- EXTERNAL LINK: Going to GenCon? Watch for this (and post if you see it). by MWM
Imperial Military Vessels: Ships in the service of the Third Imperium may be operating at any one of three levels of command. The Imperium incorporates the local naval forces of individual planets-often system defense boats, patrol vessels and the like, but occasionally containing ships and vessels of quite respectable size-as a sort of first-line defense. Next come "Subsector" Navies which are formed in times of war from cadre forces belonging to the planetary Navy of the Subsector Dukes' World, and filled out by other planetary forces from the Subsector. Finally, there are ships of the Imperial Navy, which form both the main striking power and the main reserve in time of war.
The military vessels portrayed in this set as belonging to the Imperium have been designed for use in Immperial Naval squadrons. It is possible, how- ever, to find these ships elsewhere. Imperial ships are commonly passed down the line to subsector or planetary navies, especially in the case of older or obsolete models.
The organization and operation of planetary naval forces varies tremendously from one world to the next. Imperial forces, however, are much more standardized. Information on squadron composition and purpose has been published elsewhere (see "Battle Fleets of the Marches," by Marc Miller, Journal of the Traveller Aid Society No. 9; and "Squadrons of the Old Expanses," by Jim Cunningham and Gordon Sheridan, High Passage No. 5). What follows below is information on the organization aboard individual ships of the Imperial Navy.
The commanding officer of a vessel is designated "Captain"of that ship, but his rank may be much lower than High Guard Rank 06. Generally, a captain (06) will command fighting vessels of above 30,000 tons. Smaller ships are generally commanded by officers of lower rank, with the ships in this set being reserved for the very lowest-ranking command officers.
Ships of 300-1,000 tons are generally commanded by officers of rank 03, or Lieutenant. This group includes escorts, corvettes, frigates, mercenary "cruisers" in naval service. and other such vessels. Most of the ships depicted in this set are commanded by lieutenants; a few, owing to manpower shortages, will be commanded by sublieutenants.
Ships displacing 1,000 to 10,000 tons are commanded, normally, by Lt. Commanders. This group includes destroyers, "colonial cruisers," and other small starships of similar purpose. The 10,000 to 30,000 ton range is normally skippered by officers of rank 05, Commander. Dreadnoughts of 100,000 tons and over may in some cases be commanded by Commodores (especially in small squadrons where the squadron commodore is merely the senior commanding officer present, rather than having a flag captain to run the flagship.
Starships are almost always commanded by line officers, except in the case of certain specialty vessels. Thus, while an Engineering Branch officer might command a repair tender or a Medical Branch officer a hospital ship, command normally falls to line officers. The various department heads on board will usually be specialists excluded from the line of command until all line officers are out of action.
Although any line officer is in theory ahead of any other branch officer in the chain of command, it is customary for the captain of a ship to be the highest ranking officer of the ship's regular complement. Thus a ship commanded by a lieutenant will not have a chief engineer of higher rank.
Departmsnt heads aboard naval vessels are generally one or two grades lower in rank than the commanding officer though on very small ships they may be of equal rank. For example, the Lucifer class Destroyer Escort. 400 tons, is commanded by a lieutenant (line). A sublieutenant (gunnery) and an ensign (engineering) are the other two officers usually assigned. If the line officer is killed, the senior specialist officer takes command. However, an order of preference among specialty departments exists on larger ships; command should pass (in the absence of a line officer) to Gunnery, then Flight and Engineering. Only in the absence of an officers of these departments would a ship's medical officer be forced to take command.
Small starships of the Imperial Navy are usually far more relaxed in areas of discipline and fraternization than larger ships. Crews are usually close-knit and rely more on mutual trust and shared danger than on rank insignia and regulations to keep the vessel running smoothly, This is less true in large vessels where class distinctions become more noticeable. Also, ships commanded by ensigns and sublieutenants of little experience are often more strained as the zealous young officers tend to apply the lessons they learned in the Academy to their ships without tempering them with an understanding of how to motivate their crews effectively.
I made some edits to the Flag Ranks in the Imperial Navy Ranks Table. There is precedent in both CT (JTAS) TNS-Releases and some of the online discussion on GT:JTAS for the ranks of Rear Admiral and Vice-Admiral as "subranks" of Fleet Admiral. Vice-Admiral is actually mentioned explicitly at least once in CT:JTAS-TNS (I don't remember where). The Imperial Navy is large enough (and Imperium-wide) to justify the upper level Flag Ranks. The Fleet Ranks ("Rear-", "Vice-", and "Fleet-") for actual fighting-fleet commands and Admiralty-Staff appointments, and the "Sector-" and "Grand-" Ranks for the political-level appointments. It also puts the Navy on a par with the Army which has the O11 "Field Marshal" Rank.
- Note: The Ranks of Rear Admiral and Vice-Admiral are explicitly mentioned in TNS News Briefs for the years: 1106, 1107, 1108, 1109, 1110, 1111.