"Oger" of the 903.Bataljon, 9th Combined Arms Division, Operation Boefbatsjend, 2049, in Sajaric Splinter pattern.
"Tarasque" #47, of the 2d Bataljon, Prince Sven's Own Light Lancers, 3rd "Haistulf" Armored Division, 5th Corps, 14th Army, Operation Tungsten, 2052, in Alarian Drab scheme. Allied visual identification markings and hyperspectral panels are visible on the vehicle, and Royal Army traffic marks have been applied in black paint.
"Tarasque" #47 with combat equipment.
Although classified as a "heavy tank" by foreign observers and media outlets, the Frisian Z.Hw.Sp.13504/220 semi-autonomous armored vehicle was called a "optionally manned cybernetic autonomic armor" by the Frisian Lanmacht. Codenamed "Tarasque" by the Gallan Supreme High Command's (OHK) Main Intelligence Directorate (HID), the Lanmacht called it the "Oger". The Faarlik States refer to their modified vehicles as "Malak". The HID uses the short term "cybertank" to describe this class of vehicle generically, however, since the end of the Alarian War the word "cybertank" has been used more in association to its control system rather than any innate capabilities of the vehicle. The use of the term remains within the realm of the art despite lay connotations.
Its purpose is only tangentially similar to the last heavy tank of the Lanmacht built over a century and a half ago, the "Z.Hw.Sp.872/55 Tiiger", which was break through the massive fortified bunkers of the Ynglisc Aizlewood Line. However, unlike the old "heavy tank" of the Celestial War era, the firepower, speed, and relative capabilities of a cybertank exceed those of a conventional armored vehicle. It is faster, more mobile, better armored, and has deeper stores of weapons and ammo than any contemporary armored vehicle. Although its size to other battle tanks of the last century make it seem imposing, the cybertank is intended as a "battlesuit support vehicle" rather than a true tank. Instead of hauling a high velocity gun alone, it carries a dozen battlesuit troops into combat, who ride on its exterior handholds on the aft of the vehicle, and dismount prior to an assault. The battlesuit coupling point incorporates locking lugs to hold the suit in place during high speed movement, and uses magnetic induction to provide electrical power to the suit while the suit's turbine engine is shut down, preserving valuable fuel. The cybertank weapons fit is also more comparable to a mobile firebase than a main battle tank, featuring long range missiles, an over-the-horizon cannon, and advanced, long-range sensors, although its capability in close combat cannot be understated, especially against light infantry in close combat and urban terrain.
A 155mm main gun with a short barrel (comparable in length to the Finn main battle tank's 130mm) firing either hypervelocity anti-armor (or anti-aircraft) rounds or long-range, high explosive artillery shells, comprises the main armament, and occupies the quasi-cleft turret of the front the vehicle. Because of its short length the gun is easily balanced and can be fired on the move, as in a conventional battle tank, and thus the cybertank can perform a fire mission while moving or hit point targets at distances out to 4-5 kilometers. The two-piece ammunition stowed is approximately 80 rounds of varying natures, 72 of which are stored as projectiles in a ribbon loader and the remainder stored vertically, for smoke ammunition. Propellant charges are stored in a carousel underneath the turret. The cannon can fire rounds at a rate of 1 rounds every 6 seconds and features a water jacket for cooling the gun during extended firing periods.
Numerous 8mm and 13mm machine gun turrets dot the hull as well, featuring "deep magazines" of 2,400 or 800 rounds (depending on caliber). These small turrets can also incorporate medium range (<3 km) missiles (70mm Rk.Lans.725 fiber-optic) or anti-missile canisters. The main battery mounts a pair of 13mm HMGs, while a quartet of anti-personnel oscillating turrets mounting 13mm HMGs and 8mm LMGs dot the upper hull, providing all around protection against infantrymen and battlesuits. The sub-turrets also mount 13mm HMGs on their starboard, while a pair of anti-personnel fiber optic missiles is mounted port. Secondary armaments of the sub-turrets can be changed at unit level, as the turret features a modular weapons rail on either side, which can carry machine guns or missiles. Both sub-turrets feature mounts for active protection system ordnance and smoke grenades. All machine guns feature superheated steam jackets, full stabilization using artificial muscle technology, and high gain hyperspectral sights. All secondary turrets can be replaced with grenade launchers firing HE or CS gas, or anti-personnel electrolasers, for crowd control or close-in urban fighting as needed. Trainable smoke dischargers, firing large caliber rubber pellets, can also be used to provide close-in defense for crowd control cybertanks.
A multiple purpose vertical launch missile battery, featuring a variable capacity (60 full caliber "attack" missiles in 4 "pallets", nominal is 40-50 attack missiles, 54-144 anti-missile/artillery interceptors, and 4-5 UAS for jamming/recon/spotting) of weapons. Maximum length of a missile in the VLS battery is 1.5 meters, and the battery is located in the centroid of the tank. Each individual attack missile (full caliber) has a range of approximately 120 kilometers, or less with loitering, and ground range of the counter-attack missiles are about 2 kilometers. Attack cuing is accomplished by the cybertank's onboard C band radar which is mounted in the "hat" atop the main battery, while a UWB-band close-in surveillance radar is mounted in the major hull vertices, and an L-band early warning radar runs along the upper edges of the hull. All radar faces are constructed out of ballistic rated ceramic-fiberglass composite, giving protection against splinter and medium caliber (.50") gunfire. Frequency diversity ensures that the system can track aircraft nearby (including nano UAS) despite presence of tactical jammers. The mmW radar interferometer mounted on the gun turret cannot be used for radar guidance of air defense munitions, but it does have a utility as a secondary search system for moving vehicle targets in bad weather. Combat range of the mmW gun radar is approximately 4 km against a moving battle tank, while the C air search band radar has a range of 80 km against a tactical fighter. Against artillery and other low RCS targets, detection ranges can drop to as low as 5-10 kilometers, or be as high as 20 km. Anti-missiles are guided by an onboard missile passive radar/infrared seekers, only cuing data (slew azimuth) is provided by the radar system. The autonomic system is ordinarily responsible for monitoring the air defense environment and attacking incoming shells and weapons.
Additional surveillance gear is provided by multiple laser infrared emitters mounted on the nose, which provide the cybertank forward "vision", numerous W-band radar emitters and LWIR cameras embedded in the armor for autonomic driving and "virtual transparency", and acoustic classification gear capable of identifying direction and type of gunshots, which are slaved to hyperspectral sights on the machine guns that can identify composition of burned gunpowder and classify weapons by both spectral signature of the flare and its acoustic report, providing limited IFF capability in the autonomic fighting mode. Some cybertanks, especially those deployed for "peacekeeping" during the Frisian Civil War and immediately after the Dorestad Incident, were equipped with electrolasers, CS gas, wide-area anti-personnel mines on the hull running along the bottom of the applique armor, and radio-acoustic (microwave/focused sound) attack weapons. Their main guns had their EMAs removed and magazines loaded with anti-personnel "beehive" (airbursting flechette), short-range "canister" (a 155mm shotgun), high explosive squashhead (anti-bunker/strongpoint), or blank propellant (wide area stunning/"flashbang" effect), depending on the unit. Most of these "riot control cybertanks" (known in Frisia as "pacification armors") have since been seized by the Faarlik States and repurposed into urban combat vehicles. As a consequence, battlesuit infantry of the Militaris Ordines have become the primary anti-tank means of Faarlik cybertank divisions. Jesuits, especially those members of cybertank unit background, nominally act as maintenance personnel, while Trappist monks provide spare parts from several monastic workshops. Much of this knowledge, however, comes from second- or third hand sources, or from limited reverse engineering of cybertank components by the Jesuits.
Armor was equally substantial, with the cybertank in weighing well north of 200 tons with full combat load (ammunition, fluids, armor) and being able to stop 120mm ("4.7"/44" in Gallan service) sabot rounds in all directions except the rear. Because nearly a meter of space on either side of the tank's hull was internally reserved for armor and fuel, even the more modern 152mm ("6"/44") ammunition of Allied armor also had significant difficulty in defeating the cybertank's frontal protection, with flank shots generally being required even with such high powered guns. Vinlander Type 80s, Gallan Strv 122s, and Ynglisc "Chariot" (front engined Strv 101) and "Corsair" tanks, all of which by the time of the Alarian War were nearly 60 years old and had been introduced in the 1980's, had an especially rough going. Their relatively diminutive 120mm cannons were inadequate to defeat the protection of the Tarasque except from behind. Vinland armored units were often reinforced by small numbers of Gallan cavalrymen in Strv 141s, while Ynglisc troops had Hsingnu (Hunnic) and Avar Obj. 777 main battle tanks armed with 152mm cannons, and Hunnic fighter-bomber brigades with hypersonic nuclear cruise msisiles, to rely on. Reportedly a small number of Gallan Strv 141/153 MBTs, with more modern armaments, were able to defeat the cybertank provided they hit a weak area, or multiple tanks were able to get around to the sides of the tank and attack it without being destroyed by counter fire. One cybertank in favorable conditions (open terrain, such as the steppe) on the attack could easily destroy a Gallan armored company, or battalion, of over a dozen or more MBTs, although there were cases where cybertanks were defeated by as few as four tanks.
Aside from this armament and protection, the other apparent feature is the sheer size and scale of the cybertank: obviously far too massive to be transported on the Alarian standard Gallic Narrow (4' 6"; 1371.6mm), Celestial Standard (4' 9"; 1460mm), and Khaganate (1,500mm; 4' 11") rail gauges. Perhaps luckily, the Frisian government had already been laying rail in the steppes in the form of the broad gauge "Frisian Broad/two meter" line (2,000mm; 6' 6") since at least the 1830's. Limited penetration of the two-meter gauge had been found in Tuareg clan states and through southern Sajarica, and the benefits for shipping alone meant that major civil engineering works were pushed through, often forcefully, by the Rails Bureau of the Frisian Empire. Unlike the more typical Celestial or Gallic gauges, the Frisian Broad could ship two International Standard 3.04x3.2m CONEX boxes side-by-side, double stacked, with "FZ" gauge. With the expansion of industrialization projects in the sub-Sajaric states such as Kampala, the need for major shipping became paramount. Ordinarily, CONEX ships were used, by the mid-'20's the Frisian government (post monarchial restoration c. 2026) made it a goal to improve shipping times while keeping costs low for factory owners. The cost of a shipping container moved by ordinary gauge was close to $5,500 when double stacked, but Frisian broad halved the cost by doubling the amount of containers, made possible by the "FZ" gauge, which made it competitive for seawise shipping to Southern Frisia (and, arguably, large capacity ROR [roll-on rail] barges might make it even cheaper). Land links between Kampala and Frisia were also considered vital as well since the Royal Navy's control of the seas could not appreciably be disputed outside of Frisian waters or range of attack aircraft, and it would be trivial for a Gallan task force to intercept and seize vital goods shipments from the industrializing south in one of the trade lanes. Thus, rail transportation, if properly developed and of a good size, could cost as little as seawise transport and move entirely within Frisian and its allies' territories.
With a larger rail gauge, the primary impediment to the size of armor is removed. Thus, Frisian tanks by the mid-century had become almost obese in their size relative to their immediate predecessors, thanks to the massive infrastructure investments brought about by the "FZ" loading gauge. All had massive tracks supporting hulking frames, featuring large cannons and heavy armor, although still they were squat and short relative to their lengths. Hence, they resembled moving houses more than a land vehicle. Conversely, Gallan reliance on its historically narrow gauges meant that the Principality's mid-century vehicles (Stridsvagn 141, Strv 153, Pansarbandvagn 252, and Pbv 501) had not changed in dimensions almost a century, although it had begun to slowly lapse into unresponsiveness to Frisian land and aerial weapon developments regardless. Thankfully for Galla, the Frisian Lanmacht still relied on some older vehicles, as production rates of cybertanks were woefully under requirements due to material shortages, with vehicles such as the Finn main battle tank (notably, the shortest tank, in length, in Alaria) and the Batsjere (Boxer) wheeled armored vehicle (a large 8x8 APC similar to the Ynglisc Bantam) filling out the rest of the ground forces' needs. Thus, rolling stock for vehicles of more traditional sizes were readily available, and Gallan use of a narrow gauge made it easier to simply lay track over existing 2 meter gauge railways during the 14th Army Expedition, especially since the largest rolling stock factory in Alaria and primary production center for Gallan armored vehicles (the gigantic factory-city of Nedre Umeaelv
, Katrinsborgslan; notable for its numerous blast furnaces and drop hammers, and its massive, twin 80,000 ton industrial presses [used for AFV production], and canal bargeyard) was incinerated by Frisian nuclear cruise missiles during the Dorestad Incident.
In the modern age, where space surveillance can locate individual vehicles or battlesuit platoons attempting to maneuver, or classify a vehicle by its silhouette from tens of thousands of kilometers above in geosynchronous orbit, or locate gunfire with orbital reconnaissance, and relay all this information back to individual gun batteries, the means of defense against observation have been offloaded divisional jamming subunits. Means of jamming aerial visual (high powered, wide spectrum, free electron lasers; camouflage netting), radar (chaff; high gain microwave jammers), and denying air firepower (hyper velocity cannon; early warning cuing to friendly fighter aircraft) to the enemy are under the purview of the division. Battlesuit units, reinforced with cybertanks or otherwise, being highly mobile and possessing high firepower tend to be used as either spearheads for attacks or backstops for proxy forces against the enemy's regular units.
The nominal crew of a cybertank is 0 to 4, depending on the duration of stay and required objectives. Similar to the various "Vepsian Watch" schemes aboard merchant vessels, the four-man configuration can maintain continual battlefield awareness in a two-on, two-off configuration. As an optionally manned vehicle, a cybertank is capable of performing autonomous operations such as movement to an assembly area or being directed by a controller, although in extremely rare cases the vehicle may be allocated fire priority automatically and engage any potentially hostile weapon around it. While Gallan attempts at replicating this autonomic functioning through the use of cyber-digital interfaces and computer algorithms have consistently failed over the past decades, the cybertank takes an altogether different approach, which is what makes it a truly "cybernetic" weapon.
The core component that makes a cybertank function in battle is termed the "ERP/ERF generator" by Frisian documentation, which is the core of the "autonomic system". Poor translation on part of the Main Intelligence Directorate's Technical Intelligence Bureau initially led military scientists believe that this was some sort of electrical, electro-mechanical, or computer-algorithmic system, similar to the 6th generation computers being worked by the Royal Navy's Bureau of Naval Research for alleviating watchstander fatigue. The Tarasque also incorporated "war emergency" modes for full manual operation, in case ERF/ERP generators had been damaged or removed, and could be operated completely manually by a crew of 3 men at redundant battle stations. Thus, it was not considered a significant point of intelligence gathering beyond discerning what potential novel dataset training methods were being used to feed the algorithms data, if any, and how claimed performances in high noise environments were achieved. It was also known that the cybertank incorporated a deep trans-cranial magnetic stimulator (dTMS), and given that the battlesuit systems used by the Royal Army incorporated ERF helmets for pilots' (and suits') gait training, and that the cybertank's dTMS was likely for long-duration combat movements in "boring" environments. Again, similar technology had been employed by the Gallan Royal Navy for decades as a means of ensuring watchstanders aboard combat ships could perform at relatively high levels of performance through their many-hours shifts. The reality, unfortunately, was rather more unpleasant.
General combat performance of the Tarasque against more conventional mechanized troops was exceptional when properly backed with tactical aviation (Barrage stealth fighters) protecting against aircraft, airborne radars providing long range observation, and battlesuit troops defending against close-in ambushes. A battlesuit battalion supported by three fire units (six cybertanks) and a tactical fighter squadron was considered equivalent to three or four Gallan mechanized battalions, supported by an equivalent number of TFS. Unarmored human infantry stood very little chance against a battlesuit soldier with the exception of sniper ambushes, which were only effective when equipped with the outsized 25mm Ag90T ("heavy") anti-material rifle, although the unarmored soldiers' mechanized vehicles were utterly lethal, provided they weren't eliminated by long-range missiles and cannon fire from the cybertank. Conventional battle tanks had difficulty countering the massive armor protection of the cybertank, which was able to stop 120mm sabot rounds all around when equipped with heavy applique arrays, and active defense was able ot intercept and destroy hypervelocity ATGW successively. Only saturation aerial bombardments could make a serious dent in mass (6+) cybertank formations, made difficult by the presence of the Barrage fighters of the Loftmacht or the Kriichmarine, and the Loftmacht's satellite surveillance network. Cyber force (Netmacht) was responsible for providing jamming and cyber attacks to delay detection of the ground force. This sort of formation, combining all elements of the four armed forces, was called a "battle unit" by the Frisian military. The Oarlochmacht deployed two battle units (903.Bataljon and 907.Bataljon; total 36 cybertanks and 432 battlesuits) to the Sajaric Plain in late 2048 to support Tuareg "sandrailers", with the cybertanks assigned to the 9th Combined Arms Division of the OHK (Oarlochmacht Hege Kommando), as well as 48 Barrage stealth fighters, four air battle managers, and a dozen tankers, for screening and combat air patrol. Ballistic missiles and jamming equipment were also sent. Three high energy laser batteries made observation of the mid-Sajaric difficult for orbital reconnaissance, necessitating deployment of long-range artillery radars and tactical fighters with reconnaissance pods, although confirmation of the presence of cybertanks would not be made until mid-2049 when a two-ship of cybertanks and a company (24) of battlesuits reinforced a Tuareg clanprince's battlewagons and sandrails during the Battle of Pe. The Royal Marines of H, J, and K Companies, 47 Commando were caught off guard by the presence of a full cybertank tactical unit and found themselves rapidly forced to retreat after the destruction of several Marine fighters and attack helicopters. Multiple counterattacks by the Army of Aten were defeated almost immediately over the course of the next two days by coordinated cybertank fires against two motor infantry battalions and an armor battalion, while 47 Commando consolidated its position with long-range anti-tank weapons, which were still effective against the lightly armored sandrails of the Clanlords. The arrival of atomic artillery from the 1st Mechanized Division provided sufficient deterrent to further Tuareg incursions.
Unfortunately this sort of ideal scenario fell apart almost immediately after the initial nuclear exchange between Galla and Frisia, with both sides being rendered blind due to orbital devastation and lack of electricity, with their war industries destroyed, and frontline field units running on outdated orders, fighting over spare parts in civilianized heavy trucks or sedans, and even foraging for food. The "broken back" phase of the Alarian War continued for 31 months until the Articles of Armistice were signed. In such conditions, the superior numbers of Gallan troops and armor often decided battles as, even if they couldn't win a stand up fight, they could simply "surround and go around" the enemy. Post exchange, with both sides scrapping over storage depots, logistical dumps, and even ruined hulks or car parks, the ability to conduct a thorough ground reconnaissance became important. Battlesuit battalions, being able to move as quickly as an armored car or main battle tank cross country, and the precious few cybertanks (it was known by 2051 that as few as 80, and at most 160, were ever produced, based on serial number observations of captured vehicles), were highly valuable in this type of war and often retained in reserve as a result.
During initial combat in the Sajaric Plain, a two-ship of Tarasques supporting a company of battlesuits (24 men) were defeated in an ambush engagement in their assembly area by an armored battalion of the 1st "Karolus Magnus" Mechanized Division during the Battle of Phase Line Albin, and sent it to the technical intelligence section of the Gallan 1st Army. The Tarasques were captured mostly intact, and functional, as they had been operating in autonomous mode, under escort by the battlesuit infantrymen. One Tarasque had attempted combat engagement in autonomous mode after activation by a higher command post, while the other had been successfully jammed by radio-technical combat units of the battalion. The Technical Intelligence Bureau received the vehicles in December 2049, arriving by ship. Disassembly of the cybertank commenced immediately, and it was found that the "ERP/ERF generator" was, in fact, a trio of live human brains, encased in ballistic protected cyber-organic "jars" in the rear cabin. Connected to the brains was a series of probes and magnetic induction systems. However, given the suppression of consciousness in all extant Tarasque generators (prostheso-neurosurgical gating between the motor cortex and frontal lobe), it cannot be said that the cyberbrains are truly aware of their existence at least, although international legal opinion remains that this is equivalent to murder of the donor brain, and that the mere existence of Tarasque generators constitutes a "crime against humanity". It is now known that the Tarasque's cybernetic system operated on "vote sharing", with the brains observing all sensors equally and decision of an ERP/ERF event was determined through simple majority, which would be transferred to the tank crew. The brains were found to be kept in a semi-lucid state of chemical lobotomy, their frontal lobes suppressed by a combination of surgical and pharmacological means, with the drug cocktails controlled by the crew and administered via flexible tube lines labeled "control fluid" and "vacuum line". The surgical marks on the four recovered brains (two were in severe states of decay, likely due to combat battle damage destroying their life support systems) were found to be in different places.
By the 14th Army Expedition of 2052, the Technical Intelligence Bureau had incorporated some possible countermeasures to the fast-acting cyberbrain, codenamed "Behemoth", "Leviathan", and "Abbadon", which were all designed to exploit the fact that the brains had no contact with the outside world except for what went through the tank's computers, and no ability to control action of the tank except through these computers. "Behemoth" was a conventional cybernetic attack agent (similar to cybernetic weapons developed since the late 20th century for use against atomic centrifuges), designed to interface with the long range radar interferometer of the Tarasque's hypervelocity cannon and use its connection to the tank's central bus to produce inaccurate fire adjustments. This would look for "oddball" events in the Tarasque's cyberbrains, which would normally alert the crew and adjust the weapons batteries to accurately lay fire. When "Behemoth" detected an "oddball" event it would hijack the cybernetic signals from the control computer and redirect all oddball events, issuing contradictory corrective orders to the management system. The result being similar to saturation in a PID controller: increasing errors in targeting, albeit conventional control theory solutions would be difficult due to the use of a single, compromised central computer bus.
"Leviathan" was designed to project "surprising" stimuli into the computer sensorial systems fed to the brains' occipital lobes, with the intent being to saturate the attention span of the cyberbrains and crew, effectively "tiring the tank out". In practice this tended to result in either cessation of firing, or mass friendly fire incidents, among cybertanks. However, Leviathan had a severe drop in performance against tanks repeatedly affected by it. With the exception of one notable battle action at the end of the war, by the time of Operation Slaktare (Butcher), the breakout operation by the 14th Army and 71st Allied Expeditionary Corps landing area in Northern Frisia, the Leviathan countermeasure had been rendered mostly ineffective. Cybertanks attacked with Leviathan would often simply cease firing, usually waiting until they were hit by raking weapons fire from automatic cannon or splinter, and responding with maximum firepower along the return arc, or more worrying, they seemed to be unaffected by it entirely.
"Abbadon", the most experimental and "fringe" of the countermeasures, was a "targeted occipital hijacker", a then-new form of cyberweapon now called a "Medusa" (after the legendary monster of the Gallic Isles that could turn people to stone with its gaze). Abbadon is designed to induce seizures in the cyberbrains, although it is now known that when projected onto a computer screen it can be used to hijack any visual-sensory cortex, including individuals afflicted with blindsight. However, even compared to Leviathan, the reliability of Abbadon was always hit or miss. While it could effectively induce seizures in at least one cyberbrain in testing (or volunteers), it is likely that this was occuring due to underlying quirks in cortical topology (notably, individuals with thicker cortices were more readily affected), and that even if a single cyberbrain was taken out of operation, or two, the crew could rapidly "offline" the seizing brains with purge valves of barbiturates. While this would reduce the reaction time of the cybertank, it rarely disabled it. It was also found that in some circumstances, usually involving inadvertant couplings and subsequent induction data exchange between the primary bus controller and the optical output controller of the cybertank, that a Behemoth-Abbadon crossing event could cause the human crews of cybertanks to be afflicted by a Medusa as well, although there are only two recorded incidents of this during the Battle of the Bridges. The result of these rare events was that a cybertank could be knocked out of combat for up to an hour, as both the cyberbrains and crews would suffer from a post-ictal fatigue and amnesiac short-term memory loss, provided they survived the combat engagement. Six Frisian Lanmacht crewmen, and two damaged cybertanks, were captured as a result.
All three countermeasures could be delivered by long-range jammer pods carried by tactical aircraft, or by short-range transmission in high RF attenuating environments, either alone (on timer or command trigger) or carried on a vehicle, and all three were provided in a solid state diskette codenamed "Demiurge" that could be loaded into any military "script kiddie" cyber transmitter, such as the Sd50's onboard attack library (nominally designed for identifying and attacking HF-UHF transmitters).
14th Army special forces troops of the 14th Long Range Reconnaissance Company, equipped with Sd50 battlesuits and Demiurge, engaged against a "six pack" of cybertanks supporting a battlesuit battalion (72 battlesuits), the largest tactical unit fielded by the Frisian Lanmacht, and were able to overwhelm and defeat three of the six cybertanks, driving the other three out of the battle zone. It is known from post battle analysis that only two cybertanks, the lead vehicles of both columns, were operating with human crews. The remainder were under autonomous operation and "follow the leader" mode. Battlesuit casualties were near total amongst the front column, although battle damage assessment as to what exactly caused the free fire incident is unclear.
From combat footage of the Sd50 platoon is it known that the lead cybertanks immediately began firing wildly in all directions when hit by the Demiurge suite. Battlesuit troops dismounted in standard anti-ambush formation and began assaulting towards the direction of gunfire, before being cut down by automatic weapons from their own tanks, and that at least two cybertanks were destroyed by hypervelocity projectiles. It is also known that all cybertanks were affected, as the rear column can be seen moving sporadically and cautiously. In the lead column, the first two vehicles appear to have been destroyed by the "third" cybertank, which initiated the friendly fire incident. The fourth vehicle, described by one of the soldiers observing during filming as "spastic", aimed and traversed several gun mounts, firing several machine guns sporadically, and began to spin in place, before ceasing operation entirely. The battlesuit troops of this cybertank remained onboard their mount. This cybertank recovered about a minute later, clearly being operated manually, and retreated as well. The final two vehicles, operating autonomously, retreated behind a hill and attempted to provide protection for their battlesuit riders. The fifth tank, possibly stuck, or suffering from Behemoth's fire correction errors, attempted to lay its gun on the third cybertank. Eventually it backed itself onto a hill and fired its cannon, destroying the third cybertank on the third shot. The sixth tank retreats, but points all guns forward, including machine guns, indicating excessive cyberbrain activation and interest. As tanks five and six were considered "veteran" cybertanks of nuclear combat in the Sajaric Plain during Operation Crusader, it is possible that they had been "hit" by both Leviathan and Behemoth, but were acting in accordance either to prior information, or some new algorithm, which allowed them to adapt new outcomes. Tank six remained on the battlefield under tank four could be recovered by its human crew and retreat. It remains the only recorded incident where "burst on target" was used by a cybertank in combat, and one of the few instances where a cybertank in autonomous mode made sound tactical decisions with no input from a higher headquarters, although cybertanks in test ranges which have been presented with extremely novel tactical problems can occasionally spontaneously generate entirely deviant solutions to problems.
One Tarasque was captured during a daylight tank attack against a Frisian railhead during the Battle of the Bridges, with the vehicle having been loaded onto the train for transportation. The specialized Schnaebel car, which could only carry a Tarasque sans side armor, was located by troops from 2nd Battalion, Prince Sven's Own Light Lancers, and promptly confiscated after receiving a new paintjob and various identification markings. Several railcars of ammunition and spare parts were also captured. Aside from the missing the armor panels, which were located several hours later in a trailing car, the vehicle was found to be lacking only fuel. This image shows the vehicle as it was immediately after being captured. After fitting out, the tank was operated with the same callsigns as field artillery batteries of the battalion. The tank was put into combat action during Operation Tungsten
. After the first combat week with the Tarasque, Gallan troops of 2/PSOLL recorded in combat action reports that any time they called for artillery fire, Frisian troops would cease firing and rapidly relocate, as this often meant coming under direct attack from a cybertank. Tarasque #47 took part in several local sieges and one breakout operation, providing heavy firepower even in close combat, and often fought alongside more common tanks in the PSOLL, such as the Strv 141. Of all the cases of uses of captured armor on both Frisian and Allied sides during the Alarian War, Tarasque #47 remains the most notable example, as it was one of only two Tarasques that had been captured by Allied troops intact (out of five total), and the only one to be put into action against its makers. Much of this was assisted by Lanmacht maintainers and crewmen, many of whom had been captured during the seizure of the railhead. Tarasque #47 was lost while attempting to cross a heavily damaged rail bridge over the Eeider River, collapsing crumpling an engineer laid bridge which had been used to cross a span, and falling headfirst into the shallow river. The crew escaped with some bruises but the tank was considered irrecovable due to the depth which it had buried itself in the riverbed, the mass of the tank, and the awkward angle where it came to rest (with the rear third of the vehicle poking out of the water).
Compared to Allied tanks, the visual identification camouflage measures were substantially improved. Only necessary markings, namely the gross vehicle load limit and Frisian Lanmacht are painted. Even then these are easily concealed, as they are only painted on the front of the vehicle. As Allied troops were relatively well in advance of the Frisian Legion in utilizing cybernetic AI technologies to classify tactical intelligence, the Frisian Legion had long since abandoned these archaic methods of identification on all weapons. Aircraft, warships, and battle vehicles had only the bare minimum markings, typically markings for safety circles for weapon traverse and no-step zones, while specific markings were all but eliminated. Conversely, Allied armor was filled with a preponderance of identification information, with the Gallan Army especially suspectible. Ironically this meant that Frisian troops often found themselves knowing, at the very least, which battalion of which regiment they were facing, but rarely had sufficient ammunition or troops available to deal with the problem. Here, the high visibility "bumper numbers" of PSOLL can be seen painted on light backgrounds on the bumpers and fenders of the cybertank.
Later in the war, Allied troops adopted near identical deception measures specifically intended to fool Frisian intelligence dossiers. As the neurodiverse population of Frisia had been liquidated under Athestan's Befel A80 (Order Aldemiede 80, of the Frisian Internal Ministry), much of the intelligence gathering by the Frisian Legion was relied upon with smaller quantities of better trained, albeit neurotypical, officers. Although well regarded, these smaller quantities of officers could not compete with the combinations of artificial intelligence filters and larger quantity of neurodiverse conscripts employed by the Gallan military, and as the conventional ground combat phase of the war dragged on many of these officers became increasingly prone to producing inaccurate or "expected" results on orders of battle. These deception measures proved vitally effective in Operation Kopparnickel
(Cupronickel), the deception plan for the amphibious invasion of Northern Frisia (Operation Blynglas
[Galena]) by the 14th Army, where Allied shipping was painted in redundant or deliberately deceptive hull markings, which successfully fooled Frisian intelligence into believing that the Allied landing force was going to attack Southern rather than Northern Frisia, and diverted a substantial quantity of Lanmacht personnel away from the Northern industrial centers. While Frisian troops lacked artificial intelligence analysis systems to sort and filter such information, relying on age-old methods of open-source intelligence (harbor photos, AIS transponders, and poring over copies of Kallmans All the World's Fighting Ships), Allied troops employed a much more successful combination of neurodiverse intelligence analysts and increasingly complex, multi-layered deception schemes.
The final Gallan offensive combat operation in Frisia, Operation Crusher, saw the largest commitment of cybertanks during the war by the Lanmacht to a single ground offensive, popularly known as the Battle of the Bridges. A mere 24 cybertanks (and four battlesuit battalions, total ~400 pilots), supported by a few dozen Barrage fighters, very nearly caused a general collapse of the Gallan 14th Army and its mechanized forces, as follow-on Frisian "feardmen" (Home Guard snipers) and six motor battalions with Finn battle tanks and Batsjere AFVs, followed through the gap into the salient. Frisian mechanized forces advanced nearly 120 kilometers in a week, coming very close to their objective of putting nuclear artillery in range of the 14th Army landing area. This counteroffensive was only stopped after successive nuclear barrages against the expanding Frisian salient from Royal Navy SSBNs, and a large ground and aerial counterattack by the Oumeian Federal Navy their two offshore supercarrier groups, along with the Royal Navy's Task Force 88, and several tank battalions of the 71st Allied Expeditionary Corps (an international unit two dozen battalions from the Free Cities, Oumei, and Vinland, under command of the 14th Army and the Vinland's 77th Theater Command) and Gallan 3rd "Haistulf" Armored Division.
During the Battle of Frjentsjer, at the end of Operation Crusher, the Gallan Army and several Allied battalions encountered several pacification armors, one of which still managed to rout a Vinlander rifle company in close combat despite sustaining multiple disablings of the tracks, losing several electrolaser turrets, having its main battery disabled, from 3.3" recoilless rifles and 5" anti-tank missiles, and possessing no (significantly) lethal weapons besides its own tank tracks and autonomic programming. Gallan troops were not much more successful at stopping the pacification unit until several Strv 153s from the 77th Separate Tank Battalion arrived and managed to defeat the cybertank by firing multiple rounds of 152mm sabot and HEAT ammo into it until it combusted. Battalion records show that sixteen 6" gun rounds of varying natures (9 sabot, 6 HEAT-MP, 1 smoke) were fired in the engagement, with some tanks firing multiple rounds.
Local counterattacks by the Milysje (terrorist footsoldiers of the Orange Terror) against Gallan and Allied infantry troops were often done in hastily converted armored cars, although occasionally armed pacification cybertanks, supported by terror troops with large caliber (30mm) riot control shotguns and battlesuits. Although poorly trained in light infantry tactics, the raw fanaticism and brutality of the terror troops, combined with the extremely potent anti-personnel weapons of fully armed cybertanks, meant that two battalions of Gallan mechanized infantry were repeatedly repulsed, and one Oumeian rifle company liquidated to a man, until the arrival of a platoon of Vinland Army rangers in battlesuits, and a Strv 141 company from the 41st Heavy Cavalry Regiment, arrived. Possessing no anti-armor weapons capable of stopping the Strv 141 or Strv 153, or the Sd80BV (Vinland export model of the Oumeian "Sharp Sword" (Lijian) battlesuit), the Milysje troops and their pacification units retreated.
Based on evidence from prosthesis cyberbrains used in treatment of severe vascular hindbrain damage (total locked-in syndrome, etc.), it is believed that the "donor" quality of the Tarasque generator relates to this. Individuals with cyberbrain prostheses respond better to neural integration when possessing higher fluid intelligence (measured by the Wahlgren Adult Intelligence Scale VI [WAIS-6 rev. AD 2044]), and specifically higher verbal intelligence, made for greater recovery. Cortical thicknesses of Tarasque generators in general tended to be well above average for general population of Frisians (and Bretons) in the motor cortices, although Abbadon was found to only have increased effectiveness against cyberbrains with cortical abnomality in the occipital lobe.
Frisian countermeasures to Demiurge were difficult to measure, primarily because of Demiurge's general unreliability, but also because of the somewhat unexpected capacity of cybertanks to adapt to novel situations. The most successful engagement was also its first, and it rapidly became clear that both the remnant human brains' ability to adapt to novelty, and possibly some depot level upgrades of the cybertanks, led to its reduced effectiveness. Leviathan proved effective only against "fresh" cybertanks, and by the end of the war all cybertanks had sufficient combat days under "their" belts to ignore the effects of Leviathan until engaged by weapons fire. Abbadon was almost entirely useless as the innate redundancy of the cyberbrain trio, and human manning overrides, meant that seizure events would often last less than a minute. Interviews of Frisian Lanmacht crews of Tarasques showed that a well drilled, fresh crew could interrupt a Abbadon event in less than 10 seconds and regain control of their fighting vehicle. Only in the rare case of a Behemoth-Abbadon confluence would this cause a general disabling of the vehicle, although Frisian troops were, through quirks of their cerebral topologies, less suspectible to Abbadon's seizing effects than Gallan volunteers. Leviathan events were more problematic, especially against autonomous operating vehicles, although as the war went on the Lanmacht would routinely operate Tarasques with multiple crewmen to takeover in Leviathan events. Behemoth events were widely considered to be both deadly and highly difficult to counteract, as the manual override controls were also affected by Behemoth's hijacking. Rarely, Behemoth could hijack the engine control unit and cause a shut down of one or both of the main turbine engines. In a worst case scenario, one cybertank, moving at speed, had its drivetrain destroyed when a Behemoth hijacking caused its transmission to rapidly cycle gearing.
Post-war analysis by the Allied Control Council (Galla, Vinland, Oumei, Ynglia, The Holy See, UZSR, Avar Union, and the Hanza Free Cities) and the Holy Inquisition (separate from the ACC inquiry) on Tarasque generators (generically, "Tarasque generator" refers to any cyber-organic control system using captive or harvested human brains) showed that, because surgical incisions were so highly individualized, they were likely performed on political prisoners or anti-monarchists who had been selected specifically for the procedure. Unfortunately, the immediate post-war Frisian Civil War, the purging of the Athestan IV's bloodline by vanguardist guerrillas supported by the HPR and their Free Cities allies, as well as establishment of the Faarlik League in Central and Southern Alaria, and the Hansa in Northern Alaria, have made tracking the whereabouts of those involved in the development of the Tarasque generators difficult. It is believed that many, especially engineers and scientists, may have fled to Yue after the collapse of Athestan's state and its reorganization. A severe dearth of documentation has similarly relegated much of the Athestan dynasty's terror into oral history and myths, although the Ch'ti SRAC has made inroads in discerning locations of mass graves, concentration camps, and identifying and executing criminal elements (administrators, surgeons, researchers, officers, etc.) of the Orange Terror, specifically those who committed crimes against the Breton people but in practice any association has since become fair game, who have gone underground since the end of the Alarian War (known as the Dorestad Incident in Galla).
In the modern day, the Jade Empire (Ta Yue), the Hsingnu People's Republic (also known as Union of Socialist Zovlol Republics; UZSR), and the Holy See make use of cybertanks, although the latter tanks are strictly monitored by the Holy Inquisition and the Allied Control Council Inspectorate (ACCI), with artificial equivalents to the Tarasque generators. With modern computer systems, the cybertank's performance has been improved over the war-era systems, with increased processing speed and achieving parity reliability in high noise environments with a much lighter combat computer, although Tarasque generators still have vastly superior "novel threat" recognition scores, which means they still periodically appear in various weapon proposals. Cybertanks of the Faarlik Guards of the Holy See are used to ferry battlesuit troops in a similar manner to the Tarasque, in combat. Conversely, the HPR's "Обь. ᠗᠗᠗" (Object 777), codenamed "Tarantula" by the HID, is almost the size of a conventional main battle tank (smaller), and is designed primarily to support battlesuit sections in "desantii" (dismounted) attacks, similar to the teletanks of the Royal Army's Airborne Corps of the '40's. Little is known about the Jade Empire's cybertank program, although it is believed to incorporate multiple types of vehicles, similar to conventional armored forces.
None of the contributors to the Allied Occupation Area utilize cybertanks in their regular forces, although all utilize battlesuits. The Oumeian Department of Defense has invested extensively in developing countermeasures to cybertanks, and is known to have several cybertanks, as is the Gallan Technical Intelligence Directorate. The demilitarized Frisian State (an internationally occupied and disarmed republic, established in the wake of the Frisian Civil War [2052-2055], over disparate Frisii peoples; as the bulk of the Frisian heartland is now part of Hanza League or the Faarlik States), having no armed forces, possesses few armored vehicles. What vehicles it does have are strictly disarmed and used for police purposes, although the Special Technical Brigade of the Fryskfeilichheidstsjinst (Frisian Security Service) operate the Sd85 battlesuit. Political pressures in Ynglia from the UZSR have generally tended to mute their cooperation with the ACC, and it is rumored that Ynglia may be hosting testing grounds for communist cybertanks.
The weight of evidence indicates that the Tarasque generator's true mechanism of action was, in fact, deliberately obfuscated by (and from) the bureaucracy of Athelstan IV, and that it was likely that the bulk of Frisian unit maintainers and tank crews were unaware of the combat system's true nature. This is in line with recognized legal opinion that the Frisian population as a whole was not accountable for what occurred under the regime of Athelstan IV, although this has been challenged by Ch'timi legal scholars (on the basis of the trial of mass murderer, serial rapist, and war criminal Joachim von Sarrebrugge of Alastia from 1447, who was executed, along with his 30 of his kin and heirs, for crimes of rape, mass murder, and plunder). This was rejected by the court, in an opinion published by Oumeian and Faarlik legal scholars, the former on the basis of 6th century BC general-bureaucrat Changcing, who stated that leaders are responsible for the actions of their armies; and by Faarlik scholars on the basis of Ezekiel 18:20, the son shall not bear the sins of the father; thus it was decided early on that a collective guilt campaign would be counter-productive in both the short- and long-term. Despite initial reservations that the Allied Control Council might collapse over a minor legal point, this finding was ultimately accepted by the Hanza, and by extension the SRAC (Alarian Mainland Reclamation Society), in 2055.
Regardless, the use of automotive analogies and black box nature of the generator assembly in technical documentation, interviews and eyewitness reports from Frisian crewmen, as well as the numerous failure modes' troubleshooting measures being a simple "return to depot", indicated that only the higher levels of the Frisian Lanmacht were complicit. The ultimate, and controversial (among Breton, Ch'timi, and Stedfrysk populations), finding of the Alarian Criminal Court was that the level obfuscation involved in hiding crimes from the general population, even if the crimes of Athelstan IV's regime were known to some extent (at the very least, civilians [especially in the Hanza cities] were aware that their friends and neighbors were being deported to Southern Frisian work/penal camps), did not make the entire population culpuble. Historical arguments used against the legal concept of collective guilt included the trial of notorious Wajin-Shan warlord, agrarian communist, and mass murderer, known only by his pseudonyms "69", "Aniki", and (most famously) "Nok Noi", whose reign of terror during the "Lingtsentsou", found that "only the agents of the terror apparatus" were culpable. With the execution of Nok Noi in 1996 by military tribunal, and the restoration of the Shan Kingdom-in-exile, precedent for international case law against such "crimes against humanity" had been made.
However, disagreements about how to, and local attempts by, the individual members of the Allied Control Council to "deyngteralize" the Frisian population were hampered by Gallan efforts, sputtering to a halt even before the final shots of the Frisian Civil War had been fired. The Faarlik States re-integrated much of the fighting forces of the former Frisian Legion, including wartime units, although confirmed warlords and mass murderers were hung by the Allied Control Council hearings or executed by the Inquisition by hanging. Ultimately only piecemeal attempts by Allied Occupation Areas to deyngteralize the population were done sporadically, with Gallan efforts being the mildest (trials of camp commanders, party strongmen, and nuclear command authority personnel followed by summary execution were the most common, and no consistent effort to replace the extant Frisian bureaucracy was made, aside from dismantling of the most obstinate elements of the terror apparatus and institution of a constitutional monarchy, which has led to a fracturing of Frisian governance in the Gallan occupation zones). Hanza and Ynglisc efforts were the strongest, including mass deportation of Frisian population in cattle cars to other Zones of Control, suspected pogroms against Frisian civilians (in Hanza), and a mass collective shame campaign which has affected the Frisian populations of the Hanza and East Frisia to this day. Zovic support Almien efforts were somewhere inbetween these two extremes: radical expulsion of Frisians was never considered, and many refugees from Hanza and Ynglisc Zones of Occupation ended up in the Faarlik States, although SRAC and Hanza news outlets maintain that the Faarlik Army is full of war criminals and mass murderers, no evidence has ever surfaced to support this accusation.
Flagellants, often former Milysje, could be seen openly proselytizing through mortification in Almien cities and villages as late as the '70's, nearly three decades after the war. Initially, this was tolerated by the Inquisition, until the practice began to spread amongst the general Almien population, and the Inquisition, under orders from Cornelis IX, began arresting public flagellants and sentencing them to reeducation or work duty. In a few cases, small communities of Frisians, mainly in the East and the Hanza, have practiced self-flagellation as a means penance well into the modern day, although the Holy Inquisition, and several regional synods, have been rapid in their denunciation of anyone performing mortification solely to atone for the sins of their forebears. Hesitant tolerance remains for mortification for the highly religious, especially in monastic orders, although Inquisitors have become increasingly skeptical towards flagellates, in part due to its spread in almost equal measure among the Cathari.
Both the Almien Church and the Cathari came to a mutual agreement about the flagellate question during the Third Council of Lindau in 2077, with the Cathar and Almien Churches agreeing to share some duties in Allied Occupation of Frisia, if only to free manpower and resources for either side to focus on squashing burgeoning heretical cults. However, as the Hanza and Ynglia remain out of jurisdiction of the Holy Church, there is little these bodies can do, legally, to physically disrupt such cults. Standard practice remains to educate the heretical populations through arrest, internment, and tabernacle (hard labor). The practice is significantly rarer in the Gallic Isles, where mendicants, distinguished by their wearing of wicker bascinets and black and white robes, ordinarily solicit alms by playing recorders in the traditional manner of the Cathari. Self-flagellants have either, depending on who you ask, been ruthlessly suppressed by the Cathar Church and Ch'timi in a shadow genocide, or simply failed to take root in the more socially and morally homogeneous Gallan state, although the real answer is probably somewhere between those two extremes.
The Holy Inquisition, Gallan Ministry of Justice, and the Ch'timi SRAC, as well as the Hanza League and UZSR's Supreme Zovlol, maintain bureaus or agencies responsible for tracking, detaining, and trying suspected war criminals in ACC courts. As of 2089, over 1,500 former camp administrators, engineers, neuro-psychosurgeons, nanomachinists, and cyberneticists behind the Tarasque generator, the Transplantation Scheme, Befel A80, and the Neurodegenerative Weapon (NDW) ("cyber-sclerosis"), have been tried and executed for abetting the Athelstan regime's crimes. Thousands of Milysje troops have been convicted and imprisoned or executed for crimes against humanity, rape, and murder, and possibly more killed in revenge pogroms by the Breton populace of the former Frisian Empire.
It is known that the Sovereign Military Order of the Brothers and Sisters of the Christ and Saint Marcion (SMOCM), or the Gallic Knights, have been active in developing cybertanks with the assistance of Oumei's Federal Motors Company. The Grand Synod of the Cathar Church has tacitly approved this, and battlesuit-clad, hoverskiff riding infantry of the Gallic Knights have been seen in regions of the former Frisian Empire distributing blankets, congee, and tents to the poor and destitute. Unfortunately, standoffs between Cathar and Almien ground troops have become more common in the Allied Occupation Area as well. Several foreign media articles, prominently featuring troops of the Hospitallers, Gallic Knights, or the Yngaevonic Order on the covers of magazines, have recently been purporting that these relatively minor events are a "return to era of the Alarian wars of religion" from a thousand years ago. In truth, they more often tend to be Almien police officers accosting the Cathars for illegal street proselytizing [an aside: the battlesuits are merely a precaution, such as necessary when the lawbreakers are wearing 1 ton, jump-capable battlesuits, and armed with the Cathar Evangelion
and HVAP 20mm cannons]. Regardless, while none of these much hyped incidents have come to blows it is clear that the Cathar Church is pursuing cybertanks primarily to counterbalance its relative weakness to the Papacy's heavy cavalry battalions, and the inability (or unwillingness) of the Gallan military to invest in such a weapon (which has for so long been focused on restoring law and order in its own territory, even decades after the initial nuclear exchange, that it has mostly lost sight of the value of mechanized weapons) has forced the Cathari to seek alternative means of being able to defend their flock.
Rumors that the Hsingnu Tarantula incorporates Tarasque generators is considered unfounded by both the Holy Inquisition and the ACCI, and were likely politically motivated, although the "Jade Guivre" (HID codename)/"Cyóngcí" (Oumeian Defense Department codename) of the Yue "White Tiger" (Baihu) cybertank is considered by both the Oumeian Department of Defense and the Gallan Ministry of War to be derived from the Tarasque design. The Oumeian Defense Department codename is actually a pun, giving some indication of its opinion of the weapon.
tl;dr cyberpunk ww2's royal tiger but it's also a roving nuremburg exhibit