This is the last installment of this six part series about my take on space war. I don’t pretend to be the only one with an opinion on this topic, and only time will tell who is correct. But this is my take based on my work, and I stand by it.
So how would our fleet be made up, of what classes of ships? I can think of at least three absolutely necessary classes, with some possibilities of others. Of course the first class would be battleships. Warships made as large as we can build them within reason, able to trade blows with other ships of the same class. They should be tough enough to take a hit, though that doesn’t preclude that a near light speed object won’t take them out. Not so big that they take up our entire ship building budget. A ship like the Death Star, while interesting, is just too big a target. If we try to make an invincible single vessel the enemy will do their damndest to make sure they take it out. And history has shown that given incentive enough any ship can be destroyed. We also need enough battleships to meet the possible enemy in battle and defeat them, and to cover our space enough to discourage the same enemy from striking at us.
The next essential class is the cruiser. A ship not near as large as a battleship, but still heavy enough to slug it out with any ship but the super heavy warship, cruisers would scout the battle line and also project force to other areas. While not powerful enough to go at beam weapons to the battleship, they could still fling missiles which from long range could build up appreciable velocity and kill a capital ship. I would want lots of cruisers, many more than battleships, because they could cover a lot of space due to numbers.
The last absolutely essential class is the Destroyer. Much lighter than a battleship and significantly smaller than a cruiser, with missiles they could send death across a system and use their lighter mass to maneuver away from trouble. Destroyers would be the screens for the capital ships, using their own defensive systems to knock out incoming missiles. Some destroyers might be killed in the process, but that would be more acceptable than a capital ship being killed. Maybe not to the ship that is killed and its crew, but in the cold calculations of war it is a bargain. Destroyers would also be the vessels that protect commercial and passenger shipping and patrol space. They would be preferred for this just because you can build a bunch of them for the cost of one battleship, so you can cover more space. And space would be hard to cover, unless you have magical hyper-light sensor systems like in Star Trek, that can see a ship in real time tens of light years away.
What about carriers? They may have a use for scouting or striking at a star system where you have a bunch of targets. I see the fighters they carry as more of mobile missile launch platforms. They wouldn’t really be of much use attack warships with their pitiful beam weapons, and would be taken out quickly by the defenses of a battleship if they were close in. They might engage in fighting with each other, but with real physics it would be more like striking at each other in passing, as they can’t slow and bank and dog fight with each other.
I use sort of this system in my upcoming Exodus series, where ships travel hyper through different dimensions, and most action comes at sublight in star systems. There is a provision to fight in the hyper dimensions, but very few ships are optimized for this kind of action. In hyper special missiles have to be used that are also capable of transiting in hyper, and these are bigger and much more expensive than normal space missiles. In Exodus I use battleships, battle cruisers (for scouting in front of a battle fleet or in areas where the enemy is likely to have heavy vessels), as well as heavy and light cruisers. Then destroyers, frigates, and couriers for carrying messages between far flung units. And some carriers, fleet and light, because I like the idea of fighters, even though they are bigger than the norm in scifi and much more limited.
Of course I have an enormous fleet. I remember in the original Star Trek they talk about having twelve of the Constellation Class starships, of which Enterprise was one. That didn’t seem like much of a fleet to me, especially covering as much space as they did. My fleet is over two hundred thousand vessels of all classes (not including fighter or specialized missile attack craft, kind of like PT boats). It seems like an awful lot, but I also cover a lot of territory and have a good number of potential enemies, all with some consequential military strength. I plotted out the area of the human empire, which is home to a trillion sentient being, three quarters of them human. In that area, which covers billions of cubic light years, there are about 93 million stars. That may seem like a huge area, but it only contains about 0.05% of the stars in the Galaxy (that’s five one hundreds of a percent. There are about a hundred core worlds, with populations in the multiple billions, four hundred some developing worlds averaging about five hundred million, about four thousand frontier worlds, from hundreds of thousands to a hundred million or so, and several thousand just opening up. But there is a lot of empty space that must be checked on, a lot of traffic to protect, planetary populations to safeguard, pirates to chase and enemies to intimidate. And that’s an area with much less than one percent of the stars in the Galaxy. Only about one in 11,000 stars have habitable planets in this area, but humans are at work terraforming more, because they want to expand to the max before their old enemy shows up. Add to this hundreds of thousands of small mining colonies, scientific research stations, outlaw enclaves, etc., and that’s a lot of space to cover, even for a fleet which has so many captains no one person knows all of them.