TECHNOLOGY AND THE MILITARY
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Although culture and society tend to be conservative and, perhaps, not as innovative as the real world, because there is a tradition of scholarly, scientifically-literate educated nobility which has, over time, trickled down to all levels of society, there are more scientists and so on per head of population than in the real world, which drives progress on almost in spite of itself. However, solutions tend more towards the brute-force engineering approach than elegance. Significant amounts of this progress derive from the efforts of amateur scientists, who meet in clubs and societies across the civilised world.
In terms of military forces, Britain has the largest navy, and has had for more than one hundred and fifty years. There are large British naval bases all over the world to support this fleet. Russia's navy is not as well developed as those of the other Great Powers, with some surface ships but a large force of ballistic missile submarines. China has quite a large navy. All the navies of the Great Powers have a large force of nuclear-weapon-carrying nuclear-powered submarines.
Russia and China have roughly equivalent, and very large, armies which are mainly employed to defend against one another, though they are also positioned against the British Empire along their land borders. Most nations also use local 'auxiliary forces' too, in places where there are considered not be too many problems. Counting these the British land forces are as large as either of China or Russia's, though not as capable.
Russia's land forces are very mobile, because of the size of the country. They have a very large air force for the same reasons. The transport arm of the Russian Air Force is particularly large.
The Chinese had the most space-based weapons before the demilitarisation of space. Now they have the biggest submarine fleet, the Russians second, and the British third. However, British submarines tend to be larger and carry more warheads, which balances the greater numbers of the other Powers.
Firearms and small arms are at basically at the same level as the real world in terms of functionality, although the details of design, calibre and so on are different. With the somewhat more advanced mechanical technology in this world they are significantly more reliable and robust than weapons in the real world. Also, because of the greater militarization of space in this world, normal weapons that are adapted for use in the vacuum of space are more advanced than in the real world. Recoilless weapons using rocket projectiles [similar to, but more developed than, the Gyrojets of the real world] also exist, mainly for use in free fall, although these are a less mature and robust technology than conventional firearms, and considerably more visible than them.
The current preference in military thinking is for a combination of a few multi-service task groups, very flexible and divided into a large number of small 'fireteam' units, organised so as to react rapidly to needs anywhere in the world, combined with garrison and defensive forces along the borders. Some militaries also use a 'universal weapon' that can be adapted to different roles easily while retaining a common 'core'.
The only weapons officially in space in addition to surveillance and warning systems are orbital defence platforms which use space-based machine guns as anti-satellite weapons. Some are equipped with 'kinetic harpoons', un-powered rods of metal equipped with guidance systems which can be dropped from space onto ground targets.
Although space-to-ground weapons are expensive, they do make surface ships rather vulnerable. Because of this there are not many surface ships in the modern navies, and those which do exist are equipped with jammers, decoys, laser-based sensor blinders and so on to fool satellites and guidance systems. Even so, they have problems.
This vulnerability has led to the design of modern navy vessels tending to one of two solutions:
This same problem of vulnerability to space-based weapons also applies to tanks, so ground forces also tend to be small and highly mobile units using motorbikes, jet-skis and so on, and relying on small unit tactics. No-one expects any future wars to be fought between large armies on an open battlefield.
After the development of nuclear weapons, the very first strategic nuclear forces used manned bombers to deliver free-fall nuclear bombs. The second generation of strategic nuclear forces were space-based, essentially guided free-fall bombs on ballistic re-entry trajectories. However, as rockets improved and nuclear weapons proliferated, space-based offensive systems became considered too vulnerable and too expensive, as well as being prohibited by the treaty which ended WWIII. Some ICBMs were developed, and deployed in land-based silos in Siberia, the Saudi desert, Alyeska, the deserts of north-west India, the Taklamakan Desert, Western America, and in submarines. However, these too soon became considered too vulnerable to space-based defensive systems.
Because of this, the focus of nuclear attack capability shifted back to weapons carried on manned bombers, then to flying bombs (cruise missiles) of longer and longer range, higher and higher speed, better and better accuracy, and which were harder and harder to detect and counter.
Because of this, most of the world's strategic nuclear weapons are now submarine- or air-launched stealth cruise missiles. Some of these are supersonic, propelled by ramjets. A few designs for long-duration nuclear-powered supersonic cruise missiles have been tested, but they are considered too dangerous to be put into general service.
The primary means of transport in the British and Russian Empires is by train. There are extensive rail networks throughout the Empires - much more so than in the real world - and many of the other nations of the world, with very fast bullet trains over long distances and good local connections. Railways are only very rarely closed down. Several major railway projects link most of the world into a global rail network, making it possible to travel from Patagonia to London entirely by train. The Trans-Empire Railway links London, St Petersburg and Beijing by a high-speed express line, taking in the NEU and Prussia en route. The extends east into the Trans-Arctic line which crosses the Bering Strait Bridge and links into the rail networks of the Americas, extending from Alyeska to Patagonia in the Trans-American Railway. South from the Trans-Empire line branch the railways which link to the Trans-Africa line which runs from the Middle East down to Cape Colony, and further east branches run across Persia and the Himalayas into India, linking it too into the global rail network.
Many cities in the British and Chinese Empires also have underground tube systems for mass transit. In Russia elevated railway systems tend to be used instead, with St Petersburg and Moscow having the most extensive. Buses, trams and trollybuses are also extensively used for local transport.
Cars do exist, but are little used except by the emergency services, the military, farmers, and so on. Electric cars do exist and are used in cities where distances are short and recharging points frequent. However, for most short journeys people tend to walk or use bicycles. People would generally not consider using cars for long-distance travel. As such, although it is possible to travel the length and breadth of the Empires by road, this would be done by minor country roads; there are no major roads or motorways.
The only major exception to this is the Chinese Empire, where road trains are used instead of railway trains. Because of this, China has the most extensive road network in the world (as extensive as the rail networks of other nations).
For longer distance travel there is an extensive network of airlines which link all the major cities of the world. Smaller aircraft are also used in undeveloped areas as a cheaper and more versatile alternative to building railway lines.
Most commercial aircraft are amphibious. This is because it is considered more efficient to use bodies of water as airfields rather than to build expensive runways everywhere. However, they do also have retractable undercarriages for use when they do land on runways.
Canals remain in use in some places for the transport of goods where there is little urgency in their arrival.
Space travel is well-developed. Reusable liquid-fuelled rocket shuttles are the most common vehicles, with nuclear thermal rockets being used for larger loads. In space ion-drive space vehicles are common, and most space facilities used ion thrusters for station-keeping. All three great powers have several nuclear pulse-drive spaceships available should they be required. However, the negative effects of launching one, on the Earth and in space, mean that they are very rarely used. In space the use of nuclear pulse-drives is more common, but even then usually only when the Earth, and Earth-orbit, can be screened from the effects of the drive, usually by the body of the Moon.
Nuclear-powered ice breakers are used in many places around the world in which sea ice is a problem. They are particularly heavily used in the Russian Empire, and in particular around Okhotsk, where they keep the sea lanes open in the winter. There have been some suggestions that rather than using these the Russian government should construct some kind of vast nuclear-powered water heater to hold the sea lanes to Okhotsk open through the winter, but so far this has been considered too impractical and expensive to be adopted.
All major nations have arrays of sonar surveillance around their coastlines. Britain's is by far the largest and most wide-ranging because of the wide distribution of the Empire.
The north and equatorial Atlantic is essentially Britain's pond. The North Pacific is mainly Russia's and China's. The southern Atlantic, south Pacific and Indian Oceans are all considered to be open to everyone.
Many cities have anti-ballistic, anti-space and anti-cruise missile defence systems.
Robots exist, but are only really used in specialised applications such as in high radiation environments and places without large reserves of cheap labour. 'Do not send a machine to do a man's job,' is the general attitude that applies to matters of this kind.
All of the militaries of the great powers have a few units derived from old links, alliances or exchanges with the other great powers. The most well-known of these is the British Queens Own Xia, an elite force of martial arts-using warriors, named after the Xia philosophy of the Chinese 'Knights' who inspired them.
As a spin-off from their advances in space, the Great Powers license out the building and use of some of the space-based technologies that they have developed over time. In particular long-term life-support systems designed for use in space have found application in the much less hostile environment of Earth, and these are allowing the beginnings of large-scale permanent colonisation of the more hostile areas of the Earth, such as Antarctica and the deserts of Australia.