The Class of a ship is determined by it's Fleet Revision, with the line-leaders in every model determining the class. The Role is it's design category, what purpose it is designed to serve within the fleet. These same roles are used to describe both GS and non-G.S. equipment.
In ship registry information, class comes before role. For example, G.S.S. Saratoga is a Glorious Heritage-class Light Destroyer. The class is Glorious Heritage, the role is Light Destroyer. A complete example of a ship's identification, as it appears in the Naval Registry, would be: Gudersnipe School Ship Saratoga, N-808-B-305 Glorious Heritage-Class Light Destroyer.
- Destroyer: Destroyers are the backbone of the fleet. Small enough and quick enough to provide good defense as well as offense, but large enough to carry the supplies and equipment necessary for long-endurance missions. Initially, the destroyer-role was conceived as an escort; designed to defend large, high-value assets. However, the wide spectrum of design types and huge versatility of the destroyer has made it one of the most diverse multi-role warships in the fleet.
- Light Destroyer: The "light destroyer" classification was used only once for a ship in the Nelson Fleet Revision. Thought "light" and "heavy" terms are sometimes used to describe ships of the line, only the N-808-B was officially registered as a light destroyer.
- Heavy Destroyer: A heavy destroyer is a larger, more heavily armed ship that is still not in the category of a Cruiser. Numerous heavy destroyers have been fielded, sometimes called "pocket battleships" because they carry at or near the firepower of a cruiser while retaining the maneuverability of a destroyer.
- Frigate: Type of ship not usually folded into a typical battle group(with the exception of the Sandstorm). Frigates are primarily defensive, platforms for close-in armament. The frigate's role is as a light escort, meant to defend against small ships and fighters. They are sometimes employed as capitol ship escorts when destroyers are unavailable to provide a screen against enemy fighters and bombers. The main role of the frigate is as an escort for civilian vessels and cargo re-supply ships, vessels generally not likely to encounter enemy capitol ships. During the Kamian Succession Wars, a guided missile frigate was developed called Sandstorm, which could launch 5,000 missiles simultaneously.
- Cutter: Smallest of the long-endurance(read: actual starship) ships, the cutter is a light, high-speed, high-maneuverability vessel used chiefly for reconnaissance. Cutters will often run point for a battle group, carrying an array of communication and scanning systems to relay information back to the main force. Cutters are typically lightly-armed, their primary function being to relay data from corvettes or to get close, take scans, and get out. They will, however, always be fitted with torpedoes and missiles.
- Fast-Attack Ships: In generally the same size-ratio as the cutter is the Fast Attack Warship; small, light-weight vessels meant to get in close, strike hard, and get back out. Most fast-attack ships are not fleet ships but part of a a home-guard.
- Corvette: Smallest of the small, the GS Corvette is only a few steps above a fighter. They are lightly armed and highly maneuverable, designed primarily for reconnaissance as opposed to direct combat. The Gudersnipe Foundation has employed primarily one basic design for the corvette since the Mage Wars, and though it has been through many revisions and updates, the basic style and function of the GS Corvette has remained unchanged. Corvettes carry a crew of 7-8.
- Cruiser: The cruiser is a high-endurance, multi-role warship, intended to carry heavy firepower while maintaining high speeds. Cruisers are known for having much thinner armor than dreadnaughts, but having effectively higher speed and greater maneuverability.
- Battlecruiser: The workhorse of the fleet, battle cruisers are large and heavily armed, but trade armor and firepower for extended endurance, speed, and manuverability. Battlecruiers may often be deployed without a battle group or as defensive lines guarding strategic assets. Some even carry a home guard contingent of fighters to negate the need of a carrier for support. A battlecruiser can keep up with a destroyer and even some cutters, making them the heavy hitters of most expeditionary battle groups. The line between a large Battlecruiser and a small Battleship is nearly indistinguishable. The Foundation employs three design criteria when determining the role assignment: turning radius, armor thickness, and close-in support. A highly maneuverable ship with reduced armor and improved close-in armaments is considered a Battlecruiser.
- Battleship: The largest standard fleet ship. Their primary role is anti-capitol-ship warfare, bringing heavy guns and dozens of torpedo and hundreds of missile tubes to the field. They are large, high-value assets that essentially the rest of the battle group exists to protect. Though the fighters carried by carriers are used for both offense and defense, it is the battleship that decides the outcome of the fight.
- Dreadnought: Few ships earn the title of dreadnaught. Technically a super-heavy battleship, a dreadnought is a battle group unto itself. A notable example would be the Sahar-class of ships. During the Succession Wars the Foundation built numerous "Heavy", "Super Heavy", and even "Ultra Heavy" dreadnaughts to combat the Kamians, who had far superior ship technology.
Battlecruisers, Battleships, and Dreadnaughts all fall into a special category of warship: battery ships. Battery ships were long considered the soul vessel able to destroy another capitol ship, and still are generally considered vital. Before the advent of the N2-warhead, it was impossible for bombers to carry enough ordnance to do more than cripple an enemy capitol ship; only the main guns a battery ship could penetrate hull armor. With the advent of shaped charges equipped to N2 warheads, this changed substantially, but battery ships are still considered the mainstay of the Foundation's fleet.
The largest carriers are physically smaller in dimension than battleships and even some of the larger battlecruisers, though they provide the most vital role in the battle group: fighter support. The carrier type holds the largest variation in size and capacity within a given role. Before the Kamian Succession Wars, the Foundation operated dozens of different fighter spacecraft, and with them many sub-types of carriers. After the war, however, with standardization on just two types of fighters, the diversity was cut drastically.
Before the war, each carrier sub-type had a small, medium, or large distinction which refered to the number of fighters it could carry.This was done to avoid cnfusion with the fighter types which typically used light, medium, and heavy to describe them. The exact number carried varied by type of fighter, and so on.
Following the end of the war, carriers were classified according to the type of vehicle they carried:
- Carrier Corvette: A carrier designed specifically for servicing the Corvette support ship. Though common during the latter centuries of the Kamian Succession Wars, these carriers were largely phased out by the end of the Sixth Age. The Corvette is itself considered a reasonably long-endurance craft, and most servicing can be done on the Hangar Decks of capitol ships. Some Carrier Corvettes have been kept in service and others maintained in the Ghost Fleet. Their only real use is in long-term, large-scale conflicts, of which there would not be another following the Succession Wars.
Carrier Corvettes are typically very small in size and able to accomodate between 3 and 6 Corvettes at a time. Most were also designed to carry either Corvettes or a number of Harpys, making these carriers some of the first widely-commissioned dual-role warships in the Foundation.
- Carrier-Mid: Short for Carrier: Mid-Range Bomber, it denotes a carrier specifically built for the Gargoyle-class of bomber. These carriers are typically small as the demand for Gargoyles is low. Most carry 8 or 16, though a 32-bomber design was in wide use. The largest Carrier-Mid was the RHannay-Class, which could carry a total of 96 bombs and launch them in 3 waves.
- Carrier-Long: By the end of the Kamian Succession Wars this became the standard and most common type of carrier in the fleet. The Carrier Long evolved out of the standardized carrier-design used for most fighters. Originally intended to carry the Boing-Boing missile used as far back as the Golden Age, the design specifications for the launch cradle would remain in use for the Condor recon-fighter and later the Horseman bomber. It's primary payload was the Hawk fighter and any number of other fighter-varrients. With the advent of the Harpy, the Carrier-Long design set the standard.
Unlike the Carrier-Mid, the Carrier-Long derives it's name from the typically long and thin hull designs. Magnetic catapults are used to luanch the fighters from the front, while a lengthy arrester system allows them to slow down to the carrier's speed in back. The hangar decks, launch cradles, berthing facilities, and maintenance bays are all arranged linearly down the center. Thus, the most efficient design is a long, narrow vessel.
It was only with the standardization of the Harpy-class of long-range bomber that the carrier-type became widely misconstrude as the Carrier Long-Range Momber.
Before the Kamian Succession Wars, the Foundation flew a diverse series of star fighters, many of which were superseded by the Harpy in the early Sixth Age. However, in far-clung corners of joint space, many of the old machines are still kept around in niche roles.
See: Star Fighter.
Note: With the advent of N2 technology and the Harpy-class of fighter, the traditional bomber-classifications in use prior to the Sixth Age are no longer practiced. The old system of heavy bombers with lighter fighter escorts has been abandoned in favor of the Harpy.
The traditional roles revovled heavily around the use of Nuclear One style ordance, in which there is a very straight mass-to-yield graph that determines a bomber's capabilities by how many and how large of bombs it can carry.
- Short-Range Bomber: Durring the era of most ship-to-ship combat requiring the delivery of Nuclear-1-type devices, the various ranged bombers were staggered according to max-possible payload. A mission profile can vary significantly according to the amount of ordnance loaded, so the largest-payload bombers were officially classified as "short-range" because at maximum capacity it's endurance would be severely limited.
- Mid-Range Bomber: A bomber who's maximum ordnance capacity gives it a longer endurance and allows for missions further from the carrier.
- Long-Range Bomber: A bomber who's maximum ordnance capacity has been severely limited in order to allow for much greater endurance and the ability to strike at targets much further away.
The modern roles are based around the use of Nuclear Two technology in which bomb size and mass remain relatively the same while yield can be increased through modifications to the detonation computer. With the modern roles established only two bombers are still flown.
- Mid-Range Bomber: The Gargoyle-class of mid-range bomber is designed for stealth and thus has a lower combat endurance.
- Long-Range Bomber: The Harpy-class long-range bomber is a versitile, multi-role starfighter able to gain and keep superiorirty while delivering a significant ordnance payload.
Though many types of ships are used to move things, to fall into the "transport" catagory, a ship must meet two key criteria: it must be small enough to fit inside a large ship, incapable of FTL, and and used primarily for moving stuff.
- Hopper: Small ship-to-ship shuttles designed for moving people around, usually within a fleet or battle group. There is no standard design and most carry 4-6 people including a pilot and co-pilot, or 2-4 passengers. Hoppers are typically employed durring fleet operations while underway, when establishing a space link would be inconvient. Hoppers are not typically considdered "commissioned" ships of the line, however they are technically so.
- Shuttle: Basically one step above a hopper, the key difference in the shuttle is the addition of a heat shield and atmospheric thrusters, allowing a shuttle to move bettween a ship and a planet surface, not just a ship and another ship. Shuttles also tend to be somewhat roomier, accomodating up to 8 passengers and a pilot/co-pilot.
- Drop Ship: Though drop ships can range in size from smaller than a shuttle to large enough to accomodate 40 passengers, the key distinction lies in armor and weapons. Drop ships are designed to carry troops to and from the surface in combat conditions. This can mean flying through enemy blockades and evading enemy fighters. Drop ships are typically equiped with heavy defensive weapons, thick armor, and active shield generators on the larger versions. Drop ships are sometimes used to ferry troops and personnel between ships, this is seldom neccessary as any transfer which cannot be accomplished by shuttle or hopper will usually neccessitate the use of a space link.
- Drop Pod: Similar in function to a drop ship, only without the "from" part. Drop pods are meant for one-way trips, carrying men and equipment from a ship to a planet surface. Typically, a drop pod will be employed to carry vehicles and equipment, and the pod itself scrapped for building material. Drop pods are not part of the official registry and intended to be disposable, though they are occasionally retrieved after combat to be refurbished. Only in a large-scale, first-wave invasion do drop pods usually carry people, otherwise its strictly dispensible things.
All tansports and smaller, non-FTL-capable vessels carried by a starship not specifically assigned roles as a carrier would be referred to as being part of the ship's 'jolly compliment', a phrase descended from the jollyboat used during the age of sail.
An enormous amount of cargo is required to maintain combat operations. Everything from food, fuel, to weapons and ammunition, have to get from where they are made to where they are burned, eaten, fired, or exploded. This is the work of the freightor.
As far back as the Golden Age, Foundation officials hit on the idea of using capital ships to transport cargo in war zones. because of their superior defensive armaments, it seemed ideal. However, a capital ship does not have a great deal of excess space inside, so their cargo capacity is limited.
The first proposed solution was to rip out as much of the offensive weaponry as possible, such as the massive capacitors used to power the main cannons. Thus, the defensive systems, shield generators, and armor would remain, but additional space would be created to hold cargo. There is scan documentation of this being tried on a few cruisers, but a much simpler option was very quickly pressed into service.
The Foundation began constructing dummy ships, which had thinner armor and reduced super-structures, but had the same defensive capacity as a battleship. These freighters also appear identical both visually and on sensors to the massive capital-ships that are the backbone of the fleet. These would eventually be known as War Freighters.
Along with this development, active-jamming became standard on all capitol vessels, thus making it nearly impossible to distinguish the warships from the freighters. These supply ships are also far from toothless; though they lack the large-scale thermal energy weapons of a real warship, they have a full compliment of missiles, torpedoes, and close-in defenses. In emergencies, war freighters have even been deployed in combat in support rolls.
To aid in camouflage, the freighters will only load and unload through the same ports as their warship counterparts. Thus, a freighter delivering supplies to a battleship may look no different from two battleships docked together.
Because of the importance of secrecy, war freighters are crewed by Crimson Blade personnel and are always registered as active warships. The various counter-measures are not always effective in the long-term, but the primary goal of making an attacking force question whether or
In times of war, war freighters can be mixed with civilian vessels from the Merchant Marine to form well-armed, well-defended convoys that may only need a carrier and a few support ships as escorts.