I think I know the answer to this already, but I'd like to get some input and see what other people think.

In the story I'm writing, anti-gravity technology has been developed and UFO-like flying disks exist. Their speed and maneuverability are both very high. If a military had the ability to produce these kinds of vehicles in different sizes, with different levels of firepower, what purpose would any other sort of vehicle have? It seems to me that tanks and things would not have much use in comparison.

I'm eager to see what you guys think, and if this question has already been asked I'm happy to be simply redirected to that information.

  • This technology is cheap and easy to produce and maintain, is not size-prohibitive for aircraft ranging in size from fighter jet analogues (single pilot, 15 meter diameter disk) to heavy bomber analogues (7-man crew, 40 meter diameter disk).
  • Energy is provided remotely and is effectively limitless, so refueling is not a factor.
  • Disk craft are highly modular with regard to weapons, armor, and other equipment.
  • Pilots and crew are protected from g-force by anti-gravity, allowing them to endure the effects of extreme maneuvers.
  • Disk craft are capable of operating under water with an effectiveness comparable to an advanced submarine.
  • The military that possesses this technology is the only one in the world that has it. Other militaries use more conventional aircraft comparable to what the modern American military uses. All other weapons technology (including that used by the military that has this technology) is comparable to modern real-world weapons (guns, ballistic missiles, etc). The disk craft analogue of an A-10 Warthog would have similar cannon, for example.

closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch, Aify, sphennings, Amadeus, James Aug 25 '17 at 14:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ It depends how your antigravity works, which only you know. How bulky is it? What does it cost? Does it require any rare materials to build or operate? How much energy does it use? What are its limitations? Write a detailed and realistic specification for your antigravity generator, and the need for other kinds of vehicle may well emerge as a consequence. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Aug 25 '17 at 6:08
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify your problem. This is not a forum for discussion, this is a place where we try to give precise questions one or more measurable answers. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Aug 25 '17 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE Dom! Do I understand you question correctly that the military in your world developed these discs which could replace every other vehicle in regard to size and carrying capacity, plus they are ignoring gravity and now you would like to know if there is a kind of vehicle that wouldn't profit from this anti-gravity technology? It would be nice if you could edit your question to make this more clear and try to ask for something where answers can be rated against each other. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 25 '17 at 6:48
  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks for the comments, Mike and Secespitus. I'll edit my question and try to add some details based on your suggestions. With respect, L.Dutch, I see your point about precision but I also see plenty of discussion on other questions. $\endgroup$ – Dom Clark Aug 25 '17 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ A little tip: you can notify one user per comment by writing an "@" in front of their username. It even autocompletes when you start typing the username. You can only ping users who wrote something in the comment thread already and the author of the post is always notified, which is why you probably saw the red notification information despite me not using the @<username> syntax. I checked this question again and am looking forward to your edit. I hope you stick around and find the answer you are looking for. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 25 '17 at 11:11

Judging only by the information you've given us:

Their speed and maneuverability are both very high. If a military had the ability to produce these kinds of vehicles in different sizes, with different levels of firepower, what purpose would any other sort of vehicle have?

It depends. Your flying disks seem to be very fast and very agile, but that doesn't cover up all the desirable properties of a military vehicle.

Different designs come with different properties. You mentioned speed and maneuverability, but ask yourself:

What about resistance? How resilient are your UFOs? Maybe the disk design, at best of your factory production capabilities, doesn't allow armor plating. Maybe disks can't be thickly armored without losing said speed. Maybe UFOs are inherently more fragile, since you have to spread your armoring equally on the whole circumference.

What about cost? UFOs may be sensibly pricier in comparison with other old, more well known and optimized vehicles. Most armies will still want to have UFOs around, but if they aren't cost-effective, you don't want too much of them. You could have, for example, a battalion of multi-purpose top of the line UFOs and regular scores of warplanes to throw at the enemy.

What's the status of anti-UFOs technologies? We're talking armies, so we're talking war. So it's a matter of attack vs defense. If the only way to fight an UFO is with another UFO, everyone will want them. But is that likely? Look into anti-aircraft technologies. If someone can cover a base with possibly cheaper stationary anti-UFO cannons to make it UFO-impregnable, then you may want to think about something else.

What's the status of UFO-compatible technologies? Similar to the one above. Are you sure that all the modern, best weapons/shields/engines/systems can be mounted on UFOs? Maybe you can't mount, let's say, missile launchers on UFOs. Maybe you can, but in a slightly less powerful version. Maybe you can't make UFO stealthy and so on. What fuel do they use? Again, is it cost-effective?

The overall question you should answer is, finally, are they really multipurpose?

You mentioned that you are able to produce them in various sizes and different level of firepower, but you have to draw a line and decide what they can and they can't do (if they are absurdly cheap and we can scale them down to hand-palm size, I'm considering having an UFO-drone to cut my beard with tiny lasers, instead of the razor).

UFOs may be really adaptable, but as a general rule, something built to be good at one simple task will be better at that task than one "very adaptable" vehicle. Tanks may still be better in city combat, submarines may still be better underwater, planes may still be better at specialized tasks (like traveling in high atmosphere or stealthy), other kind of spacecraft may still be used, and so on.

On a lighter side, if they are so common in your enviroment, should they be called IFOs (Identified Fliying Objects)?

After the Edit: I'm adding this section since you edited the original question. Luckily for me, I think that most of my answers are still pretty valid. I'd like to add a point, since you said:

The military that possesses this technology is the only one in the world that has it.

Let's say that only military A as the UFO tech, and all the other militaries have different, comparable, but possibly lower vehicles. Then it's in the best interest of military A to keep the UFO as secret as possible. On the other hand, it's in the best interest of all the other armies to get their hands over the UFO tech.

This is simply a matter of warfare, were the unknown can easily wipe you out. There will be a strong push to get as much information as possible about UFOs, including proper construction plans. This can be accomplished through spy work, or simply capturing an existing UFO.

Think about the WWII or the Cold War and how much stress was put into "not letting anything fall into enemy hands". The UFO may be complex stuff, but given the right data other scientist may replicate it.

So, while army's A may want to show off its powerful UFOs to intimidate potential enemies, it's best if they keep a close guard on them. In this scenario, employing lesser vehicles for menial tasks would be better: e.g., you don't send an UFO to do basic recognition, you send a plane. Remember that the other armies just need a small UFO's going AWOL to start studying it.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! Very helpful and thought-provoking. I'm still new to this site and don't know all of the ways you people go about this whole process, but I'm doing my best. I'll edit my answer to try to make things easier. To be clear, they're not called UFOs, they're just UFO-like flying disks. $\endgroup$ – Dom Clark Aug 25 '17 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ You're welcome. I'm pretty new myself. The last part about IFO's was a joke, ofc! I'm glad that my answer was useful to you; have patience and wait for other answers, tho, before selecting a "winning" one. I'm sure other users will pop up. $\endgroup$ – Liquid Aug 25 '17 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Liquid, Great Answer! Thoroughly covered most of the main points. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 25 '17 at 12:46

It seems to me that tanks and things would not have much use in comparison.

Au contraire.

I'm making the following assumptions in this answer, please correct me if I'm wrong:

  • The 15m fighter analogue is as small as they come
  • The flying discs operate at jet-plane speeds (Mach 0.5 and above)

Assuming the above, your discs don't seem to have much ground capability. You could fly them a few inches off the ground, but you would run into the following problems:

  • You'd have to slow them right down, which would negate their speed advantage entirely. Avoiding ground obstacles in a packed warzone while moving at anything above around 40mph is not only difficult, but will likely be fatal to all involved if and when you hit anything. Aiming would be even more difficult, depending on the relative speed of your targets.
  • 15 metres in diameter is very big for a ground vehicle. Much bigger than your average tank. You won't be able to deploy them in forests, you won't be able to deploy them in 99.99% of urban environments, and if you deploy them in any kind of wide open space they'll be a big shiny target.
  • They would need armour comparable to modern tanks (say, Chobham armour). Given the size of your flying discs, that would increase the cost and build time to near-impractical levels - you could do it, but not on a mass-production scale. The added weight would also affect your craft's speed and maneuverability. However, if you don't give them tank-grade armour, a standard anti-tank missile will bust them wide open.
  • As the existing answers have noted, every other country in the world is going to want to steal your anti-gravity tech. If the discs operate at at an altitude of 30,000ft, that's going to be extremely difficult (see: the Japanese Zero fighter from WWII, which the Allies couldn't get their hands on until a Japanese pilot got lost and flew one right to them). If they operate at an altitude of 3ft, it's going to be significantly easier (see: every mecha anime ever).

As described, the discs would be excellent aerial vehicles, and great submarines, but useless on the ground. However, if you scaled them down a bit more (maybe 5-metre diameter or so), you could perhaps utilize them as hovercraft-type vehicles.

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't think about the ground-capabilities related problems. Nice insights. $\endgroup$ – Liquid Aug 28 '17 at 8:54

The military which already possess these flying disks would still want to keep a fleet of conventional vehicles in reserve for the following purposes...

Stealth - Since the flying disks rely on a remote power source, their use of that power source might be detectable at a distance. The enemy would only need to java spies monitoring the output of that source to know exactly when the disks are in heavy use.

Anonymous Operations - Since only a single government has the flying disks, any military operation performed by one is that government's responsibility. If that government wants to spread the blame around for some of its actions, it will need conventional aircraft to use in those actions.

Hedge Against Technology Advancement - Since they flying disks are fundamentally different from conventional aircraft in both their power sources and their means of propulsion, it is possible that enemy scientists may target these difference in their research. A method for nullifying the flying disk power source would devastate the nation which relies on them while leaving its enemies armed and airborne. Keeping some conventional aircraft around in preparation for that possibility is therefore wise.


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