Tag Archives: warship

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 The type ultimately was superseded by the last generation of battleships which could match their speed with compromising protection, I’ll cover that later.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 print of Defender Class Cruiser

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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