Sharoma Frontierverse Info Navies

Navies of 3200

Here we delve deeper into the navies of the Empire and Federation. Navy vessels are a far cry from commercial ships and although you will never encounter any of these vessels in the game itself, here is how I imagine they exist and operate within Braben's Frontier universe.

The Imperial Empire: Low-Tech Leviathan

The Imperial Navy, known also as His Majesty's Navy or His Imperial Majesty's Navy, is by far the largest armed force in the known galaxy, dwarfing its Federation and Independent equivalents. Unlike the Federation's Navy or the small fleets Independent corporations often maintain, the Imperial Navy is tasked with a large number of thankless and resource-depleting duties. Generally the Empire is disliked in the outer systems it moves in to colonize, and as such every single trade convoy requires a large escort. Pirates roam freely in the systems that surround the core of both superpowers, but whereas the Federation's trading companies can easily afford to pay for their own escorts, the Empire micromanages all movement of resources to and from its colonies, and as such has to pay heavily for their protection. The Empire also maintains a large number of active battle fleets either stationed defending the border with the Federation to the north or busy constantly expanding the Empire's concerns to the south, east and west. At any one time the Empire will have at least one fleet on the expanse, and most likely smaller fleets constantly escorting supply convoys or patrolling troublesome systems.

Once an Imperial colony is up and running, a fleet will not be stationed there, since the Empire simply cannot afford this. Instead, certain fleets from across the entire Navy are selected to regularly perform patrols of every colony, making sure they're kept free of pirates. Colonies which contain a major military shipyard will often always have a fleet present refitting - it is necessary to have the facilities to cope with any incident all across the Empire, since fleets will often be away from the core for as much as ten years at a time.

The Empire prefers to divide its Navy into fleets, and of these there are many. 'Grand' fleets are rarer - they are formed sporadically to conquer new systems or deal with a significant uprising or pirate threat. They are named for their location and only a handful - such as the Home Fleet - are permanent. There also exist many numbered fleets, from the 1st upwards, which deal with the bread and butter tasks of the Navy, such as convoy escort or colonial patrol. The size of the Imperial Navy is impossible to calculate with any degree of accuracy since it commissions new ships and loses ships every year. There exist many numbered fleets - numbers are not reused if an entire fleet is lost in combat - but the Navy does not go to great lengths to keep these classified since the higher the known number, the bigger the Navy is known to be. Indeed, not so long ago the 500th Fleet was formed and dispatched on missions unknown. An average fleet may contain at least twenty ships of the line[1], but there are great variations across the board. A very rough approximation would see the number of vessels at 10,000, but the number is most likely far higher. With this in mind, the Federation, with its tens of fleets, likely does not ever plan to attack the Empire again.

[1] A ship-of-the-line is not, as the term originally identified, a ship deemed capable of 'standing in the line of fire'. Even though the term is applied to ships that in most cases (perhaps with the exception of 2nd and 3rd class frigates) would be capable of heavy offensive and defensive actions, it in fact refers to the line of succession of the Duval Dynasty. The Navy carries the blood of the Empire's Royal House and to emphasise the point, any and all Grand Fleets are commanded by a Prince of the Realm, regardless of his ability or experience. Imperial ships of the line literally maintain the Imperial line.

Vessels: size & type

The biggest Imperial Navy vessel is the battleship. The only Navy vessel that matches and even surpasses the Federation equivalent in technology, they are built in small numbers because of their sheer cost; a large staff of extremely highly skilled crew are required, and the specifications of these vessels is very high, especially so by Imperial standards. Battleships are not built to be lost; such an outcome would be catastrophic. Imperial propaganda generally portrays the Empire's battleships as being invincible. Battleships are usually named in honour of the Imperial House - further proof that the Empire does not countenance ever losing a battleship - or for the planets of the Imperial core systems. For example, HIMS Hengist Duval is the flagship of the Emperor and HIMS Achenar the principle vessel of the Home Fleet.

Moving down a class is the cruiser, the bigger sister to the destroyer. These two vessels conform to the majority of the Imperial Navy in that they are particularly low-tech by Federal and even Independent standards. They possess a reasonable array of firepower and defence systems, but nothing on par with the battleships. Nor do they possess their own small fleets of Osprey fighters. Cruisers are often designated flagships in many fleets since there are never enough battleships to go round. They possess mostly heavy offensive weaponry with little defence. Destroyers are essentially a smaller version of a cruiser, but feature an equal amount of defensive and offensive firepower. Destroyers carry many mines and other such weaponry. These two vessels are never seen without each other in attendance. A cruiser relies on a destroyer for defence, and likewise a lone destroyer cannot mount an effective attack.

Further down still are the frigates, which come in three classes. The 1st class of 66 guns, the 2nd class of 44 guns and the 3rd class of 22 guns. Frigates are small and fast, and are the cheapest to build and man. Extremely low-tech, they are built to accompany larger vessels and provide scouting services or even conveying messages and high ranking personnel. A frigate's duty is often to seek out the enemy but never engage alone. The three classes differ only in size, number of guns and crew; their weaponry is always identical and there is no variation in technology aboard. 1st class frigates are the rarest, whilst 2nd and 3rd class often see service together. Despite their lowly rank in the Navy ship list, command of a frigate is still sought after.

Cruisers, destroyers and frigates are named according to their status in the navy list. Usually famous battles in naval history are reserved for cruisers, leaving planets, systems, famous persons and propaganda slogans for the remaining vessels. Examples: the cruiser HIMS Delta Pavonis[2] is named in honour of her ancestor's role in the largest clash of Imperial and Federal fleets; the 3rd class frigate HIMS Sohocan represents a faraway earth-like planet claimed by the Empire; a 3rd class frigate HIMS Industrious was the first ship of Imperial naval hero Maleren; 2nd class frigate HIMS Pomerania asserts the Empire's claim to that fertile planet; the battleship HIMS Vesuvius is often the flagship of so-called "Fire Fleets" formed to deal with pirate incursions in the Anayeth region.

[2] The Federation also maintains this name in their own List, a practice not without historical precedent.

Many other vessels rate below the frigates, such as small scouts, supply ships, training vessels, transport hulks and Osprey attack fighters - these are tiny vessels more in line with the many commercial types of fighting ship. Ospreys rarely operate alone. Battleships carry many numbers of these to be dispatched in the midst of battle to get to grips with the pirate ships firsthand, or even to cripple larger ships. Ironically, despite their tiny size, Ospreys are fitted with more advanced weaponry than most of the larger Navy vessels. To equip even a 3rd class frigate to high standards would be untenable. The Imperial Navy is so large that compromises must be made.

There are also two commercial vessels that are famous throughout the galaxy: the Imperial Courier and the Imperial Trader. Despite their abilities as fighting vessels they are rarely employed as Navy vessels and are instead sold with extreme profit to private buyers, often dubbed to have been "built to Navy specifications". This claim is a false marketing gimmick; although their specifications are very high by commercial and even Navy standards, the vessels are too small to be considered Imperial ships of the line and no such 'Navy specification' exists. Imperial Couriers are sometimes employed as dispatch vessels by wealthy admirals and captains, and are often seen plying around the core systems. The Imperial Trader lacks much of the élan of the Courier and as such is almost totally restricted to private trading use. Nevertheless, these two vessels are extremely capable and do not conform to the majority of the Imperial Navy in that they are sleek, fast, attractive, expensive and very high-tech. They also don't require a particularly large crew for their size; just three for the Courier and six for the Trader. This is in sharp contrast to the smallest Imperial ship of the line, the 3rd class frigate, which requires a crew of at least 250.

Independent and commercial vessels flying within Imperial space may opt to fly the Imperial ensign, an electronic identifier that will show up on all scanning systems. Many choose to, for the advantages are many. Under the Imperial flag, any vessel is required by law to be protected by the Navy and even supplied and repaired if necessary. However, the Navy can, legally, bring into service any vessel flying its ensign and/or press any members of its crew in times of peace and war. It is not unknown to happen in systems far from the core. A trading vessel may suddenly find itself re-designated as an Imperial supply ship or see half its crew taken away to fill gaps in the battle-thinned ranks of a battered frigate. Ships that fly the Imperial ensign are always listed in the Navy books[3] which are updated periodically, so a ship cannot pick and choose when to show its allegiance. Vessels not flying the Imperial ensign but which routinely fly within Imperial space are treated in a cold manner and are not allowed to venture near any Navy vessels. Pirates are also less likely to attack a vessel they know to be flying the Imperial ensign since often it signifies the presence of a Navy vessel in the system. Acts of piracy against such vessels are given priority by the Navy, and that is the main reason a commercial commander will choose to fly the Imperial ensign.

[3] A list of confirmed friendly ships transmitted in encrypted form from Central Command to all Imperial vessels across the Empire.

Crew & Training

Imperial Navy vessels are often over-manned. This is simply to fill vacancies that arise from the inevitable battle casualties. A large crew is needed on Navy vessels because they do not rely on automation, or at least not to any comparable level with Federation vessels. For the Empire, the one resource they have in abundance is manpower. This is especially the case with slaves (officially referred to as "willing servants of the Empire working toward their freedom"), who make up roughly one third of the Navy. This is an alarming fraction when one considers that any combined uprising could cripple and destroy the entire Empire due to its reliance on the Navy. As such, careful measures are taken to avoid any such uprising - even mutinous assemblies on individual vessels are extremely rare.

Training for both volunteers and conscripts is a very simple affair, focussing first on specialization of a particular duty before fostering a sense of teamwork, unity and cooperation through learning the duties of all the other crew. Training is performed on such a large scale that every month literally hundreds of new recruits are available to fill the hungry ships of the line which are constantly depleted of manpower due to the innumerable conflicts the Navy partakes in.

Officer training is a tad more specialized, but volunteers are often promoted to the officer class, especially in fleets which see heavy combat. As such, despite their prestige, officer training academies differ from their volunteer counterparts only slightly. The difference is more in etiquette than vocation. The duties of an officer are not beyond most competent volunteers.

Conscripts are never trained to specialize and are merely glorified labourers. Imperial law states that any slave or conscript may be granted freedom after a period of seven years "untainted and loyal service" in any arm of the Imperial armed forces. Such cases of class promotion remain extremely rare, however; the average life expectancy of a conscript is barely ten years and those that do survive are subject to such rigorous discipline that at least one infraction is inevitable.

Drawbacks from having such large crews are obvious and easily overcome, usually at the cost of comfort. Crews are quartered wherever there is space and very few resources are deployed to make their life comfortable. Food supplies take up roughly the same amount of space as ammunition, although it should be borne in mind that Federation ships often have to dedicate as much space to reserve power cells as the Empire does to food. An Imperial ship's 'technology' is dependent entirely on the training and ability of its crew. As times goes by and the crew gains experience the ship will be able to perform admirably against any competition. Federal ships are much more predictable since they are so reliant on automation, and crew-training makes relatively little impact on their performance. Once again, as with the economy, this Imperial reliance on manpower ultimately comes down to a reliance on slavery.


The Empire is known for its technological lead over the Federation, especially when it comes to drive systems, ordnance and defence systems. However, because of the cost of equipping vessels with such mechanisms, most Navy vessels enter into service without even the most basic defence systems. A typical Navy frigate will lack shielding, comprehensive hull auto-repair and ECM. Only battleships are equipped to the hilt with the most advanced Navy technology, and as such a Navy battleship is superior to the Federal equivalent. However, all Federal Navy vessels have shielding and other such systems and are superior to most Imperial Navy vessels. There have recently been moves at the Imperial Admiralty to start production of 'pocket battleships' to counter the technological superiority of the Federation. However, despite their obvious failings, the sheer number of Imperial cruisers, destroyers and frigates could easily overwhelm any Federation fleet. In practice the Empire finds it difficult to ever deploy such a large fleet to a location close to the Federal border (barring the token force that guards this frontier), since logistically it is stretched to its very limit simply patrolling the colonies. Any spare resources are diverted to acquiring new colonies (which are essential for sustained growth within the Empire) and conflict with the Federation is avoided. Likewise the Federation would lose a large proportion of its Navy if it fought the Empire, thus endangering any systems without a nearby military presence or those whose loyalties are only assured thanks to the presence of nearby Federal Navy vessels. Both sides quietly tolerate the other for these reasons.

Aboard any Imperial ship high tech systems are few and far between. Control of (the very basic) weaponry is completely manual. Navigation and piloting is the task of experienced and skilled personnel and even the captain must constantly make complex calculations for want of a computer terminal. This lack of reliance on automation not only saves the Empire countless resources in terms of ship building and maintenance, it also breeds extremely capable crews who in time come to cooperate on a level far in excess of any Federation crew. Also, Navy vessels can take a large amount of damage before they are put completely out of action. Even a hulk of metal with operative drive systems and rudimentary cannons is still a force to be reckoned with in Imperial hands.

Headquarters & Command

The Imperial Navy is administered centrally from the Imperial core system of Facece, located in sector (0, -4). The Admiralty operates numerous headquarters buildings around the core systems and hundreds of administrative buildings since organizing the daily operations of so many vessels is a gargantuan undertaking. Admiralty administrative offices employ more people than the whole of the Federal Navy. The ceremonial HQ is located on the capital planet of Capitol, in the central district of Duval City in the system of Achenar (1, -4). However, the operative and spiritual HQ is Tanase House on Topaz, named in honour of Andrei Tanase, a clerk whose reforms in the 28th century saved the Navy from corruption and ruin. Facece also contains the majority of Imperial shipyards, with no fewer than eight private contractors operating huge facilities alongside nationalized concerns. The bulk of Imperial Navy vessels are constructed, launched and crewed in Facece, and many training academies have their schools on the rocky planets of the system. For example, the Naval Gunnery School is located on Peter's Wreck.

As one would expect from a society so obsessed with class and status, the command structure of the Imperial Navy is set up, like all civil equivalents, to maintain an aristocratic elite. Although very much a merit-based environment, ultimately the higher positions are filled by men whose loyalty outweighs their ability. It is relatively easy for a volunteer to rise to officer or even commander status, but Admirals of the Navy are from noble families. Male offspring from any noble family can find easy entry into the lower officer levels of the Navy and it is expected that they will soon rise up, major blunders excepting, regardless of their performance. Alongside them are thousands of middle and working class youths seeking fame, fortune and glory. With their technical diplomas or sheer lust for navy service, they can also rise relatively quickly.

The supreme commander of the Imperial Navy is, naturally, the Emperor. His various fleets are, without exception, commanded by men blindingly loyal to him. Whether it is his own offspring - the various princes of the realm - or hand-picked courtiers, it is considered an honour to serve the personal favourites of His Majesty. No one outside the core aristocratic families can ever hope to command more than a squadron or minor convoy fleet. Imperial propaganda relies heavily on the glorious exploits of its beloved Navy, and as such, the men in charge of it, and receiving most of the credit, have to be men of pure Imperial blood appointed personally by His Majesty. Ironically, when lowly middle class officers rise to hero status within the Navy, it is seen as proof of the purely merit-based environment. The average citizenry, though it loves to read about normal men rising up and winning fame, prefers to read about this Prince or that triumphing for the Empire. The inherently unfair class system of the Empire is therefore seen to be working, and is thus validated in their eyes.

Since most admirals in the Navy themselves started off their navy careers working their dues on a routine patrol frigate alongside ordinary citizens, they never forget the merits of their former cohorts. The majority of aristocratic and noble commanders have the utmost respect for the officers serving below them. The bizarre twist to such a class-obsessed system is that it actually works extremely well. Imperial Navy history is full of examples of extremely capable admirals from noble families. Such is the link between the navy and the aristocracy that naval service is in fact instilled in the very blood of the nobles. It is their calling, their duty, their passion and a necessary rite of passage - especially if one wishes to enter politics later on in life. They are expected more than anyone else to perform well. They have their names and reputations to protect. Indeed, failure to them has a higher price.

Most Imperial citizens grow up taking command from their birth superiors, and it is from that very concept that the order and command of the Navy (and all Imperial armed forces) is founded. These upper class officers and admirals are in command because that is what they are bred to do, and are brought up being told that they are to command and lead. Working and middle class men will serve them, because they know no other way.

Of course, the bulk of the Navy's technical expertise lies in the thousands of officers that form the group below higher command. From the rank of captain downwards to bombardier, merit, skill, attitude - pure ability - count above everything else. True, a non-noble has to work all the harder to drag himself up, but it is still possible, and indeed inevitable, since casualties in the Navy are so high. There are more opportunities for advancement in the colonial patrol squadrons - the very stations the highest nobles do not often dirty their hands with - than the grand battle fleets which occasionally set off on highly publicized campaigns to conquer new systems. A typical colonial patrol fleet will most likely have a lower class nobleman in charge, with middle class captains, lieutenants of extreme ability and mixed backgrounds, and lower and middle class warrant officers eager to prove themselves. Occasionally, a nobleman whose family is out of favour may be posted to command a hydrogen fuel convoy patrol or similar, but he will still command. Theoretically there is no limit to which level the average citizen can rise. In practice, commander is as far as he will go. Connections at court and the Admiralty come more into the equation the higher in the ranks you go. Indeed, His Majesty would much prefer to have a loyal non-entity in command of his gargantuan home fleet, than a non-noble of supreme ability. The loyal non-entity merely commands, supported by his capable subordinates. The non-noble may harbour revolutionary thoughts, however minute. It would never happen of course, but it is not worth the risk. There is also always the risk that Federal agents may rise to command Imperial fleets. The Empire secretly acknowledges that there are hundreds of Federal agents working as all ranks in the Navy. There must be, since Federation citizens are free to join the Navy if they so wish, whereas the Federal Navy forbids entry to anyone born outside the Federation.

The Federation: High-Tech & Specialised

The Federation's Navy, officially known as the Navy of the Federation but often referred to as the Federal Navy, appears to be quite staid on the surface. It is in direct contrast to the sprawling mammoth Imperial Navy; it is small, highly advanced and crewed by only the most willing specialists. It is tasked with defending the interests of each member of the Federal Assembly and as such has far less freedom of operation than its Imperial equivalent, and is audited to far stricter levels. Only technical ability will see promotion. The crews are so small that advancement is a painfully slow process, all the more since the Federation's Navy hardly sees action at all and combat fatalities are rare - more casualties are due to accident and even illness. Every month the Imperial Navy loses hundreds of men due to attrition, most of them dying in combat a long way from home.

Vessels: size & type

Unlike the Imperial Navy, the Federal Navy is a small, professional force. It has a fraction of the number of fleets the Empire maintains, but their cost is roughly ten times as high. All Federation ships are built to the very highest technological standards and their designs and equipment are all highly classified. Battleships are the senior vessel, and are naturally the most sophisticated. Deemed also to be practically indestructible, they are never actually committed to the frontier systems and instead act more as ceremonial vessels; they make routine patrols throughout the Federation to overawe each system and foster a sense of security but most of their time is spent in reserve. They are named in honour of each original capital of Earth. Alongside the Imperial battleships, these are the most advanced vessels in the known galaxy and loss of one in battle is unthinkable, such is the investment in men and materiel. The Federation also maintains cruisers, destroyers and frigates and these vessels are similar to their Imperial counterparts in name only. They are likewise built to extremely high standards and staffed by only the highest quality crews.

The cruiser is actually the most numerous command vessel in the Federal Navy. It is much smaller than a battleship and often the Federation dispatches highly mobile squadrons headed by a 'battle cruiser' to carry out any combat missions - usually these will involve a skirmish with a pirate fleet. Battleships are usually held in reserve. Only in the event of a war with the Empire would battle fleets be assembled. Otherwise, the cruiser is the flagship of choice and the Federation prefers small squadrons over huge fleets. With their technological advantage, these small squadrons can usually fight off any pirate encounter with ease.

Destroyers are patrol vessels and unlike the Imperial Navy equivalent they can and do operate alone. A Federal destroyer is an advanced ship and its speciality lies in its missile launching capability. One destroyer per planet is usually enough to deter any pirates from venturing within scanning range. However, the Federation does not have enough destroyers to patrol every planet it governs and nor does it need to, since most colonies can afford to - and prefer to - look after their own defence.

Frigates perform the same duty in the Federal Navy as they do in the Imperial Navy. They are primarily scouting vessels. However, Federal frigates aren't nearly as numerous as Imperial ones, because they are still extremely expensive to operate. In a frigate-to-frigate action with the Imperial Navy, the Federation would win easily. However, the ratio of Imperial frigates to Federal frigates is at least 25 to 1. It is also highly unlikely that the Federation would ever risk even a frigate in an unsupported action. Frigates of both navies are prohibited from engaging the enemy unless directly ordered otherwise - their mission is always to scout and report back.

The Hawk Airfighter is the fighter of choice in the Federal Navy, and their battleships carry hundreds of these. It is faster than the Osprey and is in the process of replacing the antiquated Kestrel. All other auxiliary vessels (supply ships, troop transports, etc) within the Federal Navy are classified military types. No commercial vessels, with the exception of the Hawk and Kestrel, see service in the Navy.

A point worthy of note is that Federal vessels have a limited service life based on age alone. It differs for each vessel, and the system is in place to ensure that no defects of any kind due to age can limit the operating ability of any Federal Navy vessel. This is the reason that the Federal colonies are able to so effectively look after their own defence. They simply purchase up decommissioned Navy vessels. Such a practice never occurs in the Empire for two reasons: 1) The Empire defends its own colonies for reasons explained in the Economics essay and 2) Imperial Navy vessels are in service until they are destroyed or no longer worthy of repair. Battleships are the exception. Federal colonies and systems are prohibited from operating any ship comparable in size or firepower to a battleship.

Crew & Training

Training for service in the Federal Navy takes years and is as much technical as it is physical. Careers in the Navy must start at a young age simply because the competition for rank is so high. Even the lowliest technicians are paid handsomely and intake guidelines are strict. A university degree is required to enter officer training - one may enter off the street, but preference is always given to those who already possess a working knowledge of a military trade. Unlike the Imperial Navy, there are simply no advantages to being of prestigious birth or wealthy class. Officers in the Federal Navy are typically senior in years and owe their advancement to seniority and technical knowledge. However, since the Federal Navy hardly sees active service of any significance, their officer class lacks basic battle experience. Simulation suites within the training academies are very advanced and all officers are required to be in constant training to make up for this lack of combat experience. It is unknown how the Federation's crews would fare in real combat against the Empire, since it has been hundreds of years since the cold war began.

Again, in contrast to the Empire, the military, and particularly the Navy, is not held to high esteem within the Federation. Military service is not a rite of passage or a preserve of any particular class, and since there is very little demand for manpower and the turnover is so low, most citizens never consider naval service as a realistic career option. Insead, the few academies are free to select and entice from all over the Federation the few recruits they need each year. A navy uniform is rarely seen on any Federal planet or orbiter - indeed, it is bad practice to wear it outside duty. Imperial servicemen are rarely seen without theirs and every Imperial citizen will probably know at least one person who has served in the Navy. Though it is not enforced, civil law states that Imperial citizens must salute all Navy personnel as their superiors; such a practice in the Federation is totally unheard of.

Conscription is also unheard of. There is no precedent for it in Federation history and the populace would never countenance it. The percentage of the Federal population who serve within the Navy is too small to measure. Any auxiliary services, such as hospitals, fuelling stations and shipyards, are always contracted out to private companies. In this respect the Federation is once again in contrast to the Empire.


The Federal Navy is, ship-for-ship, the most technologically advanced force in the known galaxy. Much of their systems are classified, but needless to say, without this technological lead, the Federation would be at the mercy not only of the Empire and its vast Navy but also of pirate fleets, Independent systems wishing to conquer wealthy outlying colonies, or Federal colonies wishing to break free. All Navy vessels in the Federation are shielded, equipped with hull auto-repair, ECM and beam lasers. They also fire computer-guided cannons. To equip every vessel to this standard costs a staggering amount and as such the Federal Navy is very small. It usually has fewer than 1,000 commissioned vessels. As stated earlier, it is not known how many vessels the Empire operates, but it is at least ten times this number.

Computers and automation play a large role in the operation of any Federal vessel. Crews are small and automation is always favoured. Such advanced computer systems are also the Achilles' Heel of a Federal vessel - should such systems become disabled the ship is rendered inoperable. There are sometimes manual overrides for cannons, but this is rare (and classified). There are also insufficient crew members to operate even a fraction of the systems manually.

Headquarters & Command

Command of the Federal Navy is ultimately the responsibility of the Defence Minister, a senior position in the Federal Government. The Ministry of Defence has ceremonial headquarters on Mars in the Sol System (0,0) but is actually administered from Eta Cassiopeia (0,2). All the main bases, shipyards and training facilities are within Eta Cassiopeia and it is here that most vessels reside. Since the Federal Navy must purchase all its military fuel direct from the Sirius Corporation, vessels are not permanently active. At any one time a visit to Eta Cassiopeia will reveal a large amount of Navy vessels docked within shipyards and their crews undergoing constant simulated training. Such a reliance on civilian corporations angers most commanders but it is capitalism and the credit that decides Federal policy, not the whim of the military.

From technician all the way up to captain, commander and admiral, merit and seniority decide who gets promoted. Most admirals are old men and most young men are low in rank, regardless of their ability or flair for command. Retirement leads to promotion and since there are so few fleets, there are very few admirals. Once the rank of captain is acquired it is only a matter of time before a Federal captain will hoist his flag as admiral; however, he knows very well that it will be tens of years before he gets the chance. Combined with the reliance on technology, the Federal Navy is seen, ironically, as something of a dinosaur in Imperial Navy circles. It is very predictable in its strategic outlook and tactical approach to battle, relying on computer-generated algorithms to determine deployment and plans of attack. Instinct or gut feeling doesn't play a part. An Imperial Navy fleet may have a young noblemen in charge of young captains promoted through the ranks due to casualties, whereas a Federal fleet will have an ancient admiral in charge of senior captains of long service. Federal commanders are famed for their conservative approach to battle - once again the opposite is the case in the Imperial Navy, where dashing young commanders eager for blood and glory are the order of the day.

In conclusion, despite their many years of advanced training, the small crews of the Federal Navy are no match for the highly experienced and battle-hardened men of the Imperial Navy. Most of their time is spent in port or in training; active service consists mostly of inspections and visits to already well protected colonies. Even non-combat service in a fleet is often a rarity, due to the expense of activating a fleet. Combat is rare and as such the Federal Navy has never really been battle tested for centuries.