Imperial ShipsThe design philosophy of the assault ships in the Imperial fleet is interesting. In most television shows, perhaps until more recent CGI heavy shows, space battles are either capital ship heavy or fighter heavy. So for example, in the original Battlestar Galactica fighters did most of the combat. It was rare for the larger ships to go head to head. In Star Trek, however, the idea of fighters is quite new and most combat in the older shows was capital ship to capital ship as in the superb sub-hunting style engagement in The Wrath of Khan.
Star Fleet uses a mix of both styles. Rather than having the main Cruiser launch fighters directly, it launches Carriers which carry half a dozen Imperial Fighters each. However, the Carriers are very capable assault craft in their own right and sometimes function without any fighters on board, as seen in episode 4 when a squad of Carriers with some nose-mounted laser torpedo launchers ambush X-Bomber.
So what you often get in Star Fleet is a combination of fighter assaults, as well as the smaller capital ships mixing it up. It also means that, as in Babylon 5, what may look like a small force can rapidly become a much larger one as carrier craft launch their fighters - the difference being that there's still an overall mothership hanging back directing operations in Star Fleet...
As mentioned above, your average wasp-like Imperial Carrier carries half a dozen Imperial Fighters held in three pairs of docking claws. When preparing to launch fighters, the front pair of claws is raised, the middle pair stays put and the rear pair is lowered. This allows the fighters to launch from slightly different heights for a more rapid launch avoiding collisions.
In terms of firepower, the Imperial Carriers use forward mounted laser torpedoes. These are capable of penetrating X-Bomber's armour if they get lucky. One variation of this firepower was mentioned above, where red laser torpedoes were fired from launchers mounted on the nose of some fighter-less carriers. These were capable of vapourising Star Fleet freighters, but X-Bomber's shields repelled their attack.
Carriers generally work in groups of three or four, and just how many are kept on board the Cruiser at any time isn't clear. The Cruiser's launch bay allows three to launch virtually alongside one another, which suggests quite a large force could be kept inside the cruiser dependent on the size of the internal hangar. The top speed of a Carrier may be as much as twice Hyperspeed, as Orion was able to catch X-Bomber when it was heading for Earth at that speed. This speed also comes in handy when Orion wants to retreat!
The Imperial Fighter is a single-termoid fighter capable of intra and extra-atmospheric manoeuvring. In other words, it's as happy in space as it is in air! It's not quite clear what its armaments are - probably a beam weapon rather than laser torpedoes. They tend to fly in pairs as part of an overall swarm launched from Imperial Carriers. The fighters don't appear to be very well armoured, but their speed and manoeuvrability does make up for that to some extent.
The only variation to the standard design of the fighters is Captain Carter's fighter which he uses in his duel with Shiro in BrainCom. Unfortunately there aren't many clear close-ups of it, but it seems to have some additional armour on its nose section.
A couple of other points about both ships. The Imperial Carrier is able to "beam down" Imperial assault vehicles from its nose section when in close proximity to a planetary surface. The Imperial Fighter is equipped with a retrieval claw which extends from its lower section.
Last updated 30 November 2010