Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Cylon War

The infamous Basestar was originally a large carrier for Raiders and Cylon ground assault troops, although the term "Barge" might be more appropriate as the Basestars were poorly armoured and relied on their long range missile firepower and massive numbers of Raiders to deal with enemy threats and if something got through, it was sufficiently large to absorb even major hits.  At worst a few hundred Cylons could be destroyed, they were after all ... disposable.

Though Battlestars were originally designed to be superior to Basestars, the Colonial Fleet was in for a rude awakening.  Nearly all rebelling Basestars were destroyed in the initial fights, leading Fleet Command to believe the war would be over in a matter of weeks or months.  But when the Colonial Fleet went beyond the Red Line to search for the surviving Basestars they met something unexpected.  For years the Cylons has secretly been building installations on distant planets and moons, building new, more powerful Basestars that were much more advanced than the original designs.  Outwardly identical to the first generation they were better armoured and compartmentalized to reduce internal damage.  They had been redesigned to carry more Raiders and most importantly the slow, lumbering Basestars with limited jumping capability were now fast and deadly raiders that could attack any Colony World.  Colonial forces were suddenly pushed on the defensive and stretched to the limit in trying to protect the Twelve Colonies and many more outposts and orbital cities.  In order to strengthen their defenses the Colonial Fleet had most outposts evacuated and millions of people were on the move to safer worlds within the umbrella of the Fleet's jumping range.  A few refused to leave and remained behind, but their outposts were soon overwhelmed by the Cylons.

The fact that a Basestar could appear at any time in orbit around a Colony World came as a shock to most people.  Even if a single nuclear got through it could kill millions and the Colonial Fleet did not have the capacity to fight an extended campaign beyond the Red Line.  Early struggles were bitter defensive battles such as the Two Battles for Caprica as well as the terrible ground fighting on Aerilon, Saggitaron and Libra.

The First Battle for Caprica proved to be a turning point.  The seemingly relentless Cylon onslaught ground to a halt.  For the first time it became clear to the Colonials that the Cylons did not have limitless resources and Basestars.  Their gamble to destroy the richest Colony had failed and they began to regroup and rebuild, giving the Colonial Fleet some breathing space.

Desperate to strike back, the Colonial Fleet gathered Task Force Brimstone also known as the "Invincible Armada" under Admiral Irinia Murata.  Five Battlestars, three Gunstars, two Missilestars and a dozen strike- and skirmishstars.  The plan was to destroy a major Cylon shipyard, which in fact was a carefully laid trap.  Battlestar Acropolis sacrificed herself so that Murata's command ship the brand-new Battlestar Longbow could escape.  Her final fate is unknown to this day.

But even if the Cylons scored a major victory that day they never were able to pose such a threat as First Caprica.  The war went on for nine long years and became a series of raids, trying to catch the other unaware.  In the closing days of the Cylon War the Colonial Fleet had dramatically expanded and had more than enough Battlestars to conduct extended operations deep into Cylon territory, forcing them further back into space and leaving the Colonies less vulnerable to attack.  The Cylons did fight for every planet, moon and asteriod, exacting a high cost.  When after twelve years of warfare the Cylons suddenly offered an Armistice the Colonies gladly accepted.

According to declassified records the Cylon Fleet had been reduced to little under a dozen Basestars, while the Colonial Fleet had nearly 40 Battlestars and more than 200 other ships with many more being built.

Today the Colonial Fleet boasts nearly 120 Battlestars and ten times that number in Gun-, Skirmish- and other Strikestars.  The Cylons have been pushed back to the Armistice Line, an area of space sufficiently deep to prevent their ships to reach the Colonies in less than three jumps.  Automated listening stations with relay jump couriers would warn the Battlestars guarding the Line of an impending attack and give the Colonial Fleet ample time to muster her considerable strength and stop the Cylons before they could reach any Colony.

The Cylon war cost nearly 65 million casualties the vast majority of them civilians.  Of 80 Battlestars built during the war, nearly half were destroyed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The First Battle for Caprica

The first Battle for Caprica was one of the key events early in the Cylon War.  The Colonial Fleet was overstretched, trying to protect the Twelve Colonies all at once and a direct strike to one of the most important worlds might cripple the war effort. 

The Colonial early warning system set up by the Colonial Fleet for such emergencies functioned as dozens of courier raptors located several Battlestars within minutes of the first Cylon ships jumping.  The Kobol and Acropolis arrived within 15 minutes of being hailed.  The Avalon and Athena arrived later.

It was a hard-fought battle with Colonial Ships struggling against superior numbers.

Circe, Hoplite, Challenger, Cassius, eight destroyers and four carriers were lost with most of their crews.  Nearly half of the ground squadrons of Vipers and Pythons defending Caprica had ceased to exist.

Including two planetary nuclear strikes, 278,457 people had died or been injured, more than three quarters were civilians.

A nugget, still in training had become an ace overnight, taking down 11 Cylon raiders.

The Cylon fleet was composed of 24 Basestars and 300+ Raider squadrons (8 destroyed)

The Colonial Fleet was composed of the following ships :

Battlestar Atlantia + 6 viper squadrons
Gunstar Challenger (destroyed)
Skirmishstar Hoplite (destroyed)
Skirmishstar Ormus + 1 Viper squadron
Skirmishstar Cassius + 1 Viper squadron (destroyed)
5 pre Colonial destroyers
2 pre Colonial carriers + 4 Viper squadrons
48 ground-based Viper squadrons
22 ground-based Python squadrons

Battlestar Avalon + 8 Python squadrons
Gunstar Avenger
Gunstar Vindicator
2 pre Colonial destroyers
1 pre Colonial Carrier + 2 Viper squadrons

Battlestar Kobol + 8 Python squadrons (destroyed)
Skirmishstar Darius + 1 Viper squadron
Strikestar Hecate
6 pre Colonial carriers + 8 Viper squadrons
6 pre Colonial destroyers

Battlestar Acropolis + 5 Viper squadrons
Gunstar Invincible
Gunstar Lion
Strikestar Circe (destroyed)
Missilestar Hades

Battlestar Athena + 6 Viper Squadrons
Missilestar Limbo
Skirmishstar Trajan
Strikestar Hera
Strikestar Alarm
Strikestar Ardent

The following arrived after the Cylons retreated.

Battlestar Chimera + 4 Viper Squadrons
4 pre Colonial destroyers
2 pre Colonial carriers + 4 Viper Squadrons


Atlantia, Acropolis and Athena are Galactica style ribbed battlestars.
The Kobol and Avalon are Original Series Galactica battlestars
Chimera is a light battlestar (suggestion : Fox Miniatures Ministar or Ravenstar Helios)

Most of the Skirmishstars are Brenik types (Ravenstar miniatures)
For Gunstars (Fox Miniatures Invincibles and Tigers)
Skirmishstars (Ravenstar Hecate and Vanguard)

For fighers, the Vipers would be a Mark II's possibly with Mark I (old series Vipers)  Pythons are a design used mainly on the Avalon type Battlestars, I decided to use Buck Rogers fighters as they were originally designed for BSG.

Carriers and destroyers are small ships, lightly armed and armoured they are only dangerous if they gang up on a Basestar.  Any small craft will do.

Cylons are Original Series Basestars and Raiders

Battlestar Profile 014 : BS 05 Avalon Class Battlestar Kobol

Just prior to the Cylon War a series of prototypes were being worked on that would eventually lead to the Battlestars we know today.  Several ideas and technologies were being tested, but only one dominant design would emerge from the Cylon War, the Battlestar Atlantia and her descendants still guard the eternal night of space above the Twelve Colonies.

While the Gaultway shipyards on Caprica lead the way with their designs, the Leonis Heavy Industries Conglomerate worked on their own design which eventually became the Avalon.  An earlier testbed ship, the Prometheus, was destroyed by a Cylon attack at the outbreak of the War.

The Avalon was designed to be faster than the Atlantia or most other ships in service at that time.  To this end she was equipped with Vulcanus engines, highly compact and powerful engines.  Unfortunately they required a special type of Tylium fuel, Solium, that was complex and costly to refine.  The Vulcanus were actually more economical than the thrusters used on the Atlantia and LHIC banked on the economy of scale mass production would create and drive down Solium prices while the reliability problems would be ironed out.  Unfortunately the needs of the Colonial Fleet were such that instead of choosing one design over the other, all existing Battlestar designs would be pressed into service.  Though the Colonial Quartermaster Command was able to provide both types of fuel during the War, the troublesome Vulcanus engines never gave full satisfaction and the expected cost to benefit ratio LHIC had expected, was never achieved.

Unlike the Atlantia, the Avalon favoured speed and fighter capacity over armour and firepower.  Sacrificing protection for greater speed and a larger fighter capacity 6-8 squadrons against 4-6, the Avalon relied far more on its Fighter CAP than the Atlantia.

Theories are only as strong as the reality they are tested against and the superior speed and manoeuvrability of the Avalon was no match for a concerted Cylon attack.  Lacking the thick hide of the Atlantia designs, the Avalons were picked out and destroyed one by one.  Of the seven ships in her class, four were destroyed in combat, one was crippled and scrapped and only two survived the war.  The last one, the Avalon became a training ship and still part of the Fleet Honour Guard at the Picon Headquarters.

In order to make up for the thin armour, the Avalon had an extensive CIWS array with close to twice the number of guns compared to the Atlantia.  The main armament was integrated into hull barbettes.  This did offer better protection for the guns, but limited their field of fire.  A greater emphasis was placed on missiles as well, until the Cylons began to hijack Colonial guidance systems.

The reality was that the designers did not expect their "Fast Battlestar" concept to engage large targets such as Basestars, at least not directly.  The idea was for the Avalon to be able to outmanoeuvre the many smaller ships that were still in use in Colonial Space at the time.  Compared to these the Avalon was far superior in every way.  But when forced to fight Basestars, it was at a disadvantage.  It was only the skill and courage of Colonial Warriors that allowed the Avalon and her sister ships to perform beyond her original design parameters.

The high cost and incompatibility with other Colonial Ships meant that the LHIC's Battlestar designs were shelved after the war.  The Vulcanus engine did prove to be highly effective on smaller ships and many post war designs such as the Ranger, Luna and Warden were equipped with them.  Only in recent years has an upgraded engine been used on the Nova class Battlestar with good results.  Although now mostly gone, the Avalon still lives on in modern designs.

The Kobol was the second ship of her class.  She miraculously escaped destruction by a Cylon raid while still laid up, she was launched two months later than expected.  Forced into the front lines from the first day she fought several engagements including one where she was ambushed by two Cylon Basestars, but managed to destroy one with her nuclear missiles and damaging the other.  After major repairs, the Kobol resumed her duties until the First Battle for Caprica when 24 Cylon Basestars launched an all-out assault on this key world.
Battlestars Atlantia and Acropolis and their escorts were the last line of defense.  Battlestars Kobol and Avalon came to the rescue, but it was the sudden, but critical intervention of Battlestar Athena that turned the tide but not before the Kobol, still cornered by several Battlestars was destroyed.  The Cylon fleet, having lost nearly a third of their force withdrew.  Only moments after the Kobol was destroyed a shocked silence hung over the Colonial Fleet when a voice was heard shouting over the wireless "Avenge the Kobol."  This became a rallying cry for the Colonial Fleet during the Cylon War.

Commander : Commander Cassandra Quera (KIA)
XO : Colonel Richard Lightbody (KIA)
CAG : Major Dirk Greene
Complement :  6-8 Pyton Squadrons and up to 14 Raptors and 10 shuttles.
Armament : 8 GCR-258 heavy cannon 16 GCR-357 light cannon, 924 Victory Type 7 CIWS, 18 missile bays.

Battlestar Profile 013 : AS 4781 Starweaver Class Escortstar Searcher

One of the major problems during the Cylon War was the high attrition rate.  Shipyards long struggled to churn out new ships to replace damaged and destroyed ones, especially in the first few years.  Once production got into full swing the situation became less critical and opened room to develop new designs to supplement Battlestars.

Before Battlestars received their own production facilities, they relied on tenders for resupply of fuel, ammunition and fighter complement.  These became priority targets for the Cylons and subsequent designs, with better defensive and offensive capabilities were introduced and became known as Escortstars.

The Starweaver arrived in the latter days of the War and is often described as a "Pocket Battlestar" because of her unusually heavy armament and advanced features.  Unlike many Escortstars she has proper fighter launching facilities, which allows the Starweaver to operate under combat conditions.  In addition to a substantial array of CWIS for defensive purposes the Starweaver boasts six twin Railgun turrets, making it able to take on enemy threats.

Located in the side wings are a pair of Kunami-Yaeger "Spacetrucks", large transport shuttles that can deliver cargo and supplies to other ships.  Her unusual curved bow hides a large cargo hold, with Tylium, ammunition, food and spare parts storage.  The Starweaver boasts a small, but well-equipped repair and production facility.

Fighter complement consists of three squadrons of fighers and a dozen raptors though under normal circumstances only a single squadron can be deployed through the launch system, the other craft must take off from the flight deck that runs most of the length of the Starweaver.

All these feature have made the Starweaver a capable craft, especially compared to other Escortstars that lack most of her facilities.  Realistically, her capabilites are closer to that of a light Strikestar than a true Battlestar.

The Searcher is currently commanded by Silas Gale a highly decorated Cylon War hero, holding the record for being the youngest Battlestar commander ever.  Until a year ago he commanded the Dreadstar Charybdis.  During an incident at the Scorpia shipyards he nearly collided with Battlestar Pegasus, damaging the docking installations.  Realising that his days had passed, Commander Gale decided to step back and let a new generation take over.  He was assigned to the Searcher, going on a year-long deep space survey mission to look for useful resources and suitable outposts beyond the red line.  This was not his first incident as he was the Commander of Battlestar Triton when it collided with Battlestar Artemis nearly fifteen years ago, resulting in the death of nearly three thousand crew and the death of Rear Admiral Taris.  Unsubstantiated claims of a lingering Cylon virus causing the incident were never proved and the crash was attributed to command errors.  The Scorpia incident appears to have been caused by Battlestar Pegasus refusing to give way as is customary, despite official claims that the Charybdis deliberately cut off Pegsus.  Some say that Commander Gale was sidetracked so as not to prejudice Admiral Cain's otherwise meteoric career.

Early Colonial Warships

The earliest warships used by the Twelve Colonies were modified galleons equipped with guns and missiles.  They remained the mainstay of military forces for centuries until the introduction of a more advanced design, the Frigate.

Frigates were the first true Colonial warships, smaller and more manoeuvrable than galleons, their weapons were integrated into the design rather than just add-ons.  Frigates were ranked according to size and weaponry.  The first class frigates could carry upwards of a hundred guns in various configurations, while seventh class may have as little as ten such weapons.
Most often 3rd and 4th class frigates formed the mainstay of Colonial Fleets carrying anything from 30-75 guns.  These guns were much smaller and primitive compared to the current weapons seen on Colonial Battlestars.

The introduction of new FTL drives meant the arrival of the Cutter.  The new drives had a superior range to the old slow, short-ranged drives, but were more limited in the size of ship they could move.  As a result small and agile Cutters were created, carrying fewer guns, but still very well armed overall.  They would often use their FTL jump capability to ambush larger frigates with hit and run attacks, wearing down defences.  Even with the newer FTL Cutters were much cheaper than Frigates and even the poorer colonies could afford significant numbers.  With a Crew of 3-5 Cutters were cheap to run unlike the Frigates with up to 200-300 crew.

Even though most Colonies still retained their Frigates, the prevalence of the Cutter was a dominant factor.  To counter raiding Cutters, small agile Fighters were introduced.  Although they lacked FTL due to minimum size restrictions and cost, they were posted on satellite bases that orbited worlds, ready to intervene whenever Cutters appeared.  Fighter bases could hold dozens or even hundreds of fighters and provided a planet’s main defence against attack.

As FTL technology improved again the technology began to be applied to frigate-sized vessels, increasing their reaction time and thanks to their firepower they began to overshadow Cutters once again.

The answer came in the shape of fighter carriers, able to launch dozens of fighters into combat they were essentially mobile fighter bases.  Escorted by cutters and frigates they formed a flexible and powerful fleet capable of defeating Colonies still relying on Cutters or Frigates for their military needs.

Yet the dominance of the carrier was short lived.  New long range guns using Dradis targeting could now cut straight through a carrier or frigate.  The new ships were called destroyers and their long range guns were much feared.  Carriers and destroyers increased in size following technological breakthroughs, but the Basestar would mark the most radical shift in Colonial ship design in centuries.

Basestars were much larger than previous ships.  They carried more fighters than a flotilla of carriers and long range missiles that could defeat Destroyers at range thanks to their great speed and manoeuvrability.  Being much larger they were able to resist damage from destroyer guns more easily.  A larger version of the fighter, partly inspired by the Cutter completed the Basestar’s arsenal.  Manned by Clyons, Basestars became the dominant ship in service.

Using cutting edge technology and recent breakthroughs, designers came up with a new ship concept that might rival the Basestar, they took the largest guns available to Destroyers and mounted them on a ship of unprecedented size and scale.  Not only was it heavily armed, but heavily armoured and featured large flight pods carrying almost as many fighters as a Basestar.  Suddenly a single ship had the power equal to the entire fleet of some colonies.  With Basestars and the new Battlestar prototypes conflict in space had reached unprecedented heights.  It wasn’t until the Cylon revolt that the Battlestar was confirmed as the Colonial warship of choice.

The Cylon Basestars quickly overran those still manned by human crews.  Only the timely intervention of the first Battlestar prototypes prevented an early defeat.  The first proper Battlestar was rushed into battle and fought for several months to stop Cylon attacks on the Colonies until more ships were ready.

For most of the Cylon war, shipbuilding concentrated on Battlestars, but despite their incredible fighting ability, more specialized vessels, based on Battlestar hulls were constructed.  Gunstars lacked flight pods, but carried more and bigger guns than most Battlestars.  The largest models were often referred to as Dreadstars.

Strikestars were smaller, but followed the design lines set by Battlestars.  Faster and more agile than Battlestars they were useful in dealing with problems that didn’t require the attention of ships the size of Battlestars.

Although Battlestars were designed to operate independently, Cylon technology and Basestar improvements meant that they became more vulnerable to attack and required escorts.  Strikestars and Skirmishstars would be assigned to protect and assist Battlestars in combat.  Similarly Battlestars would be paired with Gunstars, attacking Cylon bases with their fighters, while the Gunstar would close in for the kill.

Ultimately the Cylon War ended and the Colonial Fleet, began to consolidate its assets.  Although the Battlestar remained the mainstay of the Fleet, Gunstars and Strikestars provided much valued service, increasing the flexibility and capability of Fleet operations.

The Cylon War had seen a steady increase in the size of Battlestars.  Some of the largest ships did not appear until after the armistice and for nearly two decades the doctrine of “Bigger is Better” dominated Colonial warship design.

The largest Battlestars could carry several fighter wings into combat in addition to massive marine contingents as well as huge repair and production facilities.  Some Battlestars were almost complete factories, capable of building their own fighters and weapons.

The huge cost and logistics involved in the massive Battlestars forced the Colonial Fleet to review its designs and the era of “Smarter designs” dominated the next two decades.  The focus was now on advanced technology and better integration of various features.  Newer Battlestars abandoned the extensive factories in favour of smaller, but efficient manufacturing abilities, giving Battlestars a great autonomy and range without the need to resupply for long intervals.  Some of this technology was retrofitted to older ships and increased their usefulness.

Stealth became a popular feature and a return to more advanced computers and networks as well as sophisticated communications were given priority.  New software advances would allow Colonial ships to extend their jump range considerably and unify the flight control protocols into a single efficient system.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Battlestar Profile 012 : SST 413 Panther Class Strikestar Sabercat

The Panther class Strikestars are among the newest ships in the Colonial Fleet.  They are a well-balanced mix of speed, firepower and fighter capacity, even if they are hardly a match for even the smallest Battlestars.

Designed to hold up to two squadrons of Vipers and a pair of Raptors, albeit in cramped conditions, the Panther was designed to operate autonomously as well as provide support to Battlestars.  She solved the usual fighter docking problems by extending the flight deck over the rear hull. Even though exposed, it has a greatly increased fighter recovery rate over any vessel outside of a Battlestar.

Lightly armed, she carries 10 double turrets and nearly 200 CWIS for defense against fighters.  Lightly armoured and with limited ammo stores, the Panthers are not designed for protracted engagements or running battles, instead they are effective patrol vessels and support for Battlestars.

The Sabretooth was launched a little under a decade ago from the Scorpia shipyards and has operated in the Aerilon sector ever since, aside from two tours with the Battlestar Valkyrie.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Battlestar Profile 011 : BSG 80 Titan B Class Battlestar Epimetheus

By far the largest ships in the Colonial fleet are the massive Titans nearly twice as long as most other Battlestars her flight pods are a match an Atlantia class Battlestar size-wise.

Built at a time where the Colonial fleet came out of a hard-fought war against the Cylons and was determined to even the odds by all means possible.  Resulting in a leviathan of epic proportions called the Titan.

Often described as a one-ship fleet, the Titan's statistics are mind-boggling.  Able to carry a staggering 28 squadrons of Vipers and over a hundred Raptors in addition to 40 marine assault shuttles, 6 squadrons of Cobra bombers and 20 skirmishstars, tenders and repair craft.  She has room for an entire brigade of marines in her holds.

The massive hull of the Epimetheus is double-skinned with the equivalent of an entire Battlestar hidden deep inside her bowels  Allowing her to survive even the most crippling assaults.  The loss of such a ship would be a critical blow to the Fleet and everything was done to ensure she would be able to stand up to any attack.  The Epimetheus and others of her class have some of the largest Battlegroups of the entire fleet.

But this power comes at a price.  With more than 12,000 crew and astronomic maintenance costs, the Titans are rarely seen in operation today and remain docked most of the time, only to be brought out in times of crisis.  The original plan was to scrap most existing Battlestars in favour of 12 Titans, one for each Colony, but it was cut short by politicians who realized that the Cylon threat had abated and other areas such as education and the welfare of the people took precedence.  In the end 4 Titans were built using up the entire original budget dedicated to building 6 Titan Battlestars, after which funds dried up.

Soon after the Colonial fleet changed their strategic plans and began building smaller, smarter ships that would be more flexible and easier on the Colonial budget than the Titans.  Despite growing opposition politicians haven't been able to have the Titans scrapped, the lingering fear of a Cylon attack still playing in the back of everybody's mind.

Initial proposals have been made to build a new class, partially based on the more advanced Nova class that might replace the Titans, all of which are now entering their 4th decade of service.  These ships are planned to have a similar large capacity, but could reduce the crew down to a little over 3500, the complement originally found on an Atlantia Class Battlestar, cutting costs dramatically.  Recent updates suggest that the recently completed Pandemonium class is being tested as a  replacement candidate for the Titans.

Commander : Rear Admiral Martha Timonson
XO : Colonel Ronald Larson
CAG : Colonel Uther Grissom
Complement : Up to 28 squadrons of fighters, up to 120 Raptors, up to 40 shuttles.
Armament : 8 Thunderbolt 24 forward batteries, 14 Derlam Alpha heavy twin turrets, 106 D-7500 series medium twin turrets.  1684 Derlam Shield heavy CIWS, 2880 Derlam Targe light CIWS.  48 missile bays.

Battlestar Profile 010 : BSG 75 Atlantia Class Battlestar Galactica

One of the oldest Battlestars still in service, the classic Atlantia class bore the brunt of the Colonial war effort during the Cylon War.

The Atlantia class were designed to be tough and resillent ships, able to take a lot of damage before being destroyed.  Compared to today's ships, the Galactica in nearly a relic, lacking networked computers, with a large crew trained to process information and operate the various ship's systems and weapons.

The Galactica served with distinction in the Cylon War under Commander Greene.  As the Battlestar representing Caprica, she was present in two of the three Cylon attacks on this planet as well as hundreds of other operations including Razor Talon

She remained a line vessel after the war for nearly twenty years until she was placed in the reserve and performed intra system operations around Caprica.  Unlike most other survivors of her class she was never upgraded and remains mostly unchanged from her Cylon war configuration.  Though outdated the Atlantia class remains one of the most recognized and popular Battlestars in the public's imagination.

Originally Galactica was to become a training ship, but the Avalon was picked instead for this duty, yet Galactica was saved from the scrapyard when plans were made to remove her from the fleet list and turn her into a museum ship.  A new Nova Class has been laid down and will carry the name Galactica as an active Battlestar.

Commander : Commander William Adama
XO : Colonel Saul Tigh
CAG : Major Jackson Spencer
Complement :  4-6 Viper Squadrons and up to 25 Raptors
Armament : 24 Thunderbolt 2B twin turrets, 514 Balista CIWS, 12 missile bays.