The Strident-class heavy frigate (hull classification symbol: FFG) is a class of heavily-armed, short-ranged warships built for the UNSC. Entering service in October 2552 to rapidly rebuild the depleted Navy, the Strident represents the culmination of everything learned from captured Covenant technology. Sporting the strongest MAC ever fitted onto a ship of its size, the Strident is designed to be easy to build and act as a rapid-response vessel, bringing its heavy firepower to any battlefield that requires it.
The Strident first entered service just before the Siege of Sol, when not even a month after christening the prototypes were pressed into combat above Earth and Mars. Proving that humanity had finally created a line warship capable of matching the capabilities of their Covenant equivalents, the Strident would quickly enter mass-production once the war was over. Its raw power overshadowed its design issues, and within a few years would become one of the most common ships in the revitalised UNSC fleet. Its success would inspire an entire line of post-war designs, with the Deliverance-class assault frigate acting as its troop-carrier variant, the Pikeman-class light frigate developed for fleet support, and the Anlace-class frigate for general patrol duties.
The Strident-class heavy frigate was originally developed in a two year period between 2547 and 2549, with development costs partially covered by the UNSC Navy as part of its contributions to Project OUROBOROS. It was designed alongside the Lethbridge Industrial's LONGBOW program, which was their attempt to miniaturise and improve upon MAC technology, and the Office of Naval Intelligence's Project AEGIS, which attempted to reverse-engineer the Covenant's energy shielding. New concepts were directly integrated into the frigate over the course of its development, with support and changes occurring even after the first Stridents were launched.
The design team was led by Doctor Anders Duibhshíthe, a middle-aged designer who had historically struggled in the field of starship design. After studying previous models of frigates, Duibhshíthe came to the conclusion that they suffered three primary weaknesses:
Durability: Every model of frigate currently in service had less than a metre thickness of hull plating. It has been observed that their armour is vulnerable to even some models of Covenant pulse lasers. This made it useless against even the lightest ship-to-ship weapons employed by the Covenant, made worse with their superstructure being unable to take hits.
Existing weapons: Excluding their MACs, the primary weapons used by frigates - and indeed nearly every model of human warships - are missiles. Their continued use even after being proven to be highly-ineffective against Covenant countermeasures means that a huge amount of firepower is being wasted.
Age: Every class of frigate in service were over forty years in age and were not at all optimised for fighting a superior enemy. This led to a shockingly-low survival rate.
As a result of this study, Duibhshíthe stressed that the new frigate had to place as little emphasis on missiles as possible, replacing it instead with a larger MAC and more powerful naval coilguns. Endurance was stripped as the reactor was tuned to provide as much power as possible, and automation was added to reduce crew capacity where possible. Unfortunately, outside pressure from competitors forced the company to begin ordering Duibhshíthe to finish up development so it can be unveiled to the UNSC. When he declined, he was hastily sacked and his second-in-command Josip Aaltink was put in charge. Although brilliant, Aaltink was inexperienced and untested. As a result, many of the UNSC Strident's issues - its over-reliance on oversized weaponry, vulnerability to smaller attack craft and early issues with construction - could be directly blamed on him. However, as humanity was desperate, it was allowed to be sent off to the UNSC for approval.
A small number of heavy frigates were ordered by the UNSC Navy for testing, who desired any edge they could get over the Covenant. While undergoing construction at Aerofabrique's drydock between Luna and Earth in mid-2552, issues arose when fabricating the frigate's Sapphire-Graphene frame, which was difficult to hammer into shape. As a result, it was substituted with traditional TR steel where possible. This exchange saw the lead ship, the UNSC Strident, being launched in January 2552, about a month earlier then scheduled.
Despite being launched almost a year before the Battle of Earth, the UNSC Strident and her sisters were still undergoing their rigorous space trials by the time of the Fall of Reach. With Earth's discovery now imminent, the UNSC Admiralty looked to accelerate the development of all assets they had. Every warship currently undergoing testing had the procedure accelerated to the point where the officers commissioned vessels that could fly and shoot. This lead to the UNSC Strident being formally commissioned on October 1st, 2552, more than half a year before their planned date. Other ships had it worse - the UNSC Audacity was launched and commissioned within a single month, entering the only battle it participated in while its paint was drying and shields were calibrating. Despite these efforts, between thirteen to seventeen individual warships were deployed throughout the battles in the Sol system.
Although best-known for their rescue of the Sixth Fleet's Admiral Kovalic, Strident-class frigates were used throughout the Sol system in various roles.
Assigned to the 988th attack flotilla of the Second Fleet, four Strident-class frigates participated in the initial stages of the Battle, escorting the Valiant-class large cruiserUNSC Chevalier. This was an anomaly, as the majority of the frigate's stock was deliberately held back alongside the entire Sixth Response Fleet to reinforce the Home Fleet should it be needed. Together, they destroyed a single CCS-class battlecruiser and assisted in the destruction of two others, with their advanced targeting systems bolstered by the data supplied by the local Moncton-class orbital weapon platforms. Unfortunately, they would be utterly massacred when towards the end of this initial confrontation, the CAS-class assault carrierDay of Jubilation made a desperate charge on an extremely-small hole to the formation's keel. All four were destroyed by the carrier's powerful weapons, trying to shield the Chevalier from the carrier's barrage.
The Sixth Fleet was intended to be sprinkled out throughout the course of the engagement, being divided up to assist pressured units, reinforce depleted units, and intercept targets of opportunity. However, the worsening severity of the battle would force them to arrive en masse at Mars and Earth, with a secondary unit used to bolster the Jovian Moons. With a significant hole created by the original Covenant fleet, struggling now that the coordination station Cairo moved north-eastward to expose it to less dangers, the majority of the Sixth Fleet's most powerful assets were centralised in this region to repel future incursions. Not all Strident-class frigates were assigned here, however - at least seven were deployed at Mars and were instrumental in defending the planet's shipyards. Their brightest moment was during the attack on Eris: receiving word that Admiral Bohuslav Kovalic was at risk when the Covenant encircled the planet's sole habitat, a rescue fleet consisting of two Stridents and a small number of other vessels was created. The UNSC Strident led this detachment, and despite sensor readings showing that the Covenant force grew significantly more powerful, she and her sister-ship broke through the blockade and launched their embarked force of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers. Wrestling with the Covenant fleet in orbit, they were able to inflict multiple kills on the opposing frigates and damage the ORS-class heavy cruiser, without taking any casualties. Most crucially, they were able to destroy the base, denying the Covenant access to compromised information that could have turned the tide of the Sol conflicts.
By the end of the Siege, the entire line of Strident-class heavy frigates earned a total of fourteen confirmed kills, against the eight ships destroyed; five at Earth and three at Mars. This left only five members of the class remaining once the fighting subsided. The need to engage in high-intensity manoeuvres and constant combat throughout more than a month tested the frigate's endurance and low ammunition, and this was believed to have contributed to the destruction of the frigates. Regardless, these statistics exceeded those of any other warship of the War, which were a crucial argument in causing the UNSC Navy to build the entirety of their next-generation escort fleet around them.
Post-Covenant War Resurgence
In spite of the horrific casualties and damage to their infrastructure taken over the course of almost thirty years of battle, the United Earth Government and by extension the UNSC found itself in the best position. While the various factions of the Covenant still had powerful fleets and armies, the ongoing Great Schism saw them willingly destroying many of the shipyards and foundries to deny their rivals their advantages, resulting in every ship, station, and vehicle becoming more and more valuable and irreplaceable. In contrast, the UNSC already had a number of advanced designs ready to be put into production, all suited to refits which would doubtlessly occur from their unprecedented technological renaissance.
With this in mind, there was considerable anticipation for which would be given the contract for manufacturing the UNSC's replacements. The Strident-class found itself competing with SinoViet Heavy Machinery'sNevada-class heavy frigate, a versatile design backed up by an equally-impressive combat history. Four synonymous tests were conducted in a span of five months, and while the Nevada-class was longer-ranged, more resilient and could support troops on the ground, the admiralty adopted the Strident-class. The reasons for this was two-fold; the large number of rogue capital ships meant that larger MACs were deemed more preferable to swarms of smaller missiles, and the short-range nature of the younger escort also appeared to reinforce the UNSC's commitment to securing territory and defending their new gains.
Despite its split bow, engine pods bolted on the sides of its aft, and a command module overlooking the top conforming to the iconic shape of a frigate, the Strident-class does not share the skeletal shape of Great War-era frigates. Instead, it retains a compact, stockier frame that disregards with an external barracks segment - a typical design trait of heavy ship-to-ship combatants, which reduces its target profile and increases durability at the cost of usable volume.
A breakdown of the frigate.
At the front of the prongs are clusters of antennae and dishes for the sensor and communications package, with all the vital computer processors hidden behind the thickest amount of armour on the frigate. These combine a passive- and active-detection RADAR, a focused LIDAR electro-telescope, a microwave short-range transmitter and - a first for a UNSC ship - a supraluminal communications antenna. Behind the sensor processors on the top prong is the warship's primary targeting computers, which are backed up elsewhere by two other less-powerful computers. Running along the bottom prong is the ship's primary MAC, which is enhanced on both externally and internally by capacitors to store excess energy to allow for the faster firing of the MAC. While heavily-armoured, if breached these energy-storage containers will explode in a spectacular fashion; as a result, UNSC safety protocols state that they must be jettisoned in an emergency to prevent them from detonating beneath the frigate's shields. Running in parallel to it on the upper prong of the Strident is its habitation and rest-and-relaxation deck. This has gotten a number of complaints for three main reasons; it is cramped for permanent living, it is further away from the rest of the ship, and shockingly, only ten three-man escape pods are mounted in this section. Running above it is a direct-access maintenance shaft that has been hollowed-out to act as a makeshift cargo-bay.
On the bottom in the centre of the Strident is the ship's Single Occupant Entry Insertion Vehicles (SOEIV) launch tubes, which are arranged in four rows of thirteen. Each silo is double-stacked with pods, equalling up to fifty-two pods that are usually carried, with all capable of being launched at once. In the centre of the frigate is an oversized fly-through hangar that usually carries two D79-TC pelicans or escorting F-41E Broadswords. The darker centre section is not as well-armoured as the rest of the ship, using a thinner hull of Durasteel blends in an effort to keep mass to a minimum. Just forward of the hangar on top are the frigate's complement of nuclear missiles, which are laid lengthways against the hull prior to launch. A massive observation room with a central raised platform directly overlooks the nuclear silos. Flanking this on both sides are the frigate's six M870B Rampart point defence guns. These are poorly-placed; they can only protect the warship if the projectiles come from the vector on the sides, the stern, and the top. Paired alongside these are four of the frigate's Mark 55 Castor naval coilguns, with the front two being outfitted with two Mark 57 Arena point defence guns on each turret to augment the Ramparts. The back pair are offset inwards to ensure they can fire directly forwards and backwards without being obstructed by the forward turrets, and are also fitted with software to prevent them from firing on any point of the superstructure.
The observation deck overlooking the Hyperion nuclear missiles.
Just slightly further-back is the frigate's external bridge. It is divided into two levels, with two more minor floors for maintenance. The larger upper floor supporting the primary bridge and the lower one housing the independent stations which do not usually require the captain's attention, such as the tactical command centre for squadrons and ground troops. The bridge is designed to mimic those on earlier frigates and frigate, although in a much more spacious area. The helmsmen and fire control still sit at the front of the bridge, with the captain sitting in a chair directly behind them. The chair has a wireless link designed to connect to the captain's authorised command neural interface, which then projects any data they desire onto their retinas for viewing. A massive holotable lies behind them, which is surrounded by rails to keep visitors out of the rest of the bridge. The one-and-a-half-metre spacing around the table is capable of comfortably accommodating a whole squad of thirteen without intruding on the rest of the bridge space. On the sides are stations for damage control, communications, sensors, countermeasures and power allocation, and electronic warfare. Thanks to the extensive automation on these ships, each officer wields an incredible amount of control that is impossible on previous ships, capable of tuning their specific field to perfection. In addition, although unlikely, the Strident's bridge module is capable of detaching from the mothership to act as an oversized escape pod, complete with its own miniaturised Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engine. Should the bridge be knocked out, a secondary emergency Combat Information Centre is fitted deep within the bowels of the frigate.
Running parallel to the bridge at the very bottom of the Strident are its forward Single Occupant Entry Insertion Pod launch bays. Arranged in two levels with a total of eight racks of five each, this can deploy forty operators and their equipment within seconds of arrival above a planet. A second launch bay located beneath the reactor can accommodate a further twenty or even thirty pods, although this is normally reserved for the deployment of weapons and vehicles.
The Strident-class frigate is designed to augment UNSC fleets and defensive clusters with heavy MAC fire support, either by directly contending with enemy warships or delivering fatal rounds from behind the front lines. They are armed well enough to supplement older destroyers such as the Halberd-class in some squadrons, using its energy shields to tank incoming munitions while providing fire support. Its ability to absorb weapons fire harmlessly makes it a crucial part of wolfpack formations; peers can temporarily cover themselves behind an attending Strident, opening up options that could not previously be considered. They can be used against a wide variety of enemy ships, as they have the speed to track smaller corvettes while still being capable of destroying battlecruisers in groups. This makes them well-suited to the role of general-purpose frigate, occasionally acting as the unit's communications specialist thanks to their advanced transmission subsystems.
A flotilla of Strident-class heavy frigates firing their MACs.
The Strident can also be deployed as a short-range defence ship, not unlike a heavy corvette. The Strident only has an operational range of two months travel, as it only has enough fuel for a maximum of four months of travel without resupply. To assist this, it has an advanced slipspace drive which can allow it to reach hundreds of lightyears per day, greatly increasing their range. It can use its cutting-edge sensor array to detect stealth vessels, as well as perform deep scans on freighters that may be carrying illicit goods. Similarly, despite its small troop-carrying capabilities it can act as a means of deploying an advance force on hotly-contested worlds, using its shields to tank huge amounts of fire and dropping up to sixty ODSTs or SPARTAN-IVs to pacify hostile outposts or conduct sabotage before better-equipped transports arrive.
Weaknesses and Counter-Tactics
As evidenced by its single-mindedness to combat, the Strident is not without its faults. It exhibits a vulnerability to smaller attack craft such as corvettes, frigates, and aircraft, thanks to its weapon positioning which creates large blind-spots on the belly and aft. As it lacks a sufficient arsenal of missiles, this means that catching it off-guard from the back or the sides leaves it at a particular disadvantage as it attempts to bring its bow to bear. The two banks of point-defence guns are angled towards the front, providing great coverage on the bow and sides, but not so much in the other directions. This ensured that bombers could just stay out of their cone of fire while they unload their payload; enough casualties were taken that later blocks had several pods of Streak missiles installed to contend with such a threat.
In addition, a key weakness is its range. Whereas previous models of frigates could patrol for almost a year at a time, the Strident must require a base to refuel and rearm from for longer journeys. As a result, they are more likely to withdraw from protracted campaigns, and during this state, they can be chased down and eliminated, or even boarded, by older warships. For these operations, they must operate alongside a fuel tanker; the destruction of this is often enough to force a battlegroup of these frigates to leave the engagement area. Similarly, Stridents do suffer from a lack of sufficient ammunition storage, which furthers limits their ability to dedicate themselves to a lengthy battle.
Columbia-class destroyer leader
"They'll think twice about fighting us, once they see what the Columbia can do."
A member of a niche classification, the Columbia subclass is a larger, drastically rebuilt variant of the Strident-class with the hull classification symbol of DL. It is designed to serve as a flagship for flotillas composed of other escort-grade vessels. It is specifically built from the ground-up as a more capable warship, directly addressing the base design's limited endurance and inability to carry a significant ground element while strengthening its hull and improving its weapons. Unfortunately, all this results in a far more expensive and resource-inefficient ship, with few ships being built to this standard. The most infamous of these is the original UNSC Columbia's Pride, which led Battle Group Union during the New Phoenix Incident.
A close up of the Columbia-class destroyer leader.
The most visible change is its bulkier shape, as well as a completely-redone deck layout. Thanks to the removal of unnecessary design elements and optimising bulkheads and interior corridors, the Columbia-class has greatly expanded storage areas such as cargo bays, foodstuffs, and reserve fuel compartments. This ensures that this subclass can stay in the field for a full six months and giving an extra week's worth of rations in case of emergencies. The crew dwellings have been expanded, partly due to the increase in manpower necessary, but this is done mostly to accommodate an expanded Marine complement. In addition to room for more vehicles and infantry munitions, up to three platoons of Marines, two platoons of ODSTs, and a single Spartan fireteam can now be carried, greatly increasing the scope of planetary operations the Columbia's Marine units are capable of undertaking. As expected, the bridge has been expanded to allow a staff of dedicated officers to coordinate the battlegroup and their troops without interfering with the captain. More powerful communications transmitters, tactical information software, and anti-jamming countermeasures are fitted to further bolster their efforts.
As the Columbia's role expects it to participate in active battle, this subclass is no slouch in combat either. Bolstering its firepower are three more Mark 55 Castor naval coilguns, each equipped with a pair of Mark 57 Arena point defence guns. Two are placed at the bow of the ship, with one on the destroyer's keel to remove the blind spot present. As missiles, plasma torpedoes and fighters are all viable threats to the original Strident-class, four M910 Rampart 105mm point-defence guns are placed behind the original M870B Rampart 50mm point-defence guns. To resist incoming munitions, the Titanium-A3 battleplate is given an extra fifteen centimetres of thickness, while an overlaid AEGIS composite plate is fitted.
"Those things are so powerful they make cruisers blush. Why they call them mere frigates baffles me."
The blooming aftermath of a Strident firing its MAC. The unprecedented power of the weapon results in a sphere of light that engulfs the entire forward face of the frigate.
The Strident, in spite of its faults, is particularly highly-prized in regards of its weapon systems. Taking inspiration from some of the most celebrated ship classes of the war, these warships are based around oversized cannons, sacrificing missiles in favour of high-velocity coilguns outfitted with experimental rounds. This focus is supposed to help the frigate to survive engagements with superior opponents, offloading a ludicrous amount of firepower long before their opponents have their own chance to do so. The lack of missiles, although criticised by conservative officers, offers an advantage by eliminating the risk that a vast amount of damage is removed by being shot down, ensuring that the only way their punishment can be reduced is purely from its weapons being destroyed or disabled.
The default slug for the 94B1E6/MAC, travelling at hypervelocity speeds.
Easily the most revered and formidable weapon on these frigates is its solitary, power-hungry 94B1E6/Magnetic Accelerator Cannon. Running almost three quarters of the ship's length, this model is considered the apex of miniaturised MAC technology. It was envisioned to fire monstrous rounds that weigh in at 1,000 tonnes each, almost twice the size of contemporary frigate slugs. However, resource shortages, fears regarding charging times, and the additional weight they will be carrying saw Stridents firing 850-tonne equivalents instead. When fired at full charge, the slug is accelerated up to 48 kilometres per second in optimal conditions, enough to almost take down a destroyer's shields in a single shot. This vastly outstrips the punishment dished out by the twin cannons on older destroyers and just falling short of matching the power of those mounted on light cruisers. To help reduce the time between full charge, the MAC is outfitted with an energy-recollection system pioneered from the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, which can recycle up to 20% of the power spent on each shot. In addition to this, a number of massive capacitors are mounted around the main gun, which are continuously being replenished by the ship's reactors. Between these two systems, the 94B1E6/MAC is capable of firing at full charge a minimum of once every minute and a half. Unfortunately, thanks to space issues, only a maximum of sixteen slugs of various types are carried by any single frigate - by far the lowest number of any warship that is larger than a corvette. The risk of running out of viable ammunition during combat meant that most captains are only permitted to requisition the standard and subcalibre rounds, with specialised options only available if deemed necessary for mission success.
Ferric-Tungsten Penetrator: Built with a very shallow and soft nose, and reinforced with steel, the Ferric-Tungsten Penetrator is a conventional slug which remains intact even under incredible pressure while transferring as much force as possible short of rolling or fragmenting. This translates to inflicting incredible strain at a single point on both protective barriers and the starship beneath, even punching through one target and still maintaining enough velocity to pose a threat to a trailing warship. The ease they can be manufactured makes them the most common munition for MACs.
Depleted-Uranium Incinerator: Consisting of layers of Depleted-Uranium separated by Tungsten, the Depleted-Uranium Incinerator unleashes a powerful fireball upon impact which is funnelled throughout the starship, with limited fragmentation qualities. Easily the softest round capable of being used by MACs, it is recommended to only be fired at low speeds at the underlying hull, and as such is only offered in the oversized six megatonne variety.
Ceramic Fragmentation Slug: Designed with deliberate weaknesses to allow it to easily shatter on impact, the Ceramic Fragmentation Slug is used to undermine the hull at multiple points, impaling shards across a wide area to better cripple a single target.
Dominating its secondary weapons are a wide collection of missiles, which was originally composed of just two large pods of M42 Archer anti-ship missiles, one at the front of each supplemental engine pod. Composed of six individual silos which source their ammunition from a magazine of 26 devices, the M42 is designed with a modular warhead to deliver devastating non-nuclear arsenals to enemy vessels. As standard, they use new plasma-based high explosive warheads to effortlessly cut through armour. This can be easily replaced with mission-specific payloads, such as anti-shield Hydrogen ions, fragmentation and MITVPs for anti-fighter, and even sensor-jamming systems for electronic warfare purposes. However, even with upgrades, these missiles are still considered ineffective against energy shielding, requiring hundreds of devices to break through. Because of this, they are carefully launched to hit just after the MAC hits the enemy, weakening the barrier enough to make it more likely for them to punch through their shields and hit their hull. Because of their size, they are incredibly destructive, easily capable of inflicting heavy damage on much heavier opponents, which also makes them useful in a ground bombardment role. They are also exceedingly vulnerable to point defence weapons such as pulse laser turrets, as even with better avionics, an upgraded swarm AI, and better straight-line acceleration, their size and lack of manoeuvrability makes them far easier targets to take out. This weakness, coupled with the fact they could only fire twelve missiles per salvo, is why that very few of these missiles are able to hit their targets in practice. This fact is why many officers have criticised the lack of firing arcs on the first block of Strident-class frigates, as the missiles are too large and too few in number to adequately cover them.
Conceding to this weakness, later Stridents were outfitted with ten pods of the smaller M58 Archer general-purpose missile. Very similar to their larger cousins despite being more than a third of their size, they are positioned towards both sides to be in an optimal position to intercept aggressors attempting to attack the frigate's flanks. Besides being launched in support of the M42 and thus ensure more of them reach their targets, the M58 is particularly revered for its limited ability to destroy strikecraft such as fighters, dropships, and boarding craft, making it a true multi-purpose weapon. Up to 50 missiles could be fired at once, and these serve an invaluable purpose as a 'cannon fodder' screen, where they overwhelm enemy point defences to allow heavier, more dangerous munitions to slip through.
A M4093 Hyperion nuclear delivery system is fitted onto the Strident-class frigate, which is equipped with three massive nuclear missiles. Longer than most models of space fighters, the Hyperion is a heavy long-range munition that is equipped with a vacuum-enhanced plutonium warhead, which comes complete with its own reaction mass to magnify the explosion. This gives it a maximum yield of 30 megatonnes of TNT, with heavier californium payloads resulting in a far greater explosion. This is enough to destroy smaller models of Covenant frigates and lighter destroyers that are caught within its inner blast range, although heavier ships are able to successfully resist them. Vacuum-enhanced missiles like the Hyperion are instead primarily used for their massive electromagnetic pulses, which at medium range can cause even hardened targets to suffer power failures and therefore compromise the efficiency of their shields and weapon systems, while fighters and corvettes are left completely inert. The three missiles are stored in the upper boom of the frigate, and are slowly raised out of their launch bay located just in front of the bridge structure. They are typically raised to the lowest possible angle that would allow them to clear the ship, with the missile turning itself towards the target before accelerating. The entire process of reloading and launching can take up to two minutes in total. To protect them from enemy fire, Hyperions are given very strong hulls and basic electronic jamming countermeasures, with the former also serving the added benefit of increasing the blast as well.
Two of the Mark 55 Castor naval coilgun turrets on the Strident-class frigate. Note the frontmost turret, which has two fire-linked Arena point defence guns.
The last major weapon in its shipfighting arsenal is its five turrets of Mark 55 Castor naval coilguns. Installed on the top surface of the frigate, with four slightly offset to allow them to fire directly forwards or back, the Castor is a heavy turret intended for use against Covenant cruisers and similarly-heavy warships. The mounting is very well-protected, with the exterior Titanium-A3 plates being slanted all around to maximise armour thickness on the horizon without dramatically increasing weight. The turret maintains a maximum rate-of-fire of fifteen rounds per second, with a moderate tracking speed that is still quick enough to hit fast-moving opponents such as corvettes at medium range. If hit, corvettes are likely to be disabled or outright destroyed by a single shot. The slugs the Castor fires can penetrate Titanium-A hulls that are a metre thick, and can be enhanced through the use of experimental rounds. This includes standard-issue homing shells with correctional thrusters for long-range opponents, ionic warhead shells for use against shields, and experimental shield-bypassing shells. The barrel can traverse as far up as 130o above the level horizon, or a maximum of 40o below it, which is when it risks hitting the hull of the frigate itself. The coilgun's only drawback is that it is woefully reliant on the ship's own targeting computer to function, as it features no native system of its own and only has optics in the form of a laser rangefinder mounted atop the barrel.
Three Castors, the two forward turrets and the aft gun, are also outfitted with twin Mark 57 Arena 25mm point defence guns on their front face, which are linked to the main gun to allow the turrets to protect the frigate from missiles. Fairly small by point-defence gun standards, their main benefit is that they inherit the arcs of their parent turrets. After 2558, these were upgraded with their own ball mounts and targeting computers to allow them to track and fire independently of the main barrel.
For self-defence against missiles and space fighters, two batteries of three M870B Rampart 50mm point defence guns are fitted on both sides of the frigate. Sharing the same base chassis as the older M910 Rampart turret, the M870B is an entirely self-contained system, featuring its own ammunition storage, targeting system, and self-repair subsystem. It is cheaper to produce and can unleash a hailstorm of fire, as a staggering 560 rounds are fired off from each of its quad-linked barrels within a minute. These are the major improvements made to it, although a slew of small adjustments makes it slightly faster and quicker to respond over its predecessor. However, it suffers a very slight disadvantage, as unlike the original M870 guns, it inherits the M910's inability to track targets if they fly past the 90o above it, a weakness that is not applicable due to their placement on the frigate. While their placement means that anything attacking the frigate's prow will be hit by nearly all of its anti-air defences, and can still harass fighters coming from its top and side arcs, it is unable to hit fighters and missiles striking it from below or behind. Proposals have been put forward for installing new turrets on the bow and aft for maximised coverage.
Armour and Defences
"We're- we aren't dead! Sam, tell me again that the Navy was lying."
―Lieutenant Bruce Campbell, during the Battle of Mars.
While the Strident's made dozens of technological leaps, where it truly elevates itself above the other escorts at the time is in its vastly superior defensive systems. It features a winning combination of cutting-edge alloys of armour, a vastly-reinforced framework, and the inclusion of a shield generator safeguards it against enough firepower that could obliterate several similar-sized vessels, without trading on weight nor materials. Should the damage prove too catastrophic to withstand, new damage-control techniques developed during the war have been applied onto the frigate, creating a ship that can stay in battle for longer before it must fall back due to damage.
The shield impact flare on a Strident-class frigate.
The greatest assets available to it are the RG-913 dispersal field generators, developed by the Materials Group but manufactured by the Imbrium Machine Complex. The first mass-produced shield system to offer the full defensive capabilities available to their Covenant equivalent, the RG-913 is capable of absorbing MAC rounds and plasma torpedoes with equal efficiency, without any of the impacts bleeding through onto the hull. This is a significant advantage that eliminates the crew's concern that small skirmishes could compromise its integrity in a subsequent larger engagement, as well as giving them a safety net when attempting to dodge enemy fire. The bow, aft, and belly sections are controlled by their own shield networks, which seamlessly overlay each other at the midship. Because they are based on Covenant shield systems, they inherit their inability to permit their own weapons and fighters to pass through them when active. As a result, every turret, missile pod, and hangar is surrounded by their own waveguide channel regulator, which can drop and raise the barrier when firing. If one or more networks fail, another emitter can spread its coverage across the rest of the frigate, although it significantly reduces the barrier's durability and the risk of mechanical failure rises the longer it over-stretches itself.
The uppermost hull is applied with a refractive counter-plasma coating, a tough gel-like substance that excels at containing and dissipating thermal energy. When hit by a directed-energy weapon, it contains and spreads the heat across the entire layer, protecting the armour plates that would otherwise be compromised from a single hit. It is a self-cooling mixture, but if it reaches a certain temperature threshold, then it is engineered to suddenly vaporise into free-floating mist that can further interfere with the operation of lasers and plasma.
In the event that its shields do fail, the Strident-class frigate makes use of a light-grey composite hull that protects the interior. Although thicker than that afforded to previous generations of frigates, it is still light by UNSC standards, only able to take a few direct hits before they are breached. It is made up predominately of next-generation titanium-A3 battleplate, a flexible but strong alloy that is engineered to be resistant to plasma, explosives, and projectiles. It is still susceptible to boiling away when it reaches high temperatures, and for this reason each slab is separated by thin metalloid to stop multiple adjacent plates from being lost by a single hit. Regions that must be protected but are likely to be hit are supplemented with expensive AEGIS armour, an extremely-hard ceramic that is overlaid at the very top that performs marvellously against directed-energy weapons. It is vulnerable to certain high-explosive missiles, where the multiple explosions in quick succession can shatter it completely. Kinetic slugs can shatter it, but it can normally retain its shape enough to survive additional hits, and new plates can ricochet high-velocity shells if they strike at a shallow-enough angle. Both of these plates are organised into strata that are separated by alternating layers of shock-absorbing liquids and vacuum-sealed reinforced carbon-carbon insulation cages, which prevent kinetic and energy impacts respectively from harming the buried plates below. Non-vital structural regions, such as around the midsection, do away with this model entirely and instead simply use thin plates of lighter durasteel for protection.
The framework of the first flight of Strident-class frigates is built to simpler, slightly weaker standards for a ship of its size. Built in a box configuration, it uses more infrequent bracing and crossbars connecting the studs pillars together, and larger beams to compensate. While not particularly strong, it saves on materials and weight, and streamlines construction when fabricating the superstructure. Costs were also cut with the use of TR steel, a strong alloy that hardens when exposed to solar radiation. Unfortunately, it has been discovered that it is too weak to sustain the larger beams, which as caused portions of the frame to sag and be far more likely to break under larger impacts.
The Strident-class frigate has a small complement for a ship of its size and calibre, with only a maximum of 150 personnel available for security, reconnaissance, and limited force-projection operations. These are supported by thirty-two men and women who participate in the logistics and command division, who are organised independently of the frigate's naval crew and so may be deployed to assist the troops directly. Regardless, it cannot be stressed enough that the army on these ships are simply only capable of minor skirmishes and investigations, and any sustained engagements will eventually require a dedicated transport to reinforce them.
The Marine complement on these frigates are specialised towards fighting in cramped environments, with most of their experience arising from boarding actions.
The Strident's ground troops and vehicles are all sourced from the UNSC Marine Corps, which are divided between ship security and combat elements. The former is composed of a single platoon of standard Marine personnel, usually adding up to roughly thirty men and are led by a Marine First Lieutenant, although they could vary anywhere from twenty to fifty individuals strong. They have been trained to repel invaders should the frigate been boarded using a variety of light and medium arms, such as assault and battle rifles. As the likelihood that many systems will likely fail during the fighting, they are prepared to fight effectively within zero-gravity and low-Oxygen environments - although few have the chance to prove it. In the case that there are no ODSTs aboard, then frigates may embark a full Marine Shipboard company in their place. They take their place as expeditionary infantry, usually for the purposes of reinforcing units that are already on the ground.
A squadron of twelve aging RQ-28 Clarion spy drones are stored within a dedicated drone bay, located on the belly of the frigate. A standard-issue addition on all UNSC ships since 2483, Clarions are automated scout vehicles that combine a number of passive and active scanning systems and a low-emission ion engine within a RADAR-resistant shell. They can be tasked to follow enemy warships, scour their mothership for attached tracking systems, or simply search the local region for anomalous readings and unidentified starships. They are extraordinarily difficult to detect, with the only frequent transmission sent from a Clarion being a tight-beam alert that alerts the frigate to any anomalies or changes in the target. Only when they detect no nearby non-UNSC spacecraft will they send a more detailed report, or when the drone controller orders it themselves. Although they are unarmed, for security reasons they have an integrated self-destruct explosive and a viral data scrambler that activates in the event of capture.
The larger combat element is ideally dominated by a highly-experienced force of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, totalling up to a maximum of a hundred men. The two platoons are commanded by a Marine Captain or senior-most First Lieutenant if unavailable, and are trained extensively for combat on both land and space. Because they are expected to operate within enemy territory in order to secure landing zones or conduct sabotage and guerrilla warfare - circumstances that usually make a convention dropship deployment risky - they are each allocated a Single Occupant Exoatmospheric Insertion Vehicle. They are given a survival kit that allows them to remain self-sufficient for up to a week in the field, as well as the option to carry heavy weapons such as rocket launchers if necessary. Owing to their elite status and strict selection requirements, few frigates are given a complement of ODSTs.
The armour element on the Strident-class heavy frigate is devoted towards reconnaissance and force application, as the lack of space forbids it from carrying any heavier vehicles. They are specifically chosen for their ability to support any infantry carried by the frigate through any environment, augmenting their firepower while protecting them from light enemy vehicles. There are two platoons of six vehicles each, which are supported by a single main battle tank. It totals up to the following:
10 M274 or M290 Mongoose ATVs: Originally designed for scouts operating within rough terrain, Mongeese perform particularly well at guerrilla warfare, where a passenger wielding a M41 rocket launcher could bring down armoured vehicles while the driver skilfully avoids Covenant fire. They are typically unarmed, although the Strident-class frigate normally comes with enough grenade launchers to turn four Mongeese into Gungooses.
2 M12 Warthog FAVs: The single-most common vehicle within the UNSC's inventory, the default M12 Warthog armed with a M343A2 chaingun natively acts as an anti-air and anti-infantry truck. Fast but lightly armed, it has a large number of turret and tray configurations that allows it to be put to use into other fields, such as anti-armour, personnel carrier, and logistics.
1 M808C or M820 Scorpion MBT: The solitary Scorpion tank is a basic means of combating other enemy armour, and is widely considered to have the ideal mix of speed, durability, versatility, and firepower. Although it can be driven by a single tanker, they are most often manned by a crew of three in order to speed up any in-field repairs and maintenance work that needs to be conducted.
The hangar bay can accommodate only a single D79-TC Pelican, with up to three others being attached to docking hardpoints on the frigate's hull. A refinement of the older D77-TC dropship that served faithfully in the Human-Covenant War, the Pelican is the main means of transporting personnel between the ship and the surface. It can deliver up to twenty Marines and a single light or heavy vehicle, such as a Warthog or Scorpion, at a given landing zone and suppress any attackers with coordinated fire from its gimbal-mounted twin autocannons. If needed, the troop bay can be reconfigured to carry two Mongeese, or be extended further to carry an additional fifteen passengers at the cost of a vehicle. While the flight crew has access to Pelicans stored on the hull, they must land in the hangar in order to embark their troops. Although it is substantially faster and more agile, and has improved armour, the open-engine intakes are considerably more temperamental to damage.
"I maintain that we only made it out because of the pilots of Alpha Flight. If they weren't there to stop those Cerastes, our ship would have surely been gutted."
―Anonymous bridge officer
Rather than being outfitted with an ODST combat element, many Strident-class frigates had their barracks and vehicle bays retooled to support a limited number of space fighters and drones from the UNSC Air Force. This was due to the worrying reports which proved that many bomber runs were often successful, mainly thanks to the Strident's anti-fighter weapon placement leave holes in its defence grid. In light of this, as well as the fact the hangar is too small to accommodate some larger gunships and bombers, the embarked fighters are specialised towards dogfighting and interception, while also offering some capabilities for reconnaissance and assisting in aiming the Strident's weapons.
The F-41E Broadsword, the UNSC's current space superiority fighter.
A flight of four F-41E Broadswords compromise the most powerful aircraft at the frigate's disposal, led by an Air Force First Lieutenant (O-2). Although originally introduced early into the Human-Covenant War, the Broadsword did not see mass-adoption until after the conflict, when it began replacing older models of aircraft. The latest 'E' model makes a number of critical improvements, most notably by upgrading its armour with Titanium-A1/C battleplate and adding a dispersal field generator roughly equivalent to that on the SX-class Seraph, at the cost of the agility of earlier models. The Broadsword is designed first as a dogfighter, and is responsible for defeating incoming bombers and fighters that are attempting to harm the frigate. Its combination of ball-turreted autocannons and missiles makes in the close-combat environment that these engagements take place in. Those on the Strident-class are also equipped with a single AGM-79C anti-ship missile in its Class-III hardpoint, in case they are given the opportunity to attack a larger warship.
To support these human-piloted aircraft is a squadron of twelve F-99/e Wombats, unmanned combat aircraft adapted for exoatmospheric operations that are controlled by a highly-responsive AI. Although they have received improvements to its central processor, upgraded engines and weapons, the Wombat still remains very similar to its Great War incarnation. It is incredibly fast and manoeuvrable, with a reaction time that puts even the most responsive organic pilot to shame. Contrary to all this, however, it does not make for a good fighter, being outclassed even by the CSX-class Space Banshee. Instead, it is a disposable asset that wins through the strength of numbers, distracting and isolating opponents which can be killed by allied aircraft. As they are incompatible with munitions useful for damaging capital ships, they are devoted to an interception niche, and when not fighting off space fighters are instead tasked with protecting their mothership from missiles and plasma torpedoes. Although they are fully automated, the flight crew includes a group of personnel devoted to their operation, and they can issue them specific orders or take direct control of them when needed.
Revisions and Refits
First Revision: 2558
Occurring more than six years after the Strident's introduction into service, the first revision aimed to fix several serious flaws with the class, mainly regarding its vulnerability in direct combat against smaller opponents and fragility when its shields are down.
Armament is augmented with ten pods of M58 Archer general-purpose missiles and twenty-four pods of M340A4 Streak anti-aircraft missiles. Missile capacity is increased to 427 from 52.
Mark 57 Arena targeting computers are upgraded to allow each individual turret to fire independently.
The frame is modified to utilise the original Sapphire-Graphene columns rather than TR steel for the frigate's beam, increasing strength. In addition, superstructural supports have been tweaked to more efficiently increase durability.
Second Revision: 2561
Beginning right after the Created conflict came to an end, the so-called Ganymede revisions were drawn up thanks to new data that revealed the class' vulnerability to cyber warfare, boarding actions, and reactor attacks.
A hardpoint for a separate powerplant has been installed, allowing engineers from tenders to fit an emergency reactor powerful enough to allow it to return to a naval base.
Computer systems have been segregated to limit total control by hostile AI systems, and improved cyber-warfare subroutines updated on an hourly basis are made standard in all computer networks.
148 AIE-7188 7.62×51mm Defender automated machine guns have been installed at key interior junctions in pairs, connected up to a separate security network to prevent them from being hijacked when the bridge is taken. In addition, a number of manual retractable pieces of cover have been fitted near the bridge, engineering control, throughout the barracks and hangar.
↑While OUROBOROS was principally concerned with ensuring human survival if Earth is lost, the UNSC admiralty were encouraged to invest in new weapons, technologies, and warships which could be manufactured at mobile shipyards. Although designed to be suited to protect a hypothetical 'human migratory fleet', these investments would leave the UNSC in the optimum position to rebuild its fleet after the Human-Covenant War ended.
↑The discrepancy comes from the fact that five additional frigates had arrived from other drydocks out of the system, with the destruction of some uncommissioned vessels not recognised due to the losses sustained during the Siege.
↑Estimates for their total amount of kills, including assists, ranges from seventeen all the way up to an optimistic thirty-nine.