I’ve a couple of times talked to people who says that troopships are a waste for UCM. I will in this article argue for the use of the troopship for the UCM. The same line of reasoning could – if need be – be applied for the Scourge while I guess PHR is so obvious that no argument is needed.
The strength of the strike carrier
The strike carrier has a couple of rather significant strengths;
- It has high thrust – 2″ faster than the troop ship.
- It has a low tonnage so it can be part of a low SR battle group and employ the double tap strategy.
- It can drop tanks.
- It has higher resistance to defence batteries.
- It can hide in the atmosphere where only corvettes (and the occasional light broadside) is really a threat.
The combination of speed and the ability to hide in atmosphere is the usual argument for the strike carrier. It is a solid argument too, but it builds on the assumption that you are launching against a sector. But sometimes you are launching at a space station – and then the situation changes.
Surviving in low orbit
See, the space station is in low orbit and has to be dropped to from low orbit. That means that the strike carrier loses its most significant protection – the atmosphere.
Let’s try and do a bit of math to see the consequence of that. Below is a number of common cruiser weapon systems firing at a San Francisco and a New Orleans. We are looking at the average damage from each salvo trying to calculate the number of salvos to destruction after subtracting the crippling tax and then comparing these with the corresponding differences in point ratio to see how much more durability for the points that the San Francisco offers.
|San Francisco||New Orleans|
|Average damage||Salvos to destruction||Average damage||Salvos to destruction||San Francisco increased durability for the points|
|Light Broadside||1,33||6,2||4,00||0,6||218 %|
|Medium Broadside||2,22||3,7||2,67||0,8||27 %|
|UF-6400 Mass Driver Turrets||1,78||4,6||2,00||1,1||19 %|
|Cobra Heavy laser||2,72||3,0||2,68||0,8||4 %|
|Oculus Beam Array (no scald)||1,78||4,6||2,00||1,1||19 %|
|Furnace Cannon (BT8, no scald)||2,68||3,1||2,96||0,8||17 %|
|Disintegrator Battery||1,78||4,6||2,00||1,1||19 %|
I know this method come with some significant reservations, but in the end I think the conclusion is pretty much the same – the San Francisco does offer an increased durability for the points in low orbit.
There are other factors to this choice – speed and SR (which is less significant, but not unimportant), armament, the risk of explosions spreading, etc. However, looking purely at survivability the San Francisco has a slight heads up.
Dropping the troops
But it also has another significant advantage over the strike carrier – the troop deploying capacity. Pointswise a San Francisco is equal to at little less than 3,5 New Orleans. In a straight up fight, 3,5 tanks beats 6 infantry – though they are unable to rout them (This part was edited as the previous text was based on a calculation error – thanks to Lorn for pointing that out on the hawk forum). Where is the advantage then, you might ask? Well, there are three sides to it.
The first is the “all or nothing” of the troopship. While 3 (or 4) strike carriers gradually will lose drop capacity as they are destroyed, the troopship will continue to have full capacity until it is finally destroyed (ignoring the fact that a critical might prevent it from dropping prematurely). So over time under fire, it will have an increased drop capacity.
The second is the ability to drop defence batteries. This is somewhat circumstantial but depending on the opposition a defence battery might be worth its value many times over.
And finally, when it comes to scoring victory points for a space station, numbers are all that counts; most ground assets, irrespective of type. In that case 6 infantry units are worth considerably more than 3,5 tanks.
I’m not saying that the UCM troopship is clearly superior to the UCM strike carrier when it comes to space station. In my opinion it has some distinct advantages with slightly increased durability and more flexible drop options that – over time – will outlast the drop capacity of a corresponding set of strike carriers. I think it is enough to at least bring it on par with the strike carriers and – with the principle of flexibility – make it a relevant choice in all UCM fleets.
In short; I would advice all UCM players to consider the usage of the troopship if there are any space stations in the scenario you are playing.