Lensverse Ship Classes
Starfighters were never employed by any faction in the Lensman series. Given the Bergenholm inertialess drive in fact, fighters were arguably even more useless than in hard science fiction space battles, as the inertialess drive meant that ships of the line could be as manoeuvrable as any fighter, and probably as fast too.
Speedsters were designed for very small crews (even just one person) and were built to fly both in atmosphere and vacuum at extremely high speeds. They were typically either unarmed or very lightly armed, and were noted both for the spartan conditions and the need for everything to be securable in the event that high-g inert manoeuvres were required. Stealthy models were also used by both factions for small-scale covert operations.
Scout ships are either speedsters or larger versions thereof, typically unarmed and instead filled with the very best sensor equipment possible. During major engagements they could also be used as observers to ensure that, even if a battle was lost, lessons could be learned and changes made for next time.
Light Cruisers acted as an armed screening element in Grand Fleet engagements. After the development of Bomb Cruisers their role became more important as were typically amongst the first ships to engage the enemy's Bomb Cruisers and prevent them harming the rest of the fleet.
Bomb Cruisers were designed to fire miniature Negaspheres at enemy ships. Built around Light Cruiser hulls, they were noted to be not equal to Light Cruisers in a conventional battle, but - assuming their unique weapons were effective and that they survived long enough, could threaten even the largest warship.
Heavy Cruisers generally fell two categories: they were either larger versions of Light or Bomb Cruisers, or they were designed to be almost totally unarmed, but equipped with the most powerful Tractor Beams and shields possible. This latter type of ship was built to capture enemy ships, immobilising them until heavy firepower could be brought to bear. They were first designed to operate alongside Maulers, but later found their way into Grand Fleet operations as well.
Regular Battleships were essentially smaller versions of Super-Dreadnoughts, being designed as smaller-scale ships of the line.
Dreadnoughts appear very little in the series in comparison to Battleships and Super-Dreadnoughts. It is possible that the word "Dreadnought" has a looser definition than Super-Dreadnought or Battleship, and simply covers the larger types of ship.
Super-Dreadnoughts were the "ship of the line" during most of Kimball Kinnison's time, except for a brief period when the Patrol's fleet was composed primarily of Maulers and the specialised Heavy Cruisers they were paired with. Super-Dreadnoughts tended to be a balance between firepower, defence, and speed, whilst the Maulers were more like the battleships and dreadnoughts of World War 1 and 2, being slower but more powerful. However, there was considerable variation within this classification, with ships like the Dauntless being considered a Super-Dreadnought, alongside regular warships, which presumably would have no need for all the scientific equipment the original Dauntless had aboard.
Maulers were designed by the Patrol to defeat Boskone's forces in the Milky Way, after Kimball Kinnison returned with the designs for the Cosmic Energy Screen. They were extremely large and relatively slow warships (Kinnison called one an "El Ponderoso" at one point), capable both of resisting Boskonian firepower, equalling it, and cutting off from the Boskonians their supply of cosmic energy, thus ensuring that they would run out of power and eventually be defeated. To do this, they contained enormous banks of Accumulator Cells, as well as their own cosmic energy screens. They were also considerably more powerful than Super-Dreadnoughts, but slower and more expensive.
Super-Maulers were developed as scaled-up versions of regular Maulers by the Patrol, and designed to defeat the defences of free planets (see below). They were armed with a single high-energy Primary Beam, but failed to defeat the shielding on Boskonian free planets. They were later used to form the core of both sides' Grand Fleets.
After the discovery of the planet Medon, equipping planets with Bergenholm inertialess drives to use them as giant missiles became a standard tactic for both sides in the war. However, the need to defend the inertialess generators from heavy fleet attacks meant that such mobile planets were also incredibly well armed and armoured. Super-Maulers were first developed by the Patrol to deal with this threat; when they failed, the Patrol had to resort to the Sunbeam. Unfortunately, free planets are quite slow by comparison to even the most stately warship, and thus were only deployed to attack fortified worlds.
There are a few unique ships mentioned in the series:
- The Z9M9Z, also known as Grand Fleet Headquarters (GFHQ) or the Directrix, was the flagship and command vessel of the Galactic Patrol's Grand Fleet under Port Admiral Haynes.
- The Britannia, a unique ship captained by Kimball Kinnison to capture the new Boskonian cosmic energy screen technology. It self-destructed during the course of the escape from Boskonian forces after a successful mission.