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Warships – Classes and Categories PART TWO

Welcome back, we left off with cruiser so it is time to move onto the big stuff!

Battlecruiser

The term battlecruiser (or battle cruiser) is one the turns up a lot and there is no doubt that it is one that still carries a certain glamour. Historically the battlecruiser is a type that first appeared at the start of the twentieth century having evolved from an earlier category ship called the armoured cruiser. The armoured cruiser was a vessel as large as a contemporary battleship, while having smaller guns, thinner armour but longer range and greater speed. As combatants they were considered second only to the battleships and would often serve as flagships on more distant postings. The battlecruiser was envisioned as a vessel carrying battleship sized guns with the then new steam turbine engines, giving them a marked advantage in both speed and firepower over their predecessors.

HMS Invincible, the first battlecruiser, although for the first few years of her existence she was referred to as a Large Armoured Cruiser.

HMS Invincible, the first battlecruiser, although for the first few years of her existence she was referred to as a Large Armoured Cruiser.

So marked that in fact that when during World War One battlecruisers came up against contemporary armoured cruisers, the result was utterly one sided. In the run up to the Great War, with the expectation of mass fleet actions, the battlecruiser was envisioned as a kind of heavy scout, one that would brush aside the enemy’s forward screen and identify the location of the main force. With their lighter armour they were not expected to engage comparably armed ships. Unfortunately in practice commanders couldn’t resist the opportunity to add extra heavy guns to the main battle line. The battle cruisers’ reputation never entirely recovered from the loss of four battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 (while only one elderly battleship was sunk) and in certain academic quarters it is questioned whether as an idea the battlecruiser was bad one from the outset. Between the two World Wars the largest warship afloat was in fact a battlecruiser – HMS Hood. The type ultimately was superseded by the last generation of battleships which could match their speed with compromising protection, I’ll cover that later.

In science fiction portrayals of the type vary mostly in terms of where it stands in the overall hierarchy. Star Trek – with the odd exception – has mostly chosen to use the term battlecruiser for the peak combatants of the Federation and other major races. Given that within the Star Trek setting speed expressed as a high warp figure is usually the measure of a vessels’ power, combined with long range these ships seem to have, the term is fairly appropriate.

A Romulan D'deridex class Warbird or battlecruiser

A Romulan D’deridex class Warbird or battlecruiser, fast, powerful and apparently the most powerful Romulan warship until the film Nemesis.

In other setting the battlecruiser is very much more of an intermediate step between cruiser and battleship.

From the board game Battlefleet Gothic

The Mar Class from the board game Battlefleet Gothic is a good example of this type.

Which in a lot of setting seems to leave the type without a clear role; is it a big cruiser or a small fast battleship? A question that mirrors the problems that bedeviled the real battlecruiser. Personally I’ve made only limited use of the term but it is one that is useful for science fiction writers giving as it does a sense of a vessel with both enhanced fighting ability but sufficient mobility for all sorts of other roles, including that of a flagship for postings further from home.

Battleship

Of all the naval terms used by SF battleship is probably the best known. Historically the battleship began in the age of sail as ‘The Line of Battle Ship’; equipped with cannons firing out of the sides of the hull. Also known as ships of the line this arrangement meant that logically squadrons and fleets of these ships fought in long lines, where each ship could bring its guns to bear unhampered by friendly ships. Ships of the Line are generally classes according to the number of guns they carried, HMS Victory in Portsmouth, with her hundred plus guns is an example of a First Rate, the most powerful ships of the age. During the 19th century The Line of Battle Ship changed from wooden walls and black powder cannons to steel hulls and steam power. The fleet with the most battleships (The United Kingdom for really all of the century) was the one that ruled the waves.

Nelson's former flagship, by curious coincidence Victory was laid down the same year Nelson was born.

Nelson’s former flagship, by curious coincidence Victory was laid down the same year Nelson was born.

One thing that does tend to be overlooked in regards to the battleship is its symbolic status. During the nineteen and early twentieth century, a battleship – for those that could afford them – was symbol of a countries economic prowess. While for those nations that could actually build them, they were a very tangible demonstration of that nation’s technological abilities. When in the eighteen nineties the USA made the decision to rebuild its navy – which by that stage was little more than a collection of antiques left over from the civil war – a very deliberate decision was made to have them designed and built in America, thereby demonstrating the USA’s arrival as a major power. The battleship’s usefulness in combat came from the fact that it was bigger, better armed and better protected than anything else bar another battleship. In theory anyway. Between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and World War One, a period when ship design radically changed, there was only one serious battleship clash –  Battle of Tsushima in 1905. It was also until the coming of the aircraft carrier the most expensive thing afloat. This years we saw the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest battleship battle ever fought and one that ended inconclusively because battleships, with their vast price tag and build time of years, were too precious to be idly risked. Ultimately the battleship was replaced as the main combat unit by the aircraft carrier. A lot of sources will say that this was due to the destruction of the American battleships at Pearl Harbour but in fact it was the sinking of the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse off Singapore a few days latter that confirmed that power had shifted. Still the battleship remained useful until beyond the end of World War Two, not least because once equipped with suitable anti aircraft guns they were capable of shielding other ships are part of a layered defence from enemy aircraft. The last generation of battleships are often referred to as fast battleships as these vessels were as fast as the earlier battlecruisers, but without the weaker protection.

In SF probably the best example of a space battleship (in the West anyway) comes from New Battlestar Galatica, a vessel a vessel that this really more of a battlecarrier than a pure battleship but during the course of the series it was shown that a battlestar was a very capable combatant even without its fighters being able to hand out a beating.

Galactica_fights_off_missile_salvos

As well as take one.

Taking fireThe battlecarrier idea with a vessel capable of directly engaging a target but also to launch fighters. In reality the battlecarrier idea never gained much traction mainly because the flight deck large turrets both needed to occupy the same space and if aircraft were to be able to operate, they needed to be kept well clear of the water, which would make the battlecarrier a large target in a gun battle.

Which didn't stop people from dreaming.

Which didn’t stop people from dreaming.

Dreadnought

This one really isn’t a true warship class and within SF something of a personal hate. In 1906 Great Britain launched the first of a new series of battleship – HMS Dreadnought. Up to that battleships had been powered by machinery called reciprocating engines,  while their armament was a small number of large guns and larger number of smaller pieces. Dreadnought was equipped with steam turbine engines, which allowed her to go faster for longer and dispensed with the smaller guns in favour of a larger number of heavy guns. Dreadnought set the pattern that would be followed up to the end of the battleship age but up to the end of World War One a substantial number of the older type remained in service. To distinguish between the new and the old, the term dreadnought and pre-dreadnought came into use. The terms dropped out of use once the pre-dreadnoughts were retired but the term dreadnought has remained to be used in SF as a gunship even larger than a battleship.

Aircraft Carriers

The aircraft carrier is probably the most self explanatory warship class and recognizable type of warship, with its long clear fight deck and offset bridge structure, a vessel that carries a substantial number of aircraft which represent its main offensive capacity. Armament of the carrier itself is limited to self defence. The early carriers were usually conversions of battleships or battlecruisers, with the full length deck and offset bridge structure (usually called the island) developed through trial and quite a lot of error. The main advantage of a carrier is the aircraft that represented its teeth could be changed or replaced comparatively easily. A battleship with three quarters of its guns shot away is going to have to head home for repairs, a carrier that’s lost three quarters of its planes could fly on replacements within hours.

Dauntless in her post war colour scheme.

Yes, one of my own

In SF the pure aircraft or fighter carrier seems to be something of a rarity with the battlecarrier a more popular choice, likely because from a storytelling point of view a vessel that has to keep well clear of enemy ships is less exciting than one that gets in close. To a certain extent this makes some sense as a lot of setting with space fighters don’t give these craft any faster than light capability, meaning the carrier has to get into harms way to deliver its fighters. There are also possible variants to the concept, carriers for landing troops or depending on the technology level of the setting, fighters for fighting in an planet’s atmosphere is ground bases haven’t been established ( for such ships I used the term drop fighter carrier )

Other Misc terms

Monitor  

A term originating from the American Civil War, this type was low freeboard vessel (not much hull above the waterline) with turret mounted armament. During World War One the term changed to refer to a shallow draft vessel ( not much hull below the waterline ) designed for shore bombardment.

Landing craft

Ranging from small boats to medium sized ships, these vessels are designed to deliver troops and materials without needing a proper dock.

Q-Ship

Now this is an odd but fun one. By World War One sonar had not been invented, making the detection and hunting of submarines difficult. One of less crazy idea (and by god there were some crazy ones) was the Q-Ship, a converted civilian ship – usually a small tramp steamer – with its cargo holds often filled with barrels for added buoyancy and a few guns carefully concealed. This allowed it to continue to masquerade as a transport, one large enough to be worth destroying but small enough not to be worth a torpedo. When encountered, the sub would hopefully surface to attack with its deck gun at which point the Q-ship would drop its disguise and open fire. The actual history of the Q-ships includes some anecdotes which even fiction writers would struggle to make up.

 

Conclusion

So there we have it, a basic guide  to ship classifications but as I said on this topic where there is no such thing as one single right answer. As ever thoughts and comments welcome.

 

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3D printing of ships of the fleet

A slightly incomplete post but something I’m too excited about to sit on. Via a friend who is versed in the dark arts of 3D printing I have got my hands on a print of one of my very own designs.

IMG_20160306_234550IMG_20160306_234601IMG_20160306_234626

Once I have access to my main computer and modeling paints I’ll be putting up an image of the original file and the completed model but for the moment here we are.

 

 

 

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Don’t break your universe or responsible use of FTL

NOTE: During this post I’m going to be mentioning plot points from number of books, films and television series, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and New Battlestar Gallactica.

Introduction

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

In fact space is so big that trying to express it in any units of distance that you as an individual can have personal experience of, will rapidly result in a figure with an unworkable large number of zeros at the end. On a day to day basis this isn’t too much of a worry but if you are a science fiction writer or scriptwriter, then in presents something of a problem. Unless you’re prepared to limit the story to a single solar system or spend years or centuries getting between stars, you need to have some kind of Faster Than Light (FTL) travel system. While not completely impossible, trade, warfare or even exploration become a damn-sight more difficult without an FTL system. The problem however is that currently as far as we know traveling faster or even at light speed, is flat out impossible. While real world science has offered some small crumbs of comfort – wormholes, quantum tunneling, the recent EMDrive, etc – basically crossing interstellar distance in anything less than years is off the table. So FTL is often given a pass within stories that otherwise are attempting to be Hard Science Fiction, a fact that can often leaves the most dedicated Hard SF writers guilt-ridden.

There are basically two forms of FTL in science fiction, the Star Trek style, where ships fly through… something and can change course, speed and even potentially fight other vessels. The alternative is the Jump model, where a ship jumps from point A to point B, not interacting with the space in between the two points. Sometimes this is due to the engines carried by the ship, in other settings it is fixed ‘jump points’ through which the ship travels. The important thing to remember about both models is that scientifically they are both baloney, basically they run pure Handwavium – a substance obtained when the writer waves their hands and says ‘don’t ask awkward questions, just accept it and move on’.

Establishing limits

Okay so if we’re willing to break the laws of reality once, we might as well not worry, the FTL drive will do whatever the plot needs it to do any any given moment. That’s okay right? No, no, it is not. Breaking internal consistency will break any story, even one outside the genre of science fiction or fantasy. Imagine watching a police drama where the lead character is established as overweight, over-the-hill, smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. Where early in the episode he attempts to chase a suspect and wheezes to a halt after twenty yards. But when the plot requires can suddenly run like a cheetah. That lack of consistency will see the viewer reaching for the remote.  Within fiction internal consistency is sacred, figure out what can and can not be done then once the rules are established keep to them!

But more insidiously, the writer needs to consider the implications of those rules.

Now viewers of New Battlestar Gallactica might well remember this scene from season three episode four. To get around the enemy ships guarding New Caprica, Galactica jumps into the upper atmosphere launching fighters during free fall to destroy the enemy positions, before jumping back into space.

INCOMING!

INCOMING!

Visually there is no doubt that this is really, really cool. However it also blasts a massive hole in the internal logic by making planets completely impossible defend. Think about it for a moment, if this is possible then why not strap an FTL drive onto a nuclear bomb or even a big rock? Orbiting starships can provide no defence when a projectile only appears a few hundred meters above the target. A few scenes later we see human ships jump out after lifting off only a few hundred meters from the surface, which begs the question why do these ships need space engines? Why not an interstellar helicopter, one that can take off from the ground, then jump into space, jump to where it wants to go, then jump into the atmosphere there and lower itself back to the ground.

Elsewhere in science fiction new Star Trek invented transporters capable of beaming an individual from one solar system to another, again rendering the central premise of the setting un-workable. While during the recent Force Awakens film we saw the Millennium Falcon being used to penetrate the shields of the Starkiller base by only emerging from FTL within the atmosphere of the planet. Which again begs the question if this is possible why not simply pound the target with nuclear ( or whatever ) weapons until the problem goes away? Sure a percentage, maybe even a large one, will fail but if one got through, then others will also manage it.

Now to a certain extent film and television has the advantage that the narrative keeps moving, the viewer doesn’t have the time stop and immediately think about what has been shown and the possible implications. Literature doesn’t have that advantage.

Those of you who have read my Nameless War Trilogy will be aware of something I called the Mass Shadow, an area of gravitational effect around planets or other large space bodies. Within a Mass Shadow a ship could neither jump in or out and would instead have to travel to the edge at sub-light speeds. Now I didn’t invent this just to torture my characters ( not just ) I did it to make it possible to have a war in space. Without it the basic setting would not work, because enemy ships would be able to appear above a planet and nuke it vigorously before anyone of the ground could say Whoops Apocalypses. With it ships were forced to jump well clear of a planet and with that I was able to explore all kinds of tactical difficulties and options. Most space based science fiction literature that I have come across makes use of similar mechanisms for the same reasons. The only one that I have come across without a limiting factor is John Scalzi‘s Old Man’s War setting; in this it is possible for space vessels and armed drones to jump in above a planet and immediately be able to fire on the surface. In essence it is possible for a planet nuked out of existence before it knows it is under attack. However Scalzi has made this workable, the life supporting planets are the prize being fought over, rendering weapons of mass destruction unusable.

Conclusion

Science Fiction allows us to break the rule if we are unwise but what we should seek to do is change them but only once and consider the implications. Whatever the rules, they offer both limitations and opportunity and we must consider both. If the question is asked ‘why don’t they simply do X’ then a solid answer has to be given, ‘because I say so’ is not going to cut it. There can be the great temptation break or bend the rules to get characters out of an difficult situation but to do so leaves a setting with no substance and if you find yourself writing you way into such a scene, then time to step back and be responsible in your use of FTL.

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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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Filed under Book Three of the Nameless War, Ship design, starship

Battle Fleet Universe – The Fuel Industry

For an observer from the early part of the century with its reliance on petrochemicals, it may come as a surprise that that only a few decades later the oil industry has largely withered away, with only a few industrial processes continuing to use oil and its byproducts. For energy generation fusion has become Earth’s principal power generation technique.  The principal source of fuel for this, is the harvesting industry that has been constructed around Saturn.

refinary 3

With Helium-3 concentration in Saturn’s atmosphere at about 10 parts per million, fuel can be harvested from the planet’s upper atmosphere by dedicated atmospheric skimmers. The cargo of these vessels is then transported to the refineries that orbit the planet, which separate out the useful elements. While some of these such as the Kyŏn Three platform pictured above, are government owned, the majority are owned by publicly listed corporations – many of which were businesses that converted from being oil companies.

Once purified the Helium-3 needs to be transported to Earth. This work is largely carried out by a type of vessel known as Slow Boats

slowboat approaching Earth

These vessel are not equipped jump drives, instead they spend months making the transit between Saturn and Earth in Real Space. Since once they have climbed out of Saturn’s gravity well they coast the rest of the distance, they are unmanned for the majority of their journey. It is only during the passage in and out of orbit that for safety and legal reason these vessels boarded by a pilot.

Slow boats fleet make up the majority of traffic within the solar system, operating in a steady stream, their passage is timed to create a continuous supply of fuel to Earth.

Slowboat & pilot 1

Interstellar Tankers

Interstellar fuel transports are by comparison much rarer. The majority of interstellar tankers are part of Battle Fleet’s logistical train. Those in civilian or government operation, serve mostly in the support of the colonies. Currently Earth has two colony worlds, Dryad and Landfall. A slow boat system is already in place for Dryad but in both cases tankers are used to support transports on route and bring in additional fuel where short term demand outstrips local transportation.

tanker 2

While the fuel source has changed, one fact that after fifty years remains the same is the fuel supply lines remain the lifeblood of civilization and society, as their security remains a primary concern for both militaries and governments.

 

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