most important segment of a Martian army is its air fleet. Air power
on Barsoom, as on Earth, is generally the decisive factor in war. For this
reason a large variety of airship types exist on Barsoom with several different
basic weapons systems. The size of the air ships range from small, one
man, unarmed scout flyers to the huge aerial battleships with crews of
ten thousand men. All such ships should be visualized as being similar
to earthly naval vessels with turrets and propellers. Flight is possible
through Barsoomian science and the discovery of the eighth Barsoomian ray,
which repels the ship from the gravity of Barsoom. The eighth ray is contained
in buoyancy tanks on the various aircraft so that wings, wing surface area,
and other similar earthly problems of aircraft design are not applicable
to the Barsoomian air fleets.
The small one-man scout ships resemble
surfboards with propellers at the rear, and with a small wind-screen. The
pilot lies down while in flight and, as on all Barsoomian aircraft, attaches
himself to the buckles on the airship with the leather fastenings on his
harness. Such scout ships are generally faster than the larger battleships
and those of Helium can reach speeds in excess of 1000 miles per hour.
All Barsoomian airships can stop
over a location of target and hover, much in the fashion of a helicopter,
because their speed has noting to do with remaining airborne. Small airships
exist to carry from one ot ten crew members. Such ships serve as scouts,
messenger ships, patrol craft over a city, pleasure craft and transportation
for the wealthier classes, and even for sport. Jeddaks normally have a
number of such ships in their personal hangars and these are usually the
fastest ships in their country's fleet. Small ships of these types are
also carried by the larger warships for use in raids.
In such raids the larger ships operate
almost as aircraft carriers and release swarms of smaller ships. The First
Born made extensive use of this tactic in their raids on the Therns. The
larger ships generally have crews of 100, 1000 or 10,000, following the
Martian system of decimalized military forces. Commanding officers of such
ships also serve on the ground in command of similar numbers of men. Most
cities of the red Martians are well defended from air attack, so nations
wishing to attack such cities use their fleets to blockade the city and
land large numbers of troops for a land siege.
Among the larger class of ships
one would also find large transport vessels capable of transporting the
thoats used by Martian cavalry units. Though such units are few in most
red Martian armies, the ships were used by John Carter to transport his
green Martian allies in the assault on Zodanga. It is assumed similar transport
vessels were used to carry the Green Martians to Okar and to Manator.
Troops can be landed from the large
battleships by either lowering them down ropes dropped over the side or
by actually landing the ships. IN an assault on Gathol ships from Panar
even had troops use equilibrimotors to land.
The weaponry carried by airships
is of three kinds for most Barsoomian fleets. These include rapid-fire
guns, which most closely resemble earthly pom-pom guns and fire explosive
radium bullets. Such guns are found on even ten-man cruisers. The larger
radium cannon is found don the larger classes of Barsoomian aircraft
and is similar to the big guns on Terran warships. In addition to the guns
carried on the decks. Barsoomian airships have the capability of dropping
bombs on other ships or ground targets.
Both rapid-fire guns and radium
cannon are found in the ground defenses of most red Martian cities. These
are on the walls and on taller buildings in the city itself, which helps
explain how such cities were well defended form air attack. Another means
of air transportation is the equilibrimotor. This is a small flying
belt, similar to those used in the Buck Rogers comic strip.
Barsoomian cities often have stations where travellers can rent these flying
belts, and quickly travel to distant parts of the city. They are seldom
used in warfare. The use of Panar of equilibrimotors in a night assault
on Gathol was both highly unusual and highly unsuccessful. The stations
renting equilibrimotors often close down at nightfall and the city guards
patrol the streets with their own equilibrimotors, aiding the air patrols
in small air cruisers.
As a final note on airships and
their weaponry, it should be mentioned that a highly unusual weapon was
developed by the city of Jahar in a quest for world domination. The air
fleet of Jahar was equipped with a disintegrating ray that could destroy
metals, wood or flesh, depending upon the setting of the machine gauges.
This weapon was fairly short ranged and could be out ranged by foes with
radium cannon who were forewarned of the power of the disintegrating ray.
The only defense against the ray was a coating of a ghastly blue protective
material. Airhips of Jahar were universally of this colour as only they
had developed this awesome weapon.
The developer of the disintegrating
ray, Phor Tak, also developed a form of guided missile that could be attracted
to this blue protective substance. This occurred after Phor Tak had been
exiled from Jahar and became determined to destroy the Jeddak of that city,
Tul Axtar. Phor Tak's missiles were never used because his laboratory's
entire stock and equipment for the production of these weapons were destroyed
after the defeat of the air fleet of Jahar by Helium.