July 30th, 2004
Cross-posted in other communities of interest.
There are four ways to mount energy or projectile weapons on a ship. Spinal, cross-spinal, ball turret, standard turret, and pintle. I'll be using a laser as my example. Thus, the mount is how the lasing tube is positioned to aim. An accelerating tube can be substituted for projectile weapons like rail guns and such.
A spinal weapon is mounted parallel to the keel(or spine, if you prefer) of the ship, hence the name. These weapons don't generally have a large radius they can fire on without moving the ship. An example of this is the Yamoto gun in Starcraft. You point your ship to aim, and they take a long time to charge, but a laser mounted this way is the way to mount the biggest one possible. It may take up a good portion of the ship, and may not be used very much, as few items need that much power to destroy. Cross-spinal is the same way, except that it would be perpendicular or at least not parallel to the keel.
A laser mounted in a ball turret would appear much the same as the ion cannon shown in The Empire Strikes Back. It is armored, and provides more traverse, or movement, for the weapon. Any amount of the ball can be exposed, depending on the size of the weapon, the desired firing arc(where the gun can actually fire), and other factors.
A standard turret is basically a five-sided armor box with guns sticking out one side. These resemble the generic battleship turret, with the guns pointing out the front. They don't have as large a firing arc possible as does a ball turret, but they generally can bear heavier weapons with faster traverse than a ball turret.
A pintle turret looks much like an azimuth mount for a telescope, or a machine gun mount found on many military vehicles. The small amount of armor, and the fact that very small weapons, such as point defense lasers, are used, give very fast traverse. They have the largest firing arc, but are most vulnrable. A dome, not generally part of the turret, adds more protection(also making it look like a ball turret), or it could be mounted inside of a bay.
Missiles are guided, meaning that they don't have to be fired directly towards the target. They generally require a method of accelerating them to a start speed, and launch them clear of the ship before the rocket fires. A misile with a fusion motor or some such can use a chemical motor or a mechanism on the ship for this. thus a pod or rail can be used, or a launch tube.
Pods contain a cluster of missiles, each one wired to the ships computers to input data. They can be launched in a salvo that may contain the whole pod, or singly. Either way, these would use a booster, as a fusion motor would slag the launcher if ignited too early.
A rail launcher would only have a few missiles at a time on it, limiting the rate of fire. Again, the missile would use a booster to prevent damage to the ship and launcher when the main motor ignites.
The other idea would be an internal launcher. A crew or magazine feeds the missiles into an accelerator tube, throwing the missile far enough away to safely ignite a fusion motor. The mechanism can vary, from pneumatics, deflagerants like gunpowder, or even mechanical systems, to magnetic or gravitic systems. Whatever works best. The magazine is generally a mechanism preloaded with missiles, that automatically loads the missiles into the tube, making the weapon's crew's job easier. The photon torpedo tubes in Star Trek are an example of an internal launcher like this, though without the magazine.
A weapon may be mounted in several places on the ship. A turret or missile pod may be mounted directly on the side. This is where the ball turrets have an advantage over standard turrets, as they have mutually exclusive arcs of fire. To fire in a certain direction, a standard turret would beed to be mounted on a side of the ship parallel to the trajectory of the desired weapons-fire. A ball turret could be mounted on the side directly facing the threat, and turrets on the other sides of the ship could possibly add their fire as well.
The other option is to mount the weapon so that just the business end sticks out. Ball turrets can do this, as can spinals and internal missiles launchers.
There are a few more: bays, trenches, and ridges. These alter the geography of the ship to allow a weapon to be mounted at the desired angle, without having to move it to another side of the ship. A point defense laser on a pintle turret may be mounted inside a bay, moving out to fire, and retreating inside for servicing or protection. Pod and rail missile launchers may be mounted this way too, allowing protection while they are being reloaded. A trench is an extension of a bay, much longer and not having a door or blast shield. A ridge protrudes from the ship, weapons being mounted in or on it.