We were interested to see that a number of “corvette” – i.e. sub-frigate – classes of warship have emerged since our last edition, especially since the role of the frigate is already extremely limited, due to the limitations of its available mass and volume on its capacities, to wolf-pack deployments for light anti-piracy control, scouting, minor system pickets, and civilian system-security functions.
On examining the three primary examples of corvette-class vessels seen in use, the Vanknir-class from Nal Kalak State Arms (we admire, incidentally, the gall of the Orsten System Navy in officially designating essentially unmodified Vanknirs as “system defense frigates”), the Auberwuth-class from Eilish Star Armories, and the General Svanek-class from the Empire’s own Islien Yards/Artifice Armaments, several key differences from frigate-class vessels, and ones which render them even more impractical as ships of war, are apparent.
Specifically, the defining characteristics of these sub-frigate ships are a particularly light armament (one barely sufficient for civilian system-security functions, if that), a greater emphasis on armor and shielding (although the kinetic barriers and hull armor mounted by any corvette-class vessel would be inadequate against even lightly armed warships firing for effect), and an emphasis on technological simplicity, focusing upon ease of field repair in the absence of equivalent-technology infrastructure, often by the replacement of modular components. This is to say that the corvette appears to be designed for ease of maintenance in the low-technology field first, survivability – such as is possible at this scale – second, and warfighting ability third.
In the light of these unusual features, and of its emergence after the case of Sarine v. Galactic Volumetric Registry, the true purpose of the corvette becomes clear. They are a political ship class, not a military one. In other words, they are not intended to put up a practical system defense; rather, they are intended to permit a single-system polity which does not wish to bear the expense of a viable star nation’s naval establishment to claim system sovereignty – by virtue of policing their own space – using a few corvettes at a fraction of the expense of actual warships.
Certainly, in the event of any serious territorial incursion, these ships could do little more than fire off a few warning shots for the honor of the flag and surrender immediately thereafter, but this may be sufficient to establish their intent to assert system sovereignty in the eyes of the legal authorities.
(The name of the Islien Yards/Artifice Armaments General Svanek-class may also suggest the correctness of this analysis, the historical General Svanek Arctorran being known primarily for presiding over two surrenders in the War of Banners without any decisive battle preceding.)
We await the first legal decisions on this point with considerable interest.
– Naval Starships of the Associated Worlds, INI Press, Palaxias, 421st ed.