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All combat vessels in Vast Worlds fall into the rough categories of:

  • Fighter
  • Corvette
  • Frigate
  • Destroyer
  • Cruiser
  • Battleship
  • Dreadnaught
  • Monolith

In ascending order of size.

Within this list each class is effective against the adjacent entries, give or take. For example, Frigates can damage Destroyers, but Cruisers end up wasting firepower taking out Corvettes. On the other hand, Fighters can be effective against Frigates, but Frigates may not be very effective at taking out Fighters so it is quite dependent on weapons load out. Take this is more a rule of thumb than an absolute.

Scaling is rarely constant between classes, but Frigates can comfortably house a wing of Fighters or a Corvette, and even a Cruiser could dock Frigates internally. At the top end of the scale, Monoliths classes are kilometres long and dwarf all other vessels, though rarely used warfare due to their sheer cost, and the fact that by the time you’ve finished building one the war is long over.

The manoeuvrability of each class is significantly less than the one preceding it, but generally enough to avoid weapons strikes from a ship of a similar size[1]. Case in point, Frigates can dodge fire from other Frigates with fair regularity and would run rings around a destroyer, but would not be able to avoid Corvettes.

In addition, there are a number of support class roles, for example, Ground Pounders, Command ships, Carriers, Repair and Re-supply, and Landing craft, to name but a few. The sizes of these are designated by necessity, but tend to be larger than the equivalent combat class as they do not have to worry about target profile. Generally they will not be involved in direct combat, though may still bear weapons, and are quite venerable to mainline ships if left exposed. Actual combat vessels may also have properties of support ships[2] but such systems are rarely as large as the specialised craft.

Now, for a run down of the form and function of each class.

Fighters – These tend to be small manoeuvrable ships with a single pilot, an anti-fighter gun, and a rack of missiles. Life support tends to be bottled oxygen, and the pilot sits directly in front of the engine/reactor which has a burn time of about ten minutes at full thrust[3]. Due to low quantities of pretty much everything, Fighters have to rearm very frequently in a battle, or would if they actually had time to arrive, attack, and land before the battle were over. Mostly they are one hit wonders, and rarely survive more than a few minutes in battle, not surprisingly the pilots have some of the shortest life expectancies in the fleet.

Fighters are actually a point of contention in most Sci-fi settings[4], as they don’t technically work given that there is no actual horizon to hide behind. Vast World Fighters actually fill quite a different role, not acting as a long range weapons platform but instead a hardened platform. Fighters can traverse the hail of anti-missile fire and are virtually immune to E.C.M.s so can get extremely close to a target before loosing its missile load. These will impact with a far higher frequency than a similar number of carrier launched missiles, and can be rigged to hold a lot more explosives so the damage potential is disturbingly high. Fighters are also capable of precision strikes on ship systems[5], which make them even more dangerous.

Fighters will also be deployed to intercept other Fighters. These tend to be of a lighter weight, carry more, smaller missiles and have repeat fire weaponry such as gatling guns or rapid reload rails[6]. Generally these will escort the host ship and intercept any incoming Fighters and larger missiles, but can be deployed to defend other vessels. They are quite vulnerable to missiles however when away from the host ship.

Side note: Fighters are very powerful against civilian ships, as they can get across a gravity well very quickly and have more than enough firepower to threaten a lightly defended merchant. This does relegate them to police work in peace time, and they can be caught unawares if anyone is packing military grade hardware, but this is rare so not a serious issue. The pirate threat of the nineties was dealt with almost totally by Fighter squadrons, mostly because very few of the pirates would or could run heavily armed and, as freighters would surrender at the slightest show of force, so even interception Fighters outclassed them.

Corvettes – As weapons became more accurate and powerful, fighter squadrons found themselves outclassed on the longer range missions. This lead to a larger frame being commissioned to hold more weaponry and armour but still keep the manoeuvrability of its smaller cozen[7]. Their initial effectiveness was impressive, taking most militaries by surprise and inflicting horrific casualties until tactics adapted but, like fighters, they tend to have a low survival time.

In combat Corvettes use a mixture of alpha strike and long term weaponry, giving them a high initial punch but the staying power to continue dealing damage as the battle progresses. The design firstly gives them the ability to range long distances from the carrier vessel[8], and with the hull large enough to mount a jump drive they can reach other stars under their own power. Secondly, with the sheer number of thrusters they possess and large engines, they can be nearly as manoeuvrable as the early fighters[9] and this gives them the edge when fighting. Finally, corvettes can carry enough guns to be a threat to frigates and even some of the early destroyers and, while fighters become slowly outmoded as the setting progresses[10], the fixed guns can be upgraded in line with current development.

Like fighters corvettes tend to be tied to a carrier, in the fighters case this is for transport, but for the corvette this is much more of a supply issue. On a corvette every cubic meter is precious[11], and space for crew quarters is space not used for guns or thrusters. Hence, most corvettes will have a carrier where the crew will be housed and the ship maintained, this saves the corvettes from having to drag unnecessary supplies into battle. There are exceptions to this rule, quite a few corvette designs are built around strategic freedom, so will have supplies for much longer missions, but these are understandably weaker in battle, though have a nasty tendency to be raiding your supply lines.

In battle corvettes are generally a front line combat vessel designed to do as much damage as possible during the engagement mêlée. Most combat oriented corvettes will be launched from the carrier[12] prior to the attack and use their superior manoeuvrability to doge most the enemy barrage then charge in close and hit as many strategic targets as possible. After a minute or so of battle they will be either already destroyed or running low on charge or ammunition and be forced into a supporting role, but there are more than a few instances where corvettes carrying additional munitions have turned the tide of the battle[13].

Beyond the battlefield corvettes tend to be used by the civilian forces above any other, they are reasonably cheep to maintain but carry meaningful amounts of firepower or cargo. Both the police are merchant convoys use them for projection of force[14], but also for support as they can carry vital supplies and even provide emergency assistance in a pinch.

Frigates – Frigates fill an odd role within a fleet, finally have some kind of meaningful firepower against the larger targets, but they still have the manoeuvrability to stay mobile in an unfolding engagements. They have a tendency to have a large fixed forward weapon and multiple swivelling turrets to deal with additional enemies, in addition to several missile racks and a small fighter wing or support corvette. Their thruster web allows them to keep a resolution on just about any target short of a Fighter and this gives them great kill ratios against single targets and indeed frigates tend to do best when they can carve the battle up into a series of one on one duels, or preferably two on one while sitting out of range of the opponents guns.

The additional turrets actually tend to be a hindrance than an actual strength. They divert tonnage from the main gun and so lower the overall forward firepower; while most can also be fired forward a single powerful weapon in space tends to be more useful than numerous smaller ones[15]. When dealing with multiple hostiles Frigates find them spending most of the battle attempting to turn and face their target, only dealing nominal damage with their side cannons, and occasionally scoring a single large strike.

This is not to say Frigates aren’t dangerous, but they can not be used as either skirmishers or ships of the line, having not the manoeuvrability for the first or the staying power for the second. But, they are excellent ranged combatants[16] if they hang back far enough that they do not have to rotate excessively to bring their guns to bear. If they actually get involved in the mêlée they tend to get behind their targets as much as possible and stay there as they can not withstand much punishment, however in the few moments they are there they can do some serious damage. Unfortunately, as most battles aren’t a stand-up duel they too tend to get outflanked during this manoeuvre and destroyed.

Frigates work best slightly behind the lines, where they can be protected from the main fire fight and lob missiles and ranged weapons from afar. If someone does get to close they can bring their main guns to bear with reasonable regularity and launch the Fighter squadron to run interference so they can get a lock. They do have a tendency to be outflanked and destroyed by a larger force attempting this trick though, so additional ships may be set as guards, or they’ll be lumped with the support ships in the hope that there is safety in numbers.

Side note: Frigates have the dubious honour of being the first ship class to ever see major combat, mostly because during the independence wars space bourn weaponry wasn’t really advanced enough to produce anything larger on mass. This meant they were briefly the ships of the line, and this attitude caused significant casualties during the corporation wars as tactics and designs struggled to catch up with their new role.

Destroyers – Destroyers come in late on the combat scene and are designed for the ‘ships of the line’ role that was so woefully filled by Frigates previously. They are built along the ethos of a gun for every quadrant[17] and so are on the few ships that simply don’t get flanked; while admittedly they are weaker from the rear, this is offset by the sheer number of guns and the fact they tend to travel in packs. Their manoeuvrability has suffered for this though, with a lower turning thrust to mass ratio than the smaller classes but they have a significantly higher tonnage for weaponry[18] and this makes them difficult to get near too, let alone outmanoeuvre.

This makes Destroyers ideal line breakers; they use their considerable straight line acceleration[19] to charge the enemy formation, firing at as many targets as possible and generally causing chaos, and then get in amongst them where they can get the a ship in every gun sight. Their sturdy frame gives them the staying power to withstand the fire fight, and generally if your Destroyers start going down in droves it’s a good sign that it may be time to pull out. They do have a slight weakness against Frigates that have managed to get behind them as their guns are not tuned to dealing with ships at extreme ranges, on the other hand they will tear though a wing of frigates if they can get in close so they battle is won or lost by the commanders, not the captains.

Destroyers do have this nasty habit of being exactly where you don’t want them, the aforementioned engines give them a lot of tactical speed, but the large turn times tend to hobble them. This means that as a commander your destroyers are always pointed in the wrong direction[20]. On the other hand while fighting them they always out perform your expectations and end up right in the thick of your formations and tearing though your support vessels.

This gives them a little bit of a wild card attitude, but in reality it is a sign of a commander’s skill. They are pretty simple in concept[21], but actually using them effectively is a rare talent, and more than a few battles have been lost because the commander didn’t deploy the Destroyers properly. One of my personal favourite tricks with Destroyers is using a snap jump, where you engage the target, Jump out a corvette with coordinates to a waiting destroyer squadron and have them Jump into the thick of things. Admittedly this trick fails more often than it succeeds, but as it’s essentially a sneak attack in space you have to give it credit.

Authors Note: Just a quick bit on scale. You may notice that I’ve been increasingly referring to tactics with the later classes. This is due to relative importance of a vessel. When there are nearly five hundred Fighters in a standard fleet each one’s importance to the commander is pretty much negligible, but there will only be something like twenty Destroyers and so each one is much more valuable.

Cruiser – Cruisers are the multi-roles of most fleets. They have the staying power to be in a battle, the weaponry to make a difference and enough thrusters not to be a sitting duck; the only drawback here is that they aren’t particularly good at any of these roles. With onboard squadrons, long range weaponry and generally a hefty load of missiles it is pretty difficult to find a weak spot to exploit[22] and so most will just settle for sitting in range and hammering away at each other.

This leads to some of the more spectacular fire fights in Vast Worlds as they literally sit and take it, weapons discharges arc between the opposing Cruisers, searing ugly black scars across the hull metal and thousands of deadly shards of small ordinance race across the gap. Getting between two such vessels is pure suicide as you’re just as likely to be hit by your own side, but as each side is launching fighters at each other to snipe at critical systems at least a few of those silver shards are actually manned[23].

In battle Cruisers tend to be the follow-up, hot on the heels of the Destroyers and they smash though the already reeling formations. They also tend to be the fallback line if everything goes pear shaped as they tend to only break if the battle is long lost. When forced to deal with ships larger than themselves they tend to find themselves outclassed, while they can focus fire on their target it tends not to be able to do significant amounts of damage and they find their armour buckling under the law of superior tonnage. There have been cases where a Cruiser squadron[24] have taken down a larger ship, but, as most larger ships were designed with taking down Cruisers in mind, these are few and far between.

Cruisers, due to their size, fill a number of roles within the fleet simultaneously. They will quite often host command staff, or even the fleet commander, and they will be ready to seize control if the flagship takes critical damage. As aforementioned they carry a large Fighter complement and in addition more sturdy Corvettes, but they will also carry ‘Ground Pounder’ weapons and house extensive R and R[25] facilities. Theoretically you could build your whole armada around Cruisers as they are so versatile, but you’d be leaving yourself wide open to flanking manoeuvres and more diffuse fleets.

Battleships – Battleships are Cruiser killers pure and simple. On their hulking frame they mount a series of large, long range turrets, the majority covering the forward arcs, and these can inflict punishing damage on any vessel foolish enough to stay still. Several metres worth of armour and ablative shielding give them the ability to get into the thick of combat and stay there until they’re destroyed or the battle is lost. Their engines are usually large to allow the ship to charge the enemy line, but they are seriously underpowered in the thrust department, but they make up for this with their broad firing arcs and the ability to lay down fire anywhere on the battlefield.

In combat Battleships generally duel at long range before actually entering the battle, their long guns give them the ability to hang back a little and pick off strategic targets. This can only last for a short time though as the mêlée slowly obscures any targets of opportunity and the Battleships have to close in order to avoid friendly fire. When they do charge the landscape of the battle changes in an instant, they are massively important targets[26] and all guns will be trained on them, which is exactly what they want as the more enemies in their sights the better.

Due to their large slow tracking guns they do struggle to bring their full firepower the bear in a close mêlée and outfitters run a fine line between maximising long range fire, where the Battleship is most effective, and close range where it is the most vulnerable. Just as a note, vulnerability is relative, certainly they struggle when their targets are close and numerous, but that doesn’t mean they won’t swat most other ship classes out of the sky. They have numerous, fast tracking deck guns designed to deal with Frigates and Destroyers, hold thousands of missiles and carry a Corvette complement of nearly a hundred, some will even carry Frigates internally and it has been known for them to carry a hidden wing of Destroyers.

Battleships, due to their gun size are the first ships that can really start threatening fixed installations, like stations, surface bases or cities[27]. Having even one of these in system is either the ultimate deterrent or a declaration of war, and by the late End Time Wars the fleets would contain dozens of monstrosities. Commonly they would be one of the first to Jump into a combat zone; their armour would withstand most attacks until reinforcements could arrive and long range guns could put down fire on the enemy fleet regardless of the Jump inaccuracies. “Battleship off the prow!” is a fairly common cry in the later wars.

Dreadnaughts – Dreadnaughts, sometimes jokingly referred to as deadnaughts are the ultimate in force projection. They use a series of spinal cannons[28] to create corridors of withering fire across the battlefield and even the Battleships struggle to withstand that kind of punishment. Their engines are unusually weaker than expected, but they make up for this by having an impressive turning speed and, given where most of their guns are mounted, this allows them to lay down death on any ship foolish enough not to get out of the way.

Like Battleships they struggle to bring their guns to bear at close range[29], but unlike Battleships their flanks are given over the intermediate and short range guns and this makes them damn near impossible to attack with anything short of your own Dreadnaught. Speaking of which, Dreadnaughts attacking Dreadnaughts is kind of like Cruisers on steroids, and is pretty much the only human event ever to illuminate the dark side of a planet. What they do is turn and face each other as rapidly as possible, fire as many shots as they can while the guns are lined up, then swing round to take the returning battery on the flanks and rinse and repeat. Whoever takes a direct hit to the main guns first almost invariably loses. Well, they always have lost historically but it technically isn’t a certainty. Theoretically you could still win, but as there were only two dozen Dreadnaughts built in human history no ones yet pulled that particular trick off.

In battle… no wait, what am I talking about? They are the battle, fully capable of taking down scores of enemy ships before succumbing and are in no way vulnerable to a fighter shooting them up the exhaust port. Their biggest flaw is actually inefficiency, as comparatively little of their tonnage is given over to direct weapon systems as it is so far away from this surface. Instead this area will usually house fleet support systems, full salvage yards and maybe even construction facilities. Without a doubt they will hold hundreds of Corvettes and the landing bays are actually large enough that Fighter duels have taken place inside them. These ancillaries are fairly useless in a battle so really it would be more cost effective to have a larger number of smaller vessels with more guns per tonne, but the tactical and physiological impact of Dreadnaughts can not be underestimated.

The record number of Dreadnaughts in a single system was actually five, only two of which were on the same side, and none of them actually survived the engagement. Nor anything else really for that matter.

Monoliths – Monoliths are what you use when you can’t be bothered with managing a fleet as they can comfortably take on anything you throw at them. Spinal cannons for Dreadnaughts are mounted as turrets for the Monoliths, and the sheer diversity of gun types lining the sides mean that there are more than a few that have an effective range less than the length of the ship. They carry massive squadrons of Corvettes and Frigates as support vessels, not to mention being able to carry armies of millions for a land invasion, which may or may not be redundant as they could reduce the surface of a planet to glass within a half hour.

Fortunately, only three Monolith class vessels were ever built, on the other hand the collateral damage from the fire fights was enough to destroy the surface of four planets and one Monolith received so much damage that it actually crashed into the surface of a world. This was beyond mere devastation as it actually managed to punch a hole in the world’s crust when it impacted. For a world of two hundred million the survivors were measured in tens, and they were generally incredibly deep underground or evacuating while the ship went down.

Sadly, I can’t really say much about tactics as these were only used in The End Time Wars and as that’s a subject of one of the books they would be major spoilers. Suffice to say fighting these is pure suicide, and the majority of battles take place as far away from the Monolith as possible.

Next, some of the specialist roles.

The first are the Carriers. Do not mistake these for terrestrial aircraft carriers, they are actually designed to carry non-jump ships into battle. These ships can be of any size[30], but tend to be Fighter to Frigate range, with a few instances of Destroyers being used. Their advantage lies in not requiring an onboard Jump drive, and this, due to reduced peak power demands and so space saving measures, allows the carried ships or ‘Battle Riders’ to be noticeably tougher than their Jumping counterparts.

Carriers of a class are generally significantly larger than their combat brethren, mostly because they do not have to worry about being shot at and therefore target profile and armour are not serious consideration. They tend to carry only token weaponry, mostly long range and point defence, though they can be nasty if they catch you away from your support. There is a tendency for Carriers to fill other support roles in the fleet, carrying the command staff[31] for example, or repair facilities for ships other than their riders.

Also in the breed of Carriers are the Skimmers. While these sound small they are actually a spaceborne aircraft carrier, designed to drop air breathing fighters and bombers into hostile atmospheres, and provide long-range fire support for the attack. They can generally be identified by the large hangers at the ‘bottom’ of the ship and various long range, high accuracy, kinetic weapons. During the battle they will drop into planetary atmosphere, to the point where most jet engines will function, and unload their hanger bays before retreating from any fixed defences and re-entering space. They will then identify targets, eliminate the slower hostiles, and some have even been crossbreed with Ground Pounders to provide tactical level ordinance[32].

In space combat they are pretty vulnerable, though many designs incorporate protective guns on the ‘top’ half to provide some screen against mainline battleships. As hybrid air/space fighters became more popular in the time leading up to the End Time Wars their importance in combat was gradually diminished, and generally incorporated into Carrier or combat designs.

Ground Pounders have quite a bad reputation in Vast Worlds, though it’s well deserved. These ships generally have a wide flat base which they dip into the upper atmosphere and open hatches to reveal a mix of nuclear warheads and kinetic kill weaponry[33]. These will generally be turned on military targets, orbital silos, spaceports, army bases and the like, but could just as easily be turned on civilians and Ground Pounders sitting above a world is more than enough to force a planetary government to surrender.

Like Skimmers, they struggle in combat but are an even bigger bullet magnet and so carry a lot more amour, if fewer guns. Later in the setting dedicated Ground Pounders are phased out in favour of combat vessels with Ground Pounder traits[34], but they are still used occasionally when massive planetary devastation is needed as quickly as possible.

Landing Craft are another niche ship class that was designed to take a hostile spaceport. They have slim, heavily armoured hulls designed to withstand a rapid re-entry and some of the largest engines on a combat vessel. In battle they will literally drop out of orbit, shedding kinetic ordinance along with them and fire the engines at the last possible moment, hitting the ground as fast as the superstructure will allow. Small ordinance cannons will then clear the area before the marines storm out to size the port, and hopefully the actual combat will be over within a few minutes. They tend to be used rather infrequently though, as they have no other use than seizing a landing site.

Repair and Resupply vessels do what they say on the tin, carrying all the various types of spare parts, ammunition, fuel, reaction mass and food needed to supply a roving battle fleet cut off from its supply lines. They are generally only carry a token armament, though many mount a scary number of missile launchers, but most won’t actually jump into the battle zone they are so vulnerable.

There are a few other specialist roles a ship can fill, Command Vessel, Electronic Warfare, Missile ship and the like, but these are rarely filled by a dedicated frame, instead being incorporated into a battle ready ship. Partly because these are all useful in combat, but mostly because you want as much protection on specialist roles as possible, and putting a load of guns and armour on the hull is the best protection you can get.

As a rule support vessels tend to be larger than their class equivalent, mostly because, as mentioned before, they rarely have to worry about their target profile, and are seriously under armed. They are however extremely powerful when used correctly, and no fleet can be without them, so a commander should take careful note of all his ships, not just the ones for mainline combat.

[1] For the very largest this isn’t quite accurate, but they have other methods for surviving fire.

[2] Quite a lot of large classes carry fighters, for example.

[3] Full thrust is rarely achieved for anything more than a few seconds at a time, so this translates into an operational life of about twelve hours. For many early fighters the actual range was determined by the strength of the pilot’s bladder.

[4] There is an issue with manned fighters that persists in Vast Worlds as you would expect computers be more effective. But, because computers offer no additional acceleration benefits (due to grav’ panels) and only negligible mass savings (computers on board a fighter have to large enough to resist hacking attempts and E.C.M.s and still fight. Humans don’t have do deal with the first two so can be just as efficient) they tend only to be used in situations where humans wouldn’t be able to operate. There have been many incidences in Vast World’s history to implement computer controlled vessels (especially in the A.I. wars) but they have a tendency to backfire spectacularly and, by late in the setting people really don’t trust a computer to do a humans’ job.

[5] Guided missiles tend to become overly confused due to the ECMs and rarely strike with enough accuracy to hit specific areas, most are directed towards the centre of mass instead.

[6] American Fighters actually use an array of sixteen small rayy guns spaced along the wings, and linked so that only four will be active at any one time. This allows for much higher rates of fire as cooling the barrels is much easier. The whole system is a massive power drain however.

[7] Rumour has it that the Commonwealth was inspired to create the Corvette class after seeing the effectiveness of a hastily modified Sparrow Hawk freighter during the Independence Wars.

[8] If they had one, some were designed to be used for long campaigns and so would carry berths and other amenities, though this would cut down on weapons.

[9] Modern fighters do outclass them.

[10] Mostly because missiles slowly become less and less effective in battle, warhead improvements are only rarely useful for larger ships. On the other hand Fighters do still have their niche as they have a tendency to be underestimated and that can be catastrophic when someone’s invested in their torpedoes.

[11] More so than a larger ship.

[12] Bear in mind that corvettes only dock internally with very large ships, the majority will have docking clamps on the exterior and a few servicing hatches. This means that keeping the corvettes docked during the initial firestorm only limits their survivability, unlike fighters who benefit from the additional protection.

[13] American fleets are infamous for this.

[14] Which means the pirates use frigates but what are you going to do?

[15] This is assuming you have a good accuracy rating but can not score one hit kills, which is true for the ranges and weapons primarily used in Vast Worlds. If you have a low accuracy rating but can perform one hit kills the converse is true.

[16] An odd thing to say about a space ship.

[17] The ratio is generally for every three forward guns there are two pointing either side and one pointing backwards.

[18] It’s an old captain’s trick but if you fire the guns on the side away from your target you can effectively boost your turning speed. Please remember to check your arcs are clear before you do so though.

[19] This isn’t quite what the corvettes and frigates can achieve, but it’s significantly better than any of the larger vessels.

[20] Though this may be because no one in their right mind attacks them from the front.

[21] Charge into the thick of things and don’t stop shooting until they’re dead.

[22] Beyond flanking, but it is fairly difficult to get anything meaningful behind them.

[23] Fighter duty on Cruisers is not a good position if you plan on seeing your next birthday, which means you generally get a good mix of suicidal nutters signing up.

[24] It’s odd to think of a ship roughly three hundred metres long actually forming a squadron, but it has happened.

[25] Repair and Re-supply.

[26] Not merely because they are also a favourite place for commanders to hold their court,

[27] Other ships can hit them, but Battleships are the first to carry guns large enough that they’ll penetrate the atmosphere with no customisation.

[28] These are guns mounted on the ships backbone, i.e. are not turreted and always point in the same direction the ship does.

[29] Given that the cannons themselves are actually bigger than a lot of ships this is not actually that surprising.

[30] With some practical limitations, as you can’t carry a ship larger than your own, or really expect to carry a large number of ships only slightly smaller than yours.

[31] As they have to be reasonably close to the battle to function, but not close enough to be in danger. This is perfect for your valuable officers, until they get flanked.

[32] i.e. kiloton nukes.

[33] Do not mistake kinetic kill weapons for being the weaker of the two, a telephone pole sized slab of iron going a couple of kilometres per second will have a kiloton yield and produce no radiation. With the later introduction of Rosetta charges they began to fall out of favour, but were still used in areas where ordinance was liable to be shot down as nothing could really stop them impacting.

[34] This is particularly true when ship borne weapons began to be powerful enough to penetrate an atmosphere.

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