"When you began, you couldn’t have possessed enough bones for the whole ship. It would look stupid with a few dozen skeletons nailed to the walls. So, how do you start? Do you save up enough bodies for a corridor at a time, or put them away until you have enough to decorate the entire vessel?’"
- – Jain Zar,-Storm of Silence, And while in context she is talking about a Dark Eldar ship, it applies equally well to the Imperium. She thoroughly underestimates how many corpses both have readily available.
"By my faith, may the light of the Emperor spread to the farthest star. By my duty, the galaxy will belong to the righteous. By my actions, the Imperial Navy shall be honoured and remembered on Holy Terra. For the Emperor of Mankind, AND FOR THE BATTLEFLEET GOTHIC!"
- – Imperial Navy Captain Abridal, shorty before his blaze of glory that ultimately stopped the 12th Black Crusade and saved billions of Imperial lives.
The Imperial Navy is one of the main branches of the Imperial military in Warhammer 40,000, although very little of the Navy actually appears in the tabletop game. They're also one of the main factions in the beloved spin-off game Battlefleet Gothic.
Unlike the Imperial Guard, who get killed in the
thousands millions billions every day, the Imperial Navy rarely suffers that many casualties (at least when capital ships are concerned). This is because, unlike the flashlight used by Guardsmen, the main weapon of the Navy is a giant, heavily-armed, heavily-armored battleship that puts other races' spaceships to shame. These ships are also massive, flying, Gothic cathedrals. Be mindful that a ship surviving a fight doesn't mean survival of any and all of her crew - when the hull is compromised, people die by the hundreds, and retrieval of hulks after a victorious battle is a routine operation for the Navy.
The Imperial Navy is actually well handled by the Imperium. I know, shocking. But, (there it is!) the Imperium seems to think trying to defend everywhere is a good idea. This works fine in general because most threats it faces are hilariously out-matched rebels. But when they're not facing hilariously out-matched rebels, multiple worlds are lost before the Navy can get enough force concentration to win and usually take back those planets. Since those rebels don't need anything above escorts to go squish them (and protect the transports of Guardsmen to do personal squishery), the Navy's penchant for trying to shove full fleets everywhere and even having light cruisers on patrol is not thought-out. It doesn't mean that Guard would get support of a full battlegroup initially tasked with securing the system during their ground campaign (see Vraks as an example).
Depending on how you look at it, and who you're looking at, the officers of the Navy are either wealthy cowards or badass gentlemen. In either case, their ships have crews numbering the hundreds of thousands or even millions (we're not kidding when we say that each ship has its own language(s) and culture(s,)) since the Imperial Navy doesn't understand how auto-loaders work, so loading a gun requires thousands of slaves running on treadmills. Of course, this might be the fault of a certain other branch of the Imperium, who, coincidentally, do have working auto-loaders on their ships. In any case, the Imperium has found it cheaper and more effective to use manpower because they have that many people to throw at even the tiniest of problems. Of course, for a major officer, most days simply require him to press a button and blow something up, then go back to drinking his tea. Oh, and maybe scramble the ground-support flyers, if he's feeling charitable that day.
Note that, back in the Great Crusade, the Imperial Guard and Imperial Navy were one and the same, operating under the far-less-badass name of "Imperial Army." However, thanks to the Horus Heresy, the two got split up, so that a single military commander couldn't control too many forces; a Guard commander isn't able to get off any given planet either without the Navy ship or commandeering a civilian transport, an action that (theoretically) also reqiures approval of Navy officials, and the Navy isn't able to conduct wars (and, you know, occupy territory) without the Guard. You'd think that this enforced mutual co-dependence would make them collaborate, but of course, despite how much they need each other, the two bicker constantly, which, in fact, may be the reason for shitty situation the 40k Imperium finds himself in, at least on the military front. And it's all thanks to no other than Roboute Guilliman, the fact his fans keep forgetting about.
While the fleet and ground forces generally had their own commands in the Imperial Army, they had one superior officer in form of Lord Militant (or Lord Solar) on top of both branches. Since admirals are not known for knowing jack shit about ground operations and vice versa, High Command generally operated in auftragstaktik and delegated specifics to the underlings (the same way WW2 army generals worked with air force, essentially), unless the whole expedition was lead by Lord Marshal (think Rogue Trader expedition, but with a cohort of Solar Auxilia and not all that interested in trading).
Interestingly, though most of the most well-known Chaos ship classes have been put into reserve fleets by the Imperium (hopefully after fixing the insanity-causing problems), those ships are still used by virtue of being, well, reserves. When your battlfleet goes off to fight who-knows-what, the reserve fleet is what holds the line if some major invasion happens. Frontline loses are generally not replaced by the reserves and reserves are used for when greater numbers or something are needed only if situation is really dire. Think of it as holding back a portion of your forces to take a wait-and-see approach for determining where to use them. It might have something to do with reserve fleet ships actually having rules for routing from the field easier and even turning traitor if the enemy fleet is Chaos in BFG...hmmmm.
Weirdly, although Chaos is famed for its use of numerous carriers and attack craft and the Imperium for its big guns, the Imperial Navy has more dedicated carriers and more hybrid carriers whereas Chaos has the most and best guns. The difference is, of course, that the Imperium doesn't make nearly as frequent use of its carriers and carrier hybrids as Chaos does just as Chaos's non-carrier hybrids tend to be used as support vessels like how the Imperium uses its dedicated lance boats and ordnance boats which Chaos also has a small handful of. Chaos Lances and Macrobatteries also tend to have longer ranges due to being made with ancient advanced technology that has been long lost for Imperium of 40k. It sucks that Belisarius Cawl has been too obessesed with his Primarises for 10 thousand years to actually make something useful for any other military branch of Imperium, doesn't it?
- 1 Types of Ships
- 2 Adeptus Mechanicus Vessels
- 3 Inquisition Vessels
- 4 Adeptus Astartes Vessels
- 5 Adeptus Arbites Vessels
- 6 Important Details
- 7 Ranks in the Navy
- 8 Notable Problems
- 9 In Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 1 & 2
- 10 Music of the Imperial Navy
- 11 See also
- 12 External Links
- 13 Gallery
Types of Ships
The Imperial Navy has four types of ships they hide their cowardly asses in. The main ships are battleships, cruisers, escorts, and fighters. There are also mobile Battle Fortresses/Starbase. Each ship can also be classified by its weaponry, and role in the battlefleet:
- Basic: Jack of All Trades ships, due to having multiples weapons types, and not being specialized into any. Lunar class cruisers are the prime example, having macrobateries, lances & torpedoes. Why use basic instead focusing on Ordnance-boats to drop shields and Lance-boats to finish off? Because escorts can carry lances and destroyer squadrons can spam torpedoes and the light cruisers can supplement cruiser ordnance and lance and attack craft wherever needed. Which turns space combat into a very complicated game of Chess and Risk combined. As such, carriers, ordnance-boats, and lance-boats become supplementary rather than the bread and butter. After all, if you have an ordnance or lance boat and its supporting escorts get quickly killed off (which is what would happen) then you've lost half your capabilities and would probably lose to a basic as you either couldn't drop shields fast enough or once you did drop you couldn't finish off the enemy fast enough. Plus, lances fluff-wise seem to do massive damage to shields and their only draw-back is the shields regenerating nearly as quickly as the lances so having even a small number of weapons batteries to prevent recharge or even take more bites out of enemy shields between lance blasts would be very good. Which seems to be how the Imperium likes to fight, actually: with lances being their "real" cannons and weapons batteries just assisting with a storm of shots.
- Lance-boats: Ships that focus into Lance weaponry, used for long-range focused attacks, especially against small ships & unshielded ones. Rarer as they have a weakness to Void Shields and require better drives due to the power requirements of the lances.
- Ordnance-boat: Opposite of the Lance-boat, replaces Lances with more Macrobatteries, focusing mostly into medium & short range brawls against enemy ships. Usually this is because they need extra power due to mounting a Nova Cannon or having power-hungry macrobatteries such as Plasma Cannons.
- Carrier: The red-haired stepchild of the Navy. Replaces the Lances with Launch Bays and is disliked by most Admirals due to the stigma against Attack Craft, although it is because the Traitors and Chaos pawns focused on raiding and striking fast, so with enemy fleets focused on long range attack (Lances, laser, and attack craft) plus Chaos likes them more because they can fill the bays with Assault Boats, the Imperial Navy might have got that stigma of seeing too many Chaos carriers raiding and pillaging imperial planets and so started disliking them. Some Carriers are also made from wrecked cruisers of other types, in which case damaged broadside weapons are ripped out and replaced by launch bays. Attack Craft are the primary weapon of the mighty Emperor-class and Despoiler-class battleships. So much for carriers being weak.
- Torpedo-boat: Originally an experiment for escort ships to overrun enemy vessel crews using boarding torpedoes, it was doomed to failure as the targets were either too nimble or too big. The Imperial Navy kept a few as Missile Destroyers.
Mobile Battle Fortress
Massive space stations that can serve a fleet of ships. Only two classes have been named in canon.
- Ramilies-class Starfort: Very rare battle stations that can move thru the Warp. Nobody knows exactly how that works so over the millennia, over a thousand of these valuable and rare artifacts were lost. As these were made by STC's, it is assumed that they can still be constructed albeit very slowly. They serve as forward bases most of the time and only the most important people/locations get to have one. There used to be an Imperium-wide network of these things which enabled the Imperium to very quickly respond to threats despite the unpredictability of Warp travel.
In more recent canon, these things can move only with the aid of tugs, but their utility remains, and they serve as hubs for local military activity and Crusade staging.
Supposedly rare, but every Grand Marshal and High Admiral has at least one and often several or even dozens to hide in because GW is completely and hopelessly inconsistent with fleet sizes, though as of late it seems that GW is leaning towards big fleets and big armies when it gives numbers. The biggest heaviest hitters available, these things are like actual medieval cathedrals in that the grandchildren of the workers who start building them get to live to see their completion. Fuckheug, lots (and lots, and lots) of guns and most can deploy fighters and bombers. Many of you are wondering why battleships instead of focusing on carriers. Contrary to popular belief, large ships are not negated because of smaller but more numerous ships being able to swarm it dead. Big ships are built to kill the ships directly below them, which the ones below them etc. like the universe’s most brutal food chain. So, the ships below them in power ganging up on them still costs more than the big ship they’re ganging up on. For torpedo boats, big ships are escorted by vessels specialized in killing torpedo ships and attack craft. Carriers replaced battleships in real life due to range, which is irrelevant when cheap swarms of potent anti-air ships can be spammed.
- Retribution: Packing all gun batteries, the ship can devastate an entire continent in one broadside, has 3/4 of Gothic broadside as auxiliary weapons in turrets and enough torpedo tubes to tear a cruiser in half just for good measure. Subtle as a sledgehammer to the face.
- Invincible: An interesting class, dubbed a 'fast battleship', these were designed to chase down xenos and chaos raiders, and then use them to make the vast, empty tracts of space more interesting by filling it with their enemies' debris fields. This type of battleship combines the firepower of a Retribution with the speed of a Dauntless. It worked incredibly well to the point that piracy and xenos activity in the entire sector became almost non-existent practically overnight. The problem, of course, is the general incompetence of Imperial tacticians. It looks exactly like a Retribution and has the guns to match, so it must be one, right? NO. They excelled at the role they were designed for, but throw them into gunfights against dedicated battleships, and these things tended to come apart easier than wet cardboard, earning them the nickname 'Kisher's Kombustibles' and the scorn of many admirals. Admirals who ignored the fact that the reports detailing the introduction of the ship and how to best use it (it's tactics also included in the Tactica Imperialis) explicitly state not to use it on a gun-line and that it is for fast-ship interdiction. The ship's Commissars must be particularly incompetent to let this slide as in the Guard the generals would be executed quickly for such incompetence. Of course, these are also the Commissars who do nothing when troop transports' escorts frequently run off to fight while the transports lose a significant percentage of their ships. Perhaps if they would actually enforce their orders to stay with the transports, the Imperium would have won most of the campaigns it has lost. Given that they still often win even with a fraction of their beginning ground forces actually managing to make landfall. Because they have THAT many men to throw at the enemy. Hmmm in fact, misusing the Invincible-class is technically heresy as its instructions of use are in the Tactica Imperialis and violating the Tactica Imperialis is outright heresy (I think I remember someone actually being executed in the fluff for violating it).
- Much like the Chalice-class of Battlecruisers, the Invincibles are a big reference to the real life Battlecruisers of World War 1, especially with the term "Kisher's Kombustibles" (real life Battlecruisers were referred to as "Fisher's Combustibles") and the fact that three blew up in a single battle (referencing Jutland).
- Apocalypse: One of the oldest ship designs (predating the Retribution, which is also one of the oldest ship designs), this ship packs a lot of lances and a Nova Cannon. Good for taking out lots of smaller sized ships with massed lance fire. It's also described in fluff as being able to cripple anything up to a cruiser with a single, concentrated broadside. They're fairly rare, since the Imperium doesn't know how to build them anymore, and the ones still operating are so old, their weapons systems have degraded permanently, forcing them to fire their lances at only a fraction of their full power. Shares all the disadvantages of a Gothic-class cruiser.
- Victory: Possibly an attempt to recreate the Apocalypse class, the Victory is basically a Retribution with a bunch of lances replacing its broadside cannons, and a Nova Cannon instead of torpedoes. Has the range that fluff states the Apocalypses once had, but lacks the same level of firepower. Effective at sniping, and hilarious when used against escort heavy fleets.
- Desolator: A ridiculously old design. Designed to emphasize range and carries Torpedos, Broadside Lances and Dorsal Macrobatteries. Like most keel-built ships, the Desolators ended up mothballed or went traitor.
- Emperor: The "standard" battleship of the 40k 'verse, the ship has multiple fighter decks and, thanks to dorsal and prow turrets, enough weapons batteries to put Dominator broadside to shame. Unfortunately, most commanders like to use this ship as a hideout, causing the lack of sufficient air support in the ground wars even though the Navy's atmospheric aircraft are completely different from its much bigger space based strike craft. Tabletop-wise, its status as the official battleship of Battlefleet Gothic doesn't stop it from losing carrier duels against the Chaos equivalent.
- Nemesis: The super-carrier of the Imperial Navy. It has SIX flight decks (the size of towns or small cities, each), more than any other ship in the galaxy. But because of Rule of Cool, it is incredibly rare since the Navy captains prefer to get up close broadside their enemies, or actually rather because all of the ships in this class were just ships modified from Emperor class ships in one particular war, because they were damaged or otherwise. Naturally, the Navy never considers making them based on the Invincible instead (the Invincible was mass-produced).
- Desecrator: The carrier variant of the Desolator. Replaces half the Broadside Lances with Landing Bays. Shared the same fate as its sister class and is now only seen in Chaos fleets. Traitorous despite its clearly pious and Emperor-loving name.
- Despoiler: Oh boy, where do we start? The Despoiler-class came about after the cogboys discovered plans for a carrier on Barbarus. The catch? Well, Barbarus is the former homeworld of the Death Guard, and the plans were for the same class of ship that the Terminus Est is a part of. Showing a complete lack of common sense, the Imperial Navy decided to build ships of this class, only for them all to go traitor due to the class's inherent Gellar Field flaws. Oops. The Despoilers at first don't appear to be that unique, as they have Dorsal Lances and Broadside Landing Bays and Weapons Batteries. Their difference is that, like the Terminus Est, they managed to have a Prow Landing Bay as well.
- Gloriana: Massive, terrifying and capable of decimating entire fleets on their own, these were the personal flagships of the Primarchs during the Great Crusade. Very few, if any, are still around in the Imperium in M41, though a few such as Horus's flagship Vengeful Spirit are still tooling around inside the Eye of Terror. Because they were dickheads, the Alpha Legion had two, creatively named the Alpha and the Beta. Interestingly, the Ultramarines have one, the Macragge's Honour, but didn't fucking use it, the whole fucking time until Roboute Guilliman returned. It shows up again in Dark Imperium, with the Smurfs having stolen it back from the Red Corsairs, which at least is fucking funny even if it makes no sense. The Imperial Fist had the Eternal Crusader, but it was never their flagship since the Phalanx is so much better, so Rogal Dorn gave it to the Black Templars in the Second Founding. Also, due to Forgeworld apparently hiring people from the street now, the 9th black book of HH states Dark Angels had those as core of their support flotillas.
- Oberon: The mixed-breed bastard of the Imperial Navy. It has lances, fighter bays, and weapon batteries. Its a powerful ship...
when fighting foes half its size"Newer" fluff says the Oberon is rare, but a complete success in making a ship capable of killing anything it comes across, alone. Unfortunately, fluff also says a ridiculously low number of these (apparently) powerful ships were made (like, 3 or so). Then again: only four Iowa class battleships ships were built (technically 6, but 2 were scrapped before completion), and we know HOW to build them. It makes sense in a way. Attack craft can cripple an enemy's main weapons and engines and likely ultimately damage the power transfer from generators to void shields. Combined with macro-batteries hammering away and the enemy's weakened ability to maintain its shields would cause them to drop much quicker than usual. Then the city-sized lance-batteries rip the enemy in half. If used against enemy escorts to support attacks on large enemy ships like battleships and grandcruisers, this would work extremely well to the point an Oberon would likely become a priority target for enemy ships.
Only slightly weaker and less powerful than Battleships, Grand Cruisers were the weird middle-child of actual Line Ships (that really were the mainstay of the fleet back then) and Cruisers in the ancient Imperium. Built primarily with autonomy in mind, those were reserved for the most daring expeditions in the uncharted regions, conducted both by Imperial Army and Rogue Traders. Nowadays most of them run on archeotech that is barely understood and hard to repair with current Imperial knowledge. These grand ships are often used as flagships in lieu of extremely rare Battleships. Ultimately replaced by battleships (which is why they became explorers later) as it’s ultimately cheaper to build a battleship than a grand cruiser and a cruiser to rival the firepower and survivability of a battleship. Even though realistically since many Grand Cruisers are a third smaller than a battleship, it actually is better to build two Grand Cruisers to gang up on enemy battleships and way waste to everything else but the writers forgot about the massive difference in ships’ volume. Basically, they are the quintessential Battlecruisers; tougher and deadlier than Cruisers and yet more mobile than Battleships. Strangely, a common characteristic of all classes is the inability to fire forward though all can ram.
- Vengeance/Furious: The granddaddy of "modern" Imperial warships. The Vengeance was the winner of a GW-sponsored ship design contest, and was originally known as the Furious. Highlights include heavy shielding and armour (though lacking the prow armour of later designs), as well as both lances and long range weapons batteries, making this the sniper of the Imperium's Grand Cruisers.
- Repulsive: Originally named the Corinus Class, before being renamed after many fell to Chaos by an overly literal Mechanicum designation. Whilst the Repulsive Grand Cruisers are exceedingly maneuverable heavy warships (and therefore exceedingly useful because they can fill a hole in the Imperial tactical lineup), they are considered a cursed class due to the majority of them falling to chaos, which unfortunately was the result of experimental warp drives which occasionally interfered with the Gellar Field (OMGWTFBBQTIME). Only the Emperor knows what kind of complete moron would deploy ships equipped with that. The ones that remain in Imperial control are kept mothballed in reserve fleets and segmentum fortresses (imagine giant glass boxes with 'In Case of Emergency, Break Glass' signs). It doesn't say anything about their warp drives being swapped out for something that isn't shitty or perhaps a completed and no longer experimental version of their own. Not that you want AdMechs tear off your head for tinkering with their sacred templates, on the other hand.
- Avenger: The short range brawler of the Imperium's Grand Cruisers, it's a Vengeance with only macrobatteries (kilometres of Macrobattery broadsides). Intended to break the line of battle like Nelson's ships at Trafalgar, while suffering from the lack of an armored prow. Unfortunately line-breaking is quite a dangerous role for any ship, even a Grand Cruiser that excels at doing it, and so not many exist in the 41st Millennium. Those that have survived are known for being exceedingly reliable and faithful; it takes a lot of damage or mistreatment to cause these noble vessels to give trouble. If you spoke with members of the Imperium (both members of the public and the navy), this is the vessel they would think of if you asked them about Grand Cruisers. Now, if only the Imperium realized a slower but more heavily armored and shielded ship would fare better in its role.
- Executor: The sniper of the Vengeances, the Executor replaces its Broadside Macrobatteries with even more Lances. Unfortunately, the last remaining Imperial Executors decided to act retarded and chase a fleet into the Eye of Terror, meaning that all of the ships are chaos aligned now.
- Exorcist: A Vengeance that has carrier bays in place of lances. Useful in providing carrier support to any Imperial fleet. As a bonus, being Grand Cuisers mean they can outrun anything except battleships to save their vulnerable carrier self while their attack craft are away. Originally designed for extended operations alone on the Frontiers of Imperial Space, either on Patrol or by exploring into the unknown, the Exorcist developed quite a reputation for 'boldly going where no man has gone before'. Whilst not many remain in Imperial Service due to maintenance difficulties, they still find use in the hands of Rogue Traders who need vessels capable of long cruises and of defending themselves against anything they might encounter. So much for maintenance difficulties.
- Retaliator: A mix of a Repulsive and a Vengeance, but as a Carrier. Has Lances, Launch Bays and Macrobatteries on its Broadsides. Unfortunately, it has the Repulsive's tendency to go traitor.
What do you do when you forget how to maintain an entire category of heavy warships? You build a new bunch of heavy warships, with simpler technology.
Battlecruisers are basically upgunned cruisers, with more weapons (usually adding dorsal weapons and some armor), and are intended to fill the gap between true battleships, which are rare, and normal cruisers, which tend to die really easily to the ancient Chaos cruisers and grand cruisers. Battle cruisers were tried in real life as some way to combine battleship firepower or armor with the speed of a cruiser. They did not, frankly, work well and much like reality these things have their share of problems. Chaos operates their own versions known as Heavy Cruisers. In real life, the accepted successful form of a battlecruiser is between a heavy cruiser and a battleship; it can kill anything it can catch and it can outrun anything that can kill it (usually only an enemy battleship). After its teething years it was generally a good and effective form of combat when used intelligently. Then the navies trying them realized they had basically made a battleship and it fell out of use again. Why build a ship with the speed, only a slightly lower firepower and roughly equal armor to a battleship when you can fork out a few bucks more and build an actual battleship? Exactly.
- Armageddon Battlecruiser: An upgraded variant of the Lunar Class Cruiser (YAY! ANOTHER ONE!). A rather new innovation, the Armageddon class is basically made up from recovered Lunar Class Hulks that have been extensively repaired and then retrofitted with more armour and more weapons. The base hull was never designed to cope with all this extra equipment (and the extra crew to man said equipment) and so it has problems operating independently for long periods of time. This isn’t really a problem, though, since they wouldn’t be operating away from a fleet anyway. Though reinforcing its frame to handle the added mass would be a smart thing to do to save immensely in future maintenace costs over the centuries. Battlefleets won't say no to them because more guns = better! These ships are extremely powerful and live up to their name. Somehow, though, the Imperium never went “Hey guys, this thing kicks the shit out of everyone, let’s upgrade all Lunar-class ships to Armageddon-class and make a new class to accomodate the new crew and equipment.” Or someone did and was turned into a servitor...
- Hellfire Heavy Cruiser: An upgunned Murder-class. Has the same issues as the Armageddon, slow as fuck and has power and supply issues. Also, lacks Void Shields. Most mutinied and joined Chaos, which decided to use them for some reason.
- Overlord Battlecruiser: The Classic Imperial Battlecruiser. Using the standard Imperial doctrine of - Macrobatteries, Lances and Torpedoes, the Overlord has become the most effective Battlecruiser simply because it really complements standard Imperial Navy Tactics. As an added bonus, its simplicity of design makes it easier to produce and one can be built within a decade. The only negative (if you can call it a negative), is that it's not really useful for anything except war.
- Chalice Battlecruiser: A fast heavy cruiser. Unique to the Calixis sector and an exceedingly new design, the Chalice was conceived as a Battlecruiser that could either out-run or out-manoeuvre anything it can't kill. Which means it was conceived to be a plain ‘ol normal battlecruiser. Whilst good in theory, unfortunately, speed came at the cost of armour and durability and so whilst these vessels punch hard, they can't take as many hits as other cruisers. Which is fine since battlecruisers as a concept are meant for slaughtering escorts in real life not fighting other capital ships. In addition, it carries an experimental plasma drive layout, which while boosting power efficiency, also makes it rather vulnerable to lighting up like a roman candle. Imperial Propaganda is currently trying to cover up their failings and is lauding them as the Poster-ships of the Calixis Sector and therefore a lot of people think they're the 'Best Battlecruisers Eva!'. If they would just use a normal plasma drive and make the whole ship bigger, it would be fast enough, armored enough, and even better armed (or just change the drive). Unfortunately, not being stupid is heresy in Calixis.
- The idea of a ship that can "either out-run or out-manoeuvre anything it can't kill" that turns out to be really poor at taking hits was the original design of real life Battlecruisers, which although being up-gunned Cruisers (
which are the equivalent of Frigates IRL, not Ships of the Linecruisers are the lowest level of capital ship types, you’re thinking of the WW2 destroyers), were used as discount Battleships at Jutland were they turned out to lack the armour required for a proper fight. Thus, if the Imperials were smart, they would be using the Chalice as a commerce raider, not a ship of the line. Or use it to rip up escorts and light cruisers and then run away and hit somewhere else in the battle before they can be overwhelmed by an enemy cruiser.
- Actually, they were not bad at taking hits, they were better at it than heavy cruisers. They just sucked at taking hits from battleships like everybody else on the planet. Real life battlecruisers (after their early screw up designs) were made only a little smaller than battleships which allowed them to have greater armor and firepower and speed than heavy cruisers and were even fast enough to outrun battleships at the cost of significantly lower firepower and armor than the only slightly larger battleships (which caused things like the Jutland kablooie). They had the whole package. So, imagine an Invincible-class but give it a heavy cruiser’s firepower and use the saved weight to give it proper battleship level armor. In reality, the larger the ship the faster it is in navies (broadly speaking, in dense fluids the longer the vehicle is relative to its cross-section, the easier it is to go fast (and the larger the engine by even a little makes far more power)), sci-fi just is made by ignorrants. Battlecruisers fell out of favor shortly after they were perfected for the same reason battleships and heavy cruisers did: the carrier. That isn’t quite accurate. Light cruisers stopped being made because anti-air destroyers grew large enough to do the same job (or you could see it as light cruisers being renamed “destroyers” and actual destroyers being phased out by them, but there were also AA cruisers which was probably not fun to fly against) though when light cruisers were first invented they were just stop-gaps but the name returned to use for normal cruisers due to the invention of heavy cruisers and heavy cruises became known just as “cruisers”, battleships stopped being made, battlecruisers were perfected by making them so big, armored, and armed that they were battleships by another name and so the name “battlecruiser” was dropped as meaningless by that point. That said, they were indeed usually used as commerce raiders. But that is true for all ships. Navies exist to destroy enemy commerce shipping and to transport armies. The only reason fleets engage each other is because both sides defend their own shipping and seek out enemy fleets to pre-emptively destroy to protect said shipping and transports. In 40k, it could be said that the Invincible-class is the closest thing the Imperium has to an equivalent to a real life battlecruiser.
- The idea of a ship that can "either out-run or out-manoeuvre anything it can't kill" that turns out to be really poor at taking hits was the original design of real life Battlecruisers, which although being up-gunned Cruisers (
- Long Serpent Battlecruiser: A true success story, this is what the Chalice wishes it was. Taking a battlecruiser's armour and firepower, and giving it the engine suite of a battleship, this thing can kick the shit out of anything short of a grand cruiser or battleship, while being able to keep up with raiders. It's only real flaw is that when one is taken out, it has a better than average chance of rupturing its warp drive. As a result, the names of Long Serpents that have been destroyed are usually accompanied by those of allied ships that were too close. Which is somewhat odd since the reasoning is that the Long Serpent also has a battleship's warp core (who knows why, it isn't big enough to need it). Given the small difference in size between this ship and other "normal" cruisers which are the mainstays of the fleet, the Imperium could just choose to use a smaller warp core suitable for this ship's size and focus on mass-producing the Long Serpent to replace basically every other class of ship except battleships , Cobras, and carriers. Fewer would be made but, unlike video games, swarming a capital ship with escorts does not work at all. The escorts are slaughtered and the capital ship like this one is left unharmed. (
There are plenty of instances both in 40k and irl of large capital class ships being overwhelmed by smaller, faster vessels due to being caught without support.Actually that is when they’re spamming torpedoes. All non-Imperial navies do not do that (the closest being Chaos but even they don’t use torpedoes nearly as much), although swarms of Firestorms could carve up large ships, the shields prevent this without much larger supporting vessels. Swarms of Cobras and Vipers could do it, but few would survive the attempt, not that any admiral cares about that...until the tech-priests tell them they won’t have a Navy for the few centuries it takes to replace so many ships regardless of size) But doing this would require common sense, which is Heresy. Like properly using the Invincible-class must be.
- Mercury Battlecruiser: Another fast Battlecruiser. It's a cruiser with a Battleships's engines. Nothing more.
- Hades Heavy Cruiser: A long-ranged brawler. Carries Broadside Macrobatteries and Dorsal and Prow Lances. Got phased out like most keel-built designs, but Chaos still uses them.
- Acheron Heavy Cruiser: Designed to test new Lances and Macrobatteries. The Imperials only built one, which went traitor. Carries Broadside and Dorsal Lances with Prow Macrobatteries.
- Mars Battlecruiser: In a word - Mediocre. Some Imperials say it's versatile due to its diverse weapons loadout but in reality it makes it an awkward duckling to use. The Nova Cannon and Launch bays would be good on a ship holding back and harassing enemies at range and yet it has Macrobatteries and Lances which are great for brawling. So if you sit back and harass or go in and brawl, you're wasting half your ship. The Imperial Navy never really got on with it either and so it has gone out of production on most Forge-Worlds. Which is a shame because if they would replace the macrobatteries and lances with larger, long-range lances, and a great number of small, short range weapons batteries for fighter support and self-defense respectively, this would be a great ship in any fleet. It's nova cannon clears a hole in the enemy escort screen, the attack craft rush through to wreck the weapons and engines of light capital ships while long-range lances assist other Imperial ships in slaughtering targets of opportunity. The destroyed enemy light capital ships leaves all the other big ships vulnerable to mass, concentrated torpedo attack from friendly ships. Attack craft return to the fight to tear up the no-doubt seriously damaged enemy big ships and lances win the day. Then just send in friendly light capital ships with attack craft support to finish off the surviving escorts. That would almost make this ship into a sort of miniature "I Win" button. Almost. Especially in a squadron of two, as they could assist each other against any opponents that slip through to them with their combined, close-range firepower, lances, and whatever attack craft they kept back for defense ripping the enemy weapons and engines apart to let the close-range macrobatteries have fun.
- Dominion Battlecruiser: Basically a fixed Mars, some tech priest got it in their head that, maybe, it'd make more sense to replace the Macrobatteries with Lance Batteries instead, making it a dedicated support ship, harrassing enemy ships at range whilst the big guns go out and fight. Apparently not that successful, a number were used at the Battle for Maccrage (Of course the fucking Smurfs get them) against the tyranids, though apparently they all got fucked up and have been in drydock since, which is why up until now no-one's seen them.
- Styx Heavy Cruiser: A pure carrier. Has Broadside Launch Bays, Dorsal Lances and and Prow Macrobatteries. For some reason the Imperial phased it out for the Mars, so only Chaos uses them now.
- Hecate Heavy Cruiser: An attempt to replace the Styx. Swaps out some of the Launch Bays for Macrobatteries. Believed to have an inherent design flaw that made them go traitor, so they were decommissioned.
Cruisers are the bread and butter of the Imperial Navy. Much larger than escorts and light cruisers, but less rare than battleships, cruisers are what the Imperial Navy (and Chaos and Xenos) use to fight their campaigns across the stars. Thus far, all Imperial Cruisers have been shown to utilize the same hull-type: a squat armored prow in front, capable of mounting a prow-mounted weapon system, and a big bunch of engines in the back, with baroque and Gothic architecture in-between. Most cruisers can effectively be placed in four categories:
- Lunar: The Lunar. You've heard so much about it and now you want to know what makes it the standard Imperial Cruiser. First of all, it's one of the oldest designs still in use by the Imperium and is so easy to build that even less advanced worlds can produce them. They're quite versatile due to their weapons loadout (a balanced build of Macrobatteries, Lances and Torpedoes) and make up the backbone of Battlefleets throughout the entire Imperium. This is the cruiser against which all other cruisers are measured.
- Emasculator: Considered a failure by the Imperium at large, Emasculators have the same basic load-out as the Lunar, but are keel-built, lacking the armored prow and replacing the torpedo tubes with more weapons batteries. This means they require different tactics to a Lunar, using their speed and longer ranged weapons to pound ships from a distance. As this fits with Chaos tactics more than Imperials. most of them ended up as traitors. The name Emasculator is due to them being seen mostly as Slaaneshi ships, their original name is unknown. The fact the Imperium keeps trying new ships built on the normally Chaos style hulls implies that usually it must work out just fine since otherwise it would have been banned by now. So, there are probably many cool looking keel-based Imperial ship classes floating around we'll never catch wind of ever.
- Slaughter: A special type of Cruiser, the Slaughter-class has a more powerful drive called the Scartix Engine Coil, but lacks prow weapons. Armed with short ranged, but powerful lances and macrobatteries, the Slaughter is designed to get in close, blast away and retreat. Unfortunately, the Imperium can't build them anymore because one went traitor and destroyed the plans for the Scartix Coil. It is unknown if they were always called the Slaughter-class or were renamed when most went traitor. Considering the usual lack of intelligence in the Imperium's leadership, it was probably called something worse, like the "Traitor-class" or something and then the Imperium was shocked when they lived up to it. Really, would you be surprised if the Imperium did that?
- Inferno: A earlier counterpart to the Carnage-class, carrying more lances in exchange for some Macrobatteries. Had the same difficulties as the Carnage and was mothballed, though a few went renegade beforehand. Rare example of the Imperium learning its lesson. Still too stupid to realize that using cheaper-after-a-few-centuries-than-manual-labor auto-loaders would've fixed the problem for both ships.
- Gothic: Another variant of the Lunar Class, the Gothic is designed as a heavy Lance gunship. Due to the amount of Lance Weaponry it carries, it can easily deal with ships of its own size or larger but often does require an escort or a partner to strip enemy void shields first in order to use its own weaponry to the maximum effect. When supported and used correctly, Gothic Cruisers are the most efficient way to deal with enemy capital ships.
- Dominator: A variant of the Lunar Class, the Dominator is designed primarily for planetary bombardment and assault. Not generally used in fleet actions even though it can provide support with its Nova Cannon when necessary. After one Dominator fucked over a Chaos Cruiser with said Nova Cannon during the Gothic War, the Navy took note and started making more Dominators. Additionally, another Dominator came close to destroying the Terminus Est (aka the toughest Battleship in the galaxy), before being destroyed. The Dominator possesses the same armament as the Retribution-class battleship but lacks the range of one. This is fine, though, since it's meant to get close to the enemy like most Imperial ships anyway. Basically, if you get in range of this thing, you're going to die.
- From Lexicanum 40K: "Captain Straden of the Depth of Fury defended the shrine world of Kathur to the death, and came very close to destroying the Death Guard ship Terminus Est. As it was, he and his crew vaporised several of its decks and destroyed scores of escort ships before finally succumbing. Ironically, no Imperial souls survived to tell the tale."
- Tyrant: The Tyrant was originally intended as a stand-off vessel; it would stay at long range and bombard enemies from afar with superfired plasma weaponry. Unfortunately, due to design compromises where it mixed both short range and long range weaponry to save on power, it wasn't really deadly enough at long range to do its job. Therefore the Imperial Navy is trying to replace the short range weapons with ancient Long-range weaponry (that doesn't use a lot of power) recovered from Space Hulks or Renegade Ships. The Hull itself is a rather effective design and so the Tyrant has become very popular with Rogue Traders who generally replace all of the Plasma Weaponry in order to have more power available compared with other cruisers.
- Relentless/Carnage: Another attempt at a fleet support ship with Plasma weapons, the Relentless ended up with technical difficulties and, when these were overcome, most ships ended up turning traitor (including the lead ship of the class). This is theorised to be due to something wrong with the geometry of the ship's design, as the Relentless-class is keel built, like most older ships (This also means the Relentless lacks an armored prow and torpedo tubes, carrying more plasma batteries instead). The tendency of these ships to turn to Chaos, along with changing tactics, led to the class being renamed the Carnage-class and mothballed in favor of the Tyrant-class, though their speed means they suit Chaos tactics famously.
- Dominator: A variant of the Lunar Class, the Dominator is designed primarily for planetary bombardment and assault. Not generally used in fleet actions even though it can provide support with its Nova Cannon when necessary. After one Dominator fucked over a Chaos Cruiser with said Nova Cannon during the Gothic War, the Navy took note and started making more Dominators. Additionally, another Dominator came close to destroying the Terminus Est (aka the toughest Battleship in the galaxy), before being destroyed. The Dominator possesses the same armament as the Retribution-class battleship but lacks the range of one. This is fine, though, since it's meant to get close to the enemy like most Imperial ships anyway. Basically, if you get in range of this thing, you're going to die.
- Dictator: A Carrier retrofit of extremely damaged Lunar Class Cruisers. If a Lunar class has its lance weaponry destroyed, it's quicker, easier and cheaper to replace those with heavy launch bays for strike craft. This makes it quite versatile and able to deal with virtually all situations and interestingly enough, makes it more effective than the original Lunar Class at everything except fighting as a ship of the line. Unfortunately, the Lunar Class is designed for fighting as a ship of the line, so Admirals dislike Dictators. Interestingly, given why attack craft and torpedoes can go through shields, theoretically a Dictator whose weapons batteries are missiles could use its fighters and missiles to swarm enemy anti-air and ultimately kill an enemy ship without damaging its shields.
- Jupiter: A kitbashed design, converted from other classes of cruiser that have been heavily damaged in battle. By stripping out all the damaged components and replacing them with launch bays, you get a pretty sturdy carrier. Just don't let the enemy get anywhere near it. Apparently the Imperium doesn't build these normally at all, likely because they are absolutely shit at defending themselves from other Cruisers.
- Devastation: Deviating from the standard Carrier design, the Devastation-class carries Lances instead of Macrobatteries. Mostly turned traitor or mothballed, as they lack armored prows and torpedos; and are keel-built. Chaos likes them, as they can pack them with mutants and sit back to spam assault boats and lances at anything that looks at them funny.
- Other: Various other cruiser types exist, but are rarer.
- Ambition: Custom-made Cruisers for the exceedingly affluent - it's the Rolls Royce of the Cruiser World. Most Rogue Trader ships are second-hand, battle-scarred, tired and worn ex-navy vessels but the Ambition is not. It's the only cruiser class that can be bought brand spanking new by Private parties in the Imperium and each one is unique and built to the customer's specifications. These exclusive ships, whilst still cruisers and deadly in their own right, are stately homes and status symbols. Some durability sacrifices have been made in order to make them the most opulent and luxurious ships on the market but for eccentric people like Rogue Traders, it's generally worth it.
- Conquest-Class Star Galleon: Built for the very first Rogue Traders on the orders of the Emperor himself, the Star Galleon is an ancient and noble design. Whilst not considered heavily armed by modern standards, they're still formidable opponents and yet as specialist exploration vessels they are able to operate independently for many years and can transport greater quantities than other Cruisers. In effect, it's a cruiser fused with a transport and looks fucking amazing.
- Murder: The predecessor to the Lunar. Differs by being keel-built, exchanging their torpedos for Lances and having more powerful macrobatteries. The majority that appear in modern 40k are Chaos-aligned, as the Imperials mothballed theirs in favor of the Lunar. A few carried lances as well as Macrobatteries, meaning they don't fit into any category. As with the Slaughter, it is unknown if Murder-class is their original name or they were renamed.
- Cardinal: The black sheep of Imperial Cruisers. A ship that's plagued by its ancestors. The Cardinal-Class Heavy Cruiser is a class of Cruiser used by the Imperial Navy. Seeing as how this ship used the original template for the ill-fated Acheron Class, one can see why this class of ship proved a tad bit too controversial for the Imperial Navy. The failure of the Acherons and their supposed use of xenos technology has haunted the Cardinal Class and now only a handful of Imperial Navy fleets use the ageing ships in service. As its design was Great Crusade-era, the Cardinal lack the armored prow of its modern cousins and is more suited for long-range engagements.
Smaller than true cruisers, light cruisers are used in two ways. Either you use a fast, maneuverable light cruiser like the Dauntless to add some extra firepower to a scouting squadron or long-range patrol, or you use a pocket cruiser like the Voss light cruiser to add some heavy firepower and armor to a convoy, fleet, or base. The advantage of the light cruisers are that they're cheaper to build and operate than real cruisers. Another departure from real nomenclature. In real life, “light” cruisers were less armed and armored normal cruisers made to make up for losses, especially in America after Japan’s initial attack. After the industry fully turned to wartime manufacturing, the light cruisers’ changes were recinded and they were just normal cruisers again. However, with the introduction of heavy cruisers, the normal cruisers again were named “light” cruisers to avoid confusion. In 40k, however, light cruisers are very distinct and fill a unique niche. Like the Cruiser, they fit into a few base categories.
- Basic: Same as its larger sibling, a Jack of All Trades.
- Dauntless; The standard Light Cruiser of the Imperium; it's a Jack-of-all-Trades. You can't go wrong with the Dauntless even though other Light Cruisers may be better for certain tasks. Considered 'scouting' cruisers, these make up the bulk of Imperial Patrol Squadron leaders. Comes in lance and torpedo variants, with the prow lance being a bit more common.
- Defender: A convoy escort variant of the Dauntless, with added dorsal weaponry.
- Endeavour; A 'heavy', Light Cruiser, designed as a stop-gap between the 'lighter' light cruisers and true cruisers. Whilst they can slug it out in a fleet fight, they can easily be overwhelmed because they simply aren't cruisers and don't have the equivalent fire-power or hull integrity. As an added titbit, most of Battlefleet Koronus' patrols consist of an Endeavour and a pair of frigates. The Endeavour and its variants are relatively new designs unique to the Voss Prime forge world and are rare outside of Battlefleet Armageddon. Except Battlefleet Koronus, apparently, which must have a ton of them.
- Siluria; Three-quarters the cost of the Endeavor, and about three-quarters the ship. Standard weapon batteries only, no fancy frills to speak of. Cheap and effective, at short range, to catch enemy torpedoes.
- Lance-boat: Also the same as the Cruiser version, though some have weak weapons batteries for better defence.
- Endurance; An Endeavour variant with just enough guns to claim it has them, lance batteries and a couple of torpedoes. It's the lance half of a Lunar, nothing more.
- Carrier: More useful as a Light Cruiser, as it can act as backup for patrols.
- Enforcer: A carrier variant of the Dauntless, with a bombardment cannon like those seen on space marine cruisers. Designed to maintain control of rebellious planets via intimidation (and possible orbital bombardment). Given one managed to stop the rebellion of an entire sub-sector, its a shame the Imperium doesn't build more of them. Anyone else just realize that 40K is so Grimdark we're disappointed the dystopian ultra-oppressive, bloody regime isn't being more oppressive? Because we know their oppression is the right and best choice they have.
- Defiant; A carrier variant of the Endeavour. It's quite versatile (by virtue of being a carrier) and so has found a home in many Rogue Trader houses but unfortunately the Imperial Navy doesn't consider it as useful because they can't stand by themselves and require an escort. Gee, it's almost like ships are meant to be used in groups to compliment each other. Due to being based off of the Endeavour, it's relatively well armoured for a Light Cruiser and that does help with its survivability.
8 kilometer long battering rams. No, really. Tyranids and Orks are busy taking notes.
Escorts are the smallest armed vessels available to the Imperial Navy. These ships are normally assigned sector patrol duties or perform as escorts for much larger ships. In fleet engagements they will also act as scouts, ranging out in front of their armada to verify enemy ship numbers and locations. They are generally classified as either frigates or as destroyers. They are usually deployed in squadrons consisting of the same class.
Ranging from about 1.4-2km long. They are used for all sorts of duties from convoy escorts to attack or patrol squadrons. Ironically named, as in real life Frigates were the same as Cruisers (which were not Ships of the Line). In the Age of Sail. But in WW2, cruisers had like six or eight times the armament and were more than twice the size of frigates and were self-sufficient and were intended to fight other ships and were considered capital ships. Usually deployed in three-ship squadrons.
- Basic: Laser batteries or Light Macrobatteries only, maybe some Torpedoes if you're lucky. Named after types of swords.
- Sword Frigate: The most common warship in the Imperial Navy, and one of the simplest. No torpedoes or lances to distract you here; a Sword puts two massive laser batteries in turrets behind a pointed armored prow and cuts into enemy formations like a multi-laser through canon.. Some variants replace the lasers with light macro batteries instead.
- Falchion Frigate: A new (245 years old) class of escort ship built by Voss Prime. Slower than the Cobra (in the lore they were faster than invading Chaos ships, though) but still capable of firing torpedoes. While Cobras are used offensively in fleet actions, Falchion's are designed to be convoy escorts and stick close to larger warships to defend them from enemy escorts. Effectively a Voss-pattern Cobra with two more laser/macro batteries.
- Turbulent Heavy Frigate: Heavy Naval Escorts; these things have comparable armour to cruisers. They're built to sally forth ahead of the main fleet and win skirmishes against enemy scouting forces and vanguard elements. They've garnered a reputation for being lucky; they've contributed to many glorious victories and survived catastrophes that other ship classes have not. Their only downside is that they have rather antiquated communication equipment, probably equipped for durability, not ease of use. The other downside is that the Navy isn’t smart enough to replace the Sword-class with these badasses.
- Lance-boat: Rarer for Frigates, as they need a Prow slot to mount a Lance.
- Firestorm Frigate: A Sword-class frigate with a prow-mounted Lance replacing one laser/macro battery. Gives the Sword some extra anti-ship punch that it dearly needs. It's also two hundred meters longer than the Sword-class as a result. The Navy does not like the Marines having them, for some reason.
- Thunderbolt Heavy Frigate: Not much information on this one, but implied to be a Lance version of the Turbulent, like how the Firestorm is the Lance version of the Sword.
- Ordnance-boat: Mostly upgunned Frigates. Can carry a mix of macrobatteries and small lances.
- Tempest Strike Frigate: Specialized Brawling frigate designed for devastating enemies at close range. Basically a Sword with a triple armoured prow and heavy short-range broadside batteries. They're often equipped with Assault Boats and Barracks for boarding actions.
- Havoc Merchant Raider: Small, yet fast raider sized vessels whose impressive firepower came at the expense of armor. Glass Cannons, in large squadrons these can easily overwhelm larger vessels by weight of fire. Supposedly has large storage space for its size. Which makes sense for something meant for piracy.
The most common warship class. Their tasks range from scouting to shuttling VIPs or fighting in fleet engagements in large squadrons. Most pirates use these speedy, nimble vessels to prey upon transport ships. The Navy usually deploys them in squadrons of four. Instead of a WWII or modern analogue, the destroyers of the Imperial Navy are like those of the First World War: ocean-capable torpedo boats that swarm enemy ships.
- Basic: Usually mounts Prow Torpedoes and a Macrobattery/Laser.
- Cobra Destroyer: The PT-Boats of the Imperial Navy. Small, fast, and lightly armed, their one purpose in life is to fire shoals of torpedoes from 3-4 ship squadrons. A great part of the Imperium's military advantage (in fluff and on the tabletop) comes from all the torpedoes they can fire at the enemy, and the Cobras are a big part of that.
- Infidel Raider: Was meant to replace the Cobra, but the plans were stolen by Chaos. Armed with Prow Torpedos and a Macrobattery like its predecessor, though some Chaos fleets upgrade them to Heavy Raiders by adding another Macrobattery. The Falchion was developed from the redevelopment. Both ships are almost twice the size of the Cobra they are meant to replace. Guess someone realized PT boats aren’t that useful if your extremely long-ranged and fast enemy just slaughters them.
- Iconoclast Destroyer: If there ever was a Guardsman of starships, the Iconoclast is it. A destroyer so shitty the Navy doesn't want it, the Iconoclast mounts 1-2 macrobatteries and is used by Rogue Traders, Chaos and Pirates. Notable for being one of the few ships to have a forward placed bridge, likely due to the smoke-stack like pylons along its spine. It actually has good firepower for its size and is effective at killing enemy attack craft, torpedoes, and destroyers. So, not actually shitty at all until a Sword shows up to kill everyone.
- Torpedo-boat: Why waste space on pop guns?
- Viper Destroyer: Given GW's naming conventions, it was inevitable somebody would do this. Not to be confused with the Sloop below, this is a variant of the Cobra where the remaining guns are replaced by torpedoes. Weak against escorts but deadly in numbers against capital ships. Use Boarding Torpedoes for hilarious results. Since a Cobra has one gun and it’s useless, we can only assume either Tzeench or self-lobotomy was involved when the navy decided to focus on the Cobra instead of the Viper.
- Lance-boat: Rather rare among Raiders, as most use their Prow slots for Torpedoes.
- Apostate Heavy Raider: A variant of the Infidel. Somehow those heretics managed to shove a full sized Lance into a Dorsal slot, which only Light Cruiser and bigger can normally manage.
- Idolator Raider: Also known as the "WTF is this" ship, the Idolator is the lovechild of a Infidel, a Firestorm and Xenotech. Has a prow lance and a macrobattery.
- Other: Mostly weak scouts.
- Viper Scout Sloop: Smallest warp-capable ship in mass production. It is an exceedingly fast scout ship with ridiculously powerful realspace engines and high-tech auspex scanners. In support of Naval Operations these vessels would burn into enemy territory at high speed, collect as much information as possible and then warp back to friendly territory. Unfortunately they are so specialized that they can't do much else apart from that.
- Rudense "Class": A small ship designed post Gathering Storm to be as fast, heavily armed, and densely armoured as possible, which they do with aplomb. You may ask yourselves, why are they not used in more regular combat roles? Well, the answer is that they are a specialised orbital insertion ship - designed to get as close to the atmosphere of a heavily defended planet as possible, drop it's cargo of primaris marines into the top layer, and get out of there. Whilst this may seem too specialised to be practical, few enemies are ready for half a company of marines dropping in to their base unexpectedly. (Nb - the class hasn't been formally named yet but the only example of it thus far was named the Rudense).
- Claymore Corvette: Designed entirely around escorting vulnerable transports and protecting them against light raiders in order to allow true Frigates to accompany more valuable ships such as Battleships, Battlecruisers and Cruisers. The Claymore Corvettes are easy to mass produce and maintain and are exceedingly common in the private sector, as they are simply a discount Sword. It’d be nice if someone bothered using them to protect troop transports.
As part of the reforms falling the Horus Heresy, the Imperial Army was not just split into regiments to ensure that no one Imperial army could be self-sufficient if it fell to heresy or rebellion: the ground forces were also split from their airpower, which was given to the Imperial Navy. Strictly speaking, all atmospheric aircraft are also part of the Imperial Navy, with only few general exceptions. Which was stupid and pointless as now the IG can’t even pretend to defend itself if even one ship above them turns traitor and they don’t usually receive hardly any air support. This means all the split did was ensure the Navy held all the power.
- Fighter: The fighter's main role is to stop enemy torpedoes and bombers before they can rip your flying cathedral multiple new assholes. Comes in different models like the Fury Interceptor or the Thunderbolt Fighter. The main difference is that some can enter a planet's atmosphere to dogfight and/or strafe ground targets, whereas others are limited to space combat. Technically, Furies are capable of atmospheric operation but would maneuver like a crippled whale and would basically just be entertaining targets. The good news is you can have a bunch on a planet to surprise buttsax invaders.
- Bomber: Basically reusable torpedoes. Come in different models like the Marauder Bomber and the Starhawk Bomber, but again the main difference is that some can dip in a planet's atmosphere and drop bombs on ground-pounders, while others are space-combat only. Starhawks might also be technically capable of atmospheric flight, unknown exactly.
Oddly, a modern F/A-18E Super Hornet is about one-thirteenth the size of a Nimitz-class carrier. A Fury would take about 133 nose-to-tail to measure up to the length of an Emperor-class battleship. Yet, the number of Furies aboard an Emperor class is at most 40 (eight squadrons of 5 each at best) whereas the number of Super Hornets on a Nimitz at most is 130. Yeah, there's a problem there. A Super Hornet is slightly less than 19 meters long, a Fury is 60 meters long. That's a very small difference for such a massive discrepancy.
Converted Civilian Vessels
Civilian ships seized by the Navy.
- Armed Freighter: Not really a conversion. Considering what universe this is, odds are every freighter out there is armed in some way as a matter of course. Won't last long or do much damage. However, in sufficient numbers, they can cripple or even destroy Frigates, which is a good trade. Pressed into temporary service, these merchantmen are the basic transports of the navy.
- Q-Ship: Generally classified as Loki-class. These are civilian cargo ships taken over by the Imperial Navy and retrofitted to sacrifice cargo space for heavy weaponry. Unlike the Armed Freighters above, these are essentially auxiliary warships crewed by navy personnel. The standard tactic is to look like a scared civilian and let the enemy come close, then let them have it with the macros. They don't have warship armor or shields so they die in a prolonged battle.
- Escort Carriers: Like the Q-Ships above but with hangers instead of weapons. The Imperial Navy currently has a severe shortage of carriers despite having numerous hybrid carrier classes and dedicated carrier classes it chooses not to build, so this is a cheap way to get fighters and bombers to the field. More common than Q-Ships.
A fancy name for what's essentially a colossal kamikaze ICBM. A Fire Ship is an Imperial Navy vessel that for whatever reason, is no longer considered for active service (due to old age, suffered catastrophic damage....etc), stuffed to the brim with whatever explosives the navy could spare, and flown straight into whatever priority target(s) the officers designate in a final blaze of glory. Again, Orks are busy taking notes for their Roks. Contrary to what you might think from the Imperium, this is not necessarily a one-way assignment (atleast for the crew).
A skeleton crew is used and supplied with plenty of escape pods/lifeboats. The crew evacuates and the ship detonates after they are far out of the danger zone. Some captains decide to go down with the fire ship anyway. Or they mindfuck some penitents to stay and guide it to the best point of detonation. The Imperium isn't short on criminals and/or desperate underclassmen/mutants. Despite its reputation, the Imperium does care about its people’s lives (mostly because Imperial lives are the Emperor's currency, and wasting His property is heresy). It just doesn’t care how many of those lives are sacrificed when necessary; but does attempt to minimize said necessity and sacrifice. It’s a nation, not a team-killing asshole out to murder its own people...when not believed needed for the majority to survive.
Non-Warp Capable Vessels
Vessels incapable of interstellar travel. All but the most primitive Imperial planets have them.
- System Ships: Civilian ships that do all the civilian stuff like ferrying, mining and transport. As nobody would buy models of them, GW never bothered to flesh out their canon. If armed, they are dragooned into the System Defense Force during invasions.
- Defense Monitor: Essentially, a mobile gun emplacement in space. Slow and small, it diverts all its power into the battleship-sized guns it carries. Crewed by regular Imperial Navy personnel and used to augment existing defenses. Threatening enough to make pirates and smallish raiding fleets fuck off for easier targets, but usually insufficient to stop a determined invasion force.
- System Defense Vessel: The primary unit of a System Defense Force aka the PDF in space. Nobody knows what they look like or even what capabilities they have. It is assumed they are lightly armed vessels usually used in police actions and customs enforcement. In times of invasion, they use hit and run tactics as best they can until they die.
Logistics / Civilian Vessels
Ships used for the transportation of cargo or individuals. The majority of Imperial ships would fall into this category.
- Carrack-Class Transport Ship; A newer version of the Conquest Star Galleon. It's a hardy vessel that can defend itself quite well against raiders. The profile even looks like a Military Vessel so opponents who can't distinguish between Imperial Ships could be scared off.
- Jericho-Class Pilgrim Vessel: Refinery ships that have been converted into personnel carriers, the majority of which will be transporting poor-er passengers. Can't really defend itself but usually not even worth the bother for pirates.
- Orion-Class Star Clipper; Blockade runners through and through. They're designed to transport low-volume but high-quality goods, even through hostile space. Speed is the name of their game. Hell, these things can put some Eldar ships to shame.
- Universe-Class Mass Conveyor; Think Super-Tanker in space. It's the largest standardized Cargo hauler in the Imperium and is 12km long. It looks freaking awesome too.
- Vagabond-Class Merchant Trader; Rather small cargo vessel but extremely common. As if to assist with its 'commoner' theme, it makes you yawn just looking at it.
Adeptus Mechanicus Vessels
Being in charge of manufacturing the warships for the other departments of the Imperium, obviously the Adeptus Mechanicus would also have fleets of its own. The official Mechanicum body that constructs and operates spacecraft is known as the Basilikon Astra. Because the Quest for Knowledge can involve long & dangerous travels into unexplored space, it is important that they be heavily armed and armored, so the Adeptus Mechanicus ships generally are overall of higher quality than standard ships, with better tecnology, weapons, and shields. Though the total number of ships the Adeptus Mechanicus has at its disposal dispersed among its many forge worlds is far outnumbered by that of the Imperial Navy, it goes without saying that those responsible for all starship construction reserve for themselves among the most powerful and best-equipped warships encountered anywhere in the Imperium.
- Ark Mechanicus: If battleships are literal void-traveling cities, then Ark Mechanicus are void-traveling factories or massive laboratories, with industrial capabilities rivaling that of many hive cities, with kilometre upon kilometre of manufactoria, refineries, crackling Plasma Reactors and laboratories, test ranges, chemical vats and gene-bays. These kinds of battleships are incredibly large, nigh-mythical ships that are said to endlessly search the stars as part of the Adeptus Mechanicus Quest for Knowledge, being led by a Venerated Archmagos Explorator. An Ark Mechanicus is outfitted with the most powerful weapons available to the Imperium, generally having a balanced set of lances, wepons batteries, and a Nova Cannon. Shit's that dangerous out there.
- Lathe-class Monitor-Cruiser: An Adeptus Mechanicus Light Cruiser designed around deep space exploration and extreme self-reliance. These ships, when properly outfitted, can operate for decades without returning to imperial space for resupply. These would make up the bulk of Explorator fleets.
- Secutor-class Monitor-Cruiser: An Adeptus Mechanicus Light Cruiser designed to excel at the art of war. Tougher than all of the other Light Cruisers and yet still more mobile than true Cruisers. Due to being designed from the ground up to be a Warship, this Light Cruiser is fitted with Cruiser sized Void Shield Generators.
- Goliath-Class Factory Ship; An Adeptus Mechanicus vessel designed to harvest plasma from Stars. These ships supply the fuel for the entirety of the Imperium. Other ships can be fitted with Plasma Scoops to top up their own tanks but this is the true fuel-harvesting-workhorse of the Imperium.
The Inquisition usually borrow ships to do their jobs. However, there comes a time in every Inquisitor's life when witnesses are liabilities and executing entire Imperial Navy crews may be too much. Solution: Have a Navy of your very own. Still, these ships are rare and are assigned on a mission to mission basis. Usually carries Deathwatch, Grey Knights, Adepta Sororitas and/or Tempestus Scions depending on the Ordos involved. They do not have Armored Prows and usually travel alone.
- Inquisitorial Black Ship: What happens when a Strike Cruiser and Battlecruiser fall in love? They create offspring that are stronger than Battleships. Armed with a dorsal Bombardment Cannon, port weapons batteries, Attack Craft prow launch bays, prow Torpedoes and whatever Xenos/Chaos tech you can imagine.
- Inquisitorial Cruiser: A Strike Cruiser-variant built for the Inquisition. However, unlike most Strike Cruisers (which are the size of Navy Light Cruisers) they can be a lot bigger and have no set pattern. Usually specifically designed for use by specific Ordos.
Adeptus Astartes Vessels
Adeptus Arbites Vessels
- Punisher Cruiser: Modeled after the Strike Cruisers of the Astartes, they are supposed to bolster local PDF security, put down rebellions, hunt down pirate bands and transport high-ranking Arbites officials. Realistically, carrying Big Wigs is probably all they do. Despite being heavily armed with torpedoes, Bombardment Cannons, Fighters and advanced scanners to spot bases, they are too few (usually travelling alone) to fight anything major. That said... being a Strike Cruiser variant means they have the body of a light cruiser but can punch way over their weight class. Can easily destroy escort squadrons and go mano a mano with bigger ships.
Navy crews are made up of officers, techpriests, astropaths, navigators, servants, slave drivers, and slaves.
A bit of an over-simplification, but broadly true. Due to the Imperium's aversion to AI and Automation each ship needs at least thousands of people to man it. Whenever the crew count gets low, the Imperial Navy sets up fake strip clubs on a planet claiming "Free Hookers" to lure in unsuspecting men (and the occasional woman). Once a future crewman steps in, he's knocked out, bound, gagged, and taken to the ship, where they'll slave away the rest of their soon-to-be-short existence doing everything needed to make flying through space and fighting in the void possible.
This includes dragging shells the size of houses into cannons while being whipped. Still, at least for the crew sex is allowed, in fact encouraged, if for no other reason than maintaining the crew complement. Seriously, whole fucking cities and civilizations arise from the more massive ships, every bit as intricate as a long lived Hive City. Here is an idea of how it works, right up to the Roman armor, whips and beatings. Oh and apparently besides whole civilizations, there are whole civilizations of mutants around too. They can more or less settle new worlds for da Emprah by simply disgorging their excess population, which the crew is probably all too happy to do.
High ranking officers may also bring their own people on board. These include, but are not limited to, concubines, bodyguards, servants, slaves, etc.. Makes you wonder just what regulations are actually enforced if any exist at all.
One area where fluff hasn't been consistent is in the uniform worn by Imperial Navy crewmen. Some sources suggest that uniforms are divided by segmentum of the Imperium, while others suggest that it is a sector-by-sector fashion choice. Given the scale of the Imperium and the fact that Navy fleets are already identified by hull color, it's probably on a segmentum basis, but Games Workshop doesn't care enough to make a decision about it (and no matter what they'll inevitably be blinged out in skulls and eagles). For the ranks of the aforementioned shell draggers at the bottom of the naval hierarchy they'd wear a motley collection of their old civilian clothes and whatever they could scrounge up and sew together.
The ships of the Imperium travel through the Warp using what's called a warp drive to get to where they're going. However, this isn't your happy, fancy tunnel-of-light like in Star Wars, or everything-moves-fast Star Trek, it is an alternate dimension full of Chaos. In order to avoid being turned inside-out (think Event Horizon) and getting hentai-raped by every daemon in the warp, the ships rely on what is called a Gellar Field to keep the furries, undesirables, and various other evil beings out of their ship when traveling through. The Baroque decorations are also implied in helping to ward off said daemons. When traveling through literal Hell itself, turning an actual cathedral into an actual voidship is actually a pretty good actual idea. They rely on a Navigator that uses the Empra as a beacon to safely navigate the Warp, hence the title "Navigator".
- Macrocannons: Guns. Lots of guns. Macrocannons are gargantuan cannons firing equally gargantuan shells. On escort ships these are often mounted in turrets, while capital ships often feature broadside batteries manned by crews of tens of thousands. Generally used to saturate void shields with overwhelming volume of fire. Alternatively, its also used by capital ships to provide planet-side fire support (although due to it's size, its the equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on someone) or used en-masse against the planet's surface to bombard it into oblivion.
- Lasers: Smaller than true lances, lasers are common on escorts such as the Sword. Accurate but not overly powerful, their main virtue is that they don't require ammunition and are usually in turrets. They only need lens refocusing or repairing the actual gun itself, as by the time their "ammo" supply (the reactor) is compromised the ship has worse problems than going dry.
- Plasma Cannons: Powerful, but power hungry and finicky. Not every forge world can build them, but generally the Imperium is better at building ship sized plasma guns than they are at building handheld ones. Imperial ships with plasma tend to be all plasma like the tyrant instead of the normal lance and macro mix of the lunar.
- Lance Batteries: Lances are enormous particle/laser weapons designed to penetrate armor and inflict deep structural damage. Accurate and powerful but they don't recharge fast enough to defeat void shields unassisted. Their sheer size and power requirements typically limit them to capital ships; lance armed escorts are purpose built vessels like the Firestorm. The necessity to defeat void shields means that the preferred Imperial loadout for capital ships is macrocannons paired with lances. Lances do extreme damage, period, but recharge so slowly that the enemy shields will have mostly recharged by the time you shoot again, hence preference for pairing with macrocannon. Macrocannons either prevent recharge in small numbers or do that and take chunks out of void shields between lance shots.
- Torpedos: The standard Imperial torpedo consists of a unstable plasma reactor with an engine and a guidance cogitator. On impact, the reactor and its remaining fuel detonates with roughly the force of an escort ship's main drive exploding, but directed straight to the target like a shaped charge. A well placed torpedo allows even a lowly destroyer to threaten a battleship, although they are as often used by capital ships to force an enemy to turn to avoid a torpedo salvo.
- Melta Torpedos: What causes more damage than a reactor blowing up in a shaped charge? Said reactor blowing up inside the target after a melta charge has burrowed it's way through and more melta warheads exploding alongside, consuming the impact area in nuclear fire. That said, if the torpedo launcher receives a penetrating hit while they are loaded, there is a good chance they will detonate and take the ship with them.
- Boarding Torpedo: Essentially a torpedo version of an assault ship, boarding torpedoes are more often used by the Astartes due to the acceleration forces involved on both ends of the trip.
While the Imperial Navy uses a lot of the ranks in similar fashion to modern militaries, they invariably hold to a more archaic form and are not equivalent to modern day ranking systems. Particularly since it's quite clear that commissions in 40k can often be purchased rather than earned, and that a "Warrant" would most likely hold to the original term and be an "officer by appointment" rather than an enlisted grade. Though considering the immense variety of units within the Imperium, this may not necessarily be the case galaxy-wide, so all options are equally valid. A competent naval academy or Schola Progenium graduate leading one ship and a glory hound who's daddy paid for another can serve on the same bridge. Also, the ship commander will generally be referred to as Captain internally for the sake of simplicity, except in Astartes fleets where they are called shipmasters to avoid confusion regarding the actual rank of Captain in the Astartes. Funnily, this practice among the Astartes is directly opposite to IRL Marine units, where Captains are known as Majors to avoid being confused with the actual Captain of the ship. Since they are not in the dirt, Navy officers look significantly more well dressed than Guard officers but can get scarred just like the ground pounding plebians. LT's and up in the Navy can be very creepy to look at. The smoking hot lieutenant commander in immaculate uniform with fancy frills and spotless Carapace Armor having half of her face missing and plated over with cybernetics along with her whole arm being replaced by bionics is not an uncommon sight. Ratings and below look more like standard sci-fi lower class cyborgs.
Like the Imperial Guard, the Imperial Navy has Commissars. They serve the exact same role they do in the Imperial Guard. They're outside the chain of command, they maintain discipline and punish traitors and mutineers, and they can in theory overrule or execute anyone, though it is much more difficult to put a bolt in a Navy Captain's head than a Guard Colonel. Much like guard regiments, not every ship in the navy will always have a Commissar aboard, but the ones likely to need them typically will.
- Lord-High Admiral of the Imperial Navy - This person is a High Lord and is the person responsible for the ENTIRE Imperial Navy, though likely the post holder doesn't do much other than delegate to their subordinates and attend tedious High Lord meetings.
- Lord-High Admiral - There are five of these guys, one for each Segmentum. While they're probably never anywhere near the front lines they probably have more to do, since its their job to oversee the deployment of fleets and materials from sector to sector. That said, the non-canonical Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 game has Lord-High Admiral Spire personally leading Battlefleet Gothic around the Cadian sector from his flagship, even taking down some of the top-dogs of Abaddon's inner council.
- Lord Admiral - The guy in charge of a sector fleet who gets direct command of vessels and formations. You see these guys in the fluff quite regularly when "key" worlds (like Armageddon) need defended or attacked.
- Solar Admiral - Often a terminal rank... no really. Occasionally regular Admirals who do good jobs can put themselves forward for promotion to this position, which needs to be approved by the Lord-High Admiral of their Segmentum, then the officer needs to travel to Terra be reviewed by the Lord-High Admiral of the Imperial Navy. Obviously this can take a very, VERY long time to approve. So they might often be dead before the paperwork gets rubber-stamped. If they do get approved they are likely to get promoted straight up to sector commander (see Lord Admiral) as a position will probably have opened up while he was waiting. More rarely, Solar Admirals can get sent on "detached duties" which is basically a license to do as they please with their independent fleets. The fact they get approved implies that those who died waiting were rejected without being told.
- High Admiral - Commands several group of naval fleets (e.g. Battlegroups), often the most senior Navy officer in a Crusade but the things these fucks usually do is just having snacks with their Imperial Guard counterparts and leaving the combat duties to their subordinate Admirals
- Admiral - Gets put in charge of a fleet and told to oversee some subsectors. He's usually the highest of the "front line" ranks and much of his time will be on active duty patrolling his assigned region.
- Vice Admiral - Fleets traditionally get split into three parts, with the highest Admiral taking up the portion containing the larger ships, while the "Vice" Admiral takes the "Vanguard" portion of faster moving ships.
- Rear Admiral - the third portion of a fleet would be the "Rearguard" and usually gets assigned to the youngest/least experienced Admiral in the fleet. His job is usually the quietest one as he gets the mop-up and repair duties.
- Commodore - an experienced Captain in command of a squadron of capital ships. It's traditionally only a temporary rank, as capital ships don't always get assigned to each other the same way that escorts do. But the realities of war often mean that ships stay together for extended periods, often well beyond the lifespans of generations of captains.
- Lord Captain - not actually a rank, but an honourific applied to Captains of detached vessels operating independently. The "Lord-" part implies that they operate with the full authority of the Imperial Navy when they act so they can deal with outside organisations (like planetary governors, Space Marines or Imperial Guard) on relatively even footing. Sometimes also known by the more archaic term of "Flag-Captain", since as the commander of a detached vessel they figuratively carry their own flag.
- Captain The commander of a single capital ship or the lead starship in an escort squadron.
- Commander - Usually the commander of an escort vessel. Is also the ranking officer on board orbital space stations. It also gets used as the terminal rank amongst Pilots, since small attack craft all fall under the remit of the Navy; so a Wing Commander would get command over all pilots based on a single carrier.
- Lord Lieutenant - The second-in-command to captains of capital ships, bizarrely Commanders don't hold that role and hold their own positions. Thankfully because a chain of command exists in any military, despite a Wing Commander holding higher "actual" rank over a Lieutenant on a carrier vessel he would not hold any higher authority on that ship than his duties allow for. Sometimes this rank is known as Flag Lieutenant, which allows GW to once again show their incompetence as a Flag Lieutenant is actually an Admiral's aide-de-camp.
- Lieutenant - a "working" rank. Either holds command over small system vessels or acts as second in command to Commanders of escorts, or as department heads on Capital ships. They are also Squadron leaders amongst pilots.
- Sub-Lieutenant / Ensign - Team leaders or attack craft pilots
- Midshipman - Apprentice officers who haven't passed any exams or earned any responsibility, they would exist below the Warrant Officers in terms of authority, despite holding a commission. Midshipmen are commissioned from Imperial Nobility as part of the Imperial Tithe (which can mean virtually anyone gets the job if they send their useless heirs just to keep the best ones at home) but they are also assigned from the Schola Progenium. In addition, Midshipmen also may be taken on as a personal favour from the Captain of a vessel if he knows the family. This echoes the ancient real-world practice of young noblemen showing up while the vessel was in dock with a letter from their family and being granted a commission on the Captain's say-so.
- Ship Master - the most senior Warrant officer on board a starship, also quite possibly the busiest man on the starship. It's his job to maintain the logs, update stellar navigation charts, oversee ships stores and order supplies, and command a hangar deck if there is one. Basically he's the guy who knows the ship better than anyone. In real-world historical usage, this guy would have an authority equivalent to a Lieutenant on board a starship, and would "mess" (ie: occupy the same space) as the other officers do.
- Bosun - (Shorthand for Boatswain) The NCO directly responsible for all of the common crew members, including maintaining discipline. Despite his position, his actual rank may vary depending upon the size of vessel or operational requirements, in practice it never really matters since he's unlikely to ever meet another Boatswain. (real-world Boatswains are typically petty officers or warrant officers, but could be of any rank. They held responsibility over all areas of the ship other than Engineering, which was left to the Chief Engineer, as if the bosun disciplined/executed/imprisoned a skilled crewman from that department the ship could be crippled because of it).
- Chief Warrant Officer - Also called "Chief Petty Officer" on some vessels. Will often be given command of important ship sections (like Chief Engineers, helmsmen, or auspex control, as these are critical to ongoing operation of a starship)
- Chief Enginseer - This one is complicated. The engineering section of Imperial Navy vessels falls under jurisdiction of the Adeptus Mechanicus, which maintains their own byzantine system of ranks among techpriests. The ranking member of the mechanicus contingent will have shipboard authority equivalent to a Lieutenant. However, on capital ships or vessels featuring archaotech systems, the leading techpriest may well be a full Magos. Similarly, on ships traveling into unexplored space the leading techpriest might be an Explorator slumming it as an enginseer to ride along.
- Chief Navigator - Another complicated position. Imperial navy vessels invariably host a small contingent of navigators to guide the vessel through the warp. In practice, navigators aboard naval vessels answer ONLY to the commanding officer and show zero deference to any other member of the crew; it's not unheard of for navigators to give crewmen the warp eye for the slightest transgression, and the navy can do little but tolerate this (that said, if an individual is seriously problematic their house might remove and discipline them upon Navy request, else they might get a visit from the Inquisition). If a vessel has astropaths aboard, they too generally answer directly to the commanding officer, although they're usually less haughty about it.
- Chief Surgeon: Leads the ship's medicae. Can't downcheck officers, that's the Commissariat's job. Usually a Militarum doctor, but occasionally will be a Sister Hospitaler if the ship is in a war and the crew are lucky enough for Sisters of Battle to be barracked aboard for the duration of the campaign, and even more rarely a Magos Biologis if they're exploring or the crew seriously lucked out on campaign.
- Warrant Officer - You'll find lots of guys of equivalent rank on a ship, in command of various operational sections keeping the ship running at all times:
- Masters of Ordnance - make certain that Torpedoes and Attack craft (if any) are fueled and maintained.
- Master Gunner - have responsibility over all of the weapons batteries through the Gun Captains and make sure they are loaded and fired when required.
- Master-at-Arms - responsible for all "small" arms on board a starship, overseeing all Sergeants-at-Arms, as well as maintaining order over any barracked Guard regiments currently in transit.
- Master of the Vox - making sense out of the bazillions of messages that run through the bridge at any given moment both internally and externally (crews can get pretty massive, and a lot of traffic can come through at once).
- Steward - the guy who keeps everyone else well fed.
- Gun Captain - Funnily enough, the man in charge of a single gun crew. Makes sure that the weapon is taken care of, is reloaded quickly enough, and is accurate when asked to fire. All of that comes back to this guy.
- Sergeant-at-Arms - Man in charge of the weapons lockers and leader of boarding parties, as well as maintaining ship-board security. Usually they are transferred from Imperial Guard regiments so that they don't have any prior association with the crew.
- Armsmen - Crewmen trusted to carry weapons more than a standard issue Lasgun/Laspistol. They are not true soldiers as offensive boarding actions tend to be rare. So these guys still have their own regular responsibilities on board ship. Since they are trusted more, they have slightly more freedom to move around the vessel as well, though most Imperial employees really don't want the job, since it means they get scrutinised more, or they could end up beating up their buddies.
- Voidsmen - the lowest rank of crewman on board a Naval Starship above the Servitors unless the Captain is cool with slavery. If they have a skill or a trade they may be referred to as Able Voidsmen which is an official rank that might require examinations. Additionally, if they show leadership qualities they might be promoted to Leading Voidsman and put in charge of work gangs and be considered for promotion to Warrant Officer if a position opens up.
These are problems some have with the Imperial Navy and their fluff....
General Logistical Problems
The big problem that the Imperial Navy has is that it's the only organised navy in the galaxy that's trying to defend its massive amounts of space. To do this takes vast numbers of ships but rather thinly spread out. Given the problems of warp travel it's also extremely hard to reinforce friendly fleets under attack. The foes of the navy come essentially in two flavours; raiders who might just manage to scrape together a few converted transports (building even escort-sized ships is a huge undertaking, akin to building damn near the entire American Navy combined from iron ore and making it fly) which take an escort squadron to murder, and huge organized invasion fleets that take a whole fleet to fight. These combine together to mean that outside of fleet bases and important strategic worlds there is nowhere in the Imperium that is actually well-defended. At best a fleet has to be formed and sent out and they could arrive months later. Travel takes a lot of time, and out in the void it can be extremely hard to know what you are actually fighting against, especially since the enemy tend to kill anyone who tries to look at them. So when there's a large enemy force that you absolutely must fight (not fighting is much preferable) you don't just band together whoever was within shouting distance of the flagship and go murdering, you pull together every single vessel in the sector and hope to the Emperor it's enough to do the job.
TL,DR: Acquiring a force sucks when command thinks paperwork and red tape are forms of worship and maintenance thinks the toilet needs a prayer before it is unclogged.
Warships genuinely are vast things and obscenely expensive and risking them at all in major actions is not something anyone does lightly. Each cruiser is larger and more complex than a fully-kitted titan legion. These things are MASSIVE. In the BFG book there's a fluff story of a cruiser being built at a shipyard that orbits a primitive world. The entire population of the planet were given over to mining the resources needed to build one single cruiser. It took them eleven years to mine the ore. Sure, that's a primitive world, but if you think about it that makes carving out the rocks for it the largest single project ever engaged upon without mechanization. If you add together all seven wonders of the world you aren't even close to the pile of rock we're talking about. So these things are a big fucking investment and the high lords really don't like risking them without a really good reason (makes you question why they wouldn't build 20 smaller ships instead).
So if you ever wondered why the Navy doesn't get more action, now you know. By the time the big, awesome ships get on the scene the invasion already probably finished and the bad guys moved on. Then you nuke the shit out of them from orbit or drop millions of poor bastards into the meat grinder. Far better idea all round. It's the reason that the enemy, even nutters like Chaos, don't fight in the void without reason. On the ground it's just a scrap, and maybe you win or maybe you don't. If you lose in the void then your campaign on the surface is dead. No reinforcements, no support and a massive constant orbital bombardment to kill everyone left (which sometimes doesn't happen, because, you know, plot armour). That tends to mean fleets hover around and not fighting, one ensuring the other can't directly interfere with the surface war. This is actually an excellent and realistic explanation for why there is significant ground warfare in 40k. Also, ground-based defenses, mobile theater-shields, etc. are common. So, attacking a planet worth anything is like attacking a planet-sized Death Star without the super-weapon. Your ground forces taking out shields and anti-space batteries is critical to achieving anything. But, by that point, most of the enemy is dead and the survivors have either moved to the next defended region or got so stuck-in with your dudes that you can't shoot without killing your own army. Unless you worship Khorne, in which case you really couldn't care less who you kill, even yourself.
Besides that, there are strategic locations to take in order to take or destroy the anti-orbit defenses. Those locations have strategic locations and so on and before you know it, you’re invading the whole damn planet.
So, the navies of the galaxy ultimately get pushed down into either raiders, escorts against raiders, raider-hunters, or babysitting and logistical duty for groundpounders. Which of course brings back the question of why the Navy has such a desire to get more interceptors and bombers for ship-to-ship combat when they rarely engage in combat in the first place and the attack craft are insufficient. Could be to weaken the enemy ships' ability to shoot at the surface, but by the point they would have a target it would have (as stated) gone to a new defended location or whatever else, defeating the point of sending attack craft to weaken the enemy ships' offensive power. They won't shoot at each other, and they can't shoot at the surface (or at least can't shoot anything worth shooting at). In exchange for packing in so many attack craft into hangars designed for countless atmospheric air support fighters and bombers, the Imperial Guard has to die in radically greater numbers than they have any need to since they have limited anti-air capabilities and all of their enemies have no problem sending massive swarms of fighters and bombers at them. That is without even getting to engage the enemy on the ground and not counting the countless soldiers killed as the transports are shot to pieces due to their escorts commonly ditching them to go after obvious bait tactics. Oh, and sending reinforcements from other worlds, let alone the loss of expensive and valuable drop ships and interstellar transport vessels, is far more expensive than just using damn atmo-fighters and bombers for the Guard. Heck, an escort ship variant was created specifically to resolve this problem as even the High Lords got pissed about it. A ship designed as an escort vessel specializing in carrying atmospheric fighters, bombers, etc. just to provide support for the Imperial Guard. The Navy promptly took the ships built, removed the atmospheric craft, and replaced them with Furies and Starhawks. They already have a light cruiser escort carrier and the number of attack craft they crammed in was abysmal.
Thus the rumor that the Navy has no balls. But who needs balls when you have a nova cannon sized dick and eighteen dice worth of fire power.
No one is quite sure how big the ships really are. One story claims the Retribution-Class is a mere 3 kilometers long, while another says it is 9 kilometers and up to 20 kilometers.
Your best bet is Rogue Trader, although going by those figures, anything bigger than a cruiser has an average density around that of hydrogen... Everything after Rogue Trader became much larger, though, so this is likely inaccurate (though pretty big vessels anyway). Given the constant references to “city sized” weapon batteries and hangars, perhaps take Rogue Trader ship sizes and multiply ten or even a hundred. From a helpful poster on Heresy-Online we have this:
For the most accurate scale, look towards the Battlefleet Koronus Expansion, as it is more a stat/rule book than a story. That and previous consensi, as well as cross referencing with the Horus Heresy rulebooks by Forge World (which places Battleships at 8-12km) place Cruisers just above 5 kms, and Battleships in the mid 8s. Please note that most ships above the size of 8ish kilometers are either a unique modified/purpose built flagship or a ship of a small class that is not in widespread circulation. For a sense of scale the largest warship in the world is currently the US Navy's Ford Class Aircraft Carrier measuring in at 337 meters long or 0.337km making the USS Ford the size of a cannon. They have guns literally the length of an Aircraft carrier!
- Transports and other Attack Craft, typically rated for atmospheric operation; also includes ships designed to be boarding torpedoes.
- <1 kilometer. That's the small ones, there are super transports in 40k as well. (A thunderhawk would go here).
- Escorts are "small" ships, like the Cobra, designed to flank foes and operate in squads.
- 1-2 kilometers.
- Heavy Frigates
- Light Cruiser, a smaller Cruiser.
- 3-5 kilometers.
- Cruiser, the standard fighting vessel; every Imperial fleet has them.
- 5-6 Kilometers.
- Battle Cruiser, a beefed up Cruiser; generally more 'modern' than a Grand Cruiser.
- 6-7 kilometers.
- Grand Cruiser; pocket-sized Battleship, very old.
- 7-8 kilometers.
- Battleship; the biggest of the lot, simply put.
- 8-12 kilometers.
- Fleet Carriers
The Horus Heresy novel "Know No Fear" had this to say about ship sizes, taken from /tg/ who quoted it from the book and written here is just the lengths and names of the ships, for simplicity and space:
- Macragge’s Honour. Twenty-six kilometers - Flagship
- Spirit of Konor. Seventeen kilometers - Battleship
- Antrodamicus. Twelve kilometers - Grand Cruiser
- Antipathy. Nine kilometers - Cruiser (note that the book said it had "six thousand lives" on board, which would be an absurdly small crew for its size by 40k or even 21st century standards, but it wasn't fully crewed at the time; maybe for an astartes or mechanicus vessel its a bit closer to reasonable but definite not for the Navy)
- Aegis of Occluda. Seven kilometers - Class unknown
- Gladius. Four kilometers - Escort
- Then there is the Abyss-class created by Lorgar that is said to match the Phalanx in size. He made three of them. In reality, they matched it in beam, but the Phalanx is round, so iut probably wasn't quite as big.
The calcs for Imperial Navy warships are one of the worst things in GeeDubs' illustrious history. From Macrocannons outputting fewer joules than a punch from an 8-year-old child to broadsides breaking continents making the existence of Cyclonic Torpedoes feel impotent. Calculating the strength of naval weapons have been one of the biggest pain in the ass for /tg/, not helping with the fact that many BL authors have no sense of fucking scale, let alone consistency.
Nevertheless, even if naval vessels shot out megatons per broadside, many newer folks around here may wonder, "Why can't the Imperial Navy do an orbital bombardment of a heavily defended position on land?". The answer is simple. Collateral damage. Yes, even the most incompetent of Imperial commanders recognize that too much collateral damage is a bad thing and would really affect the health of a good Crusade. After all, life is the Emperor's currency. SPEND IT WELL. This is not helped by the fact that the naval weapons of the Imperial Navy aren't the most accurate of the lot. Sure, fluff dictates that Macrocannons have an effective range in excess of tens of thousands of kilometres. But there is a BIG DIFFERENCE in providing suppressive fire against multi-kilometre spaceships and trying to hit a well-defended bunker that is only ten meters across. The only weapons that could be counted as 'accurate' are Lances and Nova Cannons. But firing them is overkill and the resulting shockwave will fuck up anyone indiscriminately, including Titan legions. This is not counting into the basis of Void Shields and anti-orbital weapons like Defense Lasers for example.
As such, whilst it is theoretically possible to do orbital bombardment, in reality, most of the time it is just far more efficient to direct your naval assets to spar against other enemy naval ships, rather than risk a fleet that a) may or may not hit the target or worse, their allies due to inaccuracies, b) must come dangerously close to Defense Laser range or any other anti-orbital weapons and c) when they ARE given the chance to perform the role, the enemy has either become too insignificant to order a bombardment or have already captured and took hold of the entire planet plus its defences. Ergo, whilst it is tempting, orbital bombardment isn't really popular and just risks splitting your forces where it could have been better suited to, you know, deny the enemy of any potential orbital superiority in the first place.
Lack of Balls
It is well-known that most Imperial Navy Officers don't have em. Other times their balls are too big and get themselves and their crews killed in idiotic attacks.
An Imperial Navy fleet is most effective when Inquisitors take it over. See Here.
Back in M36, the Imperial Navy fought a lowkey civil war over fleet doctrine in Segmentum Tempestus known as the Gareox Incident. A cabal of chaos worshipers worked their way high enough in the navy to start designing ships that were ready-built to turn traitor, most of which were carriers. The battlefleet eventually figured out something was off and the result was a giant carriers vs battleships fight that went down the way the Battle off Samar would have if the Japs hadn't been scared shitless by three destroyers. The surviving carriers went openly traitor and since then building new carriers has been borderline heresy so far as the navy is concerned. Doesn't stop them from building a bunch of them anyway. Hating something has never stopped the Imperium from doing whatever is necessary to do its duty (or else).
Strangely, this battle is contradictory in how attack craft fare in any other battle. Normally, you read about bombers and interceptors ravaging and destroying ships with impunity unless you have a way to counter them such as dedicated anti-air ships and interceptors of your own. Which the attacking loyalists in this battle lacked. And the keel-built ships are faster so should have been able to stay out of range and cripple the Imperial ships’ engines and weapons and sensors easily.
In Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 1 & 2
The Imperial Navy is the most balanced faction of the game as expected from being the posterboys of Battlefleet Gothic. Decent hull points, strong voidshields, okay speed and a wide selection of choices, the Imperial Navy offers a level of flexibility and diversity that no other faction could match. In general, Imperial Navy ships are more suited for close-range brawler types; their row upon row of Macrocannons ensures a steady supply of munitions that is reasonably accurate in short-medium range, whilst their armoured prow enables them to become effective battering rams when needed. Likewise, some classes have their loadout decked in Lance Weapons, Torpedoes and Nova Cannons, so they aren't slouches in long-range combat as well. Sure they cannot compete against the Eldar, Tau and Chaos when it comes to overall range, and that they aren't as good when it comes to pure CQC mayhem like the Orks and Tyranids, but the sheer amount of ships one can choose means that eventually, you will find a class that will cover each other's weaknesses. By far the easiest and least punishing faction of the lot.
Not to be outdone by the Imperial Guard (as well as to compensate for their aforementioned lack of balls), the Imperial Navy has begun collecting music to either be blared on loudspeakers when not in active use, or in the case of battleship command decks, played live by orchestra. the first four are taken from Battlefleet Gothic Armada.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DhAAGZVAVo This one is by far the best.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AlLNITLk8A - A piece dating back to the Armada Imperialis' of the Great Crusade, but is still played regularly.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5STVoaxz8-Y - This instrumental is rumored to date back to some epic naval battle during the later dark age of technology.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJEgAFR9vDc - While not quite fitting for battleships and grand cruisers, this piece dates back to when humanity was just beginning to march upon the stars, and as such, is heard regularly in ships captained by sentimental officers.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUrSQNSN6_c - This fitting instrumental is often played in bastion fleets whenever they are mustered to put down yet another temper tantrum.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAw1KlZ8C-A - Battlefleet Gothic Imperial port theme.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlcUwUwjLrs - This ancient piece, a popular mobilization theme for the Imperial Navy, was apparently created during a time in which humanity was at war with a xeno species known as "Cylons". No other records of this species can be found.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so10dKbhorI - Another piece from the same era that the Cylons existed, it was created to commemorate a successful assault on a planet known as New Caprica, what is now an imperial hive world.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFEHCuSnun0 - This was commissioned by a very srs bzns admiral.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gii4e-h3DBc - This was commissioned by a very srs bzns admiral from Praetoria.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7qOJrT_lUg - One of the pieces Lord High Admiral Langsung ordered to be played during the Battle for Port Sanctus.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu_Lp51wyao - This dated back to the glory days of human stellar exploration, when the universe was less grimdark, but is still a favorite for exploratory fleets, or for trying to distract yourself from the fact that you're just one energy field away from a level 99 rapefest.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPLXNmKvLBQ - One of many favorites of those captaining Ironclads.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TXlJ5DMq5o - A favorite of Vostroyan admirals.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elK5iReyAMI - Played during ceremonial ship or fleet launches since the great crusade.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IR5N0-DqZoU - One of many pieces played when the fleets return victorious.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm3q6dCeP7M - An orchestral litany created to aid in battles against chaos ships.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvriqdS3vsc - A common theme of blockade runners, more nimble imperial vessels, and rogue traders plundering xeno planets in the name of the God Emperor.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbh6HT7lLx8 - Popular among fleets in Segmentum Pacificus.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NDn6WtZBJY - Popular among fleets in Segmentum Pacificus led by admirals from oriental cultures.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvUVq-dVEjQ - Battle music that is popular among said admirals of oriental cultures, and also of those from Segmentum Pacificus.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KylMqxLzNGo - Music played whenever the Navy has to perform exterminatus.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZcj56XXrPM - A personal favorite of an admiral from Armageddon.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3iwvG2ZKuw - The christening and launch of a new ship, straight out of the docks.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9mFPDRZIgE - Encountering a Tyranid Hive Fleet
- A Comprehensive List of Ships
- Battlefleet Gothic Additional Ships Compendium
- A big poster of fictional navies, with 40k in the center left