Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Ships of Babylon 5: Military Vessels

As a companion to the ongoing Babylon 5 Rewatch Project, here's some information on the military spacecraft that feature heavily in the show.

The Earth Alliance

The Earth Alliance utilises a wide variety of craft for combat and commercial purposes. The Earth Alliance is notable in being both potentially large - its population far outstrips that of Centauri Prime, Minbar or most of the non-aligned worlds - but relatively technologically primitive. Most notably, the Earth Alliance does not have artificial gravity technology, meaning that only its largest ships (which have rotating sections simulating gravity through centrifugal force) can spend prolonged periods in the field without having to return to a gravity well for the health of the crew.

The Earth Alliance's military is known as Earthforce.

SA-23E Mitchell-Hyundyne "Aurora" Starfury

The workhorse starfighter of Earthforce, the Aurora Starfury entered service after the Dilgar War and is a combination of earlier Earth technology with some influence from Dilgar designs. The Starfury is noted for its ruggedness, ability to absorb more punishment than most fighters, its survivability (the entire cockpit can detach as a lifeboat module) and its incredibly powerful quad thrusters, which allow the fighter to rotate 180 degrees in 0.2 seconds. The ship is armed with four major plasma cannons which give it impressive damage output and missiles can be fitted to the outboard wings for even more combat options, although these tend to increase the bulk and reduce the manoeuvrability of the fighter. A "Heavy Starfury" variant also exists with a rear-mounted weapons pod to allow targets to be engaged to the rear of the fighter.

The Starfury is a versatile and formidable fighter. During the Earth-Minbari War the Starfury was able to outfly and defeat Minbari Niall fighters one-on-one more than a third of the time, even given the Niall's superior speed, stealth defences and armaments.

The Starfury's biggest weakness is an inability to enter planetary atmospheres to pursue enemy craft with multi-theatre capabilities.

SA-23J Mitchell-Hyundyne "Thunderbolt" Starfury

Entering service in 2260, the Thunderbolt is Earthforce's most advanced starfighter. Incorporating many of the advantages of the Aurora-class, the Thunderbolt Starfury is armed with a rapid-firing "gatling" cannon for increase damage and rate of fire and is capable of entering planetary atmospheres. It can also be outfitted with missiles or high-yield bombs, allowing the fighter to fulfil a larger range of mission objectives than the standard Aurora Starfury.

However, the Thunderbolt is significantly larger than the standard Starfury and an easier target. Its greater bulk also reduces its effectiveness in zero-gee combat situations, where the Aurora remains the superior option.

Hyperion-class Heavy Cruiser

The Hyperion-class heavy cruiser was the backbone of the Earthforce fleet during the late 2230s and early 2240s. Entering service during the Dilgar War, the Hyperion is noted for its firepower (courtesy of three dual heavy cannon batteries), its manoeuvrability for a ship its size and the ease with which other weapon packages can be rotated on board. Many modern Hyperions have been retrofitted with the heavy beam weapons from the Omega-class, although the Hyperion's smaller power plant means that it cannot fire these beam weapons as quickly as the larger ships.

The Hyperion proved its limitations during the Minbari War and the ship has been reduced in role since then, now often serving as an escort to Omega-class destroyers.

Nova-class Dreadnought

One of the oldest designs still in use by Earthforce, the Nova-class was built around a large spaceframe with the idea of putting as many heavy guns onto a ship as possible. The philosophy, although unsubtle, proved sound during the Dilgar War when the Nova's massive bombardment capability took the ostensibly superior Dilgar ships by surprise and resulted in many enemy losses. The Nova fell out of fashion after the Dilgar War, with the Hyperion deemed more versatile. The relative lack of success of the Hyperion during that war, whilst the Nova's much heavier firepower allowed it to at least damage Minbari warcruisers more often, saw Earthforce revisit the design and adapt it for the later Omega-class.

Omega-class Destroyer

The newest, largest and most powerful ship in the Earthforce arsenal, entering service in 2249. The Omega-class was originally a refit of the Nova, stripping out the massive battery of pulse cannons in favour of a rotating spaceframe to allow more comfortable operating conditions and more sophisticated energy cannons. Derived from Narn designs purchased during the Earth-Minbari War, the Omega's main beam cannons are formidably powerful, especially when used in concert with the cruiser's massive missile batteries and pulse cannons. The rear-mounted beam and pulse cannons give the ship a near total coverage in all directions, preventing enemy ships from engaging from blind spots, and the ship is large enough to carry several squadrons of starfighters. The Omega also has a significant number of dorsal and ventral-mounted turrets for engaging fighters, shooting down ordinance and close-quarters engagements.

The Narn Regime

The youngest of the major powers, having gained their freedom from the Centauri only fifty years or so ago, the Narn Regime is arguably the technologically least well-developed. There is debate on this point, as Narn technology is a hodge-podge of material developed internally, stolen from the Centauri or bought from other worlds.

Like Earth, the Narn do not have artificial gravity. However, Narn physiology is more rugged and durable than that of humans and they can spend much greater periods of time in zero gravity with no (or reduced) ill effects.

Frazi Heavy Fighter

Partially inspired by the Earth Alliance Starfury, the Frazi heavy fighter is heavily armed, relatively fast and well-armoured. It is particularly suited to long-range combat missions and swarms of Frazi fighters can give even the technologically superior Centauri pause. The Frazi does have several weaknesses, however. Its weapons are oriented around the forward-facing cannons and it can be vulnerable to attack from other quarters with less capability than the Starfury for spinning quickly to engage new targest. The Frazi is designed to operate in atmosphere, so is less capable than fighters designed solely for space combat, although this does also make it more versatile in the mission parameters it can tackle.

Ta'Loth-class Assault Cruiser

An ugly design, the Ta'Loth was one of the first capital-class designs churned out by the Narn Regime in the years following the Centauri withdrawal. The ship is a mix of Narn and alien technology, with heavy firepower but relatively limited armour and a vulnerable, externally-mounted control centre. The ship is ungainly and slow to manoeuvre, and is usually employed either if light resistance is expected, under heavy fighter cover or for its primary mission goal, the delivery of large numbers of assault troops onto a target planet or enemy ship.

G'Quan-class Heavy Cruiser

The pride of the Narn fleet, the G'Quan class is the newest, sleekest and most advanced design in the Narn inventory. The G'Quan is a formidable warship, relatively fast and heavily armed with rapid-firing pulse cannons. Most significant are its two forward-mounted beam cannons, which can inflict devastating damage at close or long range. The ship also has heavy ordinance launchers and area-denial weapons, capable of firing energy mines up to several thousand kilometres distant. These combined make the G'Quan a dangerous vessel to engage, particularly at range.

At close range the G'Quan suffers from several significant design flaws, most notably the emphasis on its forward-mounted weapons which make the ship vulnerable to attack from the flanks and particularly the rear. Its armour is also not as heavy as might be wished, with the designers preferring to focus on speed over protection.

The Centauri Republic

The Centauri are one of the older powers in the galaxy and are technologically more advanced than any known race bar the Vorlons and Minbari. However, the Centauri have also stagnated in their technological development over the past couple of centuries, preferring an emphasis on tried-and-tested techniques rather than innovation. Still, the Centauri should not be underestimated in battle.

The Centauri Navy is a large force which is capable of engaging in a large variety of mission types on multiple fronts simultaneously. Earthforce analysts characterise the Centauri military as a "sleeping lion" which would be exceptionally difficult to defeat if provoked to hostility.

Sentri-class Fighter

The Sentri-class fighter is the backbone of the Centauri military, a light and highly manoeuvrable starfighter which has an incredibly tight turning circle and usually attack in large numbers. Centauri pilots develop instinctive relationships with their fighters' AI systems, even letting themselves black out for a few seconds during high-gee turns with confidence that the autopilot can fill in until they get back in the fight. The Sentri's two pulse cannons provide enough firepower to deal with most targets easily, and the Sentri has atmospheric capabilities.

However, the Sentri has significant weaknesses. The fighter is the most lightly-armoured of any of the major races and cannot sustain much damage before being destroyed. It also can't turn on a dime like the Starfury, and its lighter weapons mean that the pilot has to be extremely accurate and persistent to ensure a kill. During skirmishes with the Narn, the Sentri has proven to be a match for the Frazi only when flown by skilled pilots or when they significantly outnumber the enemy.

Vorchan-class Light Cruiser

The Centauri are unusual among the major races for emphasising the role of a light cruiser (or heavy gunship) in its military. The Vorchan-class cruiser is notable for its speed, manoeuvrability and powerful ion cannons. These ships are always deployed in squadrons of at least three and sometimes four ships, breaking to surround and bring down considerably larger vessels. It is also the smallest-known ship (at present) capable of forming its own jump point. The Centauri like to use these ships for ambush and hit-and-run attacks that keep the enemy off-balance whilst more formidable ships are brought to bear.

Despite these capabilities, the Vorchans are still relatively lightly-armoured and not a formidable threat in one-on-one combat with the heavy cruisers of almost any other races (including the ostensibly inferior Narns). They are also reliant on escort Sentris to protect their flanks, but are not large enough to launch fighters themselves, reducing their operational range considerably.

Primus-class Battlecruiser

The Primus-class battlecruiser is the pride and joy of the Centauri fleet. The Primus is a large warship which eschews heavy beam weapons in favour of a massive array of ion cannons and turrets mounted on both the dorsal and ventral surfaces. The Primus can engage multiple targets simultaneously or concentrate its weapons fire in massive barrages. The Primus can also engage in planetary bombardments (indeed, an older variant of Primus carried mass drivers to bombard planets with asteroids, but these were removed after the Centauri signed treaties banning their use) and carries a squadron Sentri-class fighters for defence. A smaller variant of Primus is also used as the Imperial Flagship for the use of the Emperor himself.

The Primus has several notable weaknesses. It is devastating in close-quarters battle but is vulnerable in long-range engagements. Its reliance on ion blasts - which, although devastating if they hit, can be dispersed relatively easily by interceptor fire - can also limits its effectiveness. Most notably, the Primus may be large but it's not as tough as it may appear, and its armour protection is not as strong as might be wished. The Primus is best-used in conjunction with fleets of Vorchans and Sentris for this reason.

The Minbari Federation

The Minbari are the oldest of the known races (bar perhaps the Vorlons), having been a spacefaring civilisation for well over a thousand years. Their technology is centuries ahead of even the Centauri, as the Earth Alliance discovered to its great cost in the Earth-Minbari War of 2245-48.

Fully a third of the Minbari civilisation - the warrior caste - is dedicated to combat and battle, although as a species they are surprisingly adaptable and both the worker and religious castes can fight if pressed.

Nial Heavy Fighter

The Nial fighter is the most dangerous single-pilot vehicle in known space. The Nial is insanely fast, its gravitational drive allowing it to reverse momentum, move in different directions and change attitude very quickly. Its three rapid-firing plasma beam cannons are simply the most powerful weapons ever seen on a fighter its size, and even a small number of Nials can overwhem and destroy the heavy cruisers of other species in relatively short order. Minbari technology also gives the Nial stealth capabilities, making it hard for enemy ships to lock on.

The Nial has few weaknesses, but they do exist. The Nial can operate in atmosphere and close to planets, but its gravimetric drives are reduced in efficiency, which can give other ships the chance to match their speed and manoeuvrability. The Nial's superior agility is matched by the Earthforce Starfury's ability to spin and change direction even faster than the Nial. Although the Starfury is still outmatched by the Niall, the difference is much closer than any other race (even the Centauri Sentri) and the Minbar were given a rude surprise during the war where Starfury squadrons deployed in numbers could check a Nial advance, if not backed up by heavier vessels.

Tinashi-class War Frigate

The Tinashi-class was introduced over a thousand years ago and is the oldest Minbari ship still in regular use, although it is now rarely seen. It was once the most powerful and largest ship in the Minbari fleet, but over the centuries it became less capable and was reduced in capability from a cruiser to a frigate.

Although the spaceframe and design is ancient, the class has been periodically refitted with the latest technology, including Minbari stealth systems and beam weapons, making it still a formidable vessel to face in combat.

Sharlin-class Warcruiser

The Minbari warcruiser is a sight know to strike terror into the hearts of other races. The Sharlin is, simply, the most formidable warship in known space (bar, again, Vorlon designs). Equipped with long-range plasma beam weapons capable of vapourising targets hundreds of kilometres away and a plethora of close-in beam weapons, the Sharlin fairly bristles with destructive potential. Its armour is extremely thick and the ship's navigation systems are so precise that it can jump in and out of hyperspace mid-battle, allowing it to quickly evade ambushes and then turn the tables on the enemy. The Minbari have also been known to use hyperspace jump points themselves as weapons, tearing enemy ships apart before jumping in to mop up the survivors.

In recorded history only two Sharlin warcruisers are known to have been lost to enemy action: one was destroyed by a nuclear mine and another was rammed by a Nova-class dreadnought (part of the ship survived but it had to be scuttled later), both during the Earth-Minbari War.

The Vorlon Empire

The most enigmatic of the major races, the Vorlons are believed to use organic technology and employ weapons, scanners and defence systems which make even the Minbari appear to be archaic. Vorlon ships have very rarely been seen in action, and the few times they have have stood as a warning to other races not to challenge them in battle.

Vorlon Fighter

The Vorlon fighter is small but equipped with an energy discharge weapon which operates on unknown principles. Most targets are destroyed instantly by the hit.

Vorlon Transport

The most commonly-seen Vorlon vessel is the modestly-named "transport" which moves the rarely-appointed Vorlon ambassadors from post to post. The Vorlon transports are very heavily armed with an incredibly powerful beam weapon which can vapourise capital ships in a single blast, leading some to classify them as medium or even heavy cruisers instead, despite their relatively limited size.

Vorlon Heavy Cruiser

The Vorlon heavy cruiser is one of the largest ships in known space, at almost two miles in length. The heavy cruiser is equipped with a massive forward beam weapon, a scaled-up version of that on the transport. This weapon has never been seen to fire at full strength, but is considered to be unsurvivable.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs. The Cities of Fantasy series is debuting on my Patreon feed and you can read it there one month before being published on the Wertzone.

No comments: