24 December 2012

FWS: Ships of the Line- Space Carriers

Welcome to the first blogpost in FWS new series: the ships of the line. In this continuing series of blogpost, FWS will be examining the different classes of spaceborne warships seen in common sci-fi along with comparing these fictional examples with the modern naval equivalent. Some of this information was covered in a previous blogpost about the equivalent between space combat ship class and their navy counterparts. For the first blogpost in the series, FWS will be discussing, in depth, the iconic Space Carrier.

The Modern Naval Aircraft Carriers
When there is a crisis in the world, one of the first questions that the U.S. President asks 'is there a carrier nearby?' This speaks to the role of the modern day carriers and the super-carriers, which have replaced the battlecruiser has the primary offensive tool of the navy. Modern aircraft carriers are designed to project air power around the global, by being an floating air base, extending the range of the aircraft. Not only do these massively expensive carriers launch various aircraft, but are also platforms for launching special operation missions, like the failed 1980 Iranian hostage rescue. These steel sea monsters are not just unitized for military roles, they are the modern. Given the cost of construction and operation, there are only 21 carriers in the world today, eleven are operated by the US Navy alone, and seven nations only possess one. British Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope explained the stature of the carriers this way: "to put it simply, countries that aspire to strategic international influence have aircraft carriers".

The Role of the Space Carrier
Spaceborne carrier ships would be no different in their overall mission than their sea going counterparts. Space carriers  just would project power of parsecs than square miles. These massively expensive giant spaceships would be the hub of launching some type of defensive/offensive smaller spacecraft, like automated drones or space lancers. As with the aircraft carrier, space carriers would be a range extender to these smaller craft, nearly like a mobile space station or the 'motherships' seen in science fiction and UFO circles.
This range extension comes into greater play when we consider FTL. It is likely that attack space fighters will not have FTL drive systems, (sorry, BSG) and that only adds the importance of the space carrier. Space carriers could be closer to the concept seen with the Guild heighliner of the DUNE universe. Instead of vessels like Galactica, space fleets could construct movable space stations, similar to fleet battle-station Ticonderoga in Starship Troopers. 
The Size of Spaceborne Carriers
The US Navy 'super carrier', the Nimitz class comes in at 332.8 meters (1,092 ft) long, weighting in at 106,300 tons, the beam is 76.8 meters (252 ft) with a ship's crew of 3,200 and 2,480 on the flight crewand costs about $4 billion to build. About 90 aircraft, fixed-wings and helicopters are carried on the Nimitz class. While the best known space carriers, the Galactica from the 2003 series comes in at 1,438 meters (4720 ft), beam is at 563 meters (1762 ft), and has a crew of around 5,000 with nearly 100 Viper attack space fighters and an unknown number of Raptors. A Nimitz class is less than the size than one of the Galactica's fligth pods.
The Mercury class, which the Pegasus was a member, is the most modern battlestar in the Colonial Fleet that operated with less crew (2500) due to automation, is fitted with an limited fighter production facility, and is even longer, at 5872 meters. So, what is the proper size for a space-going carrier? That depends on mission, your size of your space fighters, the power source, engines, and FTL systems. Much like other things, it is not length that is important, but height and the width. Too long, like the Executor class Super Star-Destroyer, and your vessel has just that much more area to defend and power. For the most part, it is all about functionality, what best serves your fictional world.

Launch and Recovery
In the operation of a modern day aircraft carrier, landing and taking-off for the attack jet pilot is almost as risky as the actually combat. Fighters are deployed via a steam catapult and full-burn engines with blast-panels protecting the deck crew from being crispy critters. If the take is no successful, the cold sea awaits. Landing several million dollars worth of American hardware is done with skill on the effort of the pilot and the ship's air traffic controllers.
To prevent the fighter from running off of the 332 meter flight deck, a tail-hook that grabs the arresting cable, jerking the fighter to a stop.
Science fiction is mixed on how to launch their space attack jets. Some have the fighters use their thrusters to launch out of the bay, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica use some sort of catapult or electro-magnetic assisted launching system. This has several advantages: the carrier's launching system could allow for the fighter to be near combat speeds without using one drop of fuel, saving it for the trip home.
Also, any fighter engine system could be dangerous to the carrier, the plume of exhaust or charged particle (if are using ion drive), could wear down the hull integrity or impact critical systems. According to article I read on this subject, the worse design would be the deployment of TIE fighters from the belly-bay of the Imperial Star-Destroyer. Another advantage of the Galactica style launcher system is push the fighters out of the carrier's at a rapid pace, and getting them defensive fire screen faster to attack their target. The longer it takes to launch your fighters, the more risk you run of your enemy getting the upper hand tactically.
Let us say, that our intrepid space fighter jocks have launched their missiles and destroyed the Cylon Basestar, and are ordered to turn'em and burn'em for homebase. This process of landing the space attack fighters is the most dangerous and the complex for both pilot and carrier. If the space carrier launched eighty to one hundred fighters, that means that this space carrier has nearly one hundred incoming kinetic projectile screaming towards them in the form of their own fighters. If just one or two of these planes miss the landing bay or have a thruster failure, and crash into the carrier, that could be a world of hurt. Science fiction does a terrible job of showing fighter recovery, this even goes for BSG and B5, who fail to devote the time and attention to scientifically accurate recovery of their Vipers and Starfurys. In both versions BSG, the Vipers just seem to land like a conventional naval fighters on a seaborne carrier, or they carefully position themselves over an magnetic elevator platform in the null-gravity environment.  During emergency landing, when the Galactica needs to FTL jump out of the hot-zone, we see the fighters just pile up or float inside the cavernous hanger bays.
In reality landing the space fighter would be much more complex than launching it into space. The recovery landing bays would need to be positioned away from the thrust of the carrier's engines, or else the carrier's own engine could damage their own planes. This means that designs like the Galactica are landing their planes in the wrong spot. If the landing bays are in the right place, how are these fighters could to stop themselves? Given Newton's 1st Law of motion, these space planes would have to generate a counter force to stop themselves, which eats up fuel, making fuel-less launching even more important.
Tail-hook recovery systems used on current seaborne carriers could be used, if slightly modified, and unlike here on Terra, they could be mounted on the 'floor', 'ceiling', and 'sides', sort of a M.C. Escher-styled landing bay. Fighters could stop short of the landing bays, and be 'reeled in' like a bass using a system similar to in-flight airborne refueling. These connection lines could hook into the plane and tractor them into the bay, being fully controlled, and less prone to planes transforming into kinetic projectiles! However, this would be a very slow process. This is one of the primary reasons AI controlled torpedoes would be better and faster in a hard-science space battle.

The 'Name Game' with Space Carriers
Several terms get thrown around when it comes to space carriers: battlestars, aerocraft carrier, assault carriers, through-deck carrier, commando carrier, battle carriers, star destroyers  space platforms, and so on...so, what gives with the names? Mostly, it is due to sci-fi creators wanting to play up some aspect of their design and how it is different the standard aircraft carrier. Often if a carrier is outfitted with powerful cannons that normally would be mounted to an attack ship, the carrier gets the moniker of 'battle' or 'attack'. If the space carrier launches something different, they could be refereed to has 'commando' carriers, blurring the line between assault ship and carrier. Carriers are suppose to be mobile air bases, but if the space carrier is less mobile than it's fleet counterparts or lacking in FTL, it could be a 'space platform'. Space carriers can also be called 'aerocraft' carriers due to the transatomspheric nature of their space vehicles. In the end, the word carrier is enough to communicate what this spaceship does. 

Could there be an Hard Science Space Carrier?
In the last episode of Firefly, 'objects in space' bounty hunter Jubal Early summed up an issue with hard-science space carriers: "So is it still a room when it's empty? Does the room, the thing, have purpose?" If space fighters will not exist in the future spacefaring real-world, than what purpose do space carriers serve if they have nothing to carry? Recently, FWS investigated the reality of hard-science space fighters, and came up with that they make little or no sense, and that our future in a militarized space will not include spaceborne combat planes. Where does that leave us and our space carrier? There are a few options. One vessel that would be close to the space carrier is the assault ship that transports space marines, landing craft and the armored vehicles to the planetary battle-sites. These shuttle landing craft would be armed, trans-atmospheric, and the closest thing to the jump-ship/space fighter in the far future.
Another type of space carrier could be a much smaller vessel that carries AI controlled 'ship-killer' torpedoes that are much more complex and expensive than something akin to the modern naval missile guided cruiser. One design for the AI Guided torpedoes would be similar to the RDF Hermes class A.R.M.D space platform from the first few episodes of ROBOTECH: Macross, that deployed smaller missile bearing computer controlled craft, the RDF SF-3A Space Lancer class space fighter/cannon. And another point...if there is to be a space carrier in our future, then the damn things WILL NOT have a take-off runaway! VTOL anyone?
Atomic Rockets re-posted an 1979 article written by David Ing called 'Vehicles for Future Wars'  about the subject of space carrier:
To begin with, the best shape for the battle craft might be an elongated torus; a tall, stretched-out doughnut. In the long hole down the middle we install a crew of two -- if that many -- weapons, communication gear, life support equipment, and all the other stuff that's most vulnerable to enemy weapons. This central cavity is then domed over at both ends, with airlocks at one end and weapon pods at the other. The crew stays in the very center where protection is maximized. The fuel pellets, comprising most of the craft's mass, occupy the main cavity of the torus, surrounding the vulnerable crew like so many tons of gravel. Why solid pellets? Because they'd be easier than fluids to recover in space after battle damage to the fuel tanks. The rocket engines are gimbaled on short arms around the waist of the torus, where they can impart spin, forward, or angular momentum, or thrust reversal. The whole craft would look like a squat cylinder twenty meters long by fifteen wide, with circular indentations at each end where the inner cavity closures meat the torus curvatures.
The battle craft doesn't seem very large but it could easily gross over 5,000 tons, fully fueled. If combat accelerations are to reach 5 g's with full tanks, the engines must produce far more thrust than anything available today. Do we go ahead and design engines producing 25,000 tons of thrust, or do we accept far less acceleration in hopes the enemy can't do any better? Or do we redesign the cylindrical crew section so that it can eject itself from the fuel torus for combat maneuvers? This trick -- separating the crew and weapons pod as a fighting unit while the fuel supply loiters off at a distance -- greatly improves the battle craft's performance. But it also mans the crew pod must link up again very soon with the torus to replenish its on-board fuel supply. And if the enemy zaps the fuel torus hard enough while the crew is absent, it may be a long trajectory home in cryogenic sleep.
Presuming that a fleet of the toroidal battle craft sets out on an interplanetary mission, the fleet might start out as a group of parasite ships attached to a mother ship. It's anybody's guess how the mother ship will be laid out, so let's make a guess for the critics to lambaste.
Our mother ship would be a pair of fat discs, each duplicating the other's repair functions in case one is damaged. The discs would be separated by three compression girders and kept in tension by a long central cable. To get a mental picture of the layout, take two biscuits and run a yard long thread through the center of each. Then make three columns from soda straws, each a yard long, and poke the straw ends into the biscuits near their edges. Now the biscuits are facing each other, a yard apart, pulled toward each other by the central thread and held apart by the straw columns. If you think of the biscuits as being a hundred meters in diameter with rocket engines poking away from the ends, you have a rough idea of the mother ship.
Clearly, the mother ship is two modules, upwards of a mile apart but linked by structural tension and compression members. The small battle craft might be attached to the compression girders for their long ride to battle, but if the mother ship must maneuver, their masses might pose unacceptable loads on the girders. Better by far if the parasites nestle in between the girders to grapple onto the tension cable. In this way, a fleet could embark from planetary orbit as a single system, separating into sortie elements near the end of the trip.
Since the total mass of all the battle craft is about equal to that of the unencumbered mother ship, the big ship can maneuver itself much more easily when the kids get off mama's back. The tactical advantages are that the system is redundant with fuel and repair elements; a nuke strike in space might destroy one end of the system without affecting the rest; and all elements become more flexible in their operational modes just when they need to be. Even if mother ships someday become as massive as moons, my guess is that they'll be made up of redundant elements and separated by lots of open space. Any hopelessly damaged elements can be discarded, or maybe kept and munched up for fuel mass.

Space Carriers and Science Fiction
As with most combat starships seen in science fiction works, their blue-water naval counterparts bleed into how these spaceborne vessel behave. Space Carriers are sometimes viewed has the supreme warship type in the fleet, which is true of the modern navy and the Battlestars of the Coloniel Fleet are a good example. Then in other works, often in starship RPG combat games, the carrier is downgraded to an unsexy backplayers when compared to the heavy cruiser or even the battleship classes. One of the most common types of spacecraft that carry other smaller combat vessels into battle are not the Galactica type and not patterned after real-world aircraft carriers, but more like a battleship of World War II.
Science Fiction is full of these types, from the Yamato, the Daedalus, to the SDF-1, and the most of every ship seen in Babylon 5. These warships carry a complement of attack space fighters, like the EDF Omega class destroyer from B5 carrying two full squadrons of Starfurys and Thunderbolts, but in design, these types of combat spaceships are more like frontline warship rather than a carrier. Most of these have extensive interior fighter bays, not looming landing pods of most space-designed carriers. While this adds more combat depth in a tactical sense to every vessel, it also adds the need for more crew and space, devoted to the care of these space fighters, along with fuel, ammunition, and services for the pilots. All of this increases the cost of running your space battleship. Credits don't grow on trees you know!
It surprised me to learn that concept of an aircraft carrier in space is older than the late 1970's, I believe that Star Wars and the 1978 BSG were the first examples. However, sci-fi author John W. Campbell developed a carrier-type vehicle in his 1950's short story, the Black Star Passes. It is likely that the concept of space carriers originated with the airship aircraft carriers...


The Battlestars from Battlestar Galactica
For most to the legions of science-fiction fans, if you mention the words 'space carrier' than the Battlestar military spaceship from the 1978 and 2003 series pop into their minds. Iconic is the only word I can use, because it nearly single-handedly defined this type of space vehicle. When I was a kid, I asked my brother what a 'battlestar' was, he told me it was fusion of a battleship and a carrier, and that has stuck in my mind has the definition for a battlestar class vessel. In the original series, only eight battlestars (all using the same model) were seen. Fans of the original series have a myth, that RDM incorporated into his Cylon War, that each of the 12 Colonies constructed one battlestar, leading to only 12 used during Cylon War. There were vast differences between the two different series, the 2003 BSG was outfitted with KEW weapons, nukes, and ship-to-ship missiles, along with Vipers and Raptors.
The main duty of the battlestar is to be the homebase of the air-wing, FTL transport, along with providing a flak-screen against incoming fighters and munitions. The 1978 Galatica was outfitted with a number of automated defensive laser cannons, some sort of heavy-launch missiles if the shit-hit-the-fan, and Vipers. Age was another factor separating the two series, the 1978 Galactica is over 500 years old, being deployed mid-way through the thousand year war with the Cylons, while the 2003 Galactica was about forty and was among the original battlestars constructed during the Cylon revolt. It is unknown if there were any battlestars prior to the Cylon Revolt. And in the real-world, while the 2003 Galactica was CGI, the 1978 model was constructed out of dozens of WWII naval model kits.

Hermes class A.R.M.D. RDF Space Platform from Robotech: Macross
For some reason, I've always been a huge fan of these oddly shaped Terran ships that were mostly destroyed when Breetai's recovery fleet arrived to take back the SDF-1. The Hermes class armored reflex missile defender (ARMD) were one of the first RDF combat space craft, and developed prior mankind's first outer space battles. Due to their lack of Fold Drives, and low-tech Terran sublight engines, the ARDMs served has mobile weapons and aircraft platforms to backup to the SDF-1 with missiles, Particle cannons, and computer-controlled spacecraft.
From 2005-2010, a total of nine Hermes class were completely constructed in space at the L5 drydock, despite the nine hulls being ready, RDF could only turn out four ARMDs in time to meet the initial recovery Zentraedi fleet. ARMD 01, 02, 03 and 10 were all destroyed in short order after the assault on Macross Island. One of the reasons for these vehicles being wiped out was even though their particle DEW cannons were salvaged from the SDF-1, the ARMDs' lack the power generate to match the fire rate of the Zenraedi cruisers.
Unique among this small Terran fleet was ARMD-10 that had been converted  into an carrier-role space vehicle for Veritech space fighters, instead of the SF-3A Lancers. This mostly likely was a testbed for a larger conversion of the entire ARMD vehicles, but there was never a chance. By the time of the full alien fleet, the RDF had other ARMD vessels under construction at their L5 shipyards, but only four powerplants to finish them off. ARMD 05, 07, 08, 04 were sent to backup the SDF-1's ran at Doza's command ship. Only ARMD 04 and 06 survived the onslaught of the alien fleet, and became space stations until 2023. Two ARMD designed 'arms' were attached to the SDF-2, and these were seen in the Japanese The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Flashback 2012.  These space carrier vehicles would have made an appearance in the cancelled N64 ROBOTECH game.
Here is a link: http://ptn.home.xs4all.nl/Naval/ARMD.html

The Coronado class Through-Deck Shuttlecraft Carrier from Star Trek
During the time period of the TOS, the Federation used the successful Constitution class hull design to construct a through-deck-shuttlecraft carrier. The secondary hull was nearly completely devoted to the launch, care, and recovery of Federation shuttlecraft, all 42 of them. This unique class of Federation starship was designed for planetary combat operations or colonial rescue operations, and given this lack of flexibility, something not normally associated with Federation starships, only a few Coronado class were built. If you've never heard of the Coronado class than you are alone. This ship was only seen in the pages of 1991 Ships of the Star Fleet: Volume One 2290-91 book published by Mastercom Data Center and written by Todd Guenther. This was actually one of the best done fan-book ever done, and only sold at cons and various independent comic book stores (like Starbase 21 in Tulsa, where I bought my copy). Worth checking out if your a big fan of technical manuals or Starfleet ships. 

The Mon Calamari  MC80 class Star Cruiser from Star Wars
Much like the Imperial Star-Destroyers and other capital ships of the Star Wars universe, every main combat vessel is outfitted with an air-wing to to give these warships added tactical flexibility. The Mon Calamari are a race of aquatic alien who were members of the Rebel Alliance, and the primary source of the Rebel Fleet warships. The primary warship was the MC80 Liberty class Star-Cruiser that came in at 1200 meters, and carried 36 fighters into battle. For those of us that played X-Wing in the 1990's, the MC80 Star Cruiser was your home-base, and kinda looked like a space pickle. Yep, that is the first time that I've said space pickle on FWS. 

The Poseidon class Super-Carrier from the Babylon 5 Wars RPG
When something works, you go with it, and that is very true of the Earth Alliance's fleet. Most of their fleet is composed of warship based off the Omega class destroyer. From the miniature and imagines from internet artists, the Poseidon class super-carrier has it's four (instead of two)gravity-generating spinning sections near the engine bay, where the bulk of the ship's operation are conducted and the crew are housed. The Omega class 'neck' has been expanded to house 96 fighters, most being the Starfury type, according to the Earth Alliance RPG source book. From the design, it seems the fighters exit via two stacked launch 'mouth' bays, and are retrieved from eight doors on the sides of the fighter bay.
It is also possible that there are launch doors on the 'top' and 'bottom' of the fighter bay, similar to the launch doors on the B5 station. Oddly, this massive 2,000 meter long carrier is poorly armed, save for it's fighters, there is a lack of AAA batteries that could establish a cover-fire zone to allow safe launch of the planes, similar to what the BSG-75 Galactica does. If the fighters are destroyed, than the once choice is for this giant to run. Not a great design over all.

The Clyon Basestar from Battlestar Galactica
As with the Battlestars, I will comparing the 2003 and 1978 versions. One of the most impressive differences with the 2003 Basestars is the use of organic technology, from the hybrid pilot-operator of the basestar to the Raider class fighters, these vessels appear to me more alive than the 1978 variants. Both share a common design, however the 2003 basestar was more deadly and sharp looking, that used ship-to-ship missiles, instead of massive laser DEW bolts, like in the 1978 series.
Interestingly, both series show a basestar's main offensive armament is swarms of raiders, and mostly, basestars are offensive, while the battlestar is defensive. These swarms of robotic planes are deployed from holding banks on the outside of the hull, while the 1978 basestar are like the battlestar, holding the raiders in massive twin fighter bays. For the most part, the 1978 basestars are crap, poorly designed, slow, lacking in any personality or lethality. In the 2003 new series, the basestar is a lethal organic hunter, like a shark, that prowls for fresh meat, and moves with grace in the seas of space.  

The Imperial class Star Destroyer from Star Wars
The name of the game with the Galactic Empire is power projection   across that galaxy far, far, away, and one of the primary tools of the trade is the Imperial class Star Destroyer. Contrary to the image projected in the Star Wars films, the Imperial class was rare, and mostly deployed in showing-the-flag operations, larger engagements, and planetary suppression. Much like real-world aircraft carriers, the Imperial Star Destroyers cost a massive sum of credits, to the tune of several star systems complete GDP. Some 37,000 souls occupy the Imperial class from TIE fighter pilots, Stormtroopers, officers, and crew. It is the six squadrons of TIE fighters  number 72 in total for the air-wing, that give the Imperial class it's abilities in the role of space carrier. These TIE fighters are recovery via tractor beam, and stored in a rack-like launching system.

The Tiger's Claw from the Wing Commander Game
In the original Wing Commander computer game, the TCS-Tiger's Claw (CV-07) was a member of the Bengal class strike-carrier that held 104 space fighters and came in at around 700 meters long and 80,000 tons in mass. The Tiger's Claw was Commissioned in 2644, rose to fame 2654 during the bloody contest over the Vega sector, but destroyed in 2656 by a prototype alien sheath fighter. With the fighters, along with being heavily armed, the Bengal class were designed to operate nearly on their own, striking the enemy were needed. Helping this was the ability for the Bengal class to deploy all of it's 104 fighters in 12 minutes. Launching was done via an extensive landing runaway in the forward section of the carrier, with the hanger bay directly behind it.Within the open cut-scene of Wing Commander: II, the Tiger's Claw is destroy via a sneak attack by several Kilrathi sheath fighters, l    

The Concordia from Wing Commander video games
This was the largest Terran Confederation vessel deployed during the war, the Confederation class carrier/dreadnought was constructed around the reverse-engineered Kilrathi mass accelerator cannon, created a vessel nearly one kilometer in length that could carry 120 fighters into battle. This class, specifically  the Concordia became famous for the Enigma Sector campaign that destroyed the Imperial Kilrathi military sector HQ.Fighers were launched via twin runaways, while being protected by flank cannons. The Concordia was destroyed by the time of the third game.   

The SCVN-2812 Saratoga from Space: Above and Beyond
Designed with an eye more towards modern day naval carriers, the JFK class United State Navy Saratoga space carrier, seemed more realistic and more akin to seagoing carriers than the slick futuristic look of the Galactica or a Star-Destroyer. Constructed by Aero-Tech in pieces on Terran than shipped up to an orbital drydock, 12 of these carriers were in service prior to the Ching War of 2063-2064, and could hold up to 192 SR-43 Hammerhead fighters along with other space vehicles, like the ISSCV.
This 525 meters long vessel was home to nearly 7,000 crew, officers, marines, and pilots. Vehicles like the Saratoga, were the primary offensive arm of the United Earth armed response to the Chigs. Servicing has both a platform of deploying space attack jets and ground troops for planetary operations, with some shipboard orbital artillery to soften up the ground for landing operations. This made these Terran carriers a juicy target. To counter the Chig bombers and fighters, the toga was armed with air-to-air missiles, laser cannons, and torpedoes. One of the unique feathers of the Saratoga was the way it launched it's air-wing of SA-43s. The cockpit module is only mated with the He3 rocket body during launch, via the fighter's own rocket motors. Recovery is done via the same launching tubes, when the two pieces of the Hammerhead jets are separated  ISSCVs land and launch via VTOL He3 thrusters on landing pad-elevators.  

The Chig Carrier from Space: Above and Beyond
There is little information on the massive flying alien wedge designed capital ship that was seen in only three episodes of S:AAB. Like most Chig combat space vehicles, these carriers operate in teams of three, and fire meter-sized DEW balls that can destroy an SA-43 fighter in one shot, and damage the armor of a JFK-class carrier. Swarms of standard Chig attack jets our of the middle section of the wedges. There is little in the way of information on these craft, but they are the most 'alien' design of carrier, I think, in Sci-Fi.
The Terran BC-304 class Deep-Space Carrier from Stargate universe
The secert military government space program fielded two warships, the ugly Promethus that carried a few F-302 fighters, then the much improved, and larger Daedalus class deep-space carrier, or also called a 'battlecrusier' on the TV show. The Daedalus class was made up of the five other ships that all had a similar mission: defense of Terra and her off-world installions. Adding to this mission of projecting power in space were two fighter hanger bays that allowed the Daedalus class to carry 16 F-302 fighters. In the notes of the series on why the BC-304 class was a hybrid of a carrier and warship spoke to the how limited the US Air Force and SG command were on money to construct these monsters. If the USAF could depoly only one warship class, it would have to be both warship and aerocraft carrier.

The Garfish class Cruiser/Fold-Capable Transport from Robotech: The New Generation
The Robotech Expeditionary Force (REF) originally started off with one massive vessel, the SDF-3 Pioneer that had seas of fighters  mecha, and some smaller gunboats. That soon changed with the meeting of the Sentient Alliance, and the war against the Invid and rouge members of the REF. By the time of the massive operation to reclaim Terra from the Invid, the REF fleet had grown to hundreds of warships, one design that proved popular is the Garfish. 
Serving has a transport/carrier/scout and armed with a rather powerful particle cannon. When a  Garfish vessel was serving has a carrier for Alpha/Beta fighters, the dorsal cargo-pods were converted into a hanger bays that could store and serve fifteen fighters. Nearly every REF combat vessels, like most all in the  ROBOTECH universe, carried fighters into battle. I believe, that the vessel that Lt. Scott Bernard and Marlene Rush served on was a Garfish class...but my ROBOTECH DVDs are on loan to a friend at the moment, so, I cannot check.   

The EDF Lexington class Battle-Carrier from Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazers
After the defeat of the Gamilon Empire by the Starforce and the Yamato, the Earth Defense Force committed themselves to massive rearming project with using the Yamato has a template. In order to expedite the construction of the EDF navy, a base hull design for most of the combat vessels was used. The battleship Borodino class was transformed in to the Lexington class battle carrier class and had some carry-over design elements from its battleship roots, namely the armament of a type-15 Wave Motion Cannon and the shock cannons. Much like the Galactica, the Lexington class could engage in ship-to-ship combat, and launch cosmo-tigers, but it did not either role well. This was an odd little vessel that was a stop-gap until the EDF could have fielded an full on proper space carrier. The Lexington class carried limited fighters, a few dozen, and had a limited recovery space being only 240+ meters in length. These carriers were at the battle of Saturn during the White Comet Invasion of 2201. This limited carrier class was replaced by the Shinano attack carrier class.

The Super Dimensional Fortress Space Superior/Assault Carrier class warship from ROBOTECH
In the realm of soft science fiction, has with the Galactica, the massive  SDF series of warships from the ROBOTECH/Macross universe are some of the most impressive and iconic space carriers. The original Tirolian design was to have a deep space war ship that could wage war against an enemy force lightyears from Tirol. This became the prefect long-range, low-profile ship fro Zor's mission. To be more tactically flexible, there were modular sections, that later helped the Terran refit SDF-1 transform. In the hands of the RDF, the SDF-1 became a massive mobile heavily transport vehicle, that carried all manner of Veritechs, mechs, pilots, soldiers, singers, and an entire city in its belly. Much like the concept of the battlestar, the SDF-1 was a capital ship that could dole out the pain on all manner of tactical situations, from space to ground.
 When the Pioneer mission was developed for peaceful contact between Terra and Tirol, the SDF-3, assembled at the orbital Robotech Factory, was skinned to appear like a Tirolian vessel. Despite the peace envoy mission, the REF flagship was heavily armed with all manner of ground and aero mecha, along with enough stores to last five years and ammunition for forty days of combat. With the SDF-3's role has a carrier, 1330 fighers/bombers/shuttles/tactical transports were stowed aboard with a similar number of pilots. For the recovery Terran society, the REF mission represented a massive commitment in lives, treasure, and arms. During the mission by the REF and Sentients Alliance to reclaim Terra from the Invid, several fleet command SDF were constructed, like the Liberator SDF-4. 

The Peacekeeper Command Carrier class from Farscape
Some 50,000 occupied the Command Carriers of the Peacekeepers in the Farscape universe, and for most, it was their home from birth to death. Like any good space carrier, these vessels cast power of a region of space with their Marauder and Prowler class space fighters. While not equipped with an FTL drive, the Command Carriers could accelerate to faster-than-light speeds. In the realm of the Farscape unvierse, these were the most powerful warship and were seen through the run of the series. 

The UNSC Infinity Explorer/Carrier Ship from HALO: 4
3.5 miles in length, 883 meters in width, home to 17,000 UNSC personnel along with the entire SPARTAN-IV program. Originally, the Infinity was designed to be a mobile home for some of humanity if and when Terra fell to the Covenant. After the war was over, the UNSC used the Infinity has an explorer ship that was on the forefront of the new post-war galaxy, and outfitted with Forerunner technology and weaponry. What makes this Leviathan a carrier? While it work on one level has a assault ship, transporting all manner of armored vehicles and tactical transport vehicles, it has a number of F-41 Broadsword fighters...along with ten Charon class light frigates as escorts! This is the only ship I've seen that can compare to the SDF-3 Pioneer from ROBOTECH: The Sentients.   

The Halcyon class Light Cruiser from the HALO Universe
Light...that is what the massive Halcyon class 1,170 meter long cruiser is in the world of the UNSC Navy, light. This, like most of the UNSC combat naval vessels work a flexible tactical position. An Halcyon class light cruiser is outfitted with a 'ship-killer' MAC cannon, making it a warship, marines and vehicles for a ground campaign, making it similar to an assault ship, and then a limited number of Longsword class interceptors. This ability to carry fighters into combat makes it an aercraft carrier, all be it a small capability one, and is similar to nearly every one of the human and alien warships seen in the HALO series.

The Tohoku class Alliance Cruiser from Firefly 
One of the interesting designs for a spaceborne vessel is the Alliance Cruiser from Firefly TV series, that more resembles a floating cityscape than a power-projecting warship. The Tohoku class cruiser is one of the largest military ships in the Alliance fleet, and is named for a region of Japan. It is presumed that this class of ship was developed has a response to the civil war with the Brown-Coats, to be a mobile space platform for projecting Alliance authority via smaller patrol ships in the backwater areas of the 'verse. Given the lack of FTL, and the long mission durations, some or all Alliance personal could bring their families along. This is the only larger Alliance spaceship seen in the Firefly series, and it is not in the Serenity movie.  

The CAS class Assault Carrier and the COS class Super Carrier from the HALO Universe
One of the largest vessels in the Covenant Empire, coming in at 5,346 meters with a massive hanger bay. During the Elite/Terran alliance in HALO 3, several UNSC frigates were transported inside in the belly of the beast to the Installation 00. The CAS class is also known for being able to scar a world with it's twin energy projectors, and having the capability to blanket a human colonial world with smaller alien craft. During the open climactics of HALO: 4, a CAS assault carrier is seen hanging over a human metropolis, unleashing swarms of fighters and tranpsorts.
According to a few HALO sites, the Covenant does have a larger vessel, the COS class super-carrier that was seen in HALO: REACH, when SPARTAN NOBLE Team members Jorge-052 and B-312 used a rigged-up Slipstream drive core and an alien warship in a Trojan Horse strategy to destroy this massive alien base-of-operations that was plaguing the planet Reach. Given the size of the CSO super-carrier, it is believed that one ship's destruction cost the Covenant hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Assault Transporter/Carrier UCF-Roger Young from Starship Troopers Films
In the 1997 film, the primary warship of the United Citizens Federation is the 550 meter long   FTL Corvette/Transport warship and this serves as the base platform for the bulk of the UCF fleet combat ship designs.
Due to the bugs' lack of combat ships, it seems that most of the Fleet is made up of transport/support ships to delivery and support Mobile Infantry planetary operations. Besides the hordes of MI troopers, the Corvette/Transports are also home to the Viking drop-ship, and the F-76 Thunderbolt TAC fighters starfighter/bomber, used in a CAS role for the MI. Most of the F-76 starfighters are carried open to space on the dorsal section of the Corvette, and uilitzy some sort of VTOL. This makes the Corvette ships in the 1997 SST film all manner of ship classes in one packed package: aerocraft carrier, assault ship, transport vessel, resupply cargo vessel, and general warship.


Here is the Space Carrier article from the Quatum Rocketry Blog


  1. The Foreign Policy blog had an amusing article by Christopher Weuve about the Battlestar Galactica. You may or may not find it useful.

  2. Hi, William!! :-) Happy New Year- and I hope you had a good Christmas. The new Ships of the Line series is pretty fun. I've read the article Nyrath suggested- it is pretty amusing, and a rather interesting read.

    On the whole, a lot of SF authors have chosen to portray spaceships as being something like boats in their layout, and borrow various naval metaphors for space wars. This extends to laying out spaceships like boats, with the decks laid out like an airbus and the engines in the back. SF writers borrow various models of combat from wet navy fleets, ranging from the age of sail, WW1 or WW2 surface action, subs in space, and most recently carriers in space. This silly, really (and rather lazy), but it is easy for a lot of people to think of a spaceship as being a like a ship that floats on water, and use historical analogues to describe it.

    But, it is rather interesting to think of what real space travel is like, and see how different it really is from sailing on an ocean. Obviously, a spaceship operates in a 3D vacuum, not on a 2D ocean, and is not ruled by hydrodynamics like a boat- so the craft will not be laid out like one. A carrier need only provide docking areas or a hatch for smaller craft to depart. This has all been discussed elsewhere, though.

    Another interesting fact about space travel relates to energetics. Simply put, travel in space requires ascending up gravitational wells and attaining great speeds in an environment ruled only by the laws of orbital mechanics. A boat just crawls around on the ocean's surface. It doesn't need to loft itself out of a gravitation field, or accelerate to speeds measured in km/sec. Ultimately, energy is the main defining factor of space travel. Achieving higher and higher speeds requires ever greater sources of energy.

    Spacecraft have limited carrying capacities, making it necessary to find compact fuel supplies. A rocket, also, must carry all the reaction mass- the exhaust accelerated out of the engine- in order to operate by the law of action-reaction, which is strictly enforced by universal physical law. All this adds up to vehicles that are totally dominated by fuel/propellent mass in a way not seen in terrestrial craft. It might be possible to avoid the restrictions of the rocket equation by utilizing lightweight sails that can capture sunlight, or beamed energy from back home, or perhaps to use a ramjet made of electromagnetic fields to sweep up the traces of hydrogen found in interstellar space for use as fuel and/or remass. These schemes have their own technical challenges.

    In a novel I have finished recently, "Return From the Stars" by Stanislaw Lem, the interstellar spacecraft Prometheus would weigh 300,000 tons on Earth- but carries only twelve men, as 9/10s of its mass is devoted to propulsion and the rest to instruments, probes, landers, and habitation areas and supplies!! This is perhaps a more plausible vision of an interstellar spacecraft. A similar craft is shown in this video on the "science" of Star Trek, with the conclusion that the Enterprise is completely out of proportion in regards to propulsion vs. habitation areas!! :-)


    Christopher Phoenix

  3. A big difference between rocket travel and ocean travel is related to logistics. As Chris Weuve notes in his article, a modern day naval fleet goes to sea for six or nine months at a time, with continuous logistical support, and returns pretty beat up. They need a refit. This support extends to satellite communications, metrological support, and land based aircraft. Campaigns are planned on shore. Most SF writers don't seem to understand these issues- and how truly alone Captain Kirk is on that five year mission. Even on a voyage to nearby Mars, the communication lags and lack of logistical support from Earth- at least on those initial flights- is utterly unlike anything modern fleets encounter.

    In a rocket flight across the cosmos, you must bring everything you require with you- air, water, the means to recycle them, and all your space parts, especially if you will be out of range of resupply and assistance for years (or perhaps indefinitely). A hydroponics section will be required to provide food for a rocket ship. The crew must have a workable social structure, and be capable of solving problems and making command decisions without relying on a mission control, which may be hours away by radio contact- or perhaps totally unavailable.

    It may make sense to send multiple interstellar ships to a faraway destination, rather than than just one, so if catastrophe strikes one ship another is close enough to help it. Perhaps each ship could be self sufficient in themselves, or a crewed ship could be accompanied by a robot supply ship that could be converted for habitation if the first becomes uninhabitable.

    I should note, however, that as a civilization settles and industrializes the space around it, bases, colonies, and other facilities will spring up that will provide services to spacecraft- we might see fuel stores in orbit or oxygen and hydrogen depots on the Moon, for instance. Shuttling around Earth orbit may be routine, for instance, and help nearby. Within a few light seconds of Earth, communications can be mostly real time. Even over longer ranges, civilized destinations and space infrastructure will make space travel somewhat easier. It is the long-range pioneering expeditions that are really alone.

    I read an old NASA paper recently, detailing a hypothetical interstellar flight to the Alpha Centauri star system. Antimatter engines and artificial gravity that does not require rotation were assumed to be available. The paper details a scheme to take a stony chondrite asteroid about two kilometers across, contain it in an artificial shell with the engines at one end and a spaceport at the other, and terraform the asteroid's surface with gardens and living space. In this ship, the crew will live during the thirty year flight to Alpha C- even raising a whole generation of children shipboard. This is not a SHIP per say, it is a traveling mini-planet!!

    As this paper states, "Interstellar space exploration is at once profoundly exciting and profoundly frightening. The isolation and vast distances along the paths of these starlines are beyond the understanding of today's civilizations."

    Christopher Phoenix

  4. Another vital aspect of space travel is planning out the size, social structure, and leadership of the crew, especially on long flights like that of the terraformed asteroid ship.

    A colony ship also needs a reproductive program that avoids overpopulation and inbreeding, and provides the necessary environment to raise and educate children. This is still important even if we have fast continuous acceleration starships, since we must found a stable society when we reach our destination.

    Many SF stories, especially MSF, show spaceship crews that have a military style command structure, as most of the ships are warships. Most early space missions by the US and USSR were crewed by military personnel, which proved successful at dealing with crisis on short missions. Even in Star Trek, everyone on board the Enterprise is a member of a quasi-military organization.

    However, military style authority structure probably will NOT work on long duration exploration and colonization flights made of non-military personnel. Even with great advances in technology, interstellar flight will be a risky and time consuming affair. As in the terraformed asteroid ship, the crew will have to be a self-sufficient microsociety able to maintain the ship over a decades or perhaps centuries long flight. The entire cycle of human life, from birth through death, will play out on such a ship. New, novel social structures will be needed for such a flight.

    A social structure and leadership adapted to such a flight may, perhaps, be based on the human family rather than military authority structures or the bizarre contortions seen in some SF novels. This will be both familiar to the crew, and well suited to raising children on multigenerational flights.

    It seems quite likely that our first starships will be something like the airborne seed pods of terrestrial plants. An entire human society in miniature will be encapsulated by a starship's thin shell, carrying the elements of humanity out into the galaxy.

    The differences between modern day boats and a plausible starship go beyond the total differences in layout and design, but extend to logistics, anthropology, and genetics. These are issues that are frequently distorted or simply ignored, especially by so-called hard SF authors.

    Christopher Phoenix

  5. I have to admit, I cheated on this article. I went to the Quantum Rocketry Blog and read your comments and his post, and 'shaped' my article around it. He really did a nice job on that post.
    There really has yeah to be a sci-fi work that shows hard science starships in realistic combat, and you make some good points about the future of military space travel.
    I liked that BSG covered the stress of the supply line and how critical the basics would be in space.
    To me...the critical missing element from most hard science starships is the heat radiators. In my own book, they are big factor in ship-to-ship combat.
    You should read the latest issue of National Geographic on space travel...really amazing!

  6. Well, to be honest, my comments above were more musings on the differences between space travel and ocean travel, in the context of SF books and shows that portray spaceships as something like boats. In particular, it seems to me that isolation of deep space travel and the difficulty of resupply and support are rather unlike modern sea travel. Far future space flight may be better compared to the exploits of the early humans as they spread from one continent to another, or the Polynesian people's colonizing islands in the Pacific Ocean, perhaps.

    Another interesting difference between spaceships and boats that I forgot to discuss was that spaceships cannot sink. You cannot overload a spaceship. A certain rocket engine will simply have less thrust when pushing a bigger payload, but the whole mess will never sink like an overloaded boat will- in fact, the same rocket engine uses on an interplanetary spaceship could be used as a maneuvering thruster on a huge space station!! And, in combat, the battleship of space can never sink.

    If the space battleships are designed to be compartmentalized and contain many redundant systems, such ships will be harder to kill than modern boats. Even if it is sliced in two, the two halves of a battleship may be able to survive and continue to flight and maneuver if the battleship was designed to be able to maintain maneuverability and firepower even when whole sections have been blown away. Read the excerpt of John W. Campbell's story "The Mightiest Machine" at the link below for an early SF discussion of this.


    It does make some sense to design a large mothership that carries much smaller fighting vehicles into battle. The smaller vehicles can outmaneuver and out accelerate the larger mothership, and be sent on short-term missions and combat runs and then return to the mothership for resupply and transport from one part of space to another. I can also imagine a mothership carrying craft for planetary assault. It is up for grabs whether the mothership will carry space fighters, small assault rocket craft, or fairly large space warships, though!! XD

    Christopher Phoenix

  7. There haven't been many "realistic" or believable starships in fiction, and I can't recall any in combat- but there may have been a few somewhere. It would be interesting too imagine. The craft might find that their own propulsion systems are deadly weapons, at least at short range, and I wouldn't be surprised of people who could launch starships could also field multi-terajoule gamma ray zappers and clouds of antimatter as weapons... XD I suspect "realistic" space combat will be far more operatic than we might imagine at first.

    It seems to me that most authors nowadays don't spend much time thinking about the challenges of real space travel, or simply dismiss it as impossible for humans and write about such absurdities as "mind uploading" (which is impractically difficult for many of the same reasons as a transporter transfer is, and would not preserve the original brain's consciousness even if it was possible). Hardly anyone since the 50s seems to spend much time thinking about pertinent BIOLOGY of space travel, like the threat posed by cosmic rays or the difficulties of adapting to a planet hosting an ecosphere based on an alien biochemistry. Neither has anyone given much thought to the social issues of space travel in recent years.

    For example, the only mention of cosmic rays I can recall was in James Blish's "Cities in Flight" series, where spindizzy screens are polarized to stop cosmic rays, and a character who had flown on starship-cities before the technique of polarization was invented is riddled with cancers but still lives due to anti-aging drugs. The only mention of the importance of designing a functioning microsociety for star travel was in AE van Vogt's "The Voyage of the Space Beagle", where we spend a lot of our time dreaming up new social structures for starships in an attempt to not lose as many ships. The 1000 chemically castrated men of the Space Beagle spend their entire voyage to the Andromeda Galaxy fighting over who is in charge, so clearly their society did not work. :P

    Thermodynamics as an important issue for any area of engineering, but it is important to remember that there is more than one way to deal with waste heat. A heat sink, like that used on the Eagle lunar landers, can absorb heat from a laser, although this will limit the number of shots you can fire. Expendable coolant is another possibility. And, you must know how much waste heat you must deal with- modern lasers are VERY inefficient, but future lasers could be far more efficient than todays.

    Christopher Phoenix

  8. There was a time in sci-fi that hard science space travel was seen, and 1968's 2001 showed us that not all ships are the Enterprise.
    I personally think that Star Trek and Star Wars are massive responsible for the softening of science fiction, but the treatment of starship has space-going boats is a mystery to me. It could be related to ancient mythos...or Starblazers.
    One of my favorite mistakes made by sci-fi is the landing starship. Any real hard science ship would like the ISV Venture Star from Avatar, constructed in space for space. Trying to get that thing through the atmosphere would result in an very expensive fireball.
    I agree with you, any combat starship would be fighting three enemies: the nature of space, the enemy, and life aboard a metal tube.

  9. I agree with you that Star Trek and Star Wars are responsible for softening modern science fiction. They have become such cultural icons that most people think of them if you mention the words "science fiction", and on the whole such movies don't give the most accurate picture of space travel. I think a lot of issues- especially those regarding the ethics of space colonization and alien contact and the biological issues of space travel- offer as yet underutilized story telling potential.

    The reasons why the Discovery 1 from 2001 could not land on a planet were because its plasma rockets could not generate enough thrust for landing, and the ship was not designed to take a full G of acceleration and would fold and break if it were subjected to a planetary gravitational field. However, if you specify that the 27th century starship can accelerate at ten Gs and accelerate to 1/6 the speed of light, the ship has more than enough thrust and structural integrity to land on Earth many times over!!

    The delta-V requirements of high speed space travel call for torchships that won't even notice the delta-V of a take off, and a properly designed nuclear powered engine could probably generate enough thrust for lift-off, the biggest concerns may be practical ones- the starship might vaporize anything underneath it!! Radioactive exhaust is another problem. A nuclear or antimatter rocket engine will emit dangerous radiation. The local inhabitants may not appreciate the fallout and backwash of neutron radiation your torch engines leave behind you. Bad for property values. But, it is POSSIBLE for a ship equipped with a high-thrust nuclear fusion or mass-conversion torch engine to land.

    Probably, the answer to this question of whether a starship should land depends on the actual design of the starship and where you intend to land. It may be safer to leave the starship in space and use shuttles instead, even if it could. If a starship does land, it will most likely descend tail-first like a classic rocketship, and possibly land in oceans well way from inhabited areas. Not belly-first and right on top of alien archeological sites like the starship in Prometheus. A mass-conversion drive that emitted neutrinos as its exhaust (I've seen at least one paper on this concept) could land on a planet without melting down the landing site- this would be the most practical interstellar drive for landing the starship other than an antigravity engine.

    Landing a starship is not much of a mistake, compared to portraying interstellar travel as being much like a week-long cross country drive. Landing a big starship only calls for liberal application of unobtanium, not for handwavium with a generous helping of technobabble like superluminal flight. :,D I can imagine a realistic scene where a far future starship lands on its tail in an alien ocean. Shuttles are still more practical for most purposes. And, most starship designs I have seen are not equipped to land.

    One paper I have read stated that it is very hard to build things in space, especially if you are in a spacesuit getting your knuckles skinned, so we should not make a mega-construction project like a starship any harder by decreeing we construct it in space. Instead, we will build ultra-heavy lift launch rockets to put fully assembled components in space. Perhaps the orbital docks will only assemble components, or we might even boost a fully assembled starship into orbit, fuel it, and send it on its way.

    This makes some sense- after all, we have not BUILT anything in space yet, only sent up modular components and assembled them like a cosmic lego set. For really big O' neil type colonies and multigenerational starships, though, in orbit assembly may be necessary- even if it just putting together components launched from a nearby planet.

    Christopher Phoenix

  10. Dude who do you think would win ? The infinity vs the sdf3

  11. Wow! That is a great question! There is some similarity in both of those ships that had not considered before you asked that. Interesting. The UNSC Infinity as a more divisive weaponry package, but the SDF3 has lots of fighters and experienced fighter pilots. Plus, if the Infinity was able to deploy boarding parties into the SDF3, the REF would be fucked. Between the ships slugging it out, I think the Infinity...by a hair.

  12. Just a FYI note for the B5 universe concerning "Launch and Recovery" the B5 station itself launches its fighters through what could be called a "centrifugal release system". Or in other words the fighters are housed in the outer layer of the spinning artificial gravity section with their launch doors “in the floor” below them which is actually a door in the outside surface of the spinning section.

    There is no catapult of any sort the launch doors simply open the fighters are pivoted downwards pointing nose out and then their docking clamps are simply released and the centrifugal force of the spinning section flings them out into space.

    It’s just like swinging a ball on the end of a string around in a circle above your head and then suddenly releasing the string and the ball goes flying outward.

    No catapult, magnetic or otherwise required and it’s a “free” launch boost since your already using rotating sections to produce artificial gravity anyway.

    Source information for that is the auto commentary from the producer and visual effect directors on the DVD series explaining that the external shots of the fighters being launched in this manner are correct and their trajectory and speed as seen is mathematically correct for this kind of launch system. You will also notice that the fighters do not fire their engines to accelerate further until they are a little distance a way from the station after their launch. A logical procedure for the reasons you point out.

    Now as to recovery, fighter recovery procedure of the B5 station was never really explored in the series but at least among fan discussions online it is believed that since the fighter launch bays do not seem to be designed to be easily and readily “reloaded” from the back end, the most likely and logical scenario following in the simple elegance of the centrifugal launch system would be tangential course intercept retrieval in combination with central docking bay retrieval.

    Tangential course intercept recovery procedure would be that the fighter would set its course and speed on a tangential line with the stations rotating section at a speed matching the rotational speed and thus upon reaching the outer edge of the stations rotating section in that moment would be moving parallel and at the same speed as the rotating section. Docking clamps simply extend clamp on and pull the fighter back into its bay. As an added bonus if anything goes wrong and the fighter strikes the station it is only a glancing blow at very little speed differential.

    Why an internet game based on the B5 universe that features a “carrier” warship would not use the same type of sophisticated simplicity of centrifugal release launching and possibly also tangential course recovery is beyond me. Perhaps they never listened to the DVD commentaries where at least the launch system is fully explained.

  13. (Same guy as immediately above) Thought I should note that the author is correct about the EDF Omega and similar B5 front line warships appear to launch their fighters via some sort of catapult system (although older EDF ships appear to lack catapult launch capability and the fighters simply fly out of the side hangers at low speed under their own power as seen in the B5 movie "In The Beginning")

    Although never seen in the series. Logically a true "carrier" type EDF warship would most likely for purpose of both maximum capacity and redundancy use a combination of both "centrifugal release launch system" with fighter bays in the outer layer of the rotating sections as is done on the B5 station itself and also have a forward hanger bay like the Omega class with catapult launch capabilities probably in a larger expanded form.

  14. I think I have one idea as to why a traditional carrier design might be good. What about magenetic or other propulsion setup and landings. Say if you can let them land like on a modern carrier lessen the affects of speed so it's a soft landing and use a magnetic coupling on the surface you could land with a lot of surface space for landing simultaneously. Same with take of. If you can propel them like modern ships forward you can aim and shoot many ships off and have them simply be brought to the surface and connect energy and shoot them one by one off the surface. Heck use it right and they can all launch together and not hit each other. then they land go back to their bay door and are brought into the carrier. then you have repair bays for the ship under the carrier surface with full functionality for each ship potentially. Fast repair fast launch.

    The rest of the ship would be crew and mostly either storage and or fabrication abilities. And obviously energy for the ship.

    1. If the rest of the ship is build correctly the only weakness is potentially only launching up to 180 degress from teh ship center in one direction. You could always also project the energy to shoot the ships in any other area besides straight forward. but it could be good for getting the ships in formations without having to use fuel. You could use the energy to do different formation from different angles of launch also. Add a carrier surface to the opposite and and you have potentially 360 degrees of coverage.

      And as someone else mentioned landing procedures and trajectories could cover not smacking into the ship.

  15. Two minor quibbles at first:

    1. The Robotech "Hermes" class ships are more accurately classified as 'arsenal ships'- as they carry purely expendable (though apparently very sophisticated) munitions, rather than anything that could be considered "recoverable" or "manned".

    2. The Imperial-class SDs are carriers... to a point. A better example would have been the older Venator-class, as the Imperial-class placed much more emphasis on its battleship and assault ship characteristics, thus requiring it to make considerable sacrifices.

    Consider that the Imperial-class ships are ~1600 meters long, and only carry about 72 TIEs. Which sounds like a lot, until you learn that a Venator was about 1000-1100 meters long (can't remember off-hand what the precise number is), has a *much* thinner profile, and carried 192 Eta-2 Actis interceptors and 192 V-Wings (or V19 Torrents)... each of which is comparable in size/tonnage to the TIE fighter.

    And that's not counting the ARC-170s that it carried, or the planetary assault forces and gunships.

    In any case, carriers in an actual "scientific" representation of space warfare are really just a fancy name for particularly large and well-equipped arsenal ships and missile cruisers, given that manned space fighters are a terrible idea... if you're working under the assumption that space carriers are deep/interplanetary/interstellar craft.

    OTOH, if you instead work with the assumption that carriers are used to support surface operations, then you end up with carriers functioning in the "brown water"/"littoral" environments of orbital space, where there suddenly is a horizon and being able to see beyond it is both useful and important.

    In the open void, there is no horizon- space fighters, ergo, don't have much of a reason to exist. Of course, such a measure does totally throw out the traditional depictions of fighter carriers... mostly.

    Surprisingly enough, a few carriers on the list *do* fit such a task- the UNSC Infinity, the Imperial-class SDs, the Halcyon-class cruisers, and I'd argue the Covenant CAS/COS class vessels as well... in part because carrier functions are merely one role these vessels fulfill, and most/all of them are also designed to carry a meager-to-ridiculously-well-equipped planetary assault group (PAG?).

    This does bring up an important point: while dedicated carriers are unlikely-to-idiotic, what about space *fighters*? Personally, I consider them a "brown water" asset, used in a role more akin to a Coast Guard cutter than a dedicated attack platform. Which makes fighters a weapon of coercion- you use them for show-the-flag duties (assuming they or their transport can take them places), as well as customs/inspections and "anti-piracy" duties (the latter of which would likely consist more of inspecting suspicious ships while in orbit).

    Of course, all those tasks rather require a ship that *looks* more like a cutter than a fighter, so it might very well be that our basic conception of a "space fighter" is entirely wrong for the needs and roles undertaken by such a craft in the first place.

    Makes me wonder just how much we've gotten right about space warfare, because it's probably zero-to-none ;)

  16. why do people keep making the mistake of assuming that manned endo/exo atmospheric attack craft are a bad idea? in any plausible future war story the grunts will need air cover when fighting on a planets surface, getting to the planets surface, and evacuating wounded off of a planets surface. you cannot perform these critical missions with missiles(you also can't replace infantry with missiles as the pentagon is learning in Syria). likewise a small fighter is a harder target than a huge battle ship and if you're using realistic designs have a better chance of getting in close enough to hit a vulnerable spot on a much larger ship or space station ensuring it is at least disabled if not out right destroyed.

  17. Manned dual atmospheric craft will be needed for space transport systems between star-side and dirt-side. The main issue is expense and the starlift power of VTOL thrusters, Also, if and when an tactical transport shuttle took damage, it could effect its ability for atmospheric reentry and/or orbital accented.

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  19. The concept of Carrier is seriously considered when only a small squad of fighters with anti-ship weaponry can and had blew up dreadnoughts with very heavy armor and powerful guns.
    I would like to think that Fighters would be a lot more relevant in space when exotic weaponry is the name of the game. When 1 anti-matter torpedo is enough to glass an entire fraking planet, when a few fighters that managed to survive the point defense screen can turn a big battleship into a wreck while their bigger brothers and sisters distracted their enemies with slug-fest.
    Or defend the ships from enemy fighters and projectiles like missiles and torpedoes