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Naval Officer's Journal: The Battle of SAC-2858
Cobalt Shiva
Based on my recent LAN game on the map Nova.


Captain Cho Paaktu, fleet cruiser Diamiid

To the officers lowbrow enough to read the Naval Officer's Journal -

Many of you are probably already familiar with the battle of SAC-2858. You've probably heard a presentation or two given by a flag officer regarding the tactics and strategic background involved in the battle. In all likelihood, the presentations were dry, full of diagrams and tables and a lot of jargon; and they probably boiled down to an explanation of why the Hiigaran Navy won a critical victory over the Armada de Makaan in the late post-Invasion period. The explanation probably seemed reasonable, detailed, and satisfying to the Admiralty's ego.

It's a load of bullshit. If you're reading the NOJ you know that the realities of the battlefield are far removed from the buzzwords and pet theories of deskbound flag officers.

We won SAC-2858 because of two reasons: the actions of the captains in the field, and the occasional stupidity of the Vaygr warmistress running the show. Not that our own dear departed Admiral Viran Paaktu, kin of mine, was not stupid; he made as many blunders as the enemy.

You know the background: both sides of the conflict had just concluded another round of refits, focusing on additional DEW armaments, like AICs for our strike craft and additional HVM tubes for the warships. We were all, from lowliest deckhand to the most MFing of the Admiralty REMFs, excited about the new technology; it was the biggest leap since the Pax Hiigara era, and we had new toy syndrome - the high-intensity, low-trail strike craft drives, the new energy weapons, the Lavi minifrigates and Deliverance carriers, not to mention the upgrades to older vessels.

The worst butchery always comes in the wake of these refits, I've noticed. Neither side knows how to handle the new technology. Tactics get all screwed up, and good people die.

We knew we had to secure the plasma jet called SAC-2858. It was expelled by an active star and its hyperspace shadow meant that any warships passing through this area of space and deeper into Hiigaran territory had to drop from hyperspace to recalibrate their navigational fixes and move through the area on sublight drives. The alternative was the long slog up north and around.

The Vaygr showed up at SAC-2858 at about the same time we did, with a City of the Stars base ship, two of the new Al'Mouakar battle carriers (their Taiidan origins are one of those classified facts that everyone knows; you'd have to be blind to miss it), an Al-Khalid battleship, and twelve attendant Achaemenes attack cruisers. Their bays were empty - no strike craft, not even frigates. Maybe this fleet was hastily assembled; maybe they knew our force composition and didn't think they needed bombers. (By this point in the war, the Admiralty was stubbornly maintaining the usefulness of frigates, but no one in the field was buying it. The Lavi had our hopes up, but as we saw, it still died like only frigates can. The Vaygr, too, had apparently wised up to the fact and stopped bringing along hordes of their damn FFGs.)

We brought in a field shipyard, a full battle line of twelve Arbiter fleet cruisers, two Deliverance battle carriers, and a pair of Haarsuk supercarriers. Our forces were roughly symmetric: the biggest task force that either side could afford to support logistically at this point in the war.

The Vaygr came at us as we were still gettting ready. Four of our Arbiters were still tied up in the shipyard, including my own Diamiid - we'd been loading munitions and personnel. We worked to get the moorings cuts loose as Admiral Viran took the fleet out to meet the Vaygr.

The Vaygr came at us in a sort of amorphous blob, cruisers and Al'Mouakars all mixed together and the Al-Khalid trailing behind; rigid formations were out by this point in the war. On the Diamiid's bridge, we speculated: had the Vaygr warmistress taken mount on the Al-Khalid, or was she farther back, perhaps in a concealed carrier?

There wasn't anything we could do but watch. The fleet cruisers went in first, spread in a rough but ragged battle line with the two Deliverances behind, and the killing started.

For a while the two fleets simply pounded on each other. We watched on the tactical displays, and on visual. It was not pretty. If we hadn't known what all the colored lights were, maybe it would have been; but I was just too familiar with the effects of all those weapons to appreciate the show.
The Vaygr attack cruisers were getting the worst of it; the Achaemenes types have thinner armor than our Arbiters, and it showed. When we took one out, it'd boil for a few seconds and then explode in one of those eye-ripping bursts of fusion fire that make everyone gasp. Even though the battle was a thousand kilometers away, those explosions were still uncomfortably bright.

We lost cruisers too: the Al-Mouakars mounted a metric shitload of ion beams, and they wreaked havoc on ship systems. A couple cruisers were hit so badly that they were knocked out temporarily; neither r got their systems back together before the Vaygr had finished them off. Mostly, though, they were hitting the Deliverance battle carrier Kiith Naabal.

The voices on Fleetcom were mostly detached and professional, but every so often, someone would crack, start to shout. There were very few of the strangled screams you hear on vid; death is quick, generally, and if not, there are drugs to keep the wounded calm.

There's something you all know about Fleetcom, but which civilians don't understand. If you haven't witnessed it in person - well, let me tell you this: communications just don't work right. You're probably used to training exercises, the clipped, smooth chatter, full of callsigns and jargon. Well, yes, that works fairly well in battle, but people get excited and start to slip, or forget things. There's a lot of swearing, especially by pilots. And, most of all - there's the static. With jamming, and space full of energy and detonations, and all the comm systems (and the ships they ride) being shaken to hell: nothing works right.

You need a good comm officer to hear anything at all during a pitched battle. Orders are passed in text, if possible, or by direct laser link - though that doesn't always work, either, with countermeasures and clouds of vaporized armor drifting about. Forget 'datalink': it's shaky at best.

That's why confusion was the order of the day. I lost a good friend when his cruiser maneuvered wrong and blundered into the enemy fleet. Vaygr had plenty of spare weapons to use on his ship - lost with all hands.

In fact, our whole fleet blundered into theirs; the two formations interpenetrated and everyone started smashing at whoever they could see. All of our fancy 'NCW' gear started crashing, and generally, captains just started allocating fire based on their own common sense rather than the automated systems. (This is why AI ships will never, ever work - at least in my opinion.)

Diamiid got clear of her moorings just when the Kiith Naabal started her death run. The captain must've known it was coming; there were just too many Vaygr capital ships pouring fire into him. The Deliverance's armor held as it turned and burned right through the middle of the enemy fleet, drawing a good deal of fire, and giving some punishment. I know I was praying; everyone on the bridge was watching, and most of them were praying too.

For a few seconds I thought the magnificent, doomed ship was going to make it all the way through the Vaygr line to the other side. Then it foundered halfway through, heeled up one one side, and began to burn.

We hit the edge of the engagement and everything started to go wrong. We turned broadside to the nearest Vaygr cruiser - the Arbiter hull design, so sleek in hyperspace, so tough in realspace, just can't bring even a minority of its weapons to bear forward. The first shots of the engagement came from the big railgun turrets on the centerline; I've been getting a feeling recently that they're more and more symbolic. These days, it seems like all the killing power comes from the ravening DEW beams.

The ship rocked and rang as the turrets opened up, and then the crack-crack-crack of ion cannon capacitors cut in. The lighting was down to combat illumination - dim and red - and the CIC filled with quiet chatter as everyone settled into their tasks.

We started taking hits: railgun rounds and a few missiles came our way. The HDS crew did their job admirably, and the armor caught what the defensive systems missed. I watched our point-defense ammo with a bit of concern; we'd readjusted the targeting parameters, and judging by the way the CIWS were firing, I had begun to think that they were being a bit overzealous.

It's hard to describe how things were; those of you who've been in combat understand the confusion. There was just so much going on, ships lumbering about in all three dimensions, weapons engaging everything in their field of view. Debris rained off the hull, and even in CIC we could sense the ship's defenses beginning to strain.

No matter how unclear we were about the general situation, we could always tell when a ship died: there would be a tremendous flare of light and EM energy that never failed to cut through the interference.

As battles go it was straightforward: we shot and tried not to get shot, using our drives to stay out of the forward arcs of Achaemenes attack cruiserse. I can't claim any kills for Diamiid, but neither can anyone else; the situation was just too confused.

Usually, it's hard to tell who's winning until they've won. One moment it seemed like space was roaring with tracers and ion beams; the next, the Vaygr attack cruisers were gone, along with four of our lineships and the Kiith Naabal. Some slimy bastard Vaygr shiplord had snuck his Al'Mouakar around one flank and jumped one of our Haarsuk supercarriers, gutting it. That loss would smart.

That Al'Mouakar was gone. So was the Al-Khalid, though we'd all chased after it; it had backed away, its armor shrugging off our DEW fire, and vanished.

We, and eight other fleet cruisers, were still alive. The shipyard was intact, as was one Haarsuuk.

Everything else was gone. It took us a moment, reestablishing the Fleetnet, to realize that that included Admiral Viran's flagship. His Deliverance had fought, killing off wounded Vaygr cruisers - he'd been adamant about targeting the cruisers and ignoring the capital ships - but it had taken such a mauling that he'd used a tactical hyperspace jump to withdraw. (He'd managed to maneuver his way out of the inhibitor fields projected by the Vaygr warships - apparently he'd managed to coordinate some fancy footwork and assembled a cruiser screen, and the Vaygr hadn't felt like bulling through.)

They hadn't needed to; one of the nimble Al'Mouakars had edged around the battle, chased his ship down, and gutted it. Viran had survived, as had much of his crew; the Al-Mouakar had died, trapped between the surviving guns on his bleeding warship and the shipyard's own defensive weaponry.

Viran went back to the shipyard and began screaming for reinforcements.

There was a Fleet ready reserve, used to supply all major engagements in progress. The difference between me and most of you, my fellow officers, is that most of you will never get reinforcements from that reserve; the point of the reserve is to sit there and never be used. Viran had clout; he freed up another damn Deliverance right away - the Navy, as you all know, has less than forty operational, but somehow he managed it. And he wanted another - and they said they'd scramble one.

The Deliverance hypered in with a Laxamana consort; Viran transferred his flag, and the Deliverance loaded munitions from the shipyard.

Then he gathered up the cruisers - we'd been making field repairs as best as we could, but thankfully my Diamiid was in fair shape, and all we had to do was slap on new armor and reload.

Then we headed out again. We should've sent probes; we didn't. Viran was so eager to get back on the offensive, he had us lighting off our drives and moving almost before we had all the wounded collected and moved to the shipyard.

It didn't occur to any of us that the Vaygr might have brought in reinforcements too.

Captain Cho Paaktu will continue his narrative in the next issue of the Naval Officer's Journal.

We apologize for the lack of embedded content in this article. All available audiovisual files are classified as Compartmentalized Information.
"This is tactical control..."
You should pull stuff like this more often. We need more people RPing or posting battle AARs. Me, Relaxation, and FinalSeraphim can't do it alone. Well actually we can but it's not that fun. I have no idea where Tel and Thorin went.

This rant above earns the official Watsas Seal of approval (If I had one.) Keep up the good work. :thumb:
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