Operation Gambit Spring

Vice Admiral Grey Wing never quite understood why ship designers would put an observation deck on a warship. But, right now, he was just going to enjoy the view.

The compartment lights were low, and there was nopony on the deck, which was good. He wanted some solitude to think and reflect before the final mission briefing for Operation Gambit Spring, and an empty observation deck was perfect for him. He used his implants to lock the hatch behind him and trotted to a convenient open spot. His eyes were able to pick out more in the darkness, even without augmentation, and he looked over the faint lights of starships orbiting the nameless red dwarf star. Many starships indeed, enough that he could be sure that the lights were from starship running lights and not the background stars.

He knew how hard it was to have gotten where he was. In theory, every rank in the RESF was open on merit and blind testing. In practice, everypony knew that there were those little cliques, the little self-protection societies, the ones that traded influence and back-room deals to help out their friends and allies and the stallions and mares of those that could help you out. Grey Wing knew that he had some serious patrons, a few of which he didn’t know about and he would have been insulted if he felt like his rise to his current rank had been greased or lifted in some way. But, he also knew the realities.

It was said-quietly and with both a wry expression and a sneer-that you couldn’t rise past the rank of Captain (Senior Grade) in the RESF unless you were born a unicorn. There might have been some exaggeration in that-Grey Wing had served under just about every member of the races of Equestria at some point-but you did see a lot of unicorns in the higher ranks of the RESF. And, to be a thestral, a pony that even to this day was still associated with Nightmare Moon and the Night That Never Ended, was something that made it even harder to rise through the ranks.

Which was why, standing on this deck was something that Grey Wing knew was one of many messages being sent by the Diarchy. Not only the deck of his command ship, but the decks of the other ships in Task Force 0133. He was in command of three full squadrons of Princess Sunset Shimmer-class fast battleships, twenty-four of the newest and most capable warships in the Royal Equestrian Space Forces, with his flag flying on the name ship of the class. He personally would have preferred to have had three squadrons of Princess Luna-class fast battleships for the symbolism, but he knew why he had these ships. Four squadrons of Moon Dancer-class battle cruisers. Five squadrons of Big Macintosh-class heavy cruisers, backed up by five squadrons of Pinkie Pie-class light cruisers. Six squadrons of Fluttershy-class destroyers, enough to provide sufficient escorts for the whole fleet, with senior officers of all the races of Equestria that had records of being the very edge of the razor. A full fleet train of supply ships, colliers, repair ships, and enough transports and Bright Bulb-class GFSS to count as two full Royal Equestrian Ground Forces Brigade Combat Teams.

In total, he was in command of nearly half a billion tons of fleet assets, from the smallest courier to the fast battleships. Not a single ship was more than eight years old, and all of the ships were the newest and most capable in their class. And, to put this all in the command of a thestral admiral was the message that the Diarchy was sending to the cliques and mutual protection groups of the RESF-your games are no longer being tolerated, and they have grown too blatant. Merit and capability were the most important things to the Diarchy, and they were demonstrating what they wanted from their military.

The fleet’s mission was another message as well. Several messages. Officially, Operation Gambit Spring was an anti-piracy operation, going after pirates and Changeling Queens and Empresses that had been a threat in this sector, establishing contact with independent worlds, supporting the Royal Equestrian Scout Services in mapping the sector, all noble goals. But, his orders were to operate in force wherever possible, no less than division strength in any individual detachment.

To everyone observing, this message was clear-the Diarchy was more than willing to deploy their best and newest ships, in large numbers, to handle a relatively minor threat. And, they were willing to come ready and supported to continue the operations for a long period of time. And, their first destination was Raven Claw, the capital of a three-system pocket empire that had a reputation for being a place where pirates could quietly dispose of their captured ships.

And not a single soul knew that they were here.  Or where they were going to arrive, or when.

Grey Wing almost felt sorry for the pirates.

Almost.

Ships Of The RESF-Cruisers

The Royal Equestrian Space Forces consider cruisers to be the minimum weight ship for most independent missions, from convoy escort to piracy operations to ground support that doesn’t require a full Ground Forces deployment.  In addition, cruisers were also considered to be the minimum escort for capital ships such as battleships, dreadnoughts, and super-dreadnoughts.  The biggest issue with cruisers in the RESF is that there would never be enough hulls for all the missions needed, which caused the RESF to make due in a number of ways (such as using light cruisers in heavy cruiser missions).

The end of the Horizon War saw the class deal with the “teething troubles” that the large-scale war generated.  This is reflected in the building of the newer classes of cruisers, including the Big Macintosh-class heavy cruiser, which are larger and heavier than the pre-war classes.  The Big Macintosh-class masses nearly as much as a pre-war battle cruiser, which is reflecting a new doctrine of classifying ships by their mission, not their size and mass.

(Note-Equestrian ships of Cruiser weight are called “Earth Pony”-ships, and are named after famous Earth ponies in Equestrian history.  The initial class names for these ships, like most other Equestrian warships, came from the Elements of Harmony.)

Pinkie Pie-class Light Cruiser

One of the workhorse starships of the RESF (along with the Applejack-class Heavy Cruiser), the Pinkie Pie class weighs in at 19,000 tons and 200 meters from bow to stern.  The ship mounts two 8cm buster launchers forwards and four 6cm buster launchers in the broadsides, with a ventral and dorsal mounting.  Long range fire is provided by two plasma torpedo launchers, which give the ship a dangerous ability to force enemy ships to maneuver the way the Captain of a Pinkie Pie wants them to move.  Armor and shields are at the same grade as most other light cruisers, with the same heavier point defense fit as most other Equestrian warships.

One of the oddities of the ship class is that every fifth ship that comes out of the shipyards has…quirks.  Never anything that would cause the class problems in combat, but there is always something about the ship that would be…funny, if you were to laugh at it.  From the occasionally odd color that food has when it comes out of the fabricators to showers that suddenly squirt at ponies, these odd quirks have kept engineers, engineer’s mates, and the Bureau of Ships busy continuously.  With the end of the Horizon War, a new light cruiser (Cheese Sandwich-class) is entering production.

Applejack-class Heavy Cruiser

Considered to be “average” in all respects to all other ships of its weight and size class, this 25,000 ton and 220 meter long starship mounts four 8cm buster launchers in the bow, six 6cm buster launchers around the hull, and four plasma torpedo launchers for long-ranged engagements.  With the exception of point defense (which is heavier than the average), hull armor and shields is about average for the ship’s size and class.  The class also mounts full flag facilities for independent squadron operations, allowing it to operate as a command ship for smaller fleets.

The ship has little to complain about-or to compliment.  It is, in many ways, average and while other starships in its size class may be more one thing or another, the Applejack-class has the advantages of being average and being able to be built in large numbers.  It fills so many roles that the default assumption of most strategic planners is “have at least one or two squadrons of Applejack-class cruisers available.”  One trivia note is that this ship class was being slowly replaced during the Horizon War with the Big Macintosh­-class of heavy cruisers.

Big Macintosh-class Heavy Cruiser

The successor to the Applejack-class of heavy cruisers, the Big Macintosh-class is pushing the weight of pre-war battlecruisers at 39,000 tons, and 240 meters in length.  Carrying four 8cm buster launchers in the bow, six 6cm buster launchers around the hull, and four plasma torpedo launchers, the major differences in this class is that the plasma torpedo launchers are much heavier than the ones mounted on the Applejack-class heavy cruiser.  Heavier armor is also mounted, in addition to shields and point defense to heavier levels.

The major advantage of this class was the plasma torpedo array, which constituted a serious threat to any ship trying to close with a Big Macintosh­-class ship.  Point defense, following standard RESF doctrine, was heavier than its equivalent heavy cruiser hull used by the other powers.  A number of Big Macintosh-class heavy cruisers were built prior to the Horizon War and saw service during the war.  After the war, construction of the class was accelerated to fill the many roles needed by the RESF after the war.