|This article, Ark Royal-class Supercarrier, is currently under active construction.|
Constructed near the end of the Human-Covenant War as a supplement to the Trafalgar-Class Supercarrier, the Ark Royal-class was proposed by Thomas Grumman, one of the engineering project leaders at Bellum Aerospace Industries, and adopted under the larger umbrella of Project EXCALIBUR. Only one ship was constructed, the UNSC Ark Royal, and though others were planned, the destruction of the Reach Naval Shipyards put that to a halt. The only
The Ark Royal-class takes its name from two famous historical ships of the same name - the Sir Walter Raleigh's HMS Ark Royal built in 1587, and the later HMS Ark Royal launched in 1914, one of Britains first "modern" aircraft carriers. It is a fitting name that a ship designed for deep space exploration and space fighter deploymkent should bear the name.
The actual proposal for the Ark Royal-class was submitted by Thomas Grumman of Bellum Aerospace Industries in 2543, one of several submitted by various companies during Project EXCALIBUR in an attempt to modernise the fleet to better compete against the far more technologically advanced Covenant fleet. Its efficient use of hangar space was combined with a robust network of internal bracings, appropriated almost verbatim from the Halcyon-class Cruisers, making it extremely tough, able to carry a large number of fighters for deployment. The structure for the first ship, the UNSC Ark Royal, was laid in 2546, with plans to lay down another five soon after - the Indomitable, Invincible, Illustrious, Centaur, and Colossus began construction in 2550, as the Ark Royal entered service.
The first deployment of the ship was at Delta Pavonis, one of a scarce handful of minor asteroid colonies that the Covenant had bypassed in their haste to exterminate humanity. As the UNSC 30th Fleet entered the system, the Ark Royal and a detachment of escorts engaged the Covenant frigates and single Assault Carrier in orbit over the colony. The fighter support provided by the Supercarrier would prove vital in the battle for the colony, striking exposed Covenant ground positions and providing close air support. The aerial dominance of the UNSC played a major part in the victory, and allowed evacuation transports to escape with the surviving colonists. The Ark Royal itself sustained only minor damage, a rarity for such a large target, a testament to the design's endurance.
The victory at Delta Pavonis, one of very few the UNSC were able to achieve during the 2540's, was a major propaganda boost for the UNSC, but it also proved the fundamental design concepts for the Ark Royal-class to be significant. The internal bracing structure would be adopted by all later warship designs, and though it was begun in the Halcyon-class, it was the Ark Royal that is remembered for pioneering its usage. Returning to Reach, the Carrier received minor repairs and upgrades to its single MAC, and was fitted with a THOR Weapon System, enabling it to provide orbital fire support for ground forces, a feature that was sorely lacking during Delta Pavonis. Assigned to the UNSC's efforts at Minorca, the Ark Royal served as the flagship of the fleet, its CIC coordinating fleet movements and troop deployments, and providing orbital fire against Covenant ground positions - the bombardment of Catharsis annihilated a battalion-worth of Covenant with ease, and the steady flow of supplies from the Ark Royal kept the Marine, Army and Air Force units on the ground in top fighting shape. Its loss in early 2552, when the Covenant attempted a second invasion of the planet, was a heavy blow to the UNSC battlegroup, and the UNSC Aeneas was forced to take over as the fleet's flagship.
Worse was still to come for the Ark Royal-class, as the Covenant invaded Reach. The orbital shipyards were one of the first structures to be destroyed during the ensuing Occupation, destroyed by Office of Naval Intelligence personnel to prevent vital information from falling into Covenant hands. Even as Elite and Jackal rangers attempted to force their way in and gain access to the navigational database, the ONI officers were setting explosive charges. The Covenant's efforts were in vain anyway - the navigational data had not yet been uploaded, and the nav computers were empty except for a few rudimentary calculations. Of more concern to ONI were the prototype SSX-7 CEMPF generators, intended as a counter to Covenant energy shield technology - their discovery by the Covenant would rob the UNSC of a critical advantage. After the fall of the ground-based generators for the orbital defence platforms, ONI set off a HAVOC nuclear warhead, destroying the wreckage of the ships and the shipyard as well.
The plans for the Ark Royal-class Supercarrier survived, carried by ONI personnel fleeing the destruction, but no more of the design were put into service. With new innovations in energy shield, slipspace, and directed energy weapon technology, the UNSC instead opted to build newer Carrier designs, with these improvements incorporated into the design rather than being tacked on after the fact. The Ark Royal class are principally remembered for their brief but infamous success, and the design features it pioneered.
Built near the end of the Human-Covenant War, the Ark Royal-class used a number of technologies developed for use amongst the rest of the fleet, and while many of them never made it into general service, they proved extremely potent, making the Ark Royal-class one of the more successful ships fielded by the UNSC, even considering its limited service history. Internally, the Ark Royal's made efficient use of space using artificial gravity plating, allowing less conventional corridor layouts. More importantly, it made far more efficient use of space in the Supercarrier's hangars, allowing more fighters to be carried using less volume of the ship - each hangar carries two fighters, one docked at the bottom and a second magnetically locked to the top, doubling its capacity.
Another major innovation it featured was the Ancile metamaterial, developed by Bellum Aerospace Industries. A layer of the metamaterial was laid within the Ceramic-Titanium Composite hull plating, and electrified during combat, producing a powerful electromagnetic field that interfered with the containment fields of Covenant plasma weaponry, collapsing them and dispersing the plasma relatively harmlessly. It proved ineffective against laser and particle beam weapons, but still increased the ships survivability significantly. The ancile would enter wider service after the war, but at the time the Ark Royal-class were the only ones who carried it.
- "The thrusters were massive for their time. Can you see them on the picture? They took up to one-quarter of the ship's length! That was another reason why the UNSC didn't build more of these after the war - the development of Hall Effect Thrusters made them obsolete."
- "Carriers are relatively poorly armed for their size, especially when compared against battleships or cruisers - but they're supposed to be for god's sake! Why do you think we keep frigates and destroyers in service? It carries a hundred Longsword fighters, and all anyone can say is "why don't they stick a dozen MAC's on it?" It really pisses me off!"
- "I saw the Ark Royal at Minorca, and compared to, say, the UNSC Trafalgar, it was a marvellous ship. It could take hits from plasma torpedoes and pulse lasers like they were buzzing flies! And when it rammed that Assault Carrier..."
- "Its a damn shame we never got more of these. A damn shame. We could have used its fighter support on Reach. Or Earth. Or Ares. Or a dozen other theatres of combat."