They are the most prominent vessels in the galaxy. They are a symbol of planetary power and prestige. They are important to the Brotherhood because they afford protection against our enemies, and each other. They are capital starships. This course is designed to introduce you to the basic types of capital starships, explaining what they are designed for, and offering you some specific examples of these ships. Please note, however, that this course only touches the tip of the iceberg. Capital starships come in great varieties and functions.
Upon completion of the instructional portion, you will take an exam designed to test your knowledge of the ships, their uses, and you will have to justify your answers. This is not a cut and paste test. The final question will deal with your own design of a capital starship and you will have to justify its stated mission. So, without further ado, let us commence with the instruction.
When one thinks of a capital starship, they most often picture massive warships, bristling with weaponry. This is only partially true. The term "capital starship" actually refers to any ship that serves a military function and is at least 100 meters (~328 feet) in length. Under this definition, even the lightly armed Corellian Corvette is considered a capital starship, as well as some freighters. Lancer class frigates are capital starships, yet they do not possess heavy weaponry.
Capital starships vary in size from the 100 meter corvettes to the gigantic multi-kilometer Executor class star destroyers. And there are plenty of ships in between the two extremes. We will start at the smallest ships and move up to the largest ships.
Capital starships vary in function, ranging from escort to patrol to frontline combat. The most prominent of all capital starships are the so-called "ships of the line." This is an archaic term referring to ocean going surface vessels, the primitive ancestors of the ships we use today. The term "ship of the line" resulted from the fact that, in ancient days, ships used to line up in lines and shoot at each other. Though space combat is far more fluid than that, the term has remained in use by many.
Before we look at the specifics, we must first make a distinction between a starship type and a starship class. "Type" refers to the general make and function of the vessel; class refers to a specific design (whether it is physical, in the ship's mission, or both). Classes are almost always named after the first vessel built of a particular design (at least in the Old Republic and the Empire. Mon Calamari ships, and Corellian corvettes and gunships, do not seem to follow this trend).
We will now look at the various categories of capital starships, and some examples of them.
Corvettes are a common sight in the galaxy and they serve a variety of functions. Corvettes can carry cargo, act as passenger liners, serve as ambassadorial ships, carry troops, perform escort missions, patrol for and interdict criminal activity, and serve as flanking guards for larger warships. For pirates, rebellious groups, or poorer planets, corvettes often serve as frontline warships. Here are some examples of various types of corvettes:
The CR90 class "Corellian Corvette," built by the Corellian Engineering Corporation, is one of the most common capital ships in the galaxy. The CR90 is durable, fast at sublight speed, and, like most Corellian vessels, easily modified for specific purposes. The CR90 is the smallest capital starship. The Tantive IV, used by Princess Leia as she tried to escape from Darth Vader, was a CR90. CR90's have a modular interior, which permit the ship to do multiple jobs. The use of the CR90 by the Rebel Alliance earned the ship the reputation as a blockade runner: a fast ship capable of carrying a good deal of cargo, they also had enough weaponry to fend off Imperial forces until they could escape. In contrast to the Rebellion, the Empire used the CR90 largely as an escort and diplomatic vessel. When used in combat, the CR90 was often used to attack or hold off enemy fighters, or to evacuate cargo or vital intelligence from a battle. The CR90 was commonly armed with two dual turbolasers and four single turbolaser cannons, though the armaments could easily vary from ship to ship.
In contrast to the often multi-purpose corvette, a gunship really only serves one purpose: combat. Gunships are fast, heavily armed, and they have little or no cargo or passenger space. Gunships serve in professional militaries as well as rebel, pirate, and smuggling outfits. Gunships are ideal for quick, brutal "shock" strikes against enemy targets, though their presence in a more traditional combat situation is nothing to ignore, either. The DP-20 Corellian Gunship is one of the most famous gunships in use.
The DP-20 class Corellian Gunship is one of the few strictly military ships built by the Corellian Engineering Corporation. The DP-20 has the same basic shape as its CR90 cousin, but that is where the similarities end. Almost half of the ship's interior space was dedicated to the engines, with much of the rest dedicated to powering the shields and weapons on the ship. The DP-20 is also heavily armed, with 8 double turbolasers, four concussion missile launchers, and six quad laser cannons (other weapon configurations may also be seen). All of these weapons are crammed into a ship only 20 meters longer than the CR90. Just over half of the crew of the DP-20 serves as gunners.
Frigates are specialized ships that sit in between the corvettes and battle cruisers. On average, the ships are 250-300 meters in length. Frigates can run interference for other capital starships and they are also useful for escort missions; in fact, frigates are specifically designed as escort vessels. Frigates have also been used as the launching platform for an attack against an enemy, as frigates generally carry a squadron or two of fighters. Most frigates are reasonably well armed, but they would be no match for Star Destroyers (still, at the Battle of Endor, we can see Rebel frigates closing to point blank range with Star Destroyers). Some famous frigate classes are the Nebulon-B and the Lancer class frigate.
Nebulon-B: Nebulon-B frigates are instantly recognizable due to their unique shape and that they appear to move backwards. The vessels are primarily escort ships but they perform a variety of other functions. Originally designed to escort Imperial convoys, the ships also can serve as support ships for larger vessels and search and rescue. The Rebel Alliance, and smaller planetary powers, may use the vessels as command ships. The Rebel Alliance also converted one of their frigates into a medical ship. Nebulon-B frigates are fairly well armed, coming with a standard armament of 12 turbolasers and 12 laser cannons to handle both fighters and capital ships. A squadron of fighters, along with some shuttles and transports, give the ships an added edge.
An upgraded version of the design was introduced during the Galactic Civil War. Slightly shorter, the ship boasted increased shielding and hull strength, along with a 17% increase in sublight speed. A concussion missile launcher was also added to the armament. The ship also featured two "wings" off the bow of the ship, rather than the single "wing" on the original design.
Lancer: Lancer class frigates are ships designed with one purpose in mind: anti-starfighter action. After the destruction of the Death Star, and the emergence of "trench run syndrome," Imperial command commissioned the anti-fighter frigates, which came with 20 quad laser cannons. They were intended to escort conveys and serve as support ships along side Star Destroyers. Lancers would protect the Star Destroyers from fighters, and Star Destroyers would protect the Lancers. However, many field commanders preferred to use TIE fighters instead of the Lancers, and the Lancers had no defense against other capital starships.
"Cruiser" is a generic term for a mid-sized ship that tends to have a greater emphasis on its weaponry over fighters. The term "battle cruiser" may also be used. Light and medium cruisers are generally 300-600 meters in length and, as previously mentioned, tend to emphasize shipboard weaponry over fighters.
Carrack class light cruisers are durable, long serving ships. Beginning their service in the Old Republic, the Carrack continued to serve through the days of the Empire and beyond. Carrack cruisers often served in pacified sectors during the days of the Empire. These ships are fast, maneuverable, and well armed. There are at least two standard weapon variations. The first consists of 10 heavy turbolasers and 20 laser cannons, allowing the vessel to take on both capital starships and fighters. The other armament variation consists of the 10 turbolasers and 20 ion cannons. Carrack cruisers are capable of trading fire with larger ships, but they are not "ships of the line." They do serve as excellent flanking vessels. Grand Admiral Thrawn put the ships to good use, using them to pave the way for his more powerful vessels. One of the major drawbacks to the Carrack cruiser is its lack of a hanger bay. Only 5 TIE fighters are attached to the ship through external hanger racks.
When most people think of true warships, it is the heavy cruisers (and larger ships; see the next section) that come to mind. Throughout history, these ships have been the ultimate symbol of the strength of a planetary power. The possession of a fully operable heavy cruiser is a symbol of a government's resources, especially if the ship is a home made product, and not bought from an outside source. Heavy cruisers are called "heavy" because they are heavily armed and heavily armored (both in hull plating and shielding). They are expected to enter a battle and make it out relatively intact. They are at least 600 meters long.
Most heavy cruisers in modern navies carry fighters as well. While giving the heavy cruisers another option of attack, the fighters are more for protection against enemy fighters and smaller vessels. Most, but not all, heavy cruisers lack built in defenses against star fighters, instead relying upon its own fighters to fend off enemy fighters.
Now some examples:
Dreadnaughts are old, heavy warships that are a little over the third of the length of an Imperial class star destroyer. The term dreadnaught (note the lower case 'd') is another common term for battleships. Dreadnaughts (note the capital 'D') refer to specific ships built by Rendili Star Systems approximately 80 years before the Clone Wars. Unlike other heavy cruisers, Dreadnaughts have some serious anti-fighter capability: twenty quad laser cannons, and ten standard laser canons, help fend off fighters. Ten turbolasers are utilized against enemy capital ships. The Dreadnaught is 600 meters long.
Dreadnaughts had several advantages: they were well armed, well armored, and are easily modifiable. However, the ships also have some serious disadvantages. At both sublight and in hyperspace, Dreadnaughts are very slow. Their hyperdrives have a class four rating (a class one or a class two drive is considered the standard for most military vessels). The ships were also lacking in decent shielding, and many contemporary ships outgunned it. Computer problems were rampant on the vessels, and the ships had an absurdly high crew requirement of 16,000 (an Imperial class star destroyer, which is far larger, only has a crew of 37,000). Modifications could help fix the problems, but they too had their drawbacks. The Old Republic implemented a slave rigging system on 200 Dreadnaughts, allowing the ships to be controlled from one ship, and cutting crew requirements down to 2000.
Vindicator class heavy cruisers appear to be small star destroyers. The have the same basic triangular design and are well armed. They have 25 light turbolasers, 20 light quad turbolasers, 10 point defense laser cannons, and 20 point defense ion cannons. The ships are 600 meters long and like the Dreadnaught, the ships can fend off fighter attacks by themselves. Also, the Vindicator can carry a full wing of TIE fighters (when properly configured). It is likely that you are more familiar with the Immobilizer 418, commonly called the Interdictor. This is because the Immobilizers were built off of the Vindicator hull, and are considered a variant thereof, though the gravity well projectors removed a large portion of fighter capacity and weaponry.
Following the heavy cruisers come even larger ships. The terms "star destroyer" and "battle cruiser" are often used interchangeably. In our galaxy, either term is permissible. The term "battleship" may also be used. Technically, battle cruisers are heavily armed, but they trade some protection for increased speed. Battleships tend to be slower, but have heavier armor and weaponry to make up for the lack of speed. Overall, though, because ancient terminology does not translate well into modern space forces, there is overlap among colloquial phrases for these ships. Star Destroyer refers to almost any large (~900 meters to 1600 meters long), heavily armed, and heavily armored warship. The terms, however, can be confusing, as one person's star destroyer may be another person's battle cruiser.
A. Star Destroyers
Star Destroyers are the most ubiquitous warships in existence. Many people, upon hearing the term, immediately conjure up images of Imperial or Victory class star destroyers. However, the term "star destroyer" does not denote a strict design. The phrase "star destroyer" often refers to very large, very powerful warships. Most star destroyers do follow the traditional "dagger" shape (better described as a triangle) that is seen at least as far back as the Mandalorian Wars. It is this design that has led to the labeling of the "super" ships as star destroyers. However, not all star destroyers use this dagger design. The Republic class star destroyer does not follow the standard triangular shape.
The standard Imperial class star destroyer carries an entire wing of TIE fighters, or six squadrons. The typical spread of fighters consisted of four TIE fighter squadrons, one TIE interceptor squadron, and one TIE bomber squadron (specialty craft such as gunboats, TIE Advanced, or TIE Defenders are not often found aboard star destroyers because they are few in number or, in the case of gunboats, do not require a home ship).
As you can see, a star destroyer's compliment of fighters consisted of fighters designed for space superiority, whether engaging Rebel fighters or attacking ships that are too small or to fast for star destroyers to attack. TIE fighters and TIE interceptors are useless against a shielded capital starship (on a side note: video games, like TIE fighter, have weighted the game so that fighters can harm and destroy capital ships. In reality, a TIE fighter's cannons are not nearly powerful enough to do any damage to a capital starship). Only bombers, such as TIE bombers, Y-wings, and B-wings, can do serious damage to larger capital starships, but that is because they have been equipped with the proper armament.
There are simply too many varieties of star destroyers to go into. What is important to know is that star destroyers are the largest vessels in use in large numbers, and that they are frontline warships capable of taking on other vessels. However, these ships rarely have anti-starfighter defenses; however, most of these ships are so well shielded and armored that only specifically armed fighters (bombers) would pose a threat. Remember, when the Executor was destroyed, it was only after a sustained barrage from Rebel capital ships and fighters crippled its bridge shields, and then the out of control A-wing took out its bridge.
The Resurgence class star destroyer made its debut in the galaxy around the same time the First Order began its conquest of the Unknown Regions. Similar to the star destroyers of the Empire the Resurgence followed their design, however the power of the Resurgence far outweighed that off the old destroyers. With it’s compliment of over 3000 ion cannons and turbolasers the Resurgence was on par with the power of the Executor, a ship at least four times it’s size. Alongside its compliment of TIE fighter squadrons, landers and personnel the Resurgence was truly a technological marvel.
Star cruisers are larger than other cruisers (light, medium, and heavy), but there seems to be no set length for vessels of this type. Mon Calamari MC80 ships were usually around 1200 meters long, about 400 meters shorter than an Imperial class star destroyer. Other star cruisers, like the Gauntlet class star cruiser was approximately 3200 meters long, twice the length of an Imperial class star destroyer. Under Imperial guidelines, star destroyers are smaller, by a significant margin, than Imperial star cruisers. The New Republic has apparently abandoned this, as the Republic class star destroyer is a mere 5 meters shorter than an MC90 star cruiser.
A. MC Classes
As the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic, it needed large capital starships. With most star destroyers in the hands of the Imperial Remnant, and perhaps due to the psychological image such ships had, the Alliance pursued the development of stronger Mon Calamari designs. The Mon Calamari ships had served as the Alliance's answer to the Star Destroyer; though the original MC80s began as passenger liners, they were turned into warships after the Mon Calamari joined the Rebellion. These converted ships, and those constructed afterwards, were referred to as MC80 battleships. As the New Republic grew, the need for the ships of the line grew, and the Mon Calamari presented two more ships. The MC80B was an interim ship between the MC80 and the MC90.
Special Note: Home One was not a typical MC80 ship; to the point that it could be considered a whole new class of ship. Home One, and her sister ships ( Defiance and Independence ), are approximately three times as long as a standard MC80. It is reasonable to assume the ship was more heavily armed and carried more fighters than its smaller counterparts.
(side note: though observation of the films tell us that Home One is longer and in general larger than other ships, there is debate over the actual size of the ship. For more information, see Dr. Curtis Saxon's Star Wars Technical Commentaries.)
Carriers are specialized ships that are designed to carry a large number of starfighters. This often gives carriers a unique advantage in that they can sit at the edge of a battle and direct starfighter forces. Imperial escort carriers, which carry a full wing of TIE fighters, served as superb raiding vessels, as they could make several small jumps, drop a squadron or two of fighters, destroy the enemy, and then attack another target with alternate squadrons. The Rebel Alliance used the Quasar class carrier Flurry at the Battles of Endor and Bakura.
Carriers, however, tended to be lightly to moderately armed, and they would stand no chance against stronger ships. Though capable of some self defense, the ultimate protection rested in the fighters the carrier had with it.
B. Star Dreadnaughts
Star Dreadnaughts are the largest of all capital starships. Their numbers are limited simply because they are incredibly expensive to build and to maintain. Nevertheless, the ships do exist and they often serve as flagships. They are often called "super ships" (such as "super star destroyer"), but the term "Super" is a slang term to describe any ship that is exceptionally large. It is not, as many believe, an actual class or type of starships. Star Dreadnaught is the official type name. When Admiral Ackbar ordered the Rebel fleet at Endor to "concentrate all firepower on that super star destroyer," he was merely describing the ship in a term that everyone knew, and that clearly set the ship apart from the other star destroyers present. There is no real set length for "super" ships, though vessels as small as the Gauntlet class star cruiser have been referred to as "super" ships.
The Executor class star destroyer was the most powerful ship in the Imperial fleet (not counting the death stars) during the Galactic Civil War. Approximately 19,000 meters long, the ship, and the others like her, were denoted as "star dreadnoughts." The Executor possessed 5,000 turbolasers and ion cannons, multiple wings of TIE fighters, and enough ground units to crush any conceivable rebel base.
A final note regarding almost all capital ships, but especially larger ships: they cannot concentrate all of their firepower on one area. Quite simply, the guns on one side of the ship cannot turn and fire through the ship to the target. In order to use all of its guns on one target, a ship has three options: the ship would have to rotate, sit still while the enemy moves around it, or begin firing at a much further distance (assuming the guns may rotate 360 degrees). This general rule may also apply to smaller ships, depending on shape and placement of the weapons. Instead, most ships have firing arcs which can cover a wide area.
Many years ago, under the auspicious guidance of Grand Master Firefox, an operation entitled Tempest Bravo was put into place to siphon funds away from the Empire for our own needs to secure our independence. Many years later (24ABY), due partly to the success of the past operation and partly due to the need for more materiel, the operation was re initiated. The success of this resurgent program was beyond comprehension with billions upon billions of imperial credits flowing freely into our coffers, along with the defection of then Sector Admiral Sarin.
Knowing the need to bolster our defenses for any coming storm but still reticent to reveal our identity to the galaxy at large for fear of persecution Grand Master Jac Cotelin set up shell corporations within the Corporate Sector and approached Kuat Drive Yards. The ships, bolstered with the latest in Verpine technology, now serve in the Brotherhood's reorganized fleets.
A. Brotherhood-Class Super Dreadnaught
The largest of the vessels to be rolled into action following the restructuring of our fleets after the Yuuzhan Vong invasion of Antei. At 2,300m long and carrying two whole wings of star-fighters it is more than a match for any single Star Destroyer or a whole flotilla of smaller ships. It's armament is made up of 70 heavy turbolasers, 88 turbolasers, 40 ion cannons, 10concussion missile launchers and 8 proton torpedo launchers; a formidable armament however a glaring lack of overt, direct anti-starfighter defense is obvious. Currently only one of these mighty warships serves in the Brotherhood fleets under the direct command of the Dark Council.
B. Khyron-Class Dreadnaught
Second only to the Brotherhood Class Super Dreadnaught in terms of firepower, the Khyron Class Dreadnaught is an awesome example of the Brotherhood's power and the extent we are willing to go to both project and protect that power. At 1,600 meters the ship is the same size as the old workhorses of the Imperial fleet however that is where all comparisons end. Over a 100 turbolasers adorn its hull ready to administer a withering rate of fire to any vessel idiotic enough to challenge its supremacy, supplemented by 30 ion cannons, 72 fighters and 8 proton torpedo tubes anything short of a line of Heavy Cruiser/Star Destroyers would be hard pressed to defeat this monster.
C. Cotelin-Class Star Destroyer
A heavy cruiser which could fight an Imperial II to a standstill the CSD was designed and built upon the same premise as older vessels of which it shares its type. A "mass producible" weapon of mass destruction able to decimate fleets and level planets. As such it is armed with almost a 100 turbolasers of various strengths (48 heavy batteries and 48 normal), 25 ion cannons and 10concussion missile launchers fitted on turrets. To complement its already formidable weaponry, a wing of fighters can be stationed on each vessel.
D. Firefox-Class Carrier
Whilst this course focuses on the might of our capital ships I hope it has become obvious to you all that star-fighters are a force to be reckoned with, who can forget the lone Rogue squadron flying naught but X-wings disabling a whole Imperial-I Class Star Destroyer? To highlight the importance of having sufficient amounts of fighters in any combat scenario, over the years many varieties of fleet carriers have been designed and rolled out. The Firefox-Class is the Brotherhood's answer to this question. At 800m the ship does not match up in grandeur to the Dreadnaughts of the fleet but their true merit lies in the 144 fighters nestled within her holds. Lightly armed with only 26 turbolasers of varying power and other armaments its main role in any battle should be to deposit its load of fighters and then retreat. To engage in direct combat with one of these vessels would be to waste a significant asset.
E. Nebula-Class Star Destroyers
Whilst not technically a Brotherhood design, indeed these vessels can be seen throughout the galaxy serving within the Republic's fleets they are none the less a new addition to the Brotherhood's armament and special note should be made of them. At 1040m long they are amongst the largest vessels launched by the New Republic after their fleet standardization policy but their relatively diminutive size should not fool, these ships were released at the height of tensions between the Republic and the Empire and have been designed to take on and win against an Imperial-Class Star Destroyer. Cannon complement numbers about a 100, with 80 of these being varying strength turbolasers and 20 being of the ion variety. Sixty starfighters, 5 squadrons, provide anti-fighter defense and offense a deviation from the usual whole wing of fighters for ships of its type.
There are many famous superweapons from the history of the galaxy, the most dangerous and infamous of those have come to be studied by young and old Dark Jedi alike. A few of these superweapons will be discussed here, but there is much more to learn for the most eager students.
A. Death Star
The Galactic Empire's ultimate terror weapon, the Death Star was a giant space military station resembling a planet in shape that mounted a directed superlaser weapon capable of completely destroying a planet with a single shot.
The first Death Star had a crew of 265,675, as well as 52,276 gunners, 607,360 troops, 30,984 stormtroopers, 42,782 ship support staff, and 180,216 pilots and support crew. Its hangars contained assault shuttles, blastboats, Strike cruisers, land vehicles, support ships, and 7,293 TIE fighters. It was also protected by 10,000 turbolaser batteries, 2,600 ion cannons, and at least 768 tractor beam projectors. Various sources state the first Death Star had a diameter between 120 and 160 kilometers. Both the first and second Death Stars were destroyed by Rebel forces during the Galactic Civil War.
B. Starkiller Base
Much like the Death Star the Starkiller was an ultimate weapon of terror. Formed from the shell of an ice planet by the First Order the weapon had the capability to destroy an entire system halfway across the galaxy, which the First Order demonstrated by wiping out the New Republic's home system of Hosnian.
The Starkiller bases weapon ran on a type of Dark Energy called Quintessence, drawing power directly from a star until it was drained. The energy then departed the base in straight line tearing a hole in hyperspace and traveling almost instantly to it’s destination.
Much like the Deathstar before it the Starkiller Base was destroyed by a small band of resistance fighters. A ground team consisting of Han Solo, Chewbacca, Rey and the First Order traitor Finn managed to infiltrate the base and take down the shield generators. Meanwhile a band of X-Wing pilots led by Poe Dameron engaged First Order fighters above the planet before entering the thermal oscillator's conduit destroying it. Without the conduit the planet was unable to contain the massive power build up generated by the bases weapon resulting in the destruction of the planet and the base.
This is just a general introduction to capital starships and their general uses. There are dozens of classes per type of vessel, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. This course, in no way, prepares you for actual service on board on your clan vessels. However, if you do find yourself in service aboard such a ship, it is hopeful that this course can provide you with the basic information so you can, upon identifying a ship, know its general strengths and weaknesses.
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