By Grand Inquisitor Dask
The battleship! All armchair admirals dream of them. Those huge, hulking behemoths of a bygone era with their immense cannons, thick hulls, and majestic proportions invoke awe in even the most jaded of wargamers or the most ardent of aircraft carrier proponents. Conventional wisdom towards the end of the 20th century was that the battleship was obsolete, a relic of a time before the guided missile and the hypersonic stealth fighter. Conventional wisdom was wrong.
On February 15, 2228 the Dilgar Imperium would shatter this myth forever with their assault on the now-nearly-extinct Alacans. At the center of their forces, commanding the entire operation, was a massive Mishakur-class dreadnought, a ship soon to become among the most feared vessels ever seen in this part of the galaxy. The fires of the Dilgar War would rage for several years before Earth Alliance finally intervened, but even before the war began the seeds for the largest, most powerful battleship no one has ever heard of were born.
Senator Ishmael Netanyahu of Israel was both a historian and a pacifist. He was also chairman of the Senate Committee on Earth Force Naval Affairs (SCEFNA) which was charged with approving funding for virtually all major projects within the Earth Force navy. He did not like the military and he specifically did not like the navy due to their propensity to ask for funding for larger and larger ships and then build those ships to even greater specifications than originally planned as well as significantly over-budget. His interest in history and frustration with Earth Force over these issues led him to a similar, yet starkly dissimilar, senator from centuries past.
Senator Benjamin R. Tillman (D-SC), called Pitchfork Ben by both friends and opponents for his violent temper and tendency towards demagoguery, was not a pleasant man. He was an ardent racist and was once censured for assaulting his fellow senator from South Carolina on the senate floor! However he, like Senator Netanyahu over three hundred years later, was the head of a governmental committee charged with keeping naval spending under control. Like Senator Netanyahu, Senator Tillman became tired of the United States Navy requisitioning funds for ever-larger battleships and then going over the budget given to them. As a result, in late 1916, Senator Tillman made a request to the navy to design "maximum battleships", I.E. the largest battleships the Navy could actually use. His line of thinking apparently was that the Navy was creeping up on this goal incrementally anyway, so they may as well skip the intermediate designs and get on to the end product. The resulting designs, some of which massed as much as 80,000 tons, had twenty-four guns in six-gun turrets, and all of which measured nearly three hundred meters in length, were some of the largest and most heavily armed and armored vessels ever conceived of. The U.S. Navy never once seriously considered building them. However, for the rest of the so-called "battleship era", whenever the Navy proposed a new battleship that would set a new size standard, someone in Congress would drag out these old design proposals for consideration. Amazingly, while none were ever built, the design sketches influenced nearly every battleship built by the United States after 1917.
Three hundred years later Senator Netanyahu found these ancient designs and requested that Earth Force apply the same concepts to a space battleship. The dimensions of the original sketches had been dictated by the specific limitations imposed by the locks of the Panama Canal. With a length of just over 297 meters, width of nearly 33 meters, and draught of ten meters no battleship was ever built to their dimensions, though some aircraft carriers would later actually exceed them. Thus the limits to a modern "maximum battleship" were imposed by the standard width of an Earth Alliance jump gate. A number of design proposals were dreamed up to placate the Israeli senator, declared impossible, and promptly forgotten for half a decade.
Enter the Abbai Loremistress Kalika. Charged by her superiors with finding a way to convince Earth Alliance to enter the war (something Senator Netanyahu had ironically been adamantly against previously), she delved into Earth history and found the obvious parallels between the Dilgar and Nazi Germany. Acting quickly, she contacted both her superiors and several dozen different human individuals and organizations. As she did this, the Markab colony of Tiree fell to encroaching Dilgar forces placing them only one jump away from the Earth colony of Altair and sending the Earth Force senate into a veritable panic. Two days later, backed by the officials from the Anti-Defamation League, Bnai Brith delegates, historians from the Simon Weisenthal Center, and Senator Netanyahu himself, Loremistress Kalika made her presentation to the senate spelling out in precise detail who and what the Dilgar were. Film footage showing the twisted survivors of Dilgar "medical" experiments alongside ancient still photos of Holocaust survivors cut straight to the core of an Earth that had thankfully managed to "never forget". Eighteen hours later, the President gave the go-ahead to begin the liberation of League Space.
Early on in Earths involvement in the war, a number of deficiencies in Earth vessels were uncovered. Chief among these was the inadequate range of Earth weaponry. Therefore it was with great interest that captured heavy bolters were studied by Earth Force R&D personnel. Even the mighty Nova-class Dreadnought, generally considered insanely over-gunned by virtually any standard, was rather unimpressive at long ranges due to poor fire control, insufficient electronic warfare capability, and inadequate weaponry. Fired by righteous indignation and backed by some of the oldest and most powerful political organizations on Earth, Senator Netanyahu resurrected the "maximum battleship" proposals, asked that they be redesigned to mount captured heavy bolters, and then applied a truly astonishing amount of political pressure to get the funding to build a prototype. The resulting warship was huge by any standards, powerful by all but First One standards, and nearly completely unknown. Mounting no less than fifteen heavy bolters, a dozen standard particle beams and eight Mk. I interceptors, the Tillman was the most powerful ship in Earth Force for over a quarter of a century. In the flurry of the war, however, its approval was virtually ignored and so many vessels contributed to the war effort that the Tillmans involvement went almost completely unnoticed even by the usually attentive Earth Alliance media.
E.A.S. TILLMAN ALPHA HEAVY BATTLESHIP - DILGAR WAR
Initially kept secret to better surprise the Dilgar when it finally slipped its moorings the massive vessel, christened the EAS Tillman in honor of the ancient and irascible senator, participated in only six battles during the entire war. However on those six occasions the Tillman managed to achieve a number of combat kills exceeding any other vessel from any other race, including the Dilgar, in the entire war! Indeed, it was the Tillman at the Battle of Omelos that delivered the killing shots to Warmaster JhaDurs flagship dreadnought, Dominant Destiny. Jumping out of hyperspace directly in front of the fleeing Dilgar vessel, the Tillman connected with over a half dozen heavy bolters reducing the enemy vessel to partially melted debris before slamming into the burning hulk and forever closing the door on Dilgar dreams of conquest and empire. The most damage sustained by the Tillman in the entire war, indeed at any time until its destruction over twenty-five years later, occurred during that accidental ramming of the still-exploding Dilgar dreadnought.
With the end of the Dilgar War, the realization set in that the Tillman, while devastating on the field of battle, was little more than a money-pit in peacetime. Conceived of during the heat of war, the Tillman had never been designed for the sort of reduced military funding and concurrent reduced maintenance forced on Earth Force after the war, so like many of her contemporaries she was quietly mothballed and forgotten. As a result and despite her impressive war record, even after the war the Tillman was largely unknown to the general public and even many military officials knew nothing of the huge battleship. And so it was that the massive warship was almost completely forgotten for over ten years.
Forgotten, that is, until 2245 when a Hyperion-class Heavy Cruiser opened fire on a Sharlin-class Warcruiser and all hell broke loose. At the outset of hostilities between Earth Alliance and the Minbari Federation, the Tillman was only six months away from being stricken from Earth Forces reserve roster and sold for scrap. With the outbreak of war, a hasty upgrade was performed which saw the Tillman fitted with the only known examples of the Heavy Pulse/Bolter Array.
E.A.S. TILLMAN BETA HEAVY BATTLESHIP - UPGRADE I - MINBARI WAR
While the array worked beautifully, being arguably better than the Laser/Pulse Arrays on the Nova-class Dreadnoughts of the time and much easier to service, it suffered the stigma of using Dilgar weaponry and was therefore never fitted on any other vessel. Unfortunately once the Tillman put to space again the war was half over and Earth was already against the ropes. Worse, the Minbari, who refused to engage the massive vessel, actively avoided the Tillman. No fools, the Minbaris sensors told them all they needed to know about the huge battleship. It was clearly powerful enough to destroy even a Shargoti-class battlecruiser and appeared to be too tough to simply slice to shreds like all the other Earth Force vessels of the time. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on ones point of view), the Tillman was quite simply too slow and lacking in maneuverability to force the issue. It was this lack of maneuverability and ability to simply avoid it that saved the Tillman from destruction at the Battle of the Line. The Minbari simply avoided it, intending to save it for late in the battle when they could assign a half dozen or so cruisers to pounding it to scrap at their own leisure.
And so it was that the Tillman survived another war virtually intact. Banished to mothballs soon after the end of the war, the Tillman was again forgotten for over a decade until a desperate President Clark ordered her reactivation and modernization for use in the defense of Earth.
E.A.S. TILLMAN GAMMA HEAVY BATTLESHIP - UPGRADE II - EARTH CIVIL WAR
Refitted with the new Heavy Laser/Pulse Array, the Tillman was converted into one of the most powerful ships in the galaxy. Fortunately for Captain Sheridans forces, President Clark was something of a tech-toy freak that regarded the "relic of the Dilgar War" with contempt and neglected to post a sufficiently loyal crew aboard the Tillman. The captain of the Tillman during this period realized the chance presented to him and bided his time until the inevitable assault on Earth when he, his crew, and his ship finally made their move. Cruising unchallenged between a pair of Command Omegas loyal to Clark, the Tillman opened fire on both of them at point-blank range with heavy lasers, pulse cannons, and smaller particle cannons instantly gutting both ships. This was the Tillmans undoing, however, as vengeful loyalists broke off battle with other vessels and converged on the traitors with all guns blazing. Four Omegas, three Novas, and half a dozen Hyperions poured fire into the Tillman for nearly five minutes until she finally broke up into a shattered field of debris. But not before the Tillman destroyed two more Omegas, crippled a third, and blew all six Hyperions to plasma and component atoms. The remaining Novas and Omegas either surrendered or were destroyed by Sheridans forces, all of which had been ignored in the loyalist rush to destroy the Tillman. Unfortunately this came too late to save the dying battleship which disappeared in an expanding cloud of gas and super-heated hull fragments from the furious onslaught.
This was not the end of the EAS Tillman or the "maximum battleship", however. Soon after the war ended, Earth Force commissioned a new design using the same basic concepts but incorporating the new technologies gained through membership in the Interstellar Alliance. This new battleship took the better part of fifteen years to complete as the original Tillman had been built during a war and with no concern for peacetime realities. Also, a huge number of new technologies made the new Tillman a constantly evolving design. It wasnt until the Drakh assault on Earth in 2267 that the Tillman was put to space in a frantic defense of Earth.
E.A.S. TILLMAN DELTA HEAVY BATTLESHIP - DRAKH LINE
At first the Drakh refused to believe what their sensors were telling them. Their traitorous human agent, Samuel Drake, had known nothing of the Tillmans construction and the Drakh quite simply did not believe Earth could build anything as large and powerful as what they were seeing. Three cruisers and nearly two dozen raider-ships later, they became believers. Easily surviving the battle and with far less damage than most other ships present, the Tillman, along with the three sister-ships eventually built to make her economically viable, served Earth Alliance and the Interstellar Alliance as a whole quite well for the next sixty-eight years.
Upon her decommissioning and conversion into a naval museum in 2335, the name Tillman and the "maximum battleship" did not exist anywhere in the galaxy for almost four hundred years. Early in the 2700s, however, a brushfire war along Interstellar Alliance borders caused an increasingly paranoid and insular Earth Alliance to quietly begin a new military build-up program. While the wars and paranoia eventually passed, a new "maximum battleship" and a new EAS Tillman were completed before the tension subsided. This new Tillman was barely completed before being sent directly into mothballs where it sat until 2762 when expansionist forces within Earth Alliance decided to make this ignored and largely unknown battleship a part of their plans to break away from the Interstellar Alliance. These plans did not come to pass however due to their own arrogance and miscalculations and a number of mysterious circumstances at a secret military facility near Earth. Much like President Clark five hundred years earlier, this coalition of subversives had little more than contempt for the forty-year-old battleship and much like President Clark, they made the mistake of positioning a less-than-loyal crew aboard the Tillman.
They did not survive their mistake.
E.A.S. TILLMAN EPSILON HEAVY BATTLESHIP - GREAT BURN -
Special Rules: The Tillman-class battleships require very few special rules, but they do have some unique qualities. All of them have two engines, which are handled just like the multiple engines on Dilgar ships, and two reactors, which is a concession to the immense power requirements of the designs. As stated in the Rules Compendium, if either reactor is destroyed, the ship is destroyed along with them. The Tillman Beta upgrade to the original ship (from the Earth/Minbari War) uses the otherwise unique Heavy Pulse/Bolter Array which operates much the same as a Laser/Pulse Array, but with a bolter taking the place of the laser in the array. All rules regarding arming and firing the L/PA and the HL/PA also apply to the HP/BA. The Tillman Gamma mounts Improved Blast Lasers taken from the Streib during Clarks regime when Earth Force concluded that they must be the mysterious aggressors responsible for the destruction of the EAS Cerberus. As far as is known, the Tillman Gamma and her three sister ships were the only Earth Force vessels to ever mount these weapons. The weapons of the Tillman Epsilon, not designed until four and a half centuries after the Tillman Gamma, require special attention.
Improved Laser Concentrator: This weapon is an improvement on the Laser Concentrator, a weapon designed in the middle of the 25th century, and a distant relative of the Gaim Particle Concentrator and the Streib Improved Blast Laser. Applying the concepts of the Particle Concentrator to laser weapons, this impressive heavy weapon combines high damage yield and the ability to combine fire with the innate ability of laser weapons to avoid interception. The basic weapon inflicts an impressive 4D10+20 in either Raking (12) or Piercing (Standard) mode. Piercing (Standard) mode functions just like normal Piercing mode except that the volleys are applied as Standard damage with overkill bleeding over into structure instead of being lost. In addition, up to eight other Improved Laser Concentrators on the same ship or on other nearby vessels may combine fire in exactly the same manner as the Gaim Particle Concentrator for enhanced effects. Each additional Improved Laser Concentrator involved in a combined shot adds +2 to Fire Control and +1D10 to the final damage for a potential maximum of +16 to hit and +8D10 to damage.
Twin Pulse Plasma Array: Essentially an advanced combination of the familiar twin array, light pulse cannon, and light plasma cannon, the Twin Pulse Plasma Array mounts two Light Pulse Plasma Cannons, weapons developed at approximately the same time as the original Laser Concentrator in the mid-25th century. No particular special rules apply other than the usual ones regarding twin arrays, pulse cannons, and plasma weapons.
AFP Array: Standing for Aegis Field Projector Array, the AFP Array combines aspects of a half dozen different modern defense systems such as the Interceptor, Plasma Web, and Gravitic Shield for a very flexible and effective defensive weapon. In defensive mode, the AFP Array lowers the vessels defense profiles by the Intercept Rating listed in the weapon statistics as well as reduces the damage caused on impact just like a Shield. Switching between Defensive and Offensive mode can be done with no delay just like a Heavy Interceptor, and in Offensive mode the device does the listed damage as if it were a Plasma weapon, ignoring half of a targets armor. Finally, the Intercept Rating of the AFP Array can be improved through the allocation of Electronic Warfare points in exactly the same manner as a Particle Impeder.
I would like to express my best and sincere thanks to Grand Inquisitor Dask, whose fantasy, ideas, concepts and perseverance allowed to build this page, and were at the origin of these drawings, (some of the best i've made, in my view.) - L.M.T.