Hi, Folks --
Okay, before we go any further, I need to tell all of you that it's time for a Snerkers Alert.
I realize that under normal circumstances, a post with that note attached ought to be appearing in Snerkers Only, but I've been informed that you people have been discussing -- occasionally with a certain degree of heat, I understand -- new designs and the implications of older designs for everything from LACs to superdreadnoughts. Well, I'm not prepared to comment on that broad a spectrum of issues, but I was fiddling around the other day, tidying up some loose ends about ship design generally, and I came across something that I thought you guys might enjoy kicking around.
As I'm sure all of you are aware, the original Honor Harrington-class SD(P) carried 500 missile pods, for a total of 5,000 missiles which could be launched in roughly 20 minutes. As I'm sure all of you are also aware, there was discussion of the Invictus-class ships which were being planned by the Manties before the suspension of hostilities at the end of Ashes of Victory. What you are not aware of, and what I wasn't planning to tell anyone until we got around to it in the next main stem Honor Harrington novel, is that a modified version of the Invictus was developed under the Medusa-B-class moniker much as the Saganami-C-class was "slipped under the radar." The Medusa-B was regarded by the BuShips design teams, when they began work on it, as a strictly interim, graduated improvement on the original Harrington/Medusa design. But the designers got a bit out of hand and made some radical changes and innovations in the design, and it is even remotely possible that the Medusa-B will supplant the Invictus in eventual production. And, by the way, there was a lot of Grayson input into the Harrington-B design. [Note: Notice how DW doesn't actually specify that the Medusa-B and the Harrington-B are the same design. -Ed] (And, as we all know, Grayson has a habit of putting new designs into construction faster than Manticore does. Not that this necessarily means a thing, of course. Oh, my, no!)
Basically, the design teams started with what was really almost a clean piece of paper. They took the same hull as the original Harrington/Medusa design, which defined the tonnage they had to work with, but they were able to plan from the beginning on using the smaller fusion-powered MDM and the lighter and smaller missile pods designed to go with it, and the total ship's company for the new design was set at only 1,025 -- 900 naval personnel and only 125 Marines, a reduction of something like 83% in the crew requirements of a superdreadnought from the time of Basilisk Station.
They started by reducing the ship's total energy armament to only 50 grasers. Then they reduced the total number of broadside missile tubes to 40 (all of which, by the way, have the same off-bore capability as Hexapuma's launchers), adopted the new smaller (and lighter) missile pod, and accepted larger, centralized magazine space for their broadside launchers. They adopted the new, smaller (and longer-ranged) counter-missiles, actually reduced the internal volume dedicated to EW systems (given the increased effectiveness on a per-ton basis of the Ghost Rider onboard systems and the RMN's increasing confidence in and reliance upon the Ghost Rider remote platforms), deleted 3 complete boat bays, and adopted the brand new impeller nodes developed from the basic research that led to the original Shrike, plus additional reductions in the size of the Manticoran/Grayson compensators. And after they did all of that, they extended the hollow core from the stern all the way to just short of the forward impeller ring, rather than running it for only about the 30 percent of the hull length which they had used in the original Harrington/Medusa. The traditional percentage of a waller's tonnage which was used for offensive weapons systems was only about 45% of the ship's total. By the time the designers got done with the Harrington/Medusa-B, that percentage had been increased to over seventy percent. And do you want to know what the result was, children?
Well, I'm glad you asked. The ship carries 50 grasers, 40 missile tubes and over four times as many missile pods as the original SD(P) design. She carries enough missiles for her broadside armament for a 2-hour engagement at what the RMN defines as "heavy sustained rates of fire" in addition to her pod armament. There was a great deal of debate within the Manticoran design hierarchies about whether or not to retain any broadside launchers, especially since the Invictus design had completely excluded them. The Harrington/Medusa-B design, however, was heavily influenced by the Graysons who insisted (for reasons best known to themselves although I suppose it remotely possible that at some time in the future you guys may find out what those reasons were) that at least some broadside launchers be retained.
What you have here is a ship which is uncompromisingly optimized for high-density, relatively sustained missile combat with just enough missiles and energy broadside capability (the Gryphon-class superdreadnoughts, for example, mounted 54 grasers, 46 lasers, and 12 energy torpedoes, or over twice as many energy mounts as this design) to look after itself if something fast enough to catch it overhauls it after its exhausted its missile pods. In order to get it, they accepted some additional sacrifices in hull strength (although not such extreme sacrifices as one might think) and an unprecedented degree of automation, which has the advantage of giving them a huge increase in combat power but at a potential cost in sustainability once they begin taking battle damage. Given that these ships have the two-story capability of the Nasty Kitty to go with their pods, and that the current-generation broadside launcher of the Alliance can launch the new fusion-powered, all-up MDMs at the rate of approximately 2 per minute, these ships can put 400 missiles into space every minute, and they can keep it up for about an hour and a half.
Now, I wouldn't want to say that some fine day some Solarian Battle Fleet commander is going to get a rude surprise, but if the Manties and Graysons actually manage to get a significant number of these ships into commission, I suspect that even Shannon Foraker is going to have her hands full, numerical advantage or not.
I wasn't going to drop all of this on you. I intended to keep it to myself. But a couple of people -- and you know who you are -- have dropped me some questioning e-mails because apparently people have been discussing tonnage ranges and all sorts of interesting things on the Bar. I'm not going to tell you anything about the new battlecruiser design that apparently started the discussion, because, frankly, I'm not entirely done kicking the design around in the back of my brain. But I figured that this might be enough to set your speculations to work.