Being a treatise on VSF and Mars, and on 19th Century colonial warfare in general

(with a nod towards Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan, lest I take myself too seriously)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Hojaan-nuu I

The latest invention of my febrile imagination, whilst on holiday, is to be mixed in with my jingals for the skirmisher units.

The Hojaan-nuu is a crossbow that is used to launch a small rocket and is another example of the Martian's apparent backwardness actually being an inventive way to adapt older technology in their straitened circumstances.

The crossbow itself is fairly standard and lightweight, and can even be used as one in extremis. It is usually cocked with a lever or just by hand, but heavier ones have also been seen. Principally it is used as a device for launching a rocket ("Hojaan"). Most such rockets propel shrapnel-type shells, but others are explosives, flash-bangs, fragmentation devices or even solid projectiles. The crossbow launches the rocket in the desired direction and elevation, with the rocket igniting as it is fired - an ignition lanyard is wound round the crossbow string and is pulled out as the rocket parts company with the bow. This means that the missile is already about 10 yards away before it truly flames, ensuring that the firer is not fried, and quickly increases the velocity of the missile from about 180 ft/s to nearer 750 ft/s.

Shrapnel munitions
The shrapnel rocket is a tube about two fingers in diameter (2 inches) and two palms in length (8
inches) and is composed of thin bambuu. The front cap is usually conical and additional to the length of the tube. The shrapnel (typically ¾ inch heavy ceramic cubes) is packed round a fireproof fibrous inner tube in the forward half of the rocket, with a disc separating this from the propellant in the rear half. The inner tube extends down most of the length of the tube.

The firer is able to select he range of the shrapnel projectile by altering the angle of the launch, clearly, but also by pricking a hole in the side of the tube at a particular point and piercing the inner tube. The outside of the rocket is usually marked with approximate ranges to help the firer - the nearer the propellant end, the shorter the range. The inside of the inner tube is coated with an explosive that burns much faster then the rocket propellant. When the flame of the propellant reaches the hole in the inner tube (at the selected distance) the explosive is ignited and flares rapidly, blowing the rocket cap off. This causes the sides to fall away and releases the shrapnel to spread out in a cone. Et voilĂ  - a long range shotgun!

The rockets will usually burn for no more than about three seconds, which puts the rocket range at about 600 yards, but the shrapnel will still be deadly for a further 100 yards. The minimum effective range is about 150 yards - less than that and the shrapnel has had little time to spread. But there are also shorter range 'grapeshot' rockets that are far more effective at short ranges (20 - 100 yards).

Clearly these weapons are not particularly accurate, but they are useful for harassing and breaking up enemy formations at long range and, with luck, can be quite deadly at any range. It should also be noted that these weapons can be quite deadly to their users too, and strolling around a battlefield with a dozen-or-so explosive tubes strapped to your body takes a certain sang-froid. In Parhooni these troops are jokingly called "fire-throwers", but the term used is also a pun on the word for "cooked" in Son-Garyaani.

Modelling the Hojaan-nuu
I will be using the ubiquitous Black Hat Imperial Martians with guns, with the muskets cut down, and a deeper stock built up with green stuff. Once that is nice and hard, a gentle filing at the end will create a smooth seat to superglue a bent piece of brass rod for the bow. Then a wee bit more green stuff to extend the stock beyond the rod, just for luck. I do fear that the join might not be very robust, so I will have to be careful how I base them to minimise accidental pressure on them. I'll mount them two per base plus one other figure to maintain the three-to-a-base ratio; two bases of these plus two more of jingals and I'll have a complete skirmish unit.

Other implications
The Daa-nuu (see one of my May 2014 offerings) is capable of firing similar munitions, but with greater payloads and over longer ranges. (Think the Congreve Rocket, but safer for the crew.)

Safety note
Frankly I have no idea if it would really work, but don't try this at home children, just in case!

EDITS: fixed a few of the typos, plus added a couple of hyperlinks now I'm not limited to my iPad