Worldbuilding: The Interstellar Navy

The Stellar Alliance’s Interstellar Navy is one of the four largest naval forces in the Orion Arm. Of the top 5 Navies, it’s larger than the Xenodefense Force, the Sagittarian Naval Starfleet, and the Triangle Republic Navy, but smaller than the Hesilan Equation Navy. The ISN’s technological advantage in propulsion technology has of late been supplemented by a new breakthrough in beam weapons, putting the ISN (however temporarily) over the long-time lead of the SNS in that area. Generally speaking the ISN tends to lag in missile weapons, but indications suggest that these, also, have been substantially improved in the last few years.

Only one navy in the galaxy has a longer tradition than the ISN. The primary ancestor of the Xenodefense Force of the Hegemonic Empire was founded twenty years before the United Planets Star Navy, the direct predecessor to the Interstellar Navy.

The ISN’s official prefix is SV for Star Vessel – this was a prefix used by both the UPSN and its predecessor, the Interplanetary Space Agency of Sol System. The IPSA is not considered a direct antecedent of the ISN – it was a civilian space agency, not a military star navy.

The ISN has traditions that are recognizable to the modern day – traditions like wetting-down parties, cloud-crossing ceremonies, and less official but no less-important traditions like the unofficial office of ship’s dog-robber, and snipe hunts are staples of the Navy. There remain ceremonies to celebrate spacers’ first interstellar crossing, the end of a long tour, and just to party.

Befitting a Navy that spans two thousand worlds, the ISN is also profoundly large. Not counting the corvette fleet, the ISN has approximately 3.3 ships per inhabited world, in addition to the individual System Defense Forces of each inhabited system (though those ships tend to be either decommissioned ISN vessels or ships with single-phase warp drives and thus incapable of long-range FTL travel – the Royal Artemisian Star Navy is a notable exception to this rule).

The ISN’s strategies assume that it can respond in force to two incursions from any of its major adversaries at the same time and retain enough strength to deter a third.

Material Conditions

It’s difficult to precisely describe the material assumptions of the Interstellar Navy in 21st Century terms because the resources available to the Stellar Alliance are so vast that by our reckoning, their limitations may as well not even exist. The Alliance utilizes the industrial capacity to build some several million tons of warships every year, but this is not even an appreciable fraction of the actual amount of shipbuilding industrial capacity it has – merely its utilization for military purposes. The Alliance’s primary limitation on shipbuilding is the amount of manpower available to crew its starships.

Line of Battle

The most powerful ships in the ISN, as with any star navy, are its battleships and heavy cruisers. These vessels serve as fleet flags (heavy cruisers are the largest and most powerful general-purpose starships in use; battleships are dedicated ship to ship killers) and, as war becomes closer they often sortie in Battle and Cruiser Squadrons as well. The Alliance’s line of battle comes up to some 163 million tons: 51 battleships at an average mass of 3.2 million tons each, and 146 heavy cruisers at an average mass of 560,000 tons each. Heavy cruisers, like SV Aquarius, are named after constellations. Battleships, like SV Beowulf, are named after legendary figures.


Carriers remain a galactic force to be reckoned with. Any nation that wishes to be able to support a transatmospheric assault landing, to scout the enemy’s positions without being spotted, and to launch attacks without exposing its large and expensive warships to danger would be wise to invest in a fleet of carriers. The Alliance has 261 carriers in commission, most of which are named for vessels of renown in pre-space Navies such as SV Ranger and SV Vanguard.

Independent Ships

The heart of the Alliance’s navy is in its force of independent cruising warships. Once the ISN had an even balance of light cruisers and destroyers, but changes in naval strategic realities have led to the former type becoming deprecated and the latter gaining ascendency. Destroyers and light cruisers are smaller warships that can be built in number and widely deployed – there are 240 light cruisers and 900 destroyers in service. Although in wartime they are routinely pressed into service as screening vessels for larger formations, their true purpose is the classic role of all naval vessels: To secure the freedom of trade and to convince pirates and other ne’er-do-wells that there are more profitable and safer professions than robbery and slavery. Light cruisers are typically named for heroes of the Interstellar Navy; destroyers are typically named for verbs connoting decisive action. Destroyer command is seen by many flag officers as a necessary step toward commanding a capital ship.

Patrol Combatants

The last remaining ship type in the patrol combatant category is the ubiquitous frigate. Averaging 35,000 tons, these light warships typically eschew the powerful turreted lasers and xasers of their larger kin for large axial weapons and bay-fired (rather than tube-fired) torpedoes. The Alliance has nearly five thousand frigates in service; these ships most often operate in wolfpacks or as convoy escorts. Because of the dangerous nature of frigate ops, frigate crews and ex-frigate personnel often wear a highly unofficial wolf pin on their uniforms.


Corvettes, formerly classified as patrol assets, are now considered short-range ships, a step between a fighter and a full-up warship. The newest corvette in the fleet is the Ferris Dynamics F12F Tomcat, a carrier-borne “super-heavy fighter.” Many of the Alliance’s most famous officers have served on a corvette at one point or another. There are nearly sixty thousand corvettes in the Interstellar Navy, with an average crew of just 10.

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