UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

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UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:52 pm

So lately I've been kind of mulling over the use of battleships and fighters in my Coalition universe.

As things stand, the battleships in the Coalition universe are not battleships as we know them, but are rather hybrid battleship/carriers. The Kororra class (which was 'patient zero' of Coalition designs, the ship every other stems from in one way or another) carries 21 large AMP cannon. But it also carries some 7,000 fighter and attack craft.

So what I'm thinking is this : how much sense does that really make? Something like a third of the ship's total volume is given over to fighters. If it were built as a pure battleship, that space and mass could be saved. The battleship would be lighter and faster. Or it could have more guns to give more firepower off the same mobility.

Similarly, if it were built as a pure carrier, with all the heavy weapons removed, it would be a lighter and faster ship too. Or again, carry more subships with the same mobility.

Of course neither ship alone would be as powerful as a hybrid of the two. But that's not a real comparison. A real comparison is to have both a pure battleship and a pure carrier operating side by side, versus one hybrid ship. The two ships would be more flexible, and each could be a master of its role when compared to a "jack of all trades, master of none" solution.

There are pros and cons to the idea. But what I'm knocking up here is a pure carrier concept design, just to see how it looks and feels.

The large bays in the nose are landing bays; they run the entire length of the ship. They're deliberately large, because coming in with battle damage means you may not fly the straightest course! You fly in at the rear and land much like you do on any runway. Then somewhere near the nose, to the sides, would be places you can pull off and ride elevators down to the hangars and such below.

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The Ark Royal beside a Kororra class. Currently all the fighters on a Kororra are in that large curved hull section at the upper front. The apertures you can see in the nose are landing traps, just like those on the carrier only far smaller. And the row of tiny apertures along the side of that curved hull are the launch catapults. Actually the carrier traps are too large, I'm going to redesign them to be smaller. And I will rework the launch bays to be a series of smaller tubes as well, kind of like on Galactica.

If I decide to go with this, the fighter area on the Kororra will become torpedo stowage, with the torpedo tubes in the nose. That will let me lop a whole bulky hull section off the bottom of the ship. Could add more tubes, too. And it would make for better commonality of design, because that's where the torpedo stowage is on ships like Frigates and Destroyers, which don't have fighters.

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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Mikey » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:05 pm

I well remember the stock footage of Viper launches from oBSG, as well as the landing decks on those outriggers. To my mind, even those landing deck entries which where, IIRC, 5-7x the width of a fighter, were rather too small. We're talking about fighters, launching hot and maybe by necessity coming in really hot in the midst of a battle, not shuttles. I think a multiple-deck-ranging, beam-width landing deck entry rather than individual tube entries would make more sense. Of course, I am not an aviation or nautical engineer either.
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:30 pm

The problem is numbers. When you are toting close to 10,000 craft around, landing them one at a time just isn't going to cut it. You have to land dozens simultaneously.

And bear in mind, those landing traps? Each one is 380 feet across. Half as wide again as the entire flight deck of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier.
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Mikey » Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:38 pm

It could just be a matter of perception; the traps look small compared to the overall beam, before consciously reckoning what the beam actually is. I’d still like to see some quasi-tech safety system.
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Fri Feb 09, 2018 7:18 pm

Mikey wrote:It could just be a matter of perception; the traps look small compared to the overall beam, before consciously reckoning what the beam actually is. I’d still like to see some quasi-tech safety system.

The beam is over three thousand feet...
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Mikey » Fri Feb 09, 2018 8:27 pm

I understand, I’m just saying that a casual observer isn’t considering that upon first sight without a visual reference.
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby IanKennedy » Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:35 am

You're suffering from the "Milford Sound" problem. It's a fjord in South Island, NZ. You go there and think it's a little river. Then they tell you that the QE2 can come in and turn around in the space without getting near the sides. Your brain just can't deal with the scale and keeps saying "it's only a few dozen feet wide"... :)
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Coalition » Sat Feb 10, 2018 4:00 am

The ship could be designed for Independent operations, though what you'd need the multi-thousand fighters for independent operations would be interesting.

For the landing bay, you could add a comment about computer-controlled tractor beams to help guide the fighters in, and at the last second the computer takes over to guide the fighters to the proper location (high-tech version of arresting gear). Have several of them set up, so the fighters fly through the bay, the tractor beams snatch them out of space and put them into the assigned spots (this will require tractor beam and some form of inertial dampening). If a fighter cannot undergo that process for whatever reason, a small craft SAR is sent out to grab the fighter, transfer the pilot(s) on board, and bring the fighter back. The shuttle uses its overpowered inertial dampener and other stuff to make sure the fighter can be recovered somewhat safely.

The weapon mix near the recovery bays should prefer anti-fighter weaponry, as that is likely to be what is chasing the fighter (or missiles). The fighter flies nice and straight, and the guns shoot around the fighter (on aa predictable path), so anything following becomes a colander.

Another detail is that the landing bays are large empty spaces in the ship's hull, so any hits near the landing bays offer lots of room for explosions to spread out, and with the replacement munitions available for the fighters (let alone their fuel supply), that could have a bad result. I'd like to see how this hybrid vessel would fare against two ships, each of half mass as this hybrid, where one has the equivalent number of fighters, and the other has an equal main gun armament. The pure carrier would have an advantage is that it doesn't need extra armor to survive a gun line duel, while the gunship would avoid the structural weaknesses of the landing and hangar bays.


As to why would a ship have fighters? The answer is redundancy and ease of replacement. Fighters can be built almost anywhere that has the tech and a small shipyard/factory, while capital ships need a larger shipyard to be built. If fighters are lost, replacements can be flown in easily, meaning a carrier that rearms over a populated world can be back in the fight in a few days, vs needing several weeks for repairs. Also, if there is an upgrade to the fighters, new ones can be flown in and the old ones flown off easily compared to replacing capital weapons that have had advanced armor shaped around them.

For the ship's purpose, I'd see it as a space control ship, where the fighter control center is a modified version of the Fleet command vessel, but instead of keeping track of hundreds of ships, it is keeping track of thousands of fighters. The other option is that its fighters are primarily ground attack craft, and the vessel has the heavy weapons to remove hostile orbital assets. Smaller craft can engage lots of targets compared to a single larger vessel, keeping an enemy force pinned down for days or even weeks while the capital ship moves its troops from one location to another. You might have 100 divisions on planet to defend, but the attacker has 3 divisions attacking and the fighters mean that if your divisions try to gather together, they will spot it and your division takes ortillery fire, while the regiment under attack cannot get any help. Each regiment is hit one at a time, and whenever you try to bunch up all you do is provide a target.


The other question is how powerful the weaponry carried by the fighters is against similar sized ships. If a ship with 1/3 of its mass in fighters, and it can carry 7,000 of them, that means a vessel with 1/21,000 of its mass carries weapons that are dangerous to it. Why isn't the capital ship equipped with similar weapons (if they re multiple use), or at least carry missiles armed with the same weapon (if one-shot).
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:18 am

Coalition wrote:The ship could be designed for Independent operations, though what you'd need the multi-thousand fighters for independent operations would be interesting.

In the Coalition universe, the ships are gigantic - destroyers over a mile long, battleships three miles - whereas the fighters are comparable in size to present day fighters. Hence there's a massive power imbalance between the two. Fighters make up for this by swarming in gigantic numbers to inflict a death of a thousand cuts.

For the landing bay, you could add a comment about computer-controlled tractor beams to help guide the fighters in, and at the last second the computer takes over to guide the fighters to the proper location (high-tech version of arresting gear).

Oh that's always been so for these ships. In the Kororra design each landing trap has a series of decelerator coils above and below every landing trap, which bleed off speed as the landing craft passes between them. The fields also help to keep the craft centered, though landing accidents are still possible.

And yes, there are also SAR craft. See here

The weapon mix near the recovery bays should prefer anti-fighter weaponry, as that is likely to be what is chasing the fighter (or missiles). The fighter flies nice and straight, and the guns shoot around the fighter (on aa predictable path), so anything following becomes a colander.

Thus far a brace of anti-fighter cannon are all the ship has in the way of weapons. I've contemplated putting some heavier guns on - cruiser sized stuff, equal to 8 inch calibre guns or so. But in the real world whenever they did that with a carrier they ended up removing them because they were rarely used.

Another detail is that the landing bays are large empty spaces in the ship's hull, so any hits near the landing bays offer lots of room for explosions to spread out, and with the replacement munitions available for the fighters (let alone their fuel supply), that could have a bad result. I'd like to see how this hybrid vessel would fare against two ships, each of half mass as this hybrid, where one has the equivalent number of fighters, and the other has an equal main gun armament. The pure carrier would have an advantage is that it doesn't need extra armor to survive a gun line duel, while the gunship would avoid the structural weaknesses of the landing and hangar bays.

My instinct is that in such a duel the pure carrier would have the advantage because each carrier could hit the other at a distance, whilst the battleship could not. So the carriers sit several hundred "miles" away from one another trading blows - with a pure carrier carrying twice as many fighters and attack ships. Whilst the battleship's only function in such a duel would be to help the small carrier defend itself from fighters.

This is a bit of a dilemma for me, because I originally wanted combat in a big gun style just because it's cool. But logic winds up pushing you toward carriers being the default big stick, as it did in real life. Unless I reconfigure the tech a little to say that fighters are just useless... but in that case, why have them at all?

Like I say, for now I'm just toying with the idea, seeing what a pure carrier would look like.


As to why would a ship have fighters? The answer is redundancy and ease of replacement. Fighters can be built almost anywhere that has the tech and a small shipyard/factory, while capital ships need a larger shipyard to be built. If fighters are lost, replacements can be flown in easily, meaning a carrier that rearms over a populated world can be back in the fight in a few days, vs needing several weeks for repairs. Also, if there is an upgrade to the fighters, new ones can be flown in and the old ones flown off easily compared to replacing capital weapons that have had advanced armor shaped around them.

All good points.

For the ship's purpose, I'd see it as a space control ship, where the fighter control center is a modified version of the Fleet command vessel, but instead of keeping track of hundreds of ships, it is keeping track of thousands of fighters. The other option is that its fighters are primarily ground attack craft, and the vessel has the heavy weapons to remove hostile orbital assets. Smaller craft can engage lots of targets compared to a single larger vessel, keeping an enemy force pinned down for days or even weeks while the capital ship moves its troops from one location to another. You might have 100 divisions on planet to defend, but the attacker has 3 divisions attacking and the fighters mean that if your divisions try to gather together, they will spot it and your division takes ortillery fire, while the regiment under attack cannot get any help. Each regiment is hit one at a time, and whenever you try to bunch up all you do is provide a target.

Up to now I've more or less thought that the way the shields work means that fighters are effective against smaller ships - Frigates, Destroyers, Cruisers - but not against Battleships. So the job of the fighters was to attack an enemy fleet and strip away the lighter ships. When those are all gone, the Battleships close in to duel with big guns.

The other question is how powerful the weaponry carried by the fighters is against similar sized ships. If a ship with 1/3 of its mass in fighters, and it can carry 7,000 of them, that means a vessel with 1/21,000 of its mass carries weapons that are dangerous to it. Why isn't the capital ship equipped with similar weapons (if they re multiple use), or at least carry missiles armed with the same weapon (if one-shot).

An individual fighter isn't dangerous to anything with shields and armour. This isn't like the real life situation where a carrier launched bomber is capable of carrying a bomb comparable to a battleship's main armament shells. It's more like sending out thousands of fighters to drop hand grenades on the the enemy.
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Captain Seafort » Sat Feb 10, 2018 12:51 pm

Graham Kennedy wrote:An individual fighter isn't dangerous to anything with shields and armour. This isn't like the real life situation where a carrier launched bomber is capable of carrying a bomb comparable to a battleship's main armament shells. It's more like sending out thousands of fighters to drop hand grenades on the the enemy.


Besides which, WW2-era bombers could only really hurt battleships by attacking either the deck or below the waterline - areas either significantly less vulnerable or effectively immune to gunfire, and therefore provided either weak or no armour. Any space battleship would be built in the expectation of taking fire from enemy battleships from any angle, and would therefore require main belt scale protection from all angles. The vulnerabilities bombs and torpedoes exploit no longer exist.
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Coalition » Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:41 am

The other detail is that fighters today can reach speeds ~20 times higher than the carrier or other surface warships (F-18 cruising speed is 574 knots, while a carrier at flank speed can get up to 30+ knots). In space, where both fighters and warships are in the same environment, fighters won't have that advantage. Fleet deployment would be along the lines of tenders sending in waves of PT boats instead of fighters. You also have the case where offense has trumped defense, where it is more important to never get hit, than it is surviving enemy hits.

Also, for dropping hand grenades, imagine doing that against a tank (~100 kilo trooper vs 70 ton tank (700:1 mass difference). That is about the effect of carrier fighters vs a warship. If fighters can carry such a swarm of small munitions, then what prevents a larger vessel from carrying the same, but without needing to risk a pilot or need the fuel to bring the launch platform back (i.e. send a missile instead of a fighter).

Now what fighters can provide is compact combat ability. The warship has to carry several months worth of food and fuel, long-duration quarters, and n as-needed FTL drive. Fighters only need fuel for ~12 hours of operation, the pilot sits in a cramped chair, and the space taken up by the FTL engine is instead put into better STL engines and inertia dampeners. They are a specialized platform, but if the opponent runs away at FTL speeds they have to catch up the slow way if they can. The pilots also start to go hungry after a day of deployment, let alone their diapers begin to smell and their fuel gauge is bouncing on the 'E'.

If you want carriers, you'd still have the ships launching much larger fighters. If destroyers are ~1 mile long, you might have 'fighters' that are 600 feet long.

That could be a purpose for carriers with the smaller fighters though, fleet defense against enemy PT boat equivalent (gunships?). The PT boat swarm lines up on their targets, and suddenly in addition to enemy PT boat destroyers they have a swarm of small distractions that are trying to mission kill the PT boats before the PT boats can fire their anti-shipping weapons. The fighters can't carry weapons big enough to damage enemy warships (unless their shields have been brought down by capital weapon fire (aka "Concentrate all fire on the Super Star Destroyer"), but once the shields are down fighters can damage weak points (or serve as manned missiles against glaring weak points).
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:49 pm

Redesigned with smaller landing traps. However, I also added two much wider ones, the idea being that if a damaged craft does need more space, there are two "emergency traps" available.

Image

One of the standard traps. The trap is about 110 feet wide and 77 feet tall. Note the spacesuited man for scale... :

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And a wider emergency trap, 408 feet wide :

Image

The launch bays, converted to tubes. Eighty four on each side of the ship :

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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:46 pm

Coalition wrote:The other detail is that fighters today can reach speeds ~20 times higher than the carrier or other surface warships (F-18 cruising speed is 574 knots, while a carrier at flank speed can get up to 30+ knots). In space, where both fighters and warships are in the same environment, fighters won't have that advantage. Fleet deployment would be along the lines of tenders sending in waves of PT boats instead of fighters. You also have the case where offense has trumped defense, where it is more important to never get hit, than it is surviving enemy hits.

In the Coalition universe fighters are indeed about 10-20 times as fast as big ships, so they are indeed closer to fighters than PT boats. Not at all like the Harrington verse. :)

Also, for dropping hand grenades, imagine doing that against a tank (~100 kilo trooper vs 70 ton tank (700:1 mass difference). That is about the effect of carrier fighters vs a warship.

Exactly, and this is why I've held that fighters are only really useful against lighter ships, whilst battleships are generally handled with big guns.

If fighters can carry such a swarm of small munitions, then what prevents a larger vessel from carrying the same, but without needing to risk a pilot or need the fuel to bring the launch platform back (i.e. send a missile instead of a fighter).

There are missiles - torpedoes - which tend to be very much larger than fighters, slower (but still faster than capital ships) and much shorter ranged. But with a much larger warhead.

Do missiles make fighters obsolete? Not so far, in the real world. Nor in the Coalition verse. I guess you could have a ship that replaced the entire fighter space with tens of thousands of small missiles. But fighters can do things missiles can't, of course - such as doing recon, looking for and acquiring targets beyond the range of the parent ship's sensors. Or dwell in an area looking for targets, etc. And there's cost - a fighter costs more than a missile, but the bombs it drops do not, and the fighter can be reused hundreds of times.

Now what fighters can provide is compact combat ability. The warship has to carry several months worth of food and fuel, long-duration quarters, and n as-needed FTL drive. Fighters only need fuel for ~12 hours of operation, the pilot sits in a cramped chair, and the space taken up by the FTL engine is instead put into better STL engines and inertia dampeners. They are a specialized platform, but if the opponent runs away at FTL speeds they have to catch up the slow way if they can. The pilots also start to go hungry after a day of deployment, let alone their diapers begin to smell and their fuel gauge is bouncing on the 'E'.

If you want carriers, you'd still have the ships launching much larger fighters. If destroyers are ~1 mile long, you might have 'fighters' that are 600 feet long.

I have thought about that; as a guide, if you ripped out all those launch and landing bays and used all the volume as giant hangars, you could fit something on the order of 340 Defiant class starships in there. They'd be rather small and weak things, even compared to a Corvette, but numbers do help of course.

My problem with that from an artistic point of view is that what you've then got is basically a copy of Weber's LAC carriers.

That could be a purpose for carriers with the smaller fighters though, fleet defense against enemy PT boat equivalent (gunships?). The PT boat swarm lines up on their targets, and suddenly in addition to enemy PT boat destroyers they have a swarm of small distractions that are trying to mission kill the PT boats before the PT boats can fire their anti-shipping weapons. The fighters can't carry weapons big enough to damage enemy warships (unless their shields have been brought down by capital weapon fire (aka "Concentrate all fire on the Super Star Destroyer"), but once the shields are down fighters can damage weak points (or serve as manned missiles against glaring weak points).

Fleet defence is currently one fighter task, yes, though against other fighters rather than PT boat equivalents.

I might have a go at doing a Coalition equivalent of a PT boat. A couple of small AMP cannon, a couple of full sized torpedoes, just enough ship to move it all around. Could be an interesting concept...
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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Graham Kennedy » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:43 pm

So here's what a small torpedo boat would look like.

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Re: UCS Ark Royal - carrier concept

Postby Mikey » Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:50 pm

I always liked the idea of having a PT boat/cutter type in service, depending of course on the presence of proper threats or targets in the milieu. I'm forced to wonder, though, in the Coalition universe if something of this type would gain enough in speed and maneuverability to balance the lack of sustainability compared to your mainstay BFS' (Big F**king Ships.)
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