Category Archives: Ships of the Fleet

A technical guide to the ships of Battlefleet

Ships of the Fleet – Defender Class Cruiser

Profile Defender
Background

While now long since superseded, the construction of the Defender class starships remains one of the greatest technological achievements of the 21st Century, if not all of human history. In less than a decade, mankind went from crude chemical powered rockets, scarcely able to reach high orbit, to jump capable starships.
After the events of Monivea in 2022, the surviving members of the Aèllr crew tried hard to persuade their captors that the Confederacy was fundamentally peaceful; with the casualties inflicted on the Irish Defence Force, a tragic anomaly. While Earth’s political leadership desperately hoped for this to be the case, the majority opinion was that Earth simply couldn’t afford to risk another encounter while technologically so far behind. The lessons of human history showed that encounters between two cultures, where one was significantly more advanced than the other, had almost invariably proven disastrous for the less developed of the two. With further encounters between the Confederacy and Humanity likely to be a question of when rather than if, it was clear that the means needed to be found to meet the Aèllr on an equal footing.
Two Cruiser SMALL

Design

At the start of the Defender project, the designers were faced with an unparalleled challenge. The technology, the tactical role, indeed the very tools that would be used to build the ships were themselves all under development. To add to this already daunting task was a desperate urgency for results. A detailed examination of the Defender project design notes provides a virtually day by day record of human understanding of spacefaring technology. The very first sketches, dating from the start of the Long Calm period, indicated a vessel bearing a more than passing resemblance to the American Orion project of the nineteen sixties. This design was for a vessel launched from Earth’s surface via nuclear pulse propulsion.

Early breakthroughs in regards to plasma engines allow for this and similar schemes to be mercifully abandoned. The success of the Starhaul lift system made the transportation of large loads into orbit a practical proposition and instead plans began to coalesce around the concept of a vessel constructed in orbit with no ability to land. The earliest tactical theories suggested the way forward might primarily be a missile ship, firing nuclear tipped projectiles. However while great strides had been made in reverse engineering the Aèllr fusion engines, the early attempts to miniaturize them sufficiently to use in missiles were abject failures. The drives produced so much radiation that any computer systems would be destroyed and there was even a risk of the radiation bombardment causing the fissionable material to go critical prematurely. This left only traditional chemical rockets, which would be slower and less manoeuvrable than their likely targets. It was judged, and in fact proved to be the case, that such missiles could only reasonably hope to hit, if the launch vessel was so close to the target that it would also be in danger from a nuclear warhead. In contrast the work on the recovered plasma cannons was progressing well.
The exact nature of possible space combat was at this stage hotly debated within the newly formed CPDF – Combined Planetary Defence Force (renamed Battle Fleet and not to be confused with the much later Planetary Defence organisation). There were a number of schools of thought; the first believed that the best route forward would be the construction of a robust, semi-mobile vessel that would remain close to Earth. This line of reasoning would ultimately lead to the construction of the battleship Resilient (See Ships of the Fleet Volume One). The second and third groups, often collectively known as the Engage at the Heliopause groups, favoured a faster, more mobile platform, capable of meeting an incoming vessel further from Earth. Where these groups diverged was on the question of the exact nature of combat. One favoured what would become known as the frontal assault model, with opposing forces making a series of head-on high speed passes, with opposing ships exchanging fire on approach before reversing heading, decelerating to make further passes. The second believed it would take the form of ships moving parallel to one another and exchanging fire. While much time and ink were expended on the topic, the reality was that no one knew. It was only in 2025 that the governing council ruled that humanities first starships would be designed around the frontal assault paradigm.
Protector MkI side SMALL
With this in mind, the dominant feature of the class was to become the armoured bow cap, which would absorb over ninety percent of the mass committed to armour. However this could not simply be a solid shell. While the early research indicated that a wormhole drive or as it would be come known, a jump drive, was within Earth’s reach, the first generation drives would not be the equal of the Aèllr example that inspired them. In particular the drive nodes needed to be well clear of the bulk of the ship. While the physics of jump drives was still poorly understood, it was clear than the drive had to be mounted in the bows and could not be behind armour. The designers were forced to develop an armoured cap that could open to allow the nodes to deploy. Two different systems were used, the first two ships used a large visor that slid down from the upper hull; in service this was found to be prone to jamming in the raised position, thereby limiting the arc of the upper turret. The remainder of the class therefore used an alternative arrangement that had two shutters. What little remained of the armour allowance was spread down the entire length of the ship. It should be noted this layer of armour was primarily anti-radiation and in combat offered negligible protection.
The initial arrangements for the sub-light propulsion were to follow the model that was trialed on the test ship Fusionian. This would mean two single facing engines mounted on nacelles. The nacelle arrangement was proposed not to enhance manoeuvrability but because these engines produced large amounts of radiation (for the same reason the radiation screens were mounted inboard of the engines. However this was rejected by the military on two counts. The ship would only be able to decelerate by reversing its facing, thereby potentially turning the armour protection away from a threat. Secondly if one engine failed or was knocked out, the off centre thrust from the remainder would make the ship very difficult to handle. The nacelle engines became double facing, while a third single facing engine was added to the aft hull, although to keep radiation emissions acceptable, this engine had to be down-rated to provide no more than two thirds its possible thrust.
Protector MkI top SMALL
The main armament of four mark one plasma cannons, were mounted in double partial turrets, one above and one below the hull. These mountings had a traverse of only twenty degrees left and right of the centre line, but with the expectation of only frontal combat, this was not considered a handicap. Additionally two internal forward facing missile tubes were mounted in the central hull. It is worth mentioning that at this stage, it was still hoped that peaceful contact with the Confederacy might be made. Therefore versions of the design were drawn up that would have seen the plasma cannon turrets replaced with either larger sensor arrays or shuttle bays.
Even at this early stage there was an understanding that the sensor package needed to be more than just radar. Passive sensors would be more discrete and less subject to transmission lags and in an attempt to meet this requirement, four optical sensors were fitted in ball mounts, one on either side of each of the radar towers. Unfortunately in service, engine vibrations largely rendered these ineffective.
Bow cap designs SMALL

The layout of the ship can be broken down into three sections; the forward-most housed the jump drive, fuel tanks and crew quarters, mid-ship, command and weaponry, with engineering astern. It is important to note that the raised conning tower was not installed to give the ship commanders windows to look through. Among the data seized from the Aèllr ship was some extremely limited information of their fleet. These ships also had raised conning towers; this feature was left over from the reunification war of over a century earlier and a period when opposing ships were exclusively armed with mass drive weaponry. The rationale being that an attacker would likely aim for the centre of mass, so moving the bridge away from this and into the conning tower would improve survivability. With no firsthand experience of their own, Earths’ designers chose to follow suit.
Inevitably with so much technology in development, not all of the designers’ estimates were to prove correct. In service the Mark One plasma cannons had far heavier requirements for coolants than even the worst-case estimates. With no redundant volume to work with, additional tanks had to be mounted on the outer hull.
Front and Rear SMALL
Although many claimed credit for the success of the Defender project, the greatest share must be given to the American engineer William Spencer, who guided the project through the difficult years of the Long Calm. There were many occasions when the project was in danger of collapsing, whether due to competing national pride or technological uncertainty. Spencer’s ability to both sooth politician concerns and willingness gamble that all of the necessary technologies would be ready in time, kept the project on track, although the stress undoubtedly contributed to his premature death.

Service

Only three weeks after the First Battle of Earth, President McCray became the first serving head of state ever to go into space. Launched with the words ‘to defend all mankind’ Defender became the Battle Fleet’s first true warship. For the first year of her existence Defender primarily served as a training ship, exercising intensively within Earth’s solar system. Operational plans for this period indicate that in the event of the arrival of a second Aèllr task force, Defender would have sought to engage close to Earth, where she could support ground launched fighters.
By this time Defender’s core design was already falling out of favour as the fleet began to grasp the problems with the frontal pass attack pattern; the designs that would follow would instead favour broadside fire. However the Defenders were for now all the fleet had to work with.
With the completion of Stalwart, the forth and final member of the class, the fleet was ready to attempt a more aggressive posture. It was accepted that combat inside Earth’s solar system would likely mean close to Earth. Orbital defences of the planet were at this time entirely absent, leaving the orbital dockyards hopelessly vulnerable. It was correctly believed that a second Aèllr task force would chose to pass through Bernard’s Star on-route to Earth. With this estimate in mind, it was decided to attempt to move the war as far from Earth as possible.

The wisdom of this course of action remains hotly debated by historians, a debate which goes beyond the terms of this study, it was however a campaign which saw the Defenders operating at the ragged edge of their physical capabilities. The poor fuel efficiency of their laser focus reactors, combined with the heat build up from the primitive jump drive, meant than even a distance of less than six light years required multiple stops to refuel and vent heat. With no tankers yet in existence, the Defenders were forced to act as their own, establishing refuelling points in interstellar space. It is also worth noting that aside from when the ships were under thrust, the class had no simulated gravity, meaning crews were subject to both bone decalcification and muscle loss during these extended operations.
Defender Guardian damaged low re

By the end of the Bernard’s Star Campaign, the weaknesses of the class had been exposed and indeed it was fortunate none of the four received crippling damage where the fleet would have been unable to recover them. Even allowing for the heavily armoured bow shield, having to go bows on to the target to bring the main armament to bear, meant putting the jump drive directly into the line of fire. A single armour penetration was almost certain to cripple the jump drive. Even a non-penetrating strike proved all too likely to jam the movable parts of the shield, preventing the deployment of the drive nodes. But for the fact that the designers had equipped the ships with the ability to jettison the shutters, Stalwart would have been lost. The lightly armoured flanks also meant that even breaking off from an assault, left the ships vulnerable.
When the war returned to Earth’s solar system, the Defenders were involved in frequent hit and run operations around the system. As the oldest and by now least valuable of the fleet’s starships, the Defenders were used to lead assaults and cover retreats and in the last year of the war, all four members of the class would see hard use.
Given the intensity of combat in the last six months of the war, losses were inevitable and Second Pluto, saw the destruction of Protector and Stalwart, while Defender and Guardian were both severely battered as they broke the Aèllr line.

Protector battlescene SMALL
Post-war, neither of the survivors was to have a meaningful career. Badly damaged as well as being conceptually and technologically obsolete, Defender and Guardian were both decommissioned. Although some efforts were made to preserve them, this proved impractical. However, one turret from Defender was brought back to Earth, where it can now be seen at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Conclusion

Aside from the small prototype Fusionia, Defender was the first human starship. Designed and built under incredible time pressures, that they were ready when so desperately needed must be rated as one of the great technological achievements of the 21st Century. Revelations from Aèllr sources indicate that even to this day, the Confederacy believes that such ships could not have being designed and built in the time frame humanity claims, high if unintended praise for the design and construction teams. That said the Defender class was far from flawless.
Its main defects all come from a common source, namely the frontal assault principle. Quite simply, this was wrong and, with the partial exception of the raider Onslaught, has never again been repeated in any human cruiser. While directly approaching an opposing ship offered the smallest possible target, with the jump drive effectively at the centre of mass, any penetrating hit was likely to be crippling. In fleet actions, the negligible flank armour rendered the class highly vulnerable to cross fires, which in service resulted in heavy crew casualties. These mistakes can be laid firmly at the door of inexperience. With nothing beyond theory to guide them, the designers were forced to make do with simulations and guesswork. What is less easy to understand is the decision to power the ships with only a single reactor. It would appear from available documentation, that fitting the ships with two smaller reactors was rejected as the engineers sought to avoid the complications of merging two plasma feeds. This simplified the engineering burden but, combined with the largely unprotected engineering spaces, left the class fatally vulnerable to power loss. Some sources list the Defenders as system defence boats rather than true cruisers. Certainly, with their limited fuel bunkerage and inefficient power plants, operations away from a fixed base were extremely difficult, an early demonstration of the problem that would plague most of the wartime cruisers.
Although flawed, and undoubtedly flattered by a battlefield performance enhanced by the failures of their opponents, there is no question that the Defenders were largely a success. Not only did their brave assaults succeed in blunting the Aèllr spearhead, but helped the nascent Battle Fleet establish a morale superiority over more the hesitant Aèllr Defence Fleet. So while they were crudely designed and hastily built, the Defender class lived up to their name.

 

The Defender Class is part of Volume Two of Ship of the Fleet which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.UK and Amazon.COM, the release date is the 1st July. On the 15th June I’ll be putting up a second sample fleet and sending out a further sample to those on my mailing list.

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Back to basics

Another short one*, I’m currently working on a second Ships of the Fleet book as a kind of wind down from the Battle Fleet universe before I start on a new project. This book is going to be the first generation of human cruisers covering from the Contact War to the early post war classes. Some of the ships that are going to be covered I’ve previously done here on the blog but those 3D models and their write ups are now a couple of years old and particularly with the former I can do better. I’m probably going to be replacing those within the next few weeks but I’d like to give you a quick taster.

River Class Mk 2This one is the new and improved model for the River Class Cruisers, of which Mississippi is a member.

 

Early cruiser

While this one is a Contact War era design that for the moment I will decline to name.

 

So as the saying goes, watch this space! (no pun intended)

 

 

*the number of short blog entries I’ve had of late makes me wonder how The Last Charge overshot my planned word count as much as it did.

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Paperback version of Ships of the Fleet now available

I’m pleased to say that Ships of the Fleet Vol 1 is now available in paperback thought Createspace as well as Amazon.UK and Amazon.com

Ships of the Fleet coverAs I said in my last post, I really wasn’t sure how well the print on demand system would cope with images, but they have printed out quite nicely and now I have the finished product in hand,  I think paper is the superior product for this kind of material. Sure you can’t zoom in* like you can with a tablet but what you do is establish a fixed page layout. Obviously I have SotF on my own kindle and tablet and it is rather obvious that the spacing is rather thrown out by images as the machine will leave large blanks if it can’t fit the entire image on the screen.  There isn’t really anything that can be done about it because different people will use different text sizes or screen orientation – I’ve noticed the e-book versions of the Osprey military history books suffer the same problem. Which I think shows why paper books are going to be around for a while yet. There is always likely to room for a premium version of practically anything.

In related news work is well underway for Ships of the Fleet Volume 2. This one will cover the cruisers of the Contact War through to the early post war period. So for readers of the Nameless War that means Hood and the rest of the Geriatrics squadron through to Mississippi. So far I have the first two models done, with the write up for one of them, which leaves another four models to do.

Until next times regards.

 

*except as Red Dwarf would put it by moving your head closer 🙂

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Update

Alright, I’m aware that of late this blog has been so quiet there might as well have been tumbleweed blowing across it. I’ve been putting together a paperback version of the Ships of the Fleet Volume 1 and beginning to put together Volume 2. Now right this second I’m not sure if the paperback version will ever actually see the light of day. It really depends on how the images look when the proof copy reaches me in a week or so. On volume 2 productivity is beginning to happen mostly because I’ve got back into the habit of dragging my old laptop into the day-job to do some work at lunch time. I say dragging because it is like I said old and it weights a bloody ton. So if I’ve carried it in and I’ll have to carry it back home, then I’m damn well going to do something useful it! So productivity through back pain, probably not one you are ever going to find in a writing book, but you can have that one on me.

Regards.

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Once again – I ain’t dead

Okay quick update. I’m currently in the middle of my post book launch flounder. I don’t know how it works for other authors but I find writing can be broken down into two distinct categories. The first and frankly most enjoyable is the initial writing – the first draft, where you take a blank screen and attempt to fill it. The second is the the re-writing, tweaking, changing  and editing, all with the aim of turning the diamond in the rough into… well a diamond. Once the book hits the digital shelves then it is time to return to initial writing and find getting back into the zone takes me a few weeks. So I’ve decided to prioritize work on the second Ships of the Fleet book mainly because unlike the other project I mentioned, this is basically a blank sheet.

Here’s a little taste of what is to come.

Regards.

Protector MkIII colour bow closed

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Volume One of Ships of the Fleet now available for pre-order

I am please to announce that my often mentioned side project Ships of the Fleet – Battleships is now avaliable for pre-order on Amazon.

Cover SotF Vol 1 Battleships BLOG

In the forty years since First Contact, humanity has gone from a species confined to a single world, to one that has expanded across the stars. Along side this march, has been the battleship.

This illustrated guide traces the rise and development of the battleship, through years of the Contact War to the present day – covering the shifting technological, strategic and political factors which have influenced the development of these vessels. This fascinating study is an indispensable guide for any student of starship design and fans of the Nameless War series.

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

This book covers

Resilient (Contact War)

Fortitude

Resolution Class

G2 Class Battlecruiser

Titan Class

Warspite Class

The people have just had a sample sent out to enjoy, the entries for Fortitude and Warspite are going to remain available here to enjoy.

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Ships of the Fleet – Warspite Class

Warspite Class Battleship
Profile WarspiteBackground
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.
warspite beauty shotDesign
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.
Warspite sideWarspite Front and rearWarspite topService
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.
Warspite deployed
Conclusion
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.

Addendum
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.

See Ships of the Fleet Vol 1 on Amazon.COM and Amazon.UK for more

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