If The U.S. Air Force Ran Starfleet...

Republibot 3.0
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Just humor me on this one, it‘s total epic wankery:

I know you, like everyone else, assume that space SHIPS will eventually be just like Navy SHIPS because they’ve got SHIP in the name, even though airSHIPS had the exact same logic behind them, and that turned out to be ludicrous and led to their demise. By the same coin, I think SPACE ships will not be like WATER ships because they’re in SPACE. It seems self-evident to me that they’ll follow some kind of Air Force structure, since they fly. I come from an Air Force family. (Though one of my uncles was brown shoe navy)

In actual fact, probably we’re both wrong, and it’ll end up being some entirely new command structure that is more appropriate to the environment, and our great great great grankids will look back at us and laugh.

That said, it has become a terrible cliché to think of space forces as “The US Navy In Space.” Trek is, as usual, the worst offender in this regard, contaminating a whole generation with silly nonsense, despite the fact that in all other regards, Starfleet is Considerably less militaristic than your average high school ROTC unit. On the other end of the scale, we’ve got Stargate, which is Air Force, but they’re mostly acting like the Army, so that’s no real help. The only other really consistent example is Babylon 5, which attempted to take a middle course by assuming the Air Force and Navies had merged into one space force, but generally stayed more on the Navy side, throwing in Air Force stuff randomly.

So just as a thought exercise, I decided to try and figure out a big space navy would be classified if it were run by the Air Force. Not organized, mind you, as that would take more energy and thought that I’m willing to put into something as I’m drifting off to sleep like this, but, you know. In the standard Navy formula, you’ve got Carriers, Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Frigates, and the occasional gunship. How would that kind of thing fit in with how the USAF classifies vechicles?

See? I told you it was wankery.

Anyway, here’s the Air Force system of classification:

A (as in an A-10 Warthog) = Attack/Assault, generally ground-attack.
B (As in B-52) = Bomber
C (As in C-5 Galaxy) = Cargo
D is for “Drone control.”
E (As in EF-111) = Electronics, generally jamming and countermeasures.
F (As in F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Eagle) = Fighter
G is for “Glider”
H (As in H-3 Jolly Green Giant) = Helicopter
I is for Interceptor
J is for “Special Training, Temporary” (I think they just grabbed this one since no one else was using it)
K (As in “KC 130”) is for Tanker (K=“Kargo,” get it?)
L is for “Laser Equiped.”
M is for multi-mission aircraft
N is for “Special Training, Permanent” (Again, just grabbed because it hadn’t been used elsewhere)
O (As in “OV-10”) is for Observation
P (as in P-51 Mustang) is for Pursuit
Q is for unmanned drone
R is for Reconnaissance
S is for either Anti-Submarine Warfare, or “Spaceplanes,” depending on which department it is.
T (As in T-38s, like the Astronauts fly) is for “Trainer”
U is for “Utility”
V is for VTOL
W is for Weather Reconnaissance
X (As in the X-15) is for eXperimental
Y is for Prototype
Z is for Planned, but it also used to be used for “Lighter than Air” (As in “Zeppelin”)

So how do we fit starships into this?

Well, obviously, G, H, J, L, N, Q, and W can be reassigned with impunity. We could probably free up S, V, Y, and Z as well, but let’s hold on to them for now.

I’d argue that Bombers will still be useful for attacking ground targets. They duck into the atmosphere, nail a target, and then hop back into orbit. So we’ll keep “B.” Conversely, any even remotely hard-science scenario is going to limit the use of battleships considerably. You’re just not going to have big ships duking it out. You don’t even have that now, which is why there are no Battleships in active service, it’s obsolete. So what might the niche of a Battleship be? I’d suggest orbital bombardment. Park one in Geosynch and just have it wail on the planet below.

Let’s avoid Star Trek examples, simply because they’re so heavily invested in Naval stuff it seems silly. Babylon 5 ships don’t precisely fit naval counterparts, so we’ll use them. Galactica stuff, likewise, doesn’t fit the naval model, so we’ll use those. Basicaly I’ll fit in mixed examples where appropriate.

Most of these make sense, but I’d change “G” to Gunship, “H” to Hospital Ship, “L” to Liner (As in “L10-11”, anything who’s primary job it to move people from point A to point B over long distances). N? I’m not sure. “Nuclear” is the obvious one, but that’s rather superfluous since everything apart from shuttles are pretty obviously going to be Nuclear anyway. It’d be like saying “Gasoline powered” before every kind of ship. (“It’s a Gasoline Destroyer!” “It’s a Gasoline Frigate.” It’s a Gasoline Lawn Mower.” Gets tedious quickly) Likewise, I’ve got no idea what we’d do with “Q.”

“Reconnaissance” and “Observation” are kinda’ the same thing, so let’s fold them both into “O” and use “R” for Research. A space force, as depicted on TV, would need some pure-research ships, right? Trek used ‘em a lot. B5 had some. Galactica had at least one.

“S.” Anti-Submarine Warfare is a non-issue in space, so we can ignore that aspect of the designation, but “Spaceplane?” Do we want to hold on to that one? I’m not sure. It could be shuttles, but then there’s no reason a shuttle has to look like a plane. Arguably it’s more efficient if it doesn’t ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROMBUS ). I suppose it could be “Science,” but we’ve already got that one for “R,” really. I dunno. Leave it blank until any of you guys can come up with a suggestion.

“V” for Vertical Take Off/Landing. I’d submit that *these* are our shuttles, since rockets do tend to go straight up.

“W” is for “Weather,” but again that’s a non-starter, but I’ve got no idea what to put there. I’d submit that Y and Z probably would be used in their current designations simply because any respectable fightin’ force is still going to be developing new vehicles all the time, and this keeps ‘em readily distinguished from the stuff in service. (Though I suppose “Z” as in lighter- than-air could be used for any Zeppelin-styled craft you want to send into a Jovian atmosphere.

So what have we got? Largely, they’d stay the same.

A =Attack/Assault
B = Bomber/Battleship like the Schwarzkopf from Babylon 5
C = Cargo
D = Drone
E = Electronics
F = Fighter (Earthforce Starfury and Thunderbolt, Colonial Viper, Cylon Raider, Draconian Marauder). “F” would be for ALL fighters, regardless of their specialty.
G = Gunship (like the White Stars)
H = Hospital Ship
I = Interceptor (Like Heinlein’s Torch Ships, or Space: 1999’s Swifts)
J = ?
K =Tanker
L = (Passenger) Liner, like the Asimov from Babylon 5, or the Rising Star from Galactica
M = is for multi-mission
N = ?
O = Observation/Reconnaissance
P = Pursuit (Niven’s “Long Shot,” but with guns)
Q = ?
R = Research (Like the Cortez class explorer ships in Babylon 5/Crusade)
S = Let’s say non-atmospheric shuttles.
T = Training vessels of all kinds, shapes, and sizes
U = Utility
V = Probably surface-to-space shuttles
W = ?
X = eXperimental
Y = Prototype
Z = Planned

This doesn’t help us with figuring out how we’d classify big capitol ships like Carriers and Destroyers and Cruisers and such. I toyed with the idea of just plugging them into the unused spots in the alphabet, but then it occurred to me that the fundamental mission of a warship is attack. So the Galactica and the Agamemnon and the Hyperion would *all* fall under “A.”

Would this get confusing? Not really. Just as there are multiple vehicles under “F” (F-15, F-16, F-18 Hornet, etc) all in service at the same time, and nobody gets confused, there are also multiple things in the “A” classification. Thus you could have an A-1 Battlestar, and an A-2 Destroyer and an A-3 Carrier and an A-4 Frigate, and so on. And when the A-1 class Battlestar goes obsolete, it’s replaced by the A-5 class Battlestar, and so on.

So that’s what I’ve got, and now I’m tired enough to go to bed. What do you guys think?