AN HISTORYCAL ESSAY
The Primus battlecruiser was, and is still today, more than 200 years after its inception in service, a symbol of the Centauri military power.
The opinions on the Primus are different and opposites: its estimators consider it a perfect matching of firepower, speed, technology, range and endurance, and present its gravimetric integrated propulsion and defence system as an example to be regarded with admiration still today, putting the accent on its polyvalenece and on the good performances it had during the last war in which it was protagonist, the Narn war of 2259.
The detractors perceive the limits of a ship grown obsolescent in the last decades, with limits in the targeting systems, and, mostly, in the structural resistance and in the armour: from their point of view, the Primus suffers of the combination of fragility and limitation of weapon range due to the performances of the fire control systems.
In both of these views there is some bias and some truth, but, anyway, must be acknowledged the fact that the Primus was the reference ship in respect to which were designed and developed the "new generation" units of the Earth Alliance, Narn, LONAW and Dilgar navies in the Early 2200's.
Anyway, the Primus has not only defended (or projected the power of) the Centauri Republic for more than two centuries, but in a certain measure shaped the design schools of many races in contact with the Centauri, both as potential opponents or simply as neighbors.
|The Origins of the Primus: The Centauri-Orieni war|
The origin of the Primus are in a period in which the Centauri faced another powerful civilsation, the Orieni Empire: both the powers had similar territorial extensions and were equivalent in terms of technology, and, if the Centauri Republic was an imperial power, and because of this has been frequently criticized, the Orieni Empire was one of the most evil dictatorships ever seen in the galaxy: an "interest" of the Centauri for a certain populated world meant that the involved people had to choose between becoming part of their "Commonwealth" (and pay taxes to them), or to make a war, lose it, and become a colony with a Centauri governor, thing that was not the best of the situations, but neither the worst one, because, for many cultures, the alternative was the Orieni Empire.
If to live under the Centauri was a disquisible destiny, to fall under the Orieni domination was a nightmare: it meant that the choice was between working camps and extermination camps. The Orieni culture was utterly different from the Centauri one, they had developed a class-based social structure in which the power, political and military, was the most prized goal, and, after centuries of warfare, they became unificated under a single, centralised government, a tyranny in fact, a police state drove by a ruthless and power thirsty ideology in respect to which many dictatorships seen on Earth were a model of tolerance.
The Orieni shared with the Centauri the starting event of their rush to the stars, a jump-capable warship crash-landed on their planet. In that era, the Orieni were a "steam-power" based civilization, about at the same level of the Earth in the late XIX-early XX century. Their technical progress was historically slow: they needed centuries to progress their science and their technology to exploit the finding, but they understood since the beginning what were the implications of "The Ship", and the ideological view and the political will of their government was monolithic: they wanted the stars, they wanted to conquer and dominate them, and, after whole generations of efforts, they succeeded.
The two powers were both large empires when they came in contact: the Orieni were in full expansion, while the Centauri were coming out from a first "redefinition" of their Empire: in fact, they had yet descended from the highest level of their power, and after near a century of external troubles and civil conflicts, with no more than a half of their original empire left, they were through a period that was called the "Second Renaissance" of the Centauri.
Essentially, what happened after the contact was hate at a first glance: for the Orieni, the Centauri were a menace for their dream of dominance, the only real obstacle to overcome. For the Centauri, the Orieni empire was a death menace, period.
After failed attempts of negotiation, the continuous "border incidents" degenerated in an all-out war: in that period the two empires were both at a technological level similar to the one of the Earth Alliance in the mid 2200's, and, if the Orieni had the advantages of superior numbers and a more warfare-oriented culture, the Centauri were better strategists, better tacticians, were still more rich and had a more efficient economic and industrial structure: the Orieni had undervauled the Republic, and after two years of struggle, the Centauri regained the initiative, and, with a series of effective strategic moves, blocked and, later, repelled the Orieni advance.
The two dominions, after seven years of conflict, reached a precarious state of "cold war", essentially due to exhaustion: at that point, the Orieni had suffered heavy losses, but even the Centauri were in bad shape: the price paid was high, and the outcomes uncertain at the best. Even this "cold war" was not something that was expected to endure: the final ordeal was only delayed.
In the Aftermath of the war, the reaction of the Orieni was in accordance with their culture: they squeezed their people and the Empire until the last drop of blood, with a mass production program aimed to build up a fleet capable to overwhelm the Centauri.
The Republic reacted in a someway different way: the Centauri were again at a zenithal point of their culture, not only in political and economical terms, but even socially and scientifically: their society allowed much more space to the individuality and to the culture than the Orieni, and their science and technology walked on his legs at a fast pace.
In the last year of the "First Orieni War", too late to be employed, the Centauri scientists broke a scientific barrier, and became capable to generate artificial gravity fields. Was needed a small time for them to understand clearly what were the three potential fields of application: beyond the environment, the gravimetric field projectors gave improvements in terms of defence, allowing the generation of a "tidal shield" that reduced the effects of the energy weapons and, mostly, was possible to build a gravimetric drive as propulsion system for a spaceship.
The research and development activity brought rainfall benefits even for the weapon systems: in that same period the Centauri developed the Ion Cannons, and improved the design of their "battle laser" (improper definition of a weapon that is in fact a powerful and long ranged particle cannon).
The gravitic technology was revolutionary: a ship with a stand-alone gravimetric drive is not necessarily faster or more maneuverable than a warship that uses only newtonian engines like fusion plasma rockets (the Primus is relatively maneuverable and fast because it uses both of them), but beyond the overall benefits in terms of tactical mobility, there is a field in which a gravimetric drive is unmatched: the extremely low fuel (or better, propellant) consumption, that allows endurance, range and hyperspace speeds of an order of magnitude higher respect to the ones of a Newtonian ship.
This had an enormous strategical significance: the Centauri forces could have been enabled to move quickly massive fleets to defend their vast territory and operate with unexperimented speed and range well inside the Orieni empire, with no logistic constraints, outmaneuvering the enemies at strategic level: the superior acceleration, the new ion weapons and the gravitic deflection systems would have dealt with the tactical situations.
The ship that in an enormous technical bet integrated and exploited all these new technologies was an elegant design, a cruiser that was called "Primus", the first of a new generation. It was a success beyond every expectation: the Primus maintained all its promises, and, for a combination of vision, scientific capability and good luck, it was born relatively free of bugs, and was easy to be tuned and sent in production with all the industrial and economic power of the Centauri Republic behind it, and an experienced and capable class of militaries well able to understand its potentailities and exploit them at their best.
Twenty years after their first confrontation, the Orieni were confident of the superiority given by a terrific force of more than 10000 warships, and made their move, invading the Centauri Republic: the Centauri were ready.
The old generation, non-gravimetric ships, re-equipped with Ion Cannons and improved battle lasers were dedicated to the territorial defence, and their enhanced firepower dealed well with the Orieni numerical superiority, but thanks to an unprecedented effort (were at stake not only the freedom, but the survival of the Centauri people) the Republic's shipyards had yet rushed in service about one thousand Primus cruisers, that, organised in fleets of dozens and dozens of ships, stroke quickly indeep the Orieni rear lines, and begun to hit well inside their territory.
The Orieni invasion fleets were fought and their advance was stalled by the improved Centauri defensive units, and found themselves in troubles when the Primuses task forces tore in pieces their logistic structure and raided the supply lines: the Invasion was repelled, but the war was only in its initial phase.
The new Centauri cruisers seemed capable to jump in the less defended areas, whip away the local defences, strike hardly, and disappear in the hyperspace only to come out at light years of distance in a time incredibly low, exactly in the areas left ill defended.
A few months of counterattacks and deep strikes stitched the Orieni forces in a defensive position: the Primus dominated the space lanes, and their communications and production structure was near to collapse: too many shipyards were destroyed by deep strikes and by relentless hit and run attacks, too many valuable resources insulated, under siege, conquered. Too many subjugated peoples saw the Centauri as potential liberators from the iron grip of the hated Orieni: their core military, still powerful and strong in numbers put up a stiff resistance, but they were beaten strategically: the Centauri had to sweath for their victories, but their Navy and their Army were better guided and at this point better equipped, the Orieni had to face internal revolts, and, after four years of war, the Centauri came out as the undisputed winners.
What was left of the Orieni empire was
not more a threath: it lost large part of its territory and most
of its colonies, and, mostly, it was deprivated of all the
workforce of the enslaved races: the Centauri maintained their
promise "no one, never, will be again slave of the
Orieni", and dozens of worlds that suffered for deacdes or
centuries under the whip and the dark ferocity of the Orieni
dictators were well happy to become part of the
"Commonwealth" of the Centauri Republic, gaining in
this way a more human and dignified life and a superior level of
freedom: the taxes of the Centauri (that in that period were
quite light) were a small price to pay in respect to the slavery
and the genetic cleansing of the Orieni.
This was possibly the finest moment of the Centauri Republic: Again at the zenith of their power and wealth, they controlled a vast territory of more than 50 systems between colonies, outposts and associated civilizations, their dominance was temperated by a high level of tolerance and respect and low impositions, in terms of taxes and, mostly, in terms of limitation of Freedom: the whole enlarged Centauri Republic knew more than a century of peace, prestige, wealth and safety for all the peoples that lived under its flag.
The governments that came out later were
not as wise as the one that defeated the Orieni and build the
marvelous architecture of the Centauri "Second empire":
courage, honour and pride, that were the corner stones of the
Centauri civilization, became arrogance and ferocity; wisdom and
intelligence gave place to calculus and wiles. The Noble Houses,
that were crucibles of leaders, soldiers, enterpreneurs,
lawmakers and philosophers became clans of political climbers.
A certain political stagnation, lazyness, bribery, egocentrism, a poor management of the finance and of the wealth of a so large dominion, the will to renew with new conquests the glory of the past decades and centuries, the high fiscal pressure, the reappearance of slavery, planted the seeds of the troubles that would have shacked the Centauri civilisation and its neighbours until our era, but the Great Republic that flourished for decades on the wave of the victory against the Orieni was really one of the greatest and most splendid civilties ever seen in this side of the galaxy, and the Primus cruiser was the instrument that build it.
The Primus, still elegant and deadly, is
a design more rational than what it could seem at a first glance.
Its architecture is built around the gravimetric drive and the reactors and plasma engines that feed and flank it, and are the characteristics of the gravitic system that dictate the "stingray" shape of this ship, whose driving design concept was the maximisation of the power to mass rate.
The hull is a catamaran design, each of the semihulls holds its own engineering section with two fusion reactors, each one coupled to a plasma engine, a gravimetric field generation system, and, in each bow, the large and confortable "non-combat time" crew compartments (With the luxury of a fully operational artificial gravity); in combat, the crew stays in a better protected and armoured section of the central hull, that holds command decks, elaboration and control systems, sensors and communication equipment and the combat operation center.
To each hull, rearward, on the engines section, is attached the double fin of the main gravimetric projector, while at the tip of the "wings" is attached a smaller gravitic projector that is used to shape the field in order to allow a superior maneuverability and better acceleration. The "wings" were designed as a structure with a dual task: a frame for the external gravimetric fins that holds in its large internal space the tanks of fuel (liquid deuterium) for the fusion reactors, used even as propellant for the plasma engines: this choice to use deuterium both as fuel and propellant allows optimal management of endurance, range and speed, but, being a low density fuel has the drawback of requiring large tanks in respect of the liquid xenon used by the Earth Alliance (density 3.3, against 1.0 of water and 0.187 of liquid deuterium). It is even very expensive.
between the hulls, connected by a box structure, are placed from the bow to the stern, the hangar, the command and control center, an auxiliary fusion reactor with its own power generation system, and, rearward, is attached the long "sting" of the "gravitic accelerator", a powerful gravimetric projector to which the Primus owes its high normal space acceleration and hyperspace speed.
The two hyperspace jump vortex generators are placed in the two elongated fuses that can be observed in the middle of the wings.
If the whole architecture and the power and propulsion system seem too much complex, must be said that, in first, it was the first gravimetric ship ever conceived by the Centauri, second that the gravimetric system was designed to provide not only propulsion, but even manoeuvre and generation of the gravimetric defence field, and, last but not lest, it worked and works affordably and effectively. The whole reactor system provides power enough, but not in excess, to feed the power thirsty gravimetric systems, the sensors, the jump engines and the weapon system.
The materials employed and the structural design are good, but overall inferior to the actual EA technology: the main structural material is a composite of carbon filaments in a polymeric matrix, with performances close to the commercial level EA plasteel, but many structural members, particularly the ribs (but not the main structural beams, the covering and the bulkheads, that are of plasteel) are made of high quality titanium alloy or light aluminium alloy, this last used only in the non critical parts, to allow cost and weight savings. The frame is light and sufficiently strong in many circumstance but the most demanding, and its real conceptual limit is that it is complex and expensive to build, a trait that can be related to an industry that can count on nearly unlimited resources and a large and very skilled workforce, as it was the Centauri one at the time of the Orieni war. *(See note 1)
The passive defence is based upon a layer of spaced armour, that combines the sandwich concept with the use of crystalline tecnology and refractory ceramic elements: it was a good (more than acceptable, in fact) protection against the beam weapons used at the time of the conception of the ship, but actually it is not up to the task, even if it is not as "paper thin" as it is rumored of: the armour of the Primus is still not easy to pierce for the most commonly used beam weapons, it is vulnerable only to really powerful cannons, like the ones used on the Narn's G'Quan heavy cruisers or the Omega Destroyers.
The defence against the plasma/bolt weapons is based essentially upon the dissipative effect of the gravimetric field, and this protection, while conceptually effective, has two weaknesses: in first there is a threshold beyond which its effect is negligible, and, second, it can maintain its effectiveness only for a limitated amount of time: if the Primus can exploit this time to reply to the fire and win the fight, it works well, elsewhere the ship becomes vulnerable, and armour and structure have not the sturdyness to take hard punishments.**(See note 2)
In tactical terms, the really interesting asset of the Primus is the weapon system: the long range offensive power is represented by four fixed, wing mounted particle cannons, commonly called "battle lasers", weapons that have good power, and, mostly, an high coherence of the beam, that implies long range and good piercing power.
The medium and short range fighting is left to eight VOSS twin Ion cannon turrets, placed stacked on the upper and lower faces of the twin hulls: the power of the single bolts of the VOSS is relatively high, but high rate of fire and good piercing power allow to this weapon system a devastating short range effect. The point defence is based upon eight small calibre, high rate of fire bolters. The Primus, as is to be expected in an attack ship, can concentrate all its firepower in the forward arc, and with impressive effects.
The Primus, while old, is still a very good ship, and maintains a certain margin in terms of mobility and manoeuverability and an impressive firepower. The critics to the "weakness" of this ship must take into account some considerations: in first, the Primus is a cruiser, not a dreadnought, and was designed to fight ships well different in respect to units like Sharlins, Omegas, Warlocks and so on. A Primus is still superior to an Hyperion cruiser, even to the updated models, and the superior resistance of the EA ships (the only ones, besides the Minbari that can really be considered vastly superior to the Centauri cruiser in terms of passive defence) is related to designs that not only exasperate the structural and material engineering (EA) or are technologically more advanced (Minbari), but, for the EA, can count even on the superior effectiveness of the interceptors and E-Web grid: the Primus is still superior to almost all the ships that can be commonly fielded by the Narns and by large part of the LONAW: from all the point of viws, and with the limits of its age, a Primus is still a dangerous old warrior, a very good cruiser, and, at its times, was an impressive masterpiece of technology.
* NOTE 1 - The expensive and time consuming manufacturing is a common trait of many alien shipbuilding schools: the Minbari ships, barred their enormous tecnologycal superiority, are not designed as mass production vessels, and even many other shipbuilders show non-optimised designs: the curved shapes of the Brakiri or of the Lumati, Hyachs, Yolu and many other ships can be beautiful to see, but represent a waste of time, money and resources, a sin that can be forgiven if it is flanked by a superior technology like it is for the Minbari or the Centauri, but still a sin - our sin is that the EA ships, for unanimous opinion, while admirably effective, are quite ugly.
* NOTE 2 - The Primus is a ship overall superior to the best units produced by the Dilgars, the Meshakur battleship and the Sekhmet cruiser: even after decades of efforts the Narns, with the G'Quan heavy cruiser, were capable to build a ship up to the task to fight effectively against it, but at the best it was a fair match.
The older (pre-2220's) Earth Alliance ships were barely capable to stand against a Primus only due to their thoughness and the interceptors and e-web grid, and at short ranges they had firepower enough to eventually win the confrontation, but they were, ship to ship, quite inferior. Only with the Nova dreadnoughts we had a warship significantly superior in respect to the Primus, but the superiority of the EA dreadnoughts was due to the exasperation of what was available to us: three times the fighter line of a Primus, three times its mass, three times the number of artillery pieces (and in fact a vastly higher firepower), and a much thicker and effective armour, supported by the exclusive technology of interceptors and E-Web.
The Novas were designed to beat the Dilgars and outfight even the Primus and were well able to do this, but represented an unprecedented technical and industrial effort. Must anyway be noticed that a Nova costs less than a Primus: this consideration must not be considered as detrimental for the Primus, but, at the end, a testament of the efficiency, or better, of the gritty realism of our technology.
Type: Battle Cruiser
Length: 1284 meters
Mass: 15.5 million metric tons
Acceleration: 3.45 G
Fighters: 8*Sentri heavy fighters.
Other: 2 transatmospheric and 1 exotamospheric shuttles.
4*Linear striction Fusion Reactors.
1*Tokamak high intensity fusion reactor
1*Tavari "Silverwing" Gravitic Drive integrated system.
4*Tromo KK756 Plasma engines.
2*Jump Vortex generators.
4*House Tromo "M-5 Battle Laser" High Energy Particle beam cannons. *
8*House Tavari Arnmament Co. "VOSS" Twin heavy ion cannons. **
8*House Tavari Arnmament Co. "Artel" Antifighter pulse bolters. ***
2*Missile launching tubes, with 40 medium range missiles.
Can be installed a mass driver for planetary bombardment, but in this case the four ion turrets on the lower faces of the hulls must be dismantled.
2.5 to 3.25 meters of crystallyne/ceramic spaced armour; gravimectric "tidal effect" dissipative field.
Notes on the weapons:
Primus Battle Cruiser of the Royal Centauri Navy