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A Basic Introduction to Logistics

The Logistician

Logisticians are a sad and embittered race of men who are very much in demand in war, and who sink resentfully into obscurity in peace. They deal only in facts, but must work for men who merchant in theories. They emerge during war because war is very much a fact. They disappear in peace because peace is mostly theory. The people who merchant in theories, and who employ logisticians in war and ignore them in peace, are generals.

Generals are a happy blessed race who radiate confidence and power. They feed only on ambrosia and drink only nectar. In peace, they stride confidently and can invade a world simply by sweeping their hands grandly over a map, point their fingers decisively up train corridors, and blocking defiles and obstacles with the sides of their hands. In war, they must stride more slowly because each general has a logistician riding on his back and he knows that, at any moment, the logistician may lean forward and whisper: “No, you can’t do that.” Generals fear logisticians in war and, in peace, generals try to forget logisticians.

Romping along beside generals are strategists and tacticians. Logisticians despise strategists and tacticians. Strategists and tacticians do not know about logisticians until they grow up to be generals–which they usually do.

Sometimes a logistician becomes a general. If he does, he must associate with generals whom he hates; he has a retinue of strategists and tacticians whom he despises; and, on his back, is a logistician whom he fears. This is why logisticians who become generals always have ulcers and cannot eat their ambrosia.

Unknown Author

A few months ago I did couple of posts on the subject of warship types what I thought might be useful and interesting is a short and very basic primer on the subject of military logistics and how a science fiction/fantasy writer can and probably should account for it in their work. I’m going to be mentioning some good and bad examples as well as some history books which I’ve found useful.

What Is Logistics?

At a very basic level logistics is the science of getting the what a military force needs from the centers of production (farms, factories, whatever) to the military forces directly in contact with the enemy, while at the same time moving backwards casualties, prisoners etc, etc. This is often referred to as the lines of communication and exactly what is a military force needs depends on the setting. This will involve not only transportation but also stockpiling, storage and distribution.

Early Logistics

The most basic supplies any force will require are food and drink, in a pre-industrial setting like Lord of the Rings, that can to a certain extent be obtained via foraging or outright looting. It is worth noting that for most of recorded history, an army moving through your area was a disaster, regardless as to which side it or you were on. If half a dozen soldiers with swords decided they were going to take your last milk cow, polite refusal probably wasn’t going to achieve much. The advantage of this kind of system is that there really weren’t any lines of communication for an enemy to threaten, the big problem however was it placed a serious time limit on how long an army could stay concentrated in one area. After a while all of the resources would be consumed and an army would have to move on, disperse or starve. This is where we get the whole concept of Scorched Earth; if an attacking army is faced with a region where the resources have already be consumed or destroyed, then the time it can spend in that region is severely limited. This could be a major factor in siege warfare, where the attacker could be in just as much danger of starving as the defender. So while Tolkien might be one of the founding father of Fantasy, given how how it it described, Sauron would have a hard time his armies from starving in Mordor. A fiction work that at least touches on the complications of pre-industrial logistics is Juliet McKenna’s Chronicle of the Lescari Revolution. On a final note prior to the development of the railways, movement during the Winter months and armies either dispersed or retired to winter encampments. Even in more modern times there have been battles and campaigns that have petered out because weather conditions meant supplies could not be moved up to the front.

Logistics in the Industrial Age

My men can eat their belts, but my tanks have gotta have gas.

General Patton

Up to the Napoleonic Wars it was possible for an army to at least to a certain extent live off the land, gun powder from enemy sources was usable and individual soldiers could cast their own bullets provided they could obtain lead. However somethings like cannonballs, had already passed beyond what troops in the field could make or obtain for themselves.  During the close of the nineteenth century technology changed logistics became increasingly complicated. Improvements in transportation and storage, were matched by expansion in the volumes and types of supplies needed by an army in the field. As the above quote indicates by the middle of the twentieth century oil had become the one of the dominate resources, especially for an advancing army but in general terms an army needed an unbroken line of supply leading from the factory gate to the front line and here in lies both a complication and opportunity.

An army on the advance is inherently moving away from its logistical support, while the Defender is retreating a long its own lines of communication. This means the attacker needs to be careful not to advance too far in case it out runs its supplies and leaves itself vulnerable. Even if it is advancing with no meaningful opposition in its path, an army can be brought to a grinding halt by lack of supply. The term for this that I have come across and used in my work is Logistical Brake. If you are looking for a real world example, any book covering the war in the Western Desert between the German/Italian forces and those of the British Empire is ideal, since this conflict was being fought in the open desert, which mean other complicating factors weren’t present. What you will notice as you read the history of the Desert War is how often the lines of communication were the objective. Each sides commanders sought to get through or round the opposing side to cut supply lines, since no matter how strong an armies position was, it would be worthless unless supplies could be brought to it.

Logistics, Ships and Ship Design

There is a myth that in the days of sail ships were powered by the wind, the reality is that it all depended on human muscle. Raise anchor? Human muscle. Do really anything with the sails, human muscle. Like any other engine humans required the right fuel. During the age of exploration diseases like scurvy would cut a swath through crews because it wasn’t understood just how necessary fresh fruit and vegetables were, plus storage was somewhere between difficult and impossible. In theory however, if a vessel could be kept supplied with fresh food and water, it could remain at sea for extended periods. This was best demonstrated by the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars where ships of the line blockaded continental ports for years at a time. With the coming of the steam engine a ship could be freed from the whims of wind and tide, but only as long as the fuel held out. Take a look at the two pictures below.

CalypsoHMS_CamperdownThey are respectively HMS Calypso and HMS Camperdown, looking at them you could be excused for thinking they belong to totally different time periods with Calypso perhaps being a part of Admiral Nelson’s fleet. In fact they were built at the same time – the early eighteen eighties. The difference was Camperdown was a battleship, designed to operate within European waters, Calypso was a corvette (later re-designated a cruiser) intended for places like the Pacific, where refueling points would be few and far between. In the modern navies, it is the proud ranks of fighting ships that get the attention but if you care to glance across this Wikipedia page, listing the current strength of the US Navy, you will notice that the list of non-combat support ships is longer than those that in time of war would do the fighting. An expensive necessity if the US Navy is to operate more than a few days out from its home ports.

Once fuel became a factor, the time a ship could spend at sea became far more limited and many’s a captain undoubtedly developed ulcers watching their ships’ fuel levels drop lower and lower. A fully armed, undamaged vessel might be required to turn away from a fight or not be present at the critical moment, all because it had to leave for re-supply. One fascinating demonstration of this is the hunt for and destruction of the German battleship Bismarck, where on either side ships were either forced out of the chase completely or unable to crack on the extra bit of speed that might have made all the difference. I won’t attempt detail the saga – I couldn’t do it justice – but I do recommend Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Bismarck by Ludovic Kennedy, it is now a somewhat old book and some research has become available since its publication but is an easier read for the newcomer.

Logistics and Writing

So now that we’ve covered the very basics of Logistics there remains one big question – why the heck should a writer give a two hoots about logistics, the reader wants action! Well for a start there is realism. If the work in set in a historical period, if it is to be a living, breathing world, then it needs to follow reality of that time. Whatever it costs the writer in time a research, will rewarded with a deeper work in which the reader can more thoroughly immerse themselves.  If your characters are operating in any kind of military capacity, where the next meal for themselves or those under their command is coming from, will always be a consideration.

The other reason, and this is possibly more important, is the sheer possibilities for drama it offers the writer. The General aware that if the snows doesn’t clear soon there will be famine in the camp, The starship captain hunting the alien raiders with with only fuel to search one solar system, the trooper in the front line trying to conserve ammunition as the enemy closes, this is all the stuff of drama. It may seem like a tiresome detail in fact for anyone writing any sort of military fiction logistics will be one of your most useful plotting tools.

until next time

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Ships of the Fleet – Glorious Class Fighter Carrier

Glorious profiles

Introduction

In the decades leading up to First Contact and the Contact War the concept of the spacefighter was one that had seen repeated use in the popular media. Such fictional craft allowed for the narrative to focus on a single (usually young and attractive) character who could drive the story. However in reality the idea of a manned spacefighter was technologically even more impractical than that of a starship. It was only with the arrival of the first Aèllr ship that serious work began to turn science fiction into science fact. The landing of the alien ship in the West of Ireland proved two things, that humanity was not alone in the universe and that Earth was utterly exposed. While reverse engineering of the Aèllr ship and crash development would result in first generation of human starships in less than a decade1* it was clear that Earth faced a window of vulnerability.

While unmanned either satellites or drones initially appeared to be the logical choice, on closer examination such platforms had their own problems. To begin with they would have to designed and built from the ground up. Weapons platforms were rejected because the missiles systems that might have the performance to catch powered spacecraft were unsuitable for spending months in orbit without maintenance. This reduced the options to drones or manned fighters. While a drone would not suffer the mass and volume penalties of a human pilot and their attendant life support, it would have limitations of its own. Light speed communications even over the modest distances between a control centre and high orbit would introduce lags. The further a drone was required to operate from Earth the more severe these lags would become, ruling out direct control. The only alternative would be allowing a drone significant autonomy, including weapons release authority. This was felt to be an unacceptable risk, quite simply a human had to be kept in the decision making loop. With the private sector developments in sub and low orbital flights for so called space tourism, as well as the American experimental X series, a manned space fighter was judged to be just about possible.

Raced through development and construction, Earth’s first spacefighter, the Phoenix, was available in numbers when the Aèllr’s Expeditionary Force arrived in the solar system. With the first of the Defender Class cruisers still incomplete, it fell to the fighters to be Earth’s only line of defence. The events of the First Battle of Earth scarcely need repeating, but while the fighters had succeeded in defending the planet, initially it was not believed spacefighters had any deep space role. The Bernards Star campaign forced a re-think; while the Aèllr deployed only a handful of fighters, these caused significant difficulties for the Defender Class cruisers and all but the most dogmatic big gun advocates had to admit that the fleet needed fighters.

During the First Battle of Earth the Phoenix fighters had enjoyed huge numerical advantage over their Aèllr opposite numbers, despite this the human squadrons had suffered a minimum of fifty percent losses. With the Phoenix so vastly outclassed, there were serious questions whether a carrier with a limited number of fighter represented the best use of available construction assets. In some quarters it was felt that rather than build carriers, the fleet would be better to field a point defence cruiser, along the lines of the much later Lunar Class Flak cruisers. This idea did have some attraction but would have required a high performance vessel able to react quickly to tactical developments, therefore failed to find much traction for largely production related reasons. All available torus fusion reactors and plasma cannons were already earmarked for the cruiser program, carriers could accept the performance penalties of the heavier less powerful laser focus reactors. In essence the construction of the carriers did not come at the expense of additional cruisers. The final suggestion mounting a pair of hangars on each cruiser in an arrangement referred to as a ‘battlestar’ was never seriously considered. Hangars would almost certainly be shredded by gunfire  and if hit before the fighter could be launched, the detonation of its fuel and munitions could present a significant risk to the mother ship.

Design

By the time design work began on the Glorious class work on the Commander class cruisers was already well advanced and it was felt that there was little advantage to be had from reinventing the wheel. As such the class would use a modified version of the Commander’s spaceframe. The armament was reduced to purely the point defence guns, while forward the centrifuge was extended to provide accommodation for a larger crew. The decision was made early on to house each fighter in it own hangar which would be slung from the flanks of the hull. As well allowing for the use of the spaceframe largely as was, this system avoided weakening the hull structure with large voids and outer hatches. From the tactical standpoint the carrier’s entire compliment could be launched virtually simultaneously and offered a high degree of redundancy in the event of mechanical failure or damage. In the longer term in the event that the type of craft carried altered it would be a relatively simple matter to build and fit new hangar modules. This decision was to prove one of the better features of the design and would be followed by later Battle Fleet fighter carrier designs.

Glorious two

A more questionable decision was the one to reduce the power plant to a single laser focus reactor. Since the ship would not be carrying any plasma cannons, this power plant was equal to the task of powering propulsion and the space freed allowed for increased stores but left no redundancy in power generation. This potential vulnerability was accepted because it was expected that the carriers would be shielded from direct fire by the main gun line and the additional stores meant that despite their larger crew compliment, their endurance would match that of the cruisers.

One of the most serious limitations of the new carrier were the craft it was due to carry. When ordered the expectation was that the ship would carry at least eighteen of the newly developed Valiant Drones. With Earth now at war many of the problems that had previously rule out drones were no longer an issue.  However the specification for Valiants was ambitious and the delivery date began to slip. As a stopgap it was decided to equip the carriers with the Phoenix II. While little more than a stripped down Phoenix I it did offered some improved performance but was still out classed by its likely opponents.

Service

Glorious

Completed shortly after the conclusion of the Bernards Star campaign, Glorious’s  career was would limited to within Earth’s solar system. Glorious was in the process of being refitted with hangars able to accept the Valiant Drones when the Aèllr advance fleet arrived but when enemy forward base was detected around Pluto, the carrier and her complement of four Valiants and eight Phoenixs, was assigned to the attack. While the carrier herself received only minor damage during the battle, her entire fighter group was wiped out while attempting to cover the retreat. Designated Battle Fleet Number One squadron it was never reformed and as a mark of respect remains to this day officially listed as On Active Service.

The aftermath of the New York attack and the abandonment of the Valiant program left Glorious bereft of any fighters. When the Aèllr began what was expected to be their final assault, Glorious was forced to take a place in the main gun line as little more than a target. However the June Miracle saw the withdrawal of the Aèllr fleet and Glorious, along with her newly complete sister ship, was hurriedly adapted to accept the Vampire fighter. The second human spacefigher, the Vampire had been developed as a reserve in case the Valiant program was delayed further. With the failure of the Valiant and the stronger than expected performance of the handful of Vampires that saw action during the June Miracle, it became the fleet’s primary fighter.

By now serving as flagship of the fleet Glorious’s luck was to finally run out during the Battle of the Rim. Heavily hit by gunfire from the cruiser Rinllee, her machine spaces were badly damaged and the ship lost power during her jump to Earth. Efforts to savage the ship failed and the crew were forced to scuttle the ship to prevent capture.

Dauntless

The least known of Earth’s wartime fighter carriers but ultimately the only one to survive the Contact War, Dauntless’s wartime service largely mirrored that of her older sister, while her post war career would extend far further than expected. With the end of the conflict the fleet entered a period of refection and financial retrenchment. The loss of Glorious effectively to gunfire threw into question the whole concept of the spacefighter carrier. Experience seemed to indicate that a carrier close enough to support the gun line ran the risk of being destroyed by fire from enemy cruisers, while if kept further back, the fighters wouldn’t be able to support the cruisers in a timely manner.

The arguments between the gun and fighter lobbies within the fleet meant that for twelve years following the war Dauntless remained the fleet’s only carrier. While the original laser focus reactor and engines were replaced, the first generation jump drive was not. Although this has been criticized, with her small heat sink it is doubtful whether even a second generation drive would have resulted in any meaningful improvement in mobility. This limited Dauntless’s service to within Earth’s solar system and while still listed as part of the fleet’s  first line strength, by the beginning of the twenty forties she was an asset of questionable value and within the fleet was known as The Dubious.  It was only with the introduction of Illustrious that Dauntless was finally reassigned as the fleets training carrier, a role more in line with her capabilities. Dauntless was briefly re-hangared to accept the Balefire fighter, the larger hangars reduced the compliment to eight. The abandonment of the Balefire as the fleet’s primary fighter resulted in the hangars for the Vampires being restored. This decision was made because of the larger number of Vampires available. Although increasingly antiquated, Dauntless has remained in service, last of the first generation starships and far in excess of her projected lifespan. This has mostly been due to fleet’s prioriting cruisers and battleships over fighter carrier. However the fleet has recently announced that due the exhaustion of spare parts for both Dauntless’s machinery and the Vampire fighters, the carrier will finally be decommissioned at the end of 2066. Her replacement will be a purpose built training ship built to commercial rather than military standards to reduce cost.  Due to Dauntless’s age it is expected she will be scrapped rather than reduced to reserve. At time of writing a campaign is underway to preserve the vessel as a museum ship.

Dauntless in her post war colour scheme.

Dauntless in her post war colour scheme.

1* See Ships of the Fleet Volume Two.

Author’s notes: Many moons ago I designed and put up here a version of the Dauntless, a ship that readers of the Nameless War will be familiar with. At the time I was please with it but since then my abilities with Sketchup have improved and the work I did for ships of the fleet meant that the description didn’t really work any more, so time for a re-vamp.

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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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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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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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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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