“Why fire one missile when you launch a whole circus?” – Itano Ichiro

No he didn’t really say that. There are conceits in mecha anime action, conceits because they defy logic and common sense [->]; a lot of them are virtuous conceits because they contribute to the aesthetics and excitement of the show. Since the anime by enlarge exists to entertain, or perhaps uses entertainment to make people behave a certain way (i.e. buy merchandise [->]), these conceits  are actually quite welcome.

I like them a lot, actually; and my favorite is what is called the Macross Missile Massacre; or as I prefer to call it, the “Itano Circus,” after Itano Ichiro¹ — the animator who developed and popularized the technique.

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The “Itano Circus” was, next to the transforming mecha, one of the most spectacular things that swept me off my feet as a 7 year old watcing SDF Macross for the first time. I never knew what to call it back then. I had only learned about Itano Ichiro once I started reading about anime online which really wasn’t that long ago. However this was one of the very first things I found:

Macross Missile Massacre. Anime Magic. Infinite Salvo Lock-On. It’s called a lot of names (I just made up that third one), but the dizzying aerobatics and corkscrewing missile plumes that many equate with the entire anime artform came from one man. From the first Mobile Suit Gundam to the infamous Daicon video shorts, this air-circus style is so famous that the industry nicknamed it Itano Circus in honor of the man. And yet, if it weren’t for Macross, Ichiro Itano would still be hauling deliveries on the streets.

He’s come a long way from his Yokohama roots. Like almost every boy in Japan, he grows up wanting to be the shiny android Kikaider/Kikaida. Unlike any other kid, he imitates Kikaider’s rocket-equipped motorcycle by strapping about fifty toy rockets and a Zippo lighter to his motorbike’s front fenders. Just another proof that Japan produces more geniuses without those pesky child-safety laws.

Despite his initial Gundam glory within the industry, work slowdowns force Itano back on the road as a truck driver. However, Studio Nue remembers his amazing mecha choreography and lure him back. Except for event appearances like Sugoi-Con 2004, he’s been working non-stop ever since—from all three Megazone 23s and Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise to Gantz and the new, grittier Ultraman movie.

–From Egan Loo’s Macross Memories, 21 November 2004[->]

Reading about it just isn’t enough. Here’s a long compilation video of the phenomenon².

But how much of a conceit is it really? I grew up thinking that given that one missile has enough destructive capability to down the target, it’s grossly inefficient to fire one’s entire payload at it. The more I think about it, what’s more fanciful isn’t the launch of multiple missiles, it’s how the targets are able to escape them. Looking at what the ace pilots in Macross do:

1. They transform into Gerwalk or Battloid mode which should dramatically reduce their speed ergo allowing the missiles tailing them to catch up and blow them to bits.

2. After transforming they do a 180 degree turn and face towards the missiles. This should reduce their speed even further and perhaps even propel themselves onto the incoming missiles and blow themselves to bits.

So if what the pilots do to survive the “Itano Circus” are the actual fantasy elements in the anime, how legitimate is firing a swarm of missiles as a tactic? These are of course speculations, but this is an anime blog and and fanboy speculation is relevant to my interests! In any case, here are the more interesting ones I found³:

  • Soviet volley missile launchers, starting from BM-13-16 and BM-8-48 (132mm / 82mm, second is number of rails) Katyusha [1] with variant launchers (e.g. aircraft-mounted◊) and ammo (e.g. rockets spreading several thermite elements[...]). Its descendants the 9K51 Grad [2] and the BM-30 Smerch — the first can fire 720 missiles at once when packed in a batallion of 18 launchers, while the second can fire a missile every 3 seconds or so. The historical Korean hwacha — which can be best described as a Schizo Tech Katyusha — also functioned in much the same way, a 15-16th century saturation artillery piece capable of firing up to 100 steel-tipped rockets or 200 singijeon (effectively fire arrows).
    • The American closest equivalent is the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. Each MLRS vehicle can launch 12 277mm rockets within sixty seconds. Each rocket can contain up to 644 submunitions. Total throw is therefore 7,728 bombs launched in under a minute per vehicle. MLRS batteries are colloquially known as ‘grid square erasers.’

macross plus yf-21 prototypeMaybe I can distinguish the realistic and the fantastic just a little bit more in this post.

Consider the 1960 U-2 incident during the Cold War (United States vs. Soviet Russia) [->]:

A US spy plane was shot down over Soviet airspace which ended up being quite a scandal for the US Government at the time. What’s interesting for us here is that the U-2 aircraft was shot down by what can be considered an “Itano Circus.”

Officially Gary Power’s U-2 and accidentally a pursuing MiG-19 (piloted by Sergei Safronov) were shot down with a salvo of fourteen SA-2 Guideline/S-75 Dvina missiles. Other versions of the event are:

  • A Su-9 caught the U-2 in her slipstream, breaking off the wings. The missiles hit the aforementioned MiG-19.
  • A first three-missile salvo destroyed the U-2. Other batteries were unsure about the success and thirteen more missiles were fired, hitting the MiG-19.

If these interpretations are accurate, then it isn’t like Itano invented the idea but rather he had the good sense in making it part of mechanized combat presentation in anime before anyone else could.

¹ Itano Ichiro’s Anime News Network profile (includes curriculum vitae). [->]

² Generously brought to my attention by the gentle/m/en The Animanachronism, and lelangir.

³ Further examples in various media, as well as some alleged real life examples including and in addition to the ones mentioned. [->]

Further Reading

Mech9 provides a guide on how to survive an Itano Circus (Mech9 2009/05)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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67 Responses to “Why fire one missile when you launch a whole circus?” – Itano Ichiro

  1. primeparadigm says:

    Actually I think the tactics employed by Macross pilots isn’t that conceited. Practically speaking, the missiles in Macross should be much faster than your average valk, so speed is not the way to go to avoid them. The best way to evade them is to out-maneuver them and gerwalk/Battroid mode offers such mobility. Taking advantage of the relatively limited maneuvering capabilities of missiles, speeding headlong at a missile with a well timed Gerwalk enabled sharp turn would cause the missile to overshoot the valk, forcing it take a much bigger arc to reach its target, and giving the pilot ample time to shoot it down in battroid mode.

    Given the ease that Macross pilots evade missiles, it is no wonder they have to fire huge volleys of them to increase the chances of a hit.

    • ghostlightning says:

      You make a lot of sense, if only it was animated this way. In what IIRC (I will check again), the transformation doesn’t result in a sharp-angle turn (which you correctly assume will make the missiles overshoot). What happens is that the gerwalk or battloid follow the same flight path but only in reverse, firing at the missiles directly behind them.

  2. animekritik says:

    that’s all really cool. may i add another concern: with all those missiles, how come they never seem to impact each other? i would have thought 20-30% of them would be banging with each other almost from the launch (especially if they’re heat seeking) thus potentially endangering the attacker more than the defender. The Katyusha in the video fires rockets that clearly have a pre-determined trajectory, but the itano rockets seem to go all over in the chase of the enemy.

    The compilation video is just beautiful, so the itano circus definitely serves that aesthetic function, as it emphasizes the fluidity of space and the speed of the actions in it…

    • ghostlightning says:

      I really can’t address the technical and physics concerns, but I can raise them in the appropriate fora.

      But yes it’s obvious from the video how fluid the fights become. Even with the magnitude of the attack, it never seems brutal, only graceful. Now this may desensitize the viewer to violence, given how beautiful killing intent is portrayed. But I don’t know.

    • ghostlightning says:

      This is c/o T.V. from the Mecha Talk 2 Forums (Mecha and Technology Board):

      http://mechatalk.net/viewtopic.php?p=246847#p246847

      I presume that the missles are linked via a real-time wireless network, letting eachother know where they are and where they’re going.
      It’ll take a level of AI comparable to that of insects to syncronize each missle’s movement in order not to hit eachother, resulting in the stylish ‘display’ patterns the Itano Circus often takes.

      The flightpath of Itano Circi are fairly comparable to team airshow routines, so I reckon the missles need at least to be similarly aware of other missles in their surroundings, as display pilots are of their teammates.

  3. AccipiterF1 says:

    On an episode of Dogfights on the History Channel covering the Vietnam War they showed that American F-4 Phantom pilots would regulary salvo 2 or more Sparrow misslies at targets to make up for the poor reliabily they had early on. But since Macross Missiles seem to track properly, it’s not a viable excuse for the practice.

    • ghostlightning says:

      From your example, it would seem so. But do check out the other examples – especially in the links above. It just happens that the US doesn’t favor it. But there should be something to that… then again this is all just fan speculation ^_^

  4. drmchsr0 says:

    A single missile in dogfights is more than enough to take out a plane. I mean, only the crazy would strap themselves into a screaming metal deathtrap that could only protect you from a single hit, and even then, you’re going to die regardless.

    Now, when you take it to the ground, it makes a TON of sense to fire enough munitions to level a small city.

    Taking into mind the durability of TANKS (Sorry, a bit of a ground-pounder here) and ground forces, you’d be crazy NOT to sat-bomb the area with all kinds of bombs, artillery AND missile batteries. No matter how accurate munitions become, a pinpoint aerial strike still can’t beat the fear generated by being hit by artillery. You can still shoot planes down, btw.

    I dare anyone to show me the superiority of planes against a well-equipped ground force. Better yet, I dare anyone to throw at me any combination of aerial strike forces. Apaches, Flying Gundams, Macross Units, Strike Witches. Just throw them. I guarantee you that 20th-21st Century GROUND-BASED weaponry is more than enough to take care of them.

    More or less.

    • animekritik says:

      I don’t think anyone’s going to be able to challenge you on planes vs ground force because of a lack of examples. I mean, the trend these days is for overly powerful military forces to punish far weaker nations. In this usual case, the attacker can use its Air Forces and pound on poor ground forces. You’ll have to wait for the allied invasion of China to see if you’re right or not.

      • drmchsr0 says:

        The key to taking out air power is speed. It doesn’t matter if you’re using air or land forces, all you need to do is to hit them before they take off. Damaging the support facilities is also good idea as well.

        I am aware of the flexibility of air assets and their ability to strike anywhere, anytime. And that the only way to hit a B2 would be to be informed about it’s flightpath BEFORE it hits you.

        Pearl Harbour is a stupid example because if the Americans were actually prepared, it’d be neck-and-neck.

        Still, I’d like to see this happening :3

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’m no expert so I can’t dispute your claims with any confidence. However, it’s foolish not to have any form of combined-arms strategy. The Variable Fighters in Macross were designed to fight other flying craft, but with the added versatility of being able to engage giant humanoids. They’re not for invasion/occupation purposes.

      Mobile suits, well uh, they’re cool! Armies man, with giant robots! Kidding aside, the humanoid form is for some kind of versatility purpose. However, the Gundam franchise, especially in the early UC made use of combined-arms units:

      Core fighters
      Guntank unit for mobile artillery
      GunCannon unit for suppressive fire
      Gundam for shock and versatility (beam weaponry for anti-ship combat, and beam sabers for close-quarters mobile suit combat)
      White Base capital ship for transport and suppressive fire

      The only thing missing is infantry. But there are no missiles, not until Z Gundam anyway.

      In any case, warfare in these franchises is quite different from contemporary warfare. 21st century guidance-dependent warfare would be crippled in Minovsky-particle rich Gundam battlefields.

    • MarigoldRan says:

      Can we use space-based weapons like, I don’t know, self-controlled orbiting cannons?

      I’ll throw at you an easy one… the original version of Starcraft II’s banshees. The type that fires salvoes of rockets and cloaks.

  5. OGT says:

    This has nothing to do with anime whatsoever, but David Weber’s (in)famous military/political pulp space opera epic Honor Harrington (begun in 1993) pulls off textual Itano circuses. Weber was possibly influenced by Robotech, as well as reading way too much Napoleonic Wars nautical fiction, but almost every other book he introduces a new system that allows the capital ships to launch increasingly large missile salvos at each other. Towards the more recent books technologies have been devised that allow one ship to fire in excess of millions of missiles at other capital ships.

    According to the laws of the book, they probably can’t actually do an Itano circus proper (with the space-smoke trails and all), but it probably just goes to show that part of the appeal is the use of a hilariously excessive amount of weaponry in a single salvo. That and the thought of a million-missile Itano circus makes the endless segments where he explains the inane technical details for the launching systems worth it.

    I still say, though, that the best thing ever used in SDF Macross was the Pin Point Barrier. It was so much cooler than a boring evenly-distributed generic barrier. Plus cute girls working trackballs.

    • ghostlightning says:

      WOW. That’s just awesome. I gotta getter hold of this book.

      And yes, the pin-point barrier system is a thoroughly lovable conceit. Visit this post [->] if you haven’t yet, as right about now Misa is concentrating the pin-point barrier system on the prow of the Daedalus to punch a hole in Zeril’s ship.

      • OGT says:

        Fair warning: David Weber is not exactly very good at the prose, and I honestly haven’t been able to stand anything else he’s written, but what I liked the (still ongoing) Honor Harrington story for was ridiculous space opera theatrics and overly melodramatic political maneuvering. To give you a hint: some of the more villainous characters are named Rob S. Pierre and St. Juste.

        It’s total, glorious trash. I read most of it on a long vacation trip one year and it was a great vacation. Oddly, this was around the time I was watching Macross 7, as the vacation came right in the middle of me watching that.

        • Ok, I’m warned. Would you say Weber is comparable to the cheese that is Jack McKinney who wrote the Robotech novels? I remember reading (and rereading) those and LOVING them.

          • OGT says:

            I’ve no idea, honestly; I’ve never read any Robotech novels and probably will not read any Robotech novels. It reads like a 50s-70s space opera pulp with hilariously accurate science (Weber literally will spend pages and pages explaining some pointless technology rather than just say “and the ships go faster than light by magic”) written by someone who read way too much C.S. Forester as a kid.

            My supposition is that you’ll despise them, like everyone else with a Literary Eye(tm) has that I’ve talked to. Oh well.

          • ghostlightning says:

            I think spending pages and pages explaining some pointless technology is fanservice. And it works for me (as someone who spends hours reading technical readouts of mecha). The Robotech novels are actually quite entertaining and most characters (save Minmay) come off quite sympathetic.

            I hope they’re available locally, as shipping charges from Amazon are prohibitive.

          • I dipped in to one of the Harrington novels on holiday once, and found it passed the time, so I wouldn’t condemn them or anything. Mind you, I’m of the opinion that you cannot read enough Forester, and Weber’s detail is a bit like an extension of Forester’s detail in The Ship, which is one of my favourite wartime propaganda novels, so I may be his ideal audience.

          • OGT says:

            I’m not for sure I’d have enjoyed (or have fond memories of) Honor Harrington as much were not the bulk of it read on a two-week road trip. It’s definitely for decompression. Still, some of the political maneuvering (especially in later books) is so contrived and insane that I couldn’t help but love it. They don’t make space opera like it much anymore. :(

          • ghostlightning says:

            Related only to our informal discussion of Umberto Eco over twitter:

            His latest novel, “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loanna,” is an autobiographical tale removed from his medievalism (though not totally). In it you’ll find a celebration of pulp novels and Disney and Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon – with lots of very interesting ‘scanlation’ images into Italian included that I found quite entertaining.

            My point is that possession of Literary Eyes(tm) don’t determine the person’s tastes. ^_^

          • OGT says:

            I own (but haven’t found time to read) The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. My point is I might have been a bit too early to read Eco before I was able to actually like him properly, but I did enjoy The Name of the Rose quite a lot. My history with books is weird (have I mentioned, ever, that I spent most of middle school reading and rereading Star Wars books ad nauseum?) and sometimes in the past I’d read a book and reach a conclusion and I’m not even sure now how I reached that conclusion or even anything about the book at all. Eco’s work falls under that category, so I’ll likely revisit him. Soon.

            And I think I have Literary Eyes(tm), they’re just horribly broken and irreparable and infected with a virus. That and I probably just prefer to not complain rather than to complain. Although I still complain about complaining. Hypocrisy yay.

          • ghostlightning says:

            LOL.

            I have embarrassing favorites and reading “Mysterious Flame” has allowed me to give up my pretense to shame:

            The Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends
            (The aforementioned) Robotech novels

            They’re crappy and derivative, but I must have read and re-read these books dozens of times – which I can’t say I’ve done for my stated favorites:

            The Unbearable Lightness of Being
            Focault’s Pendulum
            The Plague
            Anna Karenina
            The Brothers Karamazov

            Enjoyment is even more subjective than quality, and I put a premium on the former, if it comes down to it.

          • OGT says:

            Oh, my faulty Literary Eyes(tm) are broken for the latter more than the former. If I read it and enjoy it, there must be a quality–if not Quality–that I enjoy, no? I end up more interested in quality than Quality.

  6. One thing I love about the Itano Circus is that it unites fictional and real budgets: the bill for all the missiles in an IC must be pretty big, and at the same time it must be a relatively expensive piece of animation.

    The IC used to test the YF-21 in Plus is a particular favourite of mine, because, since they were dummy missiles in a test situation, the animators could give use coloured smoke trails. It looks really nice.

    • ghostlightning says:

      That’s an excellent point! I don’t see why it isn’t an expensive thing to animate, so it’s a happy case where the investment yields entertaining returns.

      Yes I like that example too, very much. You’ll also find a less impressive, but perhaps even more entertaining (for its silliness and colorfulness) in Macross 7: The Galaxy is Calling Me, from the Quadlunn of Emilia Jenius (yes one of the seven daughters).

  7. gloval says:

    There’s some discussion about this in the Macross mecha or weapons thread in AnimeSuki. Anyway, in Macross the reason for the crazy motion of the missiles that makes them awesome to watch is to make them harder to shoot down, since Overtechnology has enabled effective anti-missile capabilities in the VFs. I find it amusing how in Macross Zero an F-14 actually survived a missile spam.

    • How does it really work? Look here,

      1. They transform into Gerwalk or Battloid mode which should dramatically reduce their speed ergo allowing the missiles tailing them to catch up and blow them to bits.

      2. After transforming they do a 180 degree turn and face towards the missiles. This should reduce their speed even further and perhaps even propel themselves onto the incoming missiles and blow themselves to bits.

      Whether or not there is Overtechnology, the above still applies. I don’t really mind the conceit, but if there’s an explanation I’ll really appreciate it.

  8. Cactus says:

    Those proposing that the pilots stall so the convergent path of missiles lead each other into crashing or missing the plane entirely; it would hold true for those cases but Itano Circus missiles tend to move like the fighters themselves in individualistic patterns rather then merely converging on a target from their launch, most likely the planes won’t have enough room to merely stall and let the missiles pass them by. What the Macross pilots do is simply ridiculous in most cases, sometimes I can see it happening but even then the missiles explode close to them yet they escape any area or splash from heat or shrapnel.

    In the end Itano circus and the evasive maneuvers are nothing more than artistic licensing to make Macross look awesome.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Itano Circus missiles tend to move like the fighters themselves in individualistic patterns rather then merely converging on a target from their launch, most likely the planes won’t have enough room to merely stall and let the missiles pass them by.

      Makes sense to me.

      This artistic licensing is the conceit that I talk about, and as a means to make Macross look awesome it’s quite successful.

  9. Vendredi says:

    As depicted in the anime – Itano Circuses probably aren’t very practical.

    I have to take issue with drmchsr0’s analysis though – armour is not ablative! Launching more missiles doesn’t mean anything if none of them will get through the tanks armour. Most media depict the ability to “wear down” armour as a form of abstraction, but in reality if a vehicle is hit, the attack either:
    1) is deflected by the armour
    or
    2) penetrates the armour and causes havoc
    Quality, more than quantity, matters for tank killing. A modern M1 Abrams can shrug off a lot of primitive RPG-7 hits. The more advanced, expensive, but visually almost identical RPG-29, however, will open an M1 like a tin can.

    On the other hand, missile interception technology today is getting increasingly sophisticated; it’s quite possible today to mount point-defence (or “active protection systems”) weaponry on modern vehicles that will shoot incoming rockets out of the air. (in typical military-industrial style, they also possess many fanciful names, like the Israeli “Iron Fist”, the Russian “Arena”, or the American “Quick Kill”).

    And while missile countermeasures can get ever more sophisticated, there’s one always tried and true method to defeat them – launch more missiles than they can intercept. That’s the only real advantage; in every other case without an active protection system you’re better off spending the tonnage to mount a single heavier missile than multiple light missiles.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Excellent. Point Defense Systems were part of the Battletech science fiction games since the early 90s. I would suppose that there are enough advances that these are actually present in the contemporary battlefield.

      However, the PDS I know are still huge affairs that are mounted on naval vessels. In Macross, there are two PDS: when the VF transforms into Gerwalk or Battloid and then turns to face the incoming missiles and shoots them with its arm mounted cannon. The other is the use of the small guns mounted on the Battloid head, especially in the post-Space War models, where these guns are on top of the fuselage facing rearwards.

      • Vendredi says:

        It’s definitely not shown very much, that’s for certain, even though missile interception technology small enough to mount on vehicles actually exists now.

        I recall the Battleoid guns most recently in Macross Zero – the “antennae” on the VF-0 swings down at one point to sweep incoming missiles out of the air, but that seems to happen only once – it’s more glamorous to outfly the missiles rather than shoot them down, i guess.

        • ghostlightning says:

          This shooting down bit is what I find the as the more fantasy element in the whole affair.

          To repeat from the main post:

          1. They transform into Gerwalk or Battloid mode which should dramatically reduce their speed ergo allowing the missiles tailing them to catch up and blow them to bits.

          2. After transforming they do a 180 degree turn and face towards the missiles. This should reduce their speed even further and perhaps even propel themselves onto the incoming missiles and blow themselves to bits.

          The discussion here [->]doesn’t help much regarding these problems, but is quite excellent even if only for other Macross-specific details.

  10. gloval says:

    I think the 1-2 missile shootdown scenario you’ve been mentioning could be viable if the anti-missile technology is really fast enough to aim and shoot before the missiles reach the plane, given that the maneuver would actually slow it down.

    Outrunning or outmaneuvering the missiles isn’t actually less glamorous. A good director could still make it kick-ass, I guess. I remember Max and Isamu do this where they drop to the ground or a ship and maneuver along valleys or streets and the missiles would just slam to the ground or the surrounding structures. Guld would use his brain interface to visualize projected missile paths and fly right through them.

    One unique dodging technique was done by Isamu in his dogfight with Guld in the Earth. When Guld poured out all his missiles to Isamu in a cathartic fit, the latter merely cut off his engine, presumably to remove his heat source and let natural forces (Vernoulli effect?) lift his plane up at the same time possibly fooling the heat-seeking missiles to detonate prematurely and consume the other missiles in the ensuing explosion.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Great point!

      One unique dodging technique was done by Isamu in his dogfight with Guld in the Earth. When Guld poured out all his missiles to Isamu in a cathartic fit, the latter merely cut off his engine, presumably to remove his heat source and let natural forces (Vernoulli effect?) lift his plane up at the same time possibly fooling the heat-seeking missiles to detonate prematurely and consume the other missiles in the ensuing explosion.

      I was almost convinced that the missiles weren’t heat-seeking until you reminded me of this.

      So we’re back to speculating at how a heat-guided missile avoids targeting the other heat signatures in the swarm (i.e. its ‘sibling’ missiles). Could it be that the missile can fundamentally distinguish one heat source from another?

      • vendredi says:

        More modern heat-seeking missiles today actually attempt to read the shape of the heat source as well as it’s intensity – at the moment, it makes the missiles less liable to be fooled by flares, but arguably it could probably avert the risk of fratricide in a multiple launch.

  11. d3v says:

    It seems that at least the British think that there’s some merit to firing more than one missile at a time at an airborne target. Their new, Starstreak missile system fires a missile that then splits up into three smaller missiles that all take out a single target. Plus, it’s man-portable to boot.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starstreak_missile
    http://www.army-technology.com/contractors/missiles/thales/

  12. ZI says:

    You know there’s an obvious utility for an itano circus maneuver today and it actually exists, for naval battles.

    During the cold war, the Americans calculated that soviet forces would need to fire around 80 missiles to achieve “mission kill” for an aircraft carrier which is to say damage it so badly that the fleet would be force to give up.

    Just imagine the pure beauty of this, several dozens of supersonic bomber like the Tu-22M Backfire taking of from the Kola peninsula, with luck they would be synchronized with attack submarines , the battle would take place somewhere in the north Atlantic probably around the GIUK line. Now you have to imagine the the massive defense force surrounding an aircraft carrier, especially during the cold war. To succeed, the only way will be to send an absolutely massive wave of missiles, enough to penetrate layer upon layer of defense screen. Oh believe me a soviet anti-ship cruise missile is a wonder to behold: more than a hundred kilometers in range, supersonic, flying a dozen of meters above the sea, carrying a massive warhead powerful enough to knock out anything smaller than a carrier. Believe me a naval battle in the north Atlantic would have been the show of the century.

    But well, missiles were still pretty dumb. Now nasty boys like the Sizzler operate in pack with a team leader who detect and track the target and the rest who lay low, undetected. The nasty bastard can even change course and perform evasive maneuvers to confuse the enemy defense systems….

    And so you have a modern real-life equivalent of the legendary Itano Circus. Wonderful isn’t it? And it would look a lot more cinematic because the defense team has its own Itano Circus to intercept the attacking Itano circus. Splendid, I tell you.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Now nasty boys like the Sizzler operate in pack with a team leader who detect and track the target and the rest who lay low, undetected. The nasty bastard can even change course and perform evasive maneuvers to confuse the enemy defense systems….

      And so you have a modern real-life equivalent of the legendary Itano Circus. Wonderful isn’t it? And it would look a lot more cinematic because the defense team has its own Itano Circus to intercept the attacking Itano circus. Splendid, I tell you.

      No fucking way! This is awesome.

      I wonder how much of then-current missile technology the Studio Nue boys knew when they conceptualized Macross ordnance. It would seem that the inspiration exists in even then-contemporary technology.

      Believe me a naval battle in the north Atlantic would have been the show of the century.

      After what you said, I believe you.

  13. ZI says:

    Well, Tom Clancy’s red storm rising was published in 1986 and has a spectacular example of battle. So the knowledge was there, that’s why I was a little surprised by the skepticism in the comments. From a naval POV, massive waves of missiles make sense, in fact they are the standard modus operandi.The only way to succeed is to saturate of the defense systems in the hope a few get through.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if this model isn’t extended to ground combat. We’re getting there slowly with laser defense and machine guns that can destroy rockets and shells in flight.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I haven’t read that one, if the prose hasn’t ‘aged’ to its detriment, I just might read it.

      Point Defense Systems I first encountered playing Battletech the table-top game back in the ’90s. I don’t know much except what I said to Vendredi above:

      Point Defense Systems were part of the Battletech science fiction games since the early 90s. I would suppose that there are enough advances that these are actually present in the contemporary battlefield.

      However, the PDS I know are still huge affairs that are mounted on naval vessels. In Macross, there are two PDS: when the VF transforms into Gerwalk or Battloid and then turns to face the incoming missiles and shoots them with its arm mounted cannon. The other is the use of the small guns mounted on the Battloid head, especially in the post-Space War models, where these guns are on top of the fuselage facing rearwards.

  14. ZI says:

    Well, they are still huge for now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsnhyTiTqk4
    But don’t worry they will get smaller and smarter;

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  20. XSEED says:

    Hmmm, Air force vs Army sounds realistic and debatable.
    First of all, remember that an Aircraft carries a small fraction of armament compared to their total weights (10-20 % I assumes) for thrust/weight and drag reason. Valkyries eliminates the need of Kerosene, as they’re powered by nuclear Turbines, which at the time are much smaller than there we’re created in real life (yes, they’re really exist, seek on Wikipedia page: Nuclear Aircraft Propulsion). Nuclear Turbines may have higher overall mass/volume than turbojets/turbofan + fuel combined, but they had better thrust/weight so that Nuclear turbines still better than conventional Jets.
    One of Valkyries power that they can easily run faster than Mach 3 (even the first generation can reach Mach 3.8 at high altitude). Now assumes that Missiles are run on Mach 4.0 speed, they can outrun the missiles just simply by running away until the missile exhausted (that is, ala MiG-25 in the cold war era). In close dogfight, the missile are simply as weak as they’re in long range since nonetheless Valkyries also as agile as them(comparable to those missiles, and don’t ask about deadly g-load), so that you’ll need more than one missiles, as jarring as 210 missile salvo if you need to.
    Now that you ask: Why tanks haven’t equipped with comparable technology? why we haven’t seen any tanks capable of 200+ kph (or better, mph), nuclear powered and capable of 8+ missile salvo AT THE LEAST? Now you could ask about discrimination of military budget. Truly, Macross set in outer space, tanks have no chance, but in atmospheric combat, not so much.
    One of the most striking weakness of the tanks are of course their bulky size and clumsy movement. Now if you could ask me, 200+ mph tanks could easily doing insane action, and compiled with mini-CIWS system they could beat the crap out of missile salvo while impressively evading others.
    But a tank is still a tank, they’ll outrun by 210 missiles (damn you VF-25) since they’re still slow compared to missiles, so why not arm them with dozens or even hundreds of micro missiles?
    We’ve shown that a tank can be as badass as flying humanoid mech (or nuclear fighter) just by seeing Guntank(s) from Gundam fame. But still, they’re not as cool as gundams themselves, cooler makes you stronger in Mecha Anime. Several ‘copies’ also seen on Gundam Seed (and Seed Destiny) just like Zuoot and GaZuoot, and they do more than simply deployed and blown up (although for plot and technology reason, they’ll blown by gundam-equipped Protagonist/ Antagonist)
    In Macross, tanks not even have some chance! Why? In Gundam Metaseries, missiles are secondary weapon, which is weaker than kinetic or energy weapons, Mobile suit missiles are in fact used for lightly-damage distraction shot, so that enemy lose concentration and you can fire more powerful weapon. In Macross, HOLY SHIT! just look how salvos of missiles are far more useful in mech-to-mech combat than your trusty and deadly beam rifle.
    Conclusion: Tanks need to be armed with LOTTA MISSILE, and move FASTER! if they are, they CAN win, if they not, THEY LOSE. Tanks CAN WIN IF THEY’RE USING SAME LEVEL OF TECHNOLOGY, MOBILITY, AND ARMAMENT AS MOBILE SUITS OR VARIABLE FIGHTERS. We just have seen any since the SEED/SEED DESTINY……

    • Whoa

      I think tanks are really limited by the terrain. They can only move so much… that an area-of-effect type bomb can seriously compromise their effectiveness. This may negate any terrain benefits (cover) they may derive.

      Tanks were never really designed to fight aircraft though, so why pit them against each other? Exposing your tanks to enemy aircraft is a tactical blunder of ridiculous proportions.

      • XSEED says:

        Hmm, that’s true…but what I mean is slightly not ordinary tank (for example a HOVERtank), and that’s true, a tank NEVER designed to fight aircraft.

        I just did a plain ridiculous comparison, but it does can happen…..now I should ask: a Fighter carrying mass area weapon? I haven’t see one, as their payload are rather limited both by mass fraction and -ahem- drag inducing pylons.
        Nowadays fighter-bomber can carry two to four 2000 lb bombs at best, and much more for smaller munitions via racks. As I said, it’s PRETTY limited. Most of such weapon also unpowered (save guided bombs/ cruise missile), so a FASTER tank is able to evade them.

        In case of Cruise missile, I already mentioned of Mini-CIWS (Even Valkyries have them, why doesn’t tanks??). These CIWS may destroy these munitions from certain range, reduced the overall damage, or make tanks undamaged at all.
        And yeah, about the idea to arm them with LOTTA missiles making them even harder to destroy with Cruise Missiles, bombs? Tank crews would laughs. Antitank missiles however, may still effective enough to hunt these high-speed tanks, and we still need A LOT OF THEM. And why a tank couldn’t equipped with flares/ chaff??

        This makes tanks not only an Ground-to-surface unit, but also decent for air-defense role. Such tank will be slightly larger (but not necessarily heavier) than our contemporary tanks nowaday (they would reach the size of small fighters at the worst) since they carrying much more armaments and stuff.

        It’s really all matters of role and perception, now I ask why a BuCUE was FASTER than M1 Abrams (seen as twice faster than your Jeep off-road), and able to deal with several shot of HYPERVELOCITY RAIL GUN before destroyed. BuCue was much larger than Abrams, being 11 meters tall and almost twice than that in length, and being 69 tonnes with overall surface in fact are much wider than a tank would means overall density are much lighter, but HOW the thing was very durable while it’s armor should much thinner than a tank?!

        Of course: ITS A MATTER OF TECHNOLOGY
        Now I should ask how a 17 meter battle machine weighed just around 70 tonnes? (can be as low as 30 tonnes for aerial one, see DINN of Gundam SEED, and Valkyries themselves!) and still stand and even running at 100 kph+ speed without crushed by their own weight? MORE ADVANCED MATERIAL, pardon, MUCH MORE ADVANCED MATERIAL. It’s really a forbidden question among gundam fans, but we often thought why we NEVER construct tanks (or in Gundam fame, aircraft as well) using such kind material (Except Guntanks and ZuOOTs, but these are ‘tank shaped MOBILE SUIT’ instead of true tanks).
        How to arm them with much firepower? HYPERVELOCITY RAILGUN AND MICRO-MISSILE POD! How to make them more durable? CONSTRUCT THEM USING SAME MATERIAL AS YOUR MC.COOL MOBILE SUITS! Need More Speed? NUCLEAR POWERED TURBINES AND/OR HOVER SYSTEM!

        It’s still about ‘role’ (being ‘secondary in plot’ and emphasized in Ground-to-ground warfare technically) but still not impossible for a tank beating the crap out of an aircraft.

        • Watch the video again. No tank has much space to evade missile fire. If aircraft need to transform into battloid and reverse just to use its main gun to shoot at incoming fire while still maneuvering in 3D space…

          Superlight materials is the defining characteristic of the overtechnology used in VF manufacture.

          I’m sure your hovertank fantasy still has a place, but you’d be in super robot territory IMO. Maybe if the tank was powered by spiral energy or something? Or maybe has an AT field?

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  28. Matt Wells says:

    Not sure if you’ve seen this already, but I thought it might interest you. The Itano Circus, in the words of the man himself.

    http://schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com/blog/?p=1946

  29. MarigoldRan says:

    If there are any mass space battles in the future, it would involve Itano Circus of NUCLEAR missiles.

    It makes sense if you think about it. There’s no moral qualms of using nuclear weapons in space since space is already pretty radioactive anyways. And nuclear weapons are relatively-easy-to-make and quite destructive. The trick, to lower costs, is to fire a spread of missiles at the enemy, with the majority of the missiles as non-nuclear decoys. However, a couple of the weapons will be nuclear and will explode once near target.

    The proper defense to this is to launch your own spread of nuclear weapons, taking out the majority of the incoming missiles, and then relying on point-defense to take out the remainder.

    • I agree. You’ll see this in Macross Frontier. Only that, you wouldn’t even see dummy missiles; just a bunch of “Reaction” missiles fired at swarms of enemies. Now this being anime, there is wild variability of damage spreads… the kind that makes you gnash your teeth in frustration. But yes, what happens in the show is an example of what you describe.

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