The Autumn-class cruiser was a co-project initiated when SinoViet Heavy Machinery's Reach branch was given the contract to refit the aging Halcyon-class cruiser, the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, with the necessary capabilities to undertake Operation: RED FLAG. The goal was to create a comprehensive layout of the ships, which would allow not only for other surviving vessels to receive the same improvements at some point, but also to document many of the Reyes-McLees Corporation's trade secrets present in its design. A copy of the design was then experimented with and improved by SinoViet engineers based on feedback from the refit program, and previous experience with work on the second generation of Halcyon-class cruisers. By 2552, the ship known in-house as the Flight IV Halcyon bore little to its peers, with its hull being completely refurbished and streamlined to ease fabrication.
Following the ceasefire of March 2553, SinoViet submitted the modified design to the UNSC Department of Naval Construction as a candidate for a new classification of cruiser, and would be first company to submit any design for a new line of warships. Initially, they found the submitted plans wanting, disappointed that it did not integrate any of the technologies they wished to move forward with - for example, counter-plasma countermeasures, Series-VI CODENs for slipspace drives, and reversed-engineered Covenant components. Rather than abandon it, SinoViet's suggestion to use the ships as a stopgap model that would bolster the UNSC's fleet prior to the deployment of next-generation cruisers was taken into consideration. This would be accepted, as analysts predicted even the first of the new submissions developed by Reyes-McLees could not enter service until 2565 at the earliest; meanwhile, SinoViet claimed that their new cruisers, christened the Autumn-class, could be commissioned by 2556. This ensured that the UNSC would have brand-new ships launched immediately after the last Marathon-class heavy cruisers entered service.
One of the more controversial elements was SinoViet's decision to scrap the Halcyon-class cruisers and build the new Autumn-class from scratch. This process bypassed the expensive partial-disassembly and gutting process that was required to refit massive changes such as new reactors and power distribution network. It also allowed all new ships to be built near-identically to one-another, allowing the entire line to be upgraded with the exact same improvements using the same installation techniques; indeed, a number of cruisers were refitted immediately after being commissioned. Certain components and structural bracing were recycled for the Autumn-class, but these were not added to the first four ships.
In purpose, the Autumn-class cruiser is supposed to act as an adaptable, well-balanced capital ship, able to conduct a number of different missions within a very short span of time. This can include going from escorting a convoy of relief ships, to coordinating an attack against a Covenant remnant fleet, to undertaking high-endurance missions far away from Human Space. This is mainly achieved through the use of prefabricated mission packages, which allows a single ship to be rapidly optimized to a specific objective in a very short span of time.
However, the bread-and-butter of this class is in a specific set of roles. The Autumn-class cruiser is primarily intended to combat other Covenant capital ships, where its durability and use of modern weapons allows it to engage them on a much more even playing field. In these engagements, it is supposed to draw their fire and survive the punishment, allowing the rest of the fleet a chance to outmaneuver and overwhelm their opponents. This lends it well to an attack or escort role, where in the former it is not uncommon for a pair of cruisers to propel themselves into an enemy formation to disrupt their lines and temporarily break their cohesion. The Autumn-class works well as a squadron flagship, where its potent counter-jamming suite and native flag deck allows it to effectively lead groups of smaller craft into battle. In these cases, it can piggy-back older ships through slipspace, moving them far further than they otherwise could on their older translight engines, and carry a surplus of fuel, spare parts, and even vehicles and cryofrozen crewmen for extended missions. However, it is generally acknowledged that a dedicated replenishment ship can fulfil this need, without the risk of exposing itself to Covenant weaponry. It can also operate as a light carrier for small task forces, although these hangar bays are typically used to ferry ground forces instead.
Weaknesses and Counter-Tactics
Unlike the Halcyon-class cruisers that preceded it, the Autumn-class cruiser is built with a somewhat less-durable but more modular design. All across the starship are a large number of empty storerooms, maintenance airlocks, and power distribution sockets that are organised in a standardised orientation, which allows SinoViet to quickly and easily fit the infrastructure for extended components. New weapon systems, self-defence arrays, and even mission-specific hardware can be effortlessly installed and reconfigured at any given naval base. Because of this, the Autumn-class has a number of specialised configurations that differ in firepower, carrying capacity, and supportive abilities.
Orbital assault/strike: Widely considered the 'vanilla' configuration, the orbital assault/strike set-up is designed to maximise the cruiser's forward firepower and deploy a fast, hard-hitting ground element. The four Mark 40 Spitfires are positioned directly in front of the secondary fusion drives in pairs, which allows them to collectively target a single ship, but restricts their field of fire. The hangar has been retooled to support the launch of ten D82-EST Darters and up to twelve gunships, as well as allocating space for additional blast-protected munitions for both its ODSTs and aerial wing. The micro-satellite and reconnaissance drone complement has also doubled.
Escort: Another common sight, these cruisers are used when they are likely to confront massed hostiles or better protect a nearby ally. The Spitfires are better spaced around the ship to provide better firing arcs, and a total of twenty-four M870 Rampart point defence guns are there to protect the mothership from missiles. Two squadrons of F-41 Broadswords, as well as an assortment of other space fighters, are typically carried at the cost of its ground complement.
Attack: Based upon the original specifications for the Pillar of Autumn, the attack version is designed to vastly augment the cruiser's firepower. Four more Spitfires, eighteen M910 Ramparts and cells for heavy missiles such as Bident missiles are installed. To protect itself, two shield generators and an assortment of Rapid Offboard Countermeasure and Decoy Launchers (ROCaDL) can be activated at a moment's notice. The MAC may be upgraded with additional slug storage and multi-shot capability, although both of these will cut into its hangar storage.
Boarded by the CRS-class frigateUniversal Resonance, but fought off by Spartan IV Fireteam Caliber. Later assisted a Swords of Sanghelios armada in attacking the Covenant remnant-held world of Kilincton.
↑Taken from a quote spoken by Scotty in Star Trek.
↑The UNSC Pillar of Autumn II was originally built as part of the legendary first block of Halcyon-class cruisers, however she would be decommissioned and left for scrapping. She would be rebuilt in 2553 as a template for future Autumn-class cruisers.