Everything changes, even the great constant of change itself changes. War is no different and the way wars are fought have changed through the past and will continue to change into the future. The common notion is that combat is resolved in the most efficient and effective way possible, and that every weapon used is the most lethal and effective type to date. This isn't necessarily true. The tools of war are rooted in technology and resources, and the methods of fighting war are dictated by the rules laid out by the standards of the day.
In the Cosmic Era, the Battlemech has supplanted the Tank not because it is superior, but because the latter is socially condemned. Poison gas and other chemical weapons were used liberally in the First World War and proved devastatingly effective weapons. Using such weapons today is a mark of terrorism and is considered a justifiable cause for invading the country slinging the toxic weapons.
The most important and relevant change was the demise of the big gun warship in favor of the aircraft carrier. As aircraft had much greater range and accuracy than heavy guns, it was simply a matter of time before the battleship and other gun toting behemoths were left to rust while the aircraft carrier went on to become to preeminent weapon system of the Petroleum Era.
The End of the Carrier
The Dominance of the aircraft carrier was always and rather obviously tied to the effectiveness of the aircraft. Prior to WWI, carriers were novelties, as aviation was still in its infancy and aircraft were little concern to the massive warships that ruled the waves. As aircraft improved, the role of the carrier increased until it held a commanding lead, and the big gun ships were no longer leading the fight. This continued on with nuclear powered carriers flinging dozens of high power aircraft into the skies, with each ship commanding a zone of sovereign territory around it. These potent warships ruled the waves nearly unopposed through the Petroleum Era and well into the Resource Wars. Their engines didn't require dwindling supplies of oil, and the ships could fight on for years with ease.
Except that their squadrons of fighters were useless without gas.
The big carriers largely survived the Resource Wars, with a handful being destroyed in grand naval battles. The carriers one by one withdrew from combat as their stores of fuel dried up and lacking substantial weaponry they were impotent without their fighters. These ships returned to their home ports, and for a time, did work as glorified container ships due to their nuclear powered endurance. Eventually these ships were mothballed and scrapped once the last vestiges of trade died. The fleet as it had been was dead. There were still ships crossing the oceans, but the megacarrier and the supertanker and massive cargo ships were dead. In their place were small solar powered cargo ships and alternative powered coast huggers. Naval combat ended not long after aerial combat ended.
The Second Dark Age was a time of global quiet. Few ships dared the oceans, and transit times were slow. Piracy was rampant in areas like the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Crimean, and Yellow seas. Sailing ships armed by men with rifles became common, along with solar powered small craft. It was all improvisation, and scavenged equipment. That would change and it would change in an unlikely place, the Virginian state of the Confederation of Southern States. Sitting atop a large number of derelict ships, the CSS took to rebuilding and rearming some of the ships to deal with the constant piracy that plagued the region. Some pirates had become so bold as to travel dozens of miles inland to raid softer targets.
The first ships were gun cruisers. The engines were removed and in the place of the old oil and gas fired turbines small nuclear reactors were fitted. These ships regained the ability to cruise without the fossil tether and the large gun made its return. Gas was gone, but gunpowder and lead were not.
The Resurrection of the Big Gun
The Big Gun reappeared at the Siege of Havana. After decades of raids, the CSSN launched a series of missions to remove the pirate threat from the Floridian waters for good. To this end they sent their most powerful naval ship, the C.S.S.S. Robert E. Lee. Formerly the USS Iowa, the Lee had been refit with nuclear reactors and it had been renovated and modernized. It's archaic systems were easily adapted to new technology and the guns were replaced with new cannons and fresh ammunition. The Lee and its supporting flotilla laid siege to Havana for 3 days before the port surrendered. The Lee fired 80% of it's ammunition supply and damaged a massive swath of the city as well as destroying dozens of pirate ships. While expensive, the CSSN lost only two small craft and a total of 7 sailors. Compared to the 34 ships lost by pirates and the estimated 2500 dead on Cuba it was considered a stunning and total success.
The Big Gun ship made its quiet return through the end of the Second Dark Age and into the Second Renaissance. Ships were going back into production, and the new powerplants were well suited to the larger ships. With abundant power supply, naval grade rail and coil guns became very popular. These weapons were also more than able to handle the nemesis of the gun ship, the aircraft. The skies were no longer as empty as they had been. The second renaissance saw the appearance of electroprop, electrojet, and helocraft. While certainly flight capable, none of these craft matched the raw speed and power of the previous petroleum powered jet aircraft. And while the majority were slower, the guns on the ship were much advanced and very frequently connected to computer controlled fire control systems. Air raids against the new naval craft were suicide runs, as magnetic slugs ripped the aircraft apart with ease.
The Aircraft Carrier was almost completely forgotten, though most naval craft retained the ability to launch and recover VTOL and helocraft for non-military applications.
The Marine Superpowers
The emergence of the new warships and associated civilian and mercantile ships were a major underpinning of the New Earth Governments. The Atlantic Federation, Pacific Rim Coalition and Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere all benefitted from large naval presences. The Eurasian Alliance would later follow suit, but rather than building substantial surface fleets, they would invest in building submarines and submersible craft.
Eventually the limitations of the fleet were discovered. Unlike the carrier of centuries before, the gun cruiser could only project power as far as it's cannons could reach. On top of this, the rise of the Arcologies presented the new navy with a few problems. The massive height of the arcos gave them longer range and a greater field of fire. Challenging the new fortresses of the Cosmic Era became a losing proposition for everything but the largest of armadas, often supported by land and air assaults to overwhelm the defenders by sheer numbers.
Winning by sheer numbers is a tactic strongly out of favor in the Cosmic Era.
The Battle of Paramarimbo proved the difficulty and often futility of assaulting a defensive arcology. Situated on the northern coast of South America. The Federation Caribbean fleet assaulted the city, supporting landing operations of Federation marines, supported by local forces from the Confederation of Southern States and the Caribbean League. From the start the battle plan went poorly. The supporting beachheads at New Amsterdam and Cayenne were contested, and by the time the fleet moved to engage, only half of the force from the Cayenne landing force were in position. The New Amsterdam contingent had been bogged down fighting USSA armored infantry. The fleet advanced through a hail of railshot and a large number of ships were damaged and several were sunk before they were able to return fire.
The battle ended up becoming a rout after Paramarimbo unleashed its Jaguar Warriors, amphibious 40 ton mecha armed with anti-ship missiles and plasma lances. The mecha made short work of the ships they could reach, and forced a Federation retreat. Several ships collided in the attempt to escape the Sea Jaguars.
The Levitating Warship
The A-Pod was something of an odd duck for several years. As a mode of space propulsion, it was considered inadequate, and in terms of space and power usage, a failure. But, it did wonderful things for manipulating gravity, once the engineers and technicians learned how to control the technology. It also had the splendid ability to make things float. The pod started being put into things, and the military was hot and bothered to make their things float. There were A-pod equipped mecha, power armors, mobile armors (the non-tracked turretless replacements for tanks) and A-Pod aircraft. These were all relatively small objects, the largest only weighing in the tens of tons.
The CS Wright was the first officially recognized flying ship. Built in Pennsylvania, the Wright was a test bed vehicle for large nacelle A-pods, and was built around the hull of a retired Commonwealth patrol craft. The Wright was able to demonstrate the ability to move through the air under it's own power, and through the use of electrojets, move rapidly and responsively through the air. During the tests, the Wright crashed no fewer than six times while the crew and the onboard computer worked through bugs of learning to fly a craft with no thrust or lift capability. Aside from moving at flank speed (the only time the electrojets were powered) the Wright moved entirely under the influence of the fields generated by the two long pods fixed to the sides of the hull.
The Wright paved the way for the Atlantic Federation's air fleet. A large number of craft were drawn up, and new A-pods were designed, and the flying warship was a go.
Federation Flying Ship Classes
Normandy Class Assault Ship
The Normandy class assault ship is a flying heavy APC designed to carry a large number of power armor troopers into battle, deploy them like a APC and then provide fire support as a gunship. The Normandy class can carry four squads of power armor troopers, or up to 80 tons of cargo into a hostile environment. It has heavy armor and can ignore all small arms fire, and most light and medium vehicle scale weapons. Not to be outgunned, the Normandy mounts a number of guns in side sponsons, typically light to medium autocannons, to deal with power armor, and attacks from mecha or helocraft. A single dorsal turret has a large rail cannon (rather than the more common and less potent coilgun or coil cannon) for busting bunkers or taking out large targets like heavy mecha or combat crawlers.
The bulk of Normandys built are deployed in Africa or the Caribbean.
The bulk of the first technological generation of flying ships were small craft, and functioned as logistic support, armored personnel carriers, and close air support vehicles. Many were lost, but in the loss of these ships, lessons were learned, and the method of thinking about their design and construction were changed. The first round of flying ships were naval ships retrofitted with a-pods, or were built along the lines of flying bunkers. They were expensive, high maintenance, and some designs proved to be more dangerous to their crews than the enemies shooting at them.
The European block of the Atlantic Federation largely created the second generation of flying warships while the American block was distracted building assault craft and the African block was obsessing with spacecraft and its own urban boom. The Europeans were looking at how they could use the flying warship to add security to their own border. Unlike the west, with it's long friendly border with the Pacific Rim Coalition, the east had a tense border with the Eurasian Alliance to the east, and the Saharan wastelands south of the North African coast, plus things like Armas terrorists, and Alliance submarine fleets using the Mediterranean as their front foyer. The flying assault craft were nice and all, but it wasn't the answer to the European Question.
The V Class Destroyer
The German, French, and British states all pooled their resources and created the V class destroyer. The V class was a purpose built flying warship designed to project naval grade firepower and fire support for gunships, assault craft, and troops on the ground while having both armor to survive return fire and enough battlefield presence to serve as an intimidating factor. The armor was designed mostly on the bottom and sides of the ship, as the heaviest fire was expected from the ground. Air to air weapons were typically designed to damage the much more delicate components of helocraft and VTOLs, rather than heavily armored warships.
The V class was unique in terms of ships built. The gun turrets were mounted on the bottom of the ship, and can lower their barrels to point straight down, engaging targets on the ground. The V class had two gun turrets located on the bow (ventral) and the middle of the ship (ventral). These turrets mounted a pair of light naval grade rail cannons. These magnetic weapons fired a variety of projectiles, the heaviest grossing 500 lbs, and capable of shattering bunkers or turning heavy mecha in smoldering wreckage. The rear section was protected by a larger number of remote operated twin autocannon mounts, and had a ramp for deploying infantry, power armor troopers, or supplies. Unlike the previous logistic uses of aircraft, the V class could sit in an area for more than a few short minutes before being forced to withdraw by enemy fire.
The top of the V class had the CIC, conning tower, and bridge of the ship, and bristled with anti-aircraft guns. The dorsal section of the bow, where the turrets are traditionally mounted on warships was replaced with a vertical launch missile system, with medium and large missiles being stored under armored doors. These missiles were to be used to engage aircraft at range, or function as short range cruise missiles to take out other targets. Later designs had anti-warship missiles added to the arsenal. The aft dorsal section of the V class was flat and designed to accommodate helocraft and VTOL operations. This made the ship functionally a ground attack aircraft carrier for all intents and purposes, though the aircraft operation was an afterthought. Aircraft operated off of a V class do not have hangars, repair facilities or other equipment associated with full operation of aircraft.
Just as when HMS Dreadnought was launched, when AFS Vehement was launched, it changed the way war would be fought. The Vehement wasn't the most powerful ship in the fleet, nor was it the largest, or the most heavily armored. Prior to the successful launch of the V class, the Eurasian Alliance was in the early preparation stage of the European invasion. The ground armies were gearing up to breach the Alpine Line, and launch assaults against Germany and a staged blockade of the continent with their fleet of submarines. The Vehement was stationed near Vienna, and this was predicted to be able to disrupt the 2nd Army group long enough for French and Austrian military units to mobilize. While planning was underway to find a way to 'Sink the Vehement' she was joined by four more V class ships. The ships individually could be compensated for in planning and handled with heavy bombardment weapons but once the number was raised it became mathematically more difficult to invade Western Europe successfully.
The V class was expanded as ships were built. The VS variant was designed with submarine hunting in mind, so replaced its heavy gun turrets with anti-submarine torpedo and depth charge launchers, and had its electronics suite ungraded to snoop out things underwater. The VS also was amphibious, once it settled in the water like a standard boat, it could open its ventral bay to launch and receive aquatic power armor, mini-submersibles, and other underwater weapon systems.
Frigates and Destroyers
The Atlantic Federation at large started a building program at large after the success of the V Class. While largely unchallenged in Europe, it was thoroughly tested in the Caribbean. The ships served admirably and proved their value in submarine hunting, patrolling, operating at part of a sensor screening network, and projecting naval firepower into fully terrestrial locations.
More destroyer classes were designed and launched, some were specialized, like the African Zulu class destroyer, which had almost zero wet naval capability but could land on dry ground, or the Great Lakes Wendigo class, which swapped the rail cannons for conventional but large bore cannons. During this time, two different kinds of ships emerged. They were roughly the same size and tonnage but grew into two separate roles. The Destroyer remained the all in ground aggressive ship, carrying ground and air forces into conflict with its armor and guns. The Frigate emerged with greater emphasis on electronics warfare, and carrying more missiles and anti-ship weaponry.
The escort carrier made a small reappearance during this period of fleet growth. The destroyers and frigates carried aircraft, but their facilities were by design spartan and more intended to provide rearmament and refueling rather than any repairs other than the most minimal. The size of the Atlantic Federation and the need to maintain mecha and aerospace craft dictated a need for something with the capabilities of an aircraft carrier with the speed and mobility of the new skyships. The escort carriers were built to be economical, with minimal armament and only moderate armoring. They were also expected to do double duty as supply and tender ships for the frigates and destroyers whose aircraft they were servicing.
The American, African, and European blocs of the Atlantic Federation have retained a customary and friendly rivalry between the three continents. This rivalry extended to military ventures, and there was a good deal of pride with having the biggest, the baddest, the fastest or the most powerful weapon system. It was simply a matter of time before the Federation got caught up in ship building frenzy. The destroyers and frigates started getting larger and larger, with more powerful engines, larger weapons, and the ability to deploy larger and more plentiful numbers of troops into battle.
It was bound to happen.
The seemingly tireless shipbuilding was making the rest of the world nervous. The SAUR responded with diplomatic envoys to the African bloc of the Federation, calling for a break in the militarism and ship building, its own ship building lagging far behind the Federation's capability. The rest of the world seemed to agree with this sentiment, all of their own programs were in the same situation.
The answer given was the AFS Kongo.
There was no feasible way to describe the Kongo as a destroyer. She was huge, almost 1100 feet long, 110 feet wide, and weighing in at an impressive 70,000 tons. Kongo had 4 large gun turrets, mounting heavy naval rail cannons, and instead of a rear mounted bay for power armor troopers, Kongo could and did carry and disembark battlemechs. She could carry 36 battlemechs with their support crews, and 250 power armor troopers. The bridge and command center of Kongo was on the bottom, with the entire top section of the ship dedicated to lauching and receiving aerospace craft. Unlike the smaller destroyers, Kongo didn't rely on electrojet or helocraft. Her fighters were space worthy, and could be launched into HALO trajectories with its linear accelerator. Flight capable mecha were likewise launchable by a bow mounted linear accelerator.
The Kongo was lost during the resulting war between the Federation and the SAUR. She was operating in conjunction with General Higgens battle plan to march to Jo-Burg and smash down the doors of the city and end the SAUR by annexing it into the African Bloc. After several defeats, the desperate SAUR responded with several antique atomic weapons. Half of the weapons deployed either failed to detonate or were defeated by anti-missile systems. Higgens' HQ and most of his 1st division AfricaKorps were decimated by the blasts that did go off. The Kongo was almost hit by a blast, and while the ship was largely undamaged it's electronics were blacked out, and its crew was lethally irradiated. She suffered more damage falling from the sky than from the blast itself.
Amerikka Command and the SAUR would later devote a significant amount of time and resources to salvaging the Kongo, and putting the ship back into service. Kongo was eventually repaired, and its Federation weapons were replaced with more easily repaired SAUR sourced naval cannons and lasers. She was rechristened the ACS George Washington, and is an integral part of the SAUR defense strategy.
The SAUR was struck with severe economic sanctions after the use of atomics, but the invasion of South Africa was halted due to the sheer amount of material lost in the blasts. The SAUR eventually recovered, and the lost equipment was salvaged, scrapped, and replaced by the factions that were able to get their hands on it first. Amerikka Command and its SAUR allies were able to secure a large portion of Federation salvage, as did privateers working for the ACPS and Free India.
The Current Generation
The Atlantic Federation has an impressive fleet of skyships, with the new Federation Class leading the way. The Federation class is built along the same lines as Kongo. The ventral side of the ship is battleship, bristling with guns and weapons, while the top is aircraft carrier. The Federation class no longer has the ability to land and disembark heavy troops from ventral doors. It has to rely on mecha transports to carry the machines down to ground, or more commonly, the mecha disembark on their own using discardable jump packs.
There are currently 11 Federation class warships in service; with two under construction. The only NEG with a fleet that could rival the Federation is the Pacific Rim Coalition, and it's similar but somewhat smaller Imperial Class warships are outnumbered 11 to 5. Construction of the PRS Yamato has been beset with technical problems, sabotage and corruption scandals.
The Atlantic Federation massive skyships are not alone, they are supported by dozens of smaller ships, destroyers and frigates, missile cruisers, and troop transports and military transports. This might seem excessive, a massive waste of materials and manpower, but there is a trade off for the sky fleet. The Federation doesn't have dedicated military bases or airfields scattered across its territory. There are based, and airports located at the arcos and cities, but these are more garrison, and defensive in nature. There isn't need for building extensive base facilities when a flying battleship can serve as a mobile headquarters. When this sort of firepower isn't needed, cargo haulers can move in a pre-con tactical base and when the need is over, the base can be packed up and carried back to a storage depot.
The flying warship evolved out of a sense of national pride tied to the need for mobility in the Cosmic Era. The resources to maintain the ships is indeed high, but compared to maintaining both a wet navy, space navy, airforce bases, and military bases everywhere they might need be it is much less. Unlike said military bases, the ships do not require infrastructure to be build, no cities to spring up, and then bases that continue draining resources and funding even after their original purpose is gone. Once a military base is built, it becomes a political and social structure as much as a military one. Closing a base is not easy, and frequently the cause of local outrage and economic slumping.
Arcologies and other megastructures boast significant defenses and defensive capability after 3 centuries of conservative and defensive minded warfare. Land assaults are costly in terms of men and material lost, and the option of using atomics or other massive explosives destroys the value of the structure intending to be taken. With large guns, the flying warship is able to engage and destroy the defensive structures of an arcology and then threaten the structure itself. This intimidation factor lessens the will to resist, and should an arco defending force be defeated, the arco will likely surrender, typically after the first bombardment (knocking on the door, as it were).
Why not? The warships did not grow out of a need to fight other large warships.
The flying warship has speed and mobility that are far better than their marine counterparts. Most frigates and destroyers can reach upwards of 90-110 mph. While this is blisteringly fast for a warship, it is stall speed for aerospace fighters, and other smaller craft. This speed allows for rapid transit around the Atlantic Federation. Most surface bound ships can make a transatlantic crossing in the vicinity of 3 to 5 days, depending on route and current, though traveling to Africa from either North America or Europe can extend this time to as long as 7 to 9 days. In an era of instant communication and cyber warfare, this is long enough that a conflict can have already ended before a ship can be dispatched from a port and reach the destination in time to do anything about it. The flying ships can make the flight from New Nuyork to London in around 36 hours instead of 3 days. Lagos to New Nuyork is just over two days, rather than 10.
Armor protection is heavy, the ships are built to not just survive combat and heavy enemy fire, they are also built to largely survive crashing, even if the crew does not. The ships mount large amounts of composite armor plating over internal systems and structures, and thick conventional armor over the whole craft. The bulk of the armor renders it impervious to small arms fire, and most vehicle mounted weapons.
Electronics warfare is a major part of military operations and almost all flying warships have extensive electronics suits and are outfitted with all sorts of nifty gadgets. In addition to this, there is an onboard LAISC computer that coordinates the operation of the ship, gunnery operations, and cyber ops. The first attack against an enemy is launched through the CogNet to bring down early warning systems, sensor systems, defensive systems, and the bring core systems under the control of the attacking party. It is now common for cybersecurity details to go on the offensive and attack warships through the CogNet and attempt to do the same things to those systems.
Firepower is impressive, with even the lightest destroyer having the same firepower as the largest mecha, or an entire company of power armor troopers. The largest warships have firepower enough to lay waste to entire cities, lay geofronts bare, or breach seacologies protected by water.
3. Creation Hurdles
The Flying Warship went through a fairly simple, but not really easy series of developmental steps. Building a ship is building a ship, and the largest difficulty was the function of the A-Pods and controlling a ship that is suspended in an arcanotech generated energy field. After this, the next challenge was that innovation and redesign were progressing faster than the available shipyards were able to produce new ships. Construction times for the ships can be long, and this process can be hindered by materials shortages, manpower shortages, and delays as subsystems and components are upgraded and replaced before even being put into the ship they were originally designed for.
Building the craft is also a challenge as they rather impressively don't have a bottom that they can rest on. There is as much armored superstructure on the ventral side of a skyship as there is on the top of it. Smaller ships can be built in dry dock style frames, where upon launch they lift up into the sky. Larger ships will have their frames and armor cladding assembled in a massive jig, and once complete, they will be lifted by heavy lift craft into nearby bodies of water where the ship will float while being assembled. These floating construction yards are purpose built raft cities, and once the ship is completed, it rises out of the water under its own power.
Refit and repairs are handled largely the same way, with the ship landing back in the water to resume floating.
Flying warships require a great deal of maintenance, and once in the air, they tend to stay in the air for long periods of time. The ships have redundant A-pods so that various units can be shut down for repair or from damage and the ship doesn't fall from the sky. Construction times can run long for skyships as well. The average destroyer or frigate can be built in 3 to 6 months, and most yards will have more than one such ship under construction at a time. The larger cruisers can take 8 to 12 months to complete and most yards will have three in various stages of construction. Once a frame is moved from the jig to begin in water fitting, a new frame will immediately be started. The largest, like the Federation class take 2 to 3 years to complete, with another year of shakedown and test trials before being officially delivered.
Production facilities: There are four major shipworks in North America. Havana Raft City in the Caribbean League, Hampton Roads Seacology in the CSS, Bethlehem Steel in the Commonwealth, and Chicago in the GLR. Bethlehem and Hampton Roads both are capable of building large ships, and between them have built almost half of the Federation class battleships in service. Europe has Amsterdam, London, half a dozen other facilities that produce large numbers of ships, but aside from Amsterdam (EuroCorp Heavy Industries) none of these facilities are capable of building larger ships. Two Federation class warships have been built at EuroCorp, with the main production from the facility being civilian large craft and surface to orbit ships. Lagos is the primary ship building facility in Africa, and is supported by three raft cities. Lagos and the African industry have built 4 Federation class ships, and has one of the two still under construction.
5. Breaking in Period
The flying warship performed as expected, and aside from getting the controls down, most of the technology being used was established, rather than bleeding edge. The A-pods produced the largest amount of difficulties, and it was learned through trial and error the best method and schedule for keeping the pods all functional. The entire flying ship concept has been proven many times over, both inside and outside of combat situations. The larger ships proved well suited to disaster situations as they brought not just military resources, but medical resources and emergency supplies as well as functioning as mobile headquarters, flying hospitals, and emergency power sources.
Ships like the V Class proved that in combat, the presence of the aerial warship could easily swing the outcome of a land battle, and the presence of a number of these vessels could change entire military campaigns and strategies. The Federation class ships are as much diplomatic tools as they are weapons. Rumors of a major Armas offensive can be quelled by the appearance of destroyer squadron or a Federation task force. Saber rattling in the USSA can be quieted by staging fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean, and so on.
The most substantial loss to date was the AFS Kongo, while many other skyships have been lost, none have been as large, and it is the only one destroyed by atomics. Capital skyships built since the event have seen the addition of radiation shielding, polarized armor plating, and improved anti-missile systems.
Flaws: Damaged skyships are in a precarious position. Getting close to the ground often makes them much more vulnerable to enemy fire, but above a certain height and a loss of power or lift means a long fall and a messy death. Ships that hit the ground take substantial damage, and ships have hit things while moving close the ground. More than one destroyer has scraped off antenna and part of the lower superstructure in valley cruising missions (ground cover to hide their approach).
It is also fairly common for civilian skyships (cargo and passenger craft) to 'bump' an arcology when they dock. This can be a perilous moment, because at over a kilometer tall, arcos can sway impressively. The megastructures all have compensation systems for this, but it is easier to leave a little wiggle in the structure. For each time a skyship has bumped an arco, an arco has tagged a skyship.
There a large number of different types of skyships. Aside from the various military models, there are civilian craft as well.
Cargo craft carry goods from arco to arco, especially those separated by long distances or physical terrain. Given the lack of infrastructure in the Cosmic Era, massive highway systems and railheads are uncommon to non-existent. There are a variety of cargo craft, ranging from small courier type craft, to the flying equivalent of tractor trailers (though these typically carry the same amount of cargo as 3 to 4 modern trucks. There are also very large cargo ships, several hundred feet long, that carry bulk goods. These deliver finished goods like military equipment, building supplies, or other high volume goods.
Medical frigates are commonly operated by various nations and states. These craft are flying hospitals and travel to where they are needed. This helps supplement local medical services in times of disaster. Nippon maintains the largest fleet of medical frigates, and these often spend a good deal of time outside of Nippon, and sometimes even outside of the PRC.
Science Vessels are relatively common. While this might seem a gleaming bit of hope for the Cosmic Era, these ships are able to move outside of legal boundaries and carry out morally questionable research away from whistleblowers or prying eyes. The bulk of science vessels are privately owned, though the Atlantic Federation maintains a strong core of these ships.
Spaceworthy - A percentage of all skyships are built to be spaceworthy. These craft have more environmental sealing and containment and control systems. They handle atmospheric transition through slow descent and using high power dimensional heat sinks to keep cool. It is rumored that more than half of the Federation class warships are spaceworthy. (Truth: they all are). Rather than using electrojets, these ships are fitted with reaction drives, or ion drives for space transit.
Cruise and Passenger Craft - getting people from point a to point b is less common in the Cosmic Era. With the CogNet and remote presence through a surrogate droid, the need to physically go somewhere is much less pressing. Cruise ships exist and keep up steady business. In the less traveled world, these cruises can be closer to home, and in places ships didnt use to go. Mountain cruises are popular, as are cruises through national parks, or even through major cities. The must expensive and luxurious liners take fast tracks from terrestrial stations to points in space, such as the New Nuyork to Armstrong City (Lunar) cruise. Passenger craft are the less expensive option to personal transit, as these craft make the trip in a few days rather than hours for airliners, but being able to carry many more people, the cost is more akin to a bus ticket than an airplane.
7. In the Field
The biggest threat faced by skyships is strong adverse weather. Even the largest skyships avoid strong storms, as their large size makes it easy for them to be caught in wind buffeting. Damage control and ship repairs are roughly on par for any regular ship, with the addition of the A-pods. While the internals of the pod are an arcanotech nightmare to the uneducated, the system is simple as far as that technology goes and very reliable.
8. Service Record
The Skyship has a good service record, now having been operational for well over a century. The first skyships were novelties and white elephants, but once the glitches were ironed out, they became not just a vital part of the Cosmic Era, but a major factor in the Second Renaissance. The skyship cemented the power of the Atlantic Federation and the Pacific Rim Coalition, and much like the battleship race of the early 20th century, or the atomic race at the end of it, every major power is caught up in the skyship building game.
Much of the world was ready for the Skyship, as through the Second Dark Age zeppelins and blimps were commonly used in oceanic transits, and the arcos rose and were built with observation decks and rooftop aerodromes to accept said lighter than air craft. When the skyship appeared, they already had gangplanks and docking procedures in place.
Opinions of the Skyship vary from ship to ship, class to class. Some are cramped and poorly laid out inside, and others are incredibly well done.
The Skyship is large and strong in the public eye. The pro-militarism of the Atlantic Federation makes the men and women aboard the Federation class heroes, and the captains of the ships patriots. Given such power, said captains are as often chosen for their political alliances and post-service plans more so than their actual service records. The commercial ships are just there, the wonder of a 50,000 ton cargo ship flying over San Angeles and the LA Arcoplex isn't a wonder when the pass over several times a day.
The Fleet: Like modern aircraft carriers, big ships like the Federation class never go anywhere alone. Likewise, the sky bound cargo ships and tankers are almost always escorted. This might seem a tad extreme, but with agencies like Amerikka Command, Armas, and the Python Patrol, piracy is just as common in the Cosmic Era as it is now. In military terms, the big ships are protected by the smaller, cheaper, and easier to replace support ships. A battleship is accompanied by a screen of destroyers and frigates, and will have access to a number of fleet support craft.
The supercarrier hasn't made a triumphant return mostly due to financial restraints. The big ships are expensive. Maintaining the arco-busting battleships and also a group of supercarriers is more than the Federation can afford. The aerospace fighter, while being valuable, doesn't have the ability to mount the firepower needed to threaten bunkers and arcos in the Cosmic Era. They also often lack the armor needed to survive the attempted attack on said targets. (if nukes remained a viable weapon system, IE not publicly shunned as barbarism and ecoterrorism, fighters would remain the primary weapon system, but there would be no arcos, no flying warships, and fewer space habitats)
The ship builders and planners are now considering how their flying warships will fare in ship to ship combat. With the guns mounted on the bottom, their range is limited. Many have rail guns, somewhat negating this problem, but when warships are built to deliberately fight each other instead of acting as 100,000 ton helicopter gunships, the turrets will start moving to the top and the sides of the ships. There is not much push behind this change, as it reduces the amount of space available for flight and mecha operations, and guns on the top can't as easily engage targets on the ground.
Ridiculous, dripping with guns and machismo. Cue Kenny Loggins 'Highway to the Danger Zone' and lock and load.