What Happened to the Naval Troop Ship?
The troop transport seagoing vessels that have been around since the days of the Greeks are basically gone and the amphibious warfare assault ship are the modern inheritor of that mantle. But, what happened to the old troop ship? Basically, the jet age happened. The last use of a classic troopship in my mind is the use of the QEII and the Canberra cruise ships as troop ships by the British Navy to retake the Falkland Islands during the 1982 Argentine junta invasion of the islands via amphibious landings. For the most part, the bulk of infantry and marines have been moved to foreign battlefields via large military cargo/transport planes like the C-17 Globemaster, the Airbus A400M Atlas and the Russian llyushin II-76. These massive cargo aircraft can move a large numbers of soldiers and gear from a secure airfield to another airfield in hours rather than days, speeding up the deployment and security of infantry coming to a battlefield. At times, civilian aircraft companies have been used to move soldiers into the warzone, like during the Vietnam War when soldier came into South Vietnam and left sometimes onboard the civilian operated passenger planes. The maritime portion of moving troops to the beaches was taken over by the naval amphibious assault ship that houses landing craft, VTOL craft, and the helicopters.
The Assault Ship/Amphibious Assault Ship/LHA/LHD/LPH
In the modern Naval structure, the battleship as been replaced by the aircraft carrier and the old troop ship has been replaced the amphibious assault ship. In modern navies, the Amphibious Assault Ship is an odd vessel and not all navies possess these craft and then there is the confusion between the assault ship and a helicopter landing craft (AKA Landing Helicopter Assault "LHA") and even the "escort carrier" of the 2nd World War. Basically the assault ship is designed to transport and support VTOL, helicopter, amphibious landing craft, tilt-rotor aircraft during land-based operations. Expeditionary Marine forces stationed onboard these modern assault ships, like the America class of LHR(A) can launch operations via the MV-22, landing crafts in the well-deck, and traditional helicopters with CAS coming from VTOL fighter aircraft.
About 1900 Marines are onboard the LHA(R) class ships with a crew of about 1200 with Phalanx CIWS, and missile launchers rounding the offensive and defensive weapon systems. Much like their larger cousins, the aircraft carrier, the assault ship is the foundation of the Expeditionary Strike Group that is more designed for maritime land operations rather than sea control than the traditionally carrier group. Some of the new America class that are of the Flight variant will not feature well-decks and even smaller medical bays to promote larger space for aircraft support. The origin of the assault ship came out of the escort carrier (nicknamed "Jeep carrier by GIs) of the 2nd World War that was designed to support landing operations while troopships had infantry and marines to scale down rope ladders on the sides of ships to man landing craft, like the American Hughes boats. Given the dynamic nature of modern warfare, the amphibious assault ship is a key element of any force-in-readiness and power projection strategy. To that end, the beginnings of a conflict could come from forces launched from an traditionally aircraft carrier and the assault ship. While the utility of such ships is well known, they are expensive...very expensive, billions of dollars. At presently, the US Navy has the most assault ships in operation with the British Royal Navy being second and an handful of other navies fielding assault-style ships with the Chinese looking to expand their assault ship fleet in next few decades.
The Assault Spaceship of the Sci-fi: the PASP
Given that the seagoing assault ship transports, launches, and supports Marine units during ground operations...that means that the vast majority of science fiction troopships are actually a form of what we could call p
latforms (PASP) vessels. Most deep space military ships that are sent out to land space marines on-planet for dirtside operations are going to use a shuttle, drop pod, drop ship, or tactical transport to land the space marines and mechs on-planet which makes that spacecraft a PASP...unless the entire spaceship lands on-planet and off-loads the marines and mech suits. While the USS Sulaco
of ALIENS was correctly classified as an assault ship, the vast majority (like 90%) of sci-fi troopships are actually assault ships. Much like with the whole drop ship/tactical transport debate on terminology, most sci-fi creators will refer to spaceborne haulers of space marines as "troopships" when in actuality, they are a form of spacegoing assault ship or PASP.
The Medical/Hospital Ships
The first hospital ships used by a navy date back to the times of the Greeks and Romans with the named vessels of the Therapia
, and the Aesculapius
. During the grand age of sail, the 17th century British Navy had the HMS Goodwill
in service. The 17 hospital ships in service at the time were repurposed former ships of the line decommissioned in medical service with various results. The concept of the medical/hospital ship being a decommissioned naval or merchant vessel that mostly used to transport the sick and wounded from the battlefield to a land-based medical facility changed around the 19th century.
During the First World War and the Crimean War, battlefield medicine and the treatment of soldiers in times of war changed vastly. In the 1907 Hague Convention X, the role and look of hospital ships was covered which caused the naval medical vessel to be painted white with the red cross symbol, not used to transport soldiers or war supplies to the battlefield, and not targeted by the enemy. That convention of medical ships not be a target by enemy forces was ignored by U-Boats of the 1st and 2nd World Wars and Japanese fighter pilots. Targeting hospital ships was considered a war crime. Today, there are dedicated hospital ships in several navies like the US and Chinese navies. These are deployed to international crisis points and are considered to be part of the goodwill face of a nation. I actually worked with a few nurses that served on the Mercy
and they had very interesting stories of their humanitarian missions across the globe. One interesting modern use of Hospital Ships during a time of war, and a bitter one at that, was the Red Cross Box during the Falklands War were British and Argentina hospital ships setup for operations in a neutral zone and they both played by the rules.
Will there be Space Going Hospital Vessels?
There are levels to the off-world mobile medical centers that we could see in the real-world. Given the harsh realities of interstellar space travel, I seriously doubt there will be dedicated medical vessels in space fleet organizations that deploy starships to exo-solar locations. Any outside the Sol System space travel that involves a exo-solar deep space space transport system carrier, like the ISV Venture Star from AVATAR, will have extensive medical facilities onboard the vessel that will make use of robotic or android-based medical staff. An example of this is what we saw at the end of SW: TESB with Luke being under the tender care of a Rebel Alliance 2-1B-series medical droid and the FX-7 medical assistant droid at the Rebel base on Hoth. The establishment of off-world frontier medical centers will be one of the foundational buildings of any colony, outpost, or waystation and this could also impact the development and deployment of medical ships.
If the battlespace is in an unestablished region of space, there could be something similar to the Ticonderoga
fleet battlestation seen in SST
or even a starship as a medical platform for the warzone causalities. I could see a frontier medical station being deployed within reach of several star systems that are far away from the Sol System, like a region rural county hospital that services an unserved region similar to Amarillo in the western part of Texas. These medical stations could be like Starfleet Starbases, Babylon 5, Mercy Point,
or even the BTA military space stations in Enemy Mind
Should Spacegoing Medical/Hospital ships be armed?
Okay, the 1907 Hague Convention laid down the tradition of medical vessels being clearly marked, not to be armed, and not be targeted. That didn't prevent U-Boats and Zeros from targeting and sinking marked Hospital Ships in the 1st and 2nd World Wars! The orbital battlespace will be hot and heavy, filled with beams, attack drones, and KE projectiles. All of that can lead to incoming impacting into the wrong target. In space, kinetic projectiles and energy beams can keep going on until something causes it to stop. There could be an excellent reason and case for "arming" the medical ships of space navies.
The term "arming" is key here. Warships, even today, are armed with offensive and defensive systems. It is Tomahawk missiles verse CIWS Phalanx. Not only will spacegoing medical ships have to protect their patients and staff, but also the incoming ambulance shuttles bearing incoming new patients. The hospital starships could be armed with point-defense lasers and interceptors to deal with the various incoming. This could be tricky, legally speaking, due to the ability to use defense weaponry for offensive purposes. Of course, hospital ships could be armed in a fashion, to deal with the nature of deep space natural threats.
Will there be Spacegoing Troop Transport Vessels? The Case for the DSATCV
In the cruel hard science universe, the nature of exporting space marines to exo-planet battlefields will be an very expensive endeavor that may not be tactically or financially sound decision much beyond our own solar system. Having ground troops, their equipment, and their supplies cross the gulf of deep space to arrive at a battlefield lightyears away at lightspeed would create a mountain of issues that can be summed by two words: time dilation. The pitfalls of this were expertly laid down in The Forever War
How could space marines set from Terra that arrive on a colony world in the Groombridge 34 system (11.62LYs away) be combat effective in a war that might have ended while they were in-transit and asleep? If they got to the Groombridge 34 colony to fight the Chigs, who would they return to and who would throw them a parade? Then there is another issue: interception of the transport vessel. During the transit from the Sol to Groombridge 34, it is highly likely that the ship will be safe due to the lack of intercept in the deep cold depths of space.
However, once the transport arrives in Groombridge 34, there is a good chance that the enemy will be waiting for ships to arrive in-system and for those ships to be intercepted there rather than allow the space marines and their hover-tanks to disembark dirt-side. Just a few kinetic interceptors at high speed could turn billions of dollars and years of travel into expensive space debris and frozen meat popsicles. Things will be worse once they get to orbital space. There are number of ways the transport vessel to be destroyed in orbit and due to this hard reality, we could have a very different looking transport vessel. Added to this, there maybe not be warships in the traditional sense for most space fleets. Exo-system transport ships could be converted or house combat-focused ships when they reach their designation. The smaller attack craft could be used to defend the transport.
That brings us to what I call the Deep Space Attack Transport Carrier Vehicle (DSATCV) classification. This naval classification would be used to haul space marines, their equipment, and supplies to exo-planet battlefields in safety. This reminds me of the UNSC Infinity
...before 343 ruined it. During much of the journey to Groombridge 34, the DSATCV is run by computers, crewed by robots, and the humans are meat popsicles. At some point out from the objective, the crew is warmed up like frozen burritos from COSTCO and the ship is readied for combat.
Once the DSATCV enters into the threat envelope, a massive array of offensive and defense system come online like point-defense lasers, interceptor AI craft, armored plates that jet out from the spine of the miles-long craft to catch any incoming fire from the hull of the vessel. Offensive, the DSATCV mounts kinetic kill vehicles, rail cannons, and kitty-litter missiles. The DSATCV maybe a mama, but she fights like a mother fucker. Everything the enemy has they will throw at the DSATCV, and it will hit back. Once on orbit, the DSATCV rapidly drops her marines, their gear, and supplies down the gravity well and the ship defends herself from incoming fire. To me, the Deep Space Attack Transport Carrier Vehicle is one part the ISV Venture Star
, another part Sulaco
, and another part Battlestar.
..and it maybe the primary vehicle of off-world colonial defense and exo-solar military expeditions.
Sci-Fi and the Troop Transport
In the real-world of military troop and/or equipment transport vessels, they are relatively unknown unless there is some sort of personal connection to the troop transport in question. Today, massive military cargo planes, like the US C-17 Globemaster
, transports most troops to the battlefield. Each one of the $200 million planes can transport a maximum of 134 soldiers. During the Falkland War, the British forces used the ocean liners, the Queen Elizabeth II
and the SS Canberra
to move infantry and equipment to the battlefield. The era of the troopship is gone in some ways...but not in the realm of military science fiction. In fact, some of the most famous military sci-fi ships are troop transports, like the Sulaco
That is the queer thing about Troop Transports in science fiction, they are often hero ships and some of them are a hybrid vessel, like a Q-Ship or an amphibious assault ship. These heavily armed war-transport ships are seen throughout military sci-fi. Even in my own military science fiction, the heavily armed troopship is the centerpiece to the soldiers spaceboard deployment life. The real question is why? Partly, it has to do with worldbuilding. The journey for our starship troops and their deployment to the planetary battlefield is mostly onboard the troop interstellar transport and they could be onboard for some time as The Forever War
This makes a natural setting for the creator to introduce your characters, their world, their relationship, and their cool high-tech shit. Another element is due to the nature of space travel, even in a soft-serve science universe, the distance between star systems are vast. No spacefaring military organization would fund the construction of just a troopship without the ability to get the space infantry off of the boat and down to the exosolar battlefield. Tactical transports, plasma rifles in a 40 watt range, and MREs with more Soylent Green would be needed to be on the same vessel.
That troopships would be more of an spacegoing amphibious assault ship, like the Sulaco,the Spirit of Fire
or even the Pillar of Autumn,
that carries space marines, equipment, supplies, and combat shuttles to haul the space marines from starside to dirtside and back again. The sci-fi carrier vessels would also be a hub for resupply, medical care, and coordination. These Planetary Combat Carriers (PCC) would be a juicy target for any enemy force and therefore, these massive metal beasts have to defend themselves on the scale of a ship-of-the-line. At times, sci-fi has developed massive versions of this concept, like the UNSC Infinity
Supercarrier class, that could wage war independent of the main force and even hold the strategic objectives both in space and on-planet as well.
Sci-Fi and the Medical/Hospital Vessel
In the bulk of science fiction spacegoing hospital ships seen in the genre are confined to the pages of book, RPG manual, fan-work, or technical manual rather than a visual works. This is due to the settings of most sci-fi starships operate within. While medical themed episode are common in shows like Star Trek, it is sick bay that solves that issue, not a dedicated medical starship. There was an attempt to have a ER-like deep space medical station themed TV show on UPN back in the 1990s called "Mercy Point"...FWS will dive more into that later with its own article. I think some of the lack of dedicated medical starship or even a sci-fi space medical show is due to a lack of interest by studios and networks to fund a show set around a hospital ship, as we saw with idea of the Hopeship, the Star Trek hospital ship themed show. It is not sexy enough, forwarding medical technology into the future is hard, and most attempts are written off as being too much M*A*S*H or ER.
The Progenitor: The USS SULACO from ALIENS
It is an amazing thing to see the wonderous variety of fictional spacecraft that populate science fiction, mythology, and UFO culture. When it comes to the icons of fictional starships, there are some icons of the genre that transcend out of the geek realm and become displays in the Smithsonian Museum. While the Sulaco
ranks in the top ten of fictional starships among fans of science fiction, the Sulaco
is more of a vessel that is popular among it's own group...however, the Sulaco
is as much as the starship Enterprise
, changed the face of science fiction starship design. The Sulaco
follows in the footsteps of the commercial Weyland-Yutani ship from 1979'sALIEN
, the Nostromo.
Both ships look like they are from the same universe and they are even named after references from Joseph Conrad. And the Sulaco
looks like it comes from the universe of ALIEN and the Sulaco
certainly does not look it belongs among Starfleet.
However, the Sulaco
that we know and lust over was not the first design submitted for the film. During the pre-production phase of the sequel to the 1979 ALIEN masterpiece. Originally, the godly Syd Mead designed the Sulaco
as a spherical-shaped craft and the original concept for the ship looked like the ship would be more home at in 2010: The Year We Make Contact
. According to an interview, Syd Mead got the initial script for ALIENS shipped to him while he was judging a a USA Miss Universe contest run-off in Florida. In the script, the ship was described as a "forest of antennae coming into frame from the left
When James Cameron looked the first design of the Sulaco,
he said it would be too hard to film the large scale ship in the way he had the scene planned. Cameron would drawn a rough submarine-shaped craft and Mead went to work redesigning the ship It was that 2nd concept art drawing that he submitted that became the chosen design to develop the shooting model prop. One popular and often repeated rumor is that the Sulaco
was developed to look like a gun in outer space. In the interview I read, Syd Mead disagreed with the rumor that the Sulaco
design came from the design of the M41a1 pulse rifle and has stated that the Sulaco
was a designed as a "heavily armed commercial freighter
The 6 foot long model was constructed by Peter Astin and detailed (only done to one side given the way the ship was to be shot in the film) by Pat McClung, John Lees and Robert Skotak. Ron Cobb, another titan of sci-fi design, helped with the interior design and Cobb had also worked on the ALIEN Nostromo vehicle. The original Sulaco model was recycled for ALIEN 3 and painted a brownish hue. Currently, the original model is owned by Bob Burns and Syd Mead repainted the model back to its original ALIENS color for free.
The UCF Corvette/Transport from the Starship Trooper
In Federal Fleet of the United Citizen Federation, the most commonly deployed, produced, and seen is the Corvette/Transport. This vessel is a hybrid between the need of the Federal Fleet and the Mobile Infantry. For the Corvette role, this class is used for patrol duties and emergency colonial response. However, given the limited armament of this class, it was not really designed for ship-to-ship engagements, like John A. Warden
class or the even the replacement to this class, the Athena
In the Transport role, the ships carried about 1,500 MI Troopers that were shuttled from ship-to-shore via the DR-4 "Viking" class landing shuttle transport. However, this class only carried 18 of the DR-4 landing shuttles, which carry one single MI Platoon down planetside. That is 36 MI troopers per Viking shuttle which means that only 648 MI troopers can be dropped until the DR-4s comes back up the gravity well, redock, and load back up for the rest of the 800+ troopers waiting for their turn to kill some bugs.
That is less than half could be sent down. This ship was born of the Arachnid Wars, when the need for ship-to-ship combat did not exist in the same way as engagements with rebel Terrans or the Skinnies. When fighting the Bugs, the transport had to get in quick, get the MI Troopers down dirtside, then get out while avoiding incoming Bug surface-to-orbit plasma artillery. Adding to this concept was that all Corvette-Transports carried F-76 "Thunderbolt" class fighter-bombers (FWS missed these on our Fighter-Bomber article recently). There were some variants to the standard Corvette-Transports of the Fleet that carried more fighters via a increased flight deck and an increased interior space to allow for more MI troopers. The Roger Young
seen in the 1997 film was designed by George Willis, who also constructed the shooting models of the ships. In a bit of trivia, George Willis was the one who designed the "Ranger Slingship #377 for the very short-lived CBS sci-fi show Space Rangers
The United States Aerospace Force Conestoga class Light Assault Ships from ALIENS
For the 22nd century Colonial Marine Corps and the United Americas military, the Conestoga
class intended to be the primary FTL logistic vessel for moving soldiers, vehicles, and equipment throughout the colonial network. However, over the service life of the Conestoga
class, it become more of a light warship as seen with conflicts like colonial revolt on the Japanese-American colony of Linna 349 in the Gliese 300 star system (26.47 LYs away). Built by Lunnar-Welsun Industries as originally a light assault ship for use by the USCM Starlift Command and the USASF, the 36 members of the Contestoga
class were designed to operation without the aid of human beings and these spacecraft could leave their homeport, travel under FTL (up to .87 Lightyears per Sidereal day) drive, arrive at their destination, and wake up the crew and even serve them breakfast with plenty of cornbread.
class carry less than 100 crew and passengers for normal duties, but during times of mobilization and transport to a warzone, there expandable cargo space to allow for 2,000 cryo-pods, but they would have to wait on a ride due to the limited number of tactical transports able to be transported onboard. Out of the 36 of the class constructed and put into service, 27 were still in service as of 2179. When the new Bougainville
class attack transport is able to take over of the Conestoga
class as the workhorse of the USCM/USASF, the class will be disarmed and sold to the commerce shipping companies. For many that served during the service life of the Conestoga
class, there will be fond members of waking onboard this bulky wonder of human technology.
The Redemption Medical Frigate of the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars
One of the most common Rebel Alliance warships during and after the Galactic Civil War was the EF76 Nebulon-B
escort frigate and given the flexible platform of the class, several of the EF76's in the fleet were converted for specialized duties, at least two E76s were altered for use as medical frigates. Given the nomadic nature of the Rebel Alliance, it made sense to have a mobile hospital platform for wounded Rebellion personnel that was also armed.
The most famous Rebel medical frigate that cared for wounded from the Battle of Hoth and the Battle of Endor was The Redemption
and it most famous patient was Luke Skywalker after losing his hand in a lightsaber duel with Lord Vader. About to care for over 700 patients and the extensive flight deck allowed for quick drop-off of incoming patients, but experienced and trained staff was always an issue for the Rebel Alliance. Any medical professional that enlisted into the service of the Rebellion could see their entire families made to suffer and this caused the Rebellion to make extensive use of para-professions and medical droids like the 2B-1B series and the FX-7 series. The Redemption
would survive the war and would be used in humanitarian missions of the New Republic along side other liberated Imperial ships converted over to hospital ships, like the Mercy.
The USS Hope from the Star Trek Hopeship Concept
During the run of TOS, Gene Roddenberry and writer Darlene Hartman started planning a live-action TV series called "Hopeship" centered around the USS Hope, an Federation hospital ship that would star Dr. M'Benga, as both captain and Chief Medical Officer. This is one of the great "what ifs" of Trek history and fans have called for the idea to be brought into reality. From all accounts, the idea was just that...an idea. Nothing moved forward and a year later, TOS was cancelled. Fans have wondered what the USS Hope would have looked like. Some believe that the design for the USS Hope could have based on the Tug/Transport designed from the 1975 Star Trek Technical Manual by Franz Joseph. Knowing how cheap studios are, it could have been the USS Enterprise model recycled with new name and Red Cross slapped across the hull.
The Mercy class Earth Alliance Hospital Ship from B5
Within the realm online B5 fandom, there is the mostly likely design for an Earth Alliance hospital ship, the Mercy-class Hospital Ship based on the hull of the Omega class Destroyer. Many of the Earth Alliance ships that came after the bloody Earth-Minbari War were based on the hull design of the Nova and Omega classes. The Omega class hull was altered by removing the Starfury fighters, the weapons, expanding the rotating section with vast medical bays, and there was a fleet of medical shuttles. The only armament on the Mercy class is a light interceptor grid along with a reinforced hull. Another difference is that the Mercy class is painted a white instead of the grey and there are Red Cross symbols on the primary and secondary hulls.
The USASF Bougainville-class attack transport from the ALIENS Universe
By the time of the events of ALIENS in 2179, the USASF replacement for the workhorse Conestoga
class that was already being fielded, the Bougainville
class attack transport. Given the harsh realities of the 22nd century, the role of the deep space FTL troop transports, like the old Conestoga
class, was also to be a light warship. The USASF had been playing with the concept and role of the next-generation deep space FTL transports and that thought process lead to the Bougainville
class. Smaller, lighter, and but more heavily armed, the Bougainville
class was designed to be flexible in combat conditions across the network.
The role of these military vessels was to carry troops, supplies, and military vehicles to the exo-solar battlefield completely automated. While this similar to all FTL transport vessels by the colonial powers, what separates them is their role once they reach their designation. All current 22nd transports fit within the traditional role of the old naval assault ship, but the Bougainville
class will also act as an light warship, which caused the USASF to classify this new class as an "attack transport". In the pages of the 1996 Colonial Marines Technical Manual
, the Bougainville
class is mention, but the class was seen in the form of the USASF Marlow
in the 2010 ALIENS VS. PREDATOR video game.
The Olympic class Medical Ship from Star Trek
First seen in an alternate future during the end episodes of TNG
as the USS Pasteur
under the command of Dr. Beverly Crusher-Picard, the Olympic
class when on to become a canon design and class that operated until the 26th century in the ranks of Starfleet. Designed to look completely different that classic Federation starship design to differ the Olympic
class from typical starships, so that perhaps the members of this class of medical ships were not targeted, the sphere design was also used for one of the first Starfleet long-range classes post-NX class, the Daedalus
While not well-armed and slower, the Olympic
had good shielding and a state-of-the-art medical facilities that rivaled some of the planetside and Starbase medical facilities. Designed with ejectable isolation wards, massive transporters, and a large shuttle of medical shuttles, the Olympic
class was unique among the dozens of active Starfleet starship classes. Unlike many other Starfleet ships, the members of the Olympic
class had mixed crews of Starfleet, holographic EMHs, and civilian medical personnel. This was even more so when the Klingon and Dominion Wars came causing the bulk of Starfleet personnel to be shifted to the frontlines in the service of combat starships.
During these wars, the Olympic
class ships served as dumping grounds for wounded Starfleet personnel. Starships would transfer their wounded crewmembers off at an Olympic
class ship and move back to the front. With the Dominion and her allies having no issues of targeting and destroying medical ships, improved shields and weapons were added along with escort vessels. Members of this class were named after noted medical and humanitarians from member Federation worlds and they were often captained by medical doctors, but some were commanded by seasoned officers at the end of their careers. Many doctors, nurses, and bio-scientists had the highlight of their careers onboard the Olympic
While some Olympic
class medical vessels were lost during the Dominion War, the event that saw the most loss of the class was during the humanitarian mission to Romulus when Nero destroyed three of the class. An interesting note about the different between the class name and the name convention with the class has to do with the roots of the model prop itself. Until I researched this class for this article, I did not know that Trek
visual effects supervisor Bill George constructed the USS Olympic
model on his own as a hobby project at home. He loaned to the production for "All Good Things..." and the ship was renamed from his original Olympic
The Legion Troop Ships from Alien Legion Comic Series
There are few military science fiction comic books or manga that can compare to the brilliance of 1983's Alien Legion.
It was the runner-up for the title of the Best Military Science Fiction comic book. Developed by the legendary Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz, and Frank Cirocco as a "French Foreign Legion in outer space". Starting in 1983 and published by Marvel's EPIC imprint, Alien Legion
would have several runs with changes in story, character, and even a which to a series of graphic novels. For the two main series of the comic, there was several common elements and one being the fish-shaped troop transports used by the Legion to move their Legionaries of various shapes and size across the three galaxies that made up the TOPHAN Union. Really until the 2nd series, this was really the only Union military ship we saw. There is nearly none about it, save for several interesting details. On the first page of the first issue of Alien Legion
in 1983, we see two of these troop ships bounded together via some structural supports, the transport troop shuttles were mounted to the "wings" of the transport, and they were not always armed. The first series of Alien Legion
give conflicting information on if these transports are armed. Given the steer size of the Union, it is likely that these Legion transports were able to quarter the Legionaries in some measure of comfort. While used for the 2nd series initially, the design was dropped.
The Shimada Enterprises LCA-12 Horizon Assault Transport from ROBOTECH/MOSPEADA
After the battle and retaking of the ROBOTECH Masters homeworld of Tirol, the REF needed to construct a proper warfleet to help their new allies and protect the fragile REF position in this part of the galaxy, due to the inability to return to the Sol system after damage to the Fold system. One of the first ships created for the Sentinel Wars was the Horizon
class of assault transport to get soldiers and mecha from space onto the planetary environment. To cheaply accomplish this mission for planetary invasion, the REF developed a non-Fold drive, endo-exo transport ship that was largely automated and could be module for different missions and loads. During the Sentinel Wars and the 3rd ROBOTECH War, the REF turned out nearly 700 Horizon
class ships, with many being destroyed. In combat, the heavier combat vessels of the REF secured the orbital and planetary corridors and the Horizon
ships used their limited weaponry and high speed to get the Cyclone riders, alien shocktroopers, and mecha down the gravity well to the battlefield.
The twin drop cargo pods had the abilities to be dropped while the Horizon
was still in-flight. The cargo pods could be used to ferry troops, mecha, and even supplies to all manner of battlefields. These pods could be recycled by the fleet for other operations or used as buildings for military outposts. Many of the on-planet battles fought by the REF and their Sentinel allies during the wars had the Horizon
drop pods used as mile command centers, housing, warehouses, and even field hospitals. Helping with the defense and utility of the Horizon
assault transport class was its ability to carry several Alpha/Beta fighters underslung and accessible by the interior of the ship.
Due to the number of Horizon
class in service, they were numbered and not named like other main warships of the REF...however, ones that survived battle after battle were nicknamed by their crews. When the final liberation of Earth was planned, many of the Horizon
ships were automated due to the lack of meatbags to operate them. The design of the Horizon
class makes more sense when you realize that it was original designed to be an inner-solar system combat transport from the Mars Base to the Inbit occupied Earth of the Genesis Climber MOSPEADA
. It was the primary method of getting infantry from Mars to Earth and they did not need FTL ability.
The UNSC Pillar of Autumn and the Spirt of Fire from the HALO Universe
In the ranks of the 26th century UNSC fleet are these giant warbeasts of ships that are miles long and house vast armies of infantry, vehicles, and aerocraft. In the way that both the Autumn
and the former colony ship the Spirit of Fire
are used and loaded in a way that makes them more "assault ships" than what the internet says. These are great examples of my DSATCV concept. Both of these Terran warships were able to land hundreds of soldiers on-planet via the Pelican
class tactical transports along with Warthogs
While the Pillar of Autumn
belonged to the Halcyon
class of light cruisers, the Spirit of Fire
was a repurposed colony ship to serve as basically an assault ship that could delivery thousands of soldiers. Onboard the Spirit of Fire,
there was over 11,000 with 6,000 being UNSC Marines and Army along with dozens of land craft specifically designed to haul the troops and vehicles dirtside and the Spirt of Fire
could construct temporary bases as well.
The Rebel Alliance GR-75 Medium Transport from Star Wars
For much of the Rebel Alliance starships, they are culled from sources that one would not often regard as military grade starships. One of the workhorses of the galaxy made its way into the Rebel Alliance, the Gallofree Yards GR-75 and the older GR-45 Medium Transports. Designed to haul and hold massive amounts of cargo magnetically slung under the belly of the beast with a small crew of just under 10. While popular among some of the galaxy's shipping companies, the juicy government contracts went to KDY during the Clone Wars and the during the Imperial era as well...this spelled the end of Gallofree Yards in 5 BBY.
Most of the GR-75s in the service of the Rebellion were bought, stolen, or found abandoned due to expensive upkeep. With the Rebel Alliance on the move all of the time, their fleet of GR-75s was used as the bulk of the logistical train to setup and breakdown hidden rebel bases. Given their modular abilities, some GR-75s were hospital ships, troopships, mobile command posts, fireships, and even when down and unable to get starside, the GR-75 could house rebel personnel. The GR-75 Medium Transport was not named officially until 2015 despite being in the 1980 TESB
and the crew named these bulky ships, "the tuna ship" and even painted some pink onto the hull.
Of course, for people of my generation, the Tuna Ship was part of the holy Kenner Star Wars
toyline. Released in 1982 as part of the SW:TESB
line as the massive "Rebel Transport" . This oddly shaped play vehicle was a cool way to house and carry 24 figures and all for the low, low price of $29.98 ($92.94 in 2023 money). My brother had one of these back in the day and it was an odd thing. It was opened by the black handle and revealed a grey grid that could be removed to reveal a floor. At the forward end, there was a pilot cockpit and at the rear was a twin laser cannon manned turret. There was a belly door, storage bins that contained gas masks. Both end of the Rebel Transport could be opened or sealed and often these thin plastic end cracked. This is likely one of the few science fiction troopships in toy form for three inch action figures.
The Invid Carrier from ROBOTECH/MOSPEADA
One of the more terrifying sites in the 3rd ROBOTECH War and the Sentient Wars was the clam-shelled Invid carriers that could rapidly transport 200 Invid warrior forms into the battlefield of air, land, water, and outer space. Unlike many of the troopships we have covered here in this article, the Invid Carrier is a short ranged craft designed for short ranged deployments. Invid warrior forms were loaded into these calm ships when incoming enemy targets were picked up. Terran starships coming to liberate Earth were met with several of these clam ships and within in minutes, hundreds of spacegoing Invid warrior forms were swarming about, spitting those directed energy disc-shaped bolts. If the attacking force was lucky, they could destroy the calm shell as it opened and robbed the Invid from deploying their forces.
The Kolm-An Class Assault ship from the FASA Star Trek: STOC
One of the more uncomfortable accepts of Starfleet was its lack of being a complete military organization and the franchise itself as distance itself from more military trappings as Gene Roddenberry command it. Throughout official Trek
, there have references to Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan troops and these soldiers being transported to the battlefields. In the episode "Unification pt. 2", we see that the Romulan had refitted three Vulcan ships to house an invasion force of over 2,000 Romulan troops onboard. During the Dominion War, Federation and Klingon ships were used to transport troops to fight the Dominion in official episodes. In the excellent, "Yesterday's Enterprise", we see the alternate reality, Enterprise D
warship was also used to transport 6,000 troops. This may let us know that in official Trek
, the starships we see mentioned on-screen were used to ferry Starfleet Marines, Klingon Warriors, and Romulan centurions to the battlefield via massive transporters.
In the realm of the FASA Star Trek
RPG era, we see that some sources developed troopships for the Klingon, Federation, and Romulans...and one of these was the Starfleet Kolm-An
class. Developed for the old FASA-centered Stardate
magazine that ran from 1984-1987 and was published by three different publishers while FASA had the RPG license from Paramount...which ended around 1988. This magazine was not just for Star Trek
, but for other RPGs under FASA, like Doctor Who
This is similar in concept to the White Dwarf
In the 3rd Volume and issue number 7 and found on pages 230-236. The ship itself was named after a planet bitterly fought over during the 2252-2256 Federation-Klingon War, called the 4 Year War. Kolm-An
class was developed during around the time of Star Trek II: TWOK
and developed in the refit style of the movie-era Enterprise.
Developed as a through-decks assault ship style that made use of four 20-person assault shuttlecrafts and combat transports to transport the 350 Starfleet Marines to the planetside battlefield along with their supplies for 30 days of combat, vehicles, and modular buildings. Once the Kolm-An
class arrived on scene, it takes 30 minutes to off-load her marines along providing orbital bombardment to soften up the targets. During times of tension, Kolm-An
class ships were deployed on a combat patrol to be a QRF to any planetary invasion of worlds, outposts, and Starbases along the borders of the Klingons and the Romulans. About 34 Kolm-An
class assault ships were constructed from three shipyards in the Sol system, Salazaar, and Starbase 12.
The Various Troop Ships and the Guild Heighliner from the DUNE Universe
Within one of the craziest sci-fi fictional universes, DUNE, is one of the craziest system of FTL travel and within that is one of the craziest transport vessels of all time: the Spacing Guild Heighliners. While not really described by Frank Herbert in his original 1965 DUNE novel, the various visual takes on the DUNE novel and universe is a circular shaped craft of vast dimensions that allow for a single Guild Heighliner to move thousands of short-range ships, import-export goods, and possibly millions of people from point in the known universe to another using the power of math and drugs.
If anything in the Empire needs to be moved outside of a solar system, the Guild are the only game in town until the invention of the No-Ship. This means if you want to invade your enemy's homeworld, the Guild have to be the ones to move the entire war effort to the target. All of the troopships of the war effort have to be stored onboard the Guild carrier vessel and folded across time and space in the blink of eye. Once there, the troopships disembark and move down the gravity well to invade the planet with their shocktroopers. This makes the Guild Heighliners one of the largest spacegoing assault ships in all of science fiction.
The Earth Force Condor class Long-Range Troop Space Transports from Babylon 5
In the one of the better episodes of Babylon 5
was "GROPOS" (2x10), we see a taskforce of 25,000 Infantry from the 356th of the pre-Shadow War EarthForce arrive at B5 to help with Akdor government with some local trouble and extend the influence of Earth. General Franklin's taskforce is packing some serious heat. One Nova
class dreadnought and five Condor
class troop transports that are packed with over a dozen Valkyrie
class gunships. While FWS has covered the Nova
class before, we are going to discuss the oddball troopships of these off-world groundpounders (GROPOS).
Designed by the legendary Steve Burg, the Condor
was patterned after the American C-130 Hercules
cargo plane and had roll-on and roll-off ability constructed into the spacecraft. Coming in at 450 meters, the endo-exo capable Condor
could take a crew of up to 30 and transport 5,000 space marines along with their gear and vehicles to off-world combat zones. We only saw the Condor
in the 2nd season of B5
, but the ship would live on in B5
RPGs and the fan community would name the troop ship due to the episode not giving us much to go on.
Given the means of FTL space travel in the B5
universe and technology required to form jump-points, the Condor
class transport required a jump-gate or a jump-point being formed for them, normally by their escort vessel. EarthForce commanders became hesitant about allowing Condor
class ships to transverse too long in hyperspace, and limited their operational range. This caused Condor
class ships and their escorts to hop to their designation. Another element limiting the range of the Condor
class was the lack of artificial gravity and the cramped conditions inside. This is one of the oddest spacegoing troop transports on this list and I wished we could have seen more of the Condor.
The M'benga class Starfleet Hospital Ship
In the pages of the non-canon FASA Star Trek: TNG Officers Manual
designed for the FASA ST:TNG
RPG game was produced during the first season and this very nicely designed hospital ship was featured. Named after famed 23rd century Starfleet doctor that served on the USS Enterprise
during the command of Cpt. Pike, the M'benga
was designed to aid in planetary rescues, humanitarian missions, during wartime as a mobile hospital. Due to long standing tradition, the Federation medical vessels are not armed with offensive armaments, but with shields only. The crew was 130 with retreatment space for 170 patients. At the time of the first season of TNG
, there were 13 M'benga
class in service. Unlike much of Federation history, where medical vessels were mostly repurposed and altered hulls of science and freighter ships of Starfleet, the M'benga
class was constructed with the single purpose of being a medical starship.
Next Time on FWS...
Sifu Bruce Lee once said "boards don't hit back
" and he was right...but for some of the military training, that's what happens...training soldiers on non-active targets and paper targets. The better, more effectve way is to train like you fight, but using Force-on-Force (FOF) training princples to train and develop warfighting skills on the living. In the next installment, FWS will be diving into the present and future of Force-on-Force training!
What I appreciate about your articles is the depth of research and applied knowledge that you bring us each time. Thank you for continuing to inform and entertain us.ReplyDelete
First, I want to join the previous commenter in complimenting the quality of your work.ReplyDelete
But I also would like to add some additional information specifically because you managed to leave out [i]both[i/] of my favourite military troop transport ship classifications 😊:
1.) The Landing Ship Tank (LST):
[b]IRL-Example:[b/] Landing Ship, Tank - Wikipedia
[b]SF-Examples:[b/] I would argue that the Dropships from BATTLETECH do indeed fill this role (wheather they carry tanks or battlemechs is irrelevant for the point here I think).
Depending on your definition, you could easily classify them as „just“ landing craft as they are usually launched from a mothership, but in universe they are capable of long range interplanetary travel, so I would say you could classify them as LSTs.
Category:DropShip classes - BattleTechWiki (sarna.net)
Also, while not actually a spaceship, it DOES go to space, so I think you could add the:
[b]“Super-Large-Scale Semi-Submersible Assault Landing Vessel – [i]SLV-111 Daedalus[i/]“[b/]
SLV-111 Daedalus Super-Large-Scale Semi-Submersible Assault Landing Vessel (macross2.net)
(It literally is an LST that goes to space…)
[b]2.) The High-Speed Transport:[b/]
[b]IRL-Examples:[b/] (Original) High-speed transport - Wikipedia / (Modern-Day Version) Absalon-class frigate - Wikipedia
[b]SF-Examples:[b/] Here, I would against your classification of them as Attack Transports and add the: [i]Sulaco, the Bougainville-class, the Pillar of Autum[i/] and the [i] UCF Corvette/Transport [i/] here.
As such Attack Transports where not actually armed, and all 4 ships on the list are Hybrids, that serve a (small) troop transport-, and a (light) warship-role (for ship-to-ship and/or orbital fire support purposes). So I would argue, they fit the description of the High-Speed Transport [i]very[i/] well.
Lastly, while I come here specifically for the highly interesting, well researched, rare and obscure parts of every subject you cover (which I would never find on my own), it seems a bit strange that you left out probably [i]the[i/] example of a SciFi-Troop transport ship with the most screen time ever:
The Acclamator-class assault ship | Wookieepedia | Fandom!
(And since I am here to add the most obscure ship classifications imaginable, and the Acclamator is probably the only Ship that can disembark troops via Tactical Transports (aka Landing Craft/Helicopters) AND beaching, I designate it the SciFi-Equivalent of the Ivan Rogov-class landing ship - Wikipedia (aka Landing Ship Large, the only Troop Transport Ship that disembark ist troops via Landing Craft AND Helicopters AND beaching.)
You missed out the spirit of fire support ship from Halo Wars 1 and 2 the fact the ship saved the UNSC twice and is still kicking alien ass despite being outdated.ReplyDelete
Kudos on another great article...I did notice the absence of some of the purpose built assault ships in Starwars: the Acclamator (Grand Army of the Republic) and the Consolidator..the Imperial Era Corp assault transport desiged to deploy an entire Army Corps and supporting elm directly to the sfcReplyDelete