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The Retribution-class Battlecruiser was a radical new ship design pursued by the UNSC Navy during the First Great War. Although it was based on the hull of the GW1-era Marathon-class Cruiser, all similarities stopped there, as she was not a traditional cruiser, but a guided missile-carrying arsenal ship.
The Retribution-class was 1200 metres long, and showcased various radical design changes that departed dramatically from orthodox UNSC warship design. Though she appeared to be a conventional ship from the outside, the design included a hollow core that ran for nearly thirty percent of the ship's length, capable of carrying up to three hundred missile pods. While massively enhancing the ships' first strike capabilities, the hollow-core design reduced the ship's hull strength compared to other warships, and the need to mount doors through which to flush the pods forced the designers to sacrifice the aft chase weapons and defences, as well as requiring a new engine layout.
Hull and superstructure
Until the design of the lead ship, UNSC Retribution, warships had stored the water used as reaction mass in engines in slush form in tanks buried deep within the ship. This had been a logical decision during the Insurrection, as externally-mounted tanks could have been pierced by conventional munitions and paralysed the ship. In contrast, the Invincible-class stored water in solid ice form just underneath the hull, totally surrounding the crew section, rather like the ballast tanks on 21st Century ballistic missile submarines. The ice served as a vast thermal sink against plasma and energy weapons, protecting the ship far better than any form of metal armour. During the Battle of Expansive Judgement, Retribution's sister ship, UNSC Invincible took multiple plasma torpedo hits that would have crippled a conventional ship of similar size, but kept on fighting.
However, by far the most impresssive and radical part of the ship's design was her armament, which consisted of one hundred Mark XIII Missile Pods, each containing fifty missiles of various types, for a total of five thousand missiles. Her design was based on maximising salvo density than maximising range, and so she was equipped with two-stage Multi-Stage Missiles compared with the larger three-stage missiles used by her sister class, the Invincible. This allowed the designers to bring the total number of missiles per pod up to fifty, compared with the thirty used in the larger Mark XIV Missile Pod. Pods were grouped together in circular five-pod "carousel" formations, that during combat, would be flushed out of the ship through a stern-mounted bay door on an extendable boom capable of supporting twenty carousels at once, or one hundred pods. When one pod had exhausted all its missiles, the carousel would spin on the boom and bring another pod in line with the target. This would continue until the carousel had exhausted all its pods, and then it would be discarded off the end of the boom. In practice, however, this number of pods would never be fully deployed, as it would burn through the ship's missile complement at an inordinate rate.
During combat, a Retribution would present her broadside to the enemy in order to fire the greatest number of missiles at the target at once. The standard complement of one pod, fired in this order, generally consisted of:
- Fifteen SIM-332 Azrael Shaped-Charge Nuclear Missiles.
- Ten RIM-441 Neith Anti-Ship Missiles
- A further fourteen Azrael Shaped-Charge Missiles.
- A further ten Neith Anti-Ship Missiles.
- One REM-225 Eris Electronic Warfare drone.
All of these were equipped with shield-breaching EMP generators. During combat, the Azrael shaped charges would punch holes in the target's hull, the Neith fragmentation missiles would explode near the holes, propelling a series of tungsten rods and shrapnel through the holes and into the weaker decks and bulkheads of the ship, ripping them apart. The second salvo of Azraels would fly into the rents in the ship created by the first salvo and serve to pierce the inner hull, while the second salvo of Neiths would exploit the holes left in the inner hull by the Azraels and destroy the target's most vital internal systems, such as reactors, life support systems, and command centres. The Eris EW drone contained two counter-ECM devices; BLINDER, which blocked defending ships' anti-missile systems with strobing jamming, rendering enemy fire control almost useless, and SPARTOI, which presented hundreds of false profiles to act as decoys for anti-missile systems targeting standard Multi-Stage Missiles. They pretended to be an entire volley of missiles, attracting point-defence fire that would otherwise be targeted at actual missiles.
One significant weakness to this deployment mechanism was that ships of this class could not fire their missiles off-bore to defend their bows or sterns in the event of a front or rear attack, a weakness which the UNSC learnt could have tragic consequences at the Battle of Glorious Fraternity. This flaw was corrected in the King Arthur-class.
They were also equipped with fifty THUNDERBOLT-10 Nuclear-Propelled Plasma Turrets, with twenty mounted on each broadside and ten as bow chase armaments. They had a much shorter range than missiles, and were typically used if the entire missile armament had been exhausted. Despite working on the same principle as the Azrael, they were considerably more powerful. They were not equipped with Magnetic Accelerator Cannons.
Retribution-class ships carried fifty launchers for AIM 445 Thanatos Interceptor Missiles, which deployed a thick cloud of titanium dust when they exploded in order to block and diffuse plasma torpedoes. They also carried twenty AMC-P151 Decoy launchers to draw plasma torpedoes away from the ship. In terms of passive defence, the class carried five metres of Titanium-A battleplate, reinforced with MITHRIL armour. A layer of electromagnetically-charged material under the armour also interfered with the magnetic fields in plasma torpedoes. The strongest layer of armour was the metres-thick ice layer under the main hull.
The Retribution-class carried the CBF Naval Warfare Systems Type 15 Multi-Sensor Package, an improvement on the war-era Type-13. Her most advanced sensors system was the PALANTIR-3 targeting system, with fire control links for up to 200 missiles simultaneously, allowing for incredibly dense volleys of missiles to be fired.
First concieved in 2545, the ship represented a major departure from the orthodox UNSC warship design that had held sway for nearly fifty years. Most of the design changes were influenced by the horrific casualties conventionally-built warships had already suffered against the Covenant. She was developed at the Reyes-McLees Shipyards in orbit of Mars in conjunction with the first of the Invincible-class Battleships, the Invincible.
While most Admirals were supportive of some design changes such as the change in location of fuel tanks, the removal of the MAC gun in favour of missiles had many up in arms over the change: It seemed obvious that the removal of the MAC gun would deny a warship the only weapon the UNSC had that was poweful enough to beat down Covenant shields, and it had been proven time and again on the battlefield that Archer Missiles were next to useless against shielded ships. Thus, more and more resources were diverted away from the construction of Invincible and Retribution in favour of building more traditional ships, and eventually all construction was stopped indefinitely.
However, the demonstration of the effectiveness of the shield-breaching RIM-442 Anubis EMP missile at the Battle of Minorca led a few Admirals to believe that there could be some virtue in the "missile school", and after a great deal of backroom arguing, construction of Invincible and Retribution resumed, on the understanding that each missile pod would contain one Anubis missile that would breach the target's shields, while at the same time guiding the Archer Missiles in.
However, the Slipspace drives on each ship had barely been completed before the Battle of Earth began in late 2552. Despite being driven off by Earth's orbital defence grid, the surviving CCS-class Battlecruisers of Regret's fleet closed in on the Martian shipyards and fired a parting salvo of plasma before retreating into Slipspace. The two ships were undamaged, but the yards were too damaged to continue their construction, and so they were moved to the shipyards at Alpha Centauri to continue their refitting. This proved to be a sensible decision, as the Martian yards were one of the Covenant's first targets when Truth's fleet arrived a few weeks later.
Construction of Retribution slowed yet again after the war's end as the UNSC desperately rebuilt its fleet. The arsenal ships were given lower priority as lighter frigates and destroyers equipped with the latest missiles were put into service in the War of Vengeance and proved themselves to be superior combatants than their war-era cousins.
However, as the UNSC and the Sangheili Armed Forces planned Operation: FURY - a strike on strategic Blood Covenant targets in reprisal for Terrence Hood's assassination, they recognised the need for a heavily armed and armoured ship to carry out the deed, given the vast number of Blood Covenant warships in the first target system, Exultant Piety. Invincible and Retribution were rapidly completed, and after promising trials and shakedown cruises, the two were sent into the Exultant Piety system.
The Battle of Exultant Piety was Invincible and Retribution's baptism by fire, and they performed superbly. Protected by a screen of frigates and destroyers, but still outnumbered six to one, both ships utterly destroyed a combined Jiralhanae and Kig-yar fleet in orbit of the planet with no casualties. The war-era Covenant tactic of trying to shoot down the Anubis EMP missile before it reached deployment range was rendered useless by the fact that every missile now carried an EMP generator.
The two ships' actions prompted the construction of dozens of new arsenal ships, and they continued to serve the UNSC Navy well during the subjugation Blood Covenant at the Battles of Undefeated Glory, Wondrous Enlightenment, and Glorious Fraternity, Operation: LAMENTATION their intervention in the Balaho Civil War, and the Second Great War against the Governors of Contrition in 2566. However, the Retribution-class' results were not entirely satisfactory, as inherent weaknesses of their design was revealed at the Battle of Glorious Fraternity: they could not fire missiles off-bore, and so could not defend their sterns in the event of a rear attack, their firing endurance was limited, and they proved to be more fragile than conventional cruisers or battleships. These factors contributed to the destruction of the UNSC Audacious, and led many to consider if they were truly worth building. While they still remained an effective and powerful design, the UNSC Navy chose to focus on constructing a new class of larger cruiser, the Achilles-class.
With the launch of the King Arthur-class of arsenal ship in 2567, and the subsequent re-classification of the Invincible-class as battlecruisers, the Retribution-class was scrapped in favour of the more conventional Achilles-class after the conclusion of the Second Great War.
Ships of the Line
- UNSC Retribution
- UNSC Retaliation
- UNSC Hermione
- UNSC Defiance
- UNSC Courageous
- UNSC Gallant
- UNSC Fearless
- UNSC Resolute
- UNSC Valiant
- UNSC Audacious
- UNSC Hood
- "They pack a massive punch for their size, but they're eggshells armed with sledgehammers. The trick is not to get hit."
- ―Rear Admiral Michael Pomare, UNSC Navy, briefing the new Commanding Officers of Retribution-class ships.