would have read:

    “But apparently that isn't true for the Manties anymore. They don't have to preprogram evasion maneuvers into their missiles. Don't have to launch with a locked-in attack profile, or even prepackaged EW profiles. They can use their shipboard computational ability to analyze counter-missile patterns, electronic warfare emissions, and then they can make changes on the fly, adjust everything as they get steadily closer, get steadily better data on the defenses they have to penetrate. They can command their electronic warfare missiles to activate at precisely the most effective moment --- decided by the capabilities of a superdreadnought's tactical computers, not just what can be squeezed into a missile body. And on top of that, they can direct the flight of their attack missiles to take the greatest possible advantage of the holes their EW opens up, and according to Linda's best guesstimate, they may have an FTL 'reach' of as much as three and a half light-minutes. They can't have much more than that, given how hard it must've been to jam any sort of FTL transceiver into something so small and what working at that much range has to mean for bandwidth in a missile-sized platform, but if she's right, that means they can take advantage of their new systems almost all the way out to the very edge of even their MDM's powered envelope.

    The portion in bold was added on my penciled final proofreading draft of the manuscript, but the page on which it was penciled got into the “already read” pile rather than the “this error needs to be fixed” pile. It was entirely my fault. I didn't even think about the move during the copy edit stage, and making changes and not simply corrections at the final proof stage is always tricky and often a pain in the ass for the production people. I should either have made the change earlier or not made it at all, and because I did it at this late a stage, there was no chance for a final proofing on my part which might have caught what I'd done. I did it in what was the final proofing stage… on the theory, apparently, that if you're going to screw up you might as well do it right. Chin, unfortunately, knew what I'd forgotten to tell you, which meant that she believed she was the next best thing to ten million kilometers outside what PRH intelligence had estimated as Apollo's maximum effective range (roughly 63,000,000 kilometers). And even if she wasn't, she believed (as per Theisman's estimate of how widely deployed Apollo was at that point and the KY-2 ships she'd already killed) that probably only a minority of the ships coming at her had Apollo capability anyway. In either case, Honor's missiles weren't going to be much more dangerous than hers were, which made standing and fighting a numerically inferior force the right thing to do.

    So the real problem with the “Gee, Chin was a blithering idiot” mantra is that the blithering idiot, in this case, was the author who didn't get the critical information reinserted after sucking it out of her thought processes at the critical moment like some sort of telepathic leech. I believe I've explained all of this at least twice before, though not in quite this much detail, but the key point is that the error was mine in the editing, not hers in the thinking, which is why no one in Haven has been screaming about what a fricking idiot she was. Under the circumstances, I'll take the hit on her tactics (at least insofar as her figuring she was out of Apollo range is concerned), but I thought at the time (and still do think) that the basis for Kuzak's tactics should have been obvious to anyone familiar with the Honorverse and what had happened at Solon, particularly in light of the comment from her chief of staff which I cited above.

    Anyway, that's what happened. I suppose at some point I could go back and write the report of the Havenite board of inquiry on the Battle of Manticore as part of the official canon to get the full explanation into the books, but I don't know how interesting it would be to the general readership rather than to certain fanatics I could mention.

     


     

    One point I didn't make about Kuzak's decision was that she didn't know how effective Apollo was going to be when used by only McKeon's ships. Remember how new the system was and that it had been used in action exactly once at this point. She knew how well it had worked that time, but she also knew it had come as a total surprise to the Havenites that time and she had no idea what they might have come up with to minimize or at least reduce its effectiveness the next time they met it. Relying on reports of a single engagement of a radically new weapon when you are talking about defending your home system may or may not be extraordinarily wise, and the flip side of that was that if she did start punching them out one by one from a range at which they could not possibly score against her forces, she would probably up the odds of their going ahead and engaging Sphinx (with the possible negative consequences she feared) because they might as well if they were all going to die anyway. Nor was it actually an Eridani violation she feared. She wasn't thinking of deliberate attacks on the planetary population; she was thinking about near misses that had to go somewhere (and the Edict has always recognized that accidental hits, not targeted on the planet but on legitimate military targets, do not constitute a genocidal attack and hence do not trigger the Edict).

    Had she engaged 2nd Fleet, and had she demonstrated that she could kill them from a range at which they could not reply, then she would have given them every justification under the rules of war for engaging the orbital infrastructure without allowing its personnel to evacuate first. Even if there were zero casualties on the planet, we are still talking about millions of dead (as Oyster Bay demonstrated) if that happened. You're right that she couldn't prevent them from firing on the planet anyway, but neither did she want to provoke them into launching a justified attack on targets in orbit around the planet. With the combination of her uncertainty about Apollo's effectiveness, the probability that 2nd Fleet would go ahead and engage the infrastructure immediately if Apollo did prove as effective against Tourville as it had against Giscard, and the certainty that she could take 2nd Fleet with standard MDMs if she closed the range (and that she would have shorter flight times and the ability to kill 2nd Fleet a hell of a lot faster if Tourville did fire on the orbital infrastructure (and possibly accidentally hit the planet as well), she opted for a cautious approach which might cost her a few more naval casualties as the price of avoiding civilian ones. To me, that logic train makes perfect sense, especially for a military officer whose oath requires her to die preventing civilian casualties.

    As far as not having deployed humongous, massive numbers of pods, she had no need to… nor the fire control to take advantage of such massive predeployment. Yes, she could have stacked her salvos faster if she'd deployed the pods, and I suppose that if she really wanted to kill off 2nd Fleet quickly (in the event that it opened fire on the infrastructure near Sphinx), it might have helped. She was already pretty sure that 2nd Fleet had pretty much shot its wad, however (and she was right about that), and would be unable to deploy massive salvos of its own. She could stack bigger ones than Tourville could, more quickly, and she had better fire control and better missile defenses. As such, she saw no reason to waste rounds on already crippled ships. She intended to close to a range at which she could begin registering tightly controlled salvos on the ships she really wanted to kill using standard MDMs… and if Tourville had opened fire on her sooner, or had opened fire on the planetary infrastructure, you can bet your sweet bippy she would have immediately engaged with McKeon's Apollo-capable units, followed by standard MDM salvos.

    The one decision which I'll grant you can be legitimately questioned was the failure to deploy masses of pods ahead of time, although I think her fire control limitations vis-à-vis 8th Fleet do go quite a ways towards justifying it. Had the tactical situation been what she (and everyone else in Manticore) believed it was until the moment Chin arrived, she would have polished off 2nd Fleet (or compelled its surrender) at minimal cost even with her “bad decision” not to deploy hundreds of pods ahead of time.