"Pointy, isn't it?"
-Quaestor Christopher Ching
The Pele-class super-capital ship is the first super-capital ship designed and built entirely in the Alliance, as previous ships had been ordered from foreign companies. The first warships to surpass 2,000 meters in length, they are commonly used as division flagships and support vessels within the Star Fleet, and are consequently relatively few in number compared to standard line battleships. Pele-class ships are traditionally named after deities, including the class leader, which bears the name of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele.
The outbreak of the Reaper-Omega War caused quite a stir within the Alliance high command. Not only was it the first external combat deployment of the Defense Force, it was the first deployment alongside non-Confederation allied nations as part of a larger coalition. The ships of these allies prompted a major paradigm shift within the Star Fleet, which had previously eschewed large super-capital ships in favor of large numbers of smaller ships operating as a coherent fleet. Large super-capital ships have been proven to be very successful as fleet anchors and command ships within allied navies during the war, as well as providing a good platforms for specialized heavy weapon systems. The Star Fleet thus resolved to begin its own super-capital ship program, and in the interim ordered twelve Sorean Peacemaker-class star dreadnoughts to act as fleet anchors until a suitable Alliance-built alternative became available.
Initially, designers at the National Defense Laboratory sought to emphasize the role of the super-capital ship as a weapons platform, attempting to develop a new turreted version of the heavy neutron cannon that could take advantage of such a large hull. Previous attempts at creating a turreted heavy cannon were hampered by the cannon's sheer strength; the refocusing and redirection mirrors were far too large to be practical and significantly increased the size and mass of each individual cannon, reducing the number of cannons that could be mounted per ship. It was hoped that a large ship like the Pele-class could offset these disadvantages. At the same time, engineers in the Advanced Weapons Laboratory were working on a new refractive laser weapon, which was also considered for implementation in the new class, although it was made clear that the turreted neutron cannon would be the preferred weapon system.
To this end, a long, narrow hull was chosen, that tapered at the front into a fine point. This configuration, it was felt, would allow the maximum number of turrets to be carried by arranging the neutron cannon emitters in layers within the hull, redirecting the beam into the turrets just below the surface of the ship. After several years of work, the turreted neutron cannon proved unworkable with the desired level of efficiency, while the refractive laser cannon had made great strides in terms of power, accuracy, and flexibility. It was eventually decided to drop the turreted cannons and instead mount the laser cannon, now dubbed the "Kusanagi" system after the legendary Japanese sword, as the primary weapon alongside a battery of conventional neutron cannons.
This design presented challenges, however, as the hull shape and heavy weapons load left little room for shield generators along the outer hull. To solve this, designers added a pair of external wing-like orbiters, which house the primary shield generators and their accompanying support systems. The combination of thin hull and wing-shaped orbiters has created the classic Pele-class silhouette that makes it easily one of the most distinctive ships in the known universe.
The Pele-class is distinctively known because of its sword-like hull shape, which is extremely narrow and tapers to a fine point at the front. This is partly intentional, and all subsequent models after the prototype were strengthened with ramming equipment to allow the prow to withstand impact against enemy ship surfaces. The hull was originally designed to allow the long and narrow heavy neutron cannon emitters to be arranged in a stepped bundle along the axis of the ship, with the tapering sides allowing the planned turrets to superfire over each other. In the end, these turrets never materialized, and the smooth hull was instead used to mount the first Kusanagi refractive laser cannon system with retracting ports to allow the conventional heavy neutron cannons to fire.
The design's signature wing-like orbiters were added as a result of the ship's slim profile. The planned SDHM-01 heavy shield generators could not fit within the ship's original hull, and major revisions would be necessary to accommodate them internally. Instead, designers created the two orbiters to house the generators externally, while standard shields were mounted to the standard hull. The orbiters were later enhanced with the addition of a pair of fortress shield generators in the space created by improvements in the SDHM-01 generators. An odd side effect of the design is that the shields of the Pele-class are continuously rotating, making it difficult for an attacker to score continuous hits on the same shield face without physically following it around the ship as the orbiters rotate. Both orbiters can be docked to either side of the main hull when not needed, and can fold backward to reduce the ship's frontal profile.
The main bridge and crew areas of the ship are contained within the ship's midsection, roughly half way between the prow and the aft engine complex. This was chosen to provide maximum protection, and eventually was proven to be beneficial as it keeps the areas clear of the orbiters, a benefit to escape pod launches. The engineering bays are housed in the aft of the ship, nestled between the orbiters for additional protection.
The Pele-class is notable in that it introduced many innovations into the field of Alliance ship design. In particular, the class was the first to mount the Kusanagi refractive laser cannon system, the introduction of which provided the hoped-for solution to the previous handicap of poor firing arcs for Alliance main batteries. Since its introduction on the Pele-class the weapon system has been used on virtually every other Alliance warship as a supplement to the primary forward neutron cannon battery. Further bolstering the main armament is a conventional battery of forward-firing heavy neutron cannons.
The secondary armament consists of an array of 512 light neutron cannons dotted across the surface to provide full coverage, while late-model ships include a new battery of ion cannons to provide disabling firepower as well as additional anti-shield weaponry. A battery of 24 long-range rail-guns was also installed, with their arcs also covering all angles but also able to concentrate their firepower directly forward.