Sci-fi Starship Types

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Picard578
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Sci-fi Starship Types

Post by Picard578 » Tue Jan 30, 2018 5:35 pm

I've been thinking about ship types for moderate-hardness sci-fi, and this is what I came up with. Reposted from Spacebattles.
https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads ... es.608908/

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This is basically an interstellar sci-fi fleet, but I am also wondering what would the equivalents be in modern navy (say, USN), and would some of the types even be necessary for, say, World War III scenario? Also, how does this setup compare to other sci-fi fleets? It generally seems to me that fleet support is underrepresented in sci-fi – which may make sense in Star Trek, which is basically "Horatio Hornblower In Space", but what about other examples such as Warhammer 40.000?

WARSHIPS

Battleship

Battleships are large capital ships, 800 and more meters in length. Main role of battleships is destruction of enemy heavy fleet units and fixed installations such as shipyards. They are armed with a spinal cannon some 90% of the ship's length as well as point defense guns. Extensive weaponry and heavy armour do not leave much space for propulsion units, which compared with their large size leaves them somewhat sluggish.

Vanguard class fast battleships have top speed of 31,5 light years per hour, and cruise speed of 15 light years per hour. As M51 galaxy is 60.000 light years in diameter, HMS Vanguard needs 4.000 hours or 167 days (5,6 months) to go from one side of the galaxy to another (Earth units). Older battleship classes are slower, with old Revenge class having top speed of 23 ly/h and cruise speed of 10 ly/h, and all other warships being somewhere in between.

Fleet Carrier

Fleet carriers are 800 and more meters in length. Unlike battleships, their main weapon are starfighters armed with any of the following: guns (interceptors), guns and anti-fighter missiles (pursuit), anti-ship disruptor torpedoes (torpedo bombers) or various types of ground attack missiles and bombs (attack). Specialist aircraft designed for reconnaissance, electronic warfare and early warning and control are also carried.

Light Carrier

Light carriers are 400 to 800 meters in length. They fulfill the same role as fleet carriers, but being smaller and cheaper they are deployed with smaller task forces and to less important missions. When deployed with main fleet, they typically operate with cruiser sqadrons in reconnaisance role.

Escort Carrier

Escort carriers are 400 to 800 meters in length. Main difference from light carriers is their commercial-class FTL drive, making them too slow for fleet actions. Instead, they are used to escort supply and troop convoys.

Heavy Cruiser

Heavy cruisers are 700 to 800 meters in length. Their main role is destruction of enemy ships of cruiser class and below. They also serve on long-range missions, patrol for enemy warships and raid and defend commerce. For this reason, heavy cruisers are often equipped with in-built hyperspace inhibitors, and have relatively heavy armour for the ships of their size.

Light Cruiser

Light Cruisers are 600 to 700 meters in length. Their main role is long-range cruise and patrol, acting as convoy escort and commerce raiders. They also serve as destroyer command ships, scouts and fleet support vessels.

Destroyer

Destroyers are 400 to 600 meters in length. Their main role is escorting larger ships and defending them against attacks by enemy small vessels – generally frigate sized and below, but also against enemy destroyers.

Escort Destroyer

Escort Destroyers are 400 to 600 meters in length, but with subrated FTL drive and limited endurance. They also sacrifice speed and maneuverability for increased anti-fighter armaments.

Heavy Frigate

Heavy Frigates are 200 to 400 meters in length. They work in "wolf packs", hunting enemy logistics and support ships, typically through deploying hyperspace inhibitors and destroying ships thus caught. In battle line, heavy frigate wolf packs hunt down ships whose shields had been taken down, and can also help take down enemy shields through usage of disruptor torpedoes.

Light Frigate

Light Frigates are 100 to 200 meters in length. They act as scouts and provide anti-fighter screens for capital ships. For this reason they have extensive anti-fighter armaments. They have high FTL cruise speeds as well as high sublight acceleration and maneuverability.

Corvette

Corvettes are 50 to 100 meters in length. Their main role is peactime patrol, particularly intra-system and star cluster patrol. They also carry out pirate suppression missions. During the war, they support larger fleet formations, escort convoys and patrol for enemy ships.

Sloop

Sloop is a specialized convoy-escort vessel, with a subrated hyperdrive which makes them unsuitable for fleet deployment. They are typically 75 to 150 meters in length.

Fast Attack Craft

Fast Attack Craft is a corvette which trades FTL drive and deep-space endurance for firepower, protection and sublight agility. As a result, they are only useful as planetary defense ships, used to bolster numbers when insufficient number of hyperdrives are available.

Monitor

Monitors are small ships with disproportionately big guns. Tradeoff for this are limited sublight performance, very limited endurance and nonexistent FTL capacity. Larger monitors may have downgraded FTL drives, too weak for fleet deployments but enough to allow for intra-system FTL operations.

FIGHTER AIRCRAFT

Pursuit

Pursuit fighters are small, agile fighters meant for close-in defense of starships and installations against enemy fighter attack. They typically only have guns and close-in missiles.

Interceptor

Interceptor fighters are intended for long-range missile combat. Resulting fighters are large, with massive missile loads and extensive sensory systems. Due to usage of ECM, shields and point defences, however, they cannot be relied on to destroy enemy fighter craft on their own.

Bomber

Bombers are two-man craft carrying disruptor torpedoes to take down enemy ships' shields.

SUPPORT SHIPS

Logistics depot ship

Logistics depot ship is the centerpiece of Numenorean logistics system. Over two kilometers long, it combines functions of a transport, mothership, maintenance and production center, and drop-off point. Onboard forge is capable of producing all kinetic munition required by either naval or ground forces, as well as some types of high explosive munitions. It is also capable of producing certain spare parts, as well as melting broken or unusable equipment in order to produce new parts.

Factory ship

Factory ship is a heavily modified logistics depot ship capable of mining asteroids, moons and planets for raw resources, processing these raw resources and producing necessary tools. It is equipped with a forge capable of producing wide variety of munitions and spare parts, and even hull armour plates for on-campaign repairs.

General cargo vessel

These ships are multipurpose cargo vessels. Military-specification GCVs come in length of 225 to 1.800 meters, with beam of 40 to 325 meters, and height of 20 to 120 meters. Specified sizes are 225x40x20, 450x80x40, 900x160x80, 1350x200x100 and 1800x320x160 meters. Typical cargo loads for sizes are 30.000, 240.000, 1.920.000, 6.480.000 and 15.360.000 tons.

Bulk carrier

Bulk carrier has same size classes and capacities as GCV, but is specialized for transporting unpacked bulk cargo, such as grains and ore.

Heavy lift ships

These ships are designed to transport other ships that are incapable of FTL travel due to damage or lack of onboard FTL drive. As a result they have internal cargo bay similar to Space Shuttle. Lengths for such ships are 1.224 meters, 1.375 meters and 2.240 meters. They can also perform basic repairs.

Orbital transport

Orbital transport is intended to transport cargo and personnel from orbiting ships to ground. Small orbital transports have length of 80 meters and can carry 1.200 passengers or 960.000 kg of cargo. Medium orbital transports have length of 120 meters, and can carry 2.500 passengers or 2.000.000 kg of cargo. Large orbital transports are 300 meters long, with capacity of 30.000 passengers or 24.000.000 kg of cargo.

Landing ship

Landing ship carries and is capable of launching landing craft. While other supply ships such as logistics depot ships have onboard landing craft, these craft are necessarily limited in size and number, and thus ability to quickly deploy large number of troops and materials. Their design also limits the ability to rapidly launch large number of landing craft due to number and design of docking bays. Landing ships have no such limitation, and can thus quickly transport large number of personnel as well as large quantity of supplies to surface.

Shelter class landing ship is 883 meters long and capable of carrying and launching landing craft of various sizes. Normal complement is 64 landing craft and a single motor rifle battalion (24 Main Battle Tanks, 6 Light Recon Vehicles, 36 Armoured Personnel Carriers, plus associated support units).

Landing craft

Landing craft is a small type of vessel designed to quickly transport troops and supplies from ship to planet. As a result they have no FTL drive and are equipped with a bow ramp for quick embarkation. Small infantry landing craft can carry only a single platoon. Larger infantry landing craft can carry a company of infantry, and specialized vehicle landing craft are also used. Typically only the last type is embarked on landing ships, and used to carry infantry, vehicles and supplies alike. Some landing craft are modified with guns, bombs and missiles to provide fire support before and during landing, as well as point defense against enemy artillery, missiles and aircraft.

Headquarters ship

Headquarters ship is landing ship converted for use as landing force headquarters. It is responsible for coordination between Army/Marine ground troops, Army/Marine Air Force, Navy and Naval Air.

Accomodation ship

Accomodation or barracks ship are used as barracks for either ground troops or naval personnel. Most often they are used to receive personnel whose ships had been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by battle or other damage. However, they are also used as habitation for construction battalions. Some smaller accomodation ships are designed to land on planets and function as groundside barracks for troops.

Liquid carrier

Liquid carrier ships (water and fuel carriers) or tankers are of various sizes. Like cargo ships, military-specification tankers come in lengths of 225 to 1.800 meters, with beams of 20 to 325 meters, and height of 40 to 120 meters. Smaller ships can land on planets.

Distilling ships

Distilling ships are ships which are specialized for distilling drinking water. While all starships recycle water during normal operations, distilling ships can use planetside salt water and ice found on planets and in comets to provide fresh water, should such measures prove necessary. Distillers are of same size range as liquid carriers, and smaller types can land on planets and provide distilling point for a ground force.

Hospital ship

Hospital ships are designed to provide treatment facilities for soldiers and sailors in war zones. Smaller hospital ships are capable of landing on planets to provide field hospital for ground forces. Hospital ships are fully equipped hospitals capable of treating wide variety of injuries and ailments, and are also designed to provide logistical support to frontline medical teams and field hospitals.

Aircraft maintenance carrier

These ships are aircraft carriers which have been specifically designed for aircraft and starfighter maintenance tasks. While capable of operating aircraft from flight deck, they can also carry out full range of aircraft maintenance and repair work. Pioneer class aircraft maintenance carrier is 1.055 meters long with 122 meter beam.

Aircraft store ship

Aircraft store ship holds spare parts and munitions for space and aerial small craft, primarily fighters.

General stores issue ship

Ships of this type are used for distributing general stores – such as canned goods – through non-combat (rear) areas. They typically remain in operations area and replenish provisions from general cargo ships sent from the Empire.

Combat stores ship

Combat store ships store supplies for naval purposes, providing them to combat ships that are spending extended periods in operations. They carry frozen, chilled and dry provisions, fuel, repair parts, fresh food, clothing etc., but do not carry ammunition.

Minelayer

Minelayers are used to lay down mines. These mines can be contact mines or proximity mines, but due to large distances involved in 3D environment of space, most mines are armed with sensors and either missiles or torpedoes, allowing them to actively attack any ship whose signature is in their databases.

Mine countermeasure ships

Minesweepers have various devices aimed at disabling or prematurely detonating mines. These include UAVs that replicate ship signatures. Most mine sweepers are also mine hunters, using missiles or kinetic weapons to actively destroy mines once detected.

Salvage ship

Salvage ships are equipped to salvage whatever working equipment has remained onboard wrecked starships. Larger ships, often modified heavy lift ships, are capable of salvaging entire starships, thus doubling as FTL tugs. Smaller ships are designed for salvaging sensitive equipment and data, and destroying ships that cannot be salvaged in a reasonable time frame. They are also equipped for repair, firefighting and medical aid services.

Replenishment ship

Replenishment ships are generalist fleet logistics ships, combining missions of a tanker and store supply ship. Unlike logistics depot ship, they have no onboard manufacturing or repair capability. They are capable of in-space replenishment. Fuel tanks typically carry starship fuel for fusion reactors.

Destroyer depot ship

Destroyer depot ship is designed to provide logistical and maintenance support to a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships (frigates, sloops, corvettes, fast attack craft). They are focused on repair work, such as hull, machinery and electronics repairs, as well as repairs and maintenance of weapons systems. Most such ships also have onboard hospital, better equipped than small ship's medical suite. They also carry a supply of torpedoes for frigates.

Repair ship

Repair ships are specialized for repairs and maintenance of warships. They consequently offer greater range of maintenance and repair services than depot ships do, but are incapable of doing anything else.

Repair unit

Repair units are carried by repair ships, factory ships and depot ships. Basic units are capable of carrying out basic repairs to starship structure. More advanced (and larger) units are also capable of carrying out advanced repairs as well as collecting raw ore and resources to be transferred for processing to factory ships. These advanced units are thus also called resource collectors.

Mobile space dock

Mobile space docks are large, slow FTL-capable facilities specialized for extensive starship maintenance and repairs. They also provide support in areas where there are no static ports. Smaller space docks consist of only one section, while larger docks are typically comprised of several sections which connect upon arriving to destination. While single-piece large space docks do exist, they are extremely slow, limiting their fleet support capability in some situations.

Hydroponics ship

Hydrophonics ship ("botanical cruiser") grows plants so as to provide steady supply of fresh fruit and vegetables on long-term fleet deployments. They are also used during civilian colonization missions. A specialized variant, aquaponics ship, is also used. In aquaponics system, excretements from fish are used to produce the nitrates used for plant growth. This helps keep the water clean for fish, as well as solving the issue of plant nutrition. Another specialized variant exists for growing algae.

Sensory picket ship

Sensory picket ship or a scout vessel is a ship designed to provide specialized sensory support to the fleet. Such ships carry extensive sensory suite, superior to that found even on capital ships in both range and diversity of the sensors employed. As such, they are invaluable not only in protecting the fleet from a surprise attack, but also in gathering valuable intelligence.

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Thoughts?

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Re: Sci-fi Starship Types

Post by 2046 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:11 pm

Broadly speaking, this takes some concepts from modernity and tosses them into space, like most sci-fi. But, with the extreme vessel specialization, fightercraft force projection, et cetera I think this ventures into the "modernity-punk" military space sci-fi that I have never personally found appealing, like an Imperial German Navy writ to the stars.

So, take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

Specialization is hardly optional, of course . . . you can't expect a cargo ship hull to also make a good PT boat. But its extent rather depends also on the manufacturing tech base and modularity of design. (In Enterprise, for instance, a cargo ship actually did make a good small fighting ship because the main drive section could detach from the cargo pods.)

Having a specialized algae ship class distinct from hydroponics ship classes and distinct from your cargo ships (themselves distinct from bulk carriers and liquid ships) is all realistic enough from a modern view in which we have to virtually take a ship apart to add a bulkhead. But, one would hope for technology allowing a bit more flexibility out of a single design, or even an individual ship, in the future.

As for fightercraft . . . since WW2 that's been a prime means of force projection because sea surface action only is limiting (when you're limited to planet-bound activities anyway). A battleship can park off the coast and lob shells inland, but it can't see what it's doing or make a precision strike on a mobile target.

But space carriers and fighters? It takes some world-building to give them a purpose. There's concern about the utility of American supercarriers in certain conflict types even today.

But in any case, for what it is it looks like you did it well, and don't take anything I said to suggest otherwise.

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Re: Sci-fi Starship Types

Post by Jedi Master Spock » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:04 pm

If you're thinking in terms of universe development?

Here are the odd points.

(1) Classification by length.

Classifying ships by a size measure as a general rule makes some sense in terms of a guideline. IRL, the lines have always blurred a bit. So, for example, "heavy cruiser" was defined in terms of seems to make some sense. Unless there's some geometric restriction, though, classification by length is usually less important than classification by overall size or mass.

Since mass is usually proportionate to the cube of dimension, this means that a 200-400m "class" range, if including mostly similarly proportioned ships, would have a factor-of-8 size variation. Similarly, this means the size variations between these classes are a lot bigger than they look at first glance. I'd recommend using cubage or tonnage as the general "band" guideline.

Frigates overall varying by a mass factor of 64 or so is huge.

Classification by length rather than cubage or mass is one of the things that led the Star Wars EU into having such squirrelly comparisons between capital ships, IMO. I would draw up tonnage or cubage bands, and then set out "typical" dimensions for that tonnage band. It'll hang together much better.

(2) The escort destroyer niche seems a little bit odd. Mostly, they just sound like bad destroyers (like escort carriers sound like bad light carriers, but in that case they have the excuse of being fiscally expedient).

Some replies to what I see on the SB thread:

(A) evilauthor is wrong about battleships and carriers being necessarily exclusive. Battleships continued production and active service long past the introduction of the first viable aircraft carriers. It's true that there's a tension in that they are competing for limited resources. Fighters - or more particularly bombers capable of threatening heavier ships - need to be pretty good before they can really claim to render a battleship obsolete; they do not, however, have to be all that good in order to start to occupy a major strategic niche (light reconnaissance / harassment screen).

Given that fighters and ships travel through the same medium with the same technology, the better analogue for space fighters vs space capital ships is probably torpedo boats. As of WWII, that comparison was a 30-40 ton torpedo boat vs a 30-40,000 ton battleship.

(B) Technology is often in a state of transition.

(C) The logistical environment you're describing with the classes is literally lifted right out of RL. evilauthor and the like seem to have gotten to the point of reasoning a "bang-bang" type strategy, but the competing different demands placed on a naval force (customs enforcement, anti-piracy patrols, enforcing anti-slavery blockades, disaster relief, political showmanship, fighting conflicts against very different possible opposing forces) call for a diversity of ships, even if one type of ship predominates.

(D) Diversity of ship classification has to do with politics as much as military function. Different powers will classify similar ships differently, and there are always ships that sort of edge around their categories. This is a perfectly fine number of classifications to have - although you might want to present them differently in an early introduction. (E.g., you could have a version where you introduce cruisers and then go into the subdivision into heavy vs light later.)

(E) The point made about ship cost generally scaling with V^2/3 - surface area - is a good point to keep in mind. Some types of combat effectiveness may also scale at V^2/3 or even V^1/3 (e.g., if you have V tons of armor / shield energy / etc to distribute among V^2/3 surface area, thickness goes up by V^1/3 at the same design priority level).

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Re: Sci-fi Starship Types

Post by Picard578 » Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:52 am

2046 wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:11 pm
Broadly speaking, this takes some concepts from modernity and tosses them into space, like most sci-fi. But, with the extreme vessel specialization, fightercraft force projection, et cetera I think this ventures into the "modernity-punk" military space sci-fi that I have never personally found appealing, like an Imperial German Navy writ to the stars.

So, take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

Specialization is hardly optional, of course . . . you can't expect a cargo ship hull to also make a good PT boat. But its extent rather depends also on the manufacturing tech base and modularity of design. (In Enterprise, for instance, a cargo ship actually did make a good small fighting ship because the main drive section could detach from the cargo pods.)

Having a specialized algae ship class distinct from hydroponics ship classes and distinct from your cargo ships (themselves distinct from bulk carriers and liquid ships) is all realistic enough from a modern view in which we have to virtually take a ship apart to add a bulkhead. But, one would hope for technology allowing a bit more flexibility out of a single design, or even an individual ship, in the future.

As for fightercraft . . . since WW2 that's been a prime means of force projection because sea surface action only is limiting (when you're limited to planet-bound activities anyway). A battleship can park off the coast and lob shells inland, but it can't see what it's doing or make a precision strike on a mobile target.

But space carriers and fighters? It takes some world-building to give them a purpose. There's concern about the utility of American supercarriers in certain conflict types even today.

But in any case, for what it is it looks like you did it well, and don't take anything I said to suggest otherwise.
Thanks. I was actually looking for something in between "Napoleonic wars in space" and "World War II in space". And yeah, I am not sure myself about extreme specialization.

Space fighters are somewhat an issue, but I think they do have some role... mainly ground forces support, and situations when fleets come to knife-fighting range (basically an inverse of modern-day doctrine - in space, battleship would engage first, followed by fighters).
Jedi Master Spock wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:04 pm
If you're thinking in terms of universe development?

Here are the odd points.

(1) Classification by length.

Classifying ships by a size measure as a general rule makes some sense in terms of a guideline. IRL, the lines have always blurred a bit. So, for example, "heavy cruiser" was defined in terms of seems to make some sense. Unless there's some geometric restriction, though, classification by length is usually less important than classification by overall size or mass.

Since mass is usually proportionate to the cube of dimension, this means that a 200-400m "class" range, if including mostly similarly proportioned ships, would have a factor-of-8 size variation. Similarly, this means the size variations between these classes are a lot bigger than they look at first glance. I'd recommend using cubage or tonnage as the general "band" guideline.

Frigates overall varying by a mass factor of 64 or so is huge.

Classification by length rather than cubage or mass is one of the things that led the Star Wars EU into having such squirrelly comparisons between capital ships, IMO. I would draw up tonnage or cubage bands, and then set out "typical" dimensions for that tonnage band. It'll hang together much better.
Classification by length is there because of spinal guns. Coil guns have a limit on power they can put through the coils, therefore power is limited by gun's length as much as by other factors. That being said, I will likely be classifying ships by role when I come around to rewriting this.
(2) The escort destroyer niche seems a little bit odd. Mostly, they just sound like bad destroyers (like escort carriers sound like bad light carriers, but in that case they have the excuse of being fiscally expedient).
Thanks.
Some replies to what I see on the SB thread:

(A) evilauthor is wrong about battleships and carriers being necessarily exclusive. Battleships continued production and active service long past the introduction of the first viable aircraft carriers. It's true that there's a tension in that they are competing for limited resources. Fighters - or more particularly bombers capable of threatening heavier ships - need to be pretty good before they can really claim to render a battleship obsolete; they do not, however, have to be all that good in order to start to occupy a major strategic niche (light reconnaissance / harassment screen).

Given that fighters and ships travel through the same medium with the same technology, the better analogue for space fighters vs space capital ships is probably torpedo boats. As of WWII, that comparison was a 30-40 ton torpedo boat vs a 30-40,000 ton battleship.
Agreed. That is what we ended up with on SB as well.
(C) The logistical environment you're describing with the classes is literally lifted right out of RL. evilauthor and the like seem to have gotten to the point of reasoning a "bang-bang" type strategy, but the competing different demands placed on a naval force (customs enforcement, anti-piracy patrols, enforcing anti-slavery blockades, disaster relief, political showmanship, fighting conflicts against very different possible opposing forces) call for a diversity of ships, even if one type of ship predominates.

(D) Diversity of ship classification has to do with politics as much as military function. Different powers will classify similar ships differently, and there are always ships that sort of edge around their categories. This is a perfectly fine number of classifications to have - although you might want to present them differently in an early introduction. (E.g., you could have a version where you introduce cruisers and then go into the subdivision into heavy vs light later.)
Yes, that is what I will do with fixed proposal.
(E) The point made about ship cost generally scaling with V^2/3 - surface area - is a good point to keep in mind. Some types of combat effectiveness may also scale at V^2/3 or even V^1/3 (e.g., if you have V tons of armor / shield energy / etc to distribute among V^2/3 surface area, thickness goes up by V^1/3 at the same design priority level).
Right, thanks.

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Re: Sci-fi Starship Types

Post by 2046 » Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:15 pm

Sorry, I didn't even look at the SB thread before posting, so now that I have my apologies for being unintentionally dog-piley.

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