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.

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