From an email posted to Baen's Bar Snerkers Only dated December 17, 2004:

Shipbuilding times

    In addition to the above information [Fleet strengths as of 1920PD Spoiler Warning! -Ed], however, I think it's only fair to point out that I believe some people have been throwing around construction times for various star nations which aren't totally accurate, because they don't include everything involved in the building process. For example, the Star Kingdom of Manticore can actually build a 8,000,000-ton SD in 18 months in a "hard yard" and 20 months in a "dispersed yard," but that's basically just the riveting and welding, if you will. (Actually, there's quite a bit of nanotech a growing of structural elements in there, too, but let's keep it simple.) However, each of these ships also requires a certain amount of "set up" time, what I define for my own purposes as "laydown time." For a "hard" yard, the "lay down time" for that same ship would be approximately 4.5 months, as opposed to 3.0 months in the dispersed yard, but the hard yard has additional building support which makes it roughly 20% more efficient once it begins actual construction, so it can actually finished the job about a month sooner. What "laydown time" actually represents is the preparation of the building slip, assembly of long-lead items, adjustments to the labor force, and general service requirements of the actual building facility. For the first ship of a given class -- either the lead ship of an entirely new class, or the first ship of an existing class to be built at a given shipyard -- the "laydown time" will usually go up by about 50%; as a shipyard gains experience and expertise in the construction of a given class, then the "laydown time" will usually go down by about 20%. Also, for a new ship class, the rate of construction will go down by about 10% as the yard compensates for the inevitable glitches in either the design or the yard's preparation for construction. There are also economies of scale. For several reasons, you can build 10,000 tons of a superdreadnought faster than you can build 10,000 tons of a destroyer, but the destroyer is so much smaller, that even though you can build it only at a slower rate, the total construction time is less than 15% of the construction time of the superdreadnought, even allowing for laydown time for both ships.

    Once the ship is completed, there's the trials period to be completed, and then the time necessary to work the ship up to acceptable efficiency. For the RMN and GSN, working up time is significantly shorter than for either the Andermani or the Republic. The Republic now has the advantage of a highly experienced officers corps and equally experienced [long]-service noncoms, but it still suffers from the long-term consequences of its wretched educational system. The new government is working on that, but, obviously, it's not a problem that's going to be solved overnight. Until it does get solved, it will take longer for a given Havenite ship to train its less well-prepared personnel to an acceptable standard of efficiency, and the Republic's officers are going to be aware that the standard of efficiency for their personnel, while enormously higher than it was under the Committee of Public Safety and StateSec, is still inferior to the quality of the crews opposed to them. This is something that their tactical and operational doctrines simply have to take into consideration. It also means that with the combined longer laydown times, slower construction rates, and longer working up periods, even Bolthole is going to take over six months longer to build a SD, and then require at least an additional 40 days of working up before the new ship can report for duty. For the other yards in the Republic, whose support equipment and infrastructure are generally less efficient, the building times will be even longer.

    The key problem that the Alliance is going to face lies in the numbers I'm not sharing with you right now. Although it takes the Republic longer to build a ship and train its crew, Thomas Theisman and Shannon Foraker have an enormous headstart in terms of ships already in the pipeline. I understand from what you said to me on the phone that there's some debate about exactly what the Star Kingdom had under construction following Thunderbolt. The answer, unfortunately for the Star Kingdom, is not too damn much. The Janacek Admiralty completed the ships under construction in Manticoran space first, because those were the ones where the expenditures would funnel directly back into the domestic economy with the greatest consequences for system income and the overall economy. When it suddenly became apparent that additional ships were going to be required, they began completing the construction of the Grendelsbane units, as well without laying down significant additional numbers of ships at Manticore. It made more sense to them to complete the ships which Janacek had always regarded as a sort of "almost ready" reserve them to expend the enormous additional sums required to begin building still more units from scratch, even if the expenditures would have gone back into the Manticoran System economy. But the Grendelsbane ships were all destroyed in Thunderbolt, and only a much smaller number -- and I do mean much smaller -- number had been laid down in Manticore. Now, the ships laid down in Manticore tended to be later designs, more advanced than the ones lost at Grendelsbane, but there aren't very many of them. Moreover, Grayson is pretty well maxed out from how hard Benjamin drove his economy to keep building between the cease-fire and Thunderbolt, and the Andermani had gauged their construction program to give them what they believed would be effective parity with the fleet the Janacek Admiralty obviously intended to keep in commission, so they don't have a stupendous construction program underway, either. Although the Alliance's partners can all build ships faster than the Republic can, first they've got to lay the things down (and in the case of the Andermani, that's going to require a good bit of redesign work, as well, since I think some people have been assuming that their technology is actually better than it is), and then get them built, manned, and worked up. Which means that the already well advanced ships in the Republic's production pipeline are going to be available much sooner than anything the Alliance can build.

    Sticky wicket, anyone?  :-)

    Now, go away.