Monday, May 31, 2010

Freedom Series

As the Cylon war grew in intensity the Colonial Fleet found itself fielding a mix of advanced Battlestars, supported by an ecclectic mix of older Colonial ships, many of them Pre-Battlestars such as Destroyers and Carriers.  Many such ships were not designed to operate alongside Battlestars and the newer generation of ships, they proved to be problematic, slow and using different parts and supplies they became a logistical nightmare for the Colonial Fleet.

In an attempt to produce more capable vessels a number of ship classes were based on modified Battlestars.  This had the advantage of offering new ships based on a proven hull and capable of operating with Battlestars and keep up the pace.  A major drawback was that by sharing the same design, they often drained resources that might have been used to build more Battlestars.

In order to fix this problem, the Freedom class was proposed.  Orignally designed as a modular vessel capable of operating alternatively in the role of a Gunstar, a Strikestar or even as a light Battlestar, the cost and complexity killed the modularity, but designers retained the main hull and built variant designs.  Cheap and simple to build the Freedom Class soon became a familiar sight in Battlestar Groups.  Many had one or more Freedoms operating under various roles.

Though versatile and easy to build the Freedom was not without weaknesses.  The designs were spartan at best, built quickly and cheaply they were poorly armoured compared to Battlestars, despite attempts to use them as light Battlestars, they were vulnerable to concentrated attacks.  The Gunstar variants proved equally vulnerable.  It was as Strikestars and Skirmishstars that the Freedom came into its own.  The CIWS "Flakstar" proved a very effective design and many light Battlestars ended up being used as Escortstars, another role in which they excelled.

Their limited build quality meant that most Freedoms were scrapped after the war.  The better hulls were refurbished and a limited number still serve with the reserve.  The pressures of the Cylon War abated, the Colonial Fleet did not prolong this practice and most post-war vessels were dedicated designs.  Several attempts were made over the years to produce an updated version but with little success so far.

The Freedom also generated a very heated post-war debate, launched by a book written by the famous historian Casper Gamelyn, who contended that the Freedom class had proven itself to be superior and that Building more Battlestars was a critical mistake that kept the war going on for far too long.  Though some of his points have been refuted by official sources over the years, the book "Fleets of the Ebon Sea, a concise history of the Cylon War" has a number of followers, notably politicians who have used the book to justify budget cuts and reforms, demanding that most Battlestars be scrapped in favour of a larger number of smaller vessels.

Freedom Series Vesta Class Light Battlestar
The Vesta was the first attempt to build a light Battlestar using a Freedom hull.  The resulting design proved mediocre at best.  Unlike the long flight pods of Battlestars, the Vesta had five landing bays perpendicular to the ship's axis, with the fighter launch tubes mounted directly underneath it had a faster recovery rate than many such designs, but their short length precluded the "swarm" landing the longer flight pods allowed, greatly increasing recovery times, leaving the poorly armed Vesta vulnerable to enemy attacks.  With only four main gun turrets and a limited CIWS, the Vesta was not able to fight on the line as the Battlestars.  After several losses they were retired from service and were used as Escortstars, a role they were much suited to.

Freedom Series Centaur Class Light Battlestar
The Centaur replaced the limited landing bays with a pair of large flight pods that could not only accept fighters, but a number of smaller vessels.  A very effective design it suffered the same weakness as the Vesta.  Poorly armed and armoured it wasn't a match for Cylon attacks and was used mostly as an Escortstar.  A number were used to guard the Colonies and were involved in fighting off Cylon raids and invasions, but often paid the price in blood.  Though often referred to as a Battlestar, and used as such on occassion, they officially were considered Escortstars.

Freedom Series Dragon Class Light Gunstar
Based on the successful Tiger Gunstar the Dragon carried a pair of foward batteries in addition to 4 KEW turrets.  The long range of the forward batteries allowed them to harass Cylon Basestars, but their armour and defensive weaponry was inadequate to fight off the inevitable counter-attack.  Later in the war a new jump in jump out tactic was developed, but the inaccuracy of jumps often meant a number of course adjustments to bring the main weaponry to bear on target, exposing the ship to attacks.  Though successful on occasion, several Dragons accidentally jumped in the middle of a Cylon Basestar formation and were destroyed.  The remaining ships were used as heavy escorts for supply convoys.  Most were scrapped after the war or used for training purposes.

Freedom Series Drosera Class Skirmishstar
One of the most successful applications of the Freedoms was the "Flakstar".  Mounting nearly 700 CIWS and three rapid fire KEW turrets the Drosera could lay down a formidable flak field and protect nearby vessels from attack.  More Droseras were built than any other Freedom design and most Battlestar Groups had one or more in their lineup.  A small number still serve with the reserve today.

Freedom Series Arachne Class Missilestar
Another succesful design the Arachne was a potent missile carrier.  Able to stand off the enemy it used an unusual method of attacking Cylon ships.  By firing a spread of unguided missiles at shorter ranges, it evaded Cylon jamming and hijacking.  Using a similar method to the jump-in, jump-out method pioneered by the Dragon series it would jump in the middle of a Cylon formation, fire missiles in all directions and jump before attacked.  While few Basestars were destroyed in such a manner it often broke Cylon formations, leaving them vulnerable to be picked out by Battlestars and Gunstars.

Freedom Series Baal Class Strikestar
Mounting ten heavy KEW turrets, a squadron of fighters and a heavy CIWS array, the Baal was a cramped, but powerful ship.  Mounting an armament more suitable for a Gunstar, the Baal was used as an escort and patrol ship guarding the Colonies and outposts, freeing up more powerful ships for service on the Line.  Relatively few Baals served in Battlestar Groups, most operating independently or in small groups.

Freedom Series Meleager Class Gunstar
Mounting a substantial arsenal the Meleager was not a very succesful design and few were produced.  Many were used as escorts and on one occasion a single Meleager engaged a Cylon Basestar attacking a convoy.  The Pausinias damaged the Battlestar forcing it to retreat, but was crippled in the exchange.  With atmosphere venting and with failing engines the survivors brought her into the shipyard.  Crews sent in to inspect the damage found an unexploded nuclear bomb which would have torn the ship apart if it had detonated.

Freedom Series Argos Class Tanker
Though originally designed as a warship the Freedom series produced a very effective tanker.  Faster than other existing types it could operate alongside Battlestars and reduced refuelling time, leaving the Group less vulnerable to attack.  The Argos class is credited for allowing the Colonial Fleet to operate deep into Cylon space and bring the fight to the enemy.

Freedom Series Scorpion Class Heavy Missilestar
The Scorpion class was built on the Arachne Class.  Capable of firing the heaviest ordonance in the Colonial Arsenal the Scorpion was built for heavy assaults and planetary bombardment.  Several were built in the anticipated attack of the Cylon homeworld and carried E class "planetbusters" with a yield of 200 megatons each.  The Armistice meant they were never used, but two still remain in the reserve fleet and eight more have been mothballed should they ever be needed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Battlestar Profile 018 : BSG 11 Atlantia Class Battlestar Atlantia

To many the Atlantia Class Battlestars are powerful symbols of the Colonial Fleet.  No other Battlestar class was involved in more battles or destroyed more enemy ships.  Laid down only a year before the Cylon war the Atlantia came at a critical time, forcing the Cylons to make their move at a time where their strength may not have been optimal to defeat the Colonies in one single coordinated attack.

Though the Galactica was laid down first, delays in building and logistical problems forced the designers to switch all their attention to the Atlantia and Acropolis first, making the former the lead ship in her class.  Work continued on both ships when the war broke out.  Since Galactica was in a more advanced state of completion work resumed on her to rush her into service and Acropolis became the fourth in her Class.

The Atlantia was the flagship of the Colonial Fleet until the introduction of the larger Longbow class, which featured advanced wireless technology.  She served under three Admirals until the First battle for Caprica and was scheduled for a refit to bring her up to the standards of the Columbia Class, but she was vital to the war effort and stayed on the line until she was destroyed in combat at the Battle of Croton.  Unlike later ships, the Atlantia did not feature a separate advanced command post or command wireless, which lead to some friction between the ship's Commander and Admirals who preferred to micro manage the situation.  Indeed Commander Bragga offered his resignation shortly before Croton, which was refused, going down with his ship, alongside Admiral Tepec.  Ironically Tepec held Bragga in high regard and commended him for promotion before leaving for Croton.

The loss of the Atlantia came as a blow to the Colonial Fleet, newer ships had assumed the duties of flagship, but the loss was felt by most, many commanders had served on the Atlantia or alongside her and a ceremony was held after the war to commemorate her, with nearly 25 Battlestars paying their ceremonial tributes.  Another notable fact is that she was the first Battlestar to be equipped with Mk II Vipers.

Commander : Commander Jules Bragga
XO : Colonel David Callan
CAG : Major Tula "Bogey" Sarmation
Complement :  4-6 Viper Squadrons and up to 25 Raptors
Armament : 24 Thunderbolt 2B twin turrets, 514 Balista CIWS, 12 missile bays.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Supportstar Profile 19 : Seaba Class Tanker Thebes

The Seaba is a large tanker designed to support Battlestar Groups, providing them with extensive Tylium fuel reserves.

Built halfway through the Cylon War, the Seaba class replaced a hodgepodge of different designs, many of them predating the Colonial Fleet.  With the emphasis on the rapid production of Battlestars, the Service found itself handicapped by the lack of suitable support vessels and a crash program to build a more capable tanker was issued, especially when the Colonials began offensive operations deep inside Cylon space.

The Original design for the Seaba was to include a cargo capable version, but this was scrapped.  The only prototype was put into service and served as a fighter tender for Battlestars and was also used to ferry ground troops for the liberation of Aerilon.  It was scrapped after the war.

The Seaba Tanker proved to be a successful design with seven large Tylium tanks and complete refining facilities.  It has four fuel booms allowing it to service up to four vessels at one time, greatly reducing refueling time.  The original design featured landing bays for craft carrying raw Tylium, but these were abondoned for fear that a crash might have catastrophic results.

Thanks to its refining capabilities the Seaba is nearly completely self-sufficient, relying only on small mining craft to transfer the ore onto the ship.  Accompanied by a tender, the Seaba can support up to a dozen or more Battlestars nearly indefinitely as long as it has access to Tylium ore.

Designed to operate alongside Battlestars the Seaba is equipped with powerful engines and can keep up with all but the fastest ships in the fleet.  Despite a good defensive array of some 300 CWIS the Seaba proved vulnerable to attack, especially when the Cylons began to single them out because of their strategic importance.  In order to avoid attack the Seaba's are often lightly escorted to avoid drawing attention and follow a special procedure that allows them to escape detection.  Using a complex coded system the Seaba will often jump to a specific meeting point and wait for a limited amount of time.  If the expected vessel is late the Seaba will jump to new coordinates.  In order to avoid being tracked the Seaba has four drives and keeps them nearly permanently spinning, being able to jump in seconds.  Great care is taken to establish jumping coordinates as quickly as possible, several jumps in advance.  Seaba crews are famed for their navigational skills.

The standard procedure would be to plot several jump points before making the actual jump.  In case of trouble the Seaba can nearly instantly jump to an alternative jump point and then proceeds to another jump point, sometime even jumping to a third jump point, which should allow the Seaba to escape most tracking vessels.

The Thebes was built shortly after the Armistice and is still in service today.  Unlike many ships in the fleet she was never updgraded with networked computers and plots jump points using dozens of computers and nearly 60 crew, working a breakneck speeds to plot jump points.  As a result navigators that have served on the Thebes are considered to be among the most reliable and efficient bridge officers in the Service.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Battlestar Profile 018 : BSG 20 Fox Class Battlestar Fox

The Fox class is sometimes referred to as a "pocket" Battlestar.  Cheap to produce and run, the Fox has all the features of a regular Battlestar, a feat achieved by a serious re-thinking of Battlestar design.  Capable of carrying up to 4 squadrons of fighters, the Fox has 9 main double turrets, four of which serve as forward batteries, but can be reconfigured to fire broadsides if necessary.

Although much smaller than many Battlestars in service, it uses a unique computer node system which dramatically reduces crew requirements.  Each nodes is a small bank of networked computers.  A special master system assigns tasks to various nodes, adding or removing systems as required.  This system allows tasks be spread out between as many units as required and reducing computer idle time, which often occurs in more dedicated systems.  As a result the Fox has 20% less crew than vessels of comparable size, but still maintains a full complement of pilots, marines and flight personnel.  An unfortunate side effect of this system has been the very difficult integration of the new CNP program used by the Colonial Fleet, which required the attention of Professor Baltar himself.

Another unusual feature are the engines, mounting only a pair of thrusters, the Fox is still remarkably fast thanks to a hybrid system of conventional systems and the Vulcanus engines used during the Cylon War.  The thrusters use regular tylium fuel, but a special injection chamber gives the Fox a potential turbo boost, increasing speed if necessary.  This system so far has proven to be reliable, but other ships have yet to use this design.  Thanks to her short length the Fox is quite nimble and has a short turning circle.

The Fox class is popular with their crews, though maintenance and the somewhat cramped conditions are often a source of crew fatigue.  As a result Foxes are mostly used for system defense and rarely operate along the Armistice Line for extended periods.  Another potential problem are the thrusters, with only a pair of them, any damage could seriously harm mobility or even cripple it, though designers have assured that the thrusters are heavily armoured and are not easily knocked out.

The Fox is the lead Battlestar of her class.  She suffers from a few minor flaws that have been ironed out in subsequent ships, though she is planned to be refitted within the next three years.  The Fox is considered a lucky ship having escaped two collisions with other Battlestars.  A crash with a fuel tanker resulted in only minor damage to the left flight pod.

Commander : Commander Alden Thorson
XO : Colonel Ilyra Tessan
CAG : Captain Riven "T-Bone" Walker
Complement : 2-4 squadrons of fighters, up to 8 Raptors
Armament : 4 double forward batteries, 5 twin turrets, 350 StarSweeper III CIWS.  8 missile bays.