- They are generally the larger ships when compared to other warships in their respective fleet.
- Many call them line or primary combatants.
- Technically, the term only refers to FCS vessels, but in common parlance, it also refers to BCS vessels.
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The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they are generally the larger ships when compared to other warships in their respective fleet. A capital ship is generally a leading or a primary ship in a naval fleet. Ships of the line (...or of battle) were the capital ships of the era of sail in Terran history. 
In the Imperial Navy, a capital ship is a vessel designed to project the Imperium's naval power into an area to achieve space dominance. Whether it is used in an offensive role or as an asset in a defense-in-depth, a capital ship will make enemy operations nearly impossible until all opposing vessels in that role are neutralized or withdrawn. 
Unlike the gunboat navies of old, a capital ship does not necessarily mean a vessel with direct-fire capabilities. These can include ships that carry other craft (...Subcraft Carriers) or have a combination of the two primary modes of attack. The one thing you can rely on is a vessel of a large to massive size that can dole out damage while having some capability to absorb punishment themselves. 
In the Imperial Navy, capital ships are usually considered to be vessels that are designated as Dreadnoughts, Battleships, Battleriders, Battlecruisers, and Fleet Carriers. None of these ships are expected to operate singularly, and are almost always found with a host of fleet-type escort vessels of various sizes and capabilities (....battle groups). With the exception of the Fleet Carriers, all the other types of ships are expected to be at the forefront of any major engagement in a battle. This can be evidenced by the victories in 1109 in the Rhylanor and Porozlo systems. It was here that the Imperial capital ships squadrons engaged and decisively defeated the invading Zhodani capital ships, effectively bringing the Fifth Frontier War to its end. 
On Ancient Terra in 1892, Professor Alfred T. Mahan wrote that naval operations would be won mainly through “decisive battles and blockades.” While cruisers and support craft could engage in making, breaking and maintaining the blockades, the decisive actions themselves were to be accomplished by the capital ships of any nation. During the Terran Second World War, the mind-set of the “big-gun” warships was shattered by the successes of the aircraft carrier. Due to shrinking resources on the 21st Century Terra, capital ships became a rarity due to the maintenance cost these vessels required.
When the Terrans contacted the Vilani on 2098, it became apparent to the Terran Navy that the naval doctrines of the old ocean navies concerning force projection applied to the current issue of achieving space dominance. Through trail and error, mostly error, the warships in both navies underwent a transformation into the modern-day Imperial Navy. The first true modern decisive battle was seen in 2246 A.D. at the Battle of Muan Kwoyen (SOLO 2218) where a meson-wielding fleet of Terran warships engaged and decisively defeated an invading Imperial fleet, just the way Mahan drew up the battle in his theory. It should also be noted that the capital ships of that time weighed in at 30,000 dTons.
By the time of the Fifth Frontier War in 1107, the Imperial Capital Ships (Dreadnaughts and Battleships) weigh in around 200,000 dTons and 1,000,000 dTons. The Fleet Carriers tend to weigh in less than this as well as the Battleriders. While the carriers need less armor as they are not expected to be in the front lines, the Battleriders need less space and crew as their fuel requirements are reduced and there is no need for space to carry a FTL-type engine.
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