16 January 2016

Ships of the Line: Destroyers

As we move through the thick haze of combat ship taxonomy and explanation, there are some naval classes get all of the luck in the naming department. That is very true of the classification of combat naval ship we are examining for this installment of Ships of the Line: the Destroyer. Much like Battleships, Dreadnoughts, and assault ships, the Destroyer  just has a cool name that allows the public to nearly understand the role of this naval combat vessel...or does it? Find out as we explore and explain the role of the Destroyer in the modern navy and in science fiction.

What is an "Destroyer"?
While the term seems simple enough, this type of surface naval warships has gone under several major changes since the first Destroyers took to the seas in 1892. Today, Destroyers are long-range, fast, maneuverable surface warship that use guided missiles, torpedoes, and auto-cannons to engage all types of hostiles and protect their taskforce. heaviest However, originally Destroyers were called "torpedo destroy boats" and have been in service with navies since the Russo-Japanese War of the very early part of the 20th century. These Destroyers were constructed to counter the torpedo boats of the 1890's and by the time of the 1st World War, the term had changes to just "Destroyer" and it was an lighter warship that wasn't able to operate from shelter and supply. To extend the range of Destroyers, a supply vessel served a small group of Destroyers, called an "Destroyer Tender". Then after the 2nd World War, the classification changed again for the Destroyer warship with the advancements of guided missiles and less reliance on naval artillery. By the time of the Cold War, the modern concept of the Destroyer came into focus with the rise of the Aircraft Carrier and the fall of the classic surface naval warship classes. Destroyers became protectors of the fleet, with their array of armaments, their high speed, and maneuverability.

Modern Navy Destroyers
Naval surface warfare and the ships that sail the high seas are very different than mighty fleets of the First and Second World Wars. Many older classes of warship have disappeared, and today, the Destroyer, the Missile Cruiser, and the Frigate all battle for survival alongside the mighty Aircraft Carrier. It seems that the trend in surface fleets is to construct one primary surface warship that uses auto-cannons and various missiles to protect the carrier and engage hostile warships, aircrafts, drones, and smaller boats. Coupled with the naval SAM systems, most Guided Missile Destroyers carry advanced radar, early detection gear, and tracking systems to find and identify any incoming threats to the carrier group. Recently, some newer Destroyer classes have been the ambassadors of the new theories in naval ship design  and stealth technology like the US Navy Zumwait, the Royal Navy Daring class, and the Indian Navy Kolkata class. All of these ships are harbingers of the future.

The Future of the Naval Destroyer 

The US Navy Zumwait is considered the near future of the modern Guided Missile Destroyer. Sleek new design with greater naval stealth capabilities and cutting edge weaponry. The new 155mm advanced naval gun system that fires guided and unguided shells. It is also believed that in the near future, the Zumwait class will host the naval rail gun and point-defense lasers. The really funny thing about the recent launch of the Zumwait is that her skipper is James A. Kirk.

What is the Difference between Missile Cruisers, Destroyers, and Frigates?
When you start to really explore the difference between various similar classifications of surface naval warships, you discover the truth that there is not much separating the cruisers, destroyers, and the frigates in the modern naval sense. At one time, during the age of sail and later the steam era, size mattered. Size in their sails, their hulls, size in terms of weight, size of their range, and size (and number) of their guns. This idea continued into the 2nd World War, but rapidly it was realized that the Aircraft Carrier was the future of the surface fleet. During the Cold War, less and less surface warships were constructed, while attack submarines and Aircraft Carriers were constructed instead.
After all, what you would spend your defense budget on? One of the primary reasons behind the lack of variation and need was technology. No more would surface naval battles be a contest of naval artillery. Instead, the surface-to-air missile and anti-ship torpedo would dominate over the old naval cannon. This eliminated part of the equation that measured the difference between various surface naval warfare ship classifications. Most of these guided missile warships carried various missile types for various missions. The variable in the equation that was range of a warship was eroded by marine nuclear propulsion and the marine gas turbine engine. Take the Arleigh Burke class guided missile Destroyer. It can engage targets with its RIM-66 SAM out to 74 kilometers, and the vessel itself has a range of 8,100 kilometers at 20 knots.
With abilities like this, why build even frigates or a cruisers? That is what most naval powers thought as well, and this caused the decommissioning of most of the naval cruisers and frigates in favor Guided Missile Destroyers becoming the primary naval surface warfare vessel. After all, with the surface-to-air missile being the primary offensive weapon system, you no longer need various types of naval surface warfare vessels to accomplish very similar roles on the marine battlespace. These missiles blurred the lines and seal the death note of all of these historical naval classes. However, that does not seem to be the case in science fiction...

The Hard Science Destroyer
One of the difficult elements of assuming what types of spaceborne warships will be constructed is will there be more than one class of warship? I seriously doubt that any real-world far future space navy will construct a pantheon of warship classes as we have seen in Star Trek and Space Cruiser Yamato due to cost and simple lack of need. Look at the current state of surface naval warship: consolidation and I think that is the same for our real future space navy. It could be possible that there is an ship-killer smaller warship that works in packs that are cheaper than full scale warships. There also could be the possibility of hard science Destroyers that are stored onboard a much larger carrier-type warship that deploys the smaller ship-killer Destroyers. These pocket warships with heavier anti-ship kinetic energy weaponry could be more like gunships. We've seen a similar concept during climatics for HALO 4: SPARTAN OPS when the UNSC Infinity deploys Strident class heavy frigates once they emerged from Slipspace.

The Sci-Fi Destroyer Class
In many science fiction work, especially the soft science kind, the Destroyer is a little badass with offensive armament to deal with larger threats and is a protector of the flotilla. Often armed with anti-ship weapon systems like torpedoes and DE cannons, this sci-fi warship class is often overshadowed by larger targets. While it can dish out the pain, it cannot take it as well. Destroyers can find themselves overwhelmed during one-on-one ship-to-ship engagements. This is why most sci-fi Destroyers operate in packs.

Sci-Fi and the Destroyer
Sometimes, it is all in the name, and while that applies to late-night seen-on-tv products, sports teams, and muscle cars...it also applies to naval warships. Vessels like the Dreadnoughts, Heavy Cruisers, Battleships, and yes, the Destroyers, all have names that clearly communicate their role and power to the home audience without much explanation. This makes them perfect for being inserted into a fictional space fleet and a story organically. However, these smaller warships are nearly never the "hero" of the fictional universe. One of the rare examples of an hero Destroyer class combat starship is the Omega and Victory classes from B5. Why is this? Destroyers are designed for combat roles within a flotilla, and if a work is going to feature an warship, the Battleship or Heavy Cruiser is seemingly better. Adding to this, most Destroyers seen in sci-fi are part of a larger space fleet as seen in tabletop simulation games like the old FASA Starship Tactical Combat Simulator, or in novels, like Honor Harrington, or video games, like EVE Online.
It seems that there are two types of spaceborne Destroyer seen in science fiction. The first one, which is more rare, is a purposefully built ass-kicker warship loaded up with anti-ship weaponry that allows this little titan to punch above its weight class. The second type of Destroyer seen in science fiction is the most common. These Destroyers are similar in armament and size, but they share a common hull type with other smaller ships in the space navy. This is similar to modern navy warship and the car industry where cars like the Lexus LX series is actually an Toyota Land Cruiser. We see this in the Saladin class from Trek, the Omega class from B5, and the Exterminator class from Space Cruiser Yamato. What separates these Destroyers from the other variants is the offensive and defensive packages. Take the Saladin class Destroyer from the Starfleet Technical Manual from 1975. This Destroyer shares an common hull with an Hermes scout class and even the Constitution class heavy cruiser. What separates the Saladin from the Hermes is armament. It is certain that with most modern surface navies trending towards lessening their classes and consolidating the surface naval warship duties into one class: the Guided Missile Destroyer, science fiction creators could follow, creating more Destroyers in future sci-fi works.

Why Does Babylon 5's EarthForce have so many Destroyers?
WARNING! The following is extremely geeky in nature. Read at your own risk! Star Trek's Starfleet has their heavy cruisers and the Babylon 5 EarthForce has their destroyers. And has FWS answered that Star Trek question about the heavy cruiser obsession of Starfleet, I think we need to answer EarthForce's serious crush on Destroyer class warships. I can answer this one with both a real-world and in-universe explanation. Babylon 5 had a limited special effects budget, and this limited each major race one or two CGI starships. So, it seemed to the viewer that races like EarthForce, the Minbari, and the Narn only had one capital warship to defend their territory. When it came time to develop the iconic EarthForce warship, there was a limited budget, and so, the Omega class was featured whenever the story needed an EarthForce ship to be present...most of the time. As B5 got more popular, the show's SFX budget became higher, and more CGI warships were added. Also, video games, RPGs, and miniature games added more ships to the core races of the B5 universe.
Quickly, the Omega class became the iconic warship of the Earth Alliance. This class of destroyer was joined by no less than two other EarthForce destroyer classes! During the last season of B5, the EarthForce constructed the Warlock class Destroyer that was the most advanced EarthForce warship in the fleet. Some years later, the Interstellar Alliance developed their own Destroyer class from the legendary White Star warship that served during the Shadow War and the Earth Alliance Civil War. So, why the hell does the EarthForce need so damn many destroyers in their space navy? Simple...the name is cool. No, really, I think that is the best answer.
If you were going to have a offensive space navy with one main FTL warship to show the flag, patrol the borders, and protect the shipping lanes from space pirates would you not construct an battlecruiser or even just an generic warship? You would, but the name "destroyer" sounds awesome and I don't think that the producers of B5 thought or research much about it before christening every warship of EarthForce an "destroyer". Per naval tradition, destroyer class warships are fast, maneuverable warships that serve in a large naval group has escort and defender against smaller hostile warships. Does that sound like the role of the EarthForce Omega class? No, not really. To me, the Omega class is either than battleship or battlecruiser in the in-universe reality. Does it really matter? No, not really, I just like to bitch and dsicuss about things like this.
What is the in-universe explanation? After the Earth-Minbari War, the EarthForce fleet was nearly wiped clean of warships, and it had to basically started over fresh. That meant that the Omega class offshoot of the Nova class dreadnought, the most advanced and well-balanced warship on the drawing board, would be the first warships that EarthForce rolled into production. EarthForce did something smart, it took its best design and put it out there to show the flag of the Earth Alliance and reestablish its presence among the FTL races. Given its abilities, the Omega class was the face of the Earth out there in the black, and under the draconian and militaristic administration of President Clark, more Omega class were constructed, making it seem like it was the only ship the EarthForce had.  


The UN Cosmo Navy Isokaze Class Torpedo Destroyer
The iconic anime series Space Cruiser Yamato most well known warships is the Yamato battleship and it's against-all-odds situations. However, in the first space battle in the Space Cruiser Yamato series and the recent reboot, we see a more primitive UN Cosmo Navy engaged in a desperate battle with the Gamilons near Pluto. One of the ships seen in the battle was the Isokaze class torpedo destroyer. This class became famous due to the selfless sacrifice of Missile Ship #17 "Yukikaze" commanded by Mamoru Kodai.
The Isokaze class was a small easy to product warship that featured one of the most effective weapons against the alien warships: torpedoes. Three bow-mounted torpedo launching tubes where the primary offensive armament, and coupled with the good maneuverable, groups of these destroyers could take on Gamilon warships with a chance of success.
During the bloody defeat of the last UN warships in a desperate last-ditch effort to stop the flow of radiation bombs from the alien base on Plato.
Within minutes, the last-ditch fleet was nearly destroyed, and Missile Ship#17 "Yukikaze" protected Captain Okita's flagship from the Gamilons as he withdrew from the battlefield. After the Gamion War was over, the few survivor ships of the original EDF Fleet designs were retired and are now museum pieces. The name of this class of fictional spaceborne Destroyers was taken from the Isokaze class Destroyer that served in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II and the name means "wind on the beach". In the American Starblazers, the Isokaze class was renamed "Lightning" for the Starblazers Fleet Battle wargame.

The EarthForce Omega Class Destroyer from the B5 Universe

Just before the bloody and transformative Earth-Minbari War of 2245-2247, Earth and her people were on the edge of an era of expansion after the Dilgar War. However, the warships for EarthForce, while many, were no match technologically of the other races. EarthForce needed a new class of warship that could show the flag and her teeth. Rocketdyne presented their answer to that problem: the Draft Horse hull. Taking a solution from the automotive industry where the use of common chassis is a common practice, the idea was to design several types of frontline warships around the common hull design. The name of the hull comes from one of the designers who felt the forward section of the design appeared equine.
The first Draft Horse hull ship class was the much lower production Nova class Dreadnought that came online just on the eve of the war. During the war itself, EarthForce was taking heavy losses and pressure was applied to every shipyard to push out warships. Rocketdyne took the call and finished several early copies of what would become the iconic Omega class Destroyer. While this Draft Horse hull warship bore the look of the post-war Omega class, it was not the same ship. When the bloodbath finally ended on the edge of Terra in 2247, EarthForce had to rebuild their fleet from nearly nothing.
Only a few RooseveltPrometheus, and Nova class warships were left, and EarthForce decided that the Draft Horse hull concept by Rocketdyne was the best chance to rebuild the fleet in the shortest time, and the first class that should be the harbinger of the new EarthForce fleet was the Omega. This Destroyer would be the jack-of-all-trades for the fleet. It would have the range to show the flag, the firepower to deal with most threats, the fighters to allow to be flexible, and the gravity spinning section to allow long-term deep space deployment.
At the orbital shipyard of Neue Hanse, the first of the new Omega class Destroyers was launched with all new technology and hard lessons learned in blood from the war. This class would become the face of the EarthForce and one of the most powerful warships of the younger races. It's offensive punch came from four beam cannons and rows of missiles. The central idea was to overwhelm an enemy's defenses with offensive fire of all types. It would service the interest of Terra until 2281 when the class was finally retired and largely replaced by the more advanced Warlock class Destroyer. While Rocketdyne had hoped for more Draft Horse hull ships, but EarhForce invested more credits into fielding as many Omega class warships as possible and not into developing more classes. During its service, the Omega class Destroyer would serve in two major wars and countless little exchanges and it has since become a symbol of the 23rd century.
While the Omega class is very interesting in the world of B5, it is equally as interesting in the real-world. The Omega class is one of the few sci-fi ships to be more low-tech than the iconic starships of the genre, like the Enterprise. Its rotating section, its overall design and its heavy weapons package all seems more unfinished than the sleek ships of the Minbari or the Vorlons. This gives the EarthForce a unique look. When I first laid eyes on the Omega class during the 2nd season of B5, the Alex Leonov from the 1984 film 2010: The Year We Make Contact immediately sprung to mind. While the show's creator denied the charge, the Omega's designer Paul Bryant of Foundation Imaging said that the basic design of the Omega was lifted from the Leonov as the reference to the design. Oddly, the Omega class is far more well known than the Alexei Leonov from 2010. The Omega class was designed wholly as a computer model comprised of 250,000 polygons and given the lower budget of B5 some of the weaponry of the Omega class was not shown. There was no official model released of the ship, despite its popularity, but tabletop models for the B5 wargame was released. To sum up: I fucking love this ship and it is one of my all time favorite science fiction starships!

The Eve Online Destroyers
In the online space combat game Eve Online, the Destroyer is a medium-sized warship larger than a Frigate with offensive armaments to protect their taskforces from incoming drones, smaller warships. Destroyers are also tasked with escort duties. The bad thing about being small, it that if the Destroyer is hit, the damage is often critical, resulting in heavy casualties and possible loss of the warship.

The EarthForce Warlock Class Advanced Heavy Destroyer from the B5 Universe
The Warlock class advanced heavy destroyer is a ship with a dirty past and muddled mission. Just before the Shadow War and the Earth Alliance Civil War, EarthForce knew that they needed a heavy warship that could delivery planetary forces to the battlespace, while engaging hostile alien warships with a good chance of success with 1:1 engagements. This would combine an assault ship, spacecraft carrier, troopship, and warship all in one massive (just under 2,000 meters) spaceframe. The Warlock Project AKA the "Battle Master" Project was approved by President Clark in 2261. It was clear to all those in EarthGov that this new class of warship was designed for an imperialistic mindset and an offensive war on the other aliens in the near future. Still, the project moved forward.
During the construction of the first Warlock class, secretive alien technology from the Shadows via the Drahk was incorporated into the spaceframe and components, much like the Omega-X project. Originally, the Warlock was not be fitted with the rotating sections as with the Omega class, however, that was changed after the liberation of Earth and with an loan of Minbari artificial gravity technology. This made the Warlock class the first EarthForce vessel with artificial gravity. After the war, EarthForce rushed out several Warlock class vessels, including the EAS Titans commanded by Susan Ivanova. Despite the class name, there is no member of this class of heavy Destroyer with the name "warlock".
The Warlock class is mighty, with twin heavy particle beam cannons that can destroy most warships in one shot, 18 heavy pulse cannons, six heavy rail guns, four medium pulse cannons, nine light pulse cannons, 24 particle cannons, and 12 heavy missile silos, along with two long-range missile tubes. That does not count the number of interceptors, the 48 SA-26 Thunderbolt fighters, and the 5,000 marines with enough room for all manner of intra-atmosphere vehicles for ground combat operations. Damn! That is one bad mother...well, you get the point. However, the massive nature of this "destroyer" coupled with its massive cost and crew demand of 1,200 limits the number that the EarthForce will be constructing. It is rumored that only 10 to 12 will be ever built and that the EarthForce will continue to search for the Omega class replacement.

The Covenant CPV class Heavy Destroyer from the HALO universe
This is one of the key warship classes of the Covenant navy that is not often seen, but mentioned and briefly seen. Like many Destroyers, it is an ship-to-ship brawler with offensive and defensive weaponry to match, but in the Covenant armada, the CPV class Heavy Destroyer is designed to glass planets with its venular-mounted energy projector. The CPV class were seen throughout the Covenant-Human War, especially at major engagements like Harvest and Reach. These vessels were more than a match for the UNSC warships and the Covenant used these to great effect while losing few during the war. During ship-to-ship engagements, the UNSC primary ship-killer, the MAC gun, could destroy an CPV class Destroyer in one clean shot, but the manvuearability of the CPV caused the KE projectile to miss more than hit. This is alien Destroyer was seen in several of HALO video game climatics along with comics and mentioned in the various books.

The Destroyers of the Honorverse
One of the warship classes that exists in the Honorverse is the Destroyer. This small warship of between 65,000-80,000 tons was an jack-of-all-trades warship, filling in for escort duties, patrolling, recon, commerce escort, and raiding. The most current and advanced Destroyer in the Honorverse was Roland class of the Royal Manticoran Navy. This vessel was heavier and mounted several missile launchers, laser broadside cannons along with missiles and lasers for defensive fire.

The Chig U378 Class Destroyer from Space:Above and Beyond
In the fourth episode of SAAB, "Mutiny", the independent Terran cargo ship MacArthur is being hunted by an Chig U378 class Destroyer while the 58th is hitching a ride to the carrier Saratoga. The U378 is a small hunter-killer Destroyer warship with a package of missiles, laser DE guns, mines, and microwaves. This vessel can attack with "hard" offensive armaments or it can go for the "soft" kill. Due to the smaller size of the U378 class, it general stalks its prey and uses its microwave projectors to scramble sensors and communications. Intelligence beliefs that these microwave projectors can spike nuclear reactors to destroy the target vessel via meltdown. That U378 class was destroyed by the MacArthur defensive laser cannons.
Two U378 class Destroyers were featured in the series. The other one was used as a personal shuttle for the Chig Ambassador in the episode "Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best". It is uncertain if that ship is directly related to the Destroyer. It could be that the base hull is used for several Chig starships or that the limited SFX budget of the show caused them to recycle the U378 design for the Ambassador shuttle. The name of this class is rather odd, and it is obviously an name picked by human intelligence instead of the official Chig name for the class. The writers and creators of SAAB mined liberally from World War II, and this alien Destroyer was named for the Nazi Germany U-Boat U378. On October 8th, 1943. the U-378 sank the Polish ship Orkan, and on the 13th of that month, the U378 was sunk by depth charge killing all hands.

The Federation Baker class Destroyer from the Star Trek Universe
Here is yet another class of Federation statship that existed in the FASA starship combat game of the 1980's, but is not canon, despite many of us fans growing up with these familiar designs. The Baker class is one of those FASA designs of starship that looks great from the top, despite the terrible placement of the impulse drive, but odd from the profile drawings. From the original FASA manual, the Baker was originally developed has a research vessel, but that was altered to need by Starfleet for an warship to backup the Miranda and Constitution classes after the decommissioning of the old Saladin class destroyer. The Baker was hearty armed with tons of interior space, and it serviced in Starfleet taskforces. Given its offensive role, fewer Baker class destroyers would be constructed. In the old FASA Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator game, the Baker was a backup firepower ship in formations, with several servicing the taskforce. FASA did product an miniature of the Baker class, and I always liked the look of the Baker class.

The EDF Gearing class Destroyer from the Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazer Universe
After the grueling Earth/Gamilon War, the EDF began to rebuild their fleet to prepare for the next one, and they need ships...lots of ships. In order to field the maximum number of warships, the EDF turned to partial-automation and common hull designs. The Gearing class is a symbol of that time in EDF history and during the massive fleet replenishment operation of 2200-2201, the Earth Government asked the major nations to shelter some of the costs of the warships.
The United States sponsored the Gearing class and got the rights to name each of these Destroyers to come off of the line. This 112 meter long Destroyer was crewed by 45, and it main offensive weaponry was spaceborne torpedoes with defensive armaments being pulse-laser cannons to deal with incoming fighters or missiles. The Gearing class was designed to be built in massive numbers to take the pressure off of the main warships in the taskforce. During the Battle of Saturn, the Gearing class served as screener vessels for the flagship Andromeda and the Borodino class Battleships; attempting to keep the White Comet Empire ships off of her. This caused heavy losses among this class along with the one-shot-one-kill ability of the DE cannons of the White Comet Empire warships. This class was seen in the background of the massive Battle of Saturn in Series II: The White Comet Empire. Due to the similar between the Gearing class, Airone class, and the Konigsberg class, it is difficult to see which class is on-screen. This class suffers from one of the common curses in the Space Cruiser Yamato universe...all other EDF ships get destroyed...save for the Yamato. Sucks to be in the EDF I guess. 

The Dominion Jem'Hadar "Fighter" class Destroyer from Star Trek: DS9
There have been only a few Dominion warships seen during the war, and the primary combat vessel seen in ST:DS9 was this trilobite/horseshoe crab like attack ship. The Jem'Hadar "fighter" class Destroyer was their primary attack starships and it was never given a proper name, but seen in vast numbers. There is some confusion about what type of warship these little powerhouse is. Some sources call it an "attack ship" or an "strike fighter". These fast attack ships are often in packs and given that their crews are Jem'Hadar, they can easily board hostile warships or even mount planetary operations. The primary armament is an bow-mounted phased polaron beam with some type of missile launchers, which are rarely used in the show. These were tough ships, but needed to operate in packs when attacking larger warships. If the shit got too thick, these Destroyers were not above ramming their enemies in kamikaze style attacks as seen with the destruction of the Galaxy class USS Odyssey. Inside the alien vessel, it is bleak, with only the Vorta and the 1st Jem'Hadar had these personal headsets that allow them access to the viewscreen.    

The Gamilon Exterminator class Destroyer from the Space Cruiser Yamato Universe
The Exterminator is the most commonly seen warship of the Gamilon Empire despite its odd colored and shaped hull design. The Exterminator class Destroyer was first seen in the first battle of the iconic 1970's anime series: the battle at Pluto. This beetle-like space Destroyer was crewed by just 24 and came in at 72 meters in length and was purposely designed to be the frontline combat starship of the aggressively expanding imperial power. It was also purposefully designed to be simple allowing for rapid construction to replenish the ranks during the many wars waged by the empire. On the bow, we see two eye-like formations that dominate the overall design.
These "eyes" are actually twin heavy energy cannons, but are rarely used due to their massive power drain. Instead, the crews of the Exterminator class made use of the 10 medium laser turrets that dot the green-hued warship. This large amount of DEW turrets really speaks to the role that the Gamilon military wanted this space Destroyer to fulfill: maximum damage in a short amount of time. Squadrons of these Destroyers descented on the enemy, bombarding them with volley-after-volley of laser blasts. While one good shot of counter-fire can and does destroy the Exterminator, there are many more in the green-colored swarm to take its place. In the world of Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazers, the Exterminator is an iconic spaceship of the anime and it featured in models, miniatures, comics, and video games. In is nearly as iconic as the legendary Yamato herself.     

The USL Lola III Class Destroyer from the Battletech Universe
There have been three Lola class Destroyers in the Battletech universe and its various designs informs us a great deal about the Battletech game changing POV on space combat. Back in the old USL Technical Readout: 2075 from 1989, the Lola class was a big engined, cylinder shaped more classical starship design that wasn't unusually in terms of standard ideas of sci-fi starship design. Then the Technical Readout: 3057 came out in 1994 and the older designs of the previously seen warships in the BT universe was reversed...radically reversed.
The Lola Destroyer was reimagined into the Lola III class Destroyer that was more flatter in a appearance with a towner off to one side and there was the inclusion of the Jump Sails that collect energy to charge the K-F Jump Drive. They are often much larger than the vessel itself. The current Lola III was one of the most common classes of warships in the old USL navy, and was taken by the exodus fleet in vast numbers when they left the Inner Sphere. Heavily armored and armed, the Lola III was also inexpensive with a smaller crew due to automation. Unlike many Destroyers of sci-fi, especially Star Trek, the Lola III was fitted with two types of anti-ship missiles, several naval lasers and naval autocannons. Fans of the BT combat system involving warships seem to really like the Lola III.     

The Romulan T-10 Reema "Bright One" class Destroyer from the Star Trek Universe
Yes, there is yet another very non-canon Star Trek warship from the old FASA Starship Tactical Combat Simulator wargame system. Bare with me...this old Romulan Destroyer is interesting. I've always thought that the Romulans, as a whole, were never as fully developed as the fan-favorite Klingons or the even the Cardassians. The Romulans were going to be the big bad of the Trek universe, but it never materialized. FASA tried to add their own stamp on the Romulans, but the material was never quite there. It took TNG and DS9 to give the Romulans some weight and character. TNG did give the Romulans one of the best starships designs in the entire series, but prior to the D'daridex warbird battlecruiser, there was only one Romulan warship design for decades. That did not give FASA much to go on in order to develop their fleet of Romulan warships. Some of the designs, like much of FASA STSTCS ships, were half-baked and plain silly at some angles. One element that FASA used to generate Romulan starship style and design elements came from the relationship between the Romulan and Klingon Empires. Reema was a byproduct of that union.
The T-10 Reema or "Bright One" was name for a bird on a Romulan colony and it was developed alongside the Klingon K-22 Bird of Prey Scout class. While both races share the Bird of Prey Scout class and field them in their navies, the T-10 Reema was an outgrowth of that design. With two torpedo launchers, packs of T-10s would serve  together to take down larger targets, like Federation starships. Of course, this starship would go the way of all of the old FASA universe when Paramount pulled their license in 1988.

The Interstellar Alliance Victory Class Advanced Destroyer from Crusader
The EarthForce obsession with Destroyer class warships continues into Crusade! After the Shadow War and the Liberation of Earth from Clark, the new Interstellar Alliance decided to field a new class of warship that fused Vorlon, Minbari, and Terran technology in the spirit of the Whitestar class. Thus was born the Victory class Destroyer. In December of 2266, the Drakh, former servants of the Shadows, attacked Earth and released a plague to kill off all life. During the battle for Earth, one of the two new Victory class Advanced Destroyers, the Victory, was lost. The Excalibur was tasked with finding a cure for the plague and refitted with greater science labs and new personnel at Babylon 5 station. It was believed that the since the Victory class starships were the most advanced vessels, that the Excalibur would have a good chance of finding the cure out there.
The warship itself features the most advanced offensive and defensive technology, with fusion beam cannons that can be linked to fire a powerful directed energy beam. In 2271, the Excalibur was successful in curing the plague.The Excalibur was going to be the centerpiece to a new B5 universe television series for the TNT network, and that series, Crusade, itself was a love-letter to the quest for Iscandar from the Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazers anime series. The level-2 linked fusion beam was a homage to the wave motion cannon from the Yamato. The show would fail in less than 10 episodes and be largely forgotten by fans of B5, and the Excalibur would enter into the graveyard of nearly forgotten sci-fi starships. 

The Federation Saladin class Destroyer from the Star Trek Universe
For years in the official Trek universe, we never got to see really any other class of Federation starship other than the Constitution class heavy cruiser. That changed in 1977 with the publication of the non-canon Starfleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph. In those pages, he detailed several classes of unseen Starfleet starships, including the Saladin class destroyer in the TOS design style. Unlike the Constitution, Miranda, and Federation, the Saladin and Hermes classes were single nacelle, which caused the Saladin and Hermes classes to more under-powered than the mighty Constitution class. Unknowingly, Franz Joseph would begin the "how many nacelle" trend in Federation starship design. The primary difference between the Saladin class destroyer and the Hermes class scout was armament; the Saladin class armed with more phaser banks and photon torpedo launchers. There is nearly no information on the Saladin class, and even it being classified has an destroyer is dependent on the source material. But here is what I think: the Saladin class destroyer was an compromise class that built off the Constitution class heavy cruiser, allowing Starfleet to put starships into the field to counter the threats from the Gorn, Romulans, and Klingons.
As you might expect, the Saladin and her sister class, the Hermes, where weaker given the single nacelle, and this meant that Saladin class destroyers served in groups rather than being able to operate along like the Constitution or Miranda class starships. In combat operations, Saladins were expected to fight in packs, using each other for fire support while one or more flanked the enemy warships. This class served in the Four Years War, and it suffered heavy causalities. This low combat performance caused Starfleet to only refit some of the Saladin class during the 2270's Starfleet naval overhaul. Even then, these served in limited roles, often as training vessels and inner system "coast guard" and patrol duty. The Saladin and Hermes class limitations would cause Starfleet to not construct anymore starships with a single nacelle.    

Next Time on FWS...
Military science fiction is more than just about space combat or fighting in mecha or spacesuits. There is also a special brand of military sci-fi that takes place under the high seas of this world and others, where combat is waged with special weapons designed for the briny deep. In the next installment of The Armory serial, FWS ace contribuator Yoel will be amazing with his blog-article all about underwater firearms!


  1. There is also a DDG and FFG in "The Human Reach" series by John Lumpkin that has the Project Rho seal of approval like this site does. I highly recommend both books that are out so far.

  2. Also don't forget the Star Wars Star "Destroyers" which are more of battlecruisers in size, armamanet and function...

  3. "so damn many destroyers in their space navy? Simple...the name is cool. No, really, I think that is the best answer."
    The Naval terms of class Frigate, Corvette, Destroyer and Cruiser are already very fluid in modern times. a few Examples the F124 Sachsen class of the German navy is classified by them as a Air defence Frigate yet the ships it is replacing the Type 103 Lütjens class are Destroyers and the F124 is very comparable to a modern destroyer. The Spanish Navy's Álvaro de Bazán class is another case of the same where the Operating Navy considers it a Frigate yet it fits in weight, Arms and roles those of a modern destroyer. On the other side of the Spectrum we see Zumwalt which could easily be classified as a traditional cruiser or even more confusing the JMSDF DDH classes Izumo and Hyuga which should be light and Escort Vtol carriers yet are considered by Japan via technicality destroyers. additionally there is the iffy sub class of Destroyer Escort which seems to fit between Frigate and Destroyer.... somewhere.
    It's not just there but in Scifi we see it to. The Normandy SR1 from Mass Effect was a Frigates Frigate well the SR2 seemed more Destroyer. and then just look above for the already given examples. It seems to me as Navys transition into the 21st Century the lines will get even more blurred Want proof? Google "Dreadnought 2050" We see a Ship concept that makes much of Scifi's best warships down right conservative. Drone UAV's multi mission bays Railguns Laser CIWS, Holographic battle maps.

  4. Flying the Federation Destroyer in Star Fleet Battles was always interesting. all the firepower of the heavy cruiser, half of the power generation, and about 3/4 the defense, had issue walking and chewing gum at the same time, but you were always careful around a slow speed DD :)

  5. I have absolutely no idea why, but the thought of the Blue Water navies of the word retiring all the other Frigates and Cruisers while focusing on the Guided Missile Destroyer is almost heart wrenching....

    Though if one thought about it, the nature of EarthForce having so many Destroyers could be a reflection of modern navies focusing development on Destroyers rather then a misnomer of naval terms. Then again, this might be giving the production staff too much credit, but it was a nice brain fart while it lasted.

    And while we're on the subject, I remember Crusade. Not all the episodes, but I still remember it fondly enough that I was disappointed with its cancellation.

    Now before I get off track, from my initial, poor understanding and interpretation of naval warship classes, I found the Corvette, Frigate, and Destroyers as fleet escort ships: Basically to take out swifter targets that the larger warships are unable to target rapidly or effectively. With these blog entries, I'm getting a better understanding of these classes when it comes to a science fiction setting. Though, in a long about way, Destroyers still serve the need as an escort craft since they're protecting Aircraft Carriers whose one defensive armament lacking and limiting, even if they are a bit more general purpose. The thought of Destroyers operating in small groups, however, an interesting touch that could have some useful applications when it comes to orbital combat.