The Claw is second only to the ghost-ship-like Kurgan when it comes to notorious pirate vessels that are feared throughout known space. Whereas the Kurgan uses psychological warfare and deception to strike fear into the hearts of its victims, The Claw does so through sheer brute firepower. Originally, The Claw was a Stage One prototype of a next-generation Russian Federation Navy heavy frigate that was intended to bring the Russian navy up to the standards of current warships. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong captain for her trial runs.
Captain Dimitry Alekseyev had been one of the Russian Federation’s top naval commanders, having been instrumental in the Russian victory over invading Naradi forces at the Battle of Kirov in 2298. Unfortunately, during the military coup attempt in 2302 Alekseyev gave tacit support to General Orlov’s actions, though he stopped short of taking part in the coup itself. After the dust settled and President Solodkaya once again came out on top and in charge, Alekseyev wound up being assigned to a series of dead-end assignments in retaliation. While his actions were not enough for Solodkaya to bring him up on treason charges, the Russian president used her not inconsiderable influence within the Ministry of Defense to ensure that his career was at its end.
This eventually put him in the captain’s chair of the Murmansk, an experimental prototype frigate designed to bring substantial firepower into the theater in a relatively small package. While not a prestigious assignment by any means, Alekseyev still wound up barely getting the slot, and then only by grace of calling in favors and using his war record as leverage. Agreeing that an experienced captain with a black mark on his record was more important to the project than a politically convenient one with less seasoning, the project heads put him in place. Six months later, he had managed to leverage enough control over the project to hand-pick his crew, and in 2308 the Murmansk left the Shkval 6 shipyard orbiting Narimanov for basic trial runs and maneuvers. What happened next was anything but expected.
What no one, not even the FSB and other intelligence agencies within the Russian Federation, realized was that Alekseyev had spent quite a bit of time and money to find, recruit and train loyal followers from his former commands, as well as survivors of the failed coup attempt. He put together a small private army number in the hundreds, including espionage agents who were put into place like sleeper agents from the Cold War. Planning his strategy out over a seven year period, Alekseyev was far more in control of his destiny than anyone realized, and had arranged for his “exile” to dead-end assignments for the express purpose of meeting disgruntled-yet-skilled soldiers, sailors, techs and so on to add to his forces. Unlike General Orlov and his many coup-minded predecessors, Alekseyev had no designs on overthrowing the Russian government, which is largely how he managed to stay under the radar of the FSB’s telepresence operatives. Due to the limits of telepresence sensing, only a handful of intents can be focused on, and the FSB narrowed it down to those that were a threat to the Federation as a whole. Alekseyev intended to acquire one of the next-generation ships he knew were being built and set out to carve his own empire out of Freespace. As a result, he never pinged the psions’ awareness.
Having stacked the crew of the Murmansk with loyalists, Alekseyev had no trouble seizing control of the vessel. He first disabled comms, then his crew eliminated the handful of non-loyalists aboard, and he then triggered the cloaking field and banked hard and wide out of any projected path. The observers had no idea what had occurred, thinking there had been a malfunction of some sort. By the time the long-range sensors detected an outgoing jump in the Oort cloud of the system, it was too late. What happened after that is a matter of conjecture, but intelligence sources believe Alekseyev used his connections in either the Cordian or Geheris syndicates to use their shipyards and heavily modify the Murmansk into the deadliest pirate marauder in Terran space. Now renamed The Claw, Alekseyev’s pirate warship began cutting a bloody swath through Alliance shipping lanes. Not surprisingly, the Russian Federation bore the brunt of his fury initially, but over the past decade The Claw has expanded its marauding out to other nations and wide swaths of Freespace.
Unlike the typical hit-and-run tactics preferred by most pirates, Alekseyev seems to delight in engaging Inter-System Police and military responders to his attacks. After disabling, boarding and pillaging a ship, the crew of The Claw then slaughter the survivors to prevent any warnings and then lay in wait, cloaked, for the response. As soon as the responding patrol ships arrive, Alekseyev measures his odds based on the strength of the response. Three or more destroyer-class vessels, or any cruiser or heavier vessels, and he slips away quietly. Anything less than that- barring excessive numbers- and he begins a campaign of picking the vessels off one by one.
The armament of The Claw is very different from the later Murmansk-class frigates that evolved from its design. There are critical flaws with the design that were later corrected, and which Alekseyev was unaware of due to the untested nature of the ship. The chief flaw is the tie-in of the main gun spinal mount into the engine reactors of the vessel. In order to power the super-heavy APPC, the designers originally pulled power from the vessel’s secondary engine reactor cores. Unfortunately, this had a tendency to cause brown-outs in the power supply by fast-draining the capacitor bank. Periodically, these brown-outs would trip the power control circuits and cause a full-blown shutdown of the primary reactor core feeds to allow them to recharge. This would knock engines and weapons both offline, which proved to be a fatal flaw in test-runs of the replacement prototype.
Alekseyev never found a solution for this problem, so he developed a work-around instead, as well as innovative new tactics to use the ship’s flaws to their advantage. By adding in secondary reactors to keep the secondary weapons and ENWO modules online, The Claw can remain hidden even if her engines are knocked offline, and her turrets can still defend her if she is detected. Alekseyev’s favorite tactic is to pull off to some distance, usually one light second (roughly three hundred thousand kilometers or so), from his most recent victim and lay in wait, cloaked. As soon as the responding ships arrive- provided they are of acceptable strength to Alekseyev’s calculations- he then opens fire with the main gun on the weakest vessel in order to get a one-shot kill. If the engines do not get knocked offline, The Claw rapidly changes location on the X or Y axis and fires again, maintaining cloak for as long as possible. Once his location is discovered, he then closes with the enemy vessels doing quick strike-and-withdrawal charges that cut the enemy ships to ribbons. This tactic has netted Alekseyev numerous victories against Russian, European, Khurian, Dunbaren and American warships.
Intelligence indicates that Alekseyev has carved out an empire of his own, enslaving a pre-industrial indigenous population of a star system somewhere in the Kalindra Corridor and claiming their world as his own. It is rumoured that he is attempting to acquire a Class III shipyard to construct copies of The Claw to add to his fleet. If this rumour is true, then Alekseyev represents one of the most significant threats to the stability of the region in the future if he is not dealt with. This, of course, means he WILL be dealt with, it is merely a matter of time.