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…
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.
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.
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...
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.