So Many Cruisers! (2019)
What is a cruiser? Good question.
The general consensus is that a cruiser is mid to high-level combatant somewhere in this spectrum:
But after those base assumptions, it really begins to break down.
HOW BIG IS BIG ENOUGH?
The Keith Brothers designed the vast majority of their ships in the 100 to 100,000 ton range. And I mean everything from the smallest scout vessel to the largest battleships. There are exceptions of course, but most of their material kept within those tonnage bounds. They were obviously versed in the age of sail analogies used in the original LBBs and often used language from that era: munition magazines, arms lockers, picket boats, monitors, and the like. That stylistic choice always leaves a bit of Victorian Science Fiction (VSF) or steampunk feel to Traveller. Marc's first novel, Agent of the Imperium is full of such vocabulary. It drives some fans nutty.
By the time of Classic Traveller Supplement 9 Fighting Ships in 1981, the OTU was really beginning to come together, and the Tigress class Dreadnought came out with a weigh-in of half a million tons (500,000 tons).
- And that's pretty much where the tonnage cap has stayed since then. Half a millions tons is considered pretty honking large and a serious commitment of resources and labor. Works like Power Projection: Fleet skirt a little over that limitation (...the Idlev class Superbattleship at 560,000 tons) and Marc likes to push the 11 out of 10 trope a bit (...an over-extended metaphor) such as in his novel Agent of the Imperium (...the mechanical life megaship), but the half-a-mill mark is it.
- Of course fans pretty much pay no attention to the limitations of canon (...even Traveller's very generous canon definition, which is already pretty permissive), so the ship library has a number of vessels that weigh in at a million or more tons... While the wiki caps such ship plan contributions at or around that mark, there are quite a few designs out there on fan sites that weigh in at several million tons, or even over a billion tons! In the OTU of Charted Space with TL:13-15 technology, conventional ships over a half a million tons would take a number of years to build and consume massive resources and effort (...think of the pyramids). Of course, there is always a deus ex machina of some sort out there and nanotechnology is so imaginatively thought of that it can do almost anything... like magic. Cue Clarke's laws!
HOW MANY KINDS OF TONS ARE THERE?
How many kinds of tons are there? The simple answer is a lot!
Ton has two primary meanings:
- 1. Volume
- 2. Weight
There are at least twenty-five other kinds of tons, almost all with slightly different weight and/or volume ranges. This can lead to considerable confusion. Please see the wiki article on Ton to learn more.
Now, when it comes to cruisers, they are the most numerous or one of the most numerous types of ships in the wiki ship library (...219 versions as the time of the writing of this article and there are still more cruisers to document... That's canon published designs and non-canon fan designs). However, there is no standard that has ever really been set with them, mission-wise, size-wise, or otherwise. Some of the earliest cruiser weigh in under 10k, while some of the largest weigh in at several hundred kilotons.
A ship in the higher tonnage ranges could easily be a cruiser, battleship, carrier, or tender. The sizes matter more than the ship names and types.
The solution to trying to figure out the ship types was to eventually develop a somewhat standardized tonnage spectrum:
- Utility Craft (U) (1 to 99 tons)
- Escort (E) (100 to 2,499 tons)
- Light Battleship (BL) (2,500 to 99,999 tons)
- Medium Battleship (BM) (100,000 to 199,999 tons)
- Pocket Battleship (BP) (200,000 to 249,999 tons)
- Heavy Battleship (BH) (250,000 to 499,999 tons)
- Superheavy Battleship (BS) (500,000 to 999,999 tons)
- Ultraheavy Battleship (BU) (1,000,000 or more tons)
And that's pretty much what the wiki sticks to.
The mostly standardized tonnage bounds make it easy to categorize what might otherwise be near impossible.
- → Very light Ships or ACS or Escorts (100 to 2,499 tons)
- → Light Ships or BCS (2,500 to 99,999 tons)
- (...Capital Ships officially begin here at 10,000 tons)
- → Medium Ships or BCS (100,000 to 249,999 tons)
- (...Medium gets cut down to 100,000 to 199,999 when pocket ships exist)
- → Pocket Ships or BCS (200,000 to 249,999 tons)
- → Heavy Ships or FCS (250,000 to 499,999 tons)
- → Superheavy Ships or FCS (500,000 to 999,999 tons)
- → Ultraheavy Ships or WCS (1,000,000 or more tons)
In real life the boundaries between destroyers and cruisers is pretty conflicted by this point. Some destroyers are bigger than cruisers and vice-versa... The somewhat neat and rough standards of WWII have certainly passed by.
Heavyweight Cruiser vs Speedy Cruiser?
CONFUSING TERMINOLOGY: The term Cruiser can often be misleading. Defined namesake cruisers are large, heavyweight vessels that can support the line-of-battle, and are meant to slug it out in main fleet engagements. They are large, well armed ships, that can even overwhelm dreadnoughts and super-heavy vessels in sufficient numbers. Vessels such as the Arakoine class Strike Cruiser or Aek Naz class Battlecruiser represent these large vessels which can have displacements in the range of multiple tens of thousands of tons. Obsolescent members of the Cruiser classification (... such as the Lightning class Fleet Intruder, now reclassified as the Lightning class Frontier Cruiser) are often sold off to the IISS, to Colonial or Provincial Subsector Navies, or are put into strategic reserve for reactivation and reassignment to Subsector Navies in time of war.
There are also vessels called "Cruisers" which lack the size and hitting power of the aforementioned Imperial Navy cruisers, but typically possess speed and endurance. They cruise or move speedily compared to larger capital ships. These are often small, speedy vessels that hit over weight for their size class, but would stand next to no chance against a naval-fleet sized slugger of a combatant. Vessels such as these are generally referred to as "Colonial Cruisers" and are typically found in Subsector and/or Planetary Naval forces as heavy patrol vessels. Vessels massing in the 800-3000 ton range (... such as the Sydkai class Colonial Cruiser or Broadsword class Mercenary Cruiser) are representative of this smaller latter type. By Imperial Navy standards, they are cruisers in name only.
IMPERIUM & DARK NEBULA ORIGINS
The amount of types and variations on cruisers is bewildering, over a dozen easily exist and perhaps many more... The original types were captured in Imperium and Dark Nebula (game). They had four types:
- For a massive break down of ship codes over Traveller's forty plus years of history, please see this page: Forum:Agent of the Imperium ship types
The idea for this section was to leave behind well documented notes and a description how the system was developed and what kind of thought went into it. As is hopefully evident, several hundred fans were consulted, the ideas were shared over several shared social media platforms, e-mail chains were sent to fans unwilling to use social media, and Marc Miller was consulted several times a month over about a two-year period while the system was being developed.
Hopefully, it will be of use and give a little enjoyment to you!
Best regards and Shalom!