Register Register

Author Topic: DropShip of the Week: Excalibur  (Read 2720 times)

Jellico

  • Spatium Magister
  • Freelance Writer
  • Major
  • *
  • Posts: 4445
  • BattleMechs are the lords of the battlefield
DropShip of the Week: Excalibur
« on: 23 February 2014, 17:37:13 »
Excalibur: TRO3057, TRO3075, JHS3070, DS&JS


At 16,000 tons the Excalibur is one of the largest combat DropShips in the game. First appearing in DropShip and JumpShips for a long time it represented the upper end of transports a player was likely to see. While long since surpassed the Excalibur remains a standard in the Inner Sphere and a yard stick to measure capability by.

First produced in 2786 the Excalibur arrived in time to see the First Succession War. Developed as a cheaper version of the Colossus-class heavy transports, the Excaliburs reflected the experience of the Amaris war which saw the virtual extinction of the Colossus. With this in mind the Excalibur was never meant to see combat and lacks many features of a front line DropShip.
The Excalibur was built at four locations; BBP Industries (Luthien), Andurien Industries (Andurien), Semier Data Tron (Tharkad), and Rashpur Owens (Capella). This spread the class over the entirety of the Inner Sphere. Unfortunately by 3022 the GM 48000 drive was no longer in production and the design faced extinction until BBP Industries substituted it with the GE 2080 sourced from the Mule. Unable to secure engines, Andurien Industries ceased production at this time.
The next major change came in the 3050s when Semier Data Tron began experimenting with modernised weapon loads before finally settling on the definitive 3056 variant. BBP did not offer the new variant until 3082 after recovering from the devastation of Luthien. Rashpur Owens still hasn’t updated its lines.
The other major variant of the Excalibur is the “Pocket WarShip”. This history of this class is convoluted to say the least. The result of the Steffelbus family lobbying the AFFS Quartermaster it remains unclear if this was a boondoggle or some kind of intelligence operation by the Draconis Combine. The first seven “Pocket WarShip” were refits of existing ships by Federated Boeing, coming online after 3059 in time to serve in Operation Bulldog and the FedCom Civil War. Two were paid off to the Medusans mercenaries, one was lost to the Smoke Jaguars, and one rammed FCS Robert Davion over Kathil, while a fifth was scrapped after Operation Sovereign Justice. In 3068 the Federated Suns built more only to have 6 of the partially completed hulls captured by Word of Blake when they destroyed the Galax Megaplex in 3069. Since then Universal Air has taken up the slack producing the “Pocket WarShip” at Delavan. The Draconis Combine is known to have the plans but has declined to produce them.

So, that is the history. What about the ship? The Excalibur exists to carry around two battalions of tanks, a company of ‘Mechs and a battalion of infantry. Everything else is secondary to that. Weapons are anaemic and comparable to ships a quarter of its size. Armour is solid, though nothing special, even before the Clans. Thrust and fuel is merely adequate. So given this ship is all about the cargo bay, let’s look at that.
The 2786 variant carries 90 heavy vehicles, 12 ‘Mechs, 12 platoons of infantry, and 440 tons of cargo. It is probably best to compare this to the Colossus. The larger ship carries 72 heavy vehicles, 36 ‘Mechs, 12 platoons of infantry, and 1056 tons of cargo. In real terms they are effectively the same. The Excalibur’s company and a half of extra tanks translates directly to the Colossus’ extra company of ‘Mechs. The extra 600 tons of cargo is very welcome. Of course most of the Colossus’ extra mass went into armour and weapons. The Colossus is far more defensively capable. This wasn’t enough to protect the Colossus in service so the Excalibur has taken a route of avoiding combat altogether. Notably the Excalibur can’t perform combat Drops with its ‘Mech elements.
The 3056 Excalibur bears a startling resemblance to the Colossus. Weapons and armour remain middling, but the cargo bay is rearranged to 72 heavy vehicles, 12 ‘Mechs, 9 platoons of infantry, and 2238 tons of cargo. This is probably the best cargo arrangement of the three. 90 vehicles is an odd number while 72 is a pair of battalions.9 platoons matches FedCom formations.
Of course the 2238 tons of cargo is the real gem. The 3056 Excalibur is actually able to support the units it carries. Given the Excalibur is a second or third wave DropShip the ability to support combat units is more important than the ability to fight. DropShips and JumpShips includes some interesting commentary about performing sub orbital hops to support troops. I have to say this probably isn’t a good idea with a ship as big and as fuel hungry as the Excalibur.
The Excalibur has six decks assigned to accommodation for the passengers. This includes recreation space, training and medical facilities. The Excalibur lacks repair facilities in its ‘Mech bays which seems a glaring oversight.

The “Pocket WarShip” variant is based on the 3056 varaint. Small changes were made to the armament with the AC5 being replaced with a gauss rifle and the pulse lasers with ER versions. The power systems seem to have been left in place and augmented rather than replaced as standard heatsinks are used rather than doubles. Of course the cargo bay has been gutted with the lowest vehicle bay devoted to a squadron of aerospace fighters. 2 Krakens and 8 AR10s provide the firepower with 3 screen launchers and 18 AMS compensating for the lack of armour. Space for 28 marines has been provided and a flag deck installed to coordinate fleet operations.

So, how does one use an Excalibur? In the case of the transport variants these ships should be deployed in the third wave of an invasion, far from any hostile defender. Unable to perform combat drops they are best landing at established LZs. While I am generally a fan of retreating DropShips to orbit, in this case the barracks facilitates are enough to leave the Excalibur grounded. Given what they carry Excaliburs are ideal for securing LZs.
Killing an Excalibur is simply a matter of getting a squadron of ASF nearby and watching it crumple.

The “Pocket WarShip” is of course different. This is clearly a command ship. The heavy AR10 battery gives it an unusual ability to standoff compared to other assault DropShips and this should be exploited ruthlessly. Get behind the Arondights and Overlord A3s and let them take the hits. If the enemy is able to bypass the screening units an Excalibur should make no attempt to stay and fight unless its retreat would cripple any defensive formation it is part of. Plaster the area with Screens and hope for the best.
The increased prevalence of AMS makes the AR10’s less effective against DropShips than they used to be. But they remain a solid anti-fighter option. Evading fighters will be difficult to hit, but once the merge occurs things will be easier and the AR10s will get consistent hits. Frankly I don’t know what to do with the Krakens. I consider them short range weapons as guiding them in can a lot of effort for minimal effect when at range. In close Krakens are much harder to dodge, though the Excalibur should never be close to a hostile DropShip.
Killing a “Pocket WarShip” is as simple as ever. Breathe on it gently and see if the hull breaches.
 

SCC

  • Lieutenant Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 7626
Re: DropShip of the Week: Excalibur
« Reply #1 on: 23 February 2014, 19:25:08 »
Minor math quibble, 18 Heavy Vehicle Bays weigh 1,800 tons, the same as 12 'Mech Bays, not 24.

I wish that more DS had this sort of mixed capacity, but a lot smaller

Lord Cameron

  • Patron Saint of GenCon Goodies
  • Catalyst Demo Team
  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 1672
Re: DropShip of the Week: Excalibur
« Reply #2 on: 23 February 2014, 20:36:07 »
Excalibur: TRO3057, TRO3075, JHS3070, DS&JS


The Excalibur was built at four locations; BBP Industries (Luthien), Andurien Industries (Andurien), Semier Data Tron (Tharkad), and Rashpur Owens (Capella). This spread the class over the entirety of the Inner Sphere. Unfortunately by 3022 the GM 48000 drive was no longer in production and the design faced extinction until BBP Industries substituted it with the GE 2080 sourced from the Mule. Unable to secure engines, Andurien Industries ceased production at this time.

Interesting - where is the reference to Andurien Industries ceasing production in 3022?  ???
Agent #395, Vancouver, Canada

Wrangler

  • Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 17271
  • Dang it!
Re: DropShip of the Week: Excalibur
« Reply #3 on: 23 February 2014, 22:03:01 »
Interesting - where is the reference to Andurien Industries ceasing production in 3022?  ???
The original version of TRO:3057 notes the last (original) manufacture of the Excalibur's engines ceased in 3022. Though I'm wondering where the name for the company came from unless it was from Objective Raids.  The original House Book and later Handbook don't mention anything i could find about a company (by name) shutting down its Engine factory.
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants

Wrangler

  • Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 17271
  • Dang it!
Re: DropShip of the Week: Excalibur
« Reply #4 on: 23 February 2014, 22:11:34 »
Excalibur certainly a good work horse, i can see this thing still being mos effective combines arms carrier for even the Dark Age era. 

If there was any disappointment related to the ship is the missing link between the  Tyrannos Rex and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Both ships of the class, the former a ex transport turn Swordsworn Flagship and the other transport converted into one of the original  batches of Pocket WarShip.  With similar names, former appearing first in print than the latter, they would be "same" ship and because slight devation of the ship's name they became seperate boats.

I always though from the novel Fortress of Lies, the ship's described background suggested the Tyrannos was more than it appear to be since it was modified Excalibur then turned into civilian freighter for the Dark Age.  The original Jihad Hot Spots profile of the Excalibur Class Pocket WarShip variant hinted this was what use to be.  It would been neat if had.

"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants

Lord Cameron

  • Patron Saint of GenCon Goodies
  • Catalyst Demo Team
  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 1672
Re: DropShip of the Week: Excalibur
« Reply #5 on: 23 February 2014, 22:13:09 »
The original version of TRO:3057 notes the last (original) manufacture of the Excalibur's engines ceased in 3022. Though I'm wondering where the name for the company came from unless it was from Objective Raids.  The original House Book and later Handbook don't mention anything i could find about a company (by name) shutting down its Engine factory.

The name of the company (Andurien Industries) is from Dropships & Jumpships (1988), but it's listed as being in the Capellan Confederation. In that book Rashpur Owens is not mentioned as producing any dropships.
Agent #395, Vancouver, Canada

 

Register