James Sterrett asks:
I gather that storage of consumables for the crew is in the external tankage, on the theory that a penetrating strike is a kill and thus there’s no point protecting stuff for survivors to use to survive/repair the ship?
Well, all the tankage is under the armor (except in the case of up-the-kilt shots), but most of the non-fuel non-heatsink tankage is between the crewed area and the hull, yes. On the other hand, it’s designed in much the same way as I gather some Russian submarines (the Typhoon-class, for one, IIRC) handle it; lots of smaller tanks, heavily subdivided. The theory being that a single penetrating strike may take out some of them, but it’s extremely unlikely to take out all of them, and indeed not much is short of battering the entire ship into a hulk and leaving no hull intact.
What are the limits on the ability of the frigate to recycle stuff? What’s the general cruise duration & actual maximum limit?
The recycling is very efficient for life-support purposes. I haven’t run detailed numbers, but a safe assumption is that you’ll run out of less depletable non-recyclables (ammunition, spare parts/specialized fabber feedstock, crew endurance, etc.) long before running into a problem with life-support consumables. Especially since most things you’re likely to deplete life-support-wise, even through leaks, can be renewed by pulling up alongside the nearest convenient iceteroid, hauling it in, chopping it up, and having your crew shovel the resulting slush into the gray-water system.
In terms of non-recyclable parts, a Drake follows the IN policy of being nominally stocked for a year’s cruising before needing replenishment. In practice, policy is to keep cruise duration between three and six months in space, depending on mission requirements, mostly for crew efficiency reasons, although that’s something that can be extended during time of war or other emergency. (That, though, is likely to require refueling from fuel stations or oilers along the way; and with oilers available to provide logistical support, theoretically, one could stay on station in space continuously – at least until suffering structural damage serious enough to need yard repair. The effects on crew morale would probably not be pretty, though.)
How much time does one of these spent in maintenance – is it a 3-for-1 rotation, where one is in dock refitting, one is working up for deployment with its crew, and one is deployed; or are matters such as refitting and crew training accelerated by high tech capabilities?
.The high-tech capabilities help: with good AI and lots of robotics, including nanotech self-repair capabilities, they have been able to cut down a lot on maintenance and time spent in the yards for that. On the other hand, while high tech does speed up crew training in some respects (tachydidactics, mnemonesis, etc., making it easy to absorb lots of raw data), there’s both a lot more of it to absorb than there has been before, and there’s a distinct limit to how much you can speed up simulations.
My subject-to-some-possible-revision current view is that they try to keep up a 2-for-1 rotation, one deployed and one in dock refitting and training, made possible mostly by the reduced maintenance burden; and that while deployed, the crew spend a lot of off-time in additional training and keeping current with simulations. But this may change once I find time to spend more time on the IN’s inner workings.