The Atlantic Federation Space Navy is feared for the fearsome power of the Federation class battlestars. The ships function as political tools more than weapons, and aside from a few blockades and tours of force, they have not engaged in honest battle. On the other hand, the Normandy class heavy assault ship has seen five decades of operations, including military operations on 6 continents, 3 planets, and 7 moons. Unlike the massive and expensive battlestars, the Normandy class heavy landing craft are not cheap, but they are nowhere near as expensive.
The Overlord Initiative
The Normandy Class was put into production after a 9 year bidding war between a half dozen hypercorps across the Atlantic Federation. The assault craft had to meet a variety of goals and abilities, including carrying a battalion of mecha into combat, deploying them either on the ground or from a hovering position, ala airborne assault. It also had to have enough armor to loiter in the combat zone, and firepower sufficient to justify staying in combat range.
The driving mentality behind mecha forces in the Atlantic Federation is to treat the giant war machines as massive infantry, rather than walking tanks. This changed the way war planners looked at deploying their forces, and how they were used. Early mecha operations were hindered by the fact that planners couldn't decide if mecha were tanks, or should be treated like aerospace craft, and each branch of the military treated them differently. It wouldn't be until a Hanseatic League field marshal assigned to AfroZone front with the SAUR made the decision to treat his mecha like 50 ton infantrymen. After a brief training regimen, the mech jocks started using marine tactics against the SAUR Transvaal 1st Grenadiers, international mercenaries, and Amerikka Command's DESTROY legion. The SAUR forces were routed, and Marshal J. Schmidt was promoted to the central command of the AFAF.
Following Schmidt's recommendations, the Armed Forces of the Atlantic Federation started reorganizing their mecha forces. The aviator style squadrons and armor formation tactics were replaced with the tactics and organization of basic infantry. Moving the mecha was given the same treatment. This prompted the Overlord program. Named after the near mythic invasion of Europe 4 centuries prior, the program laid out a series of requirements for three new classes of ship, assault ships. These ships would carry mecha and power armor into battle, and like the landing craft of the Great Patriot War, they would land, disgorge their iron soldiers, and fight on through the beachhead.
The XXX Class was the largest of the three desired new ships, deploying a battalion. Union Aerospace won the contract for the new ship with their 450 meter long Normandy. The ship was built using common components with the UAC Comitanus container ship, Odyssey class deep system ship, and the Aerofortress frigate. Using these pre-existing parts to build the new ship, UAC undercut the other competitors for the contract.
UAC had serious chutzpah. At the final presentation for the contract, the other firms brought plans, proof of concept mock ups, and virtual builds of their proposed ships. The UAC scrambled and built AX-1 'Normandy' and flew the ship to the meeting. The other boffins had their models and their programs, and they thought it was in the bag, because the UAC guys didn't even show up until moments before the commencement of the meeting. AX-1 Normandy cut two circles around the proving ground, before executing a J-turn and landing to unload the UAC entourage.
An hour later, UAC had the contract, an initial order of 10 Normandy's with pending orders for another twenty ships.
Nine ships were completed in the first block of construction. These ships have seen extensive use, some having been all but destroyed in action, but rebuilt and returned to service. Outside of the Atlantic Federation Space Navy (AtFedSpacy) these ships are largely unknown, the glory goes to the mammoth Battlestars. Within the fleet, serving on a Battlestar is a gravy train with biscuit wheels, while duty on a Normandy is the stuff of legends.
Serving on a Normandy Class ship grants sailors a medal known as a Star of Normandy.
The second block of Normandy assault ships demonstrated serious upgrades and improvements over the the first block ships. many of these improvements and upgrades were easily applied to the Block I ships. Given the amount of damage often inflicted on the ships, rebuilding the ships allowed them to be drastically improved. Ships such as the AFS Enterprise were recognized for being 'unsinkable' with Enterprise returning to base with drastic damage no fewer than seven times across it's 47 year service history. The biggest improvements were upgraded weapons, and the inclusion of the Caryatid system to the computer system.
The Block III Normandy's demonstrated no major improvements over the previous block. The only reason a new block designation was issued was that there was almost a decade long pause in ship construction. The Block III ships represent the surge in ship building that followed the Huo Hsing campaign, and the emergence of the Five Metal Dragons. The size of the Federation's space assets had also grown, and the existing Normandy's were spread too thin to serve their deterrent roles. The new ships were quickly assembled and put into service in record time.
AFS Galatea (bastardized into the Galactica)
Normandy Class dropships generally work in one of two patterns. The main use of the ships is as a rapid response unit, deploying solo in response to specific events, such as DFEs, riots, natural disasters, and in training exercises. The less common use is in a vanguard action. In such actions, several assault ships will participate in a beachhead action, landing and providing covering fire for the unloading mecha. There are other ships that came from the Overlord Initiative, the platoon compliment sized Saxon class, or the mecha section carrier Leopard class. But the Normandy is without a doubt, the most important. The Battlestars are grand and all, but no one is going to risk them in something as dangerous as a contested orbital transition. The heavy assault craft go in, guns blazing. The smaller ships carry much less, and are used more for scouting, logistics, and support, not the main attack force.
The drop was a big one. The primitives down in dinoSAUR land were making a big push up Old Zanzibar, and they had a handful of warships on their side. It was a real big deal for them, especially because the Madagascar Treaty kept the Battlestars out of the battle, otherwise it would escalate. The southies though they could force the door open, and break through to Lagos. They didn't count on the Normandy's. There were only three available, Hood, Exeter, and Hornet, and the ships made six runs moving mecha, power armor, and supplies to blunt the offensive. Those ships, and the new tactics held the line. It wasn't cheap, Hornet was torn all to hell, and after the offensive was over, Hood had to be recovered from the coast.
Additional Ideas (3)
The Normandy class dropship doesn't equip capital weaponry. Most of it's internal space is devoted to mecha carrying and support equipment, and drive systems.
The main firepower of the Normandy class comes from six particle cannons. These high energy weapons are designed for anti-mecha operations, but if concentrated on a single target, can damage light warships. These are mounted in three turrets, two fore, and one aft. The ship mounts two linear guns coaxially to the hull, one on each side of the launch bay. These two weapons are used as bunker busters, or engaging enemy ships. They are too large and two slow for engaging mecha or lighter forces, but deal damage as artillery strikes.
The ship has a network of point defense lasers, some of which are large enough to damage mecha. The laser defense system was intended as a purely protective measure, but captains realized the utility of the system, and will use their ship in an aggressive fashion, forcing enemies into the range of the laser system. Lighter mecha can be sliced to ribbons, while large mecha suffer severe damage, and are easier pickings for the friendly mecha.
The majority of Normandy ships have external mounts for guided missile systems, and this varies from ship to ship. The most common choices include Archer and Crossbow 'swarm' missile batteries, single shot capital missiles, and smart torpedoes (which amount to demi-sentient kamikaze drones
Two of the Normandy class dropships in service are dedicated troop transports. Unlike the other ships, these two have been configured to deliver conventional infantry rather than mecha or power armor troopers. The AFS Ranger and AFS Columbia were built to deliver these soldiers into uncontested areas. Originally intended for occupation and putting the literal boots on the ground, both ships have seen much more work in humanitarian operations. AFs Columbia does as much work as a medical support ship, and Ranger has been a mobile HQ for search and rescue operations after earthquakes, major fires, and so forth. The ability of the ships to move large numbers of people have made both invaluable in assisting in rescuing damaged ships and compromised space habitats.
Three ships of the Normandy hull pattern have been built, but have all their mecha bays and most of their offensive weaponry removed to make room for cargo capacity. These armored transports are used for logistic purposes, moving hardware and materiel. These three ships are not considered part of the Normandy class. The AFS Montgomery, AFS Fitzgerald, and the AFS Kennedy have been in service for three decades. They have worked in rescue ops, full military ops, and more than once have been dressed up as other ships in the series, for counter intelligence purposes. During the Huo Hsing fiasco, Fitzgerald and Montgomery were liveried up as the Excaliber and Pegasus. This created some confusion among ACPS fleet assets as their tracking systems had to deal with two Excalibers and two Pegasuses. This split up some of the ACPS fleet assets and prevented them from making a play against taking Phobos and Deimos bases from the Federation.