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Jutland Centenary – 17:33 The Grand Fleet Moves South

By now aware that a major engagement is underway Admiral Jellicoe orders forward his own battlecruisers and armoured cruisers. These encounter and force back the leading elements of the German cruiser screen ensuring that the main German Fleet receives no warning of the approaching Grand Fleet.  The German light cruiser Wiesbaden is disabled during this chaotic engagement, coming the halt close the where the Grand Fleet will later pass. Of her 589 strong crew there is a single survivor.

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Ships of the Fleet – Aellr destroyer.

An Aellr design that pre-dates contact between the Confederacy and humanity, the Psirtas class (named after towns on the colony worlds of the Confederacy) was one of the workhorses of the Defence Fleet. The first human sighting of this design came in the calamitous days running up to the First Battle of Earth. The smallest of four ships that approached the planet, with its prominent missile launcher mounted to one side of the jump drive, Psirtas class was immediately categorised by the human defenders as a destroyer. Unfortunately this misinterpretation was one of a pattern mistakes made by both sides that would see the Confederacy and Earth blunder into the profoundly avoidable Contact War.

 

NOTE Given the ongoing political tensions between the Confederacy and Earth background have come from secondary sources and may not be entirely accurate.

Aellr destroyer 1

BACKGROUND

 

The Psirtas class originate approximately fifty years before first contact; as with most Aéllr designs the class was intended to provide the Defence Fleet with a multi-role platform capable of performing search and rescue, personnel transport and internal security. As with all Aellr ‘warships’ of this period, any military role was of very much tertiary importance and little more than a fading relic of the Aéllr Reunification War of more than a century earlier. Intended to compliment the much larger Hinhle (Province) class cruisers, the Psirtas placed emphasis on acceleration over range.

 

DESIGN

 

The design can be divided into three main segment. The forward-most section, mounted the jump drive, main bridge and the two hard points for mission specific equipment. When serving in the military or internal security role, these would mount a turret, each one carrying a single plasma cannon. Alternatives to these fittings were shuttle hangars, high definition sensor arrays or docking arm. The point defence guns – primarily intended for anti micrometeorite duties – and the probe/missile launcher were permanent fixtures.

 

Mid ships was the centrifuge with two large pods. It is believed a small secondary bridge is housed within one pod but for the most part this space is given over to crew facilities. Several members of the class, usually when de-militarized have been observed with six secondary pods fitted to a large circular ring that connects the two primary pods. It is believed that like the forward hard points this a mission specific fitted when more living space is required.

 

Astern is the engineering section, protruding from the ventral and dorsal surfaces of which are the engine nacelles. The length of these is to allow the engine plume to clear the centrifuge during breaking manoeuvres. The decision to extend the engine pod in the vertical axis appears to be to facilitate the class’s search and rescue role, allowing the ship to come closer along side another vessel while maintaining the same deck orientation. A side effect of this choice of orientation is that the ship’s profile in the broadside arc was considerably larger than would have been the case if the nacelles had been side mounted. This provides another clear indication how low a priority the class’s military role was. The ship’s radiator panels are housed in the broadside circular assembly which when deployed resembled paddlewheels, leading to the class’s human nickname ‘pedalo’. Physical protection was limited to anti-radiation shielding while sensors systems took the form of small clusters scattered across the main hull.

 Aellr destroyer 2

Overall the Psirtas class with its emphasis on adaptability was very much a conservative design, following with standard practice of the time. The only significant break from previous practice was the absence of a raised bridge, a feature of Aéllr government ships since the Reunification War.

 

SERVICE

 

By the time of first contact between Humanity and the Aéllr, the Psirtas class were in their middle years, with the expectation of at least another three decades of service. While an exact number constructed is not known, it is believed to be in excess of thirty, although by first contact the earliest members of the class had been withdrawn from service. When the Aéllr taskforce was dispatched to earth a single member of the class was included to act as a scout ship. The decision to include this vessel with the ships that directly approached Earth, seems to have been born of a genuine belief that the force would face no opposition. In fact the Psirtas was to prove very much a weak link. An early direct hit to the ventral nacelle rendered the ship virtually uncontrollable while the two point defence guns left a large blind spot astern. The taskforce’s attempts to support the ship meant that it neither closed on Earth nor retreated out of range between waves of human fighters.

 Aellr destroyer 3

In the aftermath of Earth the casualty averse Defence Fleet appears to have come to the conclusion that the class was too fragile for front line operations. For most of the rest of the war the class remain within the Confederacy’s borders, covering for the Hinhle class ships that were being used to prosecute the war against Earth. The Psirtas would see direct combat when the cruiser Onslaught entered Confederacy space in the last year of the war, the Battle of the Three Systems being the most notable event of this campaign.

 

Post war it would appear that the remaining members of the class were returned to their civil role. It is believed that at least a dozen remain in service with the Defence Fleet with perhaps half as many again now owned either privately or by individual colony worlds. However sources indicate that the Defence Fleet no longer rates the class as part of it’s fighting strength.

 

 

Author’s Notes: As the first alien race humanity  encountered, with the war between them being the background event that did the most to shape the Battle Fleet Universe, the Aéllr are a very large part of the setting which I’ve wanted to explore for a while – especially since describing in Volume Two of Ships of the Fleet the human Contact War cruisers. Most of my ship designs are fairly brick like, in part because it is how I imagine then and in part because with the software I have access to, they’re a damn-sight easier to make. But I wanted to explore the possibilities of a design using much of the same basic technology but with a very different set of priorities at least as far as the limits of my talents and my computer processors capabilities.

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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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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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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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Ships of the Fleet Fortitude

Fortitude Class Battleship
Profile fortitudeBackground
The end of the Contact War saw an inevitable drop in the tempo of starship building as the exhausted but victorious Battle Fleet paused to take stock. By necessity, the first generation of human warships had been hastily designed and built. Within their limitations they had performed well, but equally there had been glaring flaws. These mostly manifested themselves in the form of poor fuel efficiency and reliability, as well as excessive heat build-up, which in turn limited jump range. All of these problems stemmed from a common source – humanity’s incomplete understanding of the advanced space faring technology it had obtained. The fleet’s first and at that point only battleship the Resilient, was beyond the point of economic repair and with the pressures of time and military necessity removed, there seemed no reason to seek a replacement for her. The fleet wanted time to mature the core technologies the next generation of ships would rely on in smaller cheaper vessels, before embarking on another major construction project.
In the decade following the war, the role of the battleship and whether it even had one, was the subject of an at times ill-tempered debate within Battle Fleet. Three competing schools of thought formed, all of which cited aspects of Resilient’s short life as evidence in support of their views.

The first envisioned the battleship as the primary assault ship, shielding the smaller cruisers during the approach before pinning down enemy heavy units in close combat. The second argued for their deployment as defensive units, much as Resilient had been originally conceived, best kept close to Earth and fixed installations, where they could sacrifice range and habitability for combat capacity – in essence a semi-mobile fortress, drawing fire away from the cruisers. The final school saw battleships as expensive and unnecessary luxuries that reduced the number of all-important cruisers the fleet could field.

What the three schools did have in common was the belief that the battleship was of secondary importance to the cruiser and also that its role extended no further than the edge of Earth’s solar system. With such divided counsel it is scarcely surprising that the fleet opted to build no battleships at all. It was only in 2042 with the failed invasion of Dryad by the Tample star nation of Rizr, that clarity and urgency was brought to the question.

While defeat of the invasion finally put to rest lingering suggestions that Battle Fleet was an organisation that had outlived its intended purpose, fleet commanders were uncomfortably aware of how close they had come to defeat. The fleet had correctly estimated that clash between humanity and the Rizr would pit quality against quantity. With this in mind, tactical planning emphasised using speed and manoeuvrability to gain advantage. However, tactical conditions had forced most of the Battle Fleet units to stand their ground and engage in a straight up fight. The brand new River Class cruiser Amazon had taken significant damage holding off the Tample and but for the efforts of the aging raiding cruiser Onslaught, would likely have been overwhelmed. The Tample star nations weren’t the only threat. The Aèllr Confederacy’s Defence Fleet, after a decade of muddled thinking, had arrested its slow decline and was starting a major new shipbuilding programme. Not only was something more powerful than a cruiser needed, but a vessel that could operate beyond Earth’s solar system. To this end Battle Fleet requested funding for the construction of a class of three battleships. In 2042 authorisation was granted for two.
Fortitude beauty shot
Design
Unlike Resilient over a decade earlier, Fortitude would not be limited to cruiser dimensions. Larger dockyards were now available and the fleet was determined to build to the limits of those docks to achieve a better and more rounded design. After exploring a number of alternatives, the design team’s first offerings followed approximately the same layout used in the fleet’s post-war cruisers, with the main armament in four turrets, with the rear pair raised so it could to superfire. Unlike the cruisers, these turrets would each mount three guns, which would grant the capacity to bring all twelve guns to bear across a wide arc. Fuel and stores would be sufficient to reach Dryad without refuelling. Propulsion would come from four of the brand new Rolls Royce Double Zeus engines, which promised a level of acceleration that would actually exceed most contemporary cruisers. Finally, the greater dimensions provided space for enhanced command and control facilities, which would allow the ship to serve as a command vessel.
While fleet commanders were broadly impressed, it was felt that a gun armament only fifty percent heavier than the Continental Class Cruisers that were also under design was inadequate and might see the ship quickly rendered obsolete. Quad turrets and a third pair of turrets mounted on the flanks were examined and rejected. Instead, the design saw the return of sponson weapon mounts for the first time since the Contact War. This gave the ship a total gun armament of sixteen plasma cannons, up to fourteen of which would be able to fire into the broadside. In addition, the ship would have four missile launchers in fixed mounts. Armour would be substantial, not only in terms of thickness but also in the percentage of the ship’s volume that would be protected. It was calculated that the main armoured belt would be immune to plasma cannon fire beyond forty thousand kilometres. With design accepted, construction began in 2044.
Fortitude was approximately ninety percent complete, on schedule and – rather uniquely for a government contract – on budget, when fleet intelligence dropped a bombshell. By means that remain classified, reading had been obtained from the commissioning tests of the Confederacy’s Rqwe class battleship, Avar. Intelligence sources had been puzzled by the fact that despite being of markedly larger than Fortitude, these newest Aèllr capital ships mounted only eight guns. Data obtained showed that while still plasma based, these weapons were more destructive per shot, with longer range. Dubbed heavy plasma cannons, these weapons effectively rendered Fortitude obsolete before she had even entered service.
Work on the ship was suspended for nearly a year as the fleet undertook a crash programme to develop its own heavy plasma cannons. However, it soon became apparent that these weapons would be too big to fit into Fortitude’s turrets. To enlarge these, the barbettes they rested upon would have had to be widened, which in turn would have meant virtually rebuilding the ship. The fleet reluctantly concluded that to modify the ship to accept the new weapons would be cost prohibitive and politically damaging. Therefore the ship would be completed as originally designed. The second ship of the class however was still at the preliminary stages of construction and ultimately this vessel would be completed as the first of the Resolution class battleships.
Fortitude sideFortitude front and backFortitude topService
While unquestionably outmoded by the time she entered service, Fortitude was by a wide margin still the most powerful human starship yet built. Upon commissioning she was immediately stationed at Dryad as flagship for the newly formed Second Fleet. It is widely believed that her presence during this period was the single largest factor in dissuading the Tample star nation of Rizr from making a second attempt to seize the system. While Fortitude never engaged Tample ships in combat, between shows of strength and goodwill tours, she became a regular sight among the star nations.

Fortitude served with no more than routine maintenance for thirteen years. It was only in 2058 that she was finally withdrawn for a by now long-overdue modernisation. The reason she had soldiered on for so long without significant modification was due to disagreement at the highest levels over what to do with the ship. Aside from the deficiencies with her armament, she had performed well. However, that weakness left her occupying an uncomfortable middle ground – too weakly armed to stand in the line against her Aèllr contemporaries, yet equally just too slow to match the pace of the newest generation of cruisers. The preferred option would have been to rebuild the ship to match the specifications of her half sisters, in effect turn Fortitude into a Resolution. But the global depression in the 2050s, with its knock-on effects on the fleet’s budget, ruled this out. Instead the fleet opted the go down a different route.

During the Contact War activities of the raiding cruiser Onslaught had succeeded in forcing the Aèllr to station a significant number of first line warships around Confederacy worlds and their main shipping lanes. However, as a lightly armed and virtually unarmoured vessel, Onslaught had been vulnerable to combat damage, making any encounter with an armed opponent a gamble. A heavy raider was a concept that had repeatedly been suggested (see entry G2), a vessel not obliged to shrink from combat could do a lot to offset the numerical superiority of the Aèllr Defence Fleet. Additionally, dissatisfaction at the low acceleration of the fleet’s heavy units meant that a fast heavy ship was increasingly seen as desirable.

With this in mind, the objective of the refit became to produce a vessel capable of outrunning anything she could not outgun. The modernisation saw the replacement of original Double Zeus engines with Goblin IIIs, plus the complete removal of the sponson mounts. This increase of thrust and reduction of mass increased maximum acceleration by almost eight percent, giving Fortitude a clear acceleration margin over not only anything in her weight class but indeed all but the fastest cruisers. Some sources refer to her from this point as a battlecruiser but the fleet’s designation remained battleship.

Officially Fortitude’s role in the event of war would be to act as a cruiser killer, able to chase down lighter units while avoiding heavier opponents. The fleet’s wargames have stressed this role, which in turn was instrumental in the development of the Warspite class fast battleships. However, commentators have postulated that in the event of a second war between Earth and the Aèllr, the ship would have immediately been dispatched over the Confederacy’s border. The seriousness of the threat Fortitude presented to the Confederacy’s internal lines of communication was recognised by the Aèllr and can be directly attributed to the development of the Gqrru class, second-class battleships.  However Fortitude’s post refit career was to be a short one. In 2063, three years after her modernisation, she was reduced to the reserve, to free resources to allow for the construction of the Warspite class. It is understood that at present the fleet considers Fortitude to be in good condition and has no plans to dispose of her.
Fortitude post modernised
Conclusion
Fortitude was first and foremost a vessel caught out by a change in technology. While her core design proved solid, the problems with her armament ultimately resulted in a ship that fell far short of her design objectives. Against her likely Aèllr opponents, the only thing she could do better was run. This left her unable to meet her central role. That said, her armament combined with her size and speed certainly meant that she could overawe the lesser powers of the Tample star nations, who during her service career were to prove the most immediate threat.

Therefore the perception that Fortitude was essentially a failure is somewhat unfair. While it is true that her weak armament always hamstrung the ship, this is not an error that can be laid at the doors of either the designers or those who commissioned her. Fortitude effectively fell victim to a change in technology that could not have been reasonably foreseen. As the fleet’s first post-war and interstellar battleship, much was learned from both her construction and operation, with the introduction of many features, which at the time were innovative and novel.

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