Imperial Navy Weaponry Arrangement and the "Super-Fire" Hull Pattern - An Analysis
A publication of the Grand Empire Naval Officers Academy
The following dissertation is a work of research produced by CAPT ChÅ«ichi Haasa and CAPT Esoryuko Tobruk in an effort to more thoroughly explore and develop naval tactics. Both men come from a position of experience: having graduated with top marks in their respective graduating classes. Both men have subsequently gone on to hold multiple positions of command in the Galactic Empire Navy, ranging from the command of single vessels to larger squadron-sized formations. CAPT Haasa currently sits as the acting commander of 4th Squadron, 4th Fleet. CAPT Tobruk currently holds a position as the acting commander of 5th Squadron, 7th Fleet. Collectively they have over half a century of experience on the topic of naval warfare.
The following dissertation comes from several years of observation and study. Primarily this is a focus on the existing trend in Imperial hull designs oriented towards Alpha Strike-like capabilities. It has been further refined and peer-reviewed by fellow Navy officers and shipyard production engineers. The end result is a general analysis and examination of the strengths and flaws of the currently existing hull design trend in comparison to a theoretical "Super-Fire" pattern design.
A General Analysis
To discuss the finer points of hull design in the Galactic Empire's navy, one must first understand the general doctrine and scheme of battle. To do so, certain key points must be acknowledged.
Firstly, the general organization of any squadron or larger formation is almost always based around a star destroyer or battlecruiser. Carriers, such as they are, a rarity and more commonly seen as a supporting asset rather than the core of a battle group. All other vessels are arranged and deployed in such a way as to support the central ship. This may be done through providing additional point-defense, larger fighter screens, electronic warfare and defense, forward reconnaissance, or even simply additional firepower to supplement the main battery.
Secondly, tactical maneuverability is sought through speed instead of agility. As such no individual ship can necessarily out-turn its peer across the line, but it can likely outrun that opponent. The belief is that such ability allows an Imperial starship to quickly extract from a poor situation, draw out distance, and then reorient into a more favorable position from which to engage or break contact. Its common to find that Grand Empire frigates and cruisers are noticeably less agile than their contemporaries, while at the same time boasting far more powerful sub-light and hyper-drive engines. "The best way to weather a blow is to not be there when it lands" is a common phrase at the Officers Academy.
On the scale of fleets, this results in functionally autonomous groups of large vessels supplemented by large collections of smaller ships. Each fleet theoretically possesses all the necessary resources to counter and defeat the more common problems they might encounter, while at the same time operating under the assurance that a friendly force can make their way to assist quickly in the event they find themselves coming short of the challenge.
On the scale of individual vessels, this results in hull patterns which focus on large main engine groups at the rear and heavy main batteries oriented primarily towards the bow. Large main batteries are often complemented with a plethora of secondary and point-defense weapons with some pointed to the otherwise exposed rear. While some vessels are large and capable enough to host at least one organic squadron of starfighters to support their operations. Your typical vessel is less agile but far quicker and heavily armed and armored than its closest peer.
A typical fleet maneuver against enemy naval assets also reflects this.
The standard Imperial fleet jump is done in a staggered wave led by the smaller vessels of the fleet or squadron. The goal of the maneuver is to have the Imperial force exit hyper-space on the flank of an enemy force. This would place the Imperials on an axis perpendicular to the opposing force, with enemy vessels placed primarily off the bow of all vessels. Functionally this means that every vessel coming out of the jump can quickly orient main battery fire to conduct "Alpha Strike" fire missions. When performed to the ideal, the largest and most vital vessels of the enemy formation are destroyed or crippled in the opening volleys before they have much chance to respond. However this strategy can be counter-acted harshly.
False or outdated telemetry can easily result in poor execution of this strategy. If a fleet comes out of hyper-space to find itself ahead or behind the enemy force on such a perpendicular heading, precious time must be spent reorienting forces to correct the issue. Or worse, if an Imperial fleet exits hyper-space to find itself among the enemy formation then instantly the most glaring and vulnerable weaknesses of each vessel is exposed to hostile fire before the crew have had a chance to begin any sort of offensive or defensive maneuvers.
The Alpha Strike
The concept of an "Alpha Strike" in the Galactic Empire is that a naval vessel will bring its entire battery to bear against a singular target. The common thought is that this will enable a star destroyer or other, smaller vessel to wholly annihilate an enemy target. Typically the imagined target is something along the lines of an enemy capital ship or orbital station. The combined main battery fire will defeat the target's shielding and armor entirely. Whether this was a following of typical hull design, or such hull designs were refined and modeled after such a strike has been debated for years.
While the benefits of such a hull design and attack are undeniable, so too are the negative points. Chiefly, it typically results in a hull design which leaves a critical portion of the hull uncovered by the main battery. The best a typical design of this nature gives its crew is a healthy complement of secondary and point-defense weapons oriented or capable of covering the rear, in addition to the presence of either organic or supporting fighter complements. This means that any Imperial naval vessel which finds an enemy capital-class ship at its stern is left incredibly vulnerable. More than one vessel, both in simulation and in the real world, has been crippled or lost entirely in such an instance.
The second most glaring weakness is that the Alpha Strike requires by nature that the vessel be bow-on to the target. This means that the vessel's axis of travel must be perpendicular to the intended target, with only a negligible tolerance allowed for deviation. The byproduct of this is that in order to bring even half of the main battery to bear on any target, the vessel must always be either bow-on or running near-parallel to the target. Such maneuvers can be incredibly slow, telegraphed and anticipated well in advance, and circumstances may not always allow for such a maneuver to be performed at all. Thus the concept of more dispersed main battery was devised, dubbed the "Super-Fire" format.
The "Super-Fire" Arrangement
A potential answer for the Alpha Strike hull arrangement exists in a theorized hull pattern where the main battery is arranged in a more dispersed pattern. Rather than being housed within the hull, as a ventral weapon, or on the port and starboard sides, the "Super-Fire" arrangement combines these two schools of thought. The main battery weapons are in individual gunhouse-model turrets placed along the length of the vessel from bow to stern: potentially even on both the upper and lower portions of the vessel's hull.
In addition these turrets are the tallest points on the hull - ideally staggered in height so that more rearward weapon systems can fire over those batteries further down the hull. In a set-up with four such turrets this would mean that a target directly off the bow or stern could be fired on by at least two guns of the battery, while those to the flanks could be engaged by all four turrets. Thus it would be possible to bring the main battery to engage a target relatively quickly regardless of which direction the target is in relation to the vessel.
The most apparent short-coming of this design is fairly obvious. In order to bring the whole of its main battery to bear on a target, the vessel must present more of its side to the target, and thus present a larger overall target for incoming fire. However this weakness can be countered by the fact that current more popular designs hardly negate this. Any Navy officer has more than once seen fit or been forced to ride broadside-on to an enemy vessel in combat. The situation is so common that its routinely trained and practiced on in a cadet's education, making the argument a moot point.
â—‹ - "Imperial Naval Academy Handbook"