30 September 2017

Ships of the Line: Cutters, Corvettes, Scouts, Patrol, and Escorts


For many of the naval ship classes portrayed in various media, it is often the sexy big combat vessels like the Dreadnought, the Carrier, or the Battleship that get the most attention. However, any naval organization is comprised of a vast amount of vessels that fulfill all manner of roles in peacetime and in war. These can be badly overlooked by creators and the audience. That being said, as FWS clicks down to the last classifications of naval vessels in this series, we are exploring the lesser known and lesser featured ships. For the next few installments of Ships of the Line, FWS will be covering several classes in one single post and the structure of these articles will be different as well. In this installment of Ships of the Line, we will examining Corvettes, Cutters, Patrol, Scouts, and Escorts.

What is a "Corvette"?
The name "corvette" has a long tradition in naval historic and classification. That being said, corvette class warships appears in many tabletop sci-fi war games and is the name for a popular American sport car. But what the hell are these  "corvettes"? Generally, the naval Corvette class ships is the smallest surface warship classification in a navy that is beyond the size of the  Frigate that ranges in the 500 to 2,000 tonnes. They often serve light combat roles like patrol and fast attack. The name itself is from the 17th century Dutch word "corf" meaning "small ship". During the Second World War, Corvette type warships served in various roles including escort duty, anti-submarine hunting, and general patrol. The classification of "corvette" seems to be more associated with the British Royal Navy and other international navies. With this, some have said that the international "corvette" are more akin to the US Navy's "destroyer escort".The  Corvette type warships of today are tasked with coastal patrol duties with the Russian navy having the most Corvette class warships in active service.

The Sci-Fi "Corvette Class" Starship
These are often depicted as small, lightly armed, armored warships that are easily overpowered by the larger capital ships. At times, they operate in groups or are the only choice of an unfunded military organization or to fill a gap in their spaces navies as we've seen in Babylon 5 and Star Wars. Like many other smaller spacegoing warships, corvette class starships are a flexible platform to allow for a variety of roles during peacetime. During major fleet engagements, corvettes are assigned to protect carriers, plug holes in the lines, and fast attack.   

What are "Cutters"?
In the age of sail, the "cutter" was a fast, small sailboat, while in today's navies, the term "Cutter" is applied to vessels that serve a law enforcement role on the high seas, as with the US Coast Guard. While lightly armed, the mission of the naval cutter is more than just busting drug runners, but preventing waterborne terrorist attacks, rescue operations, and inspections. If the need was desperate, Cutter naval ships could be pressed into emergency naval wartime duty.

The Sci-Fi "Cutter Class" Starship
Given the seaborne law enforcement role assigned to modern naval Cutter class vessels, it is likely that any "Space Coast Guard" like organization would make use of small starships with limited crews, drones, and probes. These manned patrol vessels would possibly be classified as an "Cutter" due to naval tradition given their role as law enforcement interdiction. The lines between the space fleet manned patrol class vessels and the space coast guard Cutter type vessels would be blurred and possibly even constructed on the very same space frame with alterations in armaments, armor, engines, and sensor package to fulfill all manner of duties.   


What is the "Patrol"Ship?
Patrol vessels that are active within any naval organization fall into two catalogs: inshore and offshore. These two classifications often deal with size and scope. Offshore patrol ships are designed to operate within the open water away (green water) from shores and are larger in scale with some being all the up to Frigate class vessels.  These larger type of patrol ships are often seen in service with island nations or nations with large coastlines that do not field large green water navies due to economics or mission, such as New Zealand and Bangladesh.
As to their mission, it can be generalized and flexible in wartime and peacetime with everything from pirate protection to interception of illegal activities. Inshore patrol boats are designed to operate very close to shore and within the confines of major river systems, as with the “brown water navy” during the Vietnam War all the way up to hydrofoil watercraft. These are lightly armed and armored with duties ranging from stopping and boarding ships, anti-terrorism, and prevention of enemy activity


The Sci-Fi "Patrol Class" Starship
Given the vastness of space and the complexity of securing such territory, science fiction creators have turned to the use of patrol starships to monitor and undertake a wide range of missions from interdiction of illegal trade, space pirate suppression, rescue operations, and investigation of space junk and hulks. These vessels would be lightly armed, and could be the first armed ships on the scene of any hostilities like a nightwatchman. Often these patrol class starships are the beginning or end of someone’s career.  The duties of patrolling a solar system could be split between unmanned and manned space vehicles along with working in concert with a sensor network.  To save money, patrol vessels could be retrofitted older small warships decommissioned by the space fleet and retasked for patrol duty. During times of war, we could see lighter warships from the space navy being deployed to important star systems as an early warning/interception unit to hold down enemy ships until the taskforce can arrive. These would be better armed and armored that standard inter-solar system patrol vessels.   


What is the "Scout" Ship?
To my surprise, the naval scout ship did indeed actually exist and assumed the role of flotilla leader prior to the Second World War. This role was taken over by other smaller warships, like destroyers and the scout ship was phased out of navies. To many, the term "scout" is the pathfinder for a larger group that gathers intelligence on the enemy, the land, and the best route ahead. In the modern navy, there are no scout ships and reconnaissance of the way ahead, early warning, or the target location/objective is conducted by naval drones, satellites, AWACS aircraft, Special Operations units, and even the advanced sensor equipment onboard some warships.

The Sci-Fi "Scout Class" Starship
Okay, science fiction loves scout ships, and it does not matter that navies quit using this type of ship soon after World War II. Given the vastness of the final frontier, space navies design, construction, and deploy specialized small military spacecraft to gather intelligence on a unknown part of space, the location of enemy forces, or map a sector of space. This specialized mission would require specialized equipment and impressive speed. To save on mass, these scout class ships are lightly armed.
When the heat gets turned up, most scout class vessels are easily overwhelmed and are forced to withdraw or face destruction; as we saw with the USS Grissom at the Battle of the Genesis Planet. In naval taskforce groups, Scout class ships could be upgraded to serve has a light warship. The role of recon and intelligence gathering could be undertaken by advanced probes or even specialized space fighters, similar to the A-Wing rather than the typical scout ship. To save credits, future space navies could follow the Starfleet example: turning science ships into scout ships with some modifications to the offensive and defensive systems.

What is the "Escort" Ship ?
Wars are won or lost based on the supply chain and the protection of merchant cargo vessels or even conveys on overseas routes during times of crisis and war are critical tasks. These threats to commerce shipping can come from below or above the water and naval organizations often assign Destroyer or Frigate class warships as escorts to these juicy targets as we witnessed in World War II. Those surface warships often defended the cargo vessels against hunting U-Boats. These warships were classified as "destroyer escorts" and were used to keep seagoing shipping vessels alive despite the U-Boat threat. In most modern navies, the role of "escort" is more of  task assignment and, as in WWII, doled out to Destroyers, Cruisers, and Frigates. These warships, like the USN Ticonderoga class, often use their air defense detection equipment and counter-weaponry to defend against incoming air threats as well as surface warships and submarines.

The Sci-Fi "Escort  Class" Starship
The role of the escort warship is to serve as a bodyguard/close protection to either other space warships in a formation (like an spacecraft carrier) or a covey of commerce/merchant space vehicles. They are often heavily armed, for their size, long range, and equipped for independent operations. They may or may not be a purposely designed class of starship. Often in water navies, destroyers, frigates, or cruisers are tasked with escort duties in deep space
Given that the mission of any spaceborne escort class warship is prone to risk and engagement by space pirates and other hostiles, they are always on a combat footing and even in peacetime, the escort warship crew could be earning their combat pay potentially on every mission. This makes the escort warships an "sexy" assignment for others wanting or needing combat experience. Unlike many other warship classes, even in wartime, the escort class starships performance basically the same operational role. During my limited gaming experience with the FASA starship combat game, we used to pay "hunter/prey" scenarios, where one player had to protect a badly needed shipment of food or medicine from a raiding party of Orions, Klingons, or even Gorn. Those were fun games and spoke to the terrible role of the escort. These were popular mission types in Wing Commander and X-Wing that plagued my teenager years.  

Will These Combat Starship Classifications Exist in the Real World?
Science can be a harsh mistress especially when it comes to space combat. When we examine the realities of hard science space warfare and space travel, the number of space warship classifications gets cut down...way down. Which of these classifications of spacegoing warships will be present in our future? It is for certain that exploration and settling of space will create a great deal of commerce traffic. Off-world colonies, mining stations, and production facilities will require a fleet of commerce vehicles that deliver raw material and finished goods over millions of miles or lightyears.
These commerce starships will represent a great of money and investment, giving way for space piracy. Just has treasure ships were rich booty for high sea pirates, there will be attempts by others to hijack those cargo ships for themselves. To protect these space vehicles government, companies, and military organizations will employ some sort of protective space vehicle that fulfills the role of escort. It is highly likely that both the commerce and the escort spaceships will be unmanned and under the control of an advanced AI program. It is also likely that the pirate predatory vessel will also be unmanned due to the vast distances associated with interstellar commerce. That means that space robot truckers will relay on robotic escort ships to defend them against space robot pirates. Crazy.
I think there will be a place for some sort of "space police/space coast guard" patrol/inspection vehicle that will monitor incoming commerce traffic and the orbital space around settled worlds. It could be that prior to docking at space stations, that some of the commercial space vehicles are boarding and inspected. When it comes to scout class military spacecraft, it is likely that unmanned space probes will be tasked for surveillance with sensor interpretation techs pouring over the data. Any scouting/recon mission is naturally risky and a small probe could be a better tactical choice over a lightly armed manned spacecraft. Only time will tell what combat starships future space defense organizations will construction. 

Examples from Science Fiction

The CR90 class Corellian Corvette from the Star Wars Universe
The Corellian Engineering Corporation's legendary 150 meter long CR90 Corvette is one of the most widely used general-purpose spacecraft during the latter Republic and Imperial period of galactic history with independent worlds, the Rebel Alliance, and corporations using the CR90 for all manner of uses. It was even used as personal starships for high level government officials and the wealthy, like Senator Bail Organa.
 Designed to be modular, the CR90 would be used as a blockade runner to get needed supplies and black market goods to a payer through naval blockades, which were common in the end of the Republic via the Trader Federation and during the Empire. In addition, it could be used a interstellar passenger vessel with light armaments or even as a light warship as seen in the independent star ships and the Rebel Alliance. To that end, there is a known variant of the CR90 that is more heavily armed for duty as an gunship: The CR90G. Some in service with the Alliance were used as poorman fighter carriers with docking rings attached to transport up to four A-Wings.
While on of the most famous Star Wars spacecraft for it starring role in the first few minutes of 1977's A New Hope, it was never made into a playset vehicle like the Falcon. Why? Well, there was going to be one that was not made out of Lego's. For the 1983 The Return of the Jedi toyline by Kenner, they would have rolled out a scaled-down Blockade Runner that would have closer in size to the B-Wing and featured a cockpit for one figure, the radar dish tower for one figure and a escape pod for R2D2 and C3PO. There was a battery operated laser turret and light-up rear engine assembly. There is a prototype floating around somewhere that we have scans of that looked to be in the early stages of development for the 3rd SW film. It was not made for the original film and would have justified to be in the ROTJ toyline due to several CR90 Corvettes being at the Battle of Endor. It is unknown the current location of the Blockade Runner mockup and why Kenner chose to not product it throughout the years despite the ship being released in model kits, diecast toys, and even in Lego.

The Imperial Klingon K-22 B'rel class Bird-of-Prey Scout Configuration from Star Trek
Since Terra's first contact with the Klingons in 2151, their warrior mindset and their readiness for war was widely known and accepted. However, there are hints of the Klingon military being more devoted to the art of war in all its forms rather than just blunt combat. One of the smallest, but most celebrated Klingon warships has been the scout/raider B'rel K-22 Bird of Prey. Designed to carry out major combat operations via squads of B'rels, they are also tasked with more intelligence gathering, surgical strikes, and harassment operations than as individual warships, like the D-7. This mission was perfect for the B'rel class when paired with cloaking device, leading to this class being the most feared during peacetime by Federation captains and distant outposts and colonies.
Well armed for its size (157 meters) with a small crew could allow the punch above its class, but if engaged by an large Federation starship, it was a fight that was soon over. For nearly two hundred years, the smaller scout Bird of Prey class was built on mass by the KDF with some intelligence sources believing that this infamous ship owns part of its existence to the brief military alliance between the Klingons and the Romulans. Both of the classes of warships based on the same style served with honor during the three bloody wars of the 24th century.
The smaller B'rel class was used as a gunboat/scout/raider during the Dominion War and many were destroyed, but many more were built. One of the most famous B'rel class scout was the one captured by Captain Kirk and refitted and renamed HMS Bounty in 2286. After the Humpback Whale Incident, the sunken HMS Bounty was recovered from waters of San Francisco bay by Starfleet Intelligence and reverse-engineered with help from Captain Montgomery Scott
For nearly 20 years of Star Trek history, the Klingons had a single starship seen on-screen: the iconic D-7. From the original series to the first two films, the D-7 was the symbol of the empire of alien warriors. Then came call for new smaller Klingon warship that was in a scout/raider classification for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Director Leonard Nimoy wanted a predatory swooping bird design and Bill George created the initial studio model with ILM staff Nilo Rodis and David Carson created the final SFX model that would be used off and on for much of Trek history.
With the Bird of Prey being an established Klingon warship, the production staff of TNG and DS9 would recycle the hell out of the green little ship and even developing an larger variant of the scout class vessel. In addition to the small screen, the Bird of Prey model was recycled for Star Trek V, VI, and Star Trek Generations. It has been widely reproduced for the model/toy/gaming market with the very first Bird of Prey toy being produced by ERTL in 1984 for their limited Star Trek III toyline.

The Yautja Scout Ship from the ALIENS/Predator Universe
At the very opening of 1987's Predator, a hot-rod looking alien ship rockets past the Earth and fires off a single pod-like object then books it out of Earth space. Nearly nothing was known about this small ship and we did not even get a good look at it during its flyby of the Earth in Predator. In the Predator comics by Dark Horse, the look of the Yautja warships did take some design notes from this mysterious 1987 ship for their hunting part landing ships that were paired to a mother ship. These tiny craft were used to transport a hunting party to and from the interstellar hunting grounds with room for a small trophy room. It is believed that the 1987 model prop was constructed by Michael Stuart. Recently, the NECA "Cinemachines" toyline released an diecast reproduction of the 1987 Yautja Scout Ship which is quite nice and well done.

The EarthForce Olympus class Corvette from B5
At the time of the Earth-Minbari War, the EarthForce fleet was undergoing the introduction of several new classes of warships born out of the Dilgar Conflict and replacing the older designs that had served the Earth and her colonies since the formation of the Earth Alliance. One of these was the Olympus class Corvette. This 444 meter long warship was devoid of any rotating gravity generating sections. During that conflict, the true role of the Olympus class was revealed: escort duty for the Roosevelt class cruiser, but that could not save it from the chopping block. After that war, these ships were being altered for military cargo duties and even sold off to civilian shipping firms…then came the bloody Earth-Minbari War and all military starships were needed, no matter the age.
While no Olympus class survived an encounter with the powerful alien warships until the EAS Lexington engaged the Black Star with nuclear ship mines, the majority of Olympus class were used for military supply runners and to offer point-defense assistance to larger warships. Some survived the war and continued to serve even after the Earth Alliance Civil War with upgrade fulfilling their original role as an escort. For an updated warships, the Olympus class served the Earth and her colonies for many years after she was thought to be scrapped. The Olympus class was designed by Tim Earls for the Babylon 5: In the Beginning TNT television movie and it was the only of his three designs not used.

The Romulan Star Empire V-8 Bird-of-Prey class Advanced Scout and Perimeter Patrol Vessel
Quite recently the first season episode "Balance of Terror" was on cable and as I bathed in the oddness that TOS, I wondered on the role of the Romulan Bird-of-Prey class warship in their fleet and this what I came up with...Around the Time of the Awakening (3rd CE), the warring peoples of Vulcan separated with the people who rejected logic exiling themselves into deep space. This splinter race of the Vulcans became the Romulans. The deeply secretively, militaristic, plotting race kept to themselves, but they watched and waited. One of the symbols of that philosophy was the cloaking device equipped Bird-of-Prey advanced scout and perimeter patrol vessel.
These vessels were named after an 400lbs predatory bird native to Romulus called the vas hatham and even some of the V8 Bird-of-Prey class ships have been marked with stylized design of the vas hatham with the revered bird, like the one encountered by Captain Kirk in 2266. Besides watching and waiting their borders, the Bird-of-Prey class ships could be tasked with border incursions, attacking specific targets with their plasma torpedoes then re-cloaking. These ghost attacks upon enemies of the Empire could not be directly connected to the Romulans, due their xenophobic nature. While an iconic warship of the Romulan military, they were not frontline warships due to being underpowered and poorly armed compared to a standard Federation starship. During times of direct combat, Bird-of-Prey scout ships worked in packs to minimize their weakness.
These small combat starships were developed around the experimental RPL-2 plasma torpedo launcher to the end of  sacrificing crew comforts and even bridge space for this advanced offensive weapon system that compised the bulk of the interior volume of the V8 Bird-of-Prey. Starfleet Intelligence theorized that the low speed demonstrated by the encounter of the first 23rd century Bird-of-Prey by the USS Enterprise in 2266 was due to the vast power consumption needs of the cloaking device and the experimental plasma torpedo robbing the warp power system. After the incursion of 2266, the Romulan military command took the data and improved the Bird-of-Prey scouts to be more well-rounded small warships.
Iconic sci-fi prop marker, Wah Chang, designed and constructed the original Romulan Bird-of-Prey for the episode “Balance of Terror” complete with awesome space predatory bird artwork on the belly. Unfortunately, after the episode was film, Chang trashed the original prop for various reasons. This is the genesis for Romulans using the Klingon D-7 cruisers, because the show could not fund another Romulan Bird-of-Prey prop construction. In the very good episode of Star Trek Enterprise, “Minefield”, we see a 2150’s Romulan Bird-of-Prey ships stalking the NX-01 Enterprise while phasing in-and-out of cloak that were a visual connection to the Bird-of-Prey seen in 2266.

The Covenant SDV Class Heavy Corvette from the HALO Universe
Given the lopsided nature of the naval engagements between the UNSC and the Covenant, there is little attention paid to the organically shaped alien warships and some assume that they have little in the way of smaller warships. Seen in 2010's HALO: Reach, the Covenant SDV class Corvette is proof that the alien religious fanatics possess more than just the iconic and feared CCS class. Coming in at between 1500 to 3100 meters and assigned duties of escort, stealth recon, and endoatmospheric planetary support missions, the SDV class is not able to easily defeat UNSC ships of the line in individual engagements like its larger brethren due to a lack of energy shielding.

The Federation Moscow class Scout from FASA Star Trek RPG Universe
Anytime that a canonized Trek source, like a film or new TV series adds a new design aesthetic or philosophy, it alters other works that running along aside the canon. This has happened three times to the old Chicago-based FASA gaming company. After Star Trek II and III and then after TNG. Much like when ST: II and III added new ships, especially The Search for Spock, the FASA Federation fleet for their games was able to be expanded upon. When the 24th century set TNG arrived in 1987, FASA again got the gaming license and yet again, they had to alter their RPG warships...especially the Federation. One of the ships featured in the non-canon, but still awesome, TNG Officers manual was the Moscow class transwarp scout class. According to its small entry in the book on pages 48-49, there are 21 Moscow class scouts in serve in 2360's with advanced long-range scanners allowing for it to be a planetary survey ship as well as a scout vessel and even serving as light warship in wartime.  In the Starship Tactical Combat Game, the Moscow class is able to hold its own in combat  Sadly, we would not see diecast miniatures produced on the new TNG designs, like the Moscow, Paramount cancelled the FASA license and declared any of its works non-canon...pity.  


The EDF Konisgberg Class Patrol Cruiser from the Space Cruiser Yamato Universe
After the end of the Gamilion-Earth War in 2200, the EDF began a storm of construction on new warships following the technology and design of the Yamato. This rearming project would allow the EDF to be ready to face the Comet Empire invasion of 2201. Among these new classes of Terran warships was the Konisgberg class patrol cruiser coming in at 150 meter and 23,5000 tons with a crew of less than 50. Heavily armed for a patrol vessel, this class was meant to serve in fleet sized engagement as a light warship but also as an independent for solo assignments. Armed with light wave motion cannon, shock cannons, and missiles, the Konigsberg could handle herself. But it was her enhanced sensor package that separated this class from her other hull mates that allowed for threat assessment, recon, and mapping missions.
During the October 2201 Battle of Saturn when the bulk of the EDF Fleet and the White Comet Fleet engaged, there were 85 Konigsberg patrol cruisers in the EDF Fleet with a number being destroyed or damaged during the battle. It is uncertain if these will make appearance in the reimagined Japanese series. While a relatively unknown and underrepresented EDF warship class in Yamato anime, there were models made of the class and they were profiled in the Starblazers Fleet Battle System tabletop war simulation game.  



The Broadsword class Surveillance Scout from FASA Starfleet 
To us old-school tabletop war gamers and RPG adventurers, the FASA Star Trek RPG was a goldmine of great art and a mysterious unseen Trek universe. One of my favorite mysteries of the FASA era Trek was the cover of the "Starfleet Intelligence Manual" that featured a interesting design that had never been seen in any Trek resource better or since. According to the cover artist David R. Deitrick, the mystery starship is a Starfleet Intelligence surveillance scout. The artist addressed the ship on his website calling it an "Bladeship" that were fitted with all manner of intelligence gathering sensors and was also lower profile, but not cloaked. While not designed for a fight, these "Bladeships" could run and gun their way out of a situation. Some creative fans have given the mystery ship a complete background and even a proper name. One site christened the Bladeship the USS Claymore (NCC-1867), a member of the Broadsword class of surveillance scouts in service to Starfleet Intelligence. This ship is small! Coming in at just 135 meters with a crew of 45 and only seven decks.

The Alliance Cruiser The Grand Canal from the Legend of the Galactic Heroes Universe
For all of us that have played escort missions, you know that they can suck, and that is what happened to the Free Planets Alliance Cruiser The Grand Canal in 795UC when it was guarding a covey of over 100 cargo vessels with nine other Alliance warships. The other ships pulled away from their assigned duty for the 3rd Battle of Tiamat, leaving the The Grand Canal alone to shepherd the flock. Then trouble came in the form of two imperial cruisers. Outgunned, the escort cruiser bought time with it life for the convey.  One day soon, FWS will cover this massive Military SF anime in Future War Stories from the East!

The Romulan Talon Class  Scout Ship from the Star Trek Universe

There are few confirmed or even seen Romulan warships in the 24th century prior to the Dominion War, but one was the 24 meter long Talon class scout ship. Serving in a number of roles similar to the recent Starfleet Danube class Runabout, the Talon class can perform offensive operations along with scientific endeavors. How many outside of the Romulan Star Empire know the Talon class was due to its use as an transport for agents of the Tal Shiar and as a ghost on sensors on their borders...watching. The overall design of the Romulan scout ship, whatever name it goes by, was designed in the style of the very cool D'deridex class warship by Rick Sternbach. The model was reused throughout TNG and DS9 with the actual studio model being much bigger in scale than expected.

The Gazelle Class Close Escort from the Traveller Universe
This 3rd Imperium, 300 ton warships was assigned to "babysitting" duties in the fleet. The Gazelle class was nothing special in the galaxy, built in the hundreds, it served as important symbol of the government in peacetime and were assigned to role in fleet-sized engagements despite its poor combat record and abilities. It was also tasked with being armed customs enforcement vessel that collected required duties and taxes associated with interstellar trade. With a small crew of 4 officers and 8 men, this small ship could also land within a planet's atmosphere and off-load up to six tons of cargo. GDW would publish deck plans for the Gazelle in 15mm or 25mm for $6 or $8 respectively in 1987 


The Federation Remora Class Escort from the FASA Star Trek Universe
Unlike many of the FASA non-canon Federation starships, the badass little Remora class escort was given a starring role as the front cover model on the 1985 FASA Federation Ship Recognition Manual. Sadly, despite the cover art, there is little said about the Remora class at all in the manual save for dry stats and number. The original ship was weak due to a lower-powered engine that felt the crews of these escort debated raising shields or charing heavy phaser banks...because you couldn't do both! Adding to the issues of the class was the lack of photon torpedoes. Fans of the FASA combat game have taken upon themselves to alter the Remora class into something much better, in terms of gameplay and art. This improved Remora is often called the Charger class escort. Oddly, the name "remora" refers to a kind of suckerfish that attaches to larger fish.

The Firespray 31 Class Scout/Attack Craft from the Star Wars Universe
Kaut Systems Engineering firm is the creator of many of the iconic Star Wars starships, and their most unusual was the prototype Firespray 31. These usual spacecraft was designed for use by the Republic penal system as an armed transport vessel and to serve on patrol duty for space-based prisons and by the time of the Siege on Naboo, six where in testing deployment at the Oovo IV, an maximum security Republic prison in the Oovo asteroid field. Jango Fett journeyed to the prison on a job as seen in the Bounty Hunter 2002 video game. It was there that Fett acquired one of the six prototype Firespray 31 patrol craft to replace his own damaged older starship, and then promptly destroy the others, leaving his to be the only functional Firespray in the galaxy.  It was only much later that Kuat decided to reintroduce the Firespray class patrol vessels. For many of us that witnessed Empire back in 1980, Slave 1 was one of the most unique SW spacecraft and even getting the Kenner vehicle toy did not solve any of the mystery behind the oddball shape and for years I’ve wondered what inspired the creation of Slave 1. After the 2nd draft of Empire, the need arose for the design of bounty hunter Boba Fett’s starship.
This job came to Nilo Rodis-Jamero with input from Ralph McQuarrie and inspiration coming from a radar dish (not streetlights nor an iron as popular stated).  The actual model was constructed by Lorne Petersen and his team with the matte painting being done by Harrison Ellenshaw and the cockpit by Ease Owyeung.  For the sound effect, it was a combination of the horn of an 1971 Dodge Duster and a trumpet. When it came time for the 2nd in the Prequel film series, Doug Chiang and Kurt Kaufman designed the fresher Slave 1 owned by Jango Fett exterior and interior. However, with the original model hanging in the Smithsonian, the new computer generated Slave 1 was built from photo images. It was a real thrill to finally see the cockpit of Slave 1 in the 2002 film. Slave 1 would appear in the Clone Wars animated show, in several of the toylines, in Lego form, and as model kits.


The Federation Defiant class "Escort" from the Star Trek Universe
One of the most famous and most obsessed over Federation starships of all time is the Deep Space 9 pornstar: the NX-74205 Defiant. Officially, Starfleet classified this prototype testbed starship has an “escort”, but this tough little ship was designed around a single purpose: defeating the Borg. Due to the Federation wanting to project an outward image of a peacekeeping organization with exploration at its core mission, Federation starships were not designed for combat as their primary role…that was until the Defiant class. After the Borg threat was revealed in 2365, Starfleet R&D begins a massive project on developing offensive and defensive systems to combat the Borg.
One of these ideas was a new type of Federation starship, an warship constructed around advanced concepts in torpedoes and pulse phasers. Several hull designs were tested at Mars at Utopia Planitia under the supervision of Cmdr. Ben Sisko, until the simulations revealed that a more streamlined unit that abandoned the classic Federation design was more effective.
This created the bulky, wide-bodied design of the Defiant with less of a hull profile to allow the Borg to lock onto, in addition to making the Defiant more maneuverable than any previous Federation starship in 200 years. When the prototype was handed over to the Commander Sisko for his intelligent gathering mission on the Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant it was still a mess and shook itself apart from the massive power output compared to her size. After months of work by O’Brien and his engineering team and several engagements, the Defiant class was an proven warship. During the Dominion War, the Federation pulled everything out of the mothball to be fielded and the most secure shipyards in the Federation began to pump out more of the Defiant class escorts.
There are no firm figures, but it is estimated that around a dozen were constructed with some lost or abandoned, including the class namesake. After the Dominion War, the “Defiant fleet” as it was called in the Federation press, was put on patrol duty until more conventional Federation starships were constructed. After the duties of defense could be handed over to the normal Federation starships, the Defiant class was more or less retired and mothballed. However, the concept of a purpose-built Federation warship class was still favored by some of the brass in Starfleet, but rebuffed from the Federation council.
From the opening of Season two until the end of DS9, the Defiant and other members of her class were hallmarks of the Dominion War. Rapidly, the Defiant became a fan favorite despite the awkward appearance of the little ship on-screen and in models. It would appear in a Trek film, many video games, as toys and models, along with being featured in an episode of ST: Voyager. Why was the Defiant added to the series? Deep Space Nine met with some issues in story telling being that the series was based around a space station. The Defiant gave the series and the core characters more “legs” to explore and get into fresh trouble, adding flavor to the stories. It was also the likely outcome of the aggressive nature of the Dominion and the strategic position of the DS9 station. Simply put, Runabouts were not enough for the scope for the show.      

The Nelson/Hermes Class Type 1 Scout Class from Star Trek Universe
Until Trek made the jump from a television show to an major movie franchise, there were very few ships seen on-screen due to the budget. In the 1975 Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph, the classic Federation starship architecture was expanded on with about four classes of TOS era warships. Two of these shared identical hulls: the Saladin destroyer and the Hermes scout classes. The major difference lay in the armaments: the Saladin class destroyer got photon torpedoes launchers and the Hermes class was just outfitted with forward phasers. An single nucella Federation scout class starship was used by FASA for their Trek combat tabletop games: the Nelson class.
According to the Federation Ship Recognition Manual by FASA in 1985, the Nelson class was involved in more first   While these classes of Federation starships with a single nucellus are semi-canon since Roddenberry laid down the "equal" nucellus rule, they have been on computer screens and in serve during the Dominion War.

The Dutton Class American Coast Guard Orbital Patrol Spacecraft from the ALIENS Universe
Way back in 1988, Dark Horse Comics would unleash the next chapter in the ALIENS universe via a black-and-white original six-part limited series that was everything we wanted...eat it ALIEN 3! In the opening pages, the 2190's Coast Guard Patrol vessel Dutton is tasked with searching and destroying abandoned deep space ships that are left after their nuclear engines are exhausted, too expensive, to be burned up in the Terran atmosphere. That plan worked until one of these old nuclear engine ships survived the hell of reentry and crash landed on Hawaii! Kona coffee was impossible to get after that. The US Government tasked the US Coast Guard to tag-and-bag these junkers and destroy them with nukes demo charges via a drone vehicle. Little did the two man crew of the Dutton understand that when they intercepted the Bionational owned Junket, they would alter the course of human history. Onboard the Junket was Xenomorph and within the Junket nav-computers was the location of their homeworld. One of the only survivors of Junket was James T. Likowski would be inflected with an Queen and allow Bionational to possess an new bio-weapon when his escape capsule landed on Earth. With the species on Earth, the clock was ticking... 


The Romulan "S-11 Bird-of-Prey" Class Scout from FASA's Star Trek RPG Universe
FWS often discusses a unique feature of Star Trek starships in these Ships of the Line blogposts: the FASA years. I grew up with a very different Trek than today. Back in the 1980's, there was the canon Trek films, the fully licensed FASA Trek RPG games, and the DC Comics For those of involved in all three visions of 1980's Trek, we formed a unified universe of all three of these works into some special that was eliminated by the pulling of the license by Paramount during the first season of TNG. That being said, to me and those of the same time period, the FASA Trek universe was part of our understanding of Trek and one of the more interesting ship histories in the old FASA Trek RPG universe is the "S-11 Vas Hatham" of the Romulan Star Empire or "the other Bird-of-Prey".
During the initial envisioning of the 3rd Trek film story, the enemy vessel was planned to belong to the unseen Romulans instead of the Klingons at the Genesis planet with an updated Bird of Prey design. Then it was switched to a band of Klingons that hijack an Romulan Bird-of-Prey class vessel to sneak into Federation space and steal the secrets of the Genesis Device. Then the Romulan were dropped from the script entirely and we have the movie we know today. To help us from confusing the name "Bird-of-Prey", the Romulan warships became known as "warbirds" during TNG.
It is believed that elements of the original Romulan story elements echo into the final film with the bird-like design on the Klingon scout ship, the bridge design, and with character of Valkris original being an Romulan in the employ of Kruge that helps him commandeer the Romulan cloaking device enabled ship.
I only realized the Romulan connection to the new Klingon badass ship from ST III when I flipped through the FASA 1985 Romulan Ship Recognition Manual and witnessed the S-11 Bird-of-Prey. According to the text, the S-11 and the K-22 Bird-of-Prey scouts were a symbol of the brief Klingon/Romulan alliance that best exemplified with the vas hatham predatory bird art painted on the belly of an Klingon D-7 seen in the original series and cloaking technology used by the Klingons (all later undone by ST:Enterprise). These Romulan D-7 cruisers were known as the"V-11 Snowbird" class cruiser and featured in FASA magazine ads.
It is likely that since FASA had to invent things as they went along and FASA, via their relationship with Paramount, had access to early versions of the ST III script and art, they have mocked up the K-22 and S-11 Bird-of-Prey ships prior to the finalization of the story. While the two Klingon Bird-of-Prey types ships, the K-22 Scout and the L-42 "Great Bird" Frigate, were made into FASA gaming miniatures; the S-11 was sadly not. Some inventive gamers took the Klingon ship and mocked up what they believe the Romulan Bird-of-Prey would have looked like.
In the FASA Trek Universe, the Romulans shipped unfinished starship hulls to their Klingon allies to forge their variant of the S-11, the K-22 or B'rel. With the proven design, the Klingon Defense Force took the K-22 and developed two larger variants: the L-42 Great Bird and the D-32 Stronger Bird. This was not untaken by the Romulans, who never developed any variants to their S-11 scout. The addition of the chin-mounted photon torpedo launcher is due to the Klingons and was not present in the prototype S-11s. In terms of gameplay in the old FASA Star Trek Starship Tactical Strategic Simular, both the K-22 and the S-11 have the same stats and play the same. Pity.       

Next Time on FWS...
While the research and interview stage of the Marine Corps blog article is undergoing, I am pushing a new Top 10 blogpost with a topic that will be spread out over at least three blogposts entries: Forgotten Military Science Fiction video games. FWS will be cataloging and discussing a number of lost military sci-fi video games that are not all classics or even good. I was inspired by my favorite video game Youtuber Metal Jesus Rocks for this one!

9 comments:

  1. 1. There is a part of me that knows AI is all but inevitable but turns out to be very, very, VERY expensive. Like so expensive it's just not practical to be as prevalent as futurists predict/hope. So in the end, life in space doesn't turn out to be 90% robots doing everything humans can do with more effort.
    2. Do you think it's as humorously ironic as I do that when the Defiant was pressed into service doing the job it was built to do at the beginning of Star Trek: First Contact, it was battered so badly that Worf ordered a kamikaze strike?

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  2. Another fantastic post as always. I look forward to more as always.

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  3. I have always wondered about these smaller and less-than-contemporary blue water naval classes and how to apply them in a space operatic setting. Though I had long imagined the Destroyers and Frigates as being primarily an escort type of warships to project a protective screen against aircraft and missiles that would otherwise attack less-than-adequately point defended and larger capital ships until earlier entries convinced me from that line of thought, it's nice to know that my earlier thoughts were justified, if only a little.

    Personally I can't help but feel that both Patrol and Cutter, in any sci-fi setting both hard and soft, would essentially be the same type, if not class of combat warship with the only real difference being the branch in which that individual ship serves. Probably would save a lot of money and resources if that were the case, what with each kilogram having to count and all and would really smooth out logistics.

    Anonymous does have a possible point on how AI, though inevitable, may not be financially viable to sacrifice in battle, or at the very least is of a scale of economy where they are expendable enough for such combat. At least, not the good kind of AI that can be autonomous. There would more then likely be rudimentary AI that either augments or supplement a human operator in combat rather then supplant and replace them; a human can only do so much but the same can be said of the inflexibility of AI, and when the typical distances between ships is measured under light seconds at best, you'd really would want a unit that would react not only instantly or rapidly, but also conjure novel solutions.

    Still, as illuminating an article as always.

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    1. Great comment Sabersonic

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  4. In “The Battlestar Galctica,” (TOS), there’s “The Eastern Alliance Destroyer.” An interstellar vessel that was small enough to be stored in the Galactica’s hangers.

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    1. I was watching that very episode the other day and I kicked myself for not adding to the Destroyer blogpost! The Eastern Alliance will be discussed for the OUR ENEMIES: Space Nazis!

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  5. I find the lack of EVE Online content in this article disturbing.

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  6. I used the database of EVE Online, but my lack of first hand knowledge of the game and the dry stats on most of the websites makes them difficult to include. But, I will add some for the next Ships of the Line!

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  7. Another ship concept that might fit in here is the Q-ship.
    Historically the Q-ships were very heavily armed merchant ships intended to lure unsuspecting pirates or marauding u-boats into attacking what they think is an unescorted merchant. Then the Q-ship will be able to destroy the potential threat to the merchant fleet.
    This has actually been suggested as a step to combat modern piracy on the Somalia coast.

    Adi

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