Awhile back I posted about a system named Independence, a part of my retro-scifi setting Red Suns. Independence is important because one of it’s planets, Franklin, is capable of supporting human life.
Because planets like this are so rare, the system is coveted by many factions, several of which maintain outposts in the system and two; NATO and the Neo-SOVIET have agreed to share Franklin. The relations between these two factions are often tense and both sides have dedicated considerable resources to securing their interests in the system.
This is the first of several posts where I provide an overview of the ships, people, and places of the Independence System. Beginning with an overview of NATO military assets in the system.
Rotating rings are great for providing consistent gravity but are incredibly vulnerable in combat. For this reason most frontline combat ships are built without rings. “Gravity” is provide by constant acceleration and crew have to deal with frequent shifts in acceleration and orientation.
NATO ship design hides most weapons emplacements inside armored bulbs. Everything from anti-missile counter measures to missile chutes are enclosed in armored bulbs that only open during combat.
These autocannons, suitable only for close-range combat or intercepting missiles, are a vital part of every ship’s defenses. Most combat however, is done with missiles at extreme ranges.
These missiles can carry a variety of payloads good for everything from orbital bombardment to anti-ship slog fests. The one pictured here is a generic load, but NATO armorers are more than capable of switching warheads out at a moment’s notice.
Siegfried Class Battleship
The newest, most advanced ship in the NATO fleet, and only a handful are currently available. It takes over a decade to finalize the design of a new battleship, and years more before new ships are fully distributed in all the systems where NATO has interests. The Independence system has an unusually high concentration of these new battleships. Equipped with new, rapid launch missile silos and state-of-the-art target tracking. A Siegfried can make short work of most ships.
Siegfrieds carry close to 2000 personnel, including enough dropships and marines to take over a small surface settlement or large space station. Each ship is a self-contained city. NATO spacers compete fiercely for a posting on a Siegfried because they know that they will spend years, or even decades on that ship and a Siegfried is one of the safest, most comfortable ships to be on in any fleet.
Challenger Class Battleship
Somewhat older than the Siegfrieds but by no means out dated. The armament on modern retrofitted Challengers is similar in almost all ways to a new Siegfried. The main differences in armament come from a less sophisticated guidance computer and a set of four drive cannons mounted at the top of the ship.
These drive cannons fire huge projectiles at enemy ships and moons in medium-range confrontations. These cannons require a dedicated reactor and are placed away from the main hull to increase their field of fire. At the time of the ship’s design it was thought that these cannons would be a part of the ship’s primary armament. Technology had other plans. As guidance computers and targeting systems advanced it became more and more practical to engage enemies at extreme range. Despite this, the Challengers remain competent warships.
Recently, several of the Challengers in the Independence system have been given further refits that have improved their guidance computers. Engineers expect to see a far greater degree of accuracy from the drive cannons as a result. This has not yet been tested in combat conditions.
Marshal Class Destroyer
This is the smallest warship that NATO is likely to assign to long-term missions. Marshal Class Destroyers are often seen far away from NATO systems.
In locales such as the Independence System the Marshal Clase Destroyers are commonplace due to the buildup of forces. They are frequently seen escorting larger ships or leading customs patrols.
Marshal Class Destroyers carry enough firepower to hold their own in a fight and carry multiple Pioneer Class Dropships. Enough to perform small boarding actions and land marines on a surface.
Multi-Vector Attack Unit (MVAU)
Outside of atmosphere fighters are uncommon. The smallest combat craft operated by NATO is the MVAU, a broad class of small vessels crewed by between two and five crew.
MVAUs are an important part of the larger fleet, but their pilots must be carefully selected, as their positions require them to spend many weeks or even months alone.
MVAUs are mainly valued for their ability to go relatively unnoticed. Their small profile makes them difficult to distinguish from the vastness of space and they often go for long periods in a “dormant” state.
In combat MVAUs are limited. Their main armament consists of projectile weapons, useful for intercepting missiles or attacking unsuspecting targets. An MVAU may carry one or two missiles but for the most part are considered the outermost part of a fleet’s defensive screen.
Pioneer Class Dropship
Large shuttles that glide to a safe landing are preferred for ground operations. But not all planets have suitable atmospheres or are safe for shuttles with such drawn out atmospheric trajectories.
Dropships can carry many tons of supplies, or about forty marines, on a meteoric trajectory towards a planets surface. It’s fall is only arrested at the last moment by a set of powerful maneuvering thrusters.
Forces stationed on Franklin’s surface have the luxury of not needing to carry bulky life support systems and armored exoskeletons. But they do have to content with the possibility of protracted surface combat.
Because Franklin is capable of naturally supporting human life the surface is worth preserving to both sides. This means that large scale bombardments are unlikely and the soldiers stationed there will have to endure a protracted ground campaign if war breaks out.
NATO soldiers on Franklin are equipped with a stripped down version of more standard armor kits painted in shades of white and grey to blend in with the chalky off-white gravel and stone that covers the planet. For the harsh, dry winters a mask with breathing filters also suitable for protection against chemical warfare agents is supplied to each soldier and worn as needed. These masks offer protection from the massive storms that sweep across the surface each winter and pummel victims with showers of dust, gravel, and ice. Also useful in the winter is a bundle of heating circuits incorporated into the uniform that when activated can help to keep a soldier’s core temperatures up.
Most soldiers carry the same service rifle used on other planets and in vacuum. These rifles are deadly, but are mostly small caliber weapons designed to allow soldiers to carry enough ammunition as possible.
For support, ground troops have access to a selection of armored vehicles, all built in local factories. Most of these vehicles are hover craft or have extremely wide treads into order to navigate the mud slurries that cover much of the surface during the wet season.