The Artemis-class battlecruiser (hull classification symbol: CB) is a model of heavycapital ship utilised by the UNSC in the latter half of the Human-Covenant War. One of the most powerful ships for its size, the Artemis is based off the frame of a heavily-modified Marathon-class heavy cruiser. As a result, it shares its cousin's emphasis on speed and firepower at the expense of durability. It is also a technologically advanced warship, incorporating the latest in weapons, scanners and power generation systems to allow it to destroy almost any opponent that has the misfortune to be designated as targets. These qualities make it uniquely suited to the role of artillery, staying away from the thick of combat to pick off opposing capital ships. Their advanced sensors and array of stealth technologies allow them to find success as a heavy patrol ship, searching systems with low intelligence to hunt for valuable Covenant commanders and material.
Developed concurrently with the failed Lelantos-class battleship, the Artemis-class battlecruiser was unveiled to the public in late-2537 and quickly showed promise during its early tests. Although looked down by most strategists because of its vulnerability when directly engaged, the Artemis' design saw it becoming one of the ships best-suited to fighting a superior enemy. Responsible for a number of early successes ranging from the destruction of a CAS-class assault carrier to assisting UNSC forces in pushing off the Covenant advance during the Battle of New Harmony, these battlecruisers were soon attached to every major battle group and became a common piece in mid-war propaganda. Although many would rack up enough kills to become as renowned as the surviving supercarriers, they would prove to be too expensive and difficult to produce in the numbers the UNSC required. Their effectiveness against the Covenant's heavy warships would work against them, with many Fleetmasters immediately identifying them as priority targets. As a result, these battlecruisers were deployed sparingly, often leading offensive strike fleets to ensure that their eventual destruction would not affect the morale of planetary defence groups.
After the end of the Human-Covenant War, the entire class would undergo a massive refit to bring them back to modern standards, while a new block is authorised by the Lovejoy-Rén Act to replace those lost in the war. Retooled into a heavy reconnaissance and survey ship, the Artemis currently plays a key part in reclaiming humanity's dominion, and is destined to remain so for much of the foreseeable future.
The concepts for the Artemis battlecruiser's earliest designs began in 2529, only four years into the war. Horrified at how badly all their previous designs were outclassed by their Covenant equivalents, executives in Reyes-McLees Corporation (RMC) knew it was only a matter of time until the UNSC called on others to replace their ageing fleet. Rather than use existing technologies to build a hasty series of replacements, the company took an unexpected turn by pressuring the UNSC to allow them to construct experimental technologies to best prepare them against the alien menace. The two entities were eventually able to strike a deal, with ONI Section Three agreeing to supply classified technologies while RMC would build a line of new warships that could both take down their Covenant counterparts. This would birth Project HUNTER, which would be headed by Vice Admiral Jacob Shoecraft.
The final design of the accompanying battleship, which would later be cancelled after issues arose with its weapon systems.
The first phase of the project saw ONI's Section Two gather combat data about how UNSC ships operate and are destroyed. The study would see teams of ONI agents analyse the wrecks of lost warships, find common patterns in battle reports and interview skilled captains and admirals. The study revealed that outside of Vice Admiral Cole's fleet, conventional combat was doomed to failure; only the Halcyon-class light cruiser could survive long enough to give its battle group a chance to destroy even a single Covenant CPV-class destroyer. Instead, most captains adopted hit-and-run tactics to destroy them at range, sacrificing ships without MAC guns to protect those that did. This led to Shoecraft authorising the designers to produce two heavily-armed warships, with the first being an immense battleship that could also take the firepower exhibited by their foes, with the second being considered a replacement for all of the UNSC's cruisers. These would be codenamed ORION and ARTEMIS, respectively.
The first design for the new cruiser would come from a young Adam Schroeder in 2532. Inspired by the studies into the Halcyon-class, he designed a warship that mirrored its battleship counterpart in many ways. It was armed with three MACs, two cruiser-sized and a smaller frigate-sized mounted beneath, with a pair of Mark-2522 Onager turreted MACs on its port and starboard sides. It was heavily-armed, with thicker armour and even more extensive internal bracing than its predecessor, yet was just as slow. Finally, it made use of the recently-developed refractive coating to make it more resistant to the heat of Covenant plasma weapons and new point defence networks. Unfortunately, its high predicted price and lack of missile batteries saw it rejected by Shoecraft. The continued development would eventually see it informing the refit of the mothballed Halcyon-class cruisers, however.
The second design was also submitted by Dr. Elia Reynolds in 2532. Designing it so it can be built at drydocks suitable for the more numerous Marathon-class heavy cruiser, this schematic sought to maintain that same focus of speed, firepower, and ease of construction. Equipped with the latest in power generation and the recent discovery of Pascade Gas, this new design was built to be as maneuverable as a ship half its size yet carrying four cruiser-sized MACs to give it unparalleled stopping power for its size. It was protected by eight anti-aircraft missiles and twenty-six point defence guns, and had a similarly-sized hangar to carry strikecraft. However, to make up for this, the cruiser was incredibly lightly-armoured, carrying only two-thirds of the armour on the Marathon. Because of its cost-effectiveness, heavy firepower and ability to be fabricated at any cruiser-scale drydock, the Shoecraft would approve of the new ships being built to Reynold's designs, albeit with certain changes to make it more effective.
However, the new cruiser had to undergo a major redesign in 2535, following the Battle of Jericho VII. Despite being equipped with four metres of Titanium-A2 battleplate, an internal bracing system derived from the Halcyon-class and hundreds of Archer and Howler missiles, design flaws at having to crowd so many weapon systems led to the battleship's destruction in battle. This led to the navy rejecting the design, halting the construction of additional battleships until the flaw can be resolved. Faced with the possibility that the cruiser will have to be launched before the battleship is ready, Shoecraft wanted to have it be reinforced and up-gunned; however, he was quickly shot down by Dr. Reynolds, who made the point that such alternations will make the prototype unstable in flight and delay its launch by years. Discussions would lead to the pair outfitting the cruiser's husk with state-of-the-art stealth technologies and sensors, and replaced the single MAC with the one developed for the battleship - this would inspire the UNSC to reclassify it as a battlecruiser due to the presence of a battleship-grade weapon.
"We've got a Covenant Carrier, she's tearing up the fleet. We need- wait, hold on, the carrier's fallen. We've been given a chance - regroup on me and fire while the Covvies are hesitating."
―Chatter from Battle Group Arion.
Taking its name from the ill-fated development programme that it was part of, the UNSC Artemis was launched in the first half of 2537, and participated in several counter-insurgency operations over the course of three months. The results were exceptional; of its seventeen attacks against known Insurrectionist stations and ships, almost every mission was completed without being detected or observed. It was only detected in the last attack, where the Artemis was forced to work with an Insurrectionist flotilla of three transports and a frigate after a small battle group of Covenant warships arrived. Together they destroyed a CCS-class battlecruiser and its two escorting SDV-class corvettes, at the cost of the Insurrectionist frigate. Despite it being heavily damaged by the end of the engagement, its unprecedented victory over an equivalent number of Covenant vessels removed any doubt from the minds of commanders who worried of the battlecruiser's usefulness in combat scenarios and immediately led to the class' approval for production.
In spite of the prototype's success, the class only truly distinguished itself during the Skirmish over Kingston in 2539. Consisting the UNSC Artemis and the UNSC Odin, and a handful of supporting frigates, Battle Group Artemis would encounter a lone CAS-class assault carrier above the glassed planet. Recognising the opportunity to deal a serious hit the Covenant's morale, the battle group would engage the carrier at 1912 hours, when the carrier turned to face them. Despite losing the Odin and all frigates to enemy fire and swarms of Covenant strikecraft critically damaging the sole surviving battlecruiser, the battle group was successful in eliminating the carrier. As such a massive target had never been destroyed by such a small force, the skirmish would later be highly publicised and caused the UNSC to allow the vessel to enter mass-production, albeit with the option to produce it without its potent stealth features. Such was the hope it represented during this time that the Artemis-class battlecruiser was quite literally considered to be the beginning of a turning point in the war.
So effective were these ships that many admirals were happy to divert resources to help them complete their missions.
Their effect on the war was swift and unexpected. In conquered systems close to the UNSC's ever-shrinking borders, the successful Raids of Zone 361, Ectanus 45, and destruction of the DDS-class carrier Sacerdotal Indulgence proved that existing anti-prowler protocols used by Covenant convoys and reinforcements were useless against a threat that could destroy even heavy warships before they could retaliate. It is believed that these acts alone extended the time between attacks by weeks and months, ensuring that the remaining Inner Colonies could fortify their defences further. In an attempt to buy humanity even more time, several flag officers put forward submissions for mission that would take Artemis-class battlecruisers even deeper into Covenant lines; only Operation: AVANTGARDE, better known as the Hades' Raids, was approved. Assigned to Rear Admiral Allison Spurgeon's Sixth Fleet, the four loaned battlecruisers supported by a squadron of Eclipse-class prowlers were able to attack dozens of Covenant installations and even assist in annihilating an entire fleet of Covenant vessels.
As the war progressed, Artemis-class battlecruisers were steadily pulled back into planetary defence groups, with their characteristic hunting expeditions slowly limited and discouraged. This was done in order to keep them close enough to counter alien incursions into Human Space, although it now gave the Covenant the chance to finally execute the crews that killed so many of their brothers. They notably participated in the Siege of the Greydowns and the Battle of Estuary, where in spite of their experienced crews, took unacceptable losses at the hands of a Fleetmaster known as "The Destroyer". He used multiple tactics that would later become standard-affair when fighting these battlecruisers to misdirect, entrap, and outmanoeuvre them. Nine battlecruisers were lost in both engagements, showing that the Artemis-class were not the wonder weapons they appeared to be.
In the last three years of the war, Artemis-class battlecruisers were being held back around the UNSC's core worlds. They formed a key part of the Parisian Front, where in superheavy hunter-killer battle groups they intercepted Covenant fleets attempting to bypass the defensive lines and reinforced the fortress-worlds of Paris IV and Skopje. The casualties they sustained saw the entire class, as well as the UNSC's last battleships and supercarriers, being permanently stationed at Epsilon Eridani and the Sol systems after 2551.
The Fall of Reach represented the largest loss of these powerful capital ships in an single engagement, in addition to being the single-largest military defeat in the UNSC's history.
It was here that they took their bloodiest beatings. The majority of Reach's complement of Artemis-class battlecruisers were deployed in support of the Viery Territory offensive, targeting any corvettes supporting their armies and wiping out the prefabricated battlestations that the Covenant had erected. However, the surprise appearance of the CSO-class supercarrierLong Night of Solace forced the UNSC fleet to retreat. At least four battlecruisers were lost to the supercarrier's initial barrage, with two more being deemed unusable after evacuating the area. Subsequent Covenant fleets would further whittle down their numbers, and the total number lost is estimated at eight before the remnants of the Epsilon Eridani Fleet arrived. This was, unfortunately, a prelude of things to come. A renewed counter-attack led by the Fleet of Particular Justice would arrive on August 30, and would directly batter the horribly-outnumbered 100-ship fleet. Even with support from the planet's Viery-class orbital weapon platforms, and a very good showing from the defenders, almost the entire Epsilon Eridani Fleet would be utterly destroyed. Included among their casualties included all twelve Artemis-class battlecruisers, including the lead ship herself.
With the loss of so many within the preceding months, all remaining Artemis-class battlecruisers were directly incorporated into the various sub-commands of the Home Fleet, with the exception of three that were conscripted to protect an undisclosed ONI asset. Only two participated in the initial defence against the Fleet of Sacred Consecration, with most standing down in the event that the suspiciously-small squadron was suddenly reinforced. The first was eventually destroyed by overwhelming numbers of boarding craft, and while the second was able to fend off the attackers, it did not survive the Pious Inquisitor's subsequent charge. After it was confirmed that the sole surviving assault carrier was carrying the High Prophet of Regret, an ambitious plan to board his flagship with a detachment of ODSTs. To drop the carrier's substantially-powerful shields, two battlecruisers were requisitioned to launch low-velocity Cov-Killer rounds prior to their insertion. Neither were given authorisation to fire on the capital ship, and were destroyed soon after when they were ambushed by the Prophet of Truth's reinforcements. Nevertheless, the desperation of the Siege of Sol brought out the very best of their crews. At Mars, Titan, and the Jovian Moons, they led their units against overwhelming numbers of Covenant forces. In total, nine battlecruisers were lost all across the system, with four other vessels being abandoned which returned to service after the conflict came to an end.
Post-Covenant War conflicts
By the time the ceasefire was declared on March 3rd, 2553, only around a dozen out of the near-fifty Artemis-class battlecruisers were still in service. Of this fraction, only a handful were actually able to be deployed on missions, as most still bore the injuries sustained during the last engagements of the war. The fate of these vessels were held in a very precarious position: many required extensive reconstruction of their superstructure, particularly around their split prows, yet scrapping was ruled out because the UNSC could not afford to lose an entire line of capital ships. After substantial push from Vice Admiral Allison Spurgeon and Senator Bernard Lovejoy, it was decided that the entire line would be refitted up to modern standards, with the existing examples acting as a prototype for an approved third flight of battlecruisers as dictated by the Lovejoy-Rén Act. Each ship was given priority access to cutting edge technology, and so they received components such as shield generators far earlier than most other ships in the UNSC fleet.
Once available, all Artemis-class battlecruisers were reassigned into units that were charged with investigating systems abandoned by the UEG and determined which areas could be rebuilt first. While they were still used as hunting cruisers to clear any major ex-Covenant factions from former Human Space, they were not deployed as solitary assets. Instead, they formed the core of expeditionary groups and were equipped for surveying worlds to determine the ease of which they could be reterraformed back to a habitable state.
Role & Usage
The Artemis is usually only used in operations surrounding two main objectives; to search for any Covenant staging areas in remote areas, and to support local forces by coordinating their efforts or offering fire support. In the former, they are required to enter the system they are investigating under stealth conditions, though this meant that they could not carry any nukes as the radiation they emitted instantly revealed themselves to the Covenant. Standard scouting tactics call for these ships to be deployed in pairs to cover their blind spots, otherwise, they must periodically turn sideways or rely on their air wing to detect any enemy ships following them from behind. Crews are encouraged to enter nebulae and asteroid belts to hide themselves from Covenant sensors, though few do so due as the former's radiation makes it difficult to detect anything further than a couple of kilometres while the latter often deals severe damage to their superstructure from collisions.
When operating within fleets, these vessels are often chosen as flagships by admirals, though some junior naval officers often remark they chose this ship so they can retreat as soon as things turn sour. While cowardice did play a role in some choices, the main reason is that the battlecruiser comes with impressive communications and targeting array, only further improved by a command suite so often installed. The Artemis' heavy communications equipment can keep them in contact with the entire fleet unless the most sophisticated jamming devices are deployed. Since the battlecruiser's sensors are among the best in the UNSC, the battle group's firing solutions are slaved to it to improve not only range but also timing, allowing the fleet to deal as much damage as possible before the shields can adapt to the incoming barrage.
Weaknesses and Counter-tactics
"Rey- Captain! The Destroyer has teleported four hundred metres off our starboard stern. Reading multiple hull breaches across all decks. Severe damage dete-!"
―Black box from the UNSC Iron Throne, showing one way an Artemis can be destroyed.
Despite their high praise, there are numerous weaknesses which could be exploited to quickly turn the tables on the UNSC. As stated before, the main hull was comparatively thin, being thinner than that on the far smaller Halberd-class destroyer. While already at a disadvantage, the Artemis is poorly suited to fighting at anything closer than ten kilometers. Its secondary armaments of eight Archer missile pods are smaller than those on ships several times smaller, making it nearly helpless if its foe was anywhere else except directly in front of it. It also proved to be vulnerable to Seraph strafing runs, who could easily evade its anti-fighter defenses and land a damaging hit on its lightly-armoured sides.
In spite of their awe-inspiring reputation, Artemis-class battlecruisers were easily overwhelmed by plasma bombardment.
Despite their superior agility compared to other cruisers and relatively-fast slipspace speeds, they are still far slower than their Covenant equivalents. This often forced their captains to scuttle their ships, since a single Covenant frigate is enough to quickly puncture its hull and pursue the battlecruiser if it attempts to run. Energy projectors are also highly effective, as they can gut a battlecruiser at ranges where they would normally be considered untouchable to Covenant weaponry.
A number of tactics have been seen used by the Covenant, despite their slowness to adapt to UNSC strategies. Late in the war, Covenant warships began to hide behind sufficiently-large bodies, such as an asteroid or even a helpless space station. While the Artemis strafed to retrieve a targeting solution, the Covenant could fire guided plasma torpedoes around the obstacle and destroy their opponent without exposing themselves. Another tactic, one which has been only seen in the final battles of the Great War, was when entire Covenant battle groups would initiate an in-system slipspace jump to close in on the vulnerable UNSC forces, destroying entire fleets before the UNSC captains could react.
With a silhouette resembling a cross between a monolithic cruiser and a frigate, the Artemis could be easily mistaken for a Valiant-class large cruiser from a distance, but this similarity quickly disappears upon closer inspection. The Artemis maintains a consistent rectangular profile, with overlapping plates protecting the points of attachment for the superstructure. Most early battlecruisers are distinguished by their rather lean build and their black hull, although later members would only sport this paint on specific missions, as the cost of the stealth plating was expensive to maintain. Secondary antennae were mounted all over the ship, paired with sensor dishes to grant full 360o view of the ship of varying quality.
An annotated layout of the Block I Artemis.
The bow is dominated by two massive prongs, divided along the centre much like those on the smaller frigates. Both the top and bottom prow are heavily armoured, as they house the advanced MACs that the battlecruiser relied on to dish out damage. Both prongs had an array of antennae and dishes for the sensor and targeting systems, although only the bottom had the powerful gravitic scanners it needs to detect prey at extended distances. Between the prow are massive capacitors which store excess power from the reactors. As their position is notoriously vulnerable to bombers, eight M870 point-defence gun mounts are fitted there, although only four would usually be in use due to concerns about the tight space potentially damaging the turrets. At the bottom of the lower prow is a protruding structure that held additional capacitors to retain a charge for the ship's weapon. The back of the prongs are covered by a thin shield of armour, extended forwards to better protect the section where the prongs were attached to the superstructure.
The midsection, at first glance, appears better armoured than the bow because of the extra plating overlaid over the main hull at the top and bottom. This is somewhat false, as while the extra depleted Uranium armour does add more protection, the Titanium-A2 layer is only ninety centimetres at its thickest point. Below this is a lightly-armoured indentation, with six comparatively small doors, four on an upper floor and two on the lower, that lead to long cargo-bays which are wide enough to accommodate a Longsword bomber. Both the doors and the surrounding area are armoured only with a thin layer of Vanadium steel rather than Titanium-A2 to reduce costs and proved to be an exceptionally vulnerable section which is so often targeted by bomber squadrons. If the Artemis does not require a space fighter escort, these can be condensed into a single massive hangar rated for supporting the deployment of a Razor- or Winter-class prowler, with all the equipment needed to keep them in the field for longer. At the very bottom of the ship are the ODST drop bays.
Despite mimicking the same industrial decor theme that is consistent across the UNSC ships of its time, the interior of this class does display some differences. With the exception of the uniform service corridors which allow engineers access to vital parts of the ship, the rooms are taller and wider than normal, even in places where cargo is unlikely to be trafficked through. The floor, walls, and ceiling are made up of panels which can be easily removed to access the desired component, with the panels deliberately made either different in design or with different materials to make it easy to guess what lies beneath. The decor tends to preferred a cluttered look on a finished surface, painted with contrasting colours within the white, grey and black spectrum.
The midship is divided into eleven levels, with seven additional sub-levels, which are connected to each other through stairways, elevators and maintenance corridors. The levels closer to the ship's exterior are used for handling cargo and cryogenic storage, with levels One and Eleven being completely devoted to the storage of the ship's consumables, such as fuel, food, and water. Eleven also has access to the SOEIV launch tubes. The five main cryobays are located on levels Two and Ten, as they have the infrastructure to rapidly launch the ship's entire complement within a few minutes, although smaller cryobays capable of holding only fifteen individuals are located towards the centre of the vessel. Levels Three, Eight and Nine are typically where the bulk of the engineering work, as they extend all the way towards the MAC guns to the engines. There is little different with Level Four, however, it is notable as it has the sleeping quarters for the crew to rest, as their need for sleep is not met by being placed in a cryotube. Level Five exists solely to distribute personnel and material around, and as such its relatively easy to navigate one's way around the ship. The barracks for the Marines and ODSTs, as well as detention centres, are also located here. Level Seven is the main administrative level, with the Combat Information Centre (CIC), command bridge and meeting chambers for specific area commands being present on this level. Level Six is a mix between levels Five and Seven, having access to more specific area commands and still being partly responsible for moving cargo across the ship.
A typical hallway on an Artemis, with the adjacent room breached by plasma fire.
Located within the middle of the ship's "shoulder" - the elevated structure which separates the bow from the midship - lies the "brain" of the battlecruiser, the Combat Information Centre. It is here where all the high-level orders are issued, such as directing where the ship needs to go, when to fire and how to respond to battlefield conditions. The CIC is divided into two levels, with the larger top floor housing the stations used for the warship's general duties and the bottom for managing damage-control, engineering management, and complement. The bridge is arranged in a semi-circular form, with the individual stations surrounding the command organisation equipment in the centre. A wall is installed behind here, where a wide touchscreen is installed which can either display the navigation data with streamlined ship data, or the various statistics from the various stations. Should the captain prefer a three-dimensional hologram of the relevant data, or intends to share a visual representation of a plan with their crew, a large holotable is located in a large room behind the main bridge.
Propulsion and Powerplants
Like nearly all other examples of human spacefaring vessels, the Artemis is pushed along by ten fusion drives powered directly by the ship's massive reactor, arranged into two large drives in the centre and eight far smaller models, four on each side. The propellants, which are the elements created by the fusion of Deuterium, are superheated by the output of the reactor, transforming into plasma before being rapidly compressed and flung out at high speeds. Though much of the gas is lost to space, a series of magnets and negatively-charged capacitors are mounted outside to recapture some of the plasma to be recycled.
The aft of the Artemis, showcasing its engine arrangement.
The actual mechanisms which power the ship as a whole are the two V6/XH-DFR TEMPEST dual-chamber reactors and the singular Boglin Fields' S67/LCU fusion reactor. A custom model that is more thoroughly reinforced, the TEMPESTs are thickened with pressure-resistant and heat-resistant alloys, providing some protection against heat-based energy weapons. It has multiple redundancies to continue to function even while heavily damaged, such as being able to isolate sections of itself at reduced efficiency. The TEMPESTs' unusually-thick insulation layer, along with its multiple conduits linking the two chambers, allows it to be safely overclocked to provide one-and-a-half times as much energy as what can be usually extracted. This can be further enhanced by the navigation officer's override, which floods the reactor with additional Deuterium to run at three times the output and give out a noticeable increase in speed. Unfortunately, as well as significantly reducing the operational range of the battlecruiser, the TEMPESTs' will also reach meltdown levels within seven minutes of over-clocked use. After the war, this model had been modified to allow it to feature the revolutionary cooling system derived from the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, completely nullifying heat concerns even in combat.
The S67/X/CU fusion reactor, on the other hand, is an even more specialised model that is far more resilient than the main reactors. Manufactured by Boglin Fields, the enlarged S67 combat-upgraded model is built with insulated motor-plate layers that can efficiently block any holes from weapons that hit it, sliding over the hole to and releasing an Antimony compound fluid to magnetically seal it; essentially, the only way to disable it is to shut off the Deuterium supply. Unlike the TEMPESTs, this allows the S67 to continue outputting at near-maximum no matter how badly damaged. As the S67 is slow at adjusting its output, the computer for controlling takes into account the readiness level the ship is operating at - at yellow, the reactor starts up to low settings, while at red it is operating at moderate to high capacity.
Powered by these two reactor systems is the Artemis' primary propulsion system - two Apex-VI 508C fusion drives. Created specifically for the battlecruiser, the Apex-VI has three modes of use depending on how much power is redirected to it. The most useful setting is its "stealth mode", where it employs a number of systems to minimise the number of detectable emissions leaving it. These are so effective that at low outputs they do not give out any radiation, making it appear as if the engines are inactive in this setting, yet they must be constantly maintained and replaced after each mission. Once the output increases beyond 35% of its maximum recommended output, the more fragile bafflers are absorbed into the hull, where the drives maintain a balance between speed and stealth. However, as it does not have the benefits of invisibility nor maximum speed, few captains use it, instead they jump straight into its performance mode. Using a mixture of pressure boilers and magnetic acceleration, the engines can produce enough thrust to keep pace with a destroyer roughly half its size.
Also connected up to these two reactors are numerous vectoring thrusters mounted all over the ship. Capable of pushing the battlecruiser up to a velocity of 682 metres/second2 per side, these miniature fusion drives provide the bulk of the turning power available to the Artemis' crew under normal conditions. There are forty thrusters in total, with every side except the aft having eight of these propulsion systems installed. Most of these drives are further amplified by the addition of a variable turret which directs the thrust in a 175o cone above the hull. This new system offers several significant advantages over the cheaper system of having them mounted below the armour, from increasing the speed it can turn, to reduce the amount of fuel needed to make a change in course. While the heavily-armoured construction that allows them to survive the high temperatures of the fusion emissions also makes them surprisingly-resilient against enemy fire, they are slow at readjusting. In addition, damage can jam the turret's rotating platform, leaving them in a fixed position until they are repaired or removed. In light of this vulnerability, the base of the turrets is designed to detach, allowing the thrusters to resort to the conventional system.
The core of a Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine, identical to the one found in a Second-Generation Lifeboat SFTE.
For faster-than-light travel, the battlecruiser is outfitted with an experimental Mark 37F Alpha-Series-FTL-226 Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine backed up by a Second-Generation Lifeboat SFTE. Developed within the Watershed Division in the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Mark 37F is the most advanced slipstream engine built at the time of the Artemis' launch. Built using components recovered from recovered Covenant slipspace drives, the drive is a massive leap forward, giving reduced drag, being more accurate and faster to start up. Although the exact means on how it works are not known, it generates some sort of repulsion field which works in conjunction with the typical 'slipspace shielding' bubble to allow the warship to weave through slipspace with less force than before. This latter field serves a secondary function by resisting the Chekhov radiation given out by nukes, giving HIGHCOM a reason to authorise these ships to carry a single missile Shiva-class nuclear missile even on stealth missions. With all this said, Mark 37Fs cannot always be built as they are completely reliant on enough of the necessary components being scavenged from the debris field. As a result, its not infrequent for battlecruisers to rely on their robust Lifeboat SFTE for interstellar travel after commissioning or repairs. Although small even by human standards and durable enough to take a beating, Lifeboat SFTEs are sluggish, slow to charge and painfully inaccurate.
Although the UNSC would loath to admit it, there will always be the chance that in combat the Artemis could be incapacitated, either by accident or through enemy interaction. To reactivate its fusion reactors, each of the main fusion reactors are linked up to two isolated capacitors. Hardened against EMP radiation and reinforced against sabotaged, the capacitors are intended to discharge as much power as possible within the shortest time frame, releasing up to twice the amount of energy normally needed to jump-start the fusion process within even the powerful TEMPEST reactors. Only one is ever directly connected to the ship's power supply, with the second stored elsewhere to make it difficult for the enemy - human, Covenant or AI - to completely disable the battlecruiser. A second backup lies within its complement of backup chemical batteries. Although considered crude and pathetic by modern standards, when they are all activated they can provide enough power to run emergency lighting, life support and propulsion for at least seventy-four hours. A final, less-efficient solution comes from radiation-conversion nodes installed in the hull. Intended to partially solve the problem in how the refractive coating amplifies heat signatures, the nodes work by converting the various forms of heat into electricity, sinking it within the battlecruiser's subsystems. If a wide array of conditions are met, the nodes can provide a maximum of 0.0421% additional power to its systems - not a large number, but enough to charge backup batteries and capacitors. All these backups mean that a battlecruiser is incredibly resistant to sabotage, even without taking into account that its computer circuits are resistant to EMP pulses.
If the battlecruiser needed a sudden burst in speed that its fusion drives could not achieve, a number of Pascade high-pressure canisters were built under the armour with portholes breaching through it. As a highly flammable and reactive gas with Rubidium at its core, Pascade ignited with extreme force when exposed to Oxygen. This gave out a huge amount of force, enough to give the Artemis a maximum turning speed of 35o per second, or propelling the warship to high speeds in any direction. However, as the only producer of the gas is an obscure company called TerraTek, it is not readily available and the canisters had to sometimes be filled with a less-effective substitute such as solid Triamino Hydrazine instead.
"Our cruisers killed in an instant? Lies! The blasphemers are not worthy to wield such power!"
―Brute Shipmaster Vexus, witnessing his fleet being annihilated by a trio of Artemis battlecruisers.
The entire ship's superstructure is built around its two experimental 38G1S2 Series-6 Super Magnetic Accelerator Cannons, an incredibly powerful model which has been featured only on the Artemis-class. Essentially a mobile model of the 14D4A1/MAC fitted onto Moncton-class orbital weapon platforms, the 820-metre-long coilgun is the largest weapon of its kind ever fitted onto a cruiser's hull. Using hyper-dense magnetic coils, a single salvo is capable of removing the shields of a DDS-class heavy carrier and inflict substantial damage on the hull beneath, with both being capable of eliminating what remains of it. When linked with the on-board sensors, these are a lethal threat to any Covenant ship within a 6,000 kilometre (3,728 miles) radius around the battlecruiser, and have a maximum rated range of 360,000 kilometres (223,693 miles). The Series-6 is particularly lethal because it is designed to reduce the long cooldown experienced after firing while still retaining enough energy to destroy a Covenant cruiser. The first is the installation of massive capacitor banks and cooling arrays along the middle of the bow, which store excess energy to allow the battlecruiser to fire even when its diverting almost all its power to every other systems. Next, backup electromagnetic coils can switch out damaged variations to allow it to immediately fire a second salvo. The last measure are heat and stress sensors mounted directly on the rings themselves, with transmits data on which coils need to cool down and which ones are capable of being used again. Using this data, the tactical officer is capable of firing a regular round at a reduced velocity, or accelerate a frigate-sized slug up to 60,000 metres (37 miles) per second. By using this method, a battlecruiser could potentially dedicate its entire output to the MACs to allow them to fire up to three salvoes per minute. Finally, two miniature fusion reactors are included as part of the system, allowing the capacitors to be recharged even if they are isolated from the main reactors.
A revamped reloading system is also included, which can automatically change rounds depending on data from targeting scans, cutting down on reload times and allowing the battlecruiser to carry a total of eighty rounds within its reconfigurable magazine. Currently, there are four rounds which are compatible with the Series-6 MACs, available in both cluster and slug forms:
XM38CSEM ionised drone missile: Dubbed by naval personnel as the "Cov-Killer", this experimental munition is engineered specifically for use against Covenant energy shields. After leaving the barrel, it is capable of slowly guiding itself to the marked enemy target. Upon reaching a designated distance, it would explode into seven individual warheads that all split off and strike different targets, enough to hit an entire armada. Each warship hit by a Cov-Killer would suffer significant damage to their shields, as the compressed ion gas disrupts and reacts with the energy fields protecting them. Only the very largest Covenant capital ships can successfully resist these drone missiles, although the lingering residue continues to wear their defensive barriers down for up to a minute afterwards.
XM50SPH shell: The immediate predecessor to the round more widely on Strident-class heavy frigates, the XM52SPH is similar in concept to the earlier XM38CSEM EMP round, being designed to allow UNSC ships to better combat ships with energy shielding. However, rather than interfere with the operation of the emitter itself, this round negates it entirely with its shield modulation field, which tricks the Covenant's energy shields into believing its part of the vessel. Although crude and prone to failing to successfully penetrate on a number of occasions, its development would finally give the UNSC the opportunity to nearly match the Covenant had it not been too difficult to produce in large numbers.
Tungsten shell: The most frequently-used munition for the MAC, the 1300-tonne Tungsten slug is a reliable means of dealing damage to enemy forces. Like the XM38CSEM, the slug has a squash head to spread out its impact force across the enemy superstructure, increasing the area available for its kinetic energy to be absorbed onto. However, this slug is designed to remain rigid on impact, smashing through its target with enough force to inflict modest damage on a trailing ship. As a result, it is highly recommended for it to be used in surgical strikes, either to disable enemy systems or hit two vessels at once. As the most readily-available MAC slug, it is simply used for general attacks.
Depleted-Uranium shell: Given that so much of the Artemis' power is centred around its MAC, it is obvious that this ship can benefit the most from a munition designed to be fire when its main guns are under-powered. The 900-tonne depleted-Uranium slug is built to cause the most harm when fired at low velocities. Upon impact, the slug is vaporised into a fireball that incinerates its targets, releasing a small area-of-effect field which damages any other threats within and without the ship unfortunate enough to be hit. While not as effective as a nuke, this is arguably more reliable thanks to its inability to get shot down.
Shredder shell: One of the few ships able to fire them when it was developed, the Shredder round operates in a fragmentary fashion, capable of impaling brittle pieces of itself into the frame of enemy ships. This performs exceptionally well against large targets, where they become more vulnerable to additional impacts and are forced to travel slower to prevent the ship from breaking apart.
A Shiva-class nuclear missile in flight.
The secondary armaments are inferior to other cruisers, which is acceptable considering its role. There are only two which are even moderately effective against the Covenant, the most powerful being its three Shiva-class nuclear missiles. A modular missile system that is designed to be launched from both strikecraft and larger starships, the Shiva is used to inflict an uncontrolled explosion in both atmosphere and vacuum, largely depending on its warhead. Typically, the Artemis has its Shivas outfitted with a 55-megatonne Califorium warhead outfitted for vacuum conditions, using a three-stage fusion system filled with Hydrogen isotopes that is ignited when pulled into the initial fission implosion. This amplifies the yield, and while it can vary to a degree, it can reliably destroy any unshielded Covenant cruiser up to 120 million tonnes in mass that is within ten kilometres of the blast radius. In addition, the Shiva releases a huge spike in electromagnetic radiation, disrupting shields and electrical systems, and this often requires human ships to reset their systems following the missile's detonation. It will only be armed once it receives an activation signal from the battlecruiser, sent after the host ship leaves the blast radius. As it constantly emits radiation, the missiles are stored in a radiation-resistant bay located fifty metres away from the nearest hallway, with numerous Lead walls located between them.
On occasion, the Shiva nukes can be completely replaced with the safer, less-devastating M7039 fusion rockets. Originally designed to be fired against targets in-atmosphere, fusion rockets differ from the more common nuclear missiles in that it does not require a radioactive material to compress the Hydrogen fuel. Instead, the rocket is built similar to a fusion reactor, temporarily producing a huge fusion cycle which would quickly engulf a sizable area within a superhot fireball. The blast is equivalent to a 65-megatonne blast, although it can be tuned to various yields prior to launch. The nose of the rocket is far more heavily reinforced than necessary, allowing its payload to remain intact even after smashing through metres of plating. As the rocket is completely unguided, it must be aimed carefully prior to launch, with the Artemis sporting a dedicated turret to fire them. However, it makes up for this with its fusion drive, an unusual propulsion system for a missile, which can allow the rocket to accelerate to speeds in excess of 1,000 kilometres per hour within a few seconds. This allows it to evade point-defence systems by literally being too fast for them to lock on to. Fusion rockets have become unpopular in the UNSC, as they are ineffective at disrupting energy shielding and are difficult to replace thanks to their complicated engine design.
To bolster the effects of their nuclear ordnance, a number of battlecruisers are equipped with a modest selection of advanced Indra-class nuclear missiles. Introduced late into the war, in spite of their size these powerful weapons have a rather weak explosive warhead that uses only a small fraction of its energy potential; as a result, most Covenant warships can easily withstand a direct hit. Instead, it is specialised to deliver an extremely high-powered electromagnetic pulse that is magnitudes higher than what can be generated by most nuclear warheads, with a very wide effective range that could affect their mothership if care is not taken. They can short out hardened circuitry that would normally be impervious to such radiation and utterly frying what is not. Shield dispersal generators are particularly badly affected by the fallout of an Indra-class device, and those on affected ships either fail completely or are unable to manage their barriers as efficiently as they could before. Indra-class nuclear missiles are rare thanks to a shortage of radioactive materials, and they are only launched ahead of an opening salvo against a massed fleet of Covenant cruisers.
Intended for purely defensive measures, the Artemis is equipped with a pathetic amount of variable missile pods. While most smaller ships could carry more than a thousand of individual missiles, an unmodified Artemis had eight pods which carried forty-two missiles each, giving the ship only 336 missiles. Each pod could fire a maximum of five missiles at once and took less than a minute to rearm. They could accept a wide range of missile types, although normally they were fitted with either forty-two M58 Archers, or thirty M58 Archers and twelve M4 decoys. The M58 Archer is the UNSC's general-purpose ship-to-ship munition, built to be equally effective against small agile space fighters and lumbering capital ships. They carry a roughly five hundred kilogram high-explosive warhead with a reinforced nose and delayed fuse to allow them to indent themselves into armour and explode in a directed cone, maximising explosive potential. These can be replaced with a variety of other munitions to increase lethality against certain targets. Unfortunately, the basic Archer housing has proven to be predictable in flight, making it easy to shoot down. This is why they are most often fired in salvos of hundreds of individual devices, although the Artemis can only fire forty Archers at a given moment - a very low amount for any warship. In addition, while they have few issues with intercepting boarding craft and gunships, they cannot be relied on to destroy interceptors such as CSX-class Space Banshees as these craft can evade them long enough for their propellant to run out, causing them to prematurely explode. More importantly, they are extremely ineffective against the Covenant; hundreds if not thousands are required to cut through the Covenant's energy shielding, with even more needed because their pulse lasers are accurate enough to shoot down half of that number at a safe distance. When all this is considered, the Artemis' Archer complement cannot be relied upon to even threaten the small Covenant warship.
The last frequent missile payload is the M4 decoy. Essentially an extremely-high powered emitter strapped to a set of engines, the M4 emits a series of falsified signatures to trick enemy ships and in particular weapon-systems. In their default setting, they deliberately fool enemy point defence countermeasures into firing at empty space or at low-yield missiles, ensuring that powerful rockets can get in close enough to damage formations of enemy vessels. However, the ones on these battlecruisers have received an updated emitter which allows them to fulfil a limited electronic-warfare role. They can either provide low-level communications disruption or, more often, trick enemy sensors into reporting that a UNSC warship is nearby. They can mimic the thermal, radiation and spectrometry signature of anything up to a UNSC frigate. While they can be used to lure enemy ships into a trap, they are mostly used only as a last-resort to draw off foes that are verging too close to the Artemis' and maximising the survival of their nuclear missiles. As a result, electronic warfare should not be done by the M4 decoys, with more specialised craft such as prowlers preferred to fill that gap.
Twelve M870 "Rampart" 50mm autocannons are installed all over the battlecruiser. It is primarily intended to screen the skies for incoming missiles and strikecraft. The six-metre-long turret itself is a typical fast-tracking housing, able to turn its four barrels within a range greater than 200 degrees and perform a full rotation in less than half a second. It can fire a wide range of ammunition, but it is often equipped with only three types; timed flak, solid slugs and high-explosive rounds, designed for light-armoured targets and area-denial, heavy armour, and energy-shielding, respectively. The rounds are initially electronically-fired in an atmospheric environment, which are then accelerated by coilguns built within the barrels. This allows them to have a maximum rated range of about seven kilometres, although this is loose as particularly slow or predictable targets can hit from beyond this limit.
Armour and Superstructural Supports
Lagging behind the standards of other cruisers at the time, the Artemis is still outfitted with a hull thick enough to withstand most projectiles. Located above the main hull is a thin coating of refractive coating. The largest vessel to make use of this important innovation, refractive coating is a heat-absorption gel that is used to combat the threat of high temperatures. If struck by an energy weapon, the coating reacts in two ways. The first is that it rapidly dilutes the extreme heat, equalising the temperatures across the entire vessel to minimise damage. If the temperature reaches a certain threshold, the gel vaporises into a rapidly-expanding mist, forcing itself away from the hull towards the vacuum of space. This particular coating has an insulation underlay added to make it difficult for the heat to move below this coating, and is affected by the battlecruiser's artificial gravity - the gel will coat any new holes made into the hull, decreasing the risk of depressurisation. A side-effect of this extremely-expensive coating is that once heated the battlecruiser will stand out on thermal scans, making its stealth systems useless. However, the ability to better counter the Covenant's advanced weaponry has made this a necessary trade-off. Fortunately, the second block has eliminated this by adding stealth plating on top on a per-mission basis.
Most of the hull is made up with a modified version of the Titanium-A battleplate found on its sister warships, which has a mean thickness of 1.5 meters. Designated as TI-A2/C, its actually a hybrid plating with two alternating layers. The first is the newer Titanium-A2 layer, laid in fifteen-centimetre layers. Designed to have improved performance against energy weapons, it is actually less pure than its predecessor, being mixed with compounds which display better insulation qualities to keep the plating solid at high temperatures. These are arranged in a crystal atomic lattice, similar to diamond, which retains any physical strength it would have otherwise lost. The second layer is made up with a ten-centimeter thick cage of Reinforced Carbon-Carbon (RCC), with a solid top, bottom and sides. Inside this cage is, somewhat strangely, only the micro-scale RCC poles which are added to make it strong enough to hold the weight of the armour above it. The rest of it is a vacuum, which assists in halting the spread of heat by preventing all means for it to travel except by conduction. Unfortunately, this vacuum made TI-A2/C worse at stopping kinetic weapons - a flaw which was corrected in the later Titanium-A3 battleplate. All this made this variation of Titanium-A a far more effective defence against energy weapons. It never saw widespread adoption, with only the Artemis showcasing the armour.
Select parts of the hull are covered with a variable layer of depleted Uranium (DU) armour, which can be viewed on the surface at places where the Titanium is not present. Made up of ultra-purified Uranium with less than 0.124% of the radioactive U-235 isotope, this material is a dense and tough substance which has seen use as an impressive if expensive defence against kinetic weapons. However, unlike most warship classes, some upper DU plates on the Artemis are designed to be reactive, exploding to intersect the magnetic field of the plasma torpedo and reduce its raw impact damage. This debris also coats the other bricks of armour, preventing them from all detonating at once. For lower plating, the Uranium is treated to suppress its incendiary properties, then coated with a thin layer of Tungsten sheets to prevent it from reacting without decreasing strength.
The main frame does not have as much thought put into it as the armour, with vastly reduced strength when compared to other ships. Columns of TR steel measuring forty metres long are arranged in cube-like formations going both vertical and horizontal. These columns are thinner and longer than the standard, a measure which combats the high price of these battlecruisers while also keeping weight down. However, they are more susceptible to the stress of combat manoeuvres and could not withstand shockwaves from severe impacts. Similarly, there are very few places where internal armour is added; only the bridge and reactors have this protection. The spaces between the columns are filled in by thin plates of TR steel only where the armour itself needs to be welded on. A few hydraulic supports have been added to help cope with the stress of impacts and turning, yet otherwise, the battlecruiser is highly vulnerable to being torn apart by a well-placed energy projector or plasma torpedo hit. However, in the case of the prongs at the front, this has been disregarded to allow them to take the stress of a MAC round approaching their maximum speed.
After the war, the Artemis-class battlecruiser was prioritised for the installation of energy shielding, and was refitted to host MX812 dispersal field generators supplied by Misriah Armoury. Among the first 'privatised' models of shield generators offered for sale, the MX812 allows the battlecruiser to be significantly more durable with only a minimal increase in mass. In their proper implementation, MX812 is divided into six sectors that are independently managed, to still maintain some integrity if a portion of the shields are broken or overlay the unprotected hull until those generators recharge. However, resource shortages means that most battlecruisers only have a single generator which protects the whole ship, with the projectors organised in such a way to make future installation straightforward and fast. Unfortunately, the MX812 itself is particularly regressive when compared to their Covenant equivalents. When weapons need to be fired, an MX812-compatible vessel must drop the entire barrier for at least seven seconds before they can be reactivated; in contrast, a Covenant shield system can limit the barrier dropped to only a few metres around the armament system and can re-engage almost immediately after discharge. However, the tactical abilities to temporarily negate an opponent's barrage still make this a desired addition.
The Artemis-class battlecruiser is notorious for having a proportionally small amount of fighters, passengers and crew. The total amount of manpower it can carry comfortably is 1,008, with 630 crewmen dedicated to keep the ship functioning. This means that only 248 people are responsible for providing security, manning fighters, and managing the logistics for the extra personnel. The complement is most frequently shared between the following:
A flight of C712 Longswords in formation at an unspecified battlefield.
Located in the midsection of the Artemis-class are a series of hangar bays that varied in configuration between the original flight and the main production models. The original Flight I design had six individual doors that are identical to those used on previous models of cruisers, which were connected to a central open space that held the battlecruiser's onboard squadrons. Each of these bays are equipped with their own backblast shields, fuel lines, and ammunition compartments, allowing space fighters and dropships to land, resupply themselves, and immediately launch themselves back into the fight. However, more involved repairs must be conducted deeper within the ship. It is designed to easily hold the ground vehicle complement of a Shipboard Defence Unit. Because they operate so often in deep space, however, the vehicle bays intended to accommodate Warthogs and Scorpions lie empty, and are instead used only for storing consumables.
The space fighter complement typically held six C712 Longswords, modular interceptors that can undertake a wide variety of roles. Smaller and faster than the more common C709 model, the Longsword is equally at home at engaging both high-speed strikecraft such as the SX-class Seraph and larger warships, which has seen it become a common sight in both naval and Air Force squadrons. Typically, those assigned to an Artemis-class are divided into two flights of three fighters, with each being led by either a naval Lieutenant or an Air Force Captain. Typically, one of these are made up exclusively of unchanged Longswords, and these are deployed in a last-ditch attempt to protect the battlecruiser from incoming fighters and bombers. The other is known as the 'Specialist Flight,' with each of its members being optimised for specific missions; for this reason, they rarely fly together. One of the Longswords are equipped with nuclear missiles, smart bombs, and missiles used in anti-ship missions, another is modified to act as an electronic warfare platform, and the last is tailored as a reconnaissance or spotting craft. However, this can be swapped for mission requirements in the field, and it is not uncommon to hear both units replacing their loadouts with surplus Archer missiles donated by their battlecruiser. Additional spacecraft, such as F-99/e Wombat combat drones or F-41 Broadswords, may be embarked to further supplement the Longswords, although the remaining hangars were normally reserved for dropships.
Although outdated, the onboard prowlers are such a boon to their battlecruisers that they are rarely allowed to enter the field without one.
After the initial six battlecruisers were built, all succeeding ships of the line replaced the meagre hangar with a Category-6 light sub-vessel bay, built according to the strict specifications required by the Prowler Corps. This allowed the Artemis-class to permanently embark a small stealth corvette. Fully-staffed with a crew of up to 22 hand-picked sailors, and captained by an ONI Lieutenant Commander, the prowler uses the battlecruiser as a mobile base. It is fully-capable of interstellar travel and independent operation, as may be required to shadow a Covenant ship that is moving into a nearby star system or pursue any alternative objectives. In exchange, the prowler augments the Artemis by offering a wide range of reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and unconventional-warfare abilities. It can lay down minefields of M441 HORNET nuclear mines, jam or fool enemy sensors to draw hostile ships away from the mothership, and act as a remote carrier for unmanned probes and commandos. However, they contribute little in a fight, as they are only protected by a few centimetres of armour and a handful of pulse laser turrets for self-defence only. The hangar bay was originally designed for use with the Razor-class strike prowler, although after the Great War, these have been replaced with the more advanced Winter-class light prowler.
An SKT-9 Bumblebee in flight, with airbreaks retracted.
To evacuate the crew and a majority of the Marines during emergencies, like most UNSC ships these battlecruisers have a host of lifeboats located across multiple decks. Each of these are disposable, manually-piloted spacecraft with a long-range MASER for contacting rescuers and at least a weeks worth of food, water, and Oxygen. All UNSC servicemen are trained in their operation, and the integrated navigation software is fitted with course-correction protocols to autonomously correct mistakes made by novice pilots. Both of these are sourced from Aerofabrique SA's SKT Bumblebee line, with the former having seating for three occupants and the latter for nine. Both of these are armoured only against micrometeorite impacts and atmospheric reentry, with the Reinforced Carbon-Carbon plating mounted on their keel face being the thickest and strongest part of the spacecraft. Because of this, they are highly vulnerable to weapons and lack any countermeasures at all, which makes their destruction by Covenant gunners all the more easier. There are 136 escape pods total, divided between the following:
86 SKT-7 Bumblebee lifeboats, which carry three people per pod.
For transportation, the battlecruiser has three types of spacecraft that it has embarked. According to specifications, it has hangar space for a squadron of eight Pelican dropships, which are equally capable of carrying vehicles, troops, and material between a planet and the ship. In theory, the battlecruiser would use them to deploy their entire Marine and ODST complement to quickly overwhelm a high-value planetary region or capture another vessel or space station. In practice, such operations come up so rarely that only one or two are ever used, and so a full complement is rare on these ships. The Pelicans instead supplement the four smaller SKT-13 shuttlecraft, where both transports would exchange personnel and supplies with passing ships or orbital facilities. More regularly used are the two Calypso-class exfiltration craft. A middle-ground between subprowlers and dropships, these are one of the few UNSC aircraft at the time to be built with a - admittedly limited - slipspace drive. Their integrated stealth systems makes them difficult to detect by Covenant forces, while their speed and appreciable durability ensures they can survive the inevitably-heated escape. Although they are primarily intended for use by commandos that are being deployed in hostile territory, many Captains retool them as makeshift reconnaissance ships, usually to map out a desirable exit point prior to the battlecruiser's arrival.
As previously stated, an Artemis battlecruiser has an optimal crew of 760 people and a single "Smart" AI. This is a much smaller number than those on contemporary cruisers, whose crew counts tend to reach the low thousands. The main reason for this is because Artemis is built to take advantage of the newest automation innovations made in recent years. These developments have allowed such a small crew to manage such a large vessel by supplementing their existing skills with an advanced network interface and robotic access.
The ship's Smart AI is perhaps the most important part of the crew. Given access to nearly every part of the ship, with the exception of the backup data caches separate from the main computer network, the AI is integral in allowing the ship to fight as efficiently as possible. It is capable of rewriting weapon scripts to adapt to enemy tactics, managing the exterior repair drones and if possible engaging in cyber-warfare on the enemy ship, often doing all of this simultaneously. Although most of the processing power to do this is provided from within the AI Core, it can increase this for itself or a sophisticated cyber program by hijacking one of the sixteen interlinked servers present all over ship. These are directly connected to the AI by powerful fibre optic cables, minimising lag while maximising coordination between its programs. By using these servers, an AI could, in theory, have enough processing power to fly an Artemis without human assistance, despite concerns on its effect to its overall lifespan. This level of freedom has led to rampancy becoming a very real issue should it manifest in the AI, and as a result, the captain and the electronic warfare officer are both able to lock out the AI from all other networks should they believe the program to be a danger to the crew.
Each Artemis-class battlecruiser is manned by a permanent detachment of at least forty ONI officials, who work within a high-security wing located on the command deck known as 'the Cave.' Made up of a mixture of technicians, electronic warfare specialists, and administrative officers, the ONI personnel often operate in isolation of the other crewmembers, with not even the Captain always being aware of their activities. Their presence is to, officially, provide actionable intelligence to assist whatever mission the battlecruiser is conducting. This may be achieved by decrypting intercepted Covenant transmissions, analysing raw sensor data, or brutally interrogating prisoners-of-war. The attached prowler, should they exist, will only take orders from their coordinating officer on-board. The main reason for ONI's presence is to keep close watch on the classified systems and prevent the leakage of confidential data. Only their technicians being the only people permitted to perform work on a number of components, such as the primary slipspace drive. Meanwhile, a security team from Section Zero watches all members of the crew for signs of distrust, and it is not uncommon for crewmen to be harassed by an agent from time-to-time. As most ONI personnel operate outside of the regular chain-of-command, their representative Intelligence Officer on the bridge must carefully balance demands of their clandestine group with the direct orders from the Captain.
Sensors and communications
A close-up on the battlecruiser's main sensor array, located at the tip of its bow.
Complementing its exceptionally-powerful main guns is a large selection of scanning systems designed to monitor a number of different spectrums, ensuring the captain is always be aware of everything around them. These can range from the tried-and-true configurations such as RADAR and LIDAR sensor dishes, however, the most effective comes from the cutting-edge ORACLE-class sensor suite. Manufactured on a case-by-case basis within the Office of Naval Intelligence, the ORACLE is humanity's first attempt at creating a scanner designed to detect subtle gravitational wave fluctuations between masses in space. To detect these, the antennae are covered with hundreds of individually-articulating fins which when combined pick up slight changes in the local waves - enough to detect a body weighing twenty-one million tons at ten kilometres away in a gravitational field generated by a standard planet. While later revisions would reduce the mass to ten million tons, it was still an incredible development which allowed the Artemis to gain important insight into any enemy forces in the area at faster speeds than traditional electromagnetic spectrum-based systems can. As gravity waves are generated by mass itself, it is nearly impossible to fool. However, before it can be used, it must spend six minutes synchronising to local conditions or otherwise its accuracy will suffer. Another flaw lies in its delay - while gravity waves travel at faster-than-light speeds, the dedicated computer requires several seconds to process the data into something readable to humans. Nevertheless, the ability to detect cloaked vessels while giving off no indication they are being scanned is seen as an incredibly-valuable tactical asset. Alternatively, the fins can align themselves within the local magnetic field to detect tiny intersections made by ships, at a faster refresh rate than the normal mode. So powerful is this system that the ORACLE suite still remained cutting-edge technology even decades after being introduced.
If at risk of being directly engaged, an Artemis had few other choices other then flee or attempt to destroy their opponent before they could enter firing range. As saving these capital ships is prioritised by the UNSC over destroying enemy ships, the Artemis comes equipped with several self-defence systems intended to maximise the amount of time to escape.
When escaping, these battlecruisers fire off massive clouds from its ship-mounted AN/SLQ-49 MAGICIAN countermeasure dispersers, a process many sailors refer to as "inking" or "smoking" depending on its use. Using a complicated and classified mix of reactive materials, radiation emitters, and what is believed to be debris from fallen UNSC ships, the MAGICIAN obstruction dust is specifically formulated to break existing target locks and overload sensors with junk readings. A series of weak electromagnets are included to combat premature scattering of the smoke, maintaining the smokescreen for up to fifteen minutes. While it is true that it offers no protection against unguided projectiles as they can simply pass through it, it masks the user so thoroughly that the attacker is essentially firing blind. The weak magnetic distortion has a secondary bonus of sapping power from plasma projectiles, weakening their ability to damage the ship. While the MAGICIAN system was continuously improved based on data from its usage, it remained too difficult to produce in numbers needed for ships of the line and so remained restricted for exceptionally-important vessels - typically battlecruisers like the Artemis and fleet flagships such as supercarriers.
In the event that they fail, the Artemis-class battlecruiser carries dozens of Mark 282 Rapid Offboard Countermeasures and Decoy Launchers (ROCaDLs). Essentially a series of mortars each angled away from the hull, and spaced around to maximise coverage, a single ROCaDL is a fixed missile pod which has nine cells offset at different angles from the surface it is mounted on. The first set of three are running directly parallel to the surface it is mounted on, the next three are offset to 35o, and the last three rows are set at 60o. Like all UNSC weapon systems, the system is designed with an integrated autoloader which can intelligently rearm it in different configurations in a surprisingly swift amount of time. During testing, the Mark 282 could reload within as little as five seconds. In addition, its size allows it to be fitted to a vast number of thin surfaces thanks to the lack of a turret base. Because the Mark 282 ROCaDLs are only used when directly engaged at short-range, and are a tertiary defence system if the MAGICIAN dispensers fail, the Artemis-class only carries enough rounds for two full salvoes for each launcher before they must be reloaded. This is divided between the following:
M44A multispectrum decoy system: Dumbfired infrared, optical, and ultraviolet flare system, which launches spent thermal sinks to supplement effectiveness.
M991C combined chaff/smoke system: Dumbfired warhead which releases magnetised ferrous filings and obstructive smoke to blind opponents in order to break weapons lock. The micrometeorite filings overloads the shields on space fighters and can destroy them with enough impacts. Despite their magnetised state, however, they are too weak to disrupt plasma weapons.
M991D plasma countermeasure system: Self-propelled infrared-guided warhead with an electromagnet as its main warhead. It is designed to render plasma torpedoes inert if not destroyed, although it is useful against a wide range of plasma-based weaponry.
After the war, a new generation of battlecruisers became the first to field-test the AN/SLQ-812 UNDERTAKER Counter-Guidance Array. Developed in cooperation with Sangheili artisan-armourers, the UNDERTAKER array is designed to directly address the Covenant's devastating plasma torpedoes. Using a combination of focused counter-guidance emitters and radiation beams, it is able to harmlessly deflect torpedoes and send them in a random direction away from the source. Although it already displays some issues - some Covenant warships are able to exploit the UNDERTAKER's processes to nullify its jamming abilities, and the lensing equipment is subject to frequent breakdowns - already many captains have responded favourably regarding its performance in the field. It is hoped that the system would eventually mature to the state that it becomes standard-issue across the entire UNSC fleet, and that it is the first in a new generation of anti-plasma countermeasures. Until that day comes, however, only select lines of capital ships are given access to the technology.
"We were patrolling the cluster for weeks when we encountered a single unidentified vessel. We proceeded to stalk it for almost four days continuously, following them around, waiting for them to show us where their base of operations were. I've never seen so many surprised faces - hell, even I was expecting our cover to blow within a hour of being there."
―Captain Blaire's journal, dated from the Artemis' tests in 2537.
Perhaps the vessel's most significant division from traditional ships of the line is its focuses on cloaking technologies to enable it to survive. While not as technologically sophisticated or as effective as those on smaller prowlers, it allows the battlecruiser to survive in places where larger vessels would not, stalking patrolling Covenant warships until it has the perfect opportunity to fire. To ensure reliability and quality, all of their default stealth systems were fabricated and fitted by Deimos Special Projects Division, a government-owned affiliate of RMC that is responsible for outfitting ONI's prowlers.
The first defence against detection is from a thin layer of penta-walled stealth nanotube paint added to the top of the armour. It is composed mostly of Carbon but also mixed with compounds such as trifluroditanlalum hydroxide and scandium carbide suspended in a clear non-reflective resin, all of which were chosen for their ability to absorb radio and microwaves while keeping the scattering and reflection of the other rays to a minimum. This allows the paint to reduce the ship's RADAR cross-section while still remaining invisible to high-imaging LIDAR sensors of most other human ships, ensuring it is difficult to detect at both short and long ranges. However, the most effectiveness comes from the multiple layers of split-ring resonators. Made out of Copper foil on a dielectric backing, each layer in the seven-centimetre thick plate features different-sized resonators to better combat a specific frequency of electromagnetic waves, redirecting them away from the enemy. The stealth plating was incredibly fragile and required hours of expensive maintenance to ensure the plating's reliability - a problem which was later solved by implementing the stealth structure into removable tiles to hasten the process. This innovation is only found in the battlecruisers produced after 2540.
While not as effective as those on prowlers, if run sufficiently low enough the Artemis can emit almost no detectable radiation from its fusion drives.
For the purposes of preventing its detection, the Artemis is unique in that a portion of its AI is dedicated to analysing incoming radiation patterns. By doing this, this class is capable of emitting a counter-signal through its sensor and communications antennae towards the Covenant ships that matched its radiation background. While the resulting signal pattern only has a 60% match, and could not work at a wavelength above infrared, it helped mask the "blank space" that their plating would create. However, the AI is able to cleverly distinguish modulating patterns given out by active-scanners like LIDAR and RADAR from the radiation background, and share them with its assortment of drones, fighters, and any nearby prowlers. This allows them to send out "chirps" that come up as a detection on Covenant and human sensors, tricking them into thinking the battlecruiser is located elsewhere from where it actually is.
While not part of any production model, several battlecruisers have been modified to allow their reactors to vent themselves in the front portion of the ship. This modification was made because of several reasons, the key one being that if they passed a star, they would emerge as an easily-detectable black spot on enemy sensors. To solve this, this addition covered the front portion with a fusion reaction, making it difficult for even the Covenant's hyperscanners to separate the battlecruiser from the radiation of the star. However, this innovation was not adopted for two key reasons. Firstly, the reaction burnt off the refractive coating and tended to damage the hull in rapid turns, making these parts even weaker and could compromise their stealth qualities. Secondly, if coming on on two targets at a fair distance from each other, the Artemis would emerge as a massive radiation anomaly if it left the camouflage of its star.
Ships of the Line
Hull Classification Symbol
Flight I The UNSC Navy originally placed an order for twenty battlecruisers, however due to escalating costs in maintaining their stealth plating, only six would be completed. They were commissioned between 2537 and 2539.
Captain by Erik Esben, routed a Covenant fleet during the Battle of New Gladstone. Status currently unknown.
Flight II Beginning production after the Navy's order for forty more vessels was processed, the second block incorporated various improvements changes, the most notable being the redesigning the armour so the stealth plates are optional and the addition of four twin Mark 33 Spitfires turrets. They were commissioned between 2540 and 2551.
UNSC Lelantos' Favour
March 9, 2540
Flagship of the 9th Defense Fleet, now leading Battle Group Zulu.
Flight III Ordered in 2554 as part of the Lovejoy-Rén Act, the third block of battlecruisers was upgraded to take advantage of new advancements made after the war, such as energy shielding, counter-guidance countermeasures, and supraluminal communications. Eighteen capital ships were planned, although due disruptions such as the Created Conflict, many would be cancelled before being laid down.
↑In practice, the MAC rounds can remain a threat far in excess of this distance, as they are still travelling at hypervelocity speeds. However, the extended travel time allows enemy strategists to detect and respond to the oncoming round, and gravitational distortions can alter the round's trajectory. As a result, very few ships are actually able to land a hit at this range.
↑With the destruction of the original UNSC Artemis on August 30, 2552, this ship was originally slated to receive the name Artemis II. However, for categorisation purposes, its name was changed after being announced and all new Flight III ships were subsequently grouped into the Agrotera Block after its launch.