Prior to the introduction by the Aèllr Confederacy of the heavy plasma cannon, there was major and times ill-tempered debate within Battle Fleet on what exactly the battlefield role of battleships actually was. The fleet’s first two battleships carried the same guns as the cruisers, just simply more of them. In terms of firepower these two vessels had only two to three times the gun power of contemporary cruisers, while at the same time being substantially slower, more expensive and less flexible. Where battleship and cruiser design significantly diverged was in terms of armour. With significantly thicker armour plate, a battleship could absorb fire that would cripple their smaller brethren.
This combination of factors resulted in three competing schools of thought within the fleet. The first saw the battleship as the primary assault ship, that would shield the smaller cruisers during the approach. The second saw them defensive units, best kept close to Earth and fixed installations, in essence a mobile fortress, drawing fire away from the cruisers. Which in turn would take the offensive role, out manoeuvring the enemy. The final school saw battleships – even as the Fortitude was under construction – as expensive and unnecessary luxuries which reduced the number of all important cruisers the fleet could field. In all three cases, the battleship was seen as of secondary importance to the cruiser. The lessons drawn from the Contact War was that speed and maneuverability trumped physical defence.
The arrival of the heavy plasma cannon drastically shifted this balance of power between the two types. A ship so equipped, could strike catastrophic blows from ranges beyond that of cruiser scale guns, while the battleships heavy armour would shrug off counter fire at all but the closest range. Thus a single battleship could dominate a region of the battlezone, leaving any cruiser opponent with only the options to run or be destroyed. While somewhat alarmist in tone, the global media’s claims that the Aèllr’s two Rqwe class battleships would smash aside any human warship, were not too far from the truth. It was therefore critical that Battlefleet possess ships with heavy plasma cannons.
When news of the new Aèllr weapons broke, work on the second of the Fortitude class ship was halted immediately. Unlike her elder sister, this ship was little more than a bare frame. While starting from a clean sheet would have been in most respects been more desirable, it would have significantly delayed the introduction into service. Therefore while the fleet undertook a crash development program to design its own heavy plasma cannons, the ship designers attempted alter the Fortitude design to accommodate these new weapons.
This task was significantly complicated by the fact that the actual dimensions of the weapons, was this point an unknown. In the end the diameters of the turret barbettes were widened by sixty centimetres, the widest that could be accommodated by the hull that currently existed. This turned out to be barely large enough for each turret to accommodate a pair of the Mk I Heavy Plasma Cannons. Turrets weren’t the only major system that had to be enlarged; the new guns were expected to have greater power requirements. While four McDonnell Douglas LR47 fusion reactors powered Fortitude, these would be barely able to meet the new designs expected requirements and certainly have no reserve of power. Lacking time to develop a next generation reactor, McDonnell Douglas instead opted to essentially size up the LR47 into the LR48. Once again the ship designers were forced to incorporate major design fittings, without knowing the exact dimensions of the components. To compensate the main boat bay amidships was reduced to allow space for fuel and stores displaced by the larger reactors. Although they had attempted to avoid changing the external dimensions of the ship, they were at this point forced to lengthen the ship by three metres to compensate to storage space displaced by the enlarged armament and power plants.
Not all changes were forced upon the designers. The Fortitude design had four of its plasma cannons in double sponson mounts. It was suggested these should be maintained as a secondary armament. However with the plasma requirements of the main armament still unknown, this was rejected. Instead the fleet mounted heavy calibre railguns, in two side mounted turrets. While these mounting came to be regarded as overly vulnerable, the guns themselves became a standard feature in Battle Fleet cruisers and battleships, with a central role in the fleet’s doctrine.
There were by now serious concerns whether the basic design would withstand so much tinkering, with questions by raised in the press whether the ship would be effective or even safe. However senior fleet officers continued to hold faith in the ship and eighteen months after work was halted, construction resumed on the hull now being called Resolution. A final consequence of the ‘battleship scare’ was the expansion of the class. Instead of a single converted Fortitude, the fleet was authorised to build a total of three ships – Resolution, Renown and finally Resplendent.
Resolution’s launch in was a highly publicised event; unusually for the fleet, a large numbers of officers were made available to the media, to praise both the ship and its design team. This, it was announced, was a vessel that could tackle anything. In private however the fleet was deeply worried. Resolution’s main armament was already showing all the signs of equipment that had been prematurely entered into service. Technologically immature, there were serious and as it turned out, justified concerns regarding the reliability of these weapons.
Upon commissioning, Resolution immediately became the flagship of the Home Fleet and for the next three years spent her time developing new tactics for co-operation between cruisers and capital ships. Certainly it became clear that against a Heavy Plasma Cannon armed ship, an unsupported cruiser would almost certainly be crippled or destroyed before reaching a range at which its plasma cannon could defeat capital scale armour. Assuming the battleship’s gun worked.
Possibly the fleet’s most carefully guarded secret during this period was that Resolution’s gun didn’t work. It was much later admitted by the ship’s captain, during this period in service, Resolution completed only one full firing drill with all eight guns still operational. Analysis of serviceability would show that on average, only four guns were functional at any given time. In service the guns quickly showed themselves to have an appetite for coolants that was nothing short of ferocious. Additionally they drew significantly more plasma from the reactors than even the worst-case expectations, with much of this extra power wasted as muzzle flash; consequently Resolution became noticeably sluggish when the armament was in use.
The result of all these factors was a ship of at best marginal combat value and a number of officers quietly advocated that the main armament be replaced with the less powerful but more reliable Plasma Cannons. These calls were however resisted; in a sense the fleet was determined keep up appearances, not just to external threats but also at home. With the Fortitude seen somewhat unfairly as a failure, politically the fleet could not afford to admit that very expensive Resolution was currently even less useful. The Fleet needed to to maintain an illusion of strength until the heavy plasma cannons could be made to function. In this regard Resolution was a success. The Aèllr were startled by the speed with which the fleet had responded to the Rqwe class and at the three planets negotiations, Resolution provided an impressive centrepiece to the fleet’s show of strength. In 2055 Resolution was returned to dockyard hands. The primary purpose of this refit was to replace the original Mk I guns with Mk III’s, already successfully fitted aboard the second ship of the class.
The Renown and Resplendent, entered service in 2053 and 2055, these ships gained from the experience of their elder sister. Fitted from outset with Mark III Heavy Plasma Cannons, they avoided much of the reliability issues that had plagued Resolution. Upon commissioning, Renown replaced Resolution as the Flagship of the Home Fleet, a role she was to maintain until the Titians entered service six years later. Over the course of their careers all three ships of the class have all served as flagships for Battle Fleet’s three fleets.
While the entry into service of the Titians removed Resolution’s status as top-flight units, they remain to this day an integral part of the fleet and are expected to remain in service until at least 2069. To date, Renown is the only member of the class to have fired in anger when on the 07/10/2059 she destroyed a Tample raider pursuing the German transport, Bremen.
Despite their troubled beginning the Resolutions have long since become a mature and effective weapon system, capable of matching their expected opponents. What they weren’t however was an economic response to the Aèllr challenge. In real terms Resolution were per unit, the most expensive starships the fleet has ever constructed. (Note costs of the upcoming Warspite class remain unknown at time of writing) Additionally the cramped interior has made updating the ships difficult, contributing to a relatively short expected life span of twenty years. Despite this the Resolutions can be said to make the start point of Battle Fleet as a major multi-system military force.