Where the Type 7 fighter craft are the cool ships of the Tears of the Stars universe, the Type 16 fulfills an entirely different role: The workhorse. The small fighters and shuttles our protagonists fly early on were simply incapable of traversing the vast distances required by the story on their own, given the limitations I imposed on FTL travel – and the larger craft mentioned up to that point were mainly freighters and similar beasts of burden, hardly a viable choice to enter the fray with, unless one wants to imitate the game FTL with its numerous horrendous ways to kill your crew.
The introduction of the Hikari – and the implied and actually mentioned additional Type Sixteens beyond that – both provides our heroes with a vessel capable of traversing large distances as well as with the means of transporting a few fighters to battlegrounds, and firepower to stand up to larger enemy threats. It also serves as the game-changer: transitioning humanity from a solar species to an interstellar one. In this way it was also a portent of things to come, as the book itself mentions: Humanitys’ first true warship.
In the universe
Type 16 vessels form the backbone of Earths combat fleet. At approximately 150 meters in length, these are the smallest capital class combat vessels fielded by the Fleet. Its hull is divided into three distinct sections, a long, tapering front containing the reactor, forward armament and two missile launch tubes; a bulbous central section holding living quarters, operations, and a small hangar, and again a smaller, tapering section to the rear, holding protrusions with the ships propulsion systems and rear batteries as well as its heat radiation systems.
The central section also extends vertically to a significant degree, ending in two “shark fins” that both ensure a more even distribution of the shield field as well as increased stability in altspace.
Few Sixteens remain unmodified after leaving the shipyard of their origin. The most basic frame features twenty-four turreted guns throughout the hull, of both a larger caliber and more power than the average cannon of a Type 7 fighter, as well as two main guns mounted to the front section, with a limited arc of fire – but significantly more powerful and used against less agile targets with devastating effect.
Complimentary to this basic gun armament, Sixteens possess two launch tubes which can fire a variety of self-propelled munitions, from small cluster shatterheads designed to engage swarms of fighters up to the large anti-capital-ship cruise missiles.
Powering the engines and weapons of this 12500 ton vessel is a 65 megawatt variable output Thorium-salt based reactor. Combined with the larger size of the engines and the larger area the propulsion field can be spread out over, Sixteens are surprisingly agile craft, capable of turning around 180 degrees in just fifteen seconds.
The hangar facilities in the belly of the ship are rudimentary, cramped and can hold up to six Type 7 fighters, or four fighters and a shuttlecraft.
The living area is surrounded by large water tanks, and doubles as a disaster area. The water is used both as a consumable as well as an additional radiation shield in case the regular shield system fails for prolonged periods of time.
The rear section holds most of the propulsion systems as well as the majority of the radiator setup. The radiators are normally folded up in protective casings, but deployed when needed – such as the reactor being sustained at peak output for prolonged periods of time.
Sixteens are usually outmatched and outgunned in one-on-one situations. Their smaller guns are usually more effective at keeping gunships and other fast craft at bay, which combined with decent shields usually relegates the frigates to picket duty at the edges of a fleet.
However, due to a possible fighter complement of up to six, small flotillas of Sixteens forming wolf packs can be effectively used as quick hit-and-run units with a surprising amount of firepower – a typical flotilla involving six frigates can field anywhere between 24 and 36 heavy fighters: 2 to 3 squadrons.
Such wolf packs are often dispatched shortly prior to a battle, where the main force will draw the attention of the adversary and pin them down, while wolf packs outflank enemy fleets and hit them from vulnerable angles – or, at the very least, distract the enemy by forcing them to distribute their shield strength as opposed to focusing them towards the main fleet.
Sixteens are built in largely automated shipyards, mainly in the caverns of Vesta and more recently at Farpost 1 near Pharos station. As much as 85 percent of the major construction duties are handled by the massive robotic systems installed there, however, even with this kind of automation involved the completion of a sixteen from keel to a entirely outfitted vessel can take upwards of 18 to 20 months. While the basic framework is built fairly quickly, the robotic systems are of little use in the final outfitting of the ship with its equipment, which takes the majority of time in the manpower-stripped Fleet.