G.S.S. Bounty, M-203-F, was the line-leader for the Bounty-class Fast-Attack Stealth Ship. Bounties were built in huge numbers during the Kamian Succession Wars and operated primarily by the Alliance and member-worlds.
- 1 Operational Use
- 2 Design
- 3 Operational Variants
- 4 Operational History
- 5 Production
- 6 Post-War Period
- 7 Notable Examples
The design of the Bounty became one of the most successful ships of the war, with more sub-capitol and capitol kills than any other hull-type. A combination of cheap, reliability, and powerful weapons payload, coupled with low-observational stealth characteristics, gave it a decisive edge.
Despite this, the Crimson Blade fielded very few of them. This was more due to the over all drought of ships, and the greater need for small, cheap warships for planetary protection and patrol duties. Despite its many positive qualities, the Bounty design was ill-suited for fleet and task-force duties.
Construction and Licensing
The Gudersnipe Foundation constructed roughly 1/3rd of all Bounties fielded during the war directly at its own ship yards (owing to its larger industrial capacity). Some were paid for by the Foundation but built under contract by Alliance shipyards. A licensed copy was authorized, and late in the war many builders were given special dispensation to purchase IFA heavy beam cannons and military-grade Fairview FTL Drives. This, coupled with other available modules, made the license-copies functionally identical to the Foundation design.
Owing to the wide distribution of blueprints and high availability of compatible components, countless unlicensed versions were built by industrious Alliance member-worlds who had exceeded their license agreements. Usually they were finished off with civilian-grade FTL drives and cheaply-constructed copies of the main cannon.
Still others were assembled in private shipyards, and even constructed by non-aligned or outright hostile powers. The widespread distribution of the design made controlling it impossible, a reality the Foundation was forced to tacitly accept.
The Foundation had an agreement with the Alliance that, following the war, all surviving Bounty-class ships were to be sold back to the Foundation at cost. While the Alliance regulars mostly complied, few member worlds did. Many of the hulls sold or loaned to the Regulars were kept despite of the agreement again due to lack of ships and the need for patrol and security craft. Many more that were returned by member worlds were then resold to the Alliance.
It is unclear exactly what the Foundation had originally intended for the dispensation of remaining ships. By the war's end the design was so prevalent and the underlying technologies so well understood, they could not have hoped to prevent the proliferation of Bounty stealth-technology.
Of the hulls not returned, many were kept by Alliance member-worlds who otherwise lacked the facilities to build warships of their own, and felt strongly that a space-navy for self-defense was now a requirement. Where possible, the Foundation made agreements with these worlds to keep the ships in exchange for a small licensing fee, sometimes even providing logistical and technical support for their continued operation.
Many examples were illegally sold on the secondary market, where they became extremely popular with mercenaries, smugglers, and other such individuals of ill-repute. This was especially problematic immediately following the war when most such vessels still had fully-functional main cannons. Ironically given the name, the Foundation was forced to issue a "bounty" on all Bounty-class ships that could be either returned to the Crimson Blade or proven destroyed.
As time passed, the threat from the illegally-acquired ships lessened. The main guns, especially the original IFA-built models, required specialized maintenance and sophisticated replacement components not easily obtained on the black market. The specific gun fitted to the Bounty was not designed for long-term use(as with the battleship guns), and degraded rapidly even with appropriate precautions. As such, within twenty years of the war, it was expected fewer than 1% of surviving Bounties still had functional main cannons. Weapons of a similar size and capability could not be fabricated without enormous technological capability, and any attempt to fit a different gun would compromise the stealth characteristics of the ship.
The Bounty was never conceived as a production-model ship. Instead, it was constructed as a Metal Prototype, Multi-technology Test Bed(MPMTB) and equipment demonstrator. During the Battleship Crisis, the Foundation was desperate for ways to field more ships capable of attacking Kamian capitol vessels. The Bounty had several characteristics that made it ideal.
Firstly, it fitted a battleship-grade gun capable of piercing heavy armor. Secondly, it relied on stealth, maneuverability, and active-shielding for protection; rather than much more costly heavy armor. These factors combined made it cheap and easy to field in large numbers. This concept, definitely not revolutionary, was not well-received by the Crimson Blade regulars. Still, shield technology had come a long way, particularly in the area of Projection Shields(which can stop torpedoes), so the metal-prototype received the green light. A(likely apocrryphal) account has a Crimson Blade Supreme Commander announcing that "one thousand of these can be built at for the cost of a single heavy battleship!"
Along with the new shielding requirements, Bounty was slated as a test bed for a new type of compressed energy weapon being developed by Industrial Face Annihilators. The charged particle cannon was built using lightweight composites, making them much lighter. Many press clippings of the time erroniously reported that it was "much easier to produce", which was a half-truth. The reality is that IFA could build them faster and more easily, but only by using extremely advanced technology unavailable to anyone else. The design had been slated to be the main gun on an upcoming battleship, but IFA's scientists had grave doubts about it's combat-readyness.
The original Bounty also fielded next generation engine technology, as well as numerous sub-system enhancements that would see use on other starships for years to come.
Many of Bounty's original design-elements were lifted from the Mauarader-class Fast-Attack Ship. The Bounty was over three times as long, but with about the same beam. The key difference was the required fittings to give the ship a high endurance, and the addition of advanced stealth technology.
Key Design Aspects
Like the fast-attack ships on which it was based, the Bounty could be most accurately described as a large gun with engines strapped to it. The primary weapon was a battleship-grade Charged particle cannon designed for turret-mounting on a super-heavy capitol ship. Specifically, the Bounty made use of a newly-invented lightweight composite cannon then under development for the next generation of battleships. Interestingly, the design was never accepted for use on batteships, and at the time the first Bounties were going into active duty, it was still believed to be "entirely unsafe" and "quite likely to explode catastrophically". These were both considered acceptable risk-factors for a small vessel. In practice, the composite proved wholly capable but mush wanting in durability, requiring the guns to be re-lined frequently. At most, the crew could expect roughly 50 shots at full power before the weapon suffered a degradation in accuracy, and 77 before it became unsafe to fire. A completely unacceptable level of performance for a battleship, which may fire it's guns over 100 times during a single engagement; but perfectly reasonable for a small patrol vessel expected to approach it's target by stealth and attack with overwhelming force. Various, unconfirmed methods of 'field relining' the gun were devised by different operators, and most Bounty captains reported that keeping the weapon operational was as much art as procedure. However all admitted that it was practically impossible to get more than 300 shots out of the same gun.
The composite cannon was much smaller than previous weapons of a similar capability, and thus allowed the expansion from 2 to 6 torpedo tubes. Bounty also fitted 20 missile tubes in a 0-90 configuration. These were, by necessity, of the standard 'dumb-fire' type, and very few reloads were available.
Bounties also carried point-defense turrets and many were fitted with a "hull gun" in a turret. This was much too small to attack large ships, but extremely useful for fighting sub-capitols.
All of these combined to give the Bounty equivalent firepower to a destroyer.
The Bounty fitted a then-state-of-the-art fast-FTL drive which was much more compact than similarly-capable devices. While of an entirely new design, this drive was so reliable that even it's civilian-variant was accepted for millitary use by many governments.
The sublight engines were of an Ion-vacuum reduced complexity design, and quite primitive and inefficient even by the standards of the time. This gave the Bounty a poor acceleration curve and very low top-speed(the primary reason it was regarded as unsuitable for fleet-duty). The reason for the specification was to allow easier maintenance and make field-rebuilding plausible. Further, as it became clear license copies were going to be allowed, the designers opted for specifications that would allow easier fabrication of parts.
In a major departure from established Foundation doctrine, the Bounty used a nuclear reactor instead of the standard Nugen Reactor that had been powering it's ships for generations. These were even of a common pressurized water design not fitted to any other Foundation-built ship. Much like the engines, this compromise was made for licensing reasons, as the reactor technology was extremely well-understood and easier to fabricate. Operators who would not have been able to maintain a Nugen plant could refuel or even replace these plants.
The core of the Bounty was a low-observable stealth design, which primarily worked by reflecting radio and light waves at oblique angles instead of back towards the projector. While much was made of it at the time, this technology was actually well-understood by most agencies and in fact had been in use formany thousands of years aboard both terrestrial aircraft and small starfighters. No one had before attempted to apply the technology to such a large ship, and this was a key part of why the Foundation was willing to let the design proliferate. While the underlying technology was well-understood, no one but the Foundation had the capacity to develop it on such a large scale. There was no risk of this aspect being revere-engineered, as everyone already knew how it worked.
The second part of the stealth suite consisted of a revolutionary array of thermal deflecting baffles around the engine outlets. Heat-signature blocking panels had been incorporated into the hulls of most ships by this era, but there had never before been a way to get around the big glowing engine itself. The Bounty used a system of baffles which when angles properly redirected and concentrated the thermal signature such that it became very difficult to detect. The closest analogy would be to compare it to a laser; the beam itself is invisible, and can only be seen when looking directly into it.
The cost to the baffles, however, was that of extremely reduced speed; such that in stealth-mode the ship could not maneuver faster than 15PSL. The overall top speed(when not "Running cold" was not much higher, at around 25PSL, but this was due to the limitations of the simplistic engines. A more powerful engine could easily have been given an Acceleration curve of around 50PSL, but this would have been incompatible with the stealth technology.
Of particular interest is the location of the engine outlets, positioned amidships instead of at the stern. The baffles run half the length of the ship, and can be positioned to disperse the heat signature as well as divert it.
Following the Succession Wars, many Bounties in civilian hands were employed by pirates, who made excellent use of the stealth technology. This was highly effective against most available civilian-grade sensor systems and was quite a problem at first. The Merchant Marine, however, were equipped with much more advanced sensors, so the convoy system employed throughout the war continued to be an effective stop-gap. Of particular note is a minor short-coming in the system that made it not as useful for piracy as one might imagine: a stealth attack ship is designed to sneak up on it's target and unleash a hopefully deadly volley, then escape. This was less effective for pirates, who needed to approach by stealth, transmit a demand for surrender, then board and plunder another ship before escaping. When going up against armed merchant mariners, the results were predictable.
Various hostile powers also attempted to use stolen or copied stealth ships for espionage, highlighting another shortcoming of the design. The Bounty's stealth capabilities had been engineered specifically to evade rapid detection by active scanning systems, and it was highly effective at this task. However, the various methods were quite easily thwarted by passive listening techniques.
Around a half a century after the first ships went into operation, the Crimson Blade ordered an upgraded version of the Bounty. They had begun to engage in comerce-raiding at this point, and were jealous of the success Alliance wolf-packs were having. The line-leader, C.B.S. Viper, was around thirty feet long than a standard Bounty, packed and secondary, slightly smaller cannon, and had her hull heavily re-enforced. The order for the ships from the Crimson Blade effectively said "Like the Bounty, but able to take a punch".
The main features of the Viper included heavily enhanced power-generation and a hull armored with high-strength ceramic composite plating. The armor was by no means on a par with that of a real fleet battleship, but it gave the Viper the capacity to withstand a "near miss" by most nukes.
Viper-class ships became known as 'The Crimson Blade Special' due to their C.B.S.-prefix, especially when operating alongside Alliance Bounty-class ships. The name is also thought to derive from the space craft's resemblance to a sandwitch.
Only ships built strictly to the original Foundation specifications were capable stealth platforms. This posed a serious problem for many Alliance shipyards attempting license-built copies, who lacked both the fabrication expertise and the exotic materials called for in the blueprints.
The solution to this problem was the U.E.A.S Attack, a warship designed for mass-production using entirely Alliance-manufactured components. It was similar in over-all capability to the Bounty and maintained the low-observable stealth characteristics to a degree, but had some concessions made to enable mass production. The engine baffeling system was scrapped entirely, and in it's place additional stages added to the drive system, giving the ship a curve of 40PSL+(thus achieving the standard required for Alliance fleet operations). Since the IFA and Fairview-manufactured components were earmarked for those ships that could make full-use of the stealth design, Attack-class variants used a weaker Alliance-build(but IFA-designed) gun and the civilian-spec version of the Bounty FTL drive.
The U.E.A.S Stinger is actually considered a variant of the Attack, but is different enough to warrant mention. The Stinger shared roughly 80% of it's components with the Attack but had highly signficantly different hull geometry. Making no attempt to emulate the stealth-characteristics, the Stinger was instead covered in hard-points similar to a terrestrial aircraft. These allowed it to fit dozens of missiles and torpedoes to be carried externally. The location on the outside of the ship allowed the weapons to be deployed at a much greater rate. The hardpoints could also be used for mine-laying duty. Because the ship had so many components in common with the widely-built Attack and even more widely-built Bounty, it was very cost-effective to field. Many Stingers were even built without the expensive main-cannon, simply because the rest of the platform was so effective.
The Stinger was an attempt by the Alliance to build a Guided Missile Frigate comparable to the G.S.S. Sandstorm, and while it did not achieve anything close to the capacity, the basic premise was solid enough to continue production after the war.
One particular Stinger, the U.E.A.S. Indefatigable achieved fame for being the most lightly-armed ship to achieve a capitol-kill against a Kamian cruiser. It did this despite being of the variant that lacked a main cannon entirely.
As a test platform the original Bounty preformed well, achieving full operational readyness and being deployed on several missions as a student ship. The design went on to tremendous success, and saw continued production throughout the remainder of the war.
The initial prototype of the beam cannon was a complete failure. While the casing itself was sufficient, the sub-systems were found to have serious design flaws that resulted in the weapon effectively breaking every time it was used. This was fixed on the production model, but relied heavily on fine-tuning and numerous custom 'tweeks' that made the weapons all but unusable except by their dedicated crew. The composite casing program for battleship guns was scrapped, as while it was considered effective under normal usage, it was found to have a very short operational lifespan when fired "at battle speeds". A variant of a much less sophisticated composite material did see usage on many Alliance variants, but these had considerable less power to them. The main reason for the Alliance composite material was that, unlike the original, it was in fact very easy to manufacture.
The Foundation initially made no plans to produce "the modified Marauder", but the Alliance requested a small production run. The saw use for the ship in home guard, convoy escort, and commerce-raiding roles. While the Foundation did not agree to the usefulness of the vessel, they acquiesced to sell the Alliance thirty ships modified for mass production.
Initial changes included: a slower, but more robust FTL drive(one which would now allow the vessel to keep up with Crimson Blade fleet ships), and a standard-production model of the main gun. Most of the other design features were left as-is from the original Bounty, with a few changes made to make the ships easier to produce.
The original agreement held that the ships could not be used for commerce-raiding. Presumably this agreement included a large number of exaggerated winks and air quotes, as the contract included zero provision for enforcing this caveat. Within a matter of decades, the Foundation had begun to openly engage in raids on Kamian shipping as well, and all future contracts for Bounty-class ships did not include the raiding prevision.
As the war progressed, the Foundation began to manufacture Bounties in large number, and even allowed the Alliance to produce the ship under license. Typically, the Alliance was required to purchase the main gun and FTL drive from the Foundation, but as war-time shortages pressed supply efforts, the Alliance was allowed to use locally-manufactured copies(In truth, the small FTL drives being produced by FairView, while "military-spec", the small-scale drives used on Bounties were no better than the type Alliance member-worlds could produce). Hundreds of thousands of Bounties were launched over the span of the war, with roughly 70% being built by the ALliance or by member worlds. Most of the Foundation-built variants were sold or given under lend-lease
Officially, only the Unity Earth Sphere Alliance Forces had permission to build Bounty-class ships, but had the discretion to loan them to member worlds. Since the Alliance had no direct ship-building of it's own, many yards producing Bounties proceeded to build cheap knockoffs as well, so the actual number eventually fielded is unknown.
The agreement between the Alliance and Foundation stipulated that at the conclusion of the war, any surviving Bounty-class ships were to be sold back to the Foundation at cost. The Alliance agreed in principle, but in practice was virtually unable to enforce the return of the ships from among it's member worlds. Some operators argued that they had to keep the ships for defensive purposes, others(who had paid for them) felt they were worth more, even as scrap than the paltry sum agreed upon by the major powers.
The Foundation made some allowances, granting some smaller nations permission to continue operating the spacecraft, while others who wished to scrap theirs on site were allowed to do so in the presence of a Foundation observer. Many ships were legitimately scrapped, only to have their components flood the open market and make continued operation of unregistered Bounty-class ships possible.
In the post-war period, many legitimate operators also began to sell their aging Bounties off. Either to shady ship-wreckers who turned around and sold the vessels on the black market, or in many cases, simply auctioning them off without questioning the new owners.
A few retired Bounties found legitimate use. Being small and easy to maintain, with most replacement parts freely available on the civilian market, it was not a challenge to keep most of the ship operational. A few were stripped of weapons and found use in the tramp trade; being long-endurance vessels thy were ideal for supplying remote colonies and mining sites. Others became science vessels, again high-endurance coupled with relatively cheap operational costs made them sought-after by private universities.
And, of course, a few worlds not affiliated with the Foundation or Alliance did need actual defensive war-ships, and had the resurces to at least maintain Bounties, and manufacture effective weapons systems for them.
Realistically, most of them were used as pirate ships. A combination of stealth capabilities, powerful weapons systems, and high-endurance made them most effective. It was very challenging to keep the main cannon operational, but various illegal operators found ways.