Measuring four kilometres in length and a tonnage so great it outmasses a dozen heavy carriers, the Punic-class supercarrier held the title as the largest human-made spacefaring vessel for the better part of half a century, and even now is only beaten by a handful of super-heavy carrier and dreadnought models. It is designed to single-handedly establish a prominent military presence in the most hostile of star systems, and root out insurgency wherever it may hide no matter how long it may take. To this end, it is purpose-built to carry an entire expeditionary force, as well as hundreds of supporting aircraft and vehicle support, within its vast cavenous hold. In addition, a small Battle Group of frigates or equivalent can be attached to the supercarrier permanently, while visiting units may make use of its onboard facilities in contested systems. For all its power which sees all aspects of humanity revere it, the Punic-class supercarrier suffers in terms of agility, and the materials needed to refit or replace even a single one of these monsters offsets the construction of an entire other fleet, which has saw them be used only in limited numbers.
It is theorised by military historians that the CMA built these ships to stall the UNSC's attempts to usurp their place in the colonies, using these supercarriers as centrepieces of fleets designed to combat them on favourable turf. Regardless, these ships only saw widespread use soon after their introduction, as worsening budget cuts and declining support made it difficult to continue fielding the Punic-class supercarrier, to the point all but two were eventually moored by the beginning of January 2525. Like all other CMA vessels, they were hijacked by the UNSC Navy, and after a lengthy retrofit were placed at the head of major fleets. They performed marvellously against Covenant forces, but the vast majority of this class would be slowly whittled down as vital worlds fell in desperate last stands. Only a handful would survive the Human-Covenant War, all in some state, and would quickly be phased out once newer vessels took their place.
Propulsion and Powerplant
Armour and Framework
As a 'Space Control Vehicle,' the Punic-class supercarrier is designed and built solely for the complete subjugation of rogue colonies and projecting power and force across an entire system if needed. To achieve this, these supercarriers are capable of calling upon several Wings of space fighters and offloading an entire Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) for planetside operations. While neither group are not offered the same support as the smaller, more specialised Orion-class assault carrier thanks to their lack of internal factories, they are more than able to still sustain operations for years at a time, especially as the ground complement are already outfitted to function without support from their mothership. Finally, the Punic-class supercarrier acts as the centre of local naval operations, as a small contingent of escorts can routinely hunt down hostile craft and return to the supercarrier for repairs and resupply.
The majority of its air component not part of the MEB are normally chosen for their effectiveness in a vacuum, although special planetary support aircraft not usually folded into regular Marine or Naval units also have a place. Although all can be tasked with offering planetary support in one way or another, their primary objective in battle is to attain control of the local airspace from enemy forces. Once achieved, they would supplement or enhance weapons in the supercarrier's battle group by either directly attacking enemy ships, eliminating incoming projectiles before they can threaten the fleet, or indirectly support them with electronic countermeasures and directing their fire. The locally assigned combat group on a Punic-class supercarrier would eventually consist of the following as standard:
10 squadrons of 12 F-41 Broadswords, manoeuvrable fighters designed to match their advanced Covenant equivalents.
8 squadrons of 12 GA-TL1 Longswords, multirole combat fighters. The complement aboard any UNSC warship is rarely composed of a single monogamous model, as each different configuration offers tailored advantages to a specialised role. The most common models are the C709 and C712, used for bombing and interception roles respectively.
6 squadrons of 16 F-99 Wombats, small lightly-armoured drones capable of both interception and dogfighting, but most often called upon for reconnaissance purposes.
3 squadrons of 3 GA-TL2 Greatswords, dedicated super-heavy bombers able to unleash a very impressive amount of ordnance.
2 squadrons of 3 AC-220 Vultures, rare atmospheric gunships used to provide heavy aerial fire once air superiority has been achieved. Unlike all other aircraft on the supercarrier, these are manned and maintained by the UNSC Air Force.
1 squadron of 8 B-65 Shortswords, light bombers used to strategically eliminate key enemy assets.
For transportation needs, a number of dropships, transports, and shuttlecraft are brought aboard for the purposes of transferring personnel and moving material between ship-to-ship, ship-to-planet, or in some cases even across the behemoth capital ship itself. It is made up to twenty-six aircraft, divided between the following:
1 squadron of 12 D77-TC Pelicans or equivalent. The bread-and-butter of the UNSC's air transportation arm, it is able to move two fireteams of UNSC Marines and a single medium vehicle without any modifications, while larger objects can be moved with cables attached to multiple dropships.
8 SKT-13 shuttlecraft, an unarmed spacecraft designed solely to move up to 45 individuals between the various ships in the UNSC fleet.
2 squadrons of three D20 Herons, massive transports that are designed to move dozens of vehicles and hundreds of soldiers between planets and space. Rarely a permanent fixture aboard supercarriers, they may be tasked with moving fortifications to further establish a UNSC presence on a given world.
To supplement its fighters, the Punic-class supercarrier also has docking spaces for a number of light-tonnage warships, usually relegated for frigates and smaller destroyers. A necessity thanks to the horribly inaccurate nature of slipspace at the time, the docked escorts were an integral part to the operation of the supercarrier. In combat, their contributions were obvious, as they will engage other warships trying to outflank their mothership, screen for incoming missiles, and if necessary take hits from super-heavy weapons. However, each warship is a fully-staffed and equipped warship, with the option to embark more personnel, and as such they can be deployed to pursue independent missions. This can include guarding vulnerable supply lines, suppress a region the supercarrier cannot or must not reach, or investigate a system prior to the capital ship's arrival. In return, the Punic-class supercarrier has access to a large inventory of parts used to rearm, refuel, or repair damaged ships, which essentially sees it acting as a mobile naval station in the field. In total, it has four Category-8 sub-vessel dock
s, each of which can accommodate up to a Paris-class heavy frigate, along with two Category-7 light sub-vessel bays capable of accepting nothing larger than a Gladius-class heavy corvette.
The Punic-class supercarrier is home to a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, a large, self-sufficient formation of UNSC Marines that are often deployed in troublespots for months at a time. Commanded by a Brigadier General, it is divided between three main divisions: a Command Element (CE), which provides the coordination needed to remain independent as well as a variety of support services; a Ground Combat Element (GCE), which includes the infantry and armoured vehicle units; a Aviation Combat Element (ACE), which deals with both their aerial transportation solutions as well as superiority fighters; and finally a Logistics Combat Element (LCE), which includes all support personnel and assets needed for long-term occupation. In total, the MEB is manned by a staggering 13,500 individuals of all kinds. To ensure that the supercarrier was never truly defenceless against boarders, a further 500 Marines were retained for shipboard security purposes.
The Aviation Combat Element is a composite air unit that is manned and operated entirely by the UNSC Marine Corps Aviation, the aircraft component of the Marines. It was made up of a wide variety of aerial vehicles, including low-altitude VTOLs, heavy-lift transports, and covert support aircraft, with many of the dropships able to retrieve supplies from orbit. ACE's mission is primarily to support advances made by the GCE, and as such it has limited capabilities for long-range operations. It is made up of the following:
4 squadrons of 12 D77-TC Pelicans, workhorse dropships used for ferrying troops and vehicles to various battlefields. A single squadron is normally outfitted as D77-TCI gunships, for increased combat utility.
3 squadrons of 15 AV-14 Hornets, light attack VTOLs that can swiftly support ground attacks and assist in commando operations. Due to the modularity of their frame, they occasionally see use as emergency troop transports in MEBs.
2 squadrons of 12 AV-19 SkyHawk, jumpjet ground-attack fighters used to provide strafing close-air support and achieve air superiority. On occasion, advanced AV-22 Sparrowhawks may be used instead.
2 squadrons of 8 D82-EST Darters, light dropships used to move troops and supplies in small numbers.
2 squadrons of 5 EV-44B Nightgales, support aircraft that use a swarm of drone to repair UNSC vehicles and cloak them in the field. One squadron is outfitted with the EV-44C model, an electronic warfare version designed to jam enemy communications and sensors and interfere with vehicle operation.
1 squadron of 9 UH-144 Falcons, light troop transports capable of low-altitude air support. The only role the Falcons occupy a spot in the UNSC Marine Corps, as the Human-Covenant War dragged on a number of these craft were loaned to active MEBs by the UNSC Army.
1 squadron of 8 GA-TL1 Longswords, multirole space fighters used primarily for air superiority in the atmosphere. In a pinch, they can be outfitted as effective bombers.
1 squadron of 8 F-99 Wombats, autonomous fighters used for reconnaissance and air support purposes.
1 squadron of six D96 Albatrosses, heavy-lift dropships known for their manoeuvrability.
1 squadron of 4 D80H-LRT Condor, heavy-lift transports that dwarf every other aircraft in the MEB. The D80H model has a vastly lengthened and somewhat widened hull to allow it to much larger objects than almost any other transport used by the UNSC, while retaining its translight drive. By 2544, it was the only model of Condor still in military service.
Origins and Development
Although actual construction would be begun in 2479, the actual planning for the entire class started as early as 2424. The Iliad-class supercarrier had enjoyed immense popularity from government organisations for its impressive carrying capacity, which could be easily retooled into a variety of roles and spearheading the CMA's expansion into the Outer Colonies. However, it was never intended to be anymore than a stopgap solution. Its design still retained elements wholly unfit for military service, such as a few structural regions that were designed to be detached, while pipelines used for redirecting thrust to now-removed planetary descent thrusters. As a result, the CMA began to investigate the needs an actual purpose-built military model will require. As a result, by the time the contract was awarded to PassiGear in 2466, the design brief included a very specific set of requirements, most of which centred around exceeding the capabilities offered by the Iliad-class. The ability to mount the two largest and most powerful Magnetic Accelerator Cannons, each two kilometres in length, was deemed of paramount importance, as well as featuring facilities that allow it to both launch its own fighter wing and act as a mobile naval base.
Such a long list of requirements demanded a ship no lighter than 350 million tonnes in mass, and the engineering skill necessary would be far beyond what has been applied to any other starship at that time. As a result, the CMA were forced to turn to the Jupiter-based shipwrights PassiGear Manufacturing Company, as no other organisation had the same experience or facilities needed for the task. As not even they had large enough facilities, a new drydock had to be built above Chi Rho specifically for these upcoming behemoths, and would remain one of the few stations capable of refitting and servicing them.
Construction on the lead ship, the CMA Punic, began on November 11, 2479, with Doctors John Doe and Jaime Smith employed as her naval architects. Its decade-long construction time was due in part to the challenges presented, as well as the CMA's demand that the ship is built quietly. On occasion, entire sectors of the frame had to be removed and rebuilt because they could not support the weight in tests. The ship's spine had to be partially or fully rebuilt on no less than eight instances, for example. Once these challenges were surmounted and the first-in-class issues were identified and rectified for future supercarriers, the new supercarrier underwent a series of intense, rigorous tests. Before she was commissioned, in spite of her secrecy, an armed nuclear device was discovered in her hold, which was quickly disarmed. Although none of the perpetrators were arrested, it caused considerable operational tensions with the UNSC for years afterwards, as the CMA officers deduced knew it matched a model of nuclear warhead used by them.
Flagship of the Second Fleet under the command of Fleet Admiral Nanami Shinano. Participated in the Battle of Earth defending the Lunar Perimeter. Destroyed attempting to stop the Forerunner Dreadnought.
↑Originally classified as a 'super-heavy coil' at the time of its launch, by the time of the Human-Covenant War it had only 15% more power than its modern equivalents. As such, the 1F21D7 was eventually downgraded from its premier status.