This writeup uses information gained both from the movie "Aliens" and from the book "Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual". Compared with most Rifts designs, especially the offensive capabilities of the missile system might be large compared to the ships own damage rating. This is however very likely a realistic depiction of the future of space combat: He who gets seen first gets hit first, and he who gets hit is in deep trouble. No Star Trek shields, no miracle armor, kinetic energy weapons are BAD!
The Conestoga class Starships were originally designed as troop and logistics transports with only limited defensive capabilities. As the class aged, and revisions and upgrades took place, the ships were equipped with more and more weapons, until the entire class was upgraded to light assault ships, with some small space control and orbital bombardment role. These ships will remain in the USASF/Marine inventory until the first of the new Bougainville attack transports are taken into service, at which time the remaining Conestogas will be slowly taken out of service.
The Sulaco was the thirteenth ship of the class, and has received all the usual revisions of the class. Although the overall armaments between ships vary somewhat, the Sulaco is a reasonable example of the class. The Sulaco was never a very lucky ship. Since she has been commissioned there have been several incidents with her, the worst ones being hit by Anti-Ship missiles whilst in orbit over Linna 349, and a docking accident at Gateway station which killed five people. However, the worst incident involving the Sulaco is her deployment to Zeta Reticuli, with a full marine Squad and two civilians as her complement. Since her departure from Gateway station, more than ten years ago, there has been no sign from either the crew, or the Sulaco......
Like all Conestogas the Sulaco masses nearly 78,000 metric tonnes, is 385 meters long, and has a very characteristic layout. The main hull carries most of the sensors, weapons, and cargo space. Aft of the main hull is the Fusion Torus, and attached to that is the drive section, which houses all of the drive systems, including the FTL Tachyon shunt.
The power plant of the ship is a Westingland A-59 Fusion Reactor, which has a typical torus layout, and is fueled by Lithium-Hydride. Although this fuel requires a much higher operating temperature and pressure than reactors utilizing deuterium and lithium mixtures, the relative high density of the Lithium-Hydride provides the ship with maximum power for a whole year with just 900 cubic meters of fuel. The entire reactor is sheathed in armor, and in case of emergency or battle damage, the reactor can vent its plasma safely out into space, preventing damage to the ship itself.
Backup power is provided by four Magneto hydrodynamic turbines, although these can only supply a fraction of the power of the fusion plant.
The Engine section is attached directly to the Power plant, and with good reasons: The ships main sublight engines are four Gates-Heidmann Rocket engines. These rockets function by tapping hot plasma from the fusion reactor, and bringing it into contact with the reaction mass. The resultant gas is then expelled as for any normal rocket engine. The most intriguing part of this is the reaction mass, which is compromised of powdered crystalline carbon (industrial diamond dust). The crystalline carbon provides many benefits, including a high density, good availability (crystalline carbon is a byproduct of many Terra-forming installations) and the fact that the gaseous carbon does not leave any radio transmissions when it cools after having been expelled, thus providing some measure of stealth to the process. The thrust of the engines is regulated simply by adjusting the flow of carbon into the fusion plasma: A small flow provides a high temperature, high efficiency, but low powered burn, while a high carbon flow provides a low temperature, low efficiency, but high powered burn.
The ships FTL drive is a Romberg-Rockwell Cygnus 5 Hyperdrive Tachyon Shunt, which propels the ship through the light barrier by shifting the entire ship into a mirror state in which it is entirely composed of tachyons: In this state the ship CANNOT move at speeds lower than that of light. Speed is controlled by varying the mass and energy state of the ship. Shedding mass increases the ships speed, while increasing the ships mass lowers speed. The main disadvantage of this method of travel is that time is not compressed as one would expect, but *extended* when traveling at FTL speeds. This stretching of time is directly related to the square of the speed, and imposes some severe limits on the maximum speed of the ship, beyond which travel time becomes untenable. As is, all of the crew and passengers need to use the cold-sleep capsules during FTL travel, otherwise they would age far too fast compared to the rest of the universe.
The ship is quite well armed. Its main anti-ship weapons are eight Long Lance missiles, providing it with a good long range punch. These missiles are almost small starships in their capabilities and sensor systems, and are currently the main anti-ship system of both the Colonial Marine Corps and the Navy. Backing up these weapons are two Neutral Particle Beam cannons. These large weapons are mounted along the main hull, and can only fire in a forward arc. Although they do not provide the ship with a Hard Kill capability, they can be used to disrupt a enemies electronics at huge ranges. For close range weapons there are two laser cannons located on either side of the ship. These cannons provide close in defense against missiles, mines, and the odd fighter. For some additional close in Hard Kill capabilities there are two rail guns on the ship, one on top, and the other on the bottom of the main hull. Firing a combination of both kinetic penetrators (essentially tungsten darts) which can punch holes through almost any armor, and kinetic penetrator incendiary (tungsten tipped darts designed to vaporize AFTER impact), these weapons have a reasonable rate of fire, and can do quite a lot of damage to other ships.
The ship is also capable of laying mines, with sixty mines available in a ventral dispenser. Although not as large a threat to enemy ships as the ships missiles, they are still quite effective for interdiction and for cutting off civilian shipping.
For orbital bombardment the ship has a ventral launcher filled with eighty re-entry vehicles. These can carry a variety of warheads, including nuclear payloads. Such ordnance can only be used when the ship receives the orders to do so from its Captain, or from a Marine Major or personnel higher in rank than that.
The Conestogas skin consists of a laminated layer of insulators, alloy micro meteor shielding, composite armors, and aerogel layers. This provides only limited protection against Kinetic weapons (the best defense against those is high-mass armor, untenable on a starship), but it does provide excellent protection against directed energy weapons.
Overlying all of this are layers of Radar Absorbent Material, and a dark grey paint, in order to keep both the ships radar and optical signature as low as possible. In addition to this the ship has a radar jamming system for ECM, and the computer systems are designed with double hardened systems to prevent either jamming or EMP from damaging the ships system or any systems of equipment inside the ship. The radar system and other sensors on the ship are very sophisticated and are mainly (but not totally) located on the forward sensor booms. Running the length of the ships spine is a mass sensor for use during FTL flight.
The Conestogas are fully automated, with the main computer being fully capable of piloting and fighting the ship without any human hands, who might be locked in their cold sleep capsules or may be otherwise incapacitated. The Main computer is a 28 Terabyte Carbon 60 Core mainframe, which is located behind the flight deck. Although the computer runs Artificial Intelligence algorithms, it does NOT have a human-like personality, as this would only lower its efficiency. In case of mainframe failure there are several less powerful backup systems, that are capable of running all systems separately. Off course the computers decisions can be overridden by the human crew at any time.
Life support on the ship is capable of handling up to ninety persons without trouble. This is also the normal number of cold sleep capsules onboard of the ship. When transporting larger amounts of troops, additional cold sleep capsules can be installed in the cargo bays. However, the life support systems can only handle a large number of *awake* persons for a limited time. In order to insure the proper living environment for the waking crew, all ships areas have been given artificial gravity. This system also protects the crew from any sublight accelerations.
The ships emergency systems are mostly handled by the automatics. Since the ship is very compartmentalized any hull breaches can be easily dealt with by sealing off the damaged section. Any onboard fires are usually dealt by exposing the section to the outside vacuum, although the system requires a direct order from the commanding officer to do so when there is personnel in the affected section.
The Conestogas were designed as light transports, and their cargo handling capability reflects this: More than half of the main hull consists of cargo bays and shuttle bays. All of these bays can be pressurized to allow the crew and the marines easy access to them. The Main cargo bays can be accessed through a total of ten cargo bay doors in the sides of the ship, allowing for rapid loading and unloading. These cargo bays can also be used as makeshift shuttle bays, although it is advisable to allow all shuttles to use the dedicated shuttle bay located on the ships ventral surface. This bay has extensive shuttle handling capabilities for up to four shuttles or drop ships at once, and is also used for shuttle maintenance and refueling. Shuttles can be moved between the shuttle bay and the main cargo bay by means of a large (30 meters by 30 meters) cargo hoist.
The Sulaco follows theoretical information about starships operating non chemical propulsion in space. This has meant much greater speeds and accelerations. Listed is the formula to allow player and game masters to calculate the Sulaco`s velocity and distance traveled:
Vehicle Type: Conestoga Class Light Assault Carrier
Crew: None! Fully Automated Warship! It CAN, but does not need to, carry up to 90 crew members without modifications to its life support. Alternately, these places can be taken by Marines.
Troops: Can carry up to 2000 Assault troops, but with only basic equipment, and only two shuttles onboard.
Normally carries 450 troops, with full equipment, eight drop ships and extra supplies.
Life support can support ninety persons indefenitively, 450 persons for four weeks, and 2000 men for four days.
M.D.C. By Location:
|Particle Beam Cannons (2, sides):||350 each|
|Laser Turrets (2, sides):||150 each|
|Rail Gun Turret (2, top, bottom):||150 each|
|Long Range Missile Launcher:||250|
|Orbital Mine Dispenser:||150|
|Decoy Launch Bay:||150|
|Side Cargo Bay doors (5 each side):||200 each|
| Main Body:||5,000|
|Hull Per 40 ft Area :||100|
| Control Center:||1,000|
| Main Sensor Cluster (forward):||800|
| Hangar Bay:||800|
| Fusion Torus:||2,000|
| Carbon Plasma Thrusters (4):||600 each|
| Engineering Section :||2,000|
 Depleting the MDC of the main body will put the ship out of commission. All internal systems will shut down, including life support. The ship itself will be an unsalvageable floating wreck.
 In reality this is how much damage needs to be done for a weapon to hit the control center through the ships armor. This ship does not have an auxiliary control center. Even if the control center is destroyed, the ship can still be piloted from manual terminals but ship is -3 to dodge and all weapon systems will be at local control. Weapon hits near the bridge that do not penetrate the ships integrity can injure crew members on or near the bridge.
 The Main sensor cluster is located in the front of the ship. Destroying it means that the ship will have -80% to read sensory rolls, all sensor ranges are halved, and all long range weapons (particle beam cannons) have a -2 to strike.
 Destroying the Hangar bay means that any shuttles and drop ships will have to dock through one of the side cargo bay doors. This imposes a -20% penalty roll on the piloting skill of the docking pilot, plus, it means that the cargo bay must be depressurized for this operation, so that any crew present must wear suits.
 Destroying the Fusion Torus means that the ship loses main power: No FTL drive, no artificial gravity, and the main engines can ONLY work at the lowest (0.5G) level. Backup power is provided by four magneto hydrodynamic turbines, deep inside the main hull.
 The Destruction of one Thruster reduces the ships acceleration by one quarter. The destruction of two Thrusters reduces the ships acceleration by one half. Destroying three Thrusters will reduce the ships acceleration by three quarters. Destroying all four Thrusters means that the maximum sublight acceleration is reduced to ten percent of normal (using navigational thrusters).
 Destroying the engineering section means that ship FTL propulsion systems are destroyed and maximum sublight acceleration is reduced to ten percent of normal (using navigational thrusters).
Driving on the Ground: Not Possible.
Space Propulsion: The starship does not have an effective top speed but is limited by acceleration. The Conestogas can reach a top acceleration of 4 G but due to high fuel consumption and extra strain on the engines, the ships will normally travel at 0.5 G for any extended trips. Top acceleration is only meant for emergencies and combat maneuvers. Because the Conestogas are mostly unshielded from the effects of radiation and hypervelocity atomic particles (they are not completely unshielded), the Conestogas are not operated at speeds exceeding 20% of the speed of light.
Atmospheric Propulsion: The Conestogas cannot operate within an atmosphere. If the ship enters an atmosphere, it will crash.
Stardrive: The ship uses a Romberg-Rockwell Cygnus 5 Hyperdrive Tachyon Shunt which can propel the ship at a maximum cruise velocity of 0.0325 Lightyears per realspace hour, or 284.7 times the speed of light. At these speeds each real space hour at FTL means that on board of the ship no less than 81.054 hours pass, or almost 3.4 days!
The calculation for this simple, Speed (in lightspeed units) divided by ten, and the square of that number is the "elongation factor" for onboard time.
Maximum Range: Conditionally limited, the fusion reactor has enough fuel for one year at maximum output. Also, the ships propulsion is limited by the ships reaction mass. The ship can be refueled at space stations, and by other star ships as long as they have the special facilities. The ship can also be refueled by fuel shuttles.
The Conestogas carry six month of reaction mass for travel at a constant acceleration of 0.5 G. Double the consumption of fuel for 1.0 G of acceleration and double the consumption again for every 1.0 G of acceleration beyond 1 G. This means the ship will burn the fuel 16 times faster than at 0.5 G of acceleration at maximum speed. The ship will often accelerate for a period of time and then shut down the engine and travel using the ships velocity. If the ships uses more than half of its reaction mass when accelerating, the ship will be unable to decelerate fully and the ship will normally only use a third or less of its fuel on accelerating so it does not run into a problem.. If the ship runs out of fuel then it must be refueled by another vehicle traveling faster or be lost.
Length: 1,284 feet (385 meters)
Height: 351 feet (105.2 meters)
Width: 257 feet (77 meters)
Weight: 84,000 tons (78,000 metric tons)
Power System: Westingland A-59 Lithium-Hydride Fusion Reactor
Cargo: Cargo holds are scattered about the ship that allows for carrying up to 20,000 tons of Cargo in addition to standard compliment of supplies and ammunition. Each enlisted crew member has a small locker for personal items and uniforms. Ships officers have more space for personal items. Most of the ships spaces are take up by extra ammunition, armor, troops, weapons, engine, and other equipment.
Market Cost: 3.2 billion to construct.
[ Mutants in orbit TM, Triax TM are trademarks owned by Kevin
Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]
[ Rifts® is a registered trademark owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc.]
[ Aliens, Sulaco, Conestoga, USCM and Colonial Marines are trademark and copyright of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. ]
[ The book Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual is copyright by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood ]
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This Writeup is a homage to both the Movie "Aliens" and to the book "Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual", and no profit of any kind is made from this Writeup.
By Mischa (E-Mail Mischa)
Minor Revisions and Formatting by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).
Copyright © 2000, Mischa. All rights reserved.