Warspite Class Battleship
The completion of the Titan class and declaration that the fleet would be pegged at a ratio of one for two against the Aèllr defence fleet, resulted in a break in battleship production, although design work continued. While this was viewed as wasteful by some commentators, the fleet felt that it was necessary to both retain key personnel and keep abreast of technical and tactical developments. This work resulted in a number of designs but the lack of government authorisation meant that these remained purely paper projects.
The modernisation of Fortitude, with emphasis placed on acceleration, marked the beginning of the fleet’s interest in a fast battleship. The likely decommissioning of Fortitude in the early 2060s offered an opportunity to replace her with a ship that retained her best features, while capable of standing in the main battle line. Building a single battleship to an entirely new design seemed uneconomic and initially it was thought more likely that the fleet would have to settle for an improved design – the Titan class.
The Aèllr’s announcement that they intended to build five of the Gqrru class (largely as a response to Fortitude’s possible role as a heavy raider) changed the calculations. With the mothballing of Fortitude, there was now the opportunity to build a full class of three ships, while remaining within the required ratios.
The armament and broad layout of the Titans was regarded as an acceptable starting point. Indeed, it was felt that to significantly upgrade the weapons package would risk restarting an arms race with the Aèllr, with such a course of action likely to result in the block obsolescence of fleet’s existing battleships. Beyond this there was significant divergence from the earlier class.
The completion of Baden Base and its fixed defences meant that the large amount of fuel and stores carried by the Titans were no longer viewed as essential. This led to the abandonment of the outer case with shuttle bays once again positioned external to the main hull.
Propulsion was to be provided by the McDonald Douglas WRS4 Bearcat engines, which were a development from the failed Wildcats. These engines had suffered a particularly torturous development cycle and questions were asked whether the fleet was again risking finding itself with a ship slower than originally planned. Although these engines had successfully completed extensive trials on board the fleet’s test ship Fusionia III, it is a reflection of prevailing concerns that the decision was made to fit them to the Akagi, second of the Yorktown class carriers, as a further test. The success of the engines in service laid these concerns to rest. To achieve the necessary level of thrust, six rather than four would be needed. Four were to be double-ended, providing both acceleration and deceleration thrust, while the other two would be half-engines providing acceleration only.
Protection would gain from developments in civil engineering. The advanced composites developed to form the tether for the space elevator programme could be adapted to serve as armour protection. The improvement of protective performance was such that although the mass of the armour on a Warspite would be only eighty-seven percent of that carried on the Titans, the level of protection would be slightly enhanced.
At time of writing only Warspite has entered service. She has successfully completed her acceptance trials and it is expected she will be fully worked up in time for the fleet’s annual manoeuvres around Dryad. The remaining members of the class were due to be named Goeben and Resilient, after the World War One battlecruiser and the fleet’s first battleship respectively. However this led accusations of an excessively Anglo/European slant to the fleet’s naming policies. For this reason the fleet has recently announced that these ships will instead be named Yavuz Sultan Selim and Mikasa. The former is due to enter service in 2068, while work on the latter has not yet begun.
As the Warspite class has only just entered service, few meaningful conclusions can yet be made. Certainly the class is significantly different from the Titans – a demonstration for students of ship design that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ design. Instead designers face a series of altering, often conflicting, requirements and must seek the best compromise between them.
What is certain is that barring a major paradigm shift, the battleship will remain the dominant space combat unit for the foreseeable future. The precise layout however of any future battleship design will be shaped both by the technologies available and perceived threats they will face.
The recent encounter between the cruiser Mississippi and an unknown alien ship is a reminder that we cannot be certain what form future threats will take. The alien ship is understood to have used missile armament exclusively and fired from ranges well in excess of even heavy plasma cannon range. It is understood that the fleet is currently examining the records of the clash and this may feed into design of the second and third ships of the class. No details are however available at time of writing.