Decimator Docking Cradle

Starhammer vessels carry with them a flotilla of UF-2/C and UF-2/D “Decimator” fighter craft.  Launch and recovery procedures are frequently complicated by artificial gravity systems, so it’s a good thing the Starhammers were designed to accommodate their Decimators with docking cradles.

The Decimator is inarguably the most agile and powerful ship within its class in the UDF fleet.  However, for all of its flexibility, most pilots find it extremely difficult to attempt manual landing or launching maneuvers aboard the Starhammers. A number of factors make the prospect of an unassisted landing a bigger challenge to most pilots than dogfighting. For example, the transition from zero-g to artificial gravity can produce extreme buffeting, causing the fighter to shift unexpectedly during the final critical stages of landing.  The sheer power of the engines and lack of a landing brake system (the landing gear are pads, not wheels), required the development of a dedicated platform to perform launch and recovery handling.Decimator cradle overview

Enter the launch cradle.  Originally used as mobile storage platforms for the Decimators’ predecessors, the cradles are complete maintenance, launch and recovery platforms, providing complete umbilical and systems support throughout the Decimators’ operational cycle. Utilizing powerful magnetics and a dedicated field emitter array, the cradles ensure that the fighter is docked properly, and secures the fighter for all shipboard operations, from maintenance to transport to storage.

A typical cradle launch procedure proceeds as follows:

  • Launch Call – The loaded cradle is moved to and locked in position before its assigned launch tube.  Power for onboard initialization and diagnostics is provided via external connections located within the cradle’s mounting pad surfaces.  Preflight systems updates and low level diagnostics are performed at this stage.
  • Engine Start – Engines are started, one at a time, port side first, (power generators are located here).  To extend the service life of the vessel\’s power cells, the required initial starting current is provided through the umbilical connections.  After both engines have started and settled into a stable idling state, power is switched to the ship’s onboard generator and life support systems brought online.
  • Pre-Launch Release – The Decimator’s repulsor system is then verified and activated.  Once the repulsors have  stabilized, the ship is quickly scanned for any potential structural problems, the cradle’s field array initialized and powered, and the hard locking clamps released.  The Decimator is allowed to hover above the cradle, the holding fields generated by the cradle keeping the ship on-station.A Decimator in its cradle, prepped for storage
  • Pre-Launch Evacuation – The tube’s atmospheric field activates, isolating the tube entrance and the launch area from the rest of the bay.  The launch tube is opened to space, outer door first.  The inner door facing into the launch area opens slowly to avoid rapid-decompression stresses on the Decimator’s frame.
  • Booster Spoolup – The Decimator’s engine boosters are activated, providing maximum forward acceleration at the time of launch release.  A small amount of air is injected into the launch area, which carries toxic boost exhaust emissions with it as it travels out through the open launch tube.
  • Launch – The Decimator’s alignment to the launch tube is checked, and the holding field adapted as needed to make any necessary final positioning adjustments.  The field is then dropped, and the Decimator finally set loose.

The cradles give pilots and deck crew much more flexibility and freedom in the placement of the fighters, which is of utmost importance during times of heightened battle-readiness.

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