- Dylan Kling
Aramadia-Class Thrustships: a flawed design
Without a doubt one of my favorite Trilogies of the Bantam Era was the Black Fleet Crisis. I know that isn’t a common opinion shared by many but the merits of that trilogy are not what is being discussed today. What I want to talk about is the Aramadia-Class Thrustships that the Yevetha in the series and how as a warship it just doesn’t make any sense to me.
So, what is the Thrustship? Well it is warship that is classified as a medium cruiser. It is a near perfect sphere 240m in diameter with 6 Aradian Pulse-lifters arrayed in an upside down triangle that makes up it’s powerplant. It has a class 2 hyperdrive with a class 8 backup. For armament it sported 8 turbolasers batteries arrayed around the superstructure on an internal shift track that allowed for 4 to be able to fire at any one target in just about any direction. It also has 6 Ion cannon batteries, 3 Proton Torpedo Launchers, 4 Gravity Bomb Launchers and 4 Missile launchers. It has an advanced Shielding unit aided by the fact the ship is a sphere allowing for better coverage and overlap and has a compliment of 40 D-Type Trifoil fighters. 6810 crew are required to operate the things including 49 gunners.
That all sounds well and good. In fact it sounds like a wonder ship and the Black Fleet Crisis does everything it can to convince you of that. However there are some big flaws in this ship that basically come down to, what is this ship supposed to be?
On paper this thing is armed to the teeth, moreover its main batteries are arrayed in a way so that any angle of attack that you could take to destroy this thing would result in 4 of its turbolasers being able to fire back. If these were laser cannons this would be a brilliant design as starfighter squadrons would be easy pickings for the quick firing laser cannon batteries that can catch them in a 4 way crossfire from any vector. Except for this design isn’t used on laser cannons but for turbolasers. Which as I have discussed in previous article EU explains: the Death Star trench run, turbolasers are not effective against starfighters due to slow rate of fire and slow traversing speed, and lack of gun depression.
You may of course be thinking that these aren’t designed for engaging starfighters from any angle but rather capital ships. And you would be correct in that, however this system is a fix to a problem that simply does not exist in the Star Wars universe. Sure, starfighters can swarm a ship from many different vectors. But larger warships don’t do that. This is because admirals take care to position their ships in tight formations to maximize offensive and defensive coverage. 2 fleets engage each other in these tight nit battle formations meaning you don’t need a system to be able to fire at a target from any vector because you can easily control where your enemy will be in relation to you.
Yes, there is Hyperdrives that allow for fleets and ships to enter a battle from a variety of unknown vectors. But it is simply not tactically viable to pop in on a ship from hyperspace to take advantage of their weaker firing arcs. Due to how hyperspace travel works there is only a limited number of lanes that can be taken into a battlefield, meaning a limited number of vectors for an enemy ship to appear. Additionally after reverting to real space a ship is very vulnerable as it takes time to get up their shields, combat systems, turbolasers, sensors and to scramble their fighters. Thus, you don’t just jump in on your enemy within their firing range as they would just kill you or cause significant damage before you were ready. Rather you jump into an area outside of your enemies’ effective range, giving you time to sort out everything I just mentioned and arrange yourself into an optimal orientation for the coming battle. And your enemy does the same. As such it is more effective to design your ships so that they have a certain optimal orientation for battle than have a ship that can fight an enemy at any vector.
Take the Star Destroyer design as an example. The reason it is so effective is the dagger shape tapering to a point allows all the primary and a majority of the secondary batteries to be able to fire at a target directly in front of it, while also minimizing its target profile and making it harder to hit. This is why that design persisted for thousands of years. A Thrustship being a giant sphere with a system that doesn’t minimize its target profile at all and allows for only half of its main armament able to fire at a single target is simply not optimized for the kind of naval warfare that is seen in Star Wars.
Now admittedly only 8 turbolasers and 6 ion cannons isn’t enough to warrant the medium cruiser rating it received, in fact an EF76 Nebulon B Escort Frigate has more cannons than that and is roughly the same length. It is the ordinance that it can carry that gives it that high of a class rating and makes it such a potential threat on the battlefield. But does it though? Again, on paper the torpedo, missile and gravity mine launchers on paper packs quite the punch. The problem is if you don’t deliver that ordinance you can’t do much damage and that is the problem I see. If you were to compare this to 2 other capital ships that specialize in delivering an abundance of ordinance, the DP-20 and MC-30c, you’ll notice a few similar things. Good shields, sleek profile and powerful engines. Basically be fast, light and agile, to close the range to the target quickly, deliver your payload and bug out before you get hit. Because the thing about Gravity Mines, Proton Torpedoes and Concussion Missiles is they have an effective range of only a few hundred meters meaning you must get really close to your target to do any damage (yes these weapon systems have a maximum range of dozens off Kilometers however at this point in galactic history all large and medium warships are equipped with countermeasures for these types of weapons, meaning to guarantee a hit you either have to get in close enough so the countermeasures don’t have time to intercept and destroy the missiles and torpedoes, or fire so many of them that the countermeasures cannot destroy them all.). The other thing about carrying that much highly explosive ordinance is if you get hit in the wrong place your whole ship gets destroyed. This is also why a lot of bigger ships don’t carry much ordinance other than what their starfighters use. So be fast and don’t get hit is the name of the game for this type of ship.
The Thrustship does meet some of the categories. The Shielding is good, not Mon Cal good like the MC30C but still well above average, the speed we can also say is pretty good as the Aradian Pulse-lifters were quite powerful and even with the ship’s immense size it could probably push them along to comparable speeds of a small frigate or heavy corvette. What it is missing is the sleek profile as there is nothing sleek about a 240m diameter sphere trying to get within 300m of your ship. The size of the Thrustship, or more specifically the lack of an orientation that minimizes its target profile, simply makes it too easy of a target. Even with the good shields and probably better hull armor than the MC30c and DP20, the amount of times it would get hit on approach would offset the better armor and shielding, and again each hit it receives carries a chance of a chain reaction explosion from the ordinance being detonated. Honestly unless the enemy ship’s combat systems had been completely disabled or the gunners were blind I see no way this thing could make a successful run.
Now you may be saying that this is where the Ion Cannons come in is they can disable the ship before it makes the run making it able to easily close the distance and deliver the finishing blow. Well you would be right and wrong. It isn’t confirmed if the Ion cannons are on the same rail system as the Turbolasers but given that even that system only allows half of the turbolasers to be able to fire at the same target, the Ion Cannons would likely follow the same trend. And if they weren’t given the design philosophy it is likely these would be spaced out to offer a better spread and deal with enemies from any direction. So at most we are talking about 2-3 of the cannons being able to fire at a single target. This is a problem because at 240m in diameter the ship is around the size of a frigate, and when I comes to the damage output of cannons the size of the ship matters, as you need bigger guns and more power to do more damage. On Smaller ships there isn’t room for additional power generators for the weapons systems and the ships are too small to support large guns. So the Ion Cannons on the Thrustship would not be nearly as powerful as the planetary Ion Cannon on Hoth that could disable on ISD in a few shots. At that size even if all 6 could concentrate their fire it would take a considerable number of volleys to temporarily disable an enemy ship. And once again in that time the enemy ship will be able to fire back and even at range where it would be harder to hit you still have the problem of the chain reaction brought on by the ordinance going off if hit. So again it simply isn’t optimized for this role.
Now I can see the argument that they aren’t meant to be a one ship death machine, but rather to win battles by sheer numbers. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be as critical if in the novels Michael P. Kube-McDowell had made it a point to say in the novels that it was the numbers that made them so dangerous. The Duskhan League did make a few hundred of them after all to supplement the ships of the Black Sword Command they had captured. So, this is a support ship that is designed to win battles by numbers. However, it is once again an inefficient way to do so. An Aramadia Thrustship requires 1400 more crew than a most MC80 cruisers, but pack only a sixth of the firepower. Meaning that these ships require 7 and a half times as many crew as the main cruiser of the New Republic for the same firepower. When taking on 2 enemies that have significantly higher population bases than you this is a problem. If you are going to go with a quantity over quality approach each individual ship should require less manpower and resources than your enemy not more. So again this ship isn’t optimized for this kind of warfare.
Finally, there is the fact that it carries a compliment of around 40 starfighters. This puts it on par with a Quasar Fire-Class bulk Cruiser. Now as I have talked about in the article Why the Star Destroyer replaced the Venator, the common practice at this time was to carry only a few to half dozen starfighter squads which is around how many these have. So it is actually a competent starfighter carrier for the time. However, Fighter carriers are meant to be support craft not main battleships, at the most they are optimized to deal with enemy starfighters but as I said earlier the Thrustship isn’t fit for that kind of combat. And even though it isn’t that good at ether role it is clear the designers meant for this ship to be able to brawl with other capital ships and even run one down with a close strike of ordinance. Neither of these actions suit a fighter carrier that tends to want to sit in the back of the engagement to launch their starfighters and then support said starfighters. Plus having flight hangars full of fuel and ordnance in addition to having ordinance stored your weapons systems and ammo racks just adds to the lack of survivability if one of the things were to get hit. Which being a sphere doesn’t exactly make you hard to hit. If you don’t believe me then take a Pencil and place it on its side, then take a tennis ball and place it right next to it, get a nerf gun and you tell me which one is easier to hit.
I would say that to me it feels like they wanted a jack of all trades master of none kind of ship. But as I have pointed out it fails to do any of the designed functions. It is not only outclassed by other dedicated specialist warships but is an inferior vessel overall. My problem is that in the novels these ships were portrayed as the be all end all and when I look at how space battles are fought and how this ship is designed, I simply don’t agree with this assertion. But those are just my thoughts, and like I said earlier I still love this trilogy despite how confusing these ships are to me. Let me know what you guys think and as always until next time.
To see more from Dylan, click here!