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Marathon
Class overview
Name:

Marathon-class cruiser

Builders

Reyes-McLees Corporation

Operators

UNSC Navy

Preceded by
Succeeded by

Autumn-class cruiser

Cost

$1.68 trillion cR

Active

84 (2526)

General characteristics
Type

Cruiser

Length

1,192 meters (3,910 ft)

Width

293 meters (960 ft)

Height/depth

375 meters (1,230 ft)

Mass

8.67 million metric tons

Engine unit(s)
  • ARGUS GEN4 Fusion drives (2)
  • Starwerx's XDR Formula-II fusion drives (2)
Slipspace Drive

CODEN-VI slipspace drive

Slipspace velocity

2.05 lightyears/day

Power plant

HAM-8193 B-Series fusion reactors (4)

Hull

191 centimetres of Titanium-A1 battleplate

Navigation system

UNA-uplinked navigation computer

Armament
Complement

Planetary support configuration:

Carrier configuration:

Crew

1,034 crewmen

Consumables
  • Fully stocked: 1 year
  • Emergency supplies: 1 week
Additional information
Era(s)
Role(s)
  • Ship-to-ship combat
  • Command
  • Light carrier
  • Rapid response
[Source]
"She's a workhorse, packs a hell of a punch too - too bad the Covvies liked to swing much harder."
―Captain Gabriele Kiki.[1]

The Marathon-class heavy cruiser (hull classification symbol: CA) was the primary classification of capital ship used by the UNSC Navy before and during the Human-Covenant War. Beginning production in 2513, the Marathon was introduced to combat the threat of the ever-worsening Insurrection. While not the largest or strongest warship created by humanity at that point, the Marathon was widely believed to be the most balanced. It's incredibly light design allowed it to close the distance of any target, while its modest 191 centimetres of armour and heavy armaments allowed it to disable or destroy all but the largest spaceborne vessels without being routed itself. When coupled with its extensive command suite and modular hull structure, it allowed the cruiser to adequately fulfil any required role at a far cheaper cost than its competitors.

Immediately after beginning production, the Marathon quickly became a desirable position among UNSC captains. It quickly proved its worth, outgunning every ship smaller than itself with ease and became instrumental in nearly every major conflict during the Insurrection. When the Covenant attacked humanity, it just as quickly displayed its vulnerability to Covenant weaponry. This weakness led to production slowing down as alternative designs were tested, but the sheer number of cruisers constructed meant that they served at nearly every major engagement of the War. Even after being pulled back to command the defensive fleets of the Inner Colonies, nearly every member of the class was lost to enemy fire, ensuring the Autumn-class cruiser could easily replace the Marathon as the UNSC's newest mainline cruiser.

Layout

Roles and Tactics

Weaknesses

Specifications

Propulsion and Powerplant

Armament

While in most respects the Marathon was considered an average combat vessel, an exception lies in its impressive level of weaponry. Possessing a variety of missiles and naval coilguns, this field was the primary reason these cruisers outclassed almost every ship before themselves; only the controversial Hades-class heavy cruiser could match their firepower, and could threaten the later Autumn-class heavy cruiser. This proved that the Marathon could be trusted with patrolling its own sectors without risk, and helped contributed to the large numbers of these vessels being purchased by the UNSC.

MAC round
A close-up of the dual MAC rounds fired by the Marathon.

The primary weapon of the Marathon was its two new 16A8C2 heavy-coil MAC. A mammoth weapon measuring a kilometre in length, the 16A8C2 was capable of accelerating a 1,400-tonne slug up to a maximum of 40,000 metres per second. Considered standard for the time, the MAC was nevertheless capable of instantly destroying any previous generation of destroyer and could significantly damage much larger vessels. However, before firing each MAC still required two and a half minutes to fully charge the capacitors. As a result of this, Marathons also carried a complement of lighter 600-tonne rounds to fire on a reduced charge, which were usually fired just fast enough to make a clean hole through the enemy. Both rounds were made out of Tungsten in a squash-head design to maximise the energy transferred onto the target. Finally, each series of coils were divided up to fire-control, allowing the crew to pick which ones were needed to fire. This was an adaptation to prevent another tragedy like Far Isle, allowing the Marathon to perform strategic heavy planetary bombing with its MACs with minimal civilian casualties if required. Unfortunately, the concern of additional civilian backlash made such a feature near-useless.

Backing this up is a massive complement of sixty M58 "Archer" general-purpose missile pods, each carrying thirty individual missiles. The M58 is designed to fit fairly powerful warheads that weigh in at 500 kilograms, less than a third of the payload on the older M42. Most missiles carry a dual-purpose Electromagnetic-High Explosive munition, which deliver a devastating blast directed towards in front while also releasing a radiation pulse which can damage unprotected electronics, although specialist or mission-specific warheads can be fitted prior to combat. The missile itself is quite basic, containing a variable Triamino Hydrazine engine with four vectoring fins each with a miniature thruster to line up the missile to it's target prior to full ignition as well as for guidance in-atmosphere. Once fully engaged, the Archer accelerates for ten seconds up to a maximum velocity of 45km/s, making it fast and agile enough to engage all but the fastest strikecraft. Should the target be destroyed, the M58 uses a smart Target-Priority subsystem which ranks all nearby hostiles and ensures the swarm will always attack the most valuable enemy warship. Unfortunately, even these missiles aren't infallible, proving to be vulnerable to some fighter- and corvette-mounted countermeasures which sees them prematurely detonating or flying off-course. In addition, they are horrendously ineffective against Covenant pulse lasers, as their predictable flight path renders them vulnerable to the highly-accurate weapons. Nevertheless, their sheer potency makes them an effective weapon in the Marathon's arsenal, especially since it can fire up to two hundred and twenty-five missiles at once.

For defence against missiles and aircraft, fourteen M910 "Rampart" point defence guns are installed. Maintaining a similar size and shape to a double-stacked M870B, the M910 features two crucial advancements to it's product line. Firstly, the quad-barrels are a permanent design feature, doubling or even tripling the fire-rate without the usual increase in inaccuracy. Secondly, the ammunition management subroutine has been rebuilt from the ground-up, allowing it to fire subcalibre 50mm rounds against appropriate targets. They function as the turret's long-ranged ammunition, granting an effective range of roughly twelve kilometres and a maximum range of twenty-five kilometres. Beyond this, however, the Rampart is only an adequately-built anti-fighter turret; due to the heavier rounds it normally uses, it's firerate has been reduced to 240 rounds/minute, and it's barrels can only track up to 95o upwards before it must turn around. However, like all turreted systems, the standard M910 computing systems can be bolstered by the ship's "Smart" AI, increasing it's range, firerate and accuracy.

Armour and Superstructural Supports

Countermeasures

Variants

Aegis-class cruiser-carrier

Salamis

A slight modification of the base Marathon, the Aegis-class cruiser-carrier was created in response to the perceived loss of carrier support that would result if the Covenant War dragged on for too long. To achieve this, most of the base cruiser's superstructure was redesigned to allow it to carry a larger complement, while smaller hangars capable of accommodating a single Longsword replaced many of the ship's armaments. This allowed the Aegis to carry a Wing of F-41C Broadswords (77 strikecraft) or equivalent. The bridge was also expanded to better coordinate the strikecraft, with multiple stations for officers to coordinate multiple squadrons simultaneously. Unfortunately, the resulting ship only had twenty M58 Archer missile pods, no Spitfire naval coilguns, and only four M66 Sentry autocannons.

The Aegis configuration saw the most use during the mid-war period when the UNSC's next-generation carriers had yet to come online while their Insurrection carrier power was almost depleted. The most badly-damaged Marathons were converted first, while those still in fighting condition were only turned into this subclass if there was a particular lack of carrier support in the region. Fortunately, during the late-war period, the likes of the Eion-class carrier and various supercarriers resolved these shortages, and the Aegis became a rare sight during the final months of the war.

Perseus-class battlecruiser

Drawn up soon after the Marathon was introduced but only deployed after 2541, the Perseus-class was a dedicated anti-ship configuration of the Marathon. Bringing to bear much larger 33DAR3/MAC cannons and two Mark 15 "Breakwater" heavy naval coilguns, as well as a vastly expanded missile complement, the Perseus traded this for almost no ability to carry ground troops or fighters. Unlike other ship-to-ship combat-focused designs, these cruisers do not have upgraded armour to help them take heavier fire in combat. Instead, they are intended to fire from range, with its heavy missiles protected by hiding within the swarms fired by the forward escorts.

Operational History

Development

Somewhat surprisingly, the initial design of the Marathon-class was created around the same time as that of its predecessor, the Halcyon-class cruiser. The pet project of Lorraine Reyes, co-founder of the Reyes-McLees Corporation, the Marathon was envisioned to be the partner of her husband's design; whereas McLees would produce a ship which could withstand the fire of a far larger ship and the command capacity, Reyes' concept would provide the firepower, speed and adaptability. Both ships could carry more squadrons than any other class of cruiser in the past. Between these two designs, the pair hoped that the UNSC would replace their entire complement of larger warships. However, when McLees submitted the designs of his light cruiser to the UNSC for testing in 2510, Reyes did not, still believing her design to be a work-in-process.

After the trials of the UNSC Halcyon, both Reyes and McLees were disappointed to learn that the UNSC would only order eleven vessels. The admiralty cited that while the design was exceptionally durable, its high cost, slow speed and unacceptably weak weapons limited it to the role of a tank in fleet combat, even with its pitiful excuse of a command suite. While McLees addressed these critiques in the Halcyon's second block, of which the Navy would order a further thirty-nine vessels, Reyes made further modifications to her design. The prototype was vastly up-armed, given sixty-five additional missile pods and thirty-eight point-defence guns. As there would be far too few Halcyons produced, the communications array and sensor package were replaced with top-of-the-line models, and more powerful reactors gave it incredible endurance even in the heat of battle. The final upgrade would be from McLees himself, who redesigned the superstructure to allow it to take more hits while expanding the hangar. This improved model was christened the Elysium-class heavy cruiser, and while easier to construct it too would only enter a limited production run, although at 148 orders it was more successful than the Halcyon.

Development on the design would halt for a time, as both McLees and Reyes pursued other projects. After reviewing the blueprints for the Valiant-class large cruiser, and upon noticing its mid and aft bore a striking resemblance to the Elysium, Reyes redesigned both ships into sections. By sharing superstructure and components, the Elysium could finally be made cheaper, constructed far more rapidly and could be given a more modular design. Despite this, there were differences in each class' superstructure; the Valiant was interlaced with internal plating, while the new Elysium block was made lighter and had space for hangars. The only drawback was that most of the weapons had to be stripped to streamline production. To further cut costs, the Elysium's expensive equipment and components were replaced with cheaper alternatives. The last change was that all point-defence guns were upgraded to more effective M910 point defence guns and it carried an additional MAC gun. All these changes made the new block easier to construct, cheaper and better suited the role of mainline cruiser - all reasons proving that the new design should be renamed. In 2513, the UNSC allowed the construction of a prototype for trials, christened the UNSC Marathon. The capabilities of the new cruiser had so impressed the admiralty that they almost cancelled orders for every other type of cruiser, as it could fulfil nearly every necessary role with equal effectiveness.

Insurrection

The first Marathons were deployed in the core worlds of Earth and Reach, taking over from the obsolete cruisers that previously filled the UNSC's ranks. On paper, the new cruisers were already making a difference - the speed of the Marathon brought about a decrease in pirate raids within it's operational area, forcing rogues to utilise more restraint in what they can attack to avoid attracting the attention of the new cruisers. However, the new class had yet to prove itself, with many captains reluctant to leave their previous vessel for one that while superior in simulations, may have a weakness in it's light mass and thin armour - a worry confirmed when the rebel frigate Iliad destroyed one by tearing it in half by it's thrust alone.

300px-Punic orbit
The Jupiter being escorted by a battlegroup above Ffyniannus.

Such an opportunity came during the Falkirian War for Independence. For almost five years, the UNSC had struggled to pacify the well-developed colonies in the Gaelic System, as their sophisticated ground-based defences and sudden attacks from a rather large navy stunted the UNSC's efforts to reclaim the system. As a result, new force was created and was led by Admiral Erik Magnus on the Punic-class supercarrier UNSC Jupiter, who replaced Rear Admiral Sebastien Bourke due to his incompetence during the earlier campaigns. The four new Marathon-class cruisers, including the original UNSC Marathon, were instrumental to the fleet success: they had enough firepower to inflict severe damage before they jumped to slipspace, and had the agility to follow them even if they emerged hundreds of thousands of kilometres away. This put the pressure on the defenders, and would lead to their first major success when two Marathons assisted the Jupiter in hunting down and destroy the FCNS Blenheim, an Insurrectionist battleship.

With their prowess proven, the Marathon became a major part of the UNSC Navy and a highly desirable spot to command as the Navy's most modern capital ship. Their numbers increased significantly, not just because of their relatively-cheap construction and high crew requirements, but also because future support ships such as the Asclepius-class mobile dockyard were only designed to be compatible with the new cruiser. For these reasons, every cruiser-weight vessel starting with the lacklustre Halcyon-class were slowly replaced with a Marathon in their squadrons and fleets. They were first added to rapid-response and hunter-killer fleets, smacking down swarms of armed freighters and applying pressure to the limited resources the rebels had. So successful were they that they became the most common cruiser in history, with over nine hundred individual ships constructed across human space.

Human-Covenant War

"They were some of the most effective vessels we had in the Navy. Too bad after the Covenant showed up we went through them like copy paper..."
―Rear Admiral Marcus Streep.[2]

Unfortunately, the Marathon's best days were left behind with the beginning of the Covenant's invasion in 2525. Few actual Marathon cruisers were actually located in the region at the beginning of the war, with most being part of the Elysium subclass. These cruisers were among the only ships in the region that could reliably engage the CPV-class destroyer, which made up the bulk of the alien attack fleets. However, whereas the CPV were deployed in groups of three or more, the UNSC could not afford to keep them together; standing orders forced battlegroups to flee upon detection of massing Covenant armadas and only fighting above human colonies. The Marathon's formal introduction into the war was with Battle Group X-Ray led by Vice Admiral Preston Cole, whose preference on cruiser-weight vessels with support from a relatively-small amount of frigates and destroyers allowed him to score many crucial early victories.

Defiance by KillaBC
Despite being horrifically outclassed by even smaller Covenant vessels, the crews of aboard each Marathon still fought valiantly for humanity.

Unfortunately, as the Covenant's invasion fleets pushed deeper into the Outer Colonies, it became more and more apparent that the Marathon was woefully insufficient to fight the technologically-advanced warships. It was particularly easily countered by their plasma torpedoes, as not only were they guided and thus eliminated the Marathon's ability to evade them, but only certain types could be shot down. In addition, as the UNSC Dresden discovered during the Battle of Biko, only two torpedoes were needed to completely disable a heavy cruiser if they impacted the right areas. To add further salt to the wound, only the twin MACs had any visible impact on the war; Archer missiles were easily stopped by pulse laser turrets and those that survive were rarely enough to overwhelm the shields. Because of these deficiencies, hundreds of Marathons were lost between 2525 and 2531, compared to only a few dozen Covenant ships brought down by them during the same period. After this period, the UNSC High Command ordered all cruiser- and carrier-weight vessels to fall back behind the Mid-Rim Colonies for reassignment, which included the Marathon-class.

Ships of the Line

Name Hull Classification Symbol Commissioned Destroyed Notes
Marathon-class
UNSC Marathon CA-01 2513 Unknown Lead ship of the class.
UNSC Dresden CA-07 2513 2526 Outfitted with a saddle box drive, destroyed during the Battle of Biko. Later salvaged by fetcher Oliver Birch.
UNSC Bushido CA-09 2525 N/A Commanded by Captain Zachary Helmas and his A.I. Companion Takashi. The ship has been part of many battles and has survived every single one.
UNSC Prophecy CA-14 Unknown February 3, 2531 Recovered the black box from the UNSC Accra, destroyed during the Harvest Campaign.
UNSC Scharnhorst CA-22 2515 Unknown
UNSC Hannibal CA-29 Unknown August 30, 2552 Destroyed during the Fall of Reach.
UNSC Falkland CA-30 Unknown May 2526 Destroyed during the Battle of New Tyre.
UNSC Leviathan CA-31 Unknown August 30, 2552 Flagship of Battlegroup Leviathan, destroyed during the engagement.
UNSC Belfast CA-35 2522 N/A Gutted by CCS-U624 during the First Battle for Arcadia and believed destroyed. Deemed salvagable after the Covenants retreat and repaired, reentering service in 2535.
UNSC Enola Gay CA-58 2522 2552 Commanded by Captain Richard Pellera, served as the garrison for Sapphire Team during the Human-Covenant War.
UNSC Sedan CA-62 Unknown May 2526 Destroyed during the Battle of New Tyre.
UNSC Canberra CA-70 Unknown N/A Flagship of the Fifth Fleet, participated in the Battle for Earth.
UNSC Feeling Lucky CA-78 Unknown October 20, 2552 Destroyed by the Day of Jubilation during the Battle for Earth.
UNSC Illustrious CA-88 Unknown May 2526 Captured by the United Independence Front on New Tyre and renamed the UIF Spartacus. Destroyed during the Battle of New Tyre by ramming the CAS-class assault carrier.
UNSC Royal Oak CA-95 2519 Unknown
UNSC Helios CA-98 Unknown Unknown
UNSC Neptune CA-101 Unknown May 2526 Destroyed during the Battle of New Tyre.
UNSC Roma CA-155 2523 Unknown
UNSC Io CA-271 Unknown 2543 Led the Battlegroup Sierra-3 during the Battle of 18 Scorpii, later destroyed during the Battle of Psi Serpentis.
UNSC Pride CA-321 March 13, 2519 2552 Former flagship of Rear Admiral Logan J. Borden, destroyed during the Battle for Earth.
UNSC Haskell CA-324 December 12, 2519 N/A Assigned to Battle Group Pride, participated in the Battle of Draco III and Battle of Skopje. Survived the Battle for Earth. Currently under the command of Admiral Tausten Aida Parker.
UNSC Marduk CA-388 November 19, 2517 Unknown Assisted in destroying the ORA-class interdictor cruiser Unending Testament in 2547.
UNSC Swiftsure CA-389 Unknown August, 2552 Commanded by Vice Admiral Berlin M. Tursk, participated in the Battle of Miridem, later destroyed during the Siege of Tribute.
UNSC Argon CA-542 August 9, 2519 Unknown Assisted in destroying the ORA-class interdictor cruiser Unending Testament in 2547.
UNSC Verdun CA-571 Unknown Unknown Participated in the Battle of New Tyre.
UNSC Euphrates CA-704 Unknown August 30, 2552 Commanded by Vice Admiral Arjun Krishnan, briefly served as the garrison for the ONI Edge of Life and by extension Gauntlet, Echo and Noble teams. Participated in the First Battle of Deston before being disabled during the Fall of Reach.
UNSC Damocles CA-720 Unknown Unknown Survived three encounters with the CCS-class battlecruiser High Harbinger.
UNSC Erebus CA-848 April 22, 2517 January, 2526 Captained by Meera Reddy, destroyed.
UNSC Blue Moon CA-878 2552 January, 2526 Captained by Edgar J. Wright, formerly apart of Preston Cole's Battle Group X-Ray and the UNSC Home Fleet. Destroyed by a joint Sangheili-human taskforce after the Moon was infected by the Flood.
UNSC Spring Bloom CA-910 Unknown 2532 Serving as the flagship for Battlegroup Morocco during the First Battle of Drawn, it self-destructed as per the Cole Protocol when the Covenant boarded it.
UNSC Say My Name CA-942 2524 2552 One of two ships still in service from the Harvest Campaign by the Battle of Earth, destroyed during the Onyx Conflict.
UNSC Alice Springs CA-1811 August 22, 2538 N/A Captained by CPTN Carson Parson, participated in the Battle of Mensae II.
UNSC Keyes CA-2819 2552 N/A Fought and destroyed the URF Origami II in 2553.
UNSC Hammer of Dawn CA-4399 2542 Unknown Commanded by Maxwell Hendricks and Martin Long, became the flagship of the Spartan Joint Operations Units in 2561. Served as the garrison for Orange Team.
UNSC Head Start Unknown Unknown Unknown Engaged the CAS-class assault carrier Resplendent Prayer over Imber in December 2548.
UNSC Don't Be Clever Unknown Unknown 2552 Refitted for Operation: BLUE SPIRIT, destroyed during the invasion of Crest.
UNSC Ides of March Unknown Unknown 2552 Refitted for Operation: BLUE SPIRIT, destroyed by the ORS-class heavy cruiser Spirit of Endurance.
UNSC Matador Unknown Unknown February 13, 2526 Destroyed during the Massacre of Bliss.
UNSC Snow Angel Unknown Unknown 2552 Refitted for Operation: BLUE SPIRIT, destroyed during the invasion of Crest.
UNSC Weeping Willows Unknown Unknown February 13, 2526 Destroyed during the Massacre of Bliss.
Aegis-class
UNSC Aegis Unknown Unknown Unknown Lead ship of the class.
Perseus-class
UNSC Perseus Unknown Unknown Unknown Lead ship of the class.

UNSC Remarks

Gallery

Ship pictures

Ship crests

Notes

  1. Courtesy of Slower Than Most.
  2. Courtesy of DirgeOfCerberus111.

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