Flying a frigate was fun, plain and simple. The way the Stingray, the current frigate-class vessel in Federation-Service, was set up was relatively simple, it was an attempt to create a force-projection, albeit a relatively light one, with the smallest possible amount of material and personal. While the Raptor-class Starfighters had a hyperdrive as well and could, in theory, be used to make multiple jumps the idea to be sealed in the cockpit for days on end was not a pleasant one and I doubted that anyone was considering it viable. And that ignored the relatively bad sensor-suite the Raptor was carrying, making it next to impossible to work as an independent unit. The frigate was made for just that.
The ship itself was barely twice the size, or about eight times the volume, of the Raptor I was normally flying, but it was designed for four persons. The simulation included a short introduction to the ship itself and I had to admit, in that class of ship, I would want a female crew, my size or smaller, simply to free up space. When it came to weapons, both ships used antimatter torpedos against capital ships and plasma-cannons against anything else. Curiously, the frigate had eight plasma-cannons, optimised for rate of fire, allowing them to fill space with a lot of fire, instead of the fewer shots that the Raptor could give off with higher power. However, where the frigate dominated when it came to plasma-rate-of-fire, the Raptor was able to fire all six of its antimatter-torpedos within seconds, the frigate had to siphon antimatter from its reactor to re-arm itself, taking a couple of minutes between dual-salvoes.
In the simulation, I was able to test the performance-envelope of the frigate quite a bit, simply flying and watching the strain-gauges rise and I had to say, it was an impressive little ship. It was rated for a higher speed than the Raptors and had a similar acceleration which allowed for some fancy flying. I doubted anyone aboard would have wanted to fly with me another time after I was done. I had been tossed around quite a bit by the simulated acceleration, which only happened if the simulator computed that the acceleration was high enough to overwhelm the inertial dampening. In my Starfighter, that wasn’t too much of a problem, other than me there was little else inside that might be damaged by the forces. But on a frigate, which contained the living space of four people, including a small galley for food? Loose items and acceleration did not mix well. Let alone people potentially sleeping in their bunks, suddenly getting woken up by their bunk dodging away from beneath them.
But the frigate needed the maneuverability, if they were supposed to use Starfighter-weapons like antimatter-torpedos, they needed to maneuver like Starfighters in order to get close enough to use their weapons. And I was determined to test just how close to the performance of a Raptor the Stingray could get.
Sadly, my fun ended when I tried a rather extreme maneuver, twisting the frigate around its own axis in two dimensions while fully reversing acceleration. I realised that I had taken it a little too far when the simulator gave off an awful, creaking groan, sounding like metal being stressed to the breaking point, followed by the sounds of rushing air and blackness. A few seconds later, I was informed that the frigate I had been piloting had been broken apart, the acceleration too much to handle. All hands, very much including the insane pilot, were presumed to be lost.
I had to laugh when I realised that someone had actually placed the stipulation that the pilot had to be insane into an official Federation-simulator program, it was something I had never expected or seen before.
Looking at the clock, I decided that I should take a short break, mainly because I had spent five hours in the simulator, first two hours in simulations with the squadron and then three hours putting the frigate through its paces.
“You look like you had fun.” Wildcat said, a grin on her face, as she walked over.
“I’ve been… “ I caught myself before I could say ‘playing around’, “familiarizing myself with the Stingray-frigate, as you suggested. They are interesting little ships but I’m not sure I would want to serve on one, not without some sort of veto when it comes to the rest of the crew.” I admitted, my nose crinkling a little at the idea to be locked into such a tiny vessel with people you couldn’t stand for some reason. Normally, sure, you had to serve with the people assigned to you and get the job done, but in a ship that had only two bunks for four people, requiring them to sleep in the cockpit, or maybe on the bridge depending on usage, or to hot-slot their bunks? In a ship that had less space than most apartments for two people, with the added problem that you couldn’t leave the area to calm down? I wasn’t sure I could do that with anyone, certainly not with people I didn’t know.
“I think I know what you mean. Those ships are quite intimate affairs but on most missions, Fleet-Command reduces the crew to two, maybe three people. That makes it less secure, relying on automatic systems quite a lot but it makes it less problematic.” Wildcat admitted and we shared a shudder at the idea to be stuck in such an incredibly tiny ship, with people we didn’t like.
“Did you go through the training for Corvette and Destroyer?” I asked, curious what I could expect there.
“Yes, I did. I might even have been assigned to missions on a Corvette but those might have been secret.” she grinned, the message clear but I didn’t need to know about specific situations, merely her opinion was enough for me.
“Corvettes are mostly designed with escort-duties in mind. The Beliar-Class doesn’t have a lot when it comes to weapons, a couple plasma-cannons, some light to defend against fighters, some heavy to defend against capital ships. But they are not designed to actually fight, they are supposed to find the enemy, find them and guide others to do their fighting.” she paused for a moment, before continuing on their actual usage.
“The Starfleet loves to combine a Fleet-Carrier with a couple Corvettes while a destroyer or two and a couple of frigates act as screening elements. It allows them to project the fire-power of multiple Raptor-Squadrons without risking any serious capital-ships. It sucks to be thought of as expendable but, at the end of the day, it’s easier to replace a squadron Starfighters than it is to replace a destroyer with a crew of fifty.”
I could see the logic, if a Corvette could direct Starfighters as well as a Cruiser like the Merathorn, that would mean they would project almost the same amount of power, just with a lot less people involved and thus at risk. Nodding, I prompted her to continue and she did, maybe she was just happy to have a captive audience.
“Destroyers on the other hand are what it says on the label. They destroy, capital ships, most of the time. They are mostly designed around their primary weapon, whatever is en-vogue at the time they are designed. The current Turnbull-class isn’t quite agile enough to make antimatter-torpedos work, they can’t reliably get into range to use them, so their centerpiece is a massive, battleship sized plasma-cannon. But other than that, they don’t have a lot going for them, some plasma-cannons to defend them against fighters and smaller craft but they are purpose-build to do one thing and one thing only. They are damned good at it, to the point that without Starfighters, a single destroyer would completely savage the Merathorn but that strength is also their weakness. Even a single Raptor, if the pilot is willing to sacrifice their life, can break a Destroyer.” she explained and again, I nodded along.
Flying a Destroyer sounded both interesting and boring at the same time. Interesting because having a massive weapon to play with might be interesting. But it was designed the way it was so it could stay away from the action, keeping its distance while shooting at other capital ships. No actual flying involved, merely being a conductor for the computer.
Before I could make up my mind if having a big, effin’ gun was worth the boredom, Commodore Ryker called me over and informed me that, at the beginning of my next shift, I was expected on the Bridge for my orientation.
After thanking him again, I walked back to the simulators, ready to give the other simulations a spin, to see if Wildcat’s tales were as accurate as I expected them to be. I had to giggle at the thought that maybe I’d get a turn to fly the Merathorn. I doubted it, it would be against all regulations, but it was a fun thought to see how agile I could make the massive ship dance.