Category Archives: starship

3D Print – Dauntless

A few months ago I received from a friend print a 3D print of a file I’d given him. Finally I’ve gotten around to painting it all up and so time to show it to the world. Readers of the Nameless War might recognize this as Dauntless from the first book of the series.

3d-print-dauntless-2from the three quarters view.

3d-print-dauntless-1This was based on this design:

dauntless-imageand finally this is a screen shot of the printing file in sketchup:

glorious-class-3d-model-engine-separate

I’ve learned from experience that it is best not to attempt to modify a model intended for pictures into one for printing. Instead better to start from scratch with printing very much in mind. Because it is effectively built up in layers there needs to be a flat base and you have to avoid overhang that lack any kind of support. For that reason I chose to remove the engine pods and have them printed separately. Once I had the model I decided to print Dauntless in her Nameless War colours. An in universe history of the ship can be found here.

 

 

 

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Warships – Classes and Categories PART ONE

It’s no secret that science fiction tends to borrow pretty vigorously from history, this goes double for any SF that makes even the most casual contact with military affairs. Battleships, battlecruisers, frigates, destroyers, all of these terms are merrily thrown around but to what do most of them refer? Well I thought I might instead take more of an overview examination of some of the terms I’ve been throwing around in my Ships of the Fleet series and provide something of a quick primer for anyone considering writing science fiction.

First off to what is meant by the term ‘Class’? Quite simply this refers a number of ships built to the same or very similar design, the name of a class is usually either the name of the first to be built or the theme along which they have been named – an example of this being the British C Class light cruisers where the names of individual ships as might be expected all started with the letter C.

Yes I took this photograph in Ireland, no I did not photoshop the sky.

The Battle of Jutland veteran HMS Caroline, yes I took this photograph in Ireland, no I did not photoshop the sky.

Classes of ships that have been built in large number may be broken down into sub-classes as experience with the earlier ships or improvement in technology results in changes to the design. As ships get further into their service career then individual ships of a class will often begin to diverge, as some receive upgrades or are re-purposed for different roles. An example of this in science fiction can be found in David Webers On Basilisk Station with the hero commanding a ship with non-standard and experimental armament. On a final note often a class could receive a overall nickname, there was a class of British battleships that went by the nickname The Wobbly Eight due to their slightly questionable ability to sail in a straight line!

Now moving onto categories, my own area of interest is military vessels from about the mid eighteen hundreds to the mid nineteen hundreds and in my own work, it’s from this period I took inspiration. The first thing to realise it that there is no right or wrong answer, historically categories have been decidedly fluid. Terms have come and gone, with ships re-catagorized. Some category names were chosen because they sounds impressive, while other to sound cheaper to a fleet’s political master. The running order is going to be roughly smallest to largest with some historical and science fiction examples followed by thoughts on how it might be used in a science fiction.

Corvette

The first and smallest of types I intend to cover, during the age of sail the corvette was the smallest type of regular warship. Used for inshore work (meaning close to the coast) and general patrolling. During the late nineteenth century the term dropped out of use to be revived during World War Two and applied to small, easy to build patrol ships that could be produced in large numbers. The armament of these vessels was extremely limited – usually whatever was available – and in practical terms the only opponents against which they stood a fair chance were submarines or single aircraft. Certainly these were far from ideal vessels but were a demonstration that in the real world a balance has to be sought between quantity and quality or to put it another way – quantity is a quality all of its own. These vessels had no place in fleet actions and instead were used as convoy escorts. Often only marginally faster than the ships they escorted, this was their main flaw as surfaced submarines could often outrun them. Post war the corvette has mostly remained a inshore vessel although some are used as a fast attack type.

The science fiction view of the corvette has retained the idea of it being a small ship but often as a more front line combatant. That said the most famous corvette in SF-

tantiveivfinal

The CR90 corvette or possibly questionably named ‘blockade runner’

ended up demonstrating the inherent limitation of the corvette concept as it was chased down and crippled with relative ease by a more combat focused vessel. The Homeworld video game series presented the corvette as a small strike vessel – a missing link – larger than one man fighters but smaller than capital ships and unable to travel faster than light on their own. While in literature some books of David Drake’s RCN series were based upon a corvette class ship and for the would be writer this last point is worth considering. If you are planning story which will see a young officer gain their first command, it is worth remembering most fleets tend to start people off with something small and cheap like a corvette, in case they bend it. Command of something big and expensive is definitely not given to someone because they made the previous captain loose their sh*t – yes JJ Abrams Trek, I am looking at you. In a science fiction setting a corvette type ship could be presented at something used primarily within a single system, not really capable of deep space work but useful for various internal security duties.

Frigate

The term frigate in the age of sail was a fast maneuverable vessel that could serve with the main fleet, acting as its eyes and ears. Away from the fleet frigates performed long distance patrolling, escorts and raiding. to use later terminology the frigate might be thought of as a cruiser, although at that point in time the term was applied to any warship that was operating on its own. The armament was carried on a single deck and at least during the Napoleonic Wars there was something of a convention that ships of the line didn’t shoot at frigates unless provoked. Arguably during the late nineteenth century the frigate  evolved into the battleship

The ironclad HMS Warrior 1860, officially classed as a frigate because of her single gundeck but in practice probably capable of slugging it out with anything else afloat.

The ironclad HMS Warrior 1860, officially classed as a frigate because of her single gundeck but in practice probably capable of slugging it out with anything else afloat.

The term had dropped out of use by the start of the twentieth century but during World War Two it would be revived and applied to a category of vessel that could loosely be described as a larger, faster, more deep water capable version of the corvette. While more combat capable than corvettes these were still primarily patrol and convoy escort vessels, not really fast enough for fleet deployments nor armed for such work. The recognition of this limitation resulted in later frigates being designed for greater speed, sufficient to keep up with the fleet, while their role remain the defence of other ships.

In science fiction once again the video game Homeworld has made use of the term as the smallest capital ship with a number of specialist designs.

The always fun multibeam frigate and embodiment of 'if you're going to do it you may as well over do it'

The always fun multibeam frigate, the embodiment of ‘if you’re going to do it you may as well over do it’

While the Mass Effect prefers to present the type as a fast moving and maneuverable strike vessel able to redeploy quickly around the battlefield

Mass_Effect_Normandy_SR2

and look good while doing it

In literature David Weber’s Honorverse setting which borrows heavily from the Napoleonic Wars period but only briefly mentions as a type being phased out of service. For would be science fiction writers the frigate is possibly another type with which to start of their wet behind the ears hero. Capable of more deep space operations, with a frigate the hero can boldly go that bit further.

Destroyer

The first main fleet type we’ve examined so far, unlike the corvette and frigate the destroyer’s genesis is a good deal more recent. In the late nineteenth century the first self propelled torpedoes were invented (prior to this any weapon designed to strike underwater was called a torpedo) which was a potential game changer in naval warfare. A very small vessel equipped with torpedoes could in theory sink even the biggest warship; the French in particular seized upon this much to the concern of Britain – the leading owner of big warships. In theory large expensive battleships could be swarmed under by large numbers of small, fast, inexpensive torpedo boats. In practice these small torpedo boats never really lived up to the billing but their existence demanded a remedy. The solution to and ultimately replacement for the torpedo boat was the torpedo boat destroyer, later shortened to the destroyer. Unlike the frigate and corvette, the destroyer was always intended as a fleet vessel, with the pace to keep up with the main battle fleet. Although not much larger than contemporary frigates, destroyers usually had much shorter range as much internal space was given over to engines and armament rather than fuel supply. The early destroyers were still pretty small, boats rather than ships, so operated in groups often lead by a small cruiser. By World War Two destroyers had grown large enough to dispense with the cruiser but still operated in groups. Their role was generally to mount torpedo attacks against larger enemy ships while at the same time screening against enemy destroyers and later submarines. The other rather brutal truth about destroyers of the world wars, is that they were still small and quick enough to build that they could be viewed by commanders as somewhat expendable, if in the course of being expended they absorbed a hit intended for something more expensive.  The modern destroyer is really the primary surface combatant and unlike their predecessors really too expensive and large to be fielded in groups.

The term destroyer is probably where science fiction most drastically diverges from the historical use of the term.

You're hearing the Imperial March aren't you?

You’re hearing the Imperial March aren’t you?

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

In practical terms the Star Destroyer and the Omega class destroyer seem to operate very much more like battleships or battlecruisers. In my experience literature tends to stick closer to the idea of the destroyer as a smaller vessel that serves in groups. This can be viewed as either TV and film getting it ‘wrong’ or possibly an indication that while authors are more versed in the historical use of the term, those making film and television are more familiar with the modern reality. Which can also be taken as an example that ship classifications are not set in stone.

Cruiser

As previously mentioned the term cruiser originally referred to role rather than an actual ship type, this was to change during the nineteenth century with the coming of steam. The problem with the early steam engines was that their fuel efficiency was pretty dire and the infrastructure for fueling stations hadn’t been developed. So if you wanted to have a warship that could go anywhere you needed it, then you had to keep the masts and sails. Unfortunately those same masts and sails were heavy, required large crews and took up a lot of space. Long story short, a ship could have first class fighting ability or first class cruising ability, but not both. By World War One the cruiser had stabilized into a swift, mid-sized armoured vessel, that’s primary firepower came from guns larger than those carried on destroyers but smaller than battleship’s and yet still small enough to be built in numbers. There were exceptions to this mostly in the form of specialist designs like minelayers and anti-aircraft designs, as well as a few large and ultimately unaffordable monsters. They were used for various roles like raiding against enemy merchant ships, defending against raiders, scouting, long distance patrolling and leading smaller vessels like destroyers. By World War Two with battleships thinner on the ground, cruisers were often the major surface combatants, with the Mediterranean and the Fast East seeing a number of cruiser vs cruiser encounters. One final note is the distinction between Heavy and Light cruisers. Between the two world wars a number of arms limitation treaties defined a heavy cruiser as a vessel of up to ten thousand tons displacement with eight inch guns, while a light cruiser was a vessel of up to ten thousand tons displacement with six inch guns. Which resulted in situations even within the same navy of there being light cruisers that were heavier than some heavy cruisers!

Obviously when it come cruisers in science fiction the big name is Star Trek, with the original Enterprise usually described as a cruiser or heavy cruiser. In the rest of science fiction then depending on the setting the cruiser as either presented as the peak combatant or as something a good deal more cannon fodder-sh

I'm sure that will polish out

I’m sure that will polish out

As reader of my Nameless War series will know I use cruisers a lot, personally I find it a useful size category, big enough to be presented as a major combatant, while still small enough to be risked. It depends on the setting  but in one where resources are finite, getting from A to B takes time and your fleet needs to have ships in several places at once, then in my opinion a cruiser fits the bill. It is also possible for cruiser within your setting to be optimised for a number of specialist roles.

That’s enough for now, next time I’ll be moving onto the big stuff.

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3D print of Defender Class Cruiser

A few months ago I put up a post on the subject of 3D printing couple of photos, that post can be found HERE. Well I’ve now finished painting it and thought I’d put up another couple of pictures a long with a picture of the original computer model that that was used to create the file.

Defender WholeThis is of the sketchup file. As you can see fairly simple.

DSCF7054DSCF7052And here is the finished work, painted and inked. You might notice that there are details on the side pods that aren’t present in the model, this is detailing added using Milliput to make more obvious that these are engines. Bravely the friend that produced this has agreed to have a go at another design – Dauntless from the first book of the Nameless War, so we’ll see what comes of that. Finally to round things off we have a picture from the model I prepared for the Ships of the Fleet Book Two.

Protector MkIII colour bow closedI couldn’t use this model because it is far too complex – under the hull there’s an internal layout – and unless prepared with printing in mind you end up with gaps that basically cause the printing program to have a hissy fit.

So there we have it, interesting and kinda amazing what can be done. Oh and finally if anyone is wondering about scale it works out at about 1/666; no I did not do that on purpose.

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It’s here!

So finally Ships of the Fleet Volume Two is about to hit the digital shelves. Those of you who have it on pre-order are but a few hours away from download. But that isn’t all.

Blog two covers 2

For anyone who hasn’t yet picked up Volume One, on the 1st July, for one day only it will be available for free. Not only that but books one and two of the Nameless War will be on special offer! Can you say fairer than that?

Ships of the fleet can be found:

Battleships – available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

Starcruisers – now available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 

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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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Starcruisers – now available for pre-order

I’m pleased to announce that the fruits of my labours over the last few months are nearing completion and are now available for pre-order and Amazon.COM and UK

Cruiser cover 1This book will be covering the development and history of Battle Fleet’s first generation of star cruisers through the Contact War. For fans of the Nameless War this will be an opportunity to get a more detailed look at old favorites like Mississippi and Hood. In the next couple of weeks anyone on my Mailing List will be receiving samples.

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Mississippi Incident – Alien Ship Preliminary Tactical Analysis

FOREWORD

Please note that this is a preliminary report with two major qualifications.

1) Analysis of the data from Mississippi’s records and debriefing of the command crew is still ongoing at this time.

2) Given the severe system damage sustained by Mississippi in the first strike, combined with the ship’s aging systems, data quality was comparatively low.

Background

On the August 12th the River Class Cruiser Mississippi, while engaged in a survey of the system tentatively identified as A046-026, was fired upon and severely damaged by a starship of previously unknown design. In the exchange of fire that followed, the unknown starship was crippled then self destructed. Mississippi retreated from the system shortly afterwards.

Nameless on approach

While there was initial speculation that the vessel was of Aèllr origin, both the technology and behavior observed, have resulted in this possibility being largely discounted. Until or if evidence to the contra surfaces, it is accepted that this ship is from an unknown and previously un-encountered alien race. While our colleagues in the diplomatic corps are right in pointing out that the apparently aggression of this nameless race could have been due to host of reasons, the lack of any form of communication before firing is troubling and given that A046-026 is positioned within a handful of light years of the colony of Landfall, we can not rule out further encounters. For this reason a tactical analysis of the vessel and appraisal of its strengths and weaknesses is of significant importance.

Nameless on approach 2

Comparative Technological Levels

It is worth reiterating that there is no such thing as a consistent technological level. Based on human experience we tend to assume that alien species will develop technologies in approximately the same order and time frame as humanity. This is an error, as has been demonstrated to a certain extent by the Aèllr, Mhar and Tample. Technological progress is driven by social priorities and resources, therefore no two races will go through all the same steps and indeed, certain steps might be skipped completely.

In the case of the Mississippi Incident, this principal is more pronounced than we have ever before seen. Based on the Mississippi’s readings, this alien ship appears to be a mixture of technological levels, with some systems clearly several steps behind their human contemporaries, while others markedly more advanced. The most interesting of these – and the one most immediately identified in Captain Crowe’s report – was their scanning technology, which demonstrated Faster Than Light feedback.  Not only has this impressive feat been achieved for starship sensor systems, but this system is apparently small and cheap enough to use in a missile guidance system.

The only possible way to achieve FTL scanning that we know of, even in principle, is by gravitational detection. However to detect something as small as a starship by this means is well beyond our understanding. The second advanced system observed was the Faster Than Light transmitter. While this appeared to operate on the same first principals as our own, its pulses were much fasted than our own one point five pulses per second. Even more impressive is the apparent size of this transmitter. Currently the smallest human FTL transmitter is the American Jefferson Three in Texas and the resonance chamber alone of this device is nearly as wide than the  entire alien vessel.  While we are aware that the Aèllr are capable of building FTL transmitters smaller than our own, it is only by perhaps ten to fifteen percent. So to have fitted such a transmitter into a vessel, suggests that the device was tiny compared to our own.  It has been suggested that if such transmitters are a commonplace for this race, this may explain why there was no response to Mississippi’s attempts to communicate; quite simply radio transmissions may no longer be a method of communication used. However Mississippi detected no FTL transmissions prior to the attack so this suggestion appears very speculative.

In contrast to the scanning and communications technology, their propulsion systems are far less impressive. The image below is from the opening stages of the gun range engagement. Range at this point was under two hundred and fifty kilometres – at such close quarters even Mississippi’s old Mark III’s cannons could penetrate the main belt of a Titan class battleship.

Hit WIP

To the left and behind the alien ship we can see the plasma bolt that struck and went through the ship. It is estimated that at the moment of this frame, the bolt was seven hundred kilometres beyond the alien ship and as you can see from the close up, the bolt has retained coherency. Even at point blank, had it struck any form of armour, then the bolt would be close to final decay. If the vessel’s engines had a comparable output to those of Mississippi, then we would expect the alien ship to have demonstrated a much greater level of acceleration and manoeuvrability. As it was, the vessel only approximately matched Mississippi and the reading from her passive sensors indicate fairly low output throughout the engagement. Therefore we believe their engine technology is significantly inferior to our own.

On the subject jump drive we have nothing to offer. Since the vessel was not seen jumping in and none of the planets of the A046-026 system gave any indication of ever having supported life, we must presume the alien ship is jump capable. The ‘horns’ that can be seen on the forward hull on either side of the forward launcher, with a matching pair on the ventral hull are assumed to be the housings for the jump drive nodes.

 

The Mississippi Incident Engagement

The following diagrams are not to scale and obviously only approximately indicate the movements of the two vessels in three dimensions. The engagement itself can be broken down into two clear phases. In the first, uncertain as to what he was facing and in line with the standard rules of engagement, Captain Crowe attempted to break contact when faced  by a vessel of unknown origin. As he was inside a planetary Mass Shadow, he was unable to jump away and Mississippi was unable to out-accelerate the approaching contact. He then attempted to open a dialogue, it was only as the contact accelerated in that it was identified as a missile. By this stage decoy and evasion were no longer possible and the missile struck the port side cargo pod. Mississippi sustained heavy damage from this strike with numerous personnel casualties. In his report Captain Crowe has stated an opinion that a direct hit against the primary hull, would have destroyed Mississippi outright. Damage control efforts were still under way when a second missile was detected, this weapon was successfully spoofed by the jettisoning of Mississippi’s starboard side cargo pod. With his ship seriously damaged and no further contacts detected, Captain Crowe chose to power down and let Mississippi drift clear of the planetary Mass Shadow.

Miss Incid 1

The second phase saw direct contact between Mississippi and the alien ship. Approaching from the same direction as the two missiles, the objective of the vessel was clearly to investigate the wreckage of the two cargo pods, which we assume they mistook for the wreck of Mississippi herself. Captain Crowe held his fire until certain his ship had been detected, at this point the two ships engaged at a range of less than four hundred kilometres. The alien attempts to fire a third cap-ship missile at close range, however this weapon was destroyed as it launched. The alien then attempted to cross Mississippi’s stern to target the cruiser’s engines while Mississippi engaged with guns. Mississippi outmanoeuvred the alien vessel and hit it with a single long lance missile; this and the secondary detonation of the alien’s fuel supply crippled the ship. A FTL transmission was detected from the alien before the ship self destructed. Mississippi withdrew from the system.

Miss Incid 2

Tactical Comparison

The first and most obvious feature of this vessel is its complete reliance on missile armament. At no point in the engagement with Mississippi, did the vessel use any form of gun armament. While certain Tample star nations have fielded missile cruisers and we have currently have in service missile strikeboats, a vessel of such size without even a point defence grid is unprecedented. While in theory a missile could have much greater effective range than any direct fire weapon, in practice against a target capable of manoeuvring, the lags introduced by light-speed transmissions have always made them unacceptably inaccurate at ranges beyond half a light second. The alien FTL sensor systems appear to solve this problem, with the large missile which we are dubbing Cap-ship missiles, able to react to the target long before it could receive light-speed transmissions. Exactly what range this system is capable of firing out to is pure conjecture, based on Mississippi’s reading it is certainly capable of engaging a target from beyond plasma cannon and possibly heavy plasma cannon range. If so, this largely offsets the disadvantages of their lack of protection.

Nameless Systems

While the target of a cap-ship missile would have several minutes at least in which to engage, we can not overstate how difficult this would be. The frontal aspect of the missile – the one the target will see – was less than two metres square. Plasma cannon while capable of ranging out to one hundred thousand kilometres, are at such range only accurate to twenty metres. Only once the missiles have closed to twenty thousand kilometres, do cannons stand any serious chance of hitting. At this range, plasma cannons will only have time to complete two full firing cycles. While this is likely enough against single missiles, against multiple in-bounds it is likely a target ship would be overwhelmed.

This capacity for long range fire only appears to extends to the Cap-ship missiles, the smaller missiles, used at close range do not appear to have this capacity. Indeed these smaller missiles appear to fulfil a dual purpose. During the second phase of the engagement they were used in a close range anti-ship capacity and in a point defence role when attempting to intercept Mississippi’s Long Lance missile. In neither role did they appear to excel, being somewhat heavy for the point defence role and too light for effective anti-ship against an armoured target – in essence the classic Jack-of-all-Trades problem.

The close range encounter with Mississippi was clearly not the one the alien ship was optimised for. What we can draw from this is that any further clashes with this nameless race will be very dependent on range. Assuming all of their ships follow the same design philosophy, they will avoid at all costs close range encounters, instead long range fire should be expected.

In event of a second or large scale engagement, our most important defensive asset would be the Luna Class Flak Cruisers. With their rapid fire flak guns, a single Luna could stand off a significant number of these alien ships. While on the offensive our carrier based fighters would be our attacking vessels as these would have the acceleration to close on the alien.

Damaged Nameless

Conclusion

This alien ship is unlike anything we have previously encountered, built around an entirely different philosophy and in the event of combat, it would require a completely different approach.  Currently the tactical implications are being examined as a matter of urgency by the Tactical Analysis section. However to what extent this nameless race presents a threat can not be answered on the basis of this one encounter. No matter how impressive this one vessel, it was only one ship. Questions of this race’s economic and military strength, along with their physical location need to be answered as a part of the wider appraisal. For the moment however believe that this race presents only a moderate threat and our forces stationed around Landfall are adequate, subject obviously to review should better information become available.

The Mississippi Incident is available to read. Click this way for the sample on Amazon.

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