The Tiger was presented as a humble solution for a serious issue, transporting mecha and vehicles through space in an efficient manner.
This was no new task, nor was the Tiger the first to present an answer. It was preceded by a number of notable craft like the expensive and ambitious Snow Leopard assault ship, and the problem ridden SAUR Wildebeest, or the utter and complete failure that was the ACPS Ryusei, a craft so disastrous that it's test flight resulted in the deaths of the crew, several pursuit craft, and the launch station. The Tiger excelled specifically because it was cheap, and completely lacking ambitious.
Basic Abilities and Statistics
The Tiger is a 250 meter long light cargo ship, with multiple options for powerplants, and can use bulk fission reactors, more readily available toroidal fusion reactors, or even small dimensional reactors, though these can often be as expensive as the entire rest of the ship. The first Tiger used a pair of Bernal sphere fusion reactors. One powered the ship's internal systems and meager weapons layout, and the second fed a single chamber plasma thrust nozzle. This was a highly reliable layout, and the plasma thruster could run for weeks on end without hiccup or issue. It was still slow, and had poor manueverability.
The Tiger worked. It didn't work spectacularly, but unlike most other ships being produced at the time, the Tiger worked every time it was powered up, and logged thousands of hours of flight time and completed a transit of the Solar System without significant technical issue.
The Tiger had minimal armor, and weaponry was limited to three coaxial hardpoints on the spine of the ship. The original was armed with a pair of twin linked large lasers (vehicle/mech grade weapons) and a six tube torpedo launcher. These proved largely worthless on a ship of its size and speed, so were frequently swapped out for literally anything else. The cargo capacity of the Tiger was considered impressive, over a thousand tons were free. This allowed the ship to carry a maximum of 6 combat vehicles, space capable mecha, aerospace fighters, mobile armor, and so forth. The rest of the cargo space could easily be used for ammunition, supplies, and such.
Production and Design
The Tiger was presented by a small research group, not attached to a specific nation or industrial group, and the ship was presented for licensing or sale for someone else to put it into production. Expecting a small contract, or even being sent back to the drawing board with empty pockets, the Tiger Design Group ended up with the biggest license issued since the Resource Wars and the Arcology Projects.
The Tiger was picked up independently by the Eurasian Alliance, ACPS, EUdAS, SAUR, and a number of megacorps and private interests. This saw the Tiger redesigned and remodeled for production at over a dozen production facilities across the Solar System. Each nation and interest had their own tech, their own supply chains, and abilities, meaning that while almost identical, the Tigers could have completely different powerplants, different engines, and widely differing weapon packages.
The biggest difficulties facing the production of the Tiger was that from it's conception, it was cheaply made. Little effort was put into finish and polish. Most ships were welded together from cast pieces. The spaceframe was not built for stress, and while the powerplant and engines were reliable, the life support was shoddy, the internal electrical was questionable, and the hull sealing was poor. These problems would continue to follow the Tiger and all of its variants through its entire production run.
The corners cut to make the ship light and cheap were the ones that made it problematic. Reinforcing the spaceframe would cut the performance and cargo capacity of the ship often by up the half. The ship operators learned that the key to dealing with the ship's shortcomings could be handled by avoiding gravity maneuvers, not landing on moons or asteroids unless they were truly small, and avoiding hard acceleration or breaking. This, along with routine and constant hull inspection could keep the ship workable and safe.
The Tiger served a half dozen space forces as a light mecha/aerospace carrier. It served the longest with the space branches of the EUdAS and the SAUR, remaining in service for close to a century before their obsolescence made keeping them impossible. The largest users were the ACPS, which had several hundred of the Laohu (Tiger in Chinese) as a sizeable portion of their space force, and the Eurasian Alliance. The Neo-Soviets had slightly fewer of their T-series light transports, and were the main producers of the ship at their Ursa Luna facility, and the facility continued producing the T-series for well over a century, though in the last few years, it was only producing parts and components and no longer laying down hulls.
The Tiger's most important campaign was the Chinese Occupation of Mars, where their large numbers allowed them to project a significant amount of force and a large number of ACPS aerospace fighters and bombers. While being outperformed in the mech arena, the Chinese ground armor and infantry on the red planet were so well supported from space and the air that the Eurasian and Federation advantages in technology were rendered ineffective. While a large number of Loahu were damaged or lost, they still carried the war.
The Laohu was also instrumental in the ACPS annexation of Korea. While not a main combatant, the Nipponese and Korean air and space forces were successfully distracted by their deployment that they were unable to support ground forces. This eventually lead to the ground forces being overwhelmed, but not before inflicting massive damage of the ACPS army.
Retirement was inevitable, the Tiger, in all of its incarnations, was slow, poorly armored, and weakly armed. Newer ships emerged, and had greater combat ability, enough to offset their higher cost. This relegated the Tigers to supporting roles, then logistic roles, and then eventually going to scrap, target practice, or sale on the private market.
The Second Life of the Tiger
The Tiger spent decades in military service, and once it entered civilian use, it remains in regular use up and into the modern timeframe. It is not used as a military vehicle, and most have had their mech launch bays removed or modified.
Light Freighter - a number of corps use fully automated Tigers to function as low speed cargo vessels, typically hauling low value goods to secondary and teriarty markets. These are popular targets for pirates and raiders, and the corps don't put much effort into rescuing lost ships, and once a group ends up being a problematic, pirate hunters are sent.
Family Ship - it isn't uncommon for a Tiger to be adopted as the space home of an extended family. The hip will retain two of the three cargo bays to be laid out for whatever the family business is, usually cargo hauling, but sometimes light manufacturing, sometimes entertainment of some sort. There are floating theaters, brothels, taverns, drug labs, polyfacturing unit, and so forth. The third bay is typically modified into the family residential unit. There are a small number that are low speed passenger ships, where a modest number of people can travel very low profile, and for cheap. The black market loves these ships as they are made of smuggler's holds, and most authorities find hassling the ship folk to not be worth their time.
Privateer - some Tigers keep a few of their bays and retain the ability to launch fighters or mecha. These truck around the solar system, acting as pirate hunters, or security forces for places that can pay. Sometimes privateers are also family affairs, where the family business is maintaining an antique fighter or mecha unit.
In the hands of civilians, the Tiger took on an entirely new life. Removed from military maneuvers and combat, the rugged construction and ease of repair of the ship proved invaluable. Some family operators have kept their ships running for generations, logging hundreds of thousands of flight time, and crossing the solar systems dozens or times. There are old men helming Tigers who were born on them decades before.
Author's Note: the Tiger was inspired by a junk ship from the Gundum universe. They appeared in one episode, where they were antiques packed full of explosives and fireship run towards the enemies. Being Gundam, they failed horribly. But there was a cool blocky chunky obsolescence to the design, and I could see these ships just keep going and going despite being completely unremarkable. Junkers and spacers could spend lifetimes trucking across the solar system, peddling junk, hull made moonshine, usually wearing jumpsuits and rocking a mixture of fallout-punk and space-punk fashion. These ships are common across the solar system, and have ethnic crews, many expats from China and Russia, who gave up their terrestrial lifestyles to live free.
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? Responses (4)-4
Cool. You've painted a Heavy Metal picture with the last couple of paragraphs. I was thinking this was a space humvee before your comment on Gundum.
Though, at a 250m long, as long as a supercarrier, id expect it to be able to carry substantially more than 6 mechs- Is it a very slender design?
It is more a light carrier, like the Leopard from Battletech. It can carry a lance or squad of mecha, mobile armor, or fighters, into action, and that's about it.
After re-reading your comment, space ships and naval ships are not built to the same scale, the space only ships are a scale larger than surface ships, and the hangars on the ship are large enough for mecha to stand comfortably in them. Also, overall length includes the drive section (which is going to be more than just a couple of propellers tucked under the hull. The front section also has extended antenna adding to the overall length.