Having a clear concept of this helps with creating the scenery the players move through.
The naval concept in the OTU is heavily influenced by modern naval carrier task forces and the fighter heavy naval combat of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica imo.
I prefer the naval concept IMTU to be more like WWI battleships or Napoleonic era ships of the line blasting away at long range.
I want to use as many of the original CT ships as possible.
Principle of Naval Combat
Basically longest range wins so from Napoleonic up to WWI-ish the quest is bigger guns with longer range which then need bigger ships to carry them.
The limit to the range of direct fire weapons is the horizon.
When that limit was breached by planes battleships were replaced by carriers (and maybe at some point carriers will be replaced with drone / missile battleships).
How does this apply in space?
In space there is no horizon so if
- there is no stealth in space
- sensors can target ships at extreme ranges
- energy weapons are accurate enough to be able to hit even small targets at extreme ranges
- energy weapon penetrating power is controlled by the inverse-square law
then if all those assumptions are true – and I don’t know if they are but various people on forums seem to think they are – it seems to me the pendulum might swing back to battleships again because to get minimum penetrating power at the longest range means the biggest weapon possible – big in the sense of the maximum power at source.
Using abstract numbers
- a weapon with a penetration of 4 at range 1 will have a pen of 1 at range 2
- a weapon with a penetration of 16 at range 1 will have pen of 4 at range 2 and a pen of 1 at range 4
- a weapon with a penetration of 64 at range 1 will have pen of 16 at range 2 and a pen of 4 at range 4 and a pen of 1 at range 8
So back to big weapons needing a big power supply carried by a big ship.
At the limit where weapon tech > ship tech there should be single weapons which can take all of the biggest ship’s maximum power output. Even in that case though if there’s physical space for them a battleship could have redundant weapons. For example (again using abstract numbers) a 64 ship with 64 max energy output could have a single 64 spinal and 4x16s and 16x4s and switch power as necessary.
Again, I don’t know enough to know if the assumptions hold but some people seem to and I prefer the idea of monster battleships to monster carriers so that’s that.
- capital ships
- fleet escorts
Capital Ships (Battleships and Dreadnoughts)
These operate together to form the core of the battle fleet.
Assuming big energy weapons as the core there are two models.
If weapon tech > ship tech such that weapons can be built which use all the ship’s power then capital ships might become dedicated to a single large, long range weapon – I’ll call this the Dreadnought model.
If ship tech > weapon tech such that ship size / power output is always higher than the biggest available weapons then you have a more traditional battleship type with multiple large guns – I’ll call this the Battleship model.
In either case if physical space is available the ship could also have redundant smaller weapons and allocate energy according to need.
For example a 64 ship could have 1 x 64 weapon or 4 x 16s and in both cases firing those weapons would take all the ship’s energy. The ship could also have 16 x 4s in reserve for close range but they can only be fired if energy is taken away from the big guns.
If ship size tech and weapon size tech advance separately then which model is dominant may cycle over time e.g. every time max ship size increases it might take a while for weapon size to catch up so
- mature size and weapon tech -> dreadnought with single spinal weapon using all power e.g. a 64 with 1×64
- new ship size and old weapon tech -> battleship with multiple weapons e.g. a 64 with 4x16s
Fleet Escorts (Destroyers)
Fleet escorts are ships designed to protect capital ships from specific threats their long ranged weapons can’t deal with or can be overwhelmed by, like
- submarine – stealth close range attack
- torpedo boats – swarmed
- planes – swarmed
- missiles – swarmed
If there is no stealth in space (assumption) and if sensors can see and hit small targets at extreme ranges (assumption) then in theory even a few long range weapons might be able to take out a swarm especially if a capital ship has secondary short range weapons that can take over when the swarm gets closer.
For example a 64 with
- 1 x 64
- 4 x 16s
- 16 x 4s
- 64 x 1s
getting swarmed from range 8 then even if the targets can cover one range band per turn (not necessarily likely given these range bands are measured in thousands of Km) that’s
- 1 shot each at ranges 5-8, total 4
- 4 shots each at range 3 and 4, total 8
- 16 shots at range 2
- 64 shots at range 1
for a total of 92 shots – so you’d need a pretty big swarm.
However it’s possible so let’s say the second ship type would be fleet escorts called destroyers carrying lots of short range weapons who move with the capital ships as insurance against swarming.
They can range greatly in size, their main distinction being their focus on multiple short to medium range weapons to deal with swarms.
- size 16 with 4x4s and 16x1s
- size 8 with 2x4s and 8x1s
Fleet Scouts (Escort Carriers or Shipborne Fighters)
The capital ships main advantage is range so to avoid ambushes – enemy fleets hidden behind planets, moons or inside gas giants etc – a battle fleet needs scouts.
These scouts travel with the fleets and provide recon within the current system as opposed to ships who recon systems away from the fleet.
The main distinction of a fleet scout is to be expendable.
Scouts could be small ships but fighters seem like they would be more cost effective.
They could be carried in an Escort Carrier or alternatively each battleship could have a squadron of scout fighters.
The ships of the line offload some of their cargo, medical, repair capabilities onto auxiliaries to free up space for more weapons and armor.
In particular imtu fuel purification takes a lot of space so fleets generally include specialist fleet tankers as auxiliaries. They are generally not tankers in the usual sense but carry fuel shuttles and fuel purification equipment to refuel a fleet as fast as possible.
Detached Duty Ships
- cruisers: patrolling, recon, raiding, anti-piracy etc
- merchant escorts
In modern parlance cruiser generally has a size connotation but originally it was functional – ships that performed cruising duties separate from the the fleet. I am using the functional description.
Cruising duties would include things like
- courtesy visits
- deep raiding
Cruisers can be vary greatly in size depending on task and often labeled by size
The general pattern will be
- smallest: corvette to frigate
- medium: frigate to light cruiser
- largest: cruiser to heavy cruiser to strike cruiser etc
There are a lot of different varieties for different tasks but the common thread is their primary trait is movement so when necessary cruiser design tends to sacrifice weapons or armor for speed and self-sufficiency.
These might be Corvettes (cluster patrols) up to Frigates (silk road patrols) or sometimes obsolete Destroyers i.e. a fleet escort design from an earlier era that continued in production for merchant escort duties.
Main Battle Fleet Composition
The main battle fleets are generally restricted to the alpha clusters and the trade lines between them partly because defending the alpha clusters is their primary purpose and partly because refueling is such a major undertaking.
The main component of the battle fleets are battleship squadrons where each squadron is a unit comprising one battleship and its various support ships and auxiliaries.
- 1 x battleship
- 1 x escort carrier
- 3 x escorts
- 1 x auxiliary (medical, workshop, supply)
- 1 x tanker
- 1 x frigate (odd jobs)
A battle fleet is then made up n battleship squadrons and a flagship squadron.
- 1 x largest battleship
- 1 x escort or maybe a strike carrier
- 3 x escorts
- 3 x auxiliary (large medical, large workshop, large supply)
- 1 x large tanker
- 1 x frigate (odd jobs)
and one cruiser squadron (frigates) for recon in systems around the main fleet.
Cruisers are organized in squadrons of eight by function but generally operate in smaller groups.
Raiders and deep raiders may operate in squadrons or half squadrons.
Sizes vary greatly – from smallest to largest
- colonial cruisers – sub-sector patrol
- frigates – silk road patrol or battle fleet recon
- heavy cruiser – raider
- battle cruiser – deep strike raider
A standard colonial patrol squadron might be
- 2 x colonial cruisers
- 6 x colonial frigates
“Colonial” in front of the name generally means one size lower than the fleet equivalent so
- a fleet corvette of c. 1200-1600 dtons -> a colonial corvette of c. 400-600
- a fleet light cruiser (frigate) of c. 3k to 5k dtons -> a colonial cruiser of c. 1200-1600 dtons
just for example assuming max size was 500k dtons
- colonial corvette/frigate 400-600
- colonial cruiser 1200-1600
- fleet corvette 1200-1600
- patrol cruiser (frigate) 3k-5k
- strike cruisers (raider) ??
- battle cruiser (deep raider) ??
- fleet escorts (destroyers: ??
- capital ships 500K
So in my 3I the type of naval ships players might encounter would be:
(1) in alpha systems and occasionally other important space, some or all of a batron or multiple batrons of
which could be IN or colonial navy, plus any of the below.
(2) silk road truck stop systems
- patrol frigates from alpha to alpha usually in pairs
- fighters from orbital station
(3) hinterland systems and truck stop systems in between
- colonial cruisers from colonial navy – solo or in pairs
- gazelles – local planetary navy
- colonial cruisers from colonial navy – solo or in pairs
(4) anywhere but generally only in wartime
- patrol frigates – solo or in pairs
- strike cruisers – squadrons or half squadrons
- battle cruisers – squadrons or half squadrons
Trillion Credit Squadron uses a rough rule of thumb of 500Cr per person as the yearly navy tax so that’s 500 billion Cr per billion population (modified by TL etc).
TCS then says multiply that by ten to get total allowable fleet tonnage, say
- 20% of it goes on static defenses and sundry other admin functions
- 40% goes on colonial navy
- 40% goes to the sector
Total populations are given in the Spinward Marches supplement.
So for example Glisten is listed as c. 4.5 billion so that’s c. 2,250 billion x 10 in total, or x 4 for just the colonial fleet so that’s 9000 billion Cr. This sum can be used to roughly figure out the size of Glisten’s colonial navy.
A Tigress is c. 340 billion, so say that is ballpark for a capital ship generally and with the other ships a standard Batron comes to c. 500 billion in total.
So we can guesstimate Glisten’s colonial fleet at 8 Batrons plus sundries.
So a Glisten sized Colonial Fleet might be:
- main battle fleet of 8 x Batrons and 1 x cruiser squadron (frigates)(recon)
- cruiser squadron (frigates) (silk road patrol)
- colonial cruiser squadron (hinterland and backwater systems)
- various SDBs and orbital stations in important systems
As a defensive force a colonial fleet generally won’t have raider or deep raider cruiser squadrons but might do in some situations.