|“|| Alex: "Sounds like torpedoes being fired..."
Amos: "Sounds like a LOT of torpedoes."
Alex: "I don't think this is a drill..."
|— Alex Kamal and Amos Burton, CQB|
A missile is a powerful self-propelled weapon with an explosive warhead designed to detonate either on contact with its target or in proximity to it. Missiles are the standard primary armament on all warships.
They are also referred to as "torpedoes" when used in ship-to-ship combat, or "nukes" when equipped with a nuclear warhead.
Missiles are long-range, guided missile delivery systems that can be fitted with conventional explosives, plasma bombs (which melt armor and damage systems), or varying-yield nuclear warheads. They are jettisoned from the launcher, align themselves with the target, and then begin accelerating to high speed. They can accelerate far faster than a ship, are hard (nearly impossible) to dodge and cause devastating damage to a ship on contact, often wiping out smaller ships with a single hit.
Their ability to maneuver grants them a much higher effective range than rail guns. However, missiles do have a minimum range, so they are usually launched first in an engagement. Missiles are also vulnerable to point defense cannons (PDCs), which can intercept them before closing to effective range. This is countered by firing them in numbers to overwhelm the PDCs on an enemy ship.
As is seen with the Canterbury's destruction, missiles can have the side-effect of turning the "splashed" ship into a destructive field of moving debris, posing a further threat to any other ship in the immediate area. For this reason, the use of missiles in CQB is avoided.
Being the standard armament on combat vessels, even ships small enough to not be fitted with rail guns can carry missiles. Frigates, corvettes, and patrol boats have one or two firing tubes. Larger ships like cruisers, battleships, and dreadnoughts carry between 3 and 10 tubes.
Ships carrying Missiles:Edit
- Donnager-class battleship: 10✕ autoloading launch tubes, 6 fore, 4 aft.
- Scirocco-class assault cruiser: 5✕ configurable medium-grade tubes, 5 configurable light-grade tubes.
- Raptor-class fast-attack cruiser: Multiple launch tubes.
- Corvette-class light frigate: 2✕ autoloading forward launch tubes, up to 20 stored missiles.
- Morrigan-class patrol destroyer: 2✕ autoloading forward launch tubes.
- Xerxes-class battleship: Multiple missile tubes.
- Truman-class dreadnought: 9✕ Autoloading missile tubes.
- Leonidas-class battleship: 32✕ single-fire launch tubes.
- Munroe-class light cruiser: 6✕ missile tubes.
- Phantom-class corvette: Multiple missiles.
- Behemoth-class dreadnought: 6✕ externally attached launchers, each with 7 single-fire tubes.
- Magnetar-class battlecruiser: Multiple missile tubes.
- Proteus-class battlecruiser: Multiple missile tubes.
- Pulsar-class destroyer: 2✕ Torpedo batteries.
- Protector-class destroyer: Multiple missiles.
When James Holden and several crewmates entered the Scopuli to investigate what happened to the ship, the Anubis appeared and fired four nuclear missiles. While Holden thought at first that the missiles were intended for his group, he realized too late that they were meant for the Canterbury. The massive ship was disintegrated in the blast, killing everyone onboard and turning the hulk into a deadly cloud of flying debris that nearly killed Holden and everyone else on the Knight shuttle.
MCRN Donnager, when engaging a squadron of stealth ships, fired a swarm of about 20 missiles that took out one of the six assailants. The remaining five attackers had already fired 11 of their own plasma missiles, at least two of which impacted and damaged the Donnager's main drive. The two sides then entered the minimum range for missiles, finished the battle with rail guns and PDCs, and Donnager was boarded.
Scipio Africanus, an MCRN patrol ship, was attacked by the Xinglong which slung a shattered asteroid at it and responded with a single, non-nuclear missile that instantly vaporized the small Belter prospecting ship.
During the Battle of Thoth Station, the stealth ship guarding the Protogen research facility fired two missiles at the oncoming Guy Molinari. Rocinante, which was flying escort, shot down both missiles with her PDCs and moved in to engage in CQB.
Following the outbreak of the protomolecule on the Phoebe research station and the impending arrival of the UNN Nathan Hale, the MCRN Scirocco bombarded Phoebe with three high-yield nuclear missiles, turning the small ice moon into a cloud of fine debris that then fell into Saturn's gravity. While containing the outbreak and preventing the research station from falling into enemy hands, the firing of the nukes heightened the tension between the UN and MCR, which had already been near the boiling point for a long time.
When Fred Johnson recovered the Nauvoo, he staked claim to it, renamed it the Behemoth, and not only attached 170 PDCs and 6 heavy rail gun turrets to the hull, but included 6 launch sets each with 7 single launch tubes in the huge ship's new armament, putting it on par (armament-wise) with Martian and Earth battleships. However, the weapons were hastily mounted onto a ship not designed for military action, and when firing even a single torpedo the ship would suffer a massive power grid failure. The bays also had no autoloading system, so automated drones were used to manually reload the tubes with fresh ordinance.
- A true torpedo is currently defined as "a cigar-shaped self-propelled underwater missile designed to be fired from a ship or submarine or dropped into the water from an aircraft and to explode on reaching a target."
- Most ships in the Expanse deploy missiles by expelling them from a tube or silo at the front of the ship. Stealth ships, however, open a hatch and jettison them out the side before they engage their target. This is likely because conventional torpedo holes would compromise the stealth design.
- Like all accelerating objects in the Slow Zone, missiles are locked down shortly after launch, although their boosters will continue to fire.
- In order for a nuclear missile's warhead to be worthwhile, the missile's kinetic energy should be less than the detonation energy of the warhead. The first atomic bomb dropped on Japan had a weight of 4.4 metric tons and a yeild of 15 kilotons, putting it's maximum effective speed at 168.9km/s. The largest nuclear weapon ever fully designed, the high-yeild variant of the Tsar Bomba, had a weight of 27 metric tons and a yeild of 100 megatons, putting it's maximum effective speed at 5567km/s. Thus it can be theorized that nuclear missiles in The Expanse travel at somewhere between these two extremes, likely around the higher end due to the effects of over three more centuries of nuclear weapons development.