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Q-Ship by MikeDoscher Q-Ship by MikeDoscher

A somewhat sloppy color study of a Q-ship based upon a well-worn merchant freighter hull. I’m exploring the tension between color, form, and detail to get a better idea of how to convey multiple pieces of visual and narrative information with a design and not have it fall apart.

(For those who haven’t heard the term, a Q-ship is a sort of combat vessel disguised as a merchant ship. Historically, these were used to try and draw enemy commerce raiders and submarines into engagements where they could be destroyed by surprise)

I call this one the Spinward Caesar in honor of the date.

I’ve been listening to Tracy Butler’s first livestream while I was finishing this, and got some interesting insights into process and motivation. I recommend it highly: www.twitch.tv/lackatracy/b/637…

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:iconrek-dan-thi:
Rek-Dan-Thi Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2016
You've got a really nice design here. That's exactly how I would imagine a freighter in space.
It's cleary designed for a purpose and that purpose is visible.
Of course it's real role is hidden, but that's what a q-ship is all about.

I'm impressed and kinda amazed. I've NEVER thought about a concept like q-ships in space.
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:iconhalhefnerart:
HalHefnerART Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Great work. Love this.
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:icondeviator101:
Deviator101 Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2015
So is this ship from WW1 space?
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2015  Professional General Artist
Oh no, this one has no particular setting.
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:iconrushvin:
rushvin Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2015
Q ships are an interesting idea. The thoughts of using converted ships for war has been used throughout time. For the most part they are 'glass cannons'.

The main weaknesses come from one fact that most of these ships were not designed to start at warships. Most are converted unless made before hostilities as factories would make real warships when the shooting starts meaning the hulls already have been used and maybe even rescued from scrap heaps making the integrity questionable when you start modifying them.

They tend to lack the reinforced structure for combat and damage control. Weapons almost haphazardly installed where they will fit sometimes without effective recoil, back blast, or heat dissipation depending on the refitting place.

The benefits are you get a quick weapon platform that your warship shipyards didn't have to build. High mass weapons like missiles can be packed in large numbers to give it an insane punch for its size to even threaten capitol warships.
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2015  Professional General Artist
Yeah, Q-ships would never really stand a chance against purpose-built warships. Using them like that would be a waste- their strengths lie elsewhere.

What I've done here is really more of a police or paramilitary vessel, and assumes there are enough pirates to hunt to make it all worthwhile.

What you say about their historical limitations is all true, but those limitations have some interesting strengths as well. Almost any hull of sufficient size is suitable, so the numbers and disposition of enemy commerce raiders is difficult to estimate. How many surface vessels do you commit against them, and of what type? Cruisers are valuable, and most destroyer types lack the range to operate autonomously over the areas needed. Auxiliaries are often more plentiful, but typically no better armed than the raiders they're chasing. One of the more interesting benefits of Q-ships is also one of the least tangible: Uncertainty, especially when conducting asymmetric warfare. It's not just enemy tonnage sunk, but tying up disproportionate enemy resources as well as causing panic and paranoia among the merchant shipping fleet and trading partners.

Postwar missile systems are often better suited to faster, more maneuverable types than converted merchant hulls. Of course, their blue water capabilities will be limited...
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:iconrushvin:
rushvin Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2015
The only other thing should think about.
Positive- These ships can protect and the word about them out will deter the minor pirate enemies.
Negative- If you were at war with another star empire any commercial raider they send will not be likely to shoot a warning shot if these ships are known in your possession. They will burn your merchant ships with heavy weapons and see if anyone survives afterward.
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:iconrambocambo:
rambocambo Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I like the visible structural elements of this one. Looks practical.
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2015  Professional General Artist
Thanks. In hindsight, I took the basic concept from a flatbed trailer or rail car, but turned upside down. It's really just a ladder frame with engines and other semi-modular fittings attached to it. I guess that's something I keep coming back to: How complex things are made of multiple simple things.
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:iconjdunk1971:
JDunk1971 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015
I like the idea.
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:icongromgorefiend:
Gromgorefiend Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
i love these ships .
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:iconcheskamouse:
CheskaMouse Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
Again, really lovely work. You can see the depth, the years have played on this and can feel a story hides behind each hull plate.
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:iconclayman8:
Clayman8 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
i'd be curious to see more backstory to these Q-ships. I find the idea of a camouflaged weapon ship very interesting and would love to see the ship with its weapons unfolded or at the ready. Im guessing the false containers fold open to reveal weapon batteries or missile silos?

As you mentioned detail, the one that strikes me the most is the texts cut on the containers, as if multiple same-company crates are needed to form the full name (like the clover and Daisy crate at the back) of a brand as well as the rather simplistic bridge and engines (purposely to make the ship seem like a low-tech hauler).
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Professional General Artist
Well, they could be hiding a variety of different weapon systems, or could be carrying active and passive countermeasures to hide the nature of the vessel. About 80% of the way through I realized that the ship design could work in either space opera or something more cyberpunk-ish, but that the approach to stealth and space combat would be totally different, so I left things vague. 

If you're dealing with an FTL travel setting that isn't effectively magic, then the main weapon could actually be something that prevents jumping to FTL speeds, in which case the bulk of the vessel would be systems to both support and conceal the power requirements for such a thing. You could conceal a lot of trainable energy weapons and missiles for something more pulp-ish, or a single heavy weapon on the centerline for use as a somewhat suicidal weapon against heavier targets.

As for the labeling on the containers, I figured that this would initially have been a corporate vessel with a particular livery and operating on a fixed route. Later in her life she was used by a smaller, private concern and been fitted to take standard cargo modules from all and sundry. (The yellow gantry that replaces one module position is enable loading and unloading without port facilities.) Ultimately, the hull would have aged to the point that it was uneconomical to operate, and sold as scrap. This vessel has actually been rescued from the breakers for use as you see here, where the exterior fittings have been left intact but the interior has been hollowed out and reinforced for her new role. This approach would also provide a reasonably authentic paper trail as to her identity, as cagier pirates may often have intelligence on routes, cargoes, and operators.
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:iconclayman8:
Clayman8 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
The FTL-preventing parts are a possibility as they can simply be incased in the faked containers,like a giant center-line anti-warp field generator for example (im trying to piece analogies from the game EvE Online where you can outfit weapon systems with parts that have the same effect and use).

As an interesting idea,the containers themselves could be deployable casings (as in the panel slide or even brake off) housing a specific weapon system that, in a hangar, could be interchanged inbetween other parts for a specific use. For example, a container could contain a missile battery, another multiple railgun platforms etc and these could be inter-changed to fit a role on the ship as a cruiser or a long-distance missile barge etc.

Love the idea of a scrapped and reused ship, it what normal would happen during a war crisis i think as vehicles get re-appropriated ti fill missing battlefield roles.
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Professional General Artist
I think that EVE weapon was an unconscious influence, as was some old Star Trek stuff.

Modular containers for turnkey weapon systems are something I keep coming back to, but I think that is this case they might have just permanently fixed the containers in place, both for a larger and more flexible internal volume, as well as better electromagnetic and thermal shielding. It seems like it comes from someplace pretty sneaky, so I imaging the use of reconnaissance microdrones is quite extensive on both sides of the law. I think the ship would also be configured for playing footsie with pirates and smugglers, so heavy stuff might be overkill and a maintenance problem.
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:iconhuntern05:
hunterN05 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Nice ship deisng man, looks great! :D
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:iconmaxwildcat:
maxwildcat Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
^_^
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:iconmaxwildcat:
maxwildcat Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
i like the first set of blocks in contrast and detail. .the multiple colors of the "pods" (i guess) and i love the fact that it looks like one fell and was replaced with a used one bought from some scrapyard somewhere (the diff Graffiti reinforces it along with the color )
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:iconnerodango:
nerodango Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
I wasn't expecting the name but it really fits for the date.
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:icondbrought:
dbrought Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
So are the weapon systems hidden under the container frames?
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Professional General Artist
Likely, but I wasn't completely sure when I did the design. If this were a straight up space opera there would be multiple energy weapons on flexible mounts hidden behind panels there. For something more cyberpunk-ish, the ship would be controlling a group of drones and possibly mines, and the bulk of her mass would be passive and active systems to suppress her thermal and electronic signature. I hadn't really decided, so I left it vague.
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:icondbrought:
dbrought Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
To me the mines seem more fitting. For one thing mines/depth charges were among main weapons used to deter submarines. Also makes sense to me cause I feel like drones and mines could look like cargo, and even if it registered as munitions to the raiders, that could be expected cause cargo ships will carry ammunition and weapon parts sometimes. 
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2015  Professional General Artist
That would probably make more sense in some sort of space opera, where you had more weapons and roles analogous to sea power going on. This is a little grubbier and a little sneakier, with lots of electronic warfare and associated gimmicks. I guess I visualized a setting about halfway between Transhuman Space and 2300AD. Drones could be part of the arsenal, but more that likely a ship like this would use such things as pickets to track interesting traffic and have powerful short range weapons for dealing with pirates. Real warships are another matter, and something like this wouldn't be able to do much to them.
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:iconjmartin01:
JMartin01 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
I get the impression that the main armaments are hide in those cargo containers yes. Also your stuff is very cool keep it up :-)
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Professional General Artist
Just so. I should have gone into that in greater detail. I'm glad you like what I'm doing. :)
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:iconczproductions:
CZProductions Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I can't clean my ears with a Q-ship... I'm sticking to tips.
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:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Professional General Artist
Probably just as well. Freighters in the ear canal can lead to complications, and are not covered under most insurance.
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:iconbeltminer:
beltminer Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015
Beware the ides of March, Nice one mike.
g
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:iconstratomunchkin:
stratomunchkin Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think it's a very nice design and - this is an advantage, in my opinion - works for both your general WW1-in-space theme and on a more general scifi level. I like it.
Reply
:iconmikedoscher:
MikeDoscher Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  Professional General Artist
Thank you. This isn't really intended to be part of the 'Spacecraft of the First World War' continuity, but rather a more standard Aliens/space truckin' kind of vibe. I don't think the powers in my setting would have wrapped their heads around spaceframe construction and containerization yet, though this is something I toyed with placing my later on the timeline. I'm pretty sure my colors and the overall feel and bleeding over though. :)
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