Eight Hells (1/2)

Vice-Admiral Ardelli, TDMS Skybreaker, commanding TF 14. Battleship CAS Antithemis, carrier CAS Antinomos, escorting destroyers, reported moving out Lothell Bay steaming ESE. Suspect attempting transit Adessír Straits tomorrow at local dawn. Heavy weather over Lothell Is. makes it unlikely fly off air cover. All measures intercept and destroy. 1SL, Calmiríë.

Girls In Red Cloaks Beware

(In which I noodle around with wet navy designs from the closest to a WWII-equivalent period in ‘verse history.)

Ulricik Bancrach (“Hungry Wolf”)-class destroyer

Builders:

  • Ambriel Dock Guild & Company
  • Consolidated Selenarian Shipbuilding
  • Ethring Iron and Steam Works
  • Ryudailai Pier Shipbuilding Cooperatives
  • Telírvess Naval Yards
  • Tortelsvard Naval Arsenal

Displacement: 3,670 long tons (standard)

Length: 127.48 m
Beam: 12.32 m
Draft: 5.65 m

Propulsion:

  • 4 x Empire Nucleonics, ICC “Kirchev’s Kettle” nucleonic boilers, driving
    2×2 Blackstone Industries, ICC geared steam turbines (and auxiliary turbogenerator)

Speed: 44 knots
Range: Unlimited (6 year refueling interval)

Complement: 285 officers and men

Sensors:

  • Artifice Armaments, ICC, ASR-6/1 air search radar
  • Artifice Armaments, ICC, SSR-12 surface search radar
  • Hydrodyne Group Mk. 0/2 experimental hydrophones

Armament (Primary):

  • 6 x 6″ Imperial Navy Type Four dual-purpose gun;
    two single turrets (immediately forward of primary superstructure (A);
    immediately aft of secondary superstructure (Y));
    two twin turrets (fore (B) and aft (X) of primary superstructure, deck 01)
  • 18 x 18″ torpedo tubes in three stacked-hex turret mounts
    (bow, forward of A turret;
    in between primary and secondary superstructure;
    stern, aft of Y turret, elevated above depth-charge racks),
    firing 18″ low-signature LS/85 unguided torpedo with 292 kg high explosive warhead
  • 2 x 108 kg depth charge delivery racks (stern)

Armament (Secondary):

  • 3 x quad 36 mm Black Sky anti-air defense guns
    (one forward on primary superstructure, deck 02;
    two aft on secondary superstructure, deck 01, either side of mast/secondary director)
  • 12 x twin 24 mm Black Sky anti-air defense guns
    (two on bridge wings, deck 03;
    two forward on secondary superstructure, deck 01;
    remaining eight on main deck, four per side as space permits)

Armor:

  • Engineering space (engines and boilers): 0.75″ heavy steel plate
  • Pilothouse: 0.5″ heavy steel plate
  • Gun directors: 0.5″ heavy steel plate
  • Torpedo tube covers: 0.25″ heavy steel plate
  • Elsewhere: None

Designed during the middle years of the Third Oceanic Dominance, the Ulricik Bancrach-class destroyer was the second and most common¹ of the “modern” types of destroyer that would dominate the last great era of wet naval combat, specifically designed for the multiple roles of serving as protective screening forces for battleships and carriers (especially against air attack), of mounting deadly “wolf-pack” torpedo attacks against enemy forces during surface actions, and of addressing the then novel threat of the militarily effective submarine.

(A later ASW variant and refit of the class, as the need became more apparent, would replace the midships torpedo tubes with a pair of depth charge projectors.)

The name of the class comes ultimately from their flush deck construction² (that would later become near-ubiquitous in later designs around the time of the War of the Twelve Tyrants), eliminating all well decks³, reducing the overall height of the superstructure (divided into two, the swept-back forward superstructure accommodating the bridge tower and primary gun director, and a lower, one-deck secondary superstructure to aft surrounding the base of the tripod mast, carrying the radar and wireless antennae and the secondary gun director), and even eliminating the forecastle, which along with her slender dagger profile gave Ulricik Bancrach and her successors a particularly lean, prowling, hungry look relative to their contemporaries. The substantial increase in firepower over the preceding Sar Anpeng-class only added to this reputation.

The removal of the forecastle – although the flared bow was retained – combined with the weight of the forward armament – proved to detract unfortunately from the class’s seaworthiness in heavier weather. While at the time this was considered an acceptable compromise, with then-dominant doctrine calling for heavy salvoes of unguided torpedoes from destroyers squadrons, the advent of the guided torpedo tipped the balance back in favor of quality, and the Ulricik Bancrach-class ships in Imperial service were refitted to remove the forward torpedo mount in exchange for better seakeeping.

Serving through the remainder of the Third Oceanic Dominance and the War of the Twelve Tyrants, and with refits, upgrades, and successor classes based on their design continuing to fill out the squadrons of the IN into and through the Consolidation, the Ulricik Bancrach-class is perhaps the most iconic of all the destroyer classes commissioned by the Empire.


  1. 224 Ulricik Bancrach-class destroyers were commissioned, of which 148 served on the Upperside and 76 on the Underside.
  2. It should be borne in mind that, using nucleonic propulsion as they tended to, Imperial steamship designs near-universally lacked smokestacks.
  3. Meaning here the older usage of decks lower than those fore and aft of them (e.g., between a forecastle and full-width superstructure, or between such a superstructure and a poop deck).

Amphisbaena

Amphisbaena-class battleship

“Half ahe… that way.”

– Capt. Olavi Corel, first captain of Amphisbaena

Displacement: 125,000 long tons

Length: 330 m (at waterline: 316 m)
Beam: 84 m (at waterline: 48 m)
Draft: 12.1 m

Propulsion:

4 x Empire Nucleonics, ICC 64 MW “Fat Salamander” fission reactors
8 x Blackstone Industries, ICC steam turbines and reduction plant
In-house magnetohydrodynamic “inchworm” drive system

Speed: 42 knots (non-sustainable emergency power: 48 knots)
Range: Unlimited; 12 year refueling interval

Complement:

1,672 officers and men
Thinking Machines, ICC “Admiral Aliniv” Command Optimization Thinker

Sensors:

Artifice Armaments, ICC, ASR-24/3 air search radar
Artifice Armaments, ICC, SSR-36 surface search radar
Artifice Shadow Works X-449 imaging lidar
Hydrodyne Technologies, ICC, “Long Ear” sonar suite
Tactical interweave uplink

Armament (Primary):

6 x Artifice Armaments, ICC 22″ “Big Howlin’ Bitch” railgun
6 x triple Artifice Armaments, ICC, 16″ “Little Sister” railgun

Armament (Secondary):

24 x Artifice Armaments, ICC 9″ “Poniard” conventional gun
36 x Firefly Aerospace, ICC “Waterline” anti-ship seeking missile
36 x Firefly Aerospace, ICC “Gentle Touch” target-finding missile
8 x Eye-in-the-Flame Arms, ICC “Pesticide” automated threat protection system

Armor:

Citadel: 24″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 53″ steel
Main turrets: 18″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 39″ steel
Elsewhere: 12″ layered C-allotrope/alloy composite; equiv. 26″ steel

Aircraft carried:

16 x Stonesmight Automata, ICC “Tattletale” scout drones
16 x Stonesmight Automata, ICC “Fleshharrower” attack drones

The four Amphisbaena-class battleships were the last fast battleships laid down by the Imperial Navy (note: the “wet” navy of the era, not its space successor), and participated in a number of military actions including the last battles of the Consolidation to take place on Eliéra proper. They are widely considered to represent the pinnacle of the naval architect’s art, and the furthest development of the “wet” battleship as a class.

The design of the Amphisbaena-class, in keeping with the mandate the IN inherited from the Alatian Navy’s Weapons Development Board, was to produce a vessel that would utterly outclass any opponent against which it was set. Thus, the class carries six 22″ railguns – of a model designed to be scaled down for naval use, rather than used as is – in addition to its six triple 16″ railgun turrets and conventional armaments. This same approach led to the inclusion of the eight “Pesticide” automated threat protection systems, capable, once activated, of automatically reducing anything not tagged as friendly approaching within a mile of Amphisbaena, above or below the water, into chaff and charnel.

The final development of this approach was Amphisbaena‘s magnetohydrodynamic “inchworm” drive. While the primary characteristic of this type of drive is its quietness, and thus lower sonar profile, in the case of Amphisbaena, it was selected because its lack of the issues associated with high-performance propellers, coupled with an otherwise oversized power plant, enables Amphisbaena to reach the otherwise unprecedented – for a ship of its displacement – cruising speed of 42 knots.

It also has the advantage of functioning equally well in either direction, and this – combined with the ability to divert water to side outlets at both bow and stern – gave Amphisbaena unparalleled abilities not only to change heading 180° without turning at all, but also to decelerate, to turn in its own length, and to keep station – making it an incredibly stable gun platform.

It is also to this drive that Amphisbaena owes its entirely symmetrical hull profile and superstructure, since the designers felt no need to inflict the notion of a preferred direction on a ship which otherwise would have lacked one. Despite the quotation above, officers and men serving on Amphisbaena-class ships rarely had difficulty telling the bow of the moment from the stern when the ship was under way, but it is nonetheless true that a red-blue color gradient was added to the bridge paintwork after Amphisbaena‘s sea trials to make end from end clear when moored or hove to.

Worldbuilding: Sail Plans

Taking a brief moment to hand out a random factlet, let us turn from space navy to wet navy. Old school wet navy.

Did you know that the most widely used rig back in the days of sail, especially by the Alatian fleet, the largest both mercantile and military and which went on to form the core of the Imperial fleet, was a variation on what on Earth is called the junk rig?

(Well, no, you didn’t, because I’ve only just told you. It was a rhetorical question.)

Using bamboo battens and silk sailcloth, even, for a very Eastern flavor for the Earth reader.

The chief experimenters with alternate rigs and modifications to the standard junk rig were the actual Alatian Navy, principally because the major flaw in the junk rig is its difficulty in sailing close-hauled (i.e., close to into the wind), but in contrast, it’s exceedingly efficient at sailing with the wind, and requires – always a consideration – a rather smaller crew to manage it than a typical western rig.

With careful attention to hull design, too, the eventual junk-rigged clippers and windjammers of the Alatian merchant fleet ruled the ocean trade up to, and even into, the steam era: as their sailors would cheerfully point out, the trade winds were very reliable, and given that, that a good rig could deliver as much or more power than steam could, and also that it didn’t require all that fuel taking up space that could contain earning cargo kept the sailships in business, and in many cases those which carried steam engines used them as an auxiliary power source only, for when the wind failed.

(Why this digression into nautical history? I have no idea. But I found it an interesting piece of the universe, and so I wrote it down.)

Trope-a-Day: Standard Sci-Fi Army

Okay, let’s try this again, with much more saving of drafts…

Standard Sci-Fi Army, eh? Well, not sure how much I have to say about that that’s new, because of all the things I’ve already written about the Imperial Legions elsewhere, but let’s see what I do have.

(Actually, first I’m going to register an objection to the trope write-up up front and say that, in actuality a disturbing amount of science fiction, especially the visual kind, does not follow this army standard, because this army standard implies a balanced combined arms approach.

Compare that to, say, Star Trek, whose approach to ground combat involves landing a bunch of starship crewmen with sidearms to play the part of cannon fodder extremely light infantry, or Starship Troopers – the movie, not the book – in which they have actual light infantry but the only military maneuvers they appear to have mastered are the “broken-formation rabble charge”, the “rout” and the “circular firing squad”.

When Star Wars is the best I can think of at depicting realistic army-type military operations on screen, it should be clear that visual SF has a long way to go.)

The Imperial Legions, contrariwise, do follow a balanced combined-arms approach. Leaving aside those things specifically mentioned below, the only huge omissions from their portfolio are artillery units and an air force, both of which are supplied by the Imperial Navy: the former in the form of orbital bombardments by KEWs, and the latter in the form of atmosphere-capable AKVs sortieing from aerospace cruisers in low planetary orbit.

(They are comfortable with this, by and large, because landing a military force planetside when you don’t have orbital superiority is merely an expensive way to get lots of people killed.)

The main body of the Legions contains both infantry and cavalry: light infantry (really regular line mechanized infantry who come with IFVs which they leave behind when it’s time to play light/scout infantry) and heavy infantry (the big guys in the powered armor that lets them punch out buildings); and light cavalry (skimmer-riding “dragoons” and “hussars” who can fight both mounted and dismounted, fast-moving scouts, skirmishers, and raiders) and heavy cavalry (main battle tanks and modular swapout units of similar weight, which cover a lot of specialized territory – see article).  All of these, naturally, come accompanied by plentiful drone support and at least one attached wing of organic close air support.

(The organic close-air support is provided by the G7-BU Sunhawk (imagine the IN SPACE version of the A-10 “Warthog” Thunderbolt II reconceptualized as a tilt-turbine/hybrid rocket) and its smaller cousin the G12-BU Falcon, which can fly like a plane, float like a helicopter, and sting like the giant mass driver that the whole damn airframe is wrapped around.)

A substantial proportion of each of these types are trained as stormtroopers, which is to say, to make orbital drop assaults – and so named because they arrive with the speed of lightning and the sound of thunder, and wreck the crap out of anything that isn’t under deep cover. Yes, even the heavy cavalry. (Hello, Flapjack!)

(Further side note: and where that Super Soldier trope is concerned – hey, this is the Empire. Everyone who passes the first half of the Anvil receives the finest milspec augmentations that the budget will pay for. Quantity may have a quality all its own, but the IL prefer the quality of quality, any day.)

Everyone, including specialized legions, is one of these types first. That’s the legionary way. First you’re a legionary, then you’re something else.

Now, where these specializations are concerned, headquarters and logistics functions are usually provided by other bits of the IMS, (Theater/Battlespace Command and the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, respectively), but various specialized legions built off the same basic platform provide combat engineers, intelligence, guards, field medical services, communications specialists, MPs, siege specialists, sappers, peacekeepers, snipers, saboteurs, recon specialists, special forces, Very Special forces, battle theater preparation specialists, underwater specialists, underoil specialists, subterranean specialists, hunter legions, terror legions, scouts, applied eschatologists, and pretty much any other class of military specialists millennia of experience has come up with.

Not seen: mecha. Because survivability no, and when your AKVs and drones can fly and your skimmers can hover and even your MBTs can at least hop, putting legs on things is really kinda pointless.

Finally, there’s also the wet navy. Technically, the wet navy isn’t part of the Legions, it’s part of the Stratarchy of Military Unification, but it’s the IL that call upon it when they need to deal with water worlds (or oil worlds, etc.), so it’s covered under this trope.

(Note: the rest of this is subject to change as I haven’t done a sophisticated work-up on wet-naval strategy yet.)

It’s rather more limited than it used to be, certainly in terms of that part of it that goes abroad and thus has to be delivered by dropship. That, and the age of the aircraft carrier is long since over, because when the battlespace is full of missiles and orbital weapons, it suffers from the same large, fat target problems as other giant types…

…so a modern wet navy task group tends to consist of three types, in varying proportions:

“Cruisers”, as the “capital ships”, which concentrate on mini-AKV and missile armament and a command-ship role. (Major air offenses being better launched from near orbit.)

“Destroyers”, fast and nimble attack vessels, and indeed that means they’re usually hydrofoils or ekranoplans with mass drivers. The aircraft of the sea.

And submarines, continuing their traditional role of being holes in the water that no-one notices until the no-one in question explodes suddenly for no readily apparent reason.