APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001


Maintenance Issues

Keeping Things Hovering

Janne Kemppi

Maintenance is seldom thought but actually highly important part of all civilian and military work. Machines do not simply work with mere wishes and polishing surface a bit. Actual military vehicles and equipment have a huge number of technical support going to field at all times. For example in 1963 organization, a Finnish Defense Forces Tank Company had some 8 tank mechanics just to keep 10 tanks on-line plus other specialists for special parts such as weaponry and electrical work of same vehicles.

Units spend highly variable time for maintenance depending on situation too. All equipment gets more worn out as their use increases. Major exercises (and especially combat) burden unit's maintenance resources to the limit while low level of activity often saves maintenance time (and costly spares). Crew ability and environment are also important. Finally, equipment complexity (and design maturity) is always a real determining factor of availability. Complicated weapon systems simply need more maintenance and presence of highly effective (and usually difficult to maintain) features stress design to the limit.

These issues are somewhat poorly described in official rule set that concentrates on design maturity and equipment size ignoring complexity. These rules are designed to bring out these factors to game but still streamline existing maintenance rules (by removing somewhat superfluous Weapon Maintenance Rules). At the same time they are intended to be simple so that gaming does not god down on unnecessary calculations.

Note! It is suggested that prospective GMs would give a careful thought before selecting how much maintenance issues are taken into consideration to match the spirit of the campaign being played. Various maintenance rules methods could be tied to selected Reality Distortion methods. Cinematic efforts do not warrant any kind of maintenance (unless it is a plot device), while Adventurous games would need such rules (although official rule found in Heavy Gear Technical Manual, Second Edition, page 152 would be good). Finally, those groups interested in Gritty games would be best served with these alternative rules to fully explore complications of maintenance and difficulties of keeping systems on-line.

Maintenance Rule

Maintenance is essentially huge amount of repetitive and utterly boring work that is done from day in to day out by various individual technicians and maintenance organizations. This work includes lubricating moving parts, cleaning and endless checking of various components (and changing those that need replacement). First determining factor is equipment size because larger pieces of equipment typically need more maintenance than small piece of equipment. For example, there are usually more areas that need check-ups. Furthermore, larger and heavier equipment is often designed to its limits. Weight might have increased over planned upper limit (where engine system has been designed for) stressing whole design. Overall vehicle complexity adds up problems because highly complicated weapon systems usually require more maintenance to stay on-line.

Maintenance Rule System

Maintenance Man-hours = ( Vehicle (equipment) Size/2 + Threat Value/100) x Movement Type x Design Maturity x (other possible modifiers)

Note! Vehicle Size is the highest of Default Size or Actual Size of design. Threat Value is overall calculated values in Silhouette system (and in Heavy Gear) used to imply inheriting ability of vehicle design. It is also a good indicator of complexity of vehicle because value is driven up by factors such as weapon systems, fire control, maneuverability, sensors and communications systems. These systems typically use electronics (at some point at least) and there more capable systems are ever more complicated.

Combination of Vehicle Size and Threat Value mean that prospective designer should select a good combination between ability (Threat Value) and Weight (Size). Usually lighter and less capable systems are easier to maintain than big, large and more capable systems. Budget conscious and relatively low-technology militaries (and many civilian agencies) would thus prefer smaller and simpler systems while technologically highly sophisticated armies would select large and capable systems to get maximum punch out of given system.

Movement Type Modifiers

Movement System Type Modifier
Installation x1
Hovercraft x2
Wheeled x1
Tracked x1.5
Walker x2
Rail x1
Naval x1
Aircraft x3
Space x5

NOTE! Certain vehicle types are also easier to maintain than others are. Wheeled vehicles are usually simpler to maintain than their tracked equivalents of similar weight (although highest practical weight of wheeled vehicle comes up faster than with tracked vehicle). Air and especially space systems are highly complicated. Aircraft includes "hovertanks" that are nominally called hovering although they do not use air cushion systems such as skirts to stay afloat. These systems are usually fielded by CEF troops.

Movement system choice is a major factor for armies that lack training maintenance personnel to work up their vehicles. Such armies would select more systems with simpler movement system types to make more systems available compared to other types of equipment. This is not hard and fast rule but there would be a tendency towards choosing wheeled APCs instead of highly capable and sophisticated (but maintenance nightmarish) hover APCs. Exceptions would be few selected spearhead units that would have also a lion's share of maintenance assets compared to army at large.

Design Maturity

All vehicles and systems have huge number of bugs when they are at first built up. These bugs are then found out in testing and ironed out in various pre-production versions and finally in mass production. However, some bugs stay in design through the testing and evaluation cycle and linger in designs through years. Real difference is amount of testing and cumulative experience on what works and what does not. However, some systems might be built on field from parts cannibalized from other vehicles. This is usually done in emergencies only as their functionality is question compared to quality controls (usually) found in industrial activities.

Design Maturity Modifiers

Design Maturity Modifier
Test bed Prototype x10
Early Prototype x5
Late Prototype x4
Early Production ("Zero Series" or "Pre-Production" model) x3
Limited Production x2
Mass Production x1
Scratch Built ("Cannibalized" model) x3

NOTE! Design maturity describes how far certain system has gone forwards. Early prototypes are usually quite problem prone and spend more time in maintenance than in field. Mass production is usually not started unless design has passed through (almost) all requirements. Thus mass produced systems are more reliable and less problem prone than early prototypes.

Scratch Built systems can be divided into two classes: Cannibalizing existing systems to get spares to rebuilt some severely damaged (even destroyed) model. End result is typically somewhat shoddy design (Scratch Built Modifier should be multiplied with Design Maturity Modifier). For example Mass Produced system scratch built from spares and leftovers would be x1 x3 = x3. Building something totally new from spares is considerably more difficult and should be (realistically) considered Test Bed Prototype. Building totally new system out of leftover parts from existing systems would be therefor x10 x3 = x30. There is a reason why weapon design engineers and their design teams are paid to do their work. People just cannot build fully capable tanks in their garages.

Design maturity offers plenty of possibilities and headaches. Prototypes and early production systems of new, seemingly revolutionary systems, might give one side edge over their opponent but it could be so difficult to maintain that whatever edge in performance. It forces all leaders to carefully balance out advantages with maintenance problems in their force design. Furthermore, destruction of prototype could bring out other problems too. This is not so crippling in military, where budgets are more forgiving but civilian agencies might well then have to do without. Losing valuable prototype to competition (in industrial setting) or enemy (in military setting) is far more problematic. These opponents might use it to their advantage either copying design or producing countermeasure or winning design instead. Losing valuable technological secrets on how things are done can cause great deal of problems too. Safeguards and contingency planning might offer interesting headaches to everyone involved.

Design Complexity

Equipment is seldom designed for maintenance in mind but it at times has. Furthermore, some designs might be more or less accidentally built up to be easier or more difficult to maintain. For example some tank models require removal of turret before engine can be removed while others do not. Additionally some tanks have engines where piping could be de-attached easily as engine is quickly removed for maintenance work.

Design Complexity Modifiers

Design Complexity Perks/Flaws Modifier
Easy to Modify Perk x0.5
Difficult to Modify Perk x2

NOTE! These flaws and perks should be designed assigned to particular designs based on overall system complexity and maintenance difficulty in mind.

Some designs are simply easier to maintain than others. These Flaws/Perks are easy method for vehicle designer to assign suitable enticement or punishment for design. Soundness of design depends on multiple factors including technology maturity, design layout, and possible compromises made in design phase. For example extremely compact design might have problems in maintenance that some components simply cannot be removed or repaired easily.

Wear and Tear

Despite the most loving care and good, well-balanced maintenance, the fact is that equipment will eventually wear out. Overall condition of vehicle will slowly but certainly go worse and worse until it is totally useless hulk. Worn out parts break up easier, require more care and in general cause more headache than brand new systems. Thus most operators prefer to have their equipment in as good condition as possible although this is not always possible.

Wear and Tear Modifiers

Wear and Tear Modifier
Vehicle's (Equipment's) Condition 1 (factory new) x0.75
Vehicle's (Equipment's) Condition 2 (driven in) x1
Vehicle's (Equipment's) Condition 3 (worn) x1.5
Vehicle's (Equipment's) Condition 4 (over aged) x2
Vehicle's (Equipment's) Condition 5 (sputtering down) x3
Vehicle's (Equipment's) Condition 6 (wreck) x4

NOTE! Vehicle's Condition rating describes how used up vehicle or piece of equipment is. Militaries and civilian agencies do not usually employ equipment that has Condition 4, 5 or 6 unless they really have to. Individuals and smaller groups or militaries working on small budget have often no choice.

Maintenance is one of those issues that are often forgotten for more glamorous issues like new toys. It is also part that is often skimmed off when there is need for money. This traditionally increases wear and tear and causes older equipment to become even more maintenance reliant than before. However, even well maintained equipment wears out. Militaries prefer to sell out their old worn-out equipment and buy new to keep up equipment on good condition (Condition 1,2 or 3). This creates a lucrative market for second hand equipment. Some militaries buy this second-hand equipment to get their vehicles cheaply. However, their maintenance cost is higher. Furthermore, worn out vehicles are usually older and thus typically less capable than new equipment that first line militaries issue. Civilian agencies employ usually new systems and have second hand market to old worn out systems. Individuals have often few opportunities to buy latest hardware and they will settle for older but cheaper systems. There should be large pool of technical services dedicated to maintenance and refurbishment of old worn out systems.

Use Style

Fact is that how much equipment is used affects maintenance a lot. If piece of equipment or vehicle is being used in leisurely pace (even if particular week might be hectic), the maintenance stresses it have been subject to are far less than with constant around the clock heavy work. Constant drive close to stated performance maximums wears out any vehicle and demands considerably more care than careful use on few selected hours. Some operating agencies prefer to cut back use in order to save equipment for a rainy day while others drive them mercilessly to get out as much as possible until they discard it.

Use Style Modifiers

Use Style Modifier
Light Use x0.75
Medium Use x1
Heavy Use x2

NOTE! Light use is relatively common to every day civilian use. Vehicle is typically driven on roads and it observes speed limits. Vast majority of civilian users is familiar to this. Medium use describes long working hours common to most professional driving (professional truck driving for example) or work where cross-country more driving is common (farming for example). Heavy use describes using vehicle up to its limits and beyond. This is more associated with long cross-country treks or high-paced work.

Militaries would like to say they are always busy but truth is somewhat gray. Busy work means that equipment availability drops down and it looks bad on readiness reporting. Armies also often dedicate long hours (even weeks) to maintain their fleet back on-line after particularly harsh exercise too. Thus light use describes quite common time on garrison, where equipment is occasionally taken to ranges and use is typically fairly limited to avoid wearing down expensive equipment. This is really most common use of equipment by military and it is comparable to most civilian use. Medium use is far more rigorous and describes exercises and long camps where equipment is driven to exercise fields and maneuvers are done. Hours are long and vehicles driven through their paces. These are less common on poor militaries having no money (and in rich militaries that like more to show off themselves as real exercises drive down equipment). Heavy use is really there when unit goes in war zone. It does not matter if unit is in battle or not as fear of death makes sure gas pedal is pressed heavily and movement from covered location to another is as fast as possible. Units will also then drive far more in cross-country conditions than even in most 'realistic' training exercises.

Operator Skill

It is an open secret that even in same condition wear and tear (and maintenance issues) really depends on operator. Poorly skilled operators have far more accidents and small incidents than skilled operators have. For example, a skilled driver knows how to move in particular conditions without burning out engine for example and what are signs of possible problems (due long experience in having and dealing with them in the first place).

Operator Skill Modifiers

Operator Skill Modifier
Skill Rating 0 (unskilled use) x3
Skill Rating 1 (hobbyist) x1.5
Skill Rating 2 (professional) x1
Skill Rating 3 (veteran) x1
Skill Rating 4 (elite) x0.75
Skill Rating 5+ (legendary) x0.5

NOTE! This is based on vehicle's pilot or equipment's operator skill. If vehicle or piece of equipment has a crew, this should be average of their skills or selected crew skill rating.

There is a curious death spiral among many militaries. Skilled crew makes fewer accidents and wears out their vehicles less than raw crew. However, this requires constant training that is quite expensive (and requires plenty of maintenance). End result is often that training hours are cut back to save equipment and money on training. This works just fine in peacetime but it can get lethal when paper exercises turn into real fighting. In civilian life mixing skilled and unskilled crews can also mean that skilled crew gets more operating hours (and experience) while unskilled crew sits back cursing their badly working equipment. This can lead to other problems as well, their ability to work together could be real problem there is emergency.


Equipment is seldom designed to fit completely to all climates where it can be used. Using equipment in environment it has been designed (or modified to function into) is no big deal but using it in improper environment can cause real problems. For example, salt water cause corrosion, jungles are extremely humid and deserts are hot. Designs have often modifications such as improved air intake filters (to keep desert sand off), better air condition (to keep air inside vehicle tolerable) or heaters (to keep internal temperature survivable in arctic conditions).

Environment Modifiers

Environmental Comparability Modifier
Fully comparable x1
Not Comparable x2

NOTE! Environmental comparability can be checked from Hostile Environment Protection Perk. All vehicles can be assumed to have protection for temperate climate. Since this perk does not cover nearly all conditions, GMs are invited to invent their own Perks or use judgement on this.

Maintenance can be real nightmare in situations that equipment has not been properly designed to deal with. While this does not usually prevent using particular vehicle or equipment, it slows down and hinders operations and force maintenance personnel to work longer and make everything slower.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001