- NOVEMBER 3, 2544 (MILITARY CALENDAR)
- ONI FIELD ANALYSIS F217
- CLASSIFICATION: SCARLET LINE
- FROM: COMMANDER ESTELLE JACOBS, UNSC MONTAUK
- TO: ADMIRAL HIERONYMUS STANFORTH, FLEETCOM
- SUBJECT: FLEET ACTION AT 19 CAELUM
"UNDER THE GIANT'S SKIN"
On October 29, 2544, at approximately 0933 Hours, combined elements of the UNSC Sixth Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Allison Spurgeon (Service Number 00681-30422-AS) engaged a large formation of Covenant warships in the uninhabited system of 19 Caelum. In official reports, the Sixth Fleet was using 19 Caelum as a temporary staging area to resume Operation: AVANTGARDE into Covenant occupied territory. In actuality, the Covenant fleet was lured to the system at the order of Rear Admiral Spurgeon.
Four weeks prior to the battle, all Strike Groups of the Sixth Fleet were suddenly recalled from their operations to undergo repairs and refit over Actium and Cascade. On October 18, all ships attached to the Sixth Fleet arrived at the 19 Caelum system and immediately ceased all outward communications. This assembly totaled at one-hundred and eighty-seven (187) ships.
Fleet composition retrieved from official records and our analysis of the battle and its aftermath:
- Combat (164)
- Twenty carriers
- Seventeen Orion-class assault carriers
- Three Epoch-class heavy carriers
- UNSC Hades Anthem
- UNSC Akagi
- UNSC Akimasa
- Two battleships
- Two Vindication-class light battleships
- Fourteen cruisers
- Seven Marathon-class heavy cruisers
- Four Artemis-class battlecruisers
- Two Halcyon-class light cruisers
- One Valiant-class super-heavy cruisers
- Sixty-six destroyers
- Forty-seven Halberd-class destroyers
- Nineteen Hillsborough-class heavy destroyers
- Sixty-two frigates
- Thirty-two Paris-class heavy frigates
- Twenty-three Stalwart-class light frigates
- Seven Charon-class light frigates
- Support (23)
- Twenty supply, repair, and rescue ships
- Ten Pallas-class ammunition ships
- Five Guardian-class mobile repair stations
- Five Phoenix-class support ships
- Three prowlers
- Three Sahara-class heavy prowlers
Five months prior to the battle, the Sixth had spent a great amount of effort and resources assisting besieged colonies and engaging smaller Covenant auxiliary fleets probing the borders of the Inner Colonies. Spurgeon's decision to recall the Sixth from their posts would leave a dozen colonies unguarded.
Though the defense of these colonies would eventually fall the responsibility of the 18th Fleet, many of Spurgeon's senior officers protested the action. Regardless, all recalled ships arrived on schedule at 19 Caelum by October 18.
On October 28, elements of Battlegroup Artemis, Woden's Spear, Carriergroup 7B, and Carriergroup 7D broke off from the Sixth and formed into three new Battlegroups dubbed Crown 1, Crown 2, and Crown 3. These battlegroups exited the system at 2344 hours for undisclosed reasons.
At 0650 hours on October 29, the remaining ships of the Sixth were split into three groups forming a two-layer arrowhead pattern with a line cutting through the middle. One Epoch-class carrier was found in the center of each arrowhead, with the line composed of Orion-class carriers at its sides. The arrow formations were composed primarily of frigates and destroyers, with the Stalwart-class forming the tip, which created a far-reaching anti-aircraft screen. The remaining cruisers and destroyers composed the rear, creating a tail that completed the formation. (Post-battle analysis later revealed that this formation created a near-impenetrable anti-air screen and greatly minimized the effects of a plasma torpedo volley.)
Meanwhile, recent intelligence provided to the Sixth by the 12th Prowler Corps revealed the location of their target, the Fleet of Ardent Valiance. The Covenant fleet was resupplying in the Eridanus system when it was engaged by Crown 3. Correspondence with Crown 3 after the battle confirmed the destruction of one heavy destroyer, three frigates, and several support and resupply ships before evacuating from the system.
As expected, Ardent Valiance gave chase, destroying three frigates before entering slipspace to finish off the rest of Crown 3.
An hour later, the Covenant forces emerged from slipspace, still chasing Crown 3 as it maneuvered to regroup with the Sixth Fleet. As Ardent Valiance was still emerging from slipspace, four SSM-947 Shiva nuclear missiles deployed from Crown 3 exploded around their formation, decimating ten frigates and disabling another six vessels. Another volley of Shiva missiles launched by the Sixth Fleet completed their fifteen-minute flight, and although most were intercepted by pulse laser fire, the remaining detonated dealing more damage to the fleet. This brief attack destroyed thirteen ships mostly composed of frigates and other lightly shielded escorts; while disabling another ten ships that would rejoin the battle later on.
Despite all their efforts, the Fleet of Ardent Valiance still numbered around sixty-seven (67) operational vessels, that started to regroup and begin their push against the Sixth. At this time, the Sixth prepared their volley of MAC rounds, prioritizing the fleet's group of eleven heavy destroyers and two heavy cruisers.
After calculating their firing solutions, more than a hundred MAC rounds streaked through the sky toward the Covenant formation. Within seconds three destroyers vented atmosphere before violently exploding, and sent another destroyer off course, colliding with several frigates before engulfing them in a brilliant purple explosion. The rest of the volley reached their targets, but their impacts did little to inflict more damage on the fleet. However, a lucky shot from the UNSC Akagi's MAC forced one of the heavy cruisers to withdraw from the fleet to make repairs.
Still out of range of the Spurgeon's fleet, the carriers of Ardent Valiance launched their air wings. Thousands of Seraph and Banshee fighters quickly became a flood that edged its way toward the Sixth, intent on swarming their lines to allow Ardent Valiance to get into position to annihilate the Sixth. As the fighters closed in, the Hades Anthem, Akagi, and Akimasa deployed their air wings, holding the wings aboard the other carriers and cruisers in reserve.
As the two sides came close to engaging, half the Covenant fighters were destroyed as hundreds of Moray space mines detonated, creating a cloud of debris that shattered the Covenant's air wings in pieces. Before the Covenant pilots could assess what had happened, they were surrounded by Longsword interceptors that easily picked them off. After a brief dogfight, the Covenant fighters regained the initiative and soon routed the Navy's air wings. Their initiative was short-lived however, as they were now deep within the Sixth's anti-air screen. Despite flying under a barrage of anti-air fire, the fighters continued to harass the formation. Fortunately, the mounting pressure forced the Covenant air wings to retreat after only a few minutes of fighting.
With the Covenant ship's now in range to attack the Sixth, Admiral Spurgeon's hand was forced to spring her final trap. Another volley of MAC rounds, now with the concentrated fire of archer missiles and naval coilguns were unleashed against the Covenant. Battlegroup Crown 3, now having swung back around and rejoined the fleet, adding their volleys to the destructive mix.
Just before their barrage made impact, several slipspace portals were ripped open across the flanks of Ardent Valiance. Emerging from these portals were the combined Battlegroups Crown 1 led by the UNSC Artemis and Crown 2 led by UNSC Woden's Spear, unleashing their uncoordinated mix of MAC and archer missiles against the Covenant formation.
This ambush was not entirely successful, as some ships of Crown 1 and Crown 2 would exit slipsapce millions of kilometers away from its intended position, or exit literally right next to the Covenant fleet.
Nonetheless, the combined firepower of the Sixth Fleet dealt a devasting blow to Ardent Valiance, destroying numerous vessels including one of two of the fleet's carriers. The attack had caught the Covenant so off guard that a number of vessels collided with each other as they attempted to scatter.
As the initial shock began to wear off, the Covenant went on the offensive. Plasma torpedoes were launched in all directions, destroying frigates and destroyers in a matter of seconds. A plasma lance from the lead assault carrier cut into the UNSC Akimasa, destroying it. Plasma cannons erupted from the sides of corvettes and destroyers as they engaged Crown 1 and Crown 2. Before fatal blows could be dealt to the Artemis and Woden's Spear, the two battlecruisers tore open a hole in space and fled into slipspace.
Though the battle had greatly reduced the fighting capacity of the Sixth, the remaining ships regrouped and fired another volley of MAC rounds and archer missiles that destroyed or disabled another dozen ships. The attack took pressure off the remnants of Crown 1 and 2, giving a small window of opportunity to withdraw from the battle.
The two sides continued to exchange fire with the Sixth Fleet gradually losing more ground by the minute. But as the Covenant's moment of victory seemed to approach, a sudden strike from the return of the Artemis and Woden's Spear would completely change the course of the battle forever.
The two battlecruisers emerged from slipspace thousands of kilometers above the Covenant assault carrier, the cruisers unleashed their dual MACs and launched their Shiva missiles before once again withdrawing from the area.
The MAC rounds penetrated the assault carrier's shields, which had already been reasonably weakened as the battle progressed, allowing one of the Shivas to slip past and detonate. The combined force of the MAC and Shivas obliterated the carrier's rear, causing a violent wave of destruction that eventually cracked the ship in two.
The unexpected volley created a sudden and peculiar change in the Covenant's battlenet, prompting one of the Covenant's commanders to transmit a fleet-wide message in their own language to the Sixth Fleet accusing it of committing one of the most blasphemous acts of the war. (Our translators have only managed to translate the literal meaning and are still working to unravel the full message.)
What remained of Ardent Valiance could only be described as "reckless blood rage", as the Covenant ships immediately broke off from their formation and blinded charged the Sixth Fleet.