Whitley’s Guide – Vulcan

This article originally appeared in Jump Point 7.12.

Aegis Dynamics Vulcan

INITIAL DEVELOPMENT

Like many Aegis Dynamics spacecraft, the Vulcan support ship has a long and storied history that stretches back several centuries to the height of the Messer era. In 2590, innovations in fuel refinement allowed ships to spend longer on the drift, so the UEEN requested proposals for a medium-sized support spacecraft with the flexibility to conduct both refueling and rearming operations. Given the military contracting process at the time, it was a foregone conclusion that Aegis would be awarded the project. Nevertheless, the Vulcan team opted to go beyond the military specification and develop what they referred to as a true ‘three R’ spacecraft: one capable of rearming, refueling, and repairing. Aegis’ designers reasoned that if they could deliver a ship capable of supporting smaller fighters and bombers (rapidly becoming a more important aspect of naval doctrine), they would have a chance at building something instrumental to the UEEN’s arsenal longer term.

Early prototypes would be completely different spacecraft compared to the models released three and a half centuries later. Early Vulcans lacked the BARD drones of the modern version, meaning that each of the three main processes had to be accomplished manually in a considerably more dangerous way. After a series of early accidents destroyed several Vulcans, engineers developed a process by which munitions were kept inert and then activated by remote once loaded. Early refueling using the Vulcan platform was a more difficult proposition. Spacecraft were required to maneuver extremely close and connect via external probe for the duration of fueling. Unlike with munitions, there was no option to make quantum fuel inert; crews were keenly aware of the increased danger during refueling. In ideal situations, refueling was done at a full stop. However, this was often not possible under combat conditions, earning Vulcan crews the genuine respect of fighter and bomber squads. However, repair was a comparatively simple process, with the ship’s rear compartment allowing the storage of repair tools and supplies that could be easily accessed by crewmen in external maneuvering suits.

As was common of support spacecraft at the time, the early Vulcans were completely unarmed and featured limited armor. As advances in process and military strategy improved over the decades, the Vulcan’s defensive capabilities would be reworked significantly.

The resulting ship, formally launched in 2594, impressed the UEEN on its formal review, prompting them to order nearly four times the number stated in the original proposal. As the ship found its place in active service, Aegis prioritized future development to keep it from becoming obsolete. Changes to the Vulcan platform happened rapidly as the company adapted to battlefield reports and worked to integrate the latest technology. Within a decade, the simple but dangerous ‘workshop’ concept for repair operations had been replaced with a formalized process using manipulator arms, while training for in-flight refueling had improved and significantly reduced casualties. Changes to all three of the Vulcan’s processes would occur regularly, supported by Aegis at every turn. The modern Vulcan took shape in 2895 with the adoption of Saga Datasystems BARD drones that standardized the ship’s support functions and significantly reduced danger. By using the soon-to-be industry standard drones instead of developing their own, the overall cost-per-unit of the Vulcan was reduced and Aegis entered into a strategically important relationship with an up-and-coming technology company.

THE VULCAN AT WAR

The Vulcan was first bloodied in 2603 during the early battles of the Second Tevarin War. By the start of the conflict, the spacecraft had been part of the UEEN inventory for almost ten years. There it had proven its worth in peacetime, supporting and expanding the range of convoys and patrols. Its first combat missions, however, did not go well. Tevarin forces quickly realized that they could reduce UEE effectiveness by targeting the slow and under-defended support ships. For the first six months of the war, Vulcan losses were significantly heavier than anticipated and a number of strike missions failed when returning bombers were unable to refuel and were destroyed by Tevarin fighters. These problems were solved by both manufacturing and doctrinal changes. Aegis developed a battlefield upgrade for early Vulcans that improved armor and added a defensive turret; changes that would speak to the eventual rework of the ship. The military itself adapted the ship’s role by operating Vulcans in groups of three: one for repair, one for rearming, and one for refueling. These trios were then assigned escort fighters, defending the ships when they came under attack and using their services in downtime.

The Vulcan saw no such problems when first pitted against the Vanduul. In early battles, the Vanduul seemed to have limited interest in targeting support ships at all, instead focusing on engaging fighters and taking others as scrap or prizes. Continued advances to the platform allowed the ships that first battled the Vanduul to be much more effective, both at their core roles and in defending themselves. With drones improving the ‘three Rs’, Vulcans were pressed into service in greater numbers than ever before, both in their traditional roles and as fleet support, with multiple Vulcans often assigned to closely follow destroyers and cruiser squadrons. In recent years, the UEEN has taken to deploying what they refer to as ‘ranged strike groups’ in an attempt to relieve pressure from the Vanduul. These strike groups consist of base-launched fighters and bombers supported by modern Vulcans to significantly extend their range and striking power, allowing them to deploy into enemy held territory to conduct raids. The strategy was developed around the idea of responding in kind to Vanduul anti-commerce raids and seems to be proving effective.

THE VULCAN AT PEACE

The Vulcan expanded beyond its original military role quickly due to the simplicity of the original design. Without military-grade weapons or advanced technologies like drones, the UEE saw little reason in preventing the sale of the design to corporate and private users. This gave the Vulcan its second life as a civilian support ship. Initial marketing was aimed at large corporations operating their own convoys that required support ships to operate safely. Aegis sold civilianized Vulcans in great numbers and, within five years, the design was a staple of well-trodden trade routes.

What Aegis could not have predicted was the ship’s ensuing popularity with so-called ‘wayfarers’. Initially started as an alliance between three hobbyist flying clubs in the late 29th century, wayfarer groups had become a kind of all-for-one do-gooder’s organization supporting independent spacecraft owners. The Vulcan provided exactly what they had been lacking: a uniform flagship capable of providing the kind of assistance they had previously been doggedly adapting civilian spacecraft to offer. Today, you can find these versatile and durable ships in most systems, whether they’re attached to companies, orgs, or as independent service providers.

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