In the 103 year of the Sixth Age, the Kamian Succession Wars had been going on for six years, and the coalition forces were losing. Badly.
The Kamian fleet was tearing through the UESAF forces like tin foil, and the member worlds were not faring much better. The only military force able to slow the Kamian advance was the Crimson Blade, & only at extraordinary cost. Several early engagements were at the very least technical victories, in that the Foundation ships repelled the Kamian attack, but the victories were extremely shallow: on average, in the first six years, the Crimson Blade lost ten high-value capitol ships for each Kamian capitol ship destroyed.
The value depended heavily on the number of ships involved; the Blade could only rout a Kamian attack if they had at least a five-to-one advantage and fought with everything they had. In one particularly terrible engagement, seven battle groups went up against a Kamian task force in a fight that lasted eleven hours. They destroyed five Kamian capitol-class warships, but lost all but one battleship and six cruisers. Most of the smaller support ships survived.
The Kamian tactic in fleet warfare was two-fold: destroy high-value assets at all costs, and disrupt supply lines to cripple the low-value assets. It was a tactic that worked all too well for them: large Foundation warships were typically very self-sufficient for repairs, spare parts, and stores for long-endurance. Smaller ships, meanwhile, relied heavily on a constant supply of spare parts.
State of Emergency
So, in A.Y. 6103, the Blind Consul declared a state of emergency and mobilized its entire industrial capability, focused on a single goal: more ships.
Utopia Gregaria, the Foundation's primary shipbuilding facility, typically needed four years to build a warship from start to finish. Workers from all over the Foundation were brought in by the millions to improve productivity, bringing the number down to just three years (late in the war it would drop to one, with some being completed in as little as eighteen months). Further, Gregaria's capacity doubled.
But improving productivity wouldn't help, not fast enough. Even shifting all available forces to the front, the Foundation did not have enough warships to step the tide. Many key systems had to be evacuated and allowed to fall. Even so, the Foundation estimated it could only hold the Kamians off for another six months.
One notable appearance during this era were the "scrappers", or scrapyard warships. At first, the Foundation spun up a program to bring as many of its mothballed warships to battle status as possible. But the numbers were still coming up far short, so various shipyards were "encouraged" to find alternative solutions.
One was simply to weaponize existing ships. Large cargo vessels, many made obsolete by the shift to containerization, were available with fully functional engines and navigation. The only real difference between a large freighter and a warship, some reasoned, was armaments and armor.
For reference, there are quite a few more differences than that.
Scrappers were built primarily by taking old freighters, armoring them with whatever scrap metal was available, and adding weapons sourced from literally anywhere. A common tactic was to look in old supply depots, which stored parts and replacements for obsolete warships. 'A fifty-year-old beam cannon was better than no beam cannon', the reasoning went. They would also take weapons designed as fixed defenses, or load a large ship with hundreds of smaller, commonly available cannons. One particular scrapper sported fifteen thousand small cannons.
Scrappers were operated by the Merchant Marine and, being very much not fit for combat, were relegated to convoy duty. Quite miraculously, they proved effective in dissuading Kamian attacks, and lead to Operation Jackroot.