Cliff-class Cruiser Vehicle in The 12 Worlds | World Anvil
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Cliff-class Cruiser

Steam And Steel

With four black stacks and flags run red, the sheer cliff's crack, does herald dread.

The Cliff-class was a family of line cruisers that saw service with the United Commonwealth Navy from 70 to 84 A.S. With their steam turbines, primitive central fire control, and Legionium alloy armour, the Cliffs represented a radical departure from the UCN's design philosophy of the era, pioneering the features and technologies that would later seen on the Brazen-class battleships.   The Cliff's would form the bulk and backbone of the United Commonwealth Navy over the course of the Chainbreaker War, and the years immediately preceeding and following it. With 115 of the type being constructed over its lifetime, the last ship of the class, UCS Cape Livore, leaving the yards in 76 A.S.  


Unfriendly Seas
While the UCN had long operated several classes of ships to carry out the cruiser mission, the circumstances that would birth the Cliff-class represented a fundamental change in the mission and composition of the Navy. In previous years, by far the most common tasking for the Commonwealth's non-capital warships were policing and patrol duties, which saw ships attached to stations across the waterways of the 12 Worlds battle pirates, slavers, and corsairs. Being a task that valued sheer endurance over much else, the Navy could afford to assign increasingly aging ships to the job, even as they slipped ever closer to technical obsolescence.   By 67 that would no longer be the case, a fact laid bare by the findings of an inquiry conducted by the Standing Committee for Defence. It was not just technology that had moved on. As the competition between the Fuhrati Empire and United Commonwealth grew with every passing year, an open war between the two preeminent powers seemed increasingly inevitable. With the Empire's growing wealth and industry came an increasingly powerful navy, and a growing appetite for the expansion of the Emperor's influence across the 12 Worlds.   To meet this challenge, the UCN of the era was poorly equipped. Old steelclads with worn out engines might have chased away pirates or shelled slaver outposts well enough, but against the best the Fuhratis had to offer large portions of the Commonwealth fleet would not stand a chance. Accompanying this change in UC naval tactics and doctrine, was the need to effectively rebuild the Fleet from the bottom up. Under the leadership of Admiral of the Fleet Erhan Bulut, Chief of the Admiralty, the UCN would begin the single largest shipbuilding programme in its history.  
A Fleet Reborn
With this new mission and new adversary, would come the need to reconsider how the Navy operated and organised itself. The UCN was effectively cleaved into two seperate and unequal parts; the greater part consisted of its various 'Station Fleets', named after their respective bodies of water. These handled the aforementioned patrol and police duties, keeping their vessels consistently active across the 12 Worlds. The smaller part was often termed the 'Battle Fleet', and despite fewer ships overall packed a far greater punch. Each of these Fleets, numbered 1st to 12th, would be concentrated on the Commonwealth's largest stations on each World and centred around a squadron or two of battleships and their escorts. Built to fight the very sorts of battles that seemed to be in the UC's future, years of neglect had diminished their fighting potential as resources were prioritised for ever more demanding patrol duties. If the Commonwealth was going to fight and win a war with the Fuhrati Empire, the Battle Fleet would have to be remade almost from the ground up.   While the Fleet's capital ships, being fairly prominent symbols of Commonwealth prestige, had not suffered too badly, their escorts, the eyes and ears of any naval force, were in shambles. Successive attempts at modernisation in the past to replace the Navy's Scout and Line Cruisers had usually faltered halfway through, producing a dozen different ship classes built in small handfuls, and all inevitably rendered obsolete within a few years. With secure funding in hand, the Admiralty intended to finally put the matter to rest, building a genuinely capable warship incorporating the best technology of the time, to be produced at scale and introduced across the Fleet.      

Development, Design, And Procurement



The Cliff's fiercesome punch would come from its six 24-centimetre cannons, mounted in two twin turrets fore and aft and a pair of single wing turrets on either side of the superstructure. These made up its 'shot battery', in UCN parlance, and were the largest guns yet mounted on a Commonwealth vessel other than a battleship. Tasked with fending off smaller craft was a 'picket battery' of twelve 8-centimetre quick-firing guns, arrayed in single mountings with gunshields down either side of the ship.   While the shot battery's Holwitz-made cannon could reach out to nearly fifteen kilometres, for a ship to hit its target at its guns maximum range was usually sheer fiction. The Cliff-class, however, had a trick up its sleeve, taking the form of the Admiralty Mk.1 Firing Computator. A rudimentary computing machine which took up an entire room of the ship's armoured citadel, with sharp operators and good spotters it gave the Cliff a crucial edge when it came to long range gunnery.  


As the first of the UCN's 'Line Cruisers', one of the Cliff's defining characteristics would be an armour system far superior to anything seen on previous classes of Cruisers. Advances in alchemo-metallurgy less than a decade old finally allowed for the forging of legionium alloyed plates of usable shapes and sizes. Such armour plates, augmented by rudimentary metal etching, could sustain an order of magnitude more punishment than steel of equivalent thickness, and at a lower weight. 20-centimetre thick plates made up the faces of each shot battery turret, while their sides had a thickness of fifteen-centimetres. Hull armour was concentrated around machinery spaces, magazines, and gun workings below decks, to an average thickness of 8-centimetres.    


The class would have the distinction of being the first large, frontline vessel propelled by steam turbine. That method of propulsion had thus far remained in the realm of the experimental, and testing primarily focused on its use in lighter craft were high speed was key. The Office of Ships had, however, proclaimed great confidence in the potential of 'cruising turbines' which operated at far lower speeds but were more fuel efficient. Eventually, the Cliff's would be outfitted with two pairs of turbines, each made up of one cruising turbine and one regular turbine for when higher speeds were called for. Each pair was linked to two propellers, for four screws in total.   Providing the four turbines with steam were three Mk.56 Admiralty Boilers, a proven and reliable design modified in only one way. While coal was still the fuel of choice and would fill most of the cruiser's bunker space, the civilian maritime sector had recently taken to 'shrub brick' as the fuel of the future. Though expensive, the fuel, which was derived from the widespread pest known as Fire Shrub through various industrial methods, burned far hotter and more efficiently than even the finest coal, and took up less space. While many would consider the OoS's decision to modify its existing boilers to take the new fuel as extraneous, it would serve the Cliff-class well enough to be included until the end of the class's lifetime.

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