The opposite of that other thread for huge ships – this one is a discussion for our small but sharp-edged friends at the other end of the hull-size scale…
[size=150]Patrol Boats:[/size] larger than fighters, but not by much.
Patrol Boats would be the GSB version of the “PT” patrol torpedo craft used during WW2. Small, flimsy, limited in range, but packing an enourmous punch with seeking weapons. Missiles, torpedoes, rockets and maybe even plasmas would be tehir standard armament. The reason for that would be the extremely limited internal hull volumes, which prohibits large power generators. That would prevent most forms of energy-beam weaponry. Much of its tech may therefore be assumed to be larger adaptations of fighter tech, rather than true starship equipment.
If their GSB presence is to copy that in the real world, then I would imagine patrol boats would form the backbone of the mobile component of local defenses at one planet in a star system. If it’s an inhabited world, these would be under the orders of the local government’s defense commander. Technically, they’d be police units. If the national government cannot spare any fleet assets from the national defense, then (aside from forts or other fixed assets) these police PBs would be the only “warships” that the locals had for protection!
I can likewise imagine a fleet version of the patrol boat class. That kind would be a naval vessel under direct military command. The naval PB would possibly have slightly better (or more numerous?) weapons or other features. it would mainly exist to be ferried in large numbers to battles in other star systems many hyperspace jumps away. Boats like this were used in huge numbers during WW2 to immense effect, especially in the Pacific Ocean.
[size=150]Corvettes:[/size] smaller than frigates, and lacking true long-range capability.
Corvettes can be considered as a coastal patrol vessel used for defense on a limited interstellar scale – perhaps just two or three hyperspace jumps in any direction from the world where you build it (campaign players take note). This would still be better than the travel endurance of the Patrol Boat – the PB’s range would be so tiny as to likely be able to just provide local defense around a single world. Corvettes would therefore become the smallest hull that could operate frigate items. I can picture the CTs having half the weapons of a frigate while retaining most of the noncombat module slots of a frigate.
They could possibly be considered as dedicated high-speed attack craft, and have certain hull bonuses to reflect that role. However, patrol boats are the unit of choice for that fleet role in wet-navy fleets, and I see no reason to change that in GSB. If the PBs are meant to be the “mosquito fleet,” then I think that strongly implies that the CTs would instead be more like the “neighborhood cop walking the beat”; used partly for symbolic importance (“showing the flag”-type political missions at colony worlds on the borders) and less for their actual effectiveness against carriers and dreadnoughts.
The corvettes would also be useful as small scouts for keeping national borders and other sensitive areas under observation in case of hostilities, as well as undertaking small rescue missions for civilian ships. Maybe even priority transport of low-volume but high-value cargoes (medical vaccines, etc.) when civilian freighters are too slow and larger naval vessels are unavailable. When I look at those kinds of missions, it easily allows me to regard the corvette class as a really useful police ship:
- one part combat enforcement,
- one part search-and-rescue,
- one part surveillance,
- one part tow truck for stupid civilians who ran out of antimatter when the next interstellar base is weeks away.
That sort of model for the CTs’ mission profiles makes it easy for me to justify them lacking most of the weaponry that a frigate routinely carries.
[size=150]Destroyers:[/size] larger than frigates but smaller than cruisers. Largest of all the small-ship classes.
Destroyers would be the space version of the honorable old Torpedo-Boat Destroyer class first invented in the late 19th century. As first designed in wet-navy use, DDs were meant to screen large high-value assets such as cruisers and battleships. This would prevent torpedo boats (in GSB, the Patrol Boats) from getting within torpedo/missile/etc. range of the heavy ships. The “destroyer” mission role eventually became the name to describe the size of the hull of the ship with that mission, and that is what most well-read folks will think of when you mention destroyers in this context. See here for more facts about that. At present, DDs are the largest surface warships used in the vast majority of the world’s navies, and have actually pushed cruisers out of the role as general-purpose warships…amazing.
Destroyers could be described in game terms as an extra-large frigate hull that carries signifigantly more slots on account of its much bigger hull. They would therefore be the kings of the small GSB ships, and likely be used singly as leaders for frigate squadrons, or together in formation with other DDs as massed anti-cruiser groups. DDs could carry enough ECM missiles or Ion Cannons to be a major threat to single cruisers straying too far from the edge of their own fleet formation!
Discussion of how to design them, how big the ship graphics should be, the number of slots they should have, and what sort of missions they’d be used for are all part of this topic. Fire away!