-Captain Michael Philipp
The Diligent-class Combat Support Tender is a support ship class serving in the Free Planets Defense Force. Although designed as a support ship with the role of aiding damaged ships in battle, the Diligent-class carries a heavy armament and is heavily shielded to allow it to withstand the rigors of combat. It is larger than all standard Alliance battleships, although not significantly so, and is primarily assigned to support divisions although it is commonly deployed to the front lines to carry out emergency repairs and provide assistance to combat ships. Aside from the class leader and a few other early-model ships, all currently-serving Diligent-class ships are named after Earth or Alliance cities.
The development of the Diligent-class combat support tender began as a result of the Chousin War, which among other things highlighted the dire need to bolster the defenses of Alliance warships as well as the need for a more survivable engineering vessel. The Mule-class engineering ship previously used for combat support duties quickly showed itself to be inadequate for the task, lacking the weapons or shields to defend itself or its target vessel, and lacking the internal space to carry large supplies of replacement material. Casualties began to mount among the support divisions as Mule-class ships nonetheless attempted to assist their stricken comrades and often fell prey to the very same enemy fire that had damaged the target stricken vessel in the first place. As a secondary role, it was evaluated that Alliance warships on their own lacked sufficient shield strength to stand up to a Juraian battle fleet on their own, and that some form of bolstering shield strength was also required.
A new ship was hence designed which would fill these dual roles, being significantly larger than the cruiser-sized Mule-class and capable of holding its own in a major fleet battle. Many features of the Mule-class, such as the powerful engines and large launch bays were retained, but moved into a larger hull that would provide more space for additional armaments, defenses, and support equipment. The main reactor system was switched from cruiser-grade C8P reactors to heavier battleship-grade B6P reactors to provide power for the new energy-hungry systems.
The initial design was finished in a short two months, and the first ships were rolled off the lines three weeks later. While the class leader was retained at home for trials and as a testbed, the first half-dozen ships were immediately deployed to the front, and proved to be enormously successful, contributing to the lopsided victory at the Battle of the Balcora Gate by significantly reducing allied casualties. Full-scale production began shortly after at the Gleipnir Naval Shipyards, a facility dedicated to the production of combat support ships including the large Ulithi-class mobile shipyard.
DesignIn order to house all of the necessary systems for her mission along with storage bays for construction materials, the Diligent-class is actually larger than most Alliance battleships, even the Triglav- and Shiva-class heavy battleships. The ship is irregularly but symmetrically shaped, the un-streamlined design made necessary by the need to rapidly deploy support apparatuses from the bow with material storage in the rear. The center of the ship houses most of the critical systems, including the bridge, main reactors, and fortress shield generator, which is emitted from the dorsal and ventral areas of the ship.
The main engines are still located in the rear of the ship, with the cargo modules located on either side. Launch bays are housed along the forward ventral axis, launching the ship's complement of drones and manned vehicles directly downward, an unusual arrangement but one considered necessary to accommodate the port- and starboard-mounted repair equipment.
Although heavily armed, the ship carries none of the Defense Force's signature heavy neutron cannons, as these would have required a drastic redesign to the hull to accommodate them. Instead, her primary armament is a pair of Kusanagi refractive laser cannons and six of the relatively new hydrometal accelerator cannons. Although more powerful per unit of mass than the standard long-range rail-gun, hydrometal accelerator cannons have not been widely adopted as they are useless for orbital bombardment purposes and have an inherently limited range of ammunition, limiting their deployment to ships in need of a larger punch than they would otherwise normally carry.
Supplementing this main armament is a battery of missile launchers, including the standard Sledgehammer anti-ship missile launchers as well as a battery of the newer concussion missiles for shorter-ranged engagements. Most of these armaments are designed to fire to the dorsal and ventral faces to allow them to be used while the ship is actively repairing another vessel.
The standard tertiary armament consists of a battery of anti-fighter and anti-missile interceptor systems to provide cover from lighter and faster foes.
In addition to the standard network of shield generators throughout the hull, the Diligent-class has been designed to extend her defensive umbrella to nearby allied ships through the use of a fortress shield generator. The smallest ship to carry such a device, a good portion of the hull design was based on the requirements of the generator mounting, which takes up most of the central hull and is obvious from most angles. With lower-output reactors than the larger Woglinde- and Kulishuna-class super capital ships, the Diligent-class cannot project a field of the same size, but is easily capable of protecting a small squadron of ships within its immediate vicinity, including its current task.
Despite its size and combat role, however, the Diligent-class is not considered well-armored, a design drawback made necessary by the large number of repair apparatuses and other systems that were required to pierce the armor layers for external access. Armor is approximately six meters thick in total, thicker over the cargo areas where the ship's geometry is more conducive to armor plating. To account for this drawback, the energy-transfer mechanism in the armor has been specifically designed to vent excess energy from the cargo bay armor paneling, a characteristic undesirable in a dedicated warship but considered acceptable in a support ship that is designed to have secondary combat functions. Because of this thinner armor, the Diligent-class masses approximately the same as the smaller Shiva-class battleship, and less than the Triglav-class.
Despite being significantly larger than the Mule-class, the Diligent-class carries an identical crew of 500, predominantly combat engineers with ship repair and combat experience. The relatively small crew is a result of the heavy use of automated repair protocols designed to handle the most common types of damage, requiring a live crew to work only on particularly unusual or pressing issues. A complement of automated D-20 "Newport" construction drones handle most repairs in conjunction with the ship's onboard systems, including an armor foamer licensed from the United Pokemon Types to effect rapid hull repairs until full shipyard facilities can be used to reconstruct the hull itself and re-bond new armor plates.
Crew areas are stored in subspace to reduce the ship's profile and also act as a safe haven area in the event of damage or destruction of the ship. This also allows the Diligent-class to easily hold the crew of several ships should they be determined unsalvageable and written off for abandonment.
The ship's complement of mobile units and construction drones is housed in a series of four hangars with exits along on the ventral face of the hull. Since the ship's complement is designed to be launched into the ship's own protective screen, and generally not for a combat engagement, no linear catapults were fitted, and the lack of SF/B-110 Spartanian fighters means that the ship holds no fast-launch drop bays either.
Engineering PlantAs a ship designed to assist other vessels in combat, and to maintain a powerful defensive screen, the Diligent-class carries a powerful set of reactors. The B6P main reactors are battleship-grade protomatter-palladium reactors designed as the next generation battleship reactor to succeed the current B5P in service, and as a result the Diligent-class outputs more power than the heaviest standard warships in the Alliance Star Fleet. Much of this power is diverted to the fortress shield generator for defense, but is also used for the ship's tractor beam system and main engines, both of which are critical for repair operations.
Showing its clear lineage as an engineering vessel, the Diligent-class houses over-sized engines, the same ones originally used in the Mule-class. The use of four SPH-178H main thrusters allows the Diligent-class to tow vessels many times its own mass while retaining a degree of speed and maneuverability, to support the withdrawal of heavily-damaged ships to the rear in the event field repairs are infeasible. Although the ship is equipped with standard space-time driver coils, the engineering plant and the ship's hull have been additionally strengthened to allow for maneuvers without the coils engaged, since towing another ship via tractor beam requires the towing ship to have sufficient leverage, and thus mass, to properly guide the towed vessel.
The maneuvering thrusters have also likewise been upgraded in order to allow the ship to operate in the tight quarters necessary to provide direct battlefield support, as well as maneuver effectively even when burdened by a towed object.
Although well-armed, the Diligent-class is still technically a support ship, and has fire-control systems on par with a much smaller vessel. The fire-control computer is a standard closed-loop system, although it is capable of interfacing with a network-centric system for greater coordination. The Apeiron R3000 is rated in the mid-range between battleship- and cruiser-grade computers, with a large data library to store records of all performed repairs and perform on-the-fly analyses and diagnostics of a stricken vessel's systems.
Using her large reactors, the Diligent-class can operate a quantum wormhole resource transportation system, although unlike the larger Woglinde-class, cannot do so continuously. The system is generally activated before or after active combat to resupply the ship's onboard cargo holds, and deactivated during combat to conserve energy for other critical systems. The ship also carries a small-scale nanotech fabrication array to use these materials to fabricate critical spare parts and other supplies for its ongoing repairs. One unique system is the addition of an armor foamer in more recent ships, with plans to retrofit older ships with the system. Licensed from Space Lord Industries of the United Pokemon Types, the armor foamer is used for quick hull repairs as it can quickly lay down a coat of foamed metal to seal breaches and provide a makeshift layer of armor.
The class is also equipped with a full holographic projection network, allowing holograms to be projected anywhere within the hull, and the immediate vicinity outside the hull. Forcefield emitters give these holograms physical shapes, allowing AI or Encephalon-diving crewmembers to project physical forms at remote locations as necessary, such as in the handling of dangerous materials or for rapid-response situations. The emitters are also used to carry out repairs and to multiply the "effective" crew aboard each ship.
As is standard for most Alliance warships, the Diligent-class is equipped with a cloaking device, although it is not designed for stealth operations and as a result, may give slight readings away to extremely accurate detection systems, although it is sufficient to mask the ship's presence when not actively searched-for and defeat active targeting locks.