This is a reconstruction of the Imperial Fleet of the Shavian Empire Campaign (Cal State Fullerton 1977-78, Wayne Shaw, game master). Recently, Wayne discovered some of his old campaign notes, making a more accurate reconstruction possible.
As a general rule-of-thumb for estimating fleet size, each subsector on the average can support 100kt of each major type of combat ship. Since the Shavian Empire was slightly more militarized than average (primarily through a British-style naval tradition), we assume ten subsectors worth of fleet, or 1Mt per major type.
The Shavian Imperial Fleet was known to be a "battleship navy" analogous to the TL4-5 (Victorian to WW1) British Navy, based around large, heavily-armed, heavily-protected battleships fighting "hammer and tongs". No fighters were used; heavy ship-killing beam weapons predominated, with missiles as a secondary weapon (because of need for ammunition) and little or no "junk-basher" light turret weaponry.
According to Wayne, Imperial warships tended to be either heavy (20,000 tons and up) or light (usually 1-2000 tons), with a distinct lack of medium-sized ships between these two extremes. The Empire organized its navy into ten fleets -- one for each of the Empire's nine subsectors and an Imperial Core Fleet as a strategic reserve that could reinforce any of the others.
Imperial warships had a squadron speed of Jump-3/3-G. Large ships (Heavy Cruisers and up) were always built to this minimum squadron speed; smaller ships had faster Maneuver Drives in the 4 to 6-G range, but never at the cost of compromising firepower or protection.
Imperial naval doctrine was based around planetary blockade/siege operations, intended to discourage rebellion. Under no circumstances could an Imperial world be allowed to secede; the Empire could not be permitted to shatter and crumble as its predecessor civilization; Never Again the Long Night.
The situation was complicated by "The Alphane Question". The para-human Alphane had once been an Imperial power in their own right and very much wanted to be again; in the past they had used their psionic abilities to attempt to do so.
Appearance & Markings
According to Wayne, large Imperial warships were uniformly spherical; smaller ships were of a "flattened diamond" configuration.
- The large spheroids were optimized for firepower, protection (heavy armor and Plantier shields), and Marine commando capability at the expense of performance; all were the minimum squadron speed of Jump-3/3-G with minimal agility. Their role was to advance slowly and inexorably, shrugging off everything the enemy could shoot, smashing through system defenses, bombarding the target into submission, and landing commando raids on high-value infrastructure/political targets. (The rare Forerunner-artifact K-ships were also spherical; Imperial heavies were deliberately designed to resemble/be confused with them.
- The smaller diamonds were lightly-protected and faster, with larger Maneuver Drives and better agility. Their role was raiding, pathfinding/scouting, and screening the big ships.
- The major exception to the above were Alphane-designed ships, traditionally of "flattened sphere" (disc/saucer) configuration and preferring Plantier shields to physical armor.
Though not an "evil empire" per se, the Shavian Empire deliberatly cultivated a "dark and sinister" appearance for its warships; this was a psychological-warfare tactic to appear as intimidating as possible. Imperial warships bristled with easily-visible weapon mounts for a fierce look, and were all painted alike -- an overall dark blue-grey with low-contrast grey markings (usually only the Imperial badge and an ID/pennant number), impersonal and intimidating. (These coloration/marking regulations applied only to the Imperial Navy itself; local/system forces and privateers could -- and did -- sport highly-individual color schemes.
This major type contains Battlecruisers (BC) of 30,000 tons;Battleships (BB) of 40,000 tons; and Capital Ships (BBB) of 50,000 tons.
Assuming an average size of 40,000 tons, this gives the Empire a battle line of about 25 battleships. A "thin crust/heavy reserve" allocation gives each subsector fleet two battleships, with the 6 to 8 left over as reinforcements in the Core Fleet.
This type contains Light Cruisers (CL) of 10,000 tons and Heavy Cruisers (CA) of 20,000 tons.
According to Wayne, the Empire preferred Heavies to Lights, looking upon the CAs as miniature battleships to reinforce the battle line for heavy combat.
- Heavy Cruisers were of the "pocket battleship" variety, with the same configuration/armor/performance as their big brothers.
- Light Cruisers were of an Alphane design, with the characteristic Alphane "saucer" configuration. Otherwise, they resembled Destroyers in their lighter armor and higher Maneuver-drive performance.
- Result: a total cruiser strength of 60: 40CAs and 20 CLs -- average 4 CAs and 2 CLs per fleet.
This major type contains Destroyers (DD) of 2000 tons, Destroyer Escorts (DE) of 1000 tons, and possibly Frigates (DL) of 5000 tons. All were fast, lightly-protected ships, normally of a "flattened diamond" configuration with a few Alphane "saucers".
- Assuming a 50/50 mix of DDs and DEs (with DLs as flotilla flagships and substitute CLs) yields a total of 550: 50 DLs, 250 DDs, and 250 DEs.
- A 50/50 mix but with fewer DLs (Imperial emphasis on "dreadnaughts and mosquito craft" totals 620: 20 DLs, 300 DDs, and 300 DEs.
Average total around 600 -- 60 per fleet.
Organization by Fleet
There are nine subsector fleets and one Imperial Core Fleet; the Core Fleet (as opposed to the Core Subsector Fleet) is intended as a strategic reserve and "fire brigade" to reinforce the other fleets as needed.
An average subsector fleet would consist of two battleships, two heavy cruisers, and four light cruisers, and 50-60 destroyers. The mix of ship types would vary according to the subsector's importance and probability of heavy combat within its borders:
- A quiet backwater subsector might have a pair of Battlecruisers for its battle line component and only Light Cruisers and Frigates in its cruiser squadrons.
- An important, threatened, or "troubled" sector would have a battle line component of the heavier BB/BBBs, cruiser squadrons mostly or entirely of CAs, and destroyer flotillas of DDs and DLs to maximize combat power.
- A subsector with a heavy piracy problem would have its destroyer flotillas mostly composed of DEs, to maximize the number of units available for escort and patrol.
The Imperial Core Fleet has an overstrength battle line of six to eight battleships (mostly BBs and BBBs) and the same number of Heavy Cruisers, 60 destroyers (emphasizing DDs and DLs), and the half-dozen TL16+ Forerunner-artifact "K-ships" in existence. At full mobilization, the Core Fleet joins with that of the threatened subsector(s), bringing the power of up to ten battleships, eight heavy cruisers, and K-ships to bear.
Effect of the Empire/Federation War
The Shavian Empire's first naval war with an equivalent-strength power (the Foible Federation, as detailed in The Empire/Federation War) caused a lot of re-thinking within the Admiralty.
- Federation fighters were deadly, able to kill or cripple Imperial ships at long ranges with super-powerful nuclear missiles. Imperial weapon fits emphasizing large ship-killing beam weapons were not very effective against a large number of small attackers.
- Federation ships' heavy missile armament was even more deadly when coupled with nukes, but required a good logistics train to keep them supplied with ammunition.
- Imperial battleships and heavies could survive these fighter and missile attacks, holding their own through sheer size and protection, but could not be everywhere at once.
- Once Imperial battleships and heavies could get past the fighter screen and missile gauntlet, Federation carriers - the size of Imperial cruisers but only the toughness of Frigates - had to withdraw or be destroyed.
- The Federation made heavy use of psionics, centered around a quasi-chivalric order of Guardian Knights. Countering this presented the Empire with a dilemma. The Empire did have psionicists; however almost all of them were Alphane and the Empire did not trust the Alphane with any more autonomy or power than they already had.
The Empire began to counter this with their own modifications; the first of the refitted/modified ships had put to sky and seen some action by the time of the cease-fire.
- Some of the heavy beam weapons were grounded and replaced by light "junk-basher" turrets to defend against Fed fighters.
- The Empire started a crash program to develop their own fighters -- primarily interceptor types to provide "air cover" against Federation fighters instead of direct anti-ship attack.
- Another crash program reverse-engineered Federation nukes to increase the punch of Imperial heavy missiles. With such a firepower-multiplier, long-range missile attacks increased in importance, though heavy beams were still the main weapon.
- Instead of building dedicated fighter-carriers, the Empire added fighter-handling facilities to its existing medium-sized combatants (DLs, CLs, CAs, and BCs) to carry and launch them, preferring to distribute its interceptors among as many hulls as possible. At first, these were a half-dozen or so interceptors jury-rigged on trapeze arrangements out of existing shuttlebays and stripped-out weapon bays. Later, battle-damaged ships under repair were refitted into hybrid cruiser-carriers with actual squadron-strength fighter-handling facilities displacing some weapons and armor. These jury-rigged conversions varied widely; even major combatants like BBs and BBBs ended up randomly sporting fighter bays.
- Except for increasing defensive psi-shielding across the board, all proposals to counter the Federation's psionic-warfare capability foundered on the Alphane Question